mercredi, février 21, 2007

The ointment money cannot buy

A long time ago I thought that it would be terrific to pen a letter to my children on their birthday. I'm not very good at preserving the past-and Barry is even worse. Partly because I don't know how to use it too well, and partly because I have no idea where I put it when we moved, I never think to get the videocam out. I suffer, oh I suffer. Every time I see a parent studiously shooting some school function I have waves of mommy guilt. But keeping this blog has become in part a means of recalling some of the tremendous little moments that come together to describe a life-in this case, the hilarious and philosophical and sad and grace-full times we have as a family. Today Sian and Colin marked my birthday with little notes and by doing what they are supposed to do every other evening-hang their towel up in the bathroom, put the dirty clothes in the hamper, brush their teeth (with toothpaste-what an act of love for mom) and not bust on each other too badly. But after I slipped on a patch of black ice getting out of the car this evening, they made sure I wasn't really hurt. Then they went to Colin's room to have a private conversation. Turns out they were retrieving every old piece of candy and party favors from last year's birthday parties. Slipping them into an Easter basket, they waited until it was time to go to bed. Then they asked me to play a game of hide and seek. Feeling more like an octogenerian after that stumble than a midlife baby boomer, I tottered into Colin's room. Jumping out from inside the closet and from behind the twin bed, the two plotters presented me with a basket. An Easter basket, to be specific. It sits on my desk now as I write, filled with, let's see-one snake (wooden), assorted jellybellies, some ribbons, and two species of plastic balloons. Yet it is what is invisible, seen only in a smile, or a hug, or a kiss on a child's forehead, that gives me profound and lasting joy-the best birthday present today, and the one I most want every day-their unselfconscious and unequalled love.

mardi, février 20, 2007

Adam and Apes

Notice my Lenten color scheme-a day before Lent actually starts? Ah, the Episcopalians-always one step ahead of other Protestants.

I was trying to explain Lent to Colin last night. His first concern, of course, was having to attend a church service tomorrow. Once I put that fear to rest, he was able to have a little talk about the meaning of Lent-helped along with bedtime milk and a mouthful of Vanilla Wafers. This was definitely the unofficial abridged version. We quickly went over why Jesus had to die for us, and the meaning of the word "mortality." We then discussed the idea of original sin, of the stain that we all carry-as the medieval church put it (also St. Paul) "in Adam's fall we sinned all." That's why Jesus had to die for us, I told him. We are all sinful. But that's not right, said my little philosopher. Some in our species may have sinned-but why is it generalized to all people? "That's like being hit by one monkey and being angry at all monkeys" asserted Colin.

Not quite-it's a bit more complicated. But it won't be long before the guru of Glenmoore will be able to challenge his mom on her own territory....or perhaps its not my own territory. Perhaps I ought to trust that when he really has questions his mother can't answer, he will take them to his Father.

lundi, février 19, 2007

Conversations and...Bait

First, let's talk fishin' in hot water, that is. As a result of last week's article au sujet de online dating ( sorry, I got taken over briefly by the Franglish virus) I was contacted by a fellow named Matt. He is an entrepreneur who helms a new (I think its new) Internet activity (and, let's face it, dating) site called lifeknot (now we apparently all live in a small caps world). Matt would like me to write an article for someone about lifeknot-or, at least to blog about it. As I find out more about it, you might hear more. But what fascinated me tonight was stumbling across a profile category that was new to me- "married and looking." When I have a chance to email him again, I must ask Matt what this category means. I would add to that phrase the two words "for trouble." Married guys or gals who post profiles on Internet sites and list themselves as "looking" are obviously interested in starting an extra-marital relationship. But those who list themselves as "married and looking" doesn't tell you what they are looking for-are they on the prowl for a way out of the marriage? And will you be the excuse or the second wife/husband/gf/bf/bff? Tantalizing, ain't it? Just remember what I said in a previous post. Because we seem to want novelty, the woman or man who meets your eyes at the Starbucks counter Monday-Friday-see her/him getting a decaf skim latte that looks just like yours itmustbefate?... seems more fascinating than the person you are waking up next to every morning. I know that from personal experience-as a writer I am just gifted enough to make myself seem intriguing. Stick with what and who you know, guys. Or be brave enough to get out and start playing out here with the big girls and the real world.

Hmm....think I'll wait until tomorrow to talk about Colin and his new thoughts on an old subject ...original sin. Just in time for Ash Wednesday!

On not seeing the leper in ourselves

Learning from Jesus – total immersion
A woman… came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. Luke 8.44
There is a story of a doctor who worked devotedly among leprosy patients for many years. Every day, he would greet them, ‘Good morning, my brothers and sisters’. What an affirmation of worth this must have been to those whose biological families, and whole society, had ostracised them. But one day his greeting changed, and they heard these doom-laden words, ‘Good morning, my fellow lepers’. His identification with his patients was complete.
Jesus’ incarnation was a similar kind of identification. Laying aside his divine majesty, he took on mortal flesh, and entered human society. ‘Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity’, wrote the author of Hebrews.
But Jesus did more even than that. As he went about, he identified himself not only with human nature but also with uncleanness, sin and death. When the desperate woman, suffering from incurable bleeding, reached out and touched his robe, Jesus could have ignored her. But in acknowledging her touch he was, according to the Levitical law, making himself ritually unclean. On other occasions, he took the initiative, as when he touched a man with leprosy and the dead body of a widow’s only son. And ultimately ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”’ (Gal.3:13).
How far such actions set Jesus apart from the gods of other religions! I hope that it is not irreverent to say that I would find it hard to believe in a loving God if it wasn’t for Jesus.
Jesus’ self-abasement is, however, far more than an argument for our view of God. It gives us deep assurance of Jesus’ love for individuals – for you and me, for thug and granny, for prostitute and pimp, for president and pop star. Far more intimately than any human friend or relation, Jesus knows, understands and loves us, and wants to help us to become what he created us to be.
But we can also learn from Jesus to regard and treat people – all people – with the same passionate empathy and self-giving love.
Helen Parry

When I read this mediation from the London Institute on Contenmporary Christianity I thought about a recent story I had heard about a young priest and father. Hired at a large, prosperous church not very far from here, he had apparently had a falling out with the rector. Within six months he was gone.

Personality conflict? Perhaps. Was he stubborn? Did he refuse to listen when admonished? Who knows? The whole situation is cloaked in the kind of legal darkness that has become almost as much a part of the church nowadays as the Eucharist. The only thing that is clear is that the thirty-something priest did not do something immoral. It is also apparent that his boss had been in conversation with another clergyman about the possibility of a job for a number of months.

Coincidence? So claims the chief priest-I mean the chief minister.

Jesus does love this young man and his family. I suppose, because He is God, and so far beyond anything I can imagine, Jesus also loves the man who fired him. Parishioners really like the 'family man' who was brought in-just as the other man's family left town. Why should they protest?

Why should they speak out-except that it is right to ask questions in the face of an apparent injustice?

It is only if we see the leper in the mirror that we will stand up for those who are outcasts, unpopular, or persecuted by those in power. But we don't like to see the missing pieces, the tired eyes, the anxiety that looks back at us. So we smear on the makeup to make ourselves look like the person we'd like to be. Or we choose never to look-afraid of the man or woman who might stare back at us.

The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity St Peter's, Vere St, London, W1G 0DQ (t) 020 7399 9555 (e) Visit for articles and events listings.

dimanche, février 18, 2007

Finally, debate

“We will be relentless,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the third-ranking Democrat. “There will be resolution after resolution, amendment after amendment, all forcing this body to do what it has not done in the previous three years: debate and discuss Iraq.”

Quoted in today's New York Times, Schumer is absolutely correct. It is appalling that there has never been an open debate on the merits of this war. Democrats are quite rightly aware that the fact that the voters gave them a (slim) majority, or, more relevantly, ditched a number of Republicans last November was probably a mandate for change. At the least, it was a cry for an honest, courageous and open debate.

Although the Democrats in the Senate weren't able to prevail over a Republican filibuster this time, the tide is slowly turning. In a vote to debate President Bush's disastrous war strategy, or lack of strategy, seven Republican Senators (all up for re-election this next year-can anyone say handwriting on the wall?) defected and voted with the Democrats. For years the Republicans in the Senate have pretty much come out and said that anyone who raised a question about this war was unpatriotic and was not supporting our troops. Some Republican leaders are still trying to club dissenters with the same worn-out, cynical blasts of verbiage. They forget that being dedicated to bringing democratic ideals to foreign nations means that we have to practice them here at home.

Cheap patriotism-the last refuge of the coward.

The fact that party leaders didn't allow this to occur for four years should shame them. Now it is up to the Democrats not only to allow the conversation (and rhetoric) to ring out in both Houses, but to represent the majority sentiment-that we have run out of good choices in Iraq, and the only ones left are more or less tragic. We can't bring back the dead-but we can honor them by asking, finally, whether or not they died in vain-so that, perhaps, fewer innocents will be lead to slaughter by the insane egotism of one man.