Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday 2009

Ever since Sunday, I have had Lenten hymns floating through my head. “O sacred head, now wounded ….” “Did e’er such love and sorrow meet ….” "Sorrow and love flow mingled down...." For a variety of reasons, I was eager to embrace this Ash Wednesday and to embark on the season of Lent.

Today’s liturgy did everything I needed to move me into Lent.

Our priest has a fine liturgical sense. That was a blessing.

Her homily focused on Psalm 51 – supposedly written after David “took” Bathsheba and had Uriah murdered. She focused on the fact that it’s God’s love that sustains the covenant. We may feel broken and contrite – indeed, we should feel broken and contrite, but it is the love of God – and God’s grace toward us that keeps us alive in spirit.

Then on to the imposition of ashes.

A very few of you have been reading this blog since the early days. You know how I “took a sabbatical” from the Episcopal Church in 2006 … then slowly worked my way back in … sitting on the back rows. That’s changed. I now sit on the very front row, epistle side. I do it for a reason similar to the reason that some of our older African American parishioners now sit near the front, when they had been relegated to the rear pews many decades ago.

So there I was on the first row. And I was one of the first to receive the imposition of ashes.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

I’ve been moving into a penitential mode over the last several days, and those words were welcome. Riveting. Stunning. Bracing. Humbling.

Then I returned to my seat in the first row, devoutly kneeling.

I was in my prayers … opening myself to the Spirit … seeking what I am called to do in this Lent. But I could not help hearing my priest speaking to person after person after person as she moved along the altar rail: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The sheer repetition of it was powerful.

She is our priest. She will minister to us. She will marry some of us. She will bury some of us.

There was something about hearing her say those words so repetiously – "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” – that were very powerful. I expect she will bury some of us, and I will remember when she said those words.

I also took some comfort in the words, as she shared her creature-ness with us. We are all of us dust. She no more than we.

Kneeling so close to the altar, hearing those words spoken again and again, I also found an antidote, a balm against my own hubris, arrogance, and self-sufficiency.

I act like I am so very independent. I behave as if I am so strong and self-sufficient.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The words echoed deeply for me. I am not strong or sufficient. I am dust, and to dust I shall return. The words were important for me to hear.

I am grateful for the Ash Wednesday liturgy, and how it recalls me to my creatureliness.

I am dust, and to dust I shall return.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

For Scott Gunn

Scott Gunn frequently amuses me with his Facebook "status updates" -- many of which relate to counting sheep. So, Scott, this one's for you. The sheep are now seeking you.

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Valentine's Day ... A Week Later

I had fun last week chatting with some friends about their Valentine's Day plans. I had none. Several of us admitted we were staying home and just planning to enjoy our dogs or cats that day.

I was amused to see this funny one on I CanHasCheezburger this week. Enjoy!

No, wuzn't Valintinez Day  Wuz singul loozer awareniss day
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Dear friends and readers –

I have fallen behind this week. It has been a rather odd week for me, for personal, professional, and church-related reasons. I know many of you have posted comments here, and I am truly grateful that you take the time to do so. I hope you know that I try to respond to each one. I will try to catch up with them this weekend.

Meanwhile, a couple of silly things came across my zone recently, which I may post because they require so little effort.

I hope to resume the dialogue soon.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Speaking for God?

And speaking of those who presume to speak for God … This image is worth a thousand words.

What do you think Jesus would say to these zealots from the Westboro Baptist Church?

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This one is from PunditKitchen, the political spin-off from ICanHasCheezburger.

2/21 Update (with a hat-tip to The Lead): England has refused to admit Phelphs and his hate-mongers into the UK.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ICHC on Biblical Exegesis

I read many blogs, websites, and listservs on our Anglican and Episcopalian concerns, and sometimes I just shake my head at how the scriptural interpretations fly fast and furious.

Mark Harris has a delightful drawing on the topic.

Over at Jawbones, Jan Nunley has hosted a series of conversations (here, here, here, and here) into which Matt Kennedy and Tobias Haller have participated. I love the way Jan keeps “calling the question”!

But when I saw this one today on ICanHasCheezburger, it seemed to say it all.

Basement Cat on:  Satisfaction
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For those of you not familiar with the ICanHasCheezburger site, three of the recurring characters are Ceiling Cat (a white cat), Basement Cat (solid black), and HoverCat … God, Satan, and the Holy Spirit. “Jeebus” also makes an occasional appearance.

I cannot believe Ceiling Cat is happy when “Christians” lob little snippets of Scripture at each other like IEDs. You know my perspective. I believe “our side” is trying to speak from the whole Gospel of Christ. And I think most of our worthy opponents are prooftexting, with little snippets of shellfish arguments.

But I’ll refrain from getting all polemical. I just hope you enjoy the image.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Love Will Come to You

I’ve been going through some weird and sad stuff over the past several days. A friend sent me the link to this marvelous Indigo Girls song, Love Will Come to You. I’ve listened to it several times. Enjoy.

Or go straight to the YouTube site.

How 'bout that haunting last line: “Learn to pretend there’s more than love that matters.”
I wish I could do that.

BTW, back in the late '80s, while I was living in Atlanta, I used to hang out in a small bar where the Indigo Girls sang. It's great to see them so successful now.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Moments that Linger

Why is it that some experiences and some stories stick with us most particularly? We have a gazillion encounters in the course of the week – on the streets, in the office, at church, with friends, etc. But some just stick with me and refuse to let go. This is one of them.

In November, the diocesan convention included a lovely dinner in the penthouse restaurant of a downtown building. We had a lovely 360-degree view of the city at night time. And I enjoyed talking with many delightful friends.

At the end of the evening, I walked back to the cathedral with two dear friends – both men [Yes, that is relevant to the story. Just keep reading.] Ralph was streetside, Cory in the middle, and me near the buildings. And I was smoking, having been in a non-smoking space throughout dinner. As we approached a bus stop shelter, a middle-aged man called out in a friendly voice, “Ma’am! Ma’am! Can I have a smoke?” I looked his way, and shook my head.

Mind you, many’s the time that I have been generous – even outrageously generous – with street people. But that night, I just was not in the mood. I was too much enjoying the chat with Cory and Ralph. So I kept walking.

I was in my nice slacks, nice shoes, and nice Chesterfield wool coat.

As I got alongside the street person, not pausing to give him a cigarette, his whole tone changed, and he began hurling at me: “Fuckin’ dyke! You fucking queer dyke!!!” Nothing but hatred in his voice. And he kept hurling those names and more as my friends and I continued walking.

Now … what accounts for that?

How did I go from being “ma’am” to “fucking queer dyke bitch”? For the life of me, I do not understand it.

Does this happen to any of you straight women who read this blog?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Stripped Bare

Many of you know I spent time in Lui, Sudan, in Feb.-March 2006 and have seen my blogging about that experience.

Today I was reminded of something I heard during that visit.

The Episcopalians of the Diocese of Lui had suffered over four decades of civil war -- complete with bombings from the Khartoum government (which focused first on destroying churches and schools), ground attacks where people were macheted to death and homes destroyed, and severe deprivation of food and water.

When asked how they could possibly keep their faith, one person responded:

You don't know that God is all you need ... until God is all you have.
What a powerful statement!

I got thinking about that this evening, listening to NPR's All Things Considered story about people who have lost their jobs in the U.S. and are suffering psychological agony as a result. I am one of those who lives only a few paychecks away from destitution. I don't assume my job is secure. I wonder how I would respond to the loss of my job. Would I be driven to suicide (like one woman profiled on the NPR program)? Or would I somehow mine a deeper level of faith, as the people of Lui did? I have pared my expenses and my living standard down to what feels like "bare bones" to me. What would I do? How would I respond if I lost my job with nowhere to turn?

I do not know. My heart goes out to all those who are suffering loss -- whether the sort that the people of Lui have endured and continue to endure ... or those here in the U.S. who are facing a new and unprecedented crisis.

But I know this: In Lui, the people truly live in community. If one family's crops fail, others are willing to share their food. People will take in family and friends who have been burned-out of their homes. They do not live with the illusion of self-sufficiency that infects U.S. society.

And this is another reason my diocese remains in companionship with Lui. We have material resources to share with them. But they have so much to share with us about the meaning of community and of faith.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


a.k.a. “Vanity, vanity … all is vanity”

It’s now been almost four weeks since The Fall. (If you’re just catching up, I wrote about it here, with updates here and here.) I didn’t intend to write about it any more, but . . .

I was happy that the wounds seemed to heal so well. I’ve not worn makeup, so my face could stay as clean as possible. As I mentioned before, I worried (perhaps with an unhealthy dose of vanity) that I would have unsightly scars from the deep abrasions. I have watched as the new skin grew on my face. It was like “baby skin”: fresh and pink and tender.

Today I had a holiday, and treated myself to a long, hot shower, facial treatment, and all that. And for the first time in several days I took a long, hard look at my face in the mirror. The scars aren’t “baby-fresh pink” anymore. They’re turning brown. A long time ago, I burned my wrist on an iron; that burn was visible and brown for many years afterwards. I wonder if that’s what’s beginning to happen to my face, too.

It’s not a biggie. We all carry scars of various types as we make our way through this life.

A few of you know me very well and are aware that I carry some very ugly 3rd degree burn scars on parts of my body. They’ve been there since I was 18 months old, and they’re not going away. They get a little less obvious as time goes by, but they’re never going to go away. Ever.

I’ve recently been more mindful of the inner scars we carry. They form us because they are so raw or tender. Because they never really healed. They can make us shrink away from certain kinds of touches. They can make us run screaming away. But I am not merely the sum of the scars I have accumulated over the past 54 years. I am determined to be more than the sum of my scars.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

UN in Africa

I am on some listservs that keep me updated about news from Sudan -- including Darfur and Southern Sudan. I do not understand why the world is collectively yawning. God knows, the U.S. isn't yet doing anything like we did under John Danforth's leadership. And the nations of the world seem to be giving a big yawn, too. Which is perhaps why this image stuck my funnybone and my sorrow-bone.

No really,  ya THINK?!?
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Monday, February 09, 2009

Water for Lui

Many of you know I am deeply involved in our diocese’s companion relationship with the Diocese of Lui in Sudan. (You may have seen the stories I wrote in 2006 on the LuiNotes blog.) A member of the diocese has posted a marvelous story and appeal here. Last year, his parish raised some $18,000 – enough money to dig a deep well in Lui.

I encourage you to go over there. Donate money through his Twitter page, or go directly to our diocesan website to make a secure donation.

Water. It is the foundation of health and wholeness. Through the waters of baptism, we enter the Church. And by providing clean water to the Diocese of Lui, we are helping to live out our baptismal covenant.

I beseech you to contribute something – anything – to this initiative.