Saturday, April 29, 2006

Report on Mid-Week Service

Went to a comtemplative service this past Wed.

It was held at St. John's Episcopal the church I was confirmed in (May, 1968). St. John's is very close to my current house. It might be a little over a mile away. I have no doubt I could walk there in less than an hour.

The service was held in the "Lady Chapel", which is separated from the main chapel by a wall which does not quite go to the roof. The wall contains a columbarium. The space is very nice - just right for a sparsly attended mid-week service. Has 2-3 icons. There's something resembling a place mat on the altar - has picture of Christ & disciples at sea. Afraid I didn't get a good look at it.

I didn't know ahead of time that the service was "contemplative". I'd run into a member of the church last Sun who simply told me there was this mid-week service. Life had been somewhat stressfull through Wed, so a service seemed like a good idea.

The service was scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. There were three other people in the chapel with me. Shortly before 5:30, a member of the altar guild came out and placed the chalice and host on a side table, then she lit the candles on the altar. A few minutes later, a bell rang. The congregation stood.

The bell was no doubt in the grand tradition of the sanctus bell - the origin of which was to let the congregation know that something important was about to happen. As you may know, the Catholic service was originally in Latin - which was by no means the "language of the people" in the Middle Ages. Most people were illiterate in Latin. The whole service was a great mystery.

So, when it was time for the congregation to do something - stand, kneel, etc - the priest would ring a bell. It was, in a sense, a way of saying "wake up".

Anyway, the priest read the service very slowly. He allowed long stretches of silence. He read the Epistle and Gospel slowly and deliberately.

A sermon normally follows the Gospel. The priest sat down. I wasn't sure what would happen - maybe a dialogue sermon. But he re-read a few lines from the Gospel, closed the book, set it to one side, and sat in silence.

This was the time for contemplation. Ironically, the Gospel appointed for Wednesday was the pericope which includes John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world". This is probably my least favorite verse in the New Testament, because of the way I believe it has been abused. But this was the verse used to lead us into contemplation.

I let go of my judgment concerning the verse and the ways I think it has been abused. I let go of the situation that had made the week unhappy and somewhat stressful. I released what resentments I was aware of.

I closed my eyes. I breathed. I focused on my "third eye". I aimed the arrows of my heart toward the divine, as the anonymous author of Cloud of Unknowing puts it.

I found I had dived in, like some deep sea diver.

There were some typical physical manifestations. They may be sign posts that one is on the right path, but they are not to be sought.

I suppose the only sign that really matters is how one lives his/her life after this time in contemplation.

My stress had been connected with a person at work. The problem was either in how she was communictaing with me, or with how I was hearing her. It was certainly clear that all I could do to ease the situation was maintain a level of emotional distance and to wear the perceived conflict as a loose garment.

Thursday morning, my co-worker greeted me with a neutral tone of voice, and asked how I was doing. I said I was better, and that was that. We had limited interaction after that, and it was not 100% what it would have been a month ago (we've historically been very friendly), but I didn't take it personally.

My goal is not to give my co-worker the cold shoulder. I suspect she is going through something in her personal life which is unconnected with me. If I am a part of any work-related problem, I don't think it likely it is but a very small part. My goal, then, is to give her some space.

Part of this started Wednesday afternoon, before I went to service. But the full fruits were realized Thursday. After I had dived into contemplation, and drank the living waters.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday's Cat

Friday's Cat

DJ takes a well-deserved break from bird watching.

This chair is in my bedroom, and is one of the Lady's favorite places to camp out. The afgan was a present from the mother of my first girlfriend - so it has followed me since high school.

Miami Mice

Det. Cracker
Hello, I'm here to tell you about an exciting new program coming to The CW. The name of the program is Miami Mice. That's Miam-ah Mice. My partner and I investigate cases of extreme rodent infestation in the bustling burg of Miam-ah, Oklahoma. That's "Miami Mice," Fridays at 8 p.m. Oklahoma time on The CW.

Idée d’jour

Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eat just one of the pieces.
— Judity Viorst

Thursday, April 27, 2006

She Inspects My Moonsmile

She’s observing the perspective of the sidewalk
to my sideways moonsmile. She’s got
alien pigtails and honorable horn rims.
She’s wearing drug counter perfume
and lavender jellies.
She’s drinking plum green tea.
She’s plumbed the depths of her heart.
She’s found the inner fountain.

She’s observing sidereal time.
She’s counting on the losses.
She’s wearing a fedora.
She’s not from Kansas.

This machine is not a war machine.
She is not a machine.
She is wonderfully and marvelously made.
This human is not programmed to self-destruct.
This human will not drown.
This human is not alone.
This human loves smiling.
This human loves walking with other humans.

These humans.
Oh, these humans, and their fountains.
Oh, these humans, and their infinite hearts.
Oh, these marvelous humans
who shine light in the darkness.

These humans will surround fascism
and convince it to surrender.
These humans will tempt hatred
to love itself to understanding.

She knows her wounds.
She can count her wounds.
She can love her wounds.
Her wounds teach her, night by night.

She climbs my moonsmile.
She paints my eyes.
She smoothes my forehead.
She parts my tender hair.
She practices patience at my earlobes.
She opens the secret spring
which feeds the fountain of my heart.

Idée d'jour

One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don't come home at night.
— Margaret Mead, anthropologist (1901-1978)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Must Hear

Dear Mr. President, in which Pink asks a certain commander-in-chief to take a walk with her. Whether it is work-safe depends on whether your co-workers are among the ~38% who still think B*sh is doing a "heck of a job".

Idée d’jour

Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living, the other helps you make a life.
— Sandra Carey

Tuesday, April 25, 2006



In the spirit of the esteemed Dr. Omed, here is some honeysuckle. It is growing on the north edge of my property.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Idée d’jour

Permanent good can never be the outcome of untruth and violence.
— Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Take that, Georgie Porgie

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Lost at Woods' Edge

Through these woods I once ran naked.
Under unfettered skies I spun beneath tree shadow.
My pale flesh was dappled
by early autumn sun.
Lost savage in public glade.
Pink ghost near the culvert seen.

I can see the ghost now,
running just past memory's limits.
My 9 year-old shade darting between trees,
between park and suburban homes,
between distant street & concrete culvert.

And I wonder if the ghost is true,
or a memory fragment,
or a dream.

The afternoons were Lone Ranger & Superman.
In the summer Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore
were my surrogate parents.

And breeze against bare skin was real.
Grass between bare toes was real.
Movement between dappled shadows was real.
More real than naps on thin plastic maps
or playground jeers or letters or
even thoughts.

I asked the trees what this poem wanted to be.
Alive, in the forest.
I asked the creek, thin shadow of the Canadian River,
what this poem wanted to be.
Laughing toward the ocean.
I asked the grass what this poem wants to be.
Growing to the sun.
I asked my ghostly dappled flesh
what this poem wants to be.
Alive, alive, alive.
Ignorant of history, forgetful of self,
lost, lost, lost.

Lost at woods' edge.
In DraftThe poem as it appears in my Moleskine Notebook. Two bits unrelated to the poem have been whited out: my last name, and a friend's contact information.
This poem is a companion to other "memory" poems such as "The 34th Street Flood"

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Magnetic Fib

Magnetic FibBe
always bloom, woman,
flower like love's summer season
[Photo taken Friday morning, April 14, the second day of Passover]

(Belated) Friday Five: Faves

[From RevGalBlogPals' esteemed Songbird.
  1. fruit
  2. song
    Holly Cole's recording of "I Can See Clearly Now"
  3. beverage
    Green Tea
  4. shoes
    my faux Birkenstocks
  5. flower
    Compass Rose

Friday, April 21, 2006

Jonah's "Fib"

by a fish
this big — then I was
spit out three days later. Honest!

"Fib" is the name for a poetic form based on the Fibonacci sequence.

Quote d'jour

We must refuse to let [the OKC bombing] make sense – here, or anywhere else. We must steel ourselves against rationalizations and learned political analysis. We must hang on, as long as possible, to our sense of astonishment. Be astonished that ideology can make murder understandable. Be astonished that hatred can go unchecked until bodies burn. Let us not be misled by labels, as if calling someone a terrorist gives sense to madness.
— excerpt from a sermon by Rabbi Dan Shevitz of Emanuel Synagogue in Oklahoma City on the final day of Passover, three days after the bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995 [from the A Little Joy, A Little Oy calendar, © 2005 Andrews McMeel]

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Recommended Reading

Dr. Omed's Flower War, a poem on the Aztec concept & practice. Not for the faint of heart.

Spidey Girl's Peter, Part Three. I'd like to see more of Peter's story. I've always wondered about transition from the impetuous "block head" protrayed in the Gospels to the more reasonable person portrayed in the Book of Acts. Just a thought.

Late Add:
The Anagrammed Bible
Clearly, this "Recommended Reading" list is becoming a semi-regular feature. Not filler, just things I sincerely believe will be of interest for folk who regularly visit this space.

Idée d’jour

The politician is an acrobat. He keeps his balance by saying the opposite of what he does.
— Maurice Barres, novelist and politician (1862-1923)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Something About Two O'Clock

There's something about two o'clock.
Not sure what it is.
Somewhere, I have a quote from Scott Fitzgerald
to the effect that 4 a.m. is the dark night of the soul.
But this is 2.
Is this the hour God spoke to Samuel?
Should I rise from my bed
and say, "Speak Lord your servant is listening"?
I tried that.
Tried that at two a.m. Good Friday morning.
It was a chant: "I am listening, I am listening, I am listening."
Then, off course, I considered the fact
that I couldn't really be listening
while I was chanting.
The squirrel was lose in its cage.
What would God have with me?
No Samuel here.
I'm opinionated as hell, but surely no prophet.
So, hey God, what's up?

Maybe it's not God.
Maybe it's this intemperate April.
High hit 94° yesterday.
Record high, for the date.
But I've got the AC on (reluctantly).
I sleep atop the covers.

Maybe it's all my little ego dreams of fame & romance.
Like, I don't know, some editor will discover my blog
and ask me to write a book.
Maybe someone will hear me sing,
and offer me a recording contract.
Maybe the new girl at church
is the companion I seek.
Stuff like that.
I'm used to these ego dreams.
Sometimes I amuse myself by letting them play out,
like little movies projected on the inside of my forehead.
Other times, I look elsewhere.
Seek the Inner Light.
The thin place where my spirit meets the divine spirit.

Don't know what it is.
Try wearing myself out.
Try pushing myself right to ten.
Try not to —
Try to —
Doesn't matter.
I'm awake sometime between two and three.

So, God, if it is you, I'm ready for the message.
Heck, I'll probably do whatever it is you're asking of me.
Odds are pretty good.
I'm just tired of waking up at this hour.
I'm ready to sleep now.
Just tell me, in small words,
get it over with,
and let me sleep through through the night.

Idée d’jour

The question why there is evil in existence is the same as why there is imperfection... But this is the real question we ought to ask: Is this imperfection the final truth, is evil absolute and ultimate?
— Rabindranath Tagore, poet, philosopher, author, songwriter, painter, educator, composer, Nobel laureate (1861-1941)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Idée d’jour

What do you mean, you "don't believe in homosexuality"? It's not like the Easter Bunny; your belief isn't necessary.
— Lea Delaria

More Recommended Reading

[Two religious, two political; it's what I call balanced]

Part Two of Spidey Girl's Peter series. This is one reader hoping for a part three!

The Lost Gospel of Judas. Read for yourself what all the fuss is about. It's only seven pages long, and you can down-load an Adobe version of the document for free.

This next link comes courtesy of Brother Dave. Chickenhawks is a list compiled by the brave folk at the New Hampshire Gazette. There's much else worthy of note in their on-line edition. For example, their editorial Progress in the Wrong Direction reignited some depression in my spirit. Worthy of special note is "Ports, the Sequel", about 3/4ths down the page.

Finally, if you have not already read it, here's Seymour Hersch's article about administration plans to bomb or invade Iraq. This is what El Presidente was talking about when he referred to wild speculation this time a week ago.

Two things are scary about this. First, B*sh said efforts to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capability did not mean the use of force - necessarily. If not for his choice of modifier, and his tone of voice when saying it, I might have given him the benefit of the doubt. One should be kind to children and the mentally deficient.

The second scary thing is that Hersch wrote an article very much like this some time before the invasion of Iraq. Got to ask yourself: who you going to believe? The respected journalist, or the guy who has been caught in at least two major lies that I'm aware of.

One last thing - unscientific poll:
Is B*sh stupid, a moron, an imbecile, certifiably insane, or just plain pure evil? Evil, that is, like the pure evil at the end of Time Bandits. Evil even more profound than Richard Nixon's evil. Evil which has a special circle of the Inferno reserved - right next to Brutus and our friend Judas.
Vote in the comments.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Definition d'jour

ChriEaster (n)[KREE-ster]
people who only attend church on Christmas and Easter

Easter Vigil

I had predicted that the Easter Vigil service Saturday evening would be about two hours long. As it turned out, it started around 7:30 pm, and we got out around 9:15 or so.

Not too far off.

I was serving as Lay Reader (which means I read the Epistle, Rom 6:3-11; and was on of four who served the wine during communion), so I wanted to get to the Cathedral early. I got there a few minutes after 7. Somehow, I was able to be of service to a couple of people before service began.

Also gathering early were people to be baptized, confirmed, reaffirmed, or received (from other denominations). A mother and her three sons were gathered in the courtyard. The mother, Shelly, was being confirmed. She asked me to take their picture. Which I was happy to do. After that, she asked for advice twice before service. Guess I earned some brownie points by helping her.

I kept looking for June, who was reaffirming. Reaffirmation is often a way to acknowledge a spiritual renewal within oneself. There are other reasons, and I'm not sure what June's reason was. I'd had the chance to visit with her a few times before, and enjoy her company. Not necessarily looking for or expecting romance, but I can always use another friend.

In any case, June got there about ten minutes before the service began. She was dressed in scrubs. June is an RN in a Palliative Care unit at a local hospital, so I assumed she was rushing in from her shift. I gave her a sideways hug, and mentioned my assumption. No, she said. Her cat had bitten her hard enough to require a tetanus shot. She had actually dressed in her Easter best, but it had been spoiled by blood. She'd gone to the ER for the tetanus shot, and borrowed the scrubs from the ER nurse.

"Thanks for the hug," she said, "I really needed that." Then she asked me to remove the plastic ID tag around her wrist. I've never been able to break one with my bare hands, so I went to the vesting room to get some scissors or a knife.

She followed me. The door was closed, so I knocked and asked for scissors. At which point, June started crying. Luke, one of the ministers, took her in his arms, and she retold her tale through her tears.

She went to the ladies' room to compose herself.

Then the ministers and acolytes and choir were off.

The Easter Vigil is one of my favorite services. On Maundy Thursday, all the lights had been extinguished and the sanctuary candle had been removed. So, the church is dark. The ministers proceed in silence. The officiant recites a prayer over a bed of coals, which are ignited; the Paschal Candle is lit from this. That bier of flames in the dark church is quite impressive.

The officiant, who was Luke, sings the Exultet, which begins "Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels."

This song is followed by the Holy History. A number of lessons are possible, primarily from the Old Testament, recounting God's relationship with God's people. Only two lessons were read at our service - the story of Israel crossing the Red Sea, and Ezkiel's vision of the dry bones returning to life.

The Epistle follows. I'm told I read it well.

Then came the baptisms, and so on. Three people were baptized. Twenty-six were confirmed. Three reaffirmed, and four were received.

The Bishop has a lovely tradition for confirmations, reaffirmations, and receptions. He invites people from the congregation who have a close relationship with those being confirmed (etc) to lay hands on these people at the same time he does. I laid my hand on a number of people, including Shelly. And June.

Now I had tears in my eyes. I'm moved when people choose this way of life. If you're serious about it, it isn't easy. It's the most challenging decision a person can make.

It's easy to be a TV Christian. It may be almost as easy to be a fundamentalist Christian, who often defines himself by how much better he is than all those sinners. It's harder to be a Christian who is neither of these, but who is judged by the worst of both camps. It's harder to seek to be Christ-like in a world that judges by standards 180° opposite of Jesus' standards.

Idée d’jour

I guess my whole story is about wanting men to love women as much as women love men.
— Diane Wakoski (1937 – ), from her poetry collection Jason the Sailor (1993)

Recommended Reading

From the Dark of Saturday by the lovely lady I call "Spidey Girl", but who calls herself Samwise Gamgee (among other things). Read it before going to service, if you can.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Idée d’jour

If I'm not always happy, that doesn't mean I'm doing something wrong. It means I am doing something real.
— Laurie Seligman

Friday, April 14, 2006

Jesus Wept

If it be possible, let this trial pass me by.
Nonetheless, not my will, but yours.

Stay with me.
Remain here with me.
Watch & pray.

Let this cup pass.
Nonetheless, I am obedient to your will.

Stay with me.
Remain here with me.
Watch & pray.

Let me survive this time.
Nonetheless, my life is yours.

Remain awake.
= = =
Photo, taken this morning, of a statue located at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, to the west of the Okla. City National Memorial. The statue is, indeed, titled "Jesus Wept".

Idée d'jour

There is also an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth,
without either virtue or talents... The artificial aristocracy is a
mischievous ingredient in government, and provisions should be made to prevent its ascendancy.
— Thomas Jefferson, third US president,architect and author (1743-1826)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Recommended Reading

Stations of the Cross for Global Justice and Reconciliation - Courtesy of the Episcopal Public Policy Network

Went to the Dance by Gregorious. Be sure to check for part two on Friday!

One of the Monkeys by Nicholas Johnson (scroll down).

Holy Thursday from Songs of Experience by William Blake.

Just about anything highlighted on RevGalBlogPals

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Good Story

Even God likes a good story. – Rabbi Ben Kamin, chapter heading from his book Thinking Passover

The good Rabbi is obviously thinking of the Passover story, which most of us Christians know primarily through Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments. He is also thinking of the stories families share at the Seder meal.

It's fitting that we consider stories, and Passover. This year is one of the rare times when the Jewish feast falls close to the Christian feast of Easter.

Remember, the meal Jesus shared with his followers was a Passover seder. According to Rabbi Kamin, each family develops its own tradition, and sometimes says slightly different words. So perhaps it was not shocking when Jesus said, "This is my Body. Eat it in remembrance of me."

I wonder what stories the people in that Upper Room shared. Perhaps they retold stories from Jesus' ministry to that point. "Hey, remember that big haul of fish?" "Yeah, but what about all those fish and loaves? We must have fed 5,000 people, not counting women and children!"

By this point, Jesus knew he was doomed. He had embarrassed the religious authorities once too often. Their power was threatened by the strength of his teachings, and his popularity.

There was also the political problem - too many people thought Jesus was the military messiah they had been hoping for. It was possible an enthusiastic crowd would riot. Which would bring down the Roman army. The religious authorities knew that most of the Roman army had little use for their people, and that the soldiers would relish slaughtering a few Jews.

Their choice was: kill this guy, or risk having thousands killed instead?

I wonder which one of us would have made a different choice.

I'd suggest that a similar logic was used when it was argued that we attack the terrorists before we saw the proof of a mushroom cloud.

The person promoting that logic claimed to be a Christian. Many of the people who reelected that person claim to be Christians. Yet this logic of striking before you are even touched is a calculus that the Pharisees and Sudducees would have understood very well.

I digress.

Some people believe that Jesus was destined for Crucifixion from the dawn of time. They believe that God had this in mind from the time of Adam and Eve. They believe that God wanted a human sacrifice to redeem human sinfulness.

As far as I'm concerned, this is just so wrong on so many levels. How can we worship a God who would allow his only son to be tortured and murdered in the most barbaric manner possible? If Jesus' death was preordained, and we have been redeemed, then every Christian born since the first century of the Common Era is off scot free. We don't need to do anything, we don't need to worry. Jesus was our ultimate "Stay Out of Hell" card.

But the biggest thing wrong with it is that it makes for a lousy storytelling experience if you know from the dawn of time how it's going to come out. If God likes a good story, then don't you suppose God likes to be surprised now and then?

Don't you suppose God would have been just as happy if Jesus were not crucified. Every person in that intricate bureaucracy we hear about - the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod - had a choice. Any one of them could have said, "Wait a minute. This guy hasn't done anything worth crucifying him for." Either Pilate or Herod could have released Jesus.

The point of the story for me is not the crucifixion, but the mystery we know as Easter. I can't say for a fact that a man was raised from the dead. I wasn't there, and I don't know. What I do know is that something incredible must have happened to make people react as they did. Although the religious authorities hunted them down and crucified them, they still followed Jesus. Even though Nero sent them to the lions, they still followed Jesus. You don't suffer those sorts of hardships on a whim, or for a mere philosophy.

You suffer those sort of hardships because you have experienced something life-changing. Some had this experience through knowing Jesus during his earthly ministry. Others had this experience as they came to know the community who called themselves Christians.

The point of the story for me is the positive changes in people's lives that resulted from this profoundly negative event. It is still possible for lives to be changed today.

Pink Pesach Moon

Pesach MoonPink Pesach moon burns
a hole in the April night;
red grass arises
where the Angel has tread.
Sunrise: mothers are weeping.

Idée d’jour

Rare is the person who can weigh the faults of others without putting his thumb on the scales.
— Byron J. Langenfeld
Case in point — a few weeks back, I was complaining about how some Christians "cherry-pick" from scripture. Someone asked how I was any different. "I admit that I cherry-pick; I doubt that they do."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My Weekend

BumblebeeI spent some time in Will Rogers' Park this past Saturday. Will Rogers' is just an eighth of a mile or less from my house. This picture of a bumblebee is just one of the many shots I caught.

I suppose it's appropriate, because I kept myself pretty busy.

To begin with, I had a cup of espresso. Brewed in my very own stove-top espresso pot - a gift received from Sarah many years ago. About 9:00, I went to the Cathedral to learn how to (and help) make palm crosses. People might have thought I was on drugs, because I was "speed rapping"; but the rap was only inspired by the espresso.

I left the Cathedral at 11:00, drove to a book shop in south OKC.

The shop didn't open until noon, and it was only about 11:30, so I drove around a bit. Stopped into a Dollar Tree store, and picked up a biography of Abbie Hoffman by his brother Jack (Run, Run, Run). Paid cash - one dollar bill.

The bookshop is the only place I know of that sells bootleg CDs. I bought a bootleg of the demos for Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. I'm pleased to say the sound quality is mostly better than I expected.

The shop also sells new and used books. In observance of poetry month I picked up Twenty Love Songs by Pablo Neruda (the middling Merwin translation). Also got Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and Zen and the Beat Way by Alan Watts. Wrote a check for that purchase.

Went home and had a late lunch. Then drove to the north side of the city, to go to a garage sale. I was either at the wrong place, or they had closed down.

Drove out to the park and took a little over 20 photographs.

Went home, downloaded the pictures on my computer. Spent some time in the RLP chatroom.

Then I went to the OK Museum of Art movie theater to see Neil Young: Heart of Gold. Which I highly recommend, by the way. I was only yawning because the day was finally catching up with me.

Ran into a couple from church at the movie, and they invited me to join them. Another couple was also with them. The foursome invited me to join them for dinner, which I did.

We went to a restaurant called Cheever's, which is a converted floral shop. The food is excellent, with generous portions and reasonable prices. The service was slow, but I assume it was in the "European style" of many up-scale restaurants.

By the time we finished dinner, it was 10:00 and I was running on my last drop of adrenaline. Went home. Became one with the bed.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Lenten Discipline

Almost 40 days ago, a friend asked me what I was giving up for Lent, and I replied "Plastic". She never asked me what I meant by that. Perhaps she understood that I meant credit cards.

I have used my credit card once since Ash Wednesday - to buy gas. Since then, I have observed the discipline of paying for gas with cash. Since gas is closing in on $3 a gallon, this has sometimes been a challenging discipline. Somehow it hurts more to pay that much with cash.

Which explains why I needed to set the credit card aside. I seem to forget - in the moment of consumer infatuation - that I will have to pay for it one day.

This no credit card discipline has also led me to avoid places where I might be tempted to use one. Such as book stores, music outlets, and Target. It has also greatly reduced my on-line shopping.

The disciplines we adopt for Lent are not necessarily always this utilitarian. For example, the past few years, my Lenten discipline has been to reduce (or totally curtail) my time watching commercial TV.

The point is not whether our disciplines are utilitarian, or whether we "suffer" as we observe the discipline. I think the point is to observe the discipline. To get in the practice of starting something challenging, and seeing it through to the end.

Music or writing might be good analogies. As a writer, I am relatively undisciplined. My first or second draft is generally good enough to get my point across. Once I feel like an essay or poem is "done", I don't generally have the interest to go back and proof-read it, or hone it. It's done. I'm ready to move on to the next thing.

I don't generally write outlines before I start my essay. In the case of at least two essays I wrote for the Ordinary Time collection, I started off thinking I was writing about one thing, only to end up someplace else entirely. Thing is, I didn't always go back and change the beginning to reflect the new place I ended. I convinced myself that the reader might appreciate reading my thoughts as they developed.

Talk about hubris, right?

I've been told I'm a good writer. I have a number of fans (at least three known to me personally). Imagine how much better I would be if I wrote outlines, proof-read, and honed. Heck, I might become professional quality!

Here's another example. I have played a harmonica since I was a pre-teen. I bought my first Horner Marine Band (with Beatles' song/instruction book) in a pawn shop on NW 23rd Street. I learned the scale, I learned the tunes, I taught myself to play a number of things by ear.

Now, almost forty years later, I can play with just about any tune as long as I know the key and have the appropriate harp for that key. I know where the "home" note will be (the fourth hole), and instinctively find my way around from there.

The word "discipline", as you may know, comes from the root, "disciple" - which means "student". But this is a different sort of student than you find in the normal classroom. This student patterns her/his behavior on the teacher's. The obvious example is Jesus' disciples. He called upon them (and us) to pattern our lives and actions on his example.

Jesus' model is radically different than what the World teaches. Sometimes it's even different than what our Sunday School teacher might tell us. That's why it takes extreme discipline - because we are told by a vast number of other sources that we should be doing just the opposite.

Our Lent discipline may be just a sort of practice for the sort of discipline we are called to observe year round. Consider that. You're called to do more than just "give up" chocolate for forty days. You are called to daily strive to conform your life to the example Jesus modeled.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sample Prayer

Part of our assignment for the meditations we're writing for the Ordinary Time book is to close each one with a prayer. As much as I enjoy creating prayers (often extemp), this has sometimes been challenging. The following is a prayer I wrote at the end of my entry on Heb 4:12-16; in the course of my essay, I reminded myself of the Lord's Prayer and was inspired to write a variation on it.
Daddy, your Name is Holy. May I see your presence in all your creation. May I always recognize your grace in each grain of wheat. May I remember your mercy when I am hurt by others. May your Love become dominant throughout the world. This I ask in Your Blessed Name. Amen.
Post #1500

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Egg Rolling

If the church down the street can have an egg hunt a week early, surely the lady is allowed roll her egg. It was a gift from her Aunt Cherie (a kind-hearted co-worker).

Idée d’jour

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
— James Madison, fourth US president (1751-1836)

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Moral Christian

From the archive, a didactic poem written in 1980
Face of Death
The Moral Christian cries, "I know it All,"
& there his Soul takes her Fall.
For when Jesus comes with compass wide
& measures him by his own Moral's pride,
Then he shall utterly be lost
& on pride's torment be tossed.

Why were Adam & Eve from Eden cast?
Have we learn'd naught from the past?
T'was not from Knowledge, but from its desire
That the Angel was sent with sword of fire.

Jesus died for our sins, not our mind;
Yet today I oft-times find
Those who crucify their mind for His sake
& of Moral Commandments partake.

Say as you please, these
Are like the Pharisees:
Cruel Lawyers who chose
To have their faith in neat rows
Of firm commandments, unchanging Laws
Which was not our Redeemer's cause.
God's Love they would enumerate,
& with a compass draw its boundary,
& thus they seal their fate
As they pass judgment on me.

Does not God's Love speak to each Heart
In its own tongue? Are we not all part
Of the Holy Ghost, who lives in every soul
That we may be alive & whole?
Episc Ad
The true Saints are those
Who heed their Holy Ghost
As He reveals that Love
Proper for each moment. Love
Is not fix'd as is Moral Law —
Love is superior by far.
Love changes with each changing face
& so spreads, to save our race.

You may call it Sympathy,
But that is not the word for me:
"God is Love," I sang as a child
& only now is its meaning reveal'd.
This is the Revolution I seek most:
When each Heart & Soul heeds its Holy Ghost

14. December. 1980

Written after reading D.H. Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature, and influenced by Wm Blake. The nineteenth line is from an Episcopalian ad. The rest is me.

Cat Friday

Pleased kitty

What's Been Going On

So, there I was on Monday, with a little down time before lunch. I decided to pop in to the RLP chatroom for a few minutes, just to see what was up. I was pleased to note that Reverend Mommy was there. This was a rare treat. "Mom," as I call her, has been quite busy the past couple of weeks, and hasn't been in the chat room very often — at least, not when I happened to pop in.

However, once I was fully in the chat, I noticed there was a "BRB" by her name. This meant "Be Right Back", and implied she was not physically near her computer.

Imagine my surprise when the IM window popped up, and the person addressing me was Rev. Mommy. "Dearest Jonah" she typed.

"Uh-oh," said I.

As you may be aware, one of the things Rev. Mommy has been busy with is the compilation and editing of a book of meditations intended for "Ordinary Time" — that long green season between the feast of Pentecost and the beginning of Advent. I had initially volunteered to write two meditations.

Later, I met another one of the writers (again, in the chat) who didn't think s/he could complete two of his/her meditations. So, I volunteered to write those. If you have a long memory, you may recall I volunteered to do this just as I was trying to post my 1500th entry by my blogoversary.

Seems the book is still a few essays short. The esteemed Rev. Mommy asked me to take on 3 – 4 more. "I don't mind if you write on something other than the assigned reading," she typed, "I feel the need to get those dates filled."

So: most of my time this week (between sparse work projects) has been devoted to writing essays for the book. I wrote on Psalm 22 ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"). I re-wrote my essay on Psalm 23. I wrote about Heb. 4:12-16. I wrote an lengthy essay on Mark 10:17-31.

I'm in the process of adapting my thoughts about the book of Jonah for yet another entry.

So, if things have seemed a little sparse around here lately — now you know the reason why.

However, be assured that Cat Friday will continue as scheduled. The lady's pose will be posted later this morning.

Idée d’jour

We are all apprentices of the Buddha.
— Alexi Shotwell, "The Not-Me Generation," book review, Shambhala Sun, March 2006, 87

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Quote d’jour

Can we dare to be ridiculously confident that good things reach good people in good ways, although those ways cannot be wholly charted and documented?

Those who are responsible for creative offerings have serious responsibilities — the greatest among them being to offer works of art, performances, or shared experiences that reflect, insofar as possible, the highest and best we know...

— Roger Lipsey, "Art Is a Record of the Heart", book review, Shambhala Sun, March 2006, p. 81

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Review: The Da Vinci Code

A recent satire reminded me of my low opinion of Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code.

The book has received a considerable amount of free publicity this past year. At least one broadcast network (ABC) has aired a "news special" examining claims made in the book. It seems to have inspired a cottage industry of sorts, with a number of books claiming to either "crack the code", or debunk its theories. Of course, there's a movie version coming out this summer. And there is a copyright infringement case in Great Britain.

All of these events have given the novel a considerable amount of free publicity, and I hesitate to add to the list. However, if I save you the expense of purchase, I have served a valuable purpose.

The novel is part of a literary sub-genre that I have been aware of since about the 80s. This genre might be considered a variant of historical romance, in which the reader may learn some history while enjoying a fiction of flirtation, pursuit, and marriage. One example of this sub-genre is the Tony Hillerman novels, in which anthropological and historical information about Native Americans in the Four Corners region is conveyed within the context of a mystery novel.

There are a number of mystery series which fit into this sub-genre. The Rabbi Small mysteries conveys information about Jewish lore and beliefs. William Kienzle's mysteries include explanations (and opinions on) Roman Catholic beliefs. Andrew Greeley's Father Blackie mysteries serve as his means to explicate Greeley's theology.

The Da Vinci Code shares the most with Fr. Greeley's work, as Mr. Brown promotes a certain theological view through the course of what is intended as a suspense novel.

In the unlikely event that you have been asleep for the past year and a half, and have been unaware of the novel's theological premise, here it is: Jesus secretly married Mary Magdalene, and their union produced a daughter. Naturally, this information calls into question Jesus' divinity, and the Roman Catholoic Church's position on women in the ministry.

This is far from a new theory. That copyright lawsuit I mentioned above was brought by the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a book which asserts the same claim, and which was promoted as non-fiction. Gossip concerning Jesus and Mary Magdalene dates as early as the early Christian Church, if not even earlier.

Still, judging from the low-level controversy brewing around the book, it's a new theory to many people. And if the book delivers this theory in a pleasing way, what harm is there?

Honestly, I can find no harm, except for my opinion that the book fails as a novel. One of the major flaws is the manner in which the author delivers his theory: extended dialogues between characters. The action grinds to a halt about every-other chapter for these dialogues.

Another flaw is character development and consistency. I'm thinking in particular of the female lead, and this flaw is striking given the pro-feminist slant of the novel.

When we first meet the female lead, she is assertive and directs much of the action. About half-way through the novel, however, I became aware that she had ceased taking the lead. After this point, her primary function seemed to be as an audience for the men while they lectured on Da Vinci, Opus Dei, and so on.

So, check the book out of the library if you must satisfy some lingering curiousity about it. But don't bother increasing Mr. Brown's bank account by purchasing it.

Idée d’jour

Experience makes us see an enormous difference between piety and goodness.
— Blaise Pascal, philosopher and mathematician (1623-1662)
The image on your left was taken yesterday morning. The arch and clock tower are at the east end of a walkway that roughly defines the middle of the campus where I work. One of the perks of this job is the fact that this walkway is immediately outside my fourth-floor window.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Someone Else's Dream

White contrail unzips blue morning;
Grackles guard yellowed suburban lawns.

Black rubber spins on speckled asphalt
and shadows spin counter-clockwise.

Redbuds exploded under midnight Worm Moon.
Bradford Pears dust the street with snow.

Landmarks in someone else's dream.