Saturday, December 23, 2006

Fourth Sunday of Advent

I've lost my breath.
I've lost my words.
I've lost my way.

I light the thin candle
sweep the dusty corners
search where shadows fall.

Can these eyes see light
in these dark times?
Greet the demon within
as a forgotten friend?

The dusty corners
the ego webs
the lonely shadows
the useless hands.

Wait at the door.
Catch my breath.
Forget my need for words.

Wait for air to spark flame.
Wait for shadows to unfold.
Wait for dust to settle
at the doorsill.

Search diligently
for cause
to rejoice.
"... what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?
"And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Luke 15:8-10

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Man of Last Year

The man of last year
is an internal legend
a hero of suburban lawns

The man of last year
is watching the neon
and deciphering the new moon

The man of last year
is taking his pulse
wearing a second-hand fedora

The man of last year
is partially forgotten
he sees you with barren eyes

The man of last year
holds court in the royal recliner
for one small era longer

The man of last year
with his straw hair
and mercury mind
with his mirrored glasses
and clipped diction
with his thin long fingers
and his ruptured voice

The man of last year
is not looking for
a hold out

The man of last year
is already lost
in the almanac's idex

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Idée d’jour

After studying church history, I can see why people believe in hell. I just can't figure out why all Christians don't go there.
— anonymous seminarian, quoted in a Generous Orthodoxy, McLaren, Zondervan, 2004

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Third Sunday of Advent

Luke 3:7-18
I do not look remarkable. My clothes are not shabby, but they were clearly bought at a second-hand shop. But you will remember me.

I am standing at the foot of small hill, on top of a short retaining wall. I am standing, to be exact, in front of Dale Hall, at the southwest corner of Lindsey and Asp.

It is hard to say whether I am speaking to the crowd that has gathered. It's entirely possible I would be speaking even if no one were in front of me. Judging by the size of the crowd, you might think I am shouting. But, as you draw closer, you can tell that I am speaking in a conversational tone:

"I cannot keep silent. The words burn within me. For I had a vision in the womb, before I was born: I saw all that was false in this world burned away; I saw the ax laid to the roots of a rotted tree. I saw the leaders brought low. I saw the poor man raised up.

"I cannot keep silent. The words burn within me. How did you come to know this is the acceptable time? What wind brought you to this place, ahead of the consuming fire? Can it be you are ready to turn your life upside down?

"I cannot keep silent. You, who wear your dress so short: it seems you are lonely; it seems you want to be held. Would you trade your body for comfort? Would you trade your soul for company?

"The words burn within me. You, who jeer at my words: you believe the world is defined by your five senses and your definition of order. Did you stew the cosmic soup? Can you define the moment the mitochondria volunteered its service? How can you be sure you have understood rightly?

"I cannot keep silent. I can tell you feel secure behind your wall of money. You feel justified by a rich house and a high paying job. I tell you, your money and your house will be nothing but ash in the time to come. God is a consuming fire, with no patience for falsehood, pretense, or mere things that pass away.

"The words burn within me. Do not think your church or synagogue will save you. You only speak the words once a week. You do not follow the path the words map for you. Do not be deluded: empty words will not save you from the time to come.

"I cannot keep silent. The words burn within me. For I saw the consuming fire when I was still in the womb."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Idée d’jour

Your neighbor's vision is as true for him as your own vision is true for you.
— Miguel de Unamuno, writer and philosopher (1864-1936)

You are right from your side, and I am right from mine
We're both one too many mornings, and a thousand miles behind.
— Bob Dylan

Friday Five: Yuletide Favorites

Suggested by Songbird
  1. It's a Wonderful Life --Is it? Do you remember seeing it for the first time?
    I first saw this movie on Public Television some time in the late 70s or early 80s, before it became a classic, and therefore worthy of the schlock treatment NBC has given it the past several years.
       I do remember liking it the very first time I saw it. I haven't watched it for at least two years. I haven't bought the DVD, and I can't stand the current broadcast version - in which a 90 minute movie is extended to three hours.

  2. Miracle on 34th Street-- old version or new ?
    The original, black & white version.

  3. Do you have a favorite incarnation of Mr. Scrooge?
    My introduction to this story was via Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. So, this is a sentimental favorite.
    Among live action versions, I'm quite fond of Alastair Sim.

  4. Why should it be a problem for an elf to be a dentist? I've been watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for years now, and I still don't get it.
    Considering the fact that elves probably eat a lot of candy, an in-house dentist would seem quite desirable.
       On the other hand, with a relatively limited labor force, management is justified in wanting all workers to do the job for which they were hired.
       Given the Head Elf's extreme reaction, it's also possible he's no happier in his job than Hermey is. So he finds Hermey's non-conformism threatening.

  5. Who's the scariest character in Christmas specials/movies?
    I was frightened by Bumble the first time I saw Rudolph; this was the original airing, in 1964. I was 9 years old. The program was sponsored by GE, and I think some of the commercials included the characters from the show.
       The scene was a classic cliff-hanger: it appeared that Bumble was going to eat Rudolph's mom and Clarrisa, then cut to commercial. That was pretty scary.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Idée d’jour

If you have the same ideas as everybody else but have them one week earlier than everyone else then you will be hailed as a visionary. But if you have them five years earlier you will be named a lunatic.
— Barry Jones, politician, author (1932- )

Tao de Bun

If there were no black bunnies, how would we recognize white bunnies?
Art by Rick

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Hypochondria

My hypochondria is getting a work-out today.

For example: Do you think I should be worried about my left arm being kind of tingly?

Or: What about this pain and swelling on the left side of my chest, just above my heart?

Maybe it started last Wednesday night. I went to a dinner at church immediately after work, got home around 7:30. Drank some Desert Sage Tea. Noticed my back was a little tight, but didn't think anything of it.

By the time I went to bed, my back hurt so badly, I could barely sleep.

When I woke up last Thursday morning, I was in such pain I could barely walk. Honest! It took five minutes to walk from the bedroom to the bathroom – normally a 30 second stroll.

I called in sick, which I very rarely do.

Thanks to a Thermapak ® and some over-the-counter muscle relaxant (primary ingredient: benedril), I was ambulatory on Friday and could return to work.

My back has loosened up considerably since then, though I'm aware of a low-level ache.

Now, regarding my heart, you should know I have a condition called paroxymal ventricle tachycardia &nash; meaning, one of the valves in my heart "sticks". Prior to diagnosis and meds, my heart literally skipped a beat. Maybe why I'm especially sensitive to waltzes and 3/4 time signatures.

This condition was diagnosed almost ten years ago, and a calcium-channel blocker was prescribed. I've been on that calcium-channel blocker ever since, and have not had significant heart problems since.

My script ran out on Monday. The story of why it took almost a week (I requested a refill last Wed) is almost too frustrating to relate. But I noticed the chest pain Monday evening.

Still hurt Tuesday morning. I noticed the swelling in the shower. Let's just say my bosom is lop-sided. The right side is flat; the other isn't.

Panic theory: the bad valve is sticking really badly, blood is backing up, and my heart is going to explode any moment.

Or, I've got that disease Dylan almost died of a few years ago – fluid build-up around the heart.

Calm theory: somehow, without realizing it, I compensated for the back ache and strained some muscles on that side of the chest.

You see, I'm well aware of my tendency to jump to the worst scenario when my health is involved. But I wait a few days – at least a week – before I call my doctor.

Oh yeah. That left-arm tingling thing? Pretty sure it's from a muscle group in my left shoulder.

And the good news is that I can (and will) get the refill of my calcium channel blocker on the way home. So, if the pain and swelling is somehow related to my heart, and the medication will help resolve it, I should be OK within a day or two.

Til then, my hypochondria is having a field day.

Idée d’jour

If you woke up breathing, congratulations! You have another chance.
— Andrea Boydston

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Virgin of Guadalupe

Blessed Mother, my chest aches:
right here, above my heart.
Will you press your lips here
and open
this secret eye?

Blessed Mother,
will you hold me,
wrap me in your scraps?
Wrap me in your rose blanket,
your wild blazing light?

Blessed Daughter,
child with child,
will you come to me?
Let me protect you,
build you a shelter
against desert cold.

Blessed Mother,
treasure this in your heart.
Today is the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fun with Widgets

As with the "Bird-Day" graphic below, this childish drawing was created with a "widget" found on Birdie's new site. You'll find the smallish drawing pad in the right column of her site.

Draw a picture. Save it. Post the link in Birdie's comments. Tell her Jonah sent ya.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Idée d’jour

Men can read maps better than women. 'Cause only the male mind could conceive of one inch equaling a hundred miles.
— Roseanne Barr

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Second Sunday of Advent

God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground...
Baruch 5:1-9

Someone driving through Oklahoma on I-35 could be forgiven for believing it is basically flat, because few mountains – much less hills – are visible from the interstate.   Oklahoma has what are known as old mountains.   These are mountains that have been worn down by geological forces such as wind and rain, to the point that they seem no more than hills.

Yet,   it's all a matter of perspective.   I grew up in the relatively flat centrally located   capital city.   At least twice a year, my family would drive south on Highway 77, part of which ran through Turner Falls.   Turner Falls was a park area which included a winding road through hillsides.    This road did not have guard rails; as a young boy looking out the passenger window, I thought the car would go over the edge at any minute.

There are times I feel like the old mountains of Oklahoma. There are times when it seems the demands of the business world have worn me down. There are times when my personality and personal choices seem to have been washed away by a desire to “fit in” with a particular culture at a particular time. There are times when it seems the “real me” will fall over the edge at any minute.

The prophets Baruch and Isaiah seem to promise that God will make life a smooth path, easily navigable. The valleys will be filled up, and the mountains brought low.   I think these verses may have more to do with my internal geography than actual valleys and mountains.

Where my ego has become puffed up and mountainous, it will be brought low. Where my gifts have been buried by social or internal pressures, they will be raised up. What is called for is a renewed perspective: that I seek to perceive this internal terrain from God's perspective, rather than my own or society's.

Prayer.   Blessed are you, Lord God. Blessed are you, for you erode my pride and sustain my gifts. Blessed are you, seeing me fully and truly.   Blessed are you for your indwelling Spirit. Blessed are you for the gift of Wisdom.   Blessed are you that my eyes be cleansed to see with the clarity of your Spirit. I pray in your Holy Name. Amen.

Idée d’jour

It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.
— Richard Feynman, physicist, Nobel laureate (1918-1988)

Happy Bird-Day

Share belated "Bird-Day" greetings with the dancing lady, who now nests at La Pajaro.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Five: Christmas Songs

Courtesy Reverend Mother
  1. A favorite 'secular' Christmas song.
    "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"; out of context, it is suitably "secular generic" - it extolls homey virtues of being with friends and family while ignoring any religious context for the holiday.
       In the context of the movie in which it was introduced – Judy Garland sang it to Margaret O'Brien in Meet Me In St. Louis – it is more bittersweet. In the song, Judy's character is trying to reassure O'Brien's character that a move (from St. Louis to New York) would not affect their family and its traditions.

  2. Christmas song that chokes you up (maybe even in spite of yourself — the cheesier the better)
    "O Holy Night". Whether it is cheesy or not depends on the performance. The line "fall on your knees" tends to bring out the ham in most performers - including your correspondent.

  3. Christmas song that makes you want to stuff your ears with chestnuts roasted on an open fire.
    "Grandma Got Ran Over By a Reindeer". "The Chipmunk Song" is pretty annoying and cloying, but "Grandma" takes the cake. If we truly cherished the "family values" extolled in "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" or "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting)", we would not find injury to a family member humorous.

  4. The Twelve Days of Christmas: is there *any* redeeming value to that song? Discuss.
    "Five golden rings" The one item on the list everybody remembers. I'm rather fond of the spurious notion that 12 days was an underground teaching tool for persecuted Roman Catholics.
       If this song did not exist, the humorous e-mail which details the beloved's response to the gifts would not be nessary (it ends with the beloved threatening a restraining order). That would be a sad loss to folk art.

  5. A favorite Christmas album
    My family would buy a Firestone Christmas LP every year. We had at least 5. By the time I was a teen, I developed the tradition of stacking these LPs on the changer and decorating the tree while I listened.
       I now buy a new Christmas CD every other year or so. One of my favorites remains John Fahey's The Christmas Album. Really nice arrangements that have helped me hear the songs in new ways. I've become especially fond of unique albums, such as Anonymous 4's Lady Mass. This one, focused on the Blessed Virgin, is especially appropriate for Advent, and you won't find a single "traditional" carol on it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Idée d’jour

Suppose you have tried and failed again and again. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down.
— Mary Pickford

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dame Julian, 1.Dec.06

Dame Julian, 1.Dec.06

The lady watches the snow melt. She's scratching on the door even as I type this.

First Sunday of Advent

Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face ...
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

It almost seems quaint to want to see your friends face to face. Paul did not have instant messaging, e-mail, or You Tube. Heck, he didn't have a telephone or television. Aside from personal visits, the only means he had of keeping in touch with diverse far-flung missions was through his letters.

We now have a number of ways of keeping in touch with our friends that don't require physical travel. Or even a phone call. With minimal investment, for example, we can digitally record videos of ourselves and share them electronically with friends – and, often, the world.

Paul longs to visit the mission in Thessalonica so he may "restore what is lacking in [their] faith." Now, I'm not as bold as Paul; I do not presume to have the ability or charisma to build up others' faith. More often than not, I'm the one whose faith needs shoring up. And it's not unusual for me to feel that my faith has been strengthened, in one way or another, by what I think of as my on-line community.

But the on-line community isn't enough. I think of how much I miss Dana, a high school friend I haven't seen since last Christmas. He has an impressive on-line presence, he's even posted a few of those videos. But I miss seeing him, and spending time with him.

I look forward to seeing friends at church. There are some people who I don't especially like, but I notice their spot in a pew is empty when they're gone any given Sunday.

I suppose these experiences can be approximated on-line. But the on-line experience can not duplicate a warm hand grasping mine. Only by driving across town can I hear a person's tone of voice in that moment, in response to my opinions or concerns. I can only hear the unique blend of joyous voices at a particular time by being present.

I learn how to negotiate with difficult people, or to disagree respectfully, by practicing at church on Sunday. In these ways, my faith is restored.

Idée d’jour

If God lived on earth, all his windows would be broken.
— Jewish Proverb

Friday, December 01, 2006

Snow Day, Dec. 1, 2006

Snow Day, Dec. 1, 2006.

Job was closed yesterday, and today, due to snow. Some areas of the city have up to six inches of snow. And, under the snow, are icy patches awaiting the unwary traveler.

Pictured is the conifer immediately outside the front door, on the west side of the porch. One may see the clear blue sky in the upper left of the picture.

Spent better part of yesterday listening to music and reading Howl's Moving Castle with a certain warm fur ball in my lap. A fine way to spend the day.

Right now, as I stare at the computer screen, I'm listening to Ed Gerhard's the live album; if you enjoy finger-style guitar, this is highly recommended. Included is his fine arrangement of "The Water is Wide."

Idée d’jour

It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear.
— Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)