samedi, avril 07, 2007

Holy Week, Holy minutes

For more years than I can remember, I spent Holy Week immersed in the rituals of the services that help Christians walk the long days between the foreshadowing celebration of Palm Sunday and the ebullient joy of Easter. By the time Good Friday services are over, normally in the evening, it seems like some clergy and layfolks often feel as spiritually empty as the altars stripped at the Maundy Thursday service the night before. Holy Saturday, as it is called in the Anglican tradition, is a time for re-grouping and reflection-for the women and men who must preach the next day, it is like being handed an extra day to cram for the Sunday exam-seeing how many Easter-Christmas congregants may be either converted (for those who dream big) or at least find the preacher's words compelling enough to show up again. Because I have not been part of this round of services for a few years, Holy Saturday has become a blur of egg hunts, meetings with friends, and the occasional Vigil service, for many the highlight of the Christian year. This year Holy Week has felt particularly disjointed, meaning snatched on the fly in a chat with a friend, a sad talk with my dad, a few worship songs spilling out into a house in which cinnamon baked apples competed for oven space with the yeasty caraway rolls. And tonight, finally, a moment lying on the bed with my arms around my daughter as we listened to "Here I am to Worship."-here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that you're my God."
Singing softly to each other, we were eventually joined by Colin, wet from the shower, who slung his arm across my stomach so he could tease his sister. "Don't touch me," she screamed. And then "Colin come down and watch TV with me." In a moment they were down the stairs, the holy moment only a memory.

And the grace of another one, later that night-after we kick the cat out of Colin's room (for some reason Precious has become ritualistic about coming in when he's about ready to sleep) he tells me that given the choice between an oasis with palm trees and nachos (his total fave food), and me...he would choose me. And you, mom? asks my son. Would you choose boxes of chocolates falling from the sky or me? You, of course, I tell him-wishing that all choices were quite this clear.

A Holy Saturday song

Hungry (Falling on My knees) Hungry, I come to you for I know you satisfy/ I am empty, but I know Your love does not run dry/ And so I wait for You so I wait for You/ I'm falling on my knees Offering all of me Jesus, You're all this heart is living for /Broken, I run to You for Your arms are open wide/ I am weary, but I know Your touch restores my life/ And so I wait for You so I wait for You

My voice or yours?

Dear readers,

I don't know how much I've told you about Pastor Chad and Pastor Tina. Chad is the head pastor at St. Matthew's Lutheran, and Tina is the associate. Chad gives the appearance of being very relaxed, and he probably is, even when he's hanging out with his two young daughters and flight attendant spouse.

Nonetheless, he has been bold in making an old, rather insular country church into a magnet for young families in our increasingly suburban area. He is a gifted preacher whose love of anecdotes and distaste for manuscripts (a good but risky strategy for a minister) usually seems to result in sermons that nourish and provoke at the same time. Chad has not pushed me to get involved at St. Matthews, but has been encouraging and gracious when I asked to be a part of church activity.

His colleague Tina is a good complement to him. Tina is energetic, cheerful, and organized (well, most of the time). Sliding into church two minutes before or after when I am supposed to serve, I am usually greeted by her calm, open smile.

For the past five years I have felt like a nomad, a pilgrim in self-imposed exile, in the church world. A number of factors, both internal and external, have made it fairly easy not to step up to the plate again.

But Chad's welcome, Tina's warmth, the increase in the parishioner names we recall and the kids we know-all of these have contributed to my sense of comfort. Sometimes I have a sneaky suspicion that God thinks comfort can lead to complacency...and He doesn't seem to be a huge advocate for either the complacent or even particularly for certain forms of comfort (although He never said anything about dark chocolate).

Last night, I faced the reality that 0ver the past year and a half, St. Matthew's has become (perhaps "is becoming" is more accurate) our church home.

As I knelt in prayer last night after the Maundy Thursday service and thought about the service, something in me (not to be any more specific than that) said- "You belong here. This is where you have always belonged." And, more scary...this is who you are.

Yikes. Maybe the voice that came from within was just mine.

But, just for the sake of argument... if it was Someone elses? Then I have a lot of questions!

So what does "here" mean, voice? A more prominent role as a volunteer in ministry at St. Matthews? Helping out more in a diocese (Episcopal) riven by factionalism and disenchantment?

Do I need to take that voice seriously, God? Be gentle with me, please. It's only been five years.

mercredi, avril 04, 2007

More than the story?

While visiting my dad in Brooklyn (rumor has it novelist Paul Auster lives on his block-my sister thinks she ran into him at the local muffin shop) I picked up a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir of her time in Italy, India and Indonesia. "Eat Pray Love" is a wonderfully evocative book-and a beguiling read. The thirty-something author is honest and funny as she limns her relational and spiritual encounters, writing about places both strange and familiar to all of us.

Speeding back towards Philadelphia today on Amtrak while my son clicked away on his Gameboy I pondered one of Gilbert's insights after a walk through Rome with her sister Catherine. While the scholarly Catherine has the ability to see details and perspective and history, Liz Gilbert confesses that she remembers nothing but the story.

I remember the story-and the few details I need in order to write it. Who knows if they are the right details?

As we rocketed by the old manufacturing plants and boarded up homes of North Philadelphia, I gave in to one of my favorite games-wondering who had lived and worked in these now-empty shells. Could they have conceived of a time when the once vital cityscape that formed the backdrop for their lives would lie in ruins?

I am compelled to re-animate decades gone by-a walk through Philadelphia's Society Hill becomes an encounter with the past in which I am both enticed and frustrated by both what little I do know and the enormous amounts I don't .

When I write a profile for a newspaper, I am driven by the same yearning to fill in the gaps-to help a reader see that other people are more like than unalike, that our differences can be spanned with the God-given gift of language.

I have to admit that as we pulled into Center City I also wondered what man would be nuts enough to want to be a partner to a female who looks out the window so many times and sees so much more than what is there-the living ghosts of the past and the yet unspoken stories of the now. My friends put up with my double vision-but they don't have to wake up next to me.

lundi, avril 02, 2007

Penguin boys

I guess I'm still very fortunate. I've not queried lots of other parents of nine year old boys as to whether they still tuck their kids in at night, staying until the news of the day is re-capped and secrets are shared. I don't know if they rub their children's shoulders until the childish patter slows and the shining eyes are veiled until the morning. I am a bit embarrassed to ask, lest someone tell me I'm coddling my son and interfering with his emotional development or 'manliness.'

Given what I learn, however, I'm more than willing to take that risk. Last night Colin told me that he wants to adopt...a penguin. Actually, its a virtual rather than a real penguin. Because he and Sian share one on "Club Penguin" he rarely has much say in the gender of the far, he told me, they are all females. And oh my goodness, you should see the kinds of clothes they wear. Determined to assert his prerogatives, Colin is going to adopt his own penguin...a boy. He's already saving up virtual coins to buy them toys.

What's amazing to me is the total lack of resentment he displays towards his rather bossy sister. When he torments Sian it is usually from an excess of affection (spiced with a very boyish type of mischief). If some "awful miracle" occurred, and she did something really terrible to him, he would still love Sian, he told me last night. She really does love you, I reassured him as I hugged him before shutting the bedroom door and moving on Sian's room.

It's only going to take her another decade to realize it.