Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Can I get a witness? (I dare you)

It's 6.45am where I live.

I'm grumpy.

I have a Huey Lewis and the News song running through my head. But that's not what's making me grumpy.

About 90% of the links on my favorites list (I'm too lazy to get an aggregator) identify as one flavor of Christianity or another. And last night, as I was flipping through them, they fell into two broad categories.

1) Dear sweet Jesus, it sucks to be a Christian.
2) Dear sweet Jesus, it sucks we have people like Them saying they're Christians.

With a witness like this, no wonder my state's got 87% of the population not attending church. No wonder why, when I invited an acquaintance to Ash Wednesday services she declined, because she was starting a three-week 'cleansing fast' to 'clear [her] body and mind'.

Nah. We can't tell people about the joys of taking up the light yoke, the easy burden, and toddling off towards Calvary behind Jesus, called the Christ. Instead, we've got to snipe at each other, saying that conservatives are just wrong and unneccesary (and probably racist to boot!), but not giving a better way. Saying liberals, for all their talk of inclusion, are really exclusionary and reactionary (and probably Pagans to boot!), and then not giving an alterantive. We're so busy on the Internet pointing out each other's failings (and how in the world can we see each other's failings through that big ol' plank of wood in our eyes, I'm wondering).

When we get sniped at, oh, boy, look out! We get our righteous indignation all up in the house. We are pained, brothers and sisters! We have been hurt! We have been martyred on the Internet! We sit back and fan ourselves with our hands and say, "We're suffering for Jesus!"


That's right, I called 'bullshit'. To the whole confounded mess. If you've got Internet access and time to waste strolling around the Internet, you probably also have food, and shelter, and a warm bed, and heat, and clothing. You're not in jail. You're not afraid your words are going to throw you in jail. You're not afraid of people breaking down your door and dragging you off just because you confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I have known martyrs. You, my dear brother or sister blogger, are not a martyr.

I dare you, my dear brothers and sisters.
I not only dare you, I triple-dog dare you.
If you have a blog, today you've got a writing assignment.
Today, you're going to post your witness. And you're going to leave all the pointing fingers at people what done you wrong out of it.
And for your convenience, we've got questions for you to answer!

1) When was the last time you felt the Holy Spirit move?
Vestry retreat last weekend. The HS was definately there, the whole time (and it was wierd being in the middle of a group of people who not only talked about the HS moving, but took it for granted), but during Morning Prayer on Saturday it was almost physical, like if I turned my head and reached out my hand, I could see and touch it.

2) Did you have a single conversion experience that you can identify?
Yes. Church camp. I was a miserable preteen, and to boot, my best friend at camp had been kicked out the night before for fighting (he'd stood up to a kid who was picking on me). We were listening to one of the counselors give her experiences as a recovering alcoholic. I don't remember much of the talk, I was wrapped up in my own little haze of misery, and contemplating how this suicide attempt was going to be the one that worked (just for the record, I wasn't Goth, I got good grades, and I was very, very good at hiding things from people). Well, the speaker kept repeating the phrase, "just give everything over to Jesus." And that was the only thing that broke through my little haze. Finally, in my head, I told Jesus, "You want it? FINE! Take it!" And Jesus said, "Okay." Since then, I've had ups and downs and such, but I've never utterly given up faith in God and Jesus Christ. I just flat-out can't.

3) What was the last miracle you saw/experienced?
Waking up this morning. Before that, every baby and child walking around. Nothing more implausible and impossible than a baby. If you want big, flashy miracles, well, I saw an icon that had restored itself a couple weeks back.

4) You are going to be broadcast via multimedia to everyone in the world. You have twenty-five words or less to explain why Christianity is the greatest thing that's ever happened to you. Ready, set, go!
Being the sister of Jesus Christ, being the daughter of God, there is nothing greater to prove we are not nations and factions, but family. (25 exact. Booyah!)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Random thoughts of the day

- Jesus is an only child. That could be why He's so frakking persistent until He gets his own way.

- If you watch Star Wars Episode III with the subtitles on, they say every time there's a Wookie hollering [Tarzan yell].

- It's not a good idea to send two geeks in an hour long car ride and expect us to have hashed out the youth event. Because we'll spend the entire time talking about comic books and Serenity.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Meme time

Stolen from Dappled Things, who's over in the links.

Instructions: Go to your music player of choice and put it on shuffle. Say the following questions aloud, and press play. Use the song title as the answer to the question. NO CHEATING.

How does the world see you? Cool Blue Reason (Cake)

Will I have a happy life? Sweet Dreams (Eurythmics) [Yeah, that works. A little too well.]

What do my friends really think of me? What We're All About (Sum 41) [I don't get it.]

What do people secretly think of me? Eleanor Rigby (covered by Green Day?) [One of my writing group kids gave me a CD, this was on it. But once again, *snicker* I don't doubt a lot of people think I'm going to die an old freaky religious lady, all alone except for cats. I can deal with that.]

How can I be happy? Best Years of Our Lives (Baha Men) [Again with the *snerk*. This is how I try to live, because really, there's nothing better than the current adventure.]

What should I do with my life? Down to the River to Pray (Alison Kraus) [I am NOT cheating, I promise you!]

Will I ever have children? What Time Is It? (Spin Doctors) [Does this mean my biological clock is ticking?]

What is some good advice for me? Dance of the Cucumber (Vegetales) [I really have a wierd variety of music on my iPod. Es como mantequilla en un chango parron.]

How will I be remembered? Walking on the Sun (Smash Mouth)

What is my signature dancing song? Polka Power (Weird Al Yankovic) [This is a medley of some early 90s music, like If You Wanna Be My Lover, Intergalactic Planetary, Backstreet's Back, and Gangster's Paradise, all set to a polka tune. I love this song.]

What do I think my current theme song is? Boom, Boom (John Lee Hooker) [Oh, yeah, baby, yeah!]

What does everyone else think my current theme song is? Forever in Blue Jeans (Neil Diamond) [Considering I was singing this incessantly for the last day and a half, ayup, I can see where they got that impression.]

What song will play at my funeral? At the Bottom of the Sea (Ralph Covert) [This is from a CD of children's songs done by famous musicians.]

What type of men/women do you like? Hold On (Jet) [??? Not just for what does this mean, but also when'd I put Jet on my iPod?]

What is my day going to be like? City of Blinding Lights (U2)

All for freedom, and for pleasure, nothing ever lasts forever

Name the song, get a cookie. But don't sing it to me, it's stuck in my head.

So, time for a little lecto divina breakitdown. For those who have been living under a rock for the last six centuries or so, lecto divina is the process where you read several times and then meditate on a piece of scripture. There are books and classes on how to do it 'right', but I've found a method that works for me. That's right, I practice my lecto while getting ready in the morning (if I'm not saying the Daily Office in the shower, I'm about 50-50 right now).

Here's how it goes: I get up, and after conking the alarm's snooze button, I read John 15:18-16:4. For those of you too lazy to click, Jesus is talking about how much the world hates 'you'. Ah, this kind of passage is excellent for lecto, because my first thought is: Who's 'you'? I flip back a few pages to figure out this takes place at the Last Supper, so Jesus is talking to his inner circle disciples, who we all know pretty much to a man come to a gruesome, horrible death.

About there is where the snooze starts beeping again, so I turn the alarm off and grab the things I need for the shower. My brain's still thinking, though, especially about the part in v.20, "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you, if they kept my word, they will keep yours also." Both churches I attend are pretty heavy into the Apostolic Succession, that is, every priest has has hands laid on them by a priest who has had hands laid on them et cetera unto the umpteenth generation, when an apostle laid his hands on someone's head. Now, of course, we can't trace that, but it's a heavy feeling. What these guys said, two thousand years ago, resonated with someone so much that they kept passing it down to us. Keanu Reeves moment, you just gotta stop in the middle of rinsing shampoo out of your hair and say, 'woah'.

I said a quick prayer for the priests I've been privleged to know, and when I got back to my room, I reread the passage. This time, something else jumped out at me, down in 16:2b. "Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God."

Gyah. And I think of the Muslims in Nigeria, the gentleman in Afghanistan who is standing trial at this moment for converting to Christianity. And then I think of those here in the US, who would see friends and neighbors of mine at least repressed and oppressed, because in the Free World™, we don't really advocate killing our outcasts. We just restrict their rights, deny them access to healthcare and jobs and the legal system, we tell them they're overreacting, we wish they'd just shut up, we're not a racist/sexist/ageist/religionist/(add your favorite -ist here) nation. And my heart broke, thinking of friends and loved ones who'd run into this kind of thinking and been hurt, by secular society and by the Church.

I wasn't done, though. Holy Spirit or random neural firing, I suddenly thought to myself, "What about those who I've killed?" And I thought about the Christian gangs in Nigeria, who went on retalitory raids with machetes in hand. I thought about my Auntie with the opposite worldview, who I've spent many an hour with other family members, spreading venomous gossip about. I thought about the coworkers and televangelists about whom I'd thought many times, "Oh, for the love of God, just shut up!" (and sometimes I'd even said it out loud, to their faces). Deep down, in my darkest heart, I've even wished that some of the older generation would just die, already, so they'd stop impeding God's work.

How do other writers come up with great closing paragraphs to their posts like this? Seriously.

If you missed the book post from yesterday, I'm reading a lot about the wee poor man, St. Francis. He never was ordained a priest, you know. He only was a deacon, and that only because he was pretty much ordered to be one (I think his bishop wanted the wee poor, slightly crazy man under his thumb obedience). He didn't care what people thought of him. He didn't care if they thought he was crazy for walking into the Sultan's place to preach. He didn't care that he was courting death pretty closely, if the Sultan didn't like his message. And finally, I'm not going to say he didn't care that the Sultan didn't convert, because I'm betting he did. But he didn't sit around afterwards complaining about how stupid the Sultan was, how much his world view was wrong. He had some Good News to get out. He had a Church to rebuild.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What I'm reading right now.

When I say "right now", I don't mean I've got all of them open in my hands at the same time, but I'm reading them like an ADD child, i.e., when I notice one, I pick it up, read a few pages, put it down, and get distracted by another one.

The Book of Night With Moon by Diane Duane: She wrote this whole series for young adults about wizards living among us. This is one of the two adult novels in the series, and they're about cats who are wizards.

The Little Flowers of St. Francis translated by Raphael Brown: I trained for a while as a historian, and the rules were to always go to the source material. Well, this is as close to the source as we can get, considering the Man Himself was basically illiterate and had these adventures 800 years ago.

The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson: This novel becomes more frightening prophetic every year. Its main themes are education changing lives, technology and history don't have the answer to everything, and many people are needed to raise a child. There's also an army of a quarter of a million Chinese girls.

Vestry Handbook ECUSA: Interesting reading. It's about half how to deal with budgets, and half how to prayerfully figure out where your parish should go. The chapter on the vestry member's prayer life reminds me a lot of various associate/oblate rules.

To Live as Francis Lived by Foley, Weigel, and Normile: I'm trying to do a book designed for 52 weeks of study in a month. It's basically the main textbook for formation in the Secular Franciscan Order, which is Roman Catholic. I'm reading it for my own edification and possible potential just maybe I'm not sure maybe I will join the novitiate of the Third Order of St. Francis, which is the Episcopal side.

Francis: The Journey and the Dream by Murray Bodo: It's referenced a lot in the To Live... book, and it's got a lot of the stories from Little Flowers, but it's got a lot of commentary and is a whole lot more fluffy bunny and politically correct than the original stories.

Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair: A woman who's not just a spaceship capitan, but also gots her some 'magical' powers gets knocked 300 years into her future, where she discovers that, in her absence, the people she'd been assigned to help bring into the Space Age have made her a goddess. Hijinks ensue.

Milk and Honey by Faye Kellerman: One of the Rina and Peter Decker novels. Peter's an LA Homicide detective, Rina's an Orthodox Jewish housewife/bookkeeper. The early books cover their courtship and his struggle with converting, and there's usually a murder or kidnapping or something too.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Your old men shall prophesy...

Despite what Mtr. Mother is telling the world, I was not hung over at church this morning.

The fact I spent most of last night in a horribly smoky bar that aggravated my allergies to the point of a sinus migrane is why I left the sanctuary at the Creed for the couch in the parish hall.

I was sharing the couch with a gentleman who comes most every Sunday, like I do. I've never seen him in the sanctuary, though, and he doesn't take Communion. He comes in, reads a paper, has a cup of coffee, talks with parishoners who have known him for years, and warms up or cools down, depending on the weather. He's homeless, you see. And as much a part of our church as the Senior Warden.

We exchanged pleasantries, he invited me to share his paper, and I explained I had a headache and was going to sit with my eyes closed for a while. Which I did. And that's when he looked into my heart and spoke prophecy over me.

"When you have decisions to make, and when you put them off, they start making your head hurt," he said to me. "And you're arguing and fighting and you've got to just let go and take that leap."

I was too tired and in too much pain to lie or equivocate. "That first step, it's the scary one."

He laughed a bit at that. "The first step is the scary one. The second step, the sticking with it, that's the hard one. You just need to trust God. That's all you gotta do. Leap, stand, trust God."

He went back to his paper. I spent a few more minutes there in silence, and I don't know if it was the decision being made or the asprin. Maybe both. My head stopped hurting and I was back in the sanctuary in time for the Offertory. I put a few dollars in the plate.

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Litany for St. Patrick's Day

From flat beer and stale ale,
Deliver us, O Lord!

From drunken frat boys and inebriated sorority girls,
Deliver us, O Lord!

From green glowsticks and Mardi Gras beads in the shape of shamrocks,
Deliver us, O Lord!

From abominations done in the name of cabbage and corned beef,
Deliver us, O Lord!

Bow your heads unto the Lord:
Dear Father, who gave us St. Patrick's Day as a festival of our heritage, not only as Irish people but as Christians, please look kindly upon your children, Hiberian or no, who celebrate this day. Keep the revelers safe from harm to others, themselves, and their livers, and get us all safely home at the end of the night. And we pray, together with Holy St. Patrick, Holy St. Brigid, and all the company of Irish saints, in the name of Jesus Christ, who, with You and the Holy Spirit, reign forever, one God. AMEN.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I know the name of my great-great-great-great grandfather off the top of my head. It's Victor Bruno, in case you were wondering if we're related. I may only have one sister, but I've got twelve first cousins who all grew up pretty much within driving distance of my house. These last nine months have been the first time in my life I've lived more than a three hour drive from my parents' house. That's right, I come from a two-parent home (married 32 years in May). My parents' house is about 500 yards from where my grandmother was born. I've got family within a half hour of the Convent, but I don't see them very much. It's wierd, I seem to have a lot more time on the weekends. I'm not always having to go to an Auntie or a Cousin's or my parents' place for a family get-together. Christmas this year was small, we only had forty people over for dinner.

We use a lot of family language in church. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. We call our priests 'Father' or 'Mother'. We're all siblings of Christ. We've got godchildren. The Bible sets up for us an image of church that should be mirrored in our families.

I hate to say it, but I think we're modeling our modern church after our modern families. We get mad at each other, and instead of working out our differences and reconciling, or at the least just ignoring each other at the family reunion (like Auntie Dee and I do), people storm off alone and try to find a church family that's more to their liking, and when they figure out this new church is also filled with fallible, imperfect people, they get fed up and just quit the church family all together.

We've got a broken church family, people.

Some days, I really wish I could quit my real family. But I can't. And I'm rather glad of that. I may hate several of my cousins with a passion beyond reason, but if anyone ever tried to mess with them, I'd step up. If they needed the kind of help I could give, I'd give it, willingly.

My family's not all blood. Ahermana and I were around the buffet table at the family reunion, and we were chatting with a friend of my mom's who was just visiting the reunion for the first time. She asked how we knew each other. Ahermana and I looked at each other and shrugged. "We're sisters," she said.

Mom's poor friend was quite confused. Ahermana is tall, willowy, tan and blonde. I'm short, round, pale-skinned and dark haired. We are sisters, though. Her godfather is my father. The Spanish word for 'goddaughter' is 'ahija'. So, she's my ahermana, my sister from other parents, who somehow has more interests in common with me than my Sr. Sister.

We modern people seek out the family-like community that we have been lacking. Blogs are just one manifestation of this, together with book clubs and fan clubs and other social groups whose meetings eat up our time. The difference between a book club and a church, though, is you can just quit a book club with few regrets. Quitting church has some deep consequences, and I'm not talking about theological, "Mine's the One True Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, no matter what the Other One True Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church says" kind of consequences. I'm talking about consequences to the family. My cousin Papio moved to Tennessee with his new wife who doesn't like our family very much. He doesn't talk to us, now. It really is like losing a limb, you look around at family events expecting him to be there, to fill a familiar place, and he's not there, there's a silence where he used to be, and you're off-balance.

Being family isn't magic. It's work. It's talking, and laughing, and crying, and boasting, and humbling, and even sometimes, it involves eating crow and swallowing your pride and being kind to someone who's had hurtful words for you in the past.

The Daily Office, said in community, is referred to as opus dei, the Work of God. Whenever we gather as a community and worship, despite our differences, despite our resentment and hurt feelings, despite ourselves, we're bringing God's family back together.

(I promise, I'll probably stop these family-centric posts as soon as my 'rents visit is over. You probably won't believe it, but they're not even here until Friday. Heh. I meant to only write a little, and an entire hour has gone by.)

Monday, March 13, 2006


I don't talk all that much about my Real Life here. Quit laughing, I'm serious. I try very hard to keep my politics and my first gut reactions out of this blog. I took on a new name to write here, and with that I've tried to shed a lot of who I am (I cuss and drink and spit and scratch myself in public and yell a lot), and use this persona of Sr. Mary Hasta as the model of what kind of Christian I want to be for the world. I operate under the principle that if I keep faking it, one day I'll make it.

However, now's not the time for soft, fluffy, rosy-cheeked-nun words. Now is the time for Sister Mary Stigmata.

Compassion is not "Oh, I'm sorry that happened to you. The same thing happened to someone I vaugely knew."

God, in His compassion, suffered/suffers/is suffering alongside humankind. God, however, got off of Her butt and did something about our suffering. God came down from Heaven and became one of us, and showed us that there is a better way than the petty, bickering, throwing things at each other way of our ancestors, of our contemporaries, of ourselves.

God died.

God rose from the dead.

God showed us there is more than this little ball of dirt we're spinning on, and more than the little patch of it we've called our own, and way more to it than how many dollars are in our credit card available balance and how nice and new our car is.

God showed us what we're supposed to do when we see someone else suffering.
We're supposed to try to make things better.
We're not here to try and make ourselves 'feel better'.

And I know, boy howdy, do I know, that sometimes the problems seem too big for one little person to fix. If you haven't read Job lately, go back and read the first few chapters. Notice something: Job's friends didn't wander by and start right in with the finger pointing. They spent several days sitting in silence in the stinking, dirty trash heap with Job. They were present, they were supportive. They were community.

It was when they started saying, "You know, the same thing happened to this buddy of mine..." that they started getting into trouble.

O God, as Naomi and Ruth journeyed from one land to another seeking a home, we ask your blessing upon all who are homeless in this world. You promised to your chosen people a land flowing with milk and honey; so inspire us to desire the accomplishment of your will that we may work for the settlement of those who are homeless in a place of peace, protection, and nurture, flowing with opportunity, blessing, and hope. Amen.
---Vienna Cobb Anderson

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Am I the only one who gets these moods? The moods where you just can't be bothered to care? Where you'd rather claw your own eyes out than read the Bible, rather chew tinfoil than pray?

'Cause I get these moods, oh, about once a month or more.

Got one right now, as a matter of fact. And the first person to say 'Dark Night of the Soul' is going to make me scream.

I'm guessing we all get the mixed messages. I can't be the only one who has difficulty with the whole, "Be in the world, not of it" deal. I cannot be the only person whose paternal parental unit can in one breath insist that staying home on Saturday nights playing video games isn't healthy, and in the next say that I go out too much, right?

Actually, given my parental units, it is entirely possible that last bit is a Just Me moment. Since the 'going out' is referent to my going to church. It's not like my parental units are nonreligious, not by any stretch of the imagination. They're just... well, California Methodist.

I'm not dissing the Methodist Church, by any stretch of the imagination. It's the church that I was raised in, that taught me how to have faith, and how to hold on to it through many trials and tribulations. Without Camp Cazadero, I would probably be dead by my own hand (long story, remind me to tell you it later, and Rex Anthony Manson, if you're reading this, email me!)

However, my mother is a very angry, lapsed Roman Catholic. And pretty vocal, in a passive aggresive way, about her disapproval of my religious tendencies.

*rereads that last sentence* Confusing, and contradictory. But true. I accidentally left a rosary at their house over Christmas. She sent it back to me wrapped in a pair of underwear. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, maybe she was trying to protect it in shipping. It was a padded envelope. When I get to talking 'too much' about church-y stuff, they tell me I'm turning into my Auntie. The Auntie who's single, missing teeth, and a bitter, violently hate-filled Conservative Fundamentalist Non-Denominational We're The One True Church Christian.

Yes, I know I'm bitter right now, but, um... I'm not fundamentalist! And I have all my own teef.

So, I'm being pushed to go out Saturday night to a bar with my just-turned-21 cousin and introduce Cousin to the world of drinking. As it will be a late night, they're expecting me to skip church.

Um, no. I'll do just what I usually do, when I'm going out or playing Halo 2 all night: stay up all night and sleep on Sunday. The Sabbath Naps are holy to my people.

And so, in the midst of all this tension, I'm dragging my heels and gnashing my teeth and taking down my icon wall so as not to give offense and I really, really, REALLY don't want to go read Compline. But Deacon Chata* today preached on how, when Jesus said 'pick up your cross and follow Me', he wasn't talking about the slings and arrows of life that we call our 'crosses'. Our cross is following Someone who is decidedly counter-culture, who calls us to be counter-culture. Which means I will be going out Saturday night, having a drink with my Cousin and Sister but not getting stupid-drunk, and then go to A Certain Church on Sunday morning.

It also means I'm going to go pray Compline now.

Lord, you now have set your servant free
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel.

*'Chata' is Spanish for 'flat-nosed'. Our deacon shares the same name with my Auntie Chata, and they're almost the same height (read: way shorter than my shortness), so she's now Deacon Chata.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Two posts in one day! This one's much lighter.

The Cross Meme

Do you wear a cross? No, I wear a St. Rita medal. St. Rita is, among other things, the patron of women changing careers.

Is there a particular time or place that you consider wearing a cross medal? Days ending in 'y'. I take it off to sleep, put it on after my shower in the AM.

Where do you wear it? A silver box chain around my neck. It travels in and out of my shirt, depending on neckline and how I've fiddled with it.

What does the cross medal look like? It's a modern sterling silver medal, laser cut, and has the legend "St. Rita, pray for us". St. Rita is looking to Heaven and holding a crown of thorns to her chest. If you look real close, you can see the mark of her stigmata on her head. But if you wanna look real close, please ask me to take it off first, I get nervous with people that close to my, erm, bosom.

Who gave the cross medal to you or did you choose it? I bought it myself several years ago, when I joined the Episcopal Church. I've worn medals off and on for years (Holy Family, OL Guadalupe), but I was starting my M.Ed. program and felt a medal would be less in your face for people of other faiths than a big ol' crucifix.

Is this your favorite cross medal, if so, why? It's me favorite medal. It's me only medal. [/Kendra]

What does wearing a cross medal mean to you? St. Louis de Montfort suggested that people who used his Consecration to Jesus through Mary wear a chain to remind them they were chained to Mary. I like the imagery, but I feel more chained to Christ. The medal reminds me that there are people out there who are praying for me.

Wanna play? Tag yourself and tell us if, when and why you wear or don't wear a cross (or a medal).

Seven Deadly Topics #2-- Dandruff and Movies f/ Mandy Moore

(The original Seven Deadly Christian Blog Topics post can be found here.)

Working as a temp, you get real reliant on that weekly check. So, when it doesn't come for a week, say, due to quitting a Gig from Hell, your financial stability goes right in the toilet. I was never at risk of being kicked out of the Convent (remember, I just rent here, it's not a 'real convent'), but I was having to go without some luxuries. Such as paying my credit card bills or, you know, food.

This week I finally caught up, though, and celebrated with a drive to the grocery store for the aforementioned luxury, food. I also had to buy some shampoo, and spent a good ten minutes in the shampoo aisle looking at all the bottles, because ever since moving in a more Northerly and cold direction, my skin has been so confoundedly dry. I had very specific wants: I wanted a shampoo that would stop my scalp from having itchy, scaly patches (TMI? I can never tell), and I wanted one that didn't smell like I'd dunked my head in hospital-grade antiseptics.

Someone had been helpful and turned around all the dandruff shampoos on the shelf, so I could read their ingredients and usage directions. Most all of them had directions along the lines of, "Work into hair and scalp. Rinse and repeat." Then in big letters, so you knew they were serious, "FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY. Avoid contact with eyes. If contact with eyes occurs, rinse thouroughly with water."

I kind of laughed at those instructions. I mean, seriously, don't they all sound kind of, you know, simple? Is there anyone who doesn't know how to wash their hair? And then, of course, there's the ridiculous part, 'Avoid contact with eyes'. I'm in a shower, there's water flying everywhere, my hair is above my eyes, in the Convent we obey the Law of Gravity. It's going to happen, no matter what.

I got home and threw one of the new DVDs that had come via Netflix into the machine. It was one of my favorite movies, Saved! If you haven't seen it, go ahead and rent it. Unless you're easily offended, in which case, why are you reading my blog?

The basic plot is a fundamentalist Christian teenager named Mary at American Eagles Christian School who tries to fix her gay, also fundamentalist Christian boyfriend by having sex with him. So, of course, he gets shipped off to a reparative home, where they fix "the gays", she spends all school year hiding her pregnancy, and her best friend goes from being the most popular, most perfect Christian (Hillary Faye, played by Mandy Moore), to being the smoking, drinking, Jewish school outcast named Cassandra. One of my favorite parts is when the Jewish character, to get Mary off alone with the love interest, tells Hillary Faye that she wants to convert. This, of course, has always been Hillary Faye's goal, so she totally focuses on the task at hand, even complaining she doesn't have all her materials. But! She does have her iPod, filled with God-centric music (their words, not mine), and makes Cassandra listen to an entire Elms CD.

At one point, Pastor Skip, the head of the school, says, "This is not a grey area. This is black and white. It is in the Bible!" My heart just broke at that moment. I love this movie because I've been there. Mea culpa, but I've been Hillary Faye. I've known that being a Christian means everything is perfect, that prayer works for everything (including getting bands to play at Prom), and my only goal in life was to make sure everyone was converted to my way of thinking. Because my way of thinking came directly from the Bible. And when you're in that mindset, and things don't go well, you just go back to the Bible and find the One True Answers™, or you find someone who's written a book, or made a t-shirt, or sings a song about the Bible, and you follow that.

F.R.O.G., Fully Rely On God.
P.U.S.H., Pray Until Something Happens.
OMGWTFBBQ-- Oh, wait, that's something else.

The problem with the Bible is it's like the directions on my dandruff shampoo. Most of the directions in the Bible seem simple, mindless, something that everyone should know. Do not kill, ayup, that means we must not support abortion. But then we get into the fact that none of these guidelines in the Bible live independently of one another, just like we, as humans, cannot live independently of one another. Do not kill, ayup, that means we must not support abortion, but does it mean we should create such a hostile environment in front of women's health clinics that we chase people from going inside and don't provide other services, such as free pre- and post-natal care, respite daycare, babysittng, flexible work schedules for single parents, a living wage so the single parent can clothe and feed themselves and their child, and sleep in a warm place? But instead, we see Christians cheering South Dakota's banning of all abortions with absolutely no provisions for these children that will be born in seven to nine months.

I don't have answers.
All I have are questions.
Lord God, HELP!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Corned Beef Indult

Many thanks to Whispers in the Loggia for the information that my local archdiocese has offered an indult (or permission) for those of us of Irish heritage who wish to partake of the corned beef on St. Patrick's Day.

Yes, I know I'm not Roman Catholic, but I do worship with them frequently. And I am most certainly part Irish!

I'm going to go right home and watch The Quiet Man, not only one of the most beautiful films ever made, but a lovely testament to ecumenicisim.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What follows is one half of a conversation I had before church on Sunday.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. O Almighty God, who pours out on all who desire it the spirit of grace and of supplication: Deliver us, when we draw near to you, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that...

What? Whaddya want?

You can't be serious.

I'm trying to pray here.

No! No, no, no! We've had this conversation. I've given you all the reasons why not. You gave me the reasons why not.

Yeah, okay, those reasons are now about a decade old but...

Won't You leave me alone, already?

For the love of--well, You-- can I finish my prayers in peace?

Okay! Okay! All right! Fine! I'll do it!

Yes, yes, I love you too.


Friday, March 03, 2006

It doesn't feel like Lent.

I'm kind of trying an experiment with Lent.

I'm not saying specifically to myself what I'm giving up or taking on.

I explained it to a friend as the 'fluffy bunny' Lent: I'm going to try and find God in more spaces in my life.

I had a ham sandwich for lunch today. I didn't feel guilty about it. I said a prayer over my little ham sandwich as I sat at my desk in my little cubicle in an office building next to a freeway.

I didn't have any blinding light visions of the Face of God, or lightning struck sensations of God's presence.

Egypt is so very close, I can still make it back there if I just turn around now.

But my prayerbook is even closer, and it's all set up and ready for tonight's prayers.

Might as well use it.

A blessing on those who pass through here.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Like walking in the rain or the snow and there's nowhere to go and you feel like a part of you is dying...

Woah, long title.

So, the song currently stuck in my head is "The Things We Do for Love". I have one checkmark in my Lenten observation book, and am ready to greet the difficult challenge of the more nebulous spiritual exercises I put myself to.

I've been reading a lot lately on Jewish websites and blogs. Specifically, those that have to do with the weekly Torah portion. It's amazing how much, as a Christian who only reads the text, I've missed. I've known for a long time that there are commentaries upon commentaries on the Torah, but I never really bothered to get into them (bad habit left over from sola scriptura).

The Torah portion for this week is Trumah, Exodus 25:1-27:19, and it's the beginning of Extreme Makeover: God's Home Edition. The part of Exodus where I lean back, groan, and steel myself to plow through it. Details upon details about how the Tabernacle was built.

One chapter given over to Creation. Thirteen for building a ginormous, glorified tent. Oy gevalt.

The Rabbis, however, those Sages whose stories were written down in those commentaries, equate the building of the Tabernacle to God creating and ordering the Universe. There had to be a place where the Glory of God could touch the earth, and specially chosen people after much preperation could go in and encounter that glory, and then take it out into the world and thereby sanctify the world.

I'm not Jewish, though, for all that I honor Jewish teaching and thought. I'm a Christian. And in reading all of this preperation and what went into the Temple, how everyone gave of what they had so they could all be a part of creating a space for God to touch the earth...

a place so special that only one man could go into that place, and then only once a year...

This same God became a human being. Walked the earth. Talked, sang, drank, partied, cried, grieved...

This same God became Spirit, became a breath over all, and lives within every person, comforts them when they fall, moves them to great joys and closer to God...

The things (that were done, are done, are being done) for Love.