samedi, décembre 20, 2008


Just as I was preparing to go out shopping today, Farmer Messner called to say they would drop off the tree.

I have tree anxiety. I am afraid that I will forget to get a tree until Christmas, when I awake from my stupor and notice that there are no pine needles on the floor near the living room couch.

My kids will be sad. My shabby but much loved ornaments, which I inherited from my parents, will lie boxed downstairs for a whole year. The cats won't have another water bowl from which to drink.

But I actually got Mr. C into the car a few days earlier than usual this year, and drove down the road to Bethany Farm.

"It's Elizabeth, isn't it?" said Dan Messner, the owner. "And I think you bought a white pine last year."

He consulted his book. I didn't remember, but he was spot on.

Farmer Messner and I have had a few conversations about local Messners (I have a good friend who shares that name, a common one around here), Christianity and the strangeness of being the last locally owned dairy farm in Wallace Township.

But even though he and I have talked, it still feels good to be called by name. There's nowhere else in my adult life where I have felt this passionate sense of belonging to a community.

When his son dropped off the white pine, which I will plant after Christmas, I put a few pans around it to catch the ice decorating its boughs.

Should we wait until Christmas Eve to decorate it?

I've got a few days to think about that -- four, to be exact.

vendredi, décembre 19, 2008

Two cheers for Rick Warren

Let me start by stating the obvious.

I have gay friends, but I'm not gay.

I have African-American friends, but I'm not African-American (d'oh).

And while I've spent a lot of time working among conservative Christians and would probably classify myself as moderate evangelical, I'm a mixed bag on various social issues.

But I'm thinking that lashing out in anger is probably not a great way of getting folks to embrace your cause.

Many gay women and men are angry about Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Wanna bet their sense of betrayal will soon be matched by that of conservative Christians who feel that Warren is betraying them by praying for Obama?

Check out this interview by Beliefnet's Steven Waldman with Warren in which he discusses his position on civil unions.

Yes, he backpedals, but read his words carefully. I suspect that what happened is he got heat from the conservatives, and decided to obscure the issue with some rhetoric. Warren's no fool.

And he's helped move the evangelical community forward substantially on environmental issues like global warming, on helping the poor, and those who live with AIDS.

Update -- I did read a comment by Amy Sullivan of Time, that Warren is, well...boring. There are some pretty cool, probably more intelligent evangelical pastors and authors, like Brian McLaren (we love you, Brian), that Obama could have asked -- but he chose Warren.

At any rate, Warren's giving an invocation, not taking up the job as Senate chaplain.

In all of this it's easy to forget that our President-elect himself isn't a fan of gay marriage. He's never come out and supported it. He seems bent on governing from the center -- is that a surprise?

I know that where I see nuance, some see simple bigotry. But caricaturing someone's beliefs doesn't bring them, or their supporters to your side faster. In fact, it probably pushes them further away, and risks disturbing some who are tolerant, but on the fence.

mardi, décembre 16, 2008

At the foot of the cross once again

This evening I was trying to think of a theme for my Christmas column, which is due on Thursday. I think. I just sent my Lancaster, Pa, editor a note asking her when she wanted it. Hopefully it wasn't supposed to appear last week.

I often find big themes a bit intimidating. It's tempting to go all generic. This year, the dissonance between how we are supposed to feel and the tribulations facing many of us is great.

I thought of the folks who came into the prayer room at church on Sunday. Sometimes no one shows. At the service where I prayed with congregants, we went overtime.

Illness. Tragedy. Anger management problems. I stayed in the tiny room, once an entrance to the church, weighed down by the sadness I'd felt in this room.

I forgot that I wasn't charged with helping these folks feel better -- or get better. The most I could do was walk beside them for a few moments. And then lay their sadness at the foot of the cross. Where someone is waiting, has waited, and will wait to bear it up, as He always has. And will.

There's a sermon here, a column, a way forward. But apparently it's only through the cross.

From the Matt Redman song

I will love You for the Cross
And I will love You for the cost
Man of sufferings, Bringer of my peace.
You came into a world of shameAnd paid a price we could not pay
Death that brought me life,Blood that brought me home.
Death that brought me life,Blood that brought me home.
And I love You for the cross,I'm overwhelmed by the mystery,
I love You for the cross,That Jesus you would do this for me.
When You were broken, You were beaten,You were punished, I go free,
When You were wounded and rejected,In Your mercy, I am healed.

dimanche, décembre 14, 2008


Today with my son went a long way towards restoring my faith in men.

He made cheddar cheese sandwiches for us so that we'd have something for lunch.

He came home from playing with local friends because I'd promised him we'd play chess.

And he called from a friends house to say that he was invited to stay for dinner, but he didn't want me to be lonely. If I did feel sad, he thought Inky the cat would eat with me.

Well, as it turns out, Inky is nuts about corn bread. So I don't think I'll eat by myself. I better bring the spray bottle. It's bad enough the cats sleep on the chairs -- they've got a lot of gall to try to get on the table.

Ain't misbehaving...

Goodness knows, I've run into a lot of different types of men online. But the ones who continue to baffle me are those think I should be honored because they want to jump into bed with me.

Am I missing something? Is this a case of upper middle class, middle-aged entitlement gone amok?

Blue collar workers generally don't try this on with me. It's the lawyers and bankers who seem to think that I'd be game for a mental and physical romp engaging those parts below the waist and above the shoulders, but not involving the heart.

It happened again yesterday. When I told someone I respected that I wasn't a romantic, he said he wasn't, either. Then he asked me to ponder some episodes of between-the-sheets fencing.

I didn't have to ponder, I told him.

I may not be ready for the white picket fence, but I'm not casual about my relationships.

Clearly, the Internet emboldens some of these men to suggest hooking up. I can't imagine having these chats over a nice bottle of merlot at a Main Line brasserie.

It's not as though the would be rakes are slime molds, by any means. But it sure doesn't show them at their best.

Should I be insulted? Should I "ponder" the theory that these fellows think I'm so desperate that I would shed my principles and my clothing for a few moments of fun and perhaps a nice dinner out?

I don't think it's quite that simple. But I do wonder at the psychology of the middle-aged man who thinks that you can still play around with casual sex in your forties and fifties and not get hurt.

I wonder how many women say yes.