Saturday, June 30, 2007

Vacation Eye Candy (For PJ)

I'm scrubbed and mostly packed. In the morning, the boy and I will hit the road: 3 days at the beach and 4 days in DC with old friends. (First time he's been back since we moved one year ago). Since I made rude and lewd suggestions about wholesome (cough) PJ, I offer this vacation eye candy to gaze upon whilst I am away.

Another view

I don't necessarily endorse Dennis, but I definitely endorse making fun of the way the media is talking about the candidates. (Wonder if this will change my rating?)


Online Dating

I did it! See below.
And "bullshit" apparently still doesn't count.
Just missionary and kill. And I just said them again, so now I might be "R-rated".

Beware: Nasty Post Below

I am determined to change my G rating, so here goes:

I once knew a gay missionary. Doing his work brought him spiritual ecstasy, even though, as a pastor, he had to deal with things like death. But such reality could not kill his joy. Eventually, he died. He was still a gay missionary when he died. And, unlike PJ, he was never known to have done a lapdance. The end.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Seen at a pub in Newcastle

Well, I've really, really been meaning to post something deep. Or at least less shallow. But I think vacation brain is already setting in. I'm not leaving until Sunday, but my mind decided to leave a few days early.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Cut Above

This is my niece moments before getting her hair cut for Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. She's a teenager, who also just ran in her state track meet. I'm really proud of her!

How Rich are You?

I'm the 656,714,353 richest person on earth!

Discover how rich you are! >>

Thanks to Eileen for this. I needed this reminder, as I'm now the poorest I've been since grad school. I was in my twenties then, I'm in my forties now and have a child in my care. I was happy to be a poor-ish grad student. Less fun now. Poor by what standards, though, is the question. And truthfully, this doesn't even take into account assets: car, house, retirement plan, etc. Just income.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Something's Not Right (and something is)

I've been noticing a sudden upswing in depression in the blogosphere and in real life. Others tell their stories. I post the tackiest Jesus things I can find.

Laughter helps me enormously and, fortunately, I have one of the funniest friends in the world. I tell her about my virtual world (which she thinks is a bit mental, but she lets it go ...) and the depression I'm noticing and she says, "Yeah, something's not right in the universe. Mother Earth is speaking to us. War, famine, meanness, Republicans ..." And after a few minutes we're both splitting our sides with laughter over nothing in particular. Just two single 40-something moms with nothing else to do but talk to each other at 11:00 p.m. (Well, we could be cleaning house, but as I've confessed elsewhere, I don't get the cleaning manias. Dammit!)

So tonight, a shout out to my friend. Too bad she lives 465.78 miles away.

Jesus Dance

check it out

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Five Things I Dig About Jesus

I've been tagged by Diane. I need to tell you 5 things I dig about Jesus and tag 5 people. The guy who started this meme is here.

1. Jesus loved a good meal. He ate with friends at their homes, in upper rooms, on the beach, at weddings, with sinners, with Pharisees. He was one eatin' fool. To remember him, he left us a meal.

2. Jesus cut through bullshit. He had no time for people who got testy about certain letters of the law while ignoring the large (spacious, generous) spirit of it.

3. Jesus liked kids. Was it their innocence? Their trust? Their sense of wonder? Their playfulness? Their lack of judgement? All of the above?

4. Jesus liked to sing. How do I know this, you ask? I just feel sure of it. It must be true because I want it to be true. (He probably danced well too. I'm just sayin', he weren't no white boy.)

5. Jesus healed. Bodies, minds, hearts, spirits, communities. Above all else, this is what he did.

OK, here's the thing about tags. Last week I tagged 8 people. I think 2 of them complied. I can't tag those people again and I don't know enough other bloggers. So if you are reading this and feeling left out, it isn't intentional and I would love it if you played along. I just don't feel I know you well enough to tag you, so anyone lurking here, consider yourself tagged. Tell me in the comments you're going to post on the subject and I'll happily come read what you say.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

Over at Post Secret this week's secrets are all about fathers. Lots of sad stuff there, but some funny ones too. I'm stealing this one:

"My dad told me the worst swear word you could possibly say was "Bostonian". It meant "someone who has no private parts." My brother and I used the word until we were teenagers and my father giggled every time we said it, right before he sent us to our rooms."

I had lunch with my father today. I wish he weren't so far removed from me now -- no longer by the hundreds of miles I put between us for so many years -- but by his addled mind. But I am glad the miles are shorter. He was a good dad.

I had breakfast with my son's father. As much as I miss the young 'un on the nights he's with his dad, I am so very, very grateful that he has the kind of father who can't imagine not fully sharing custody and time. I'm grateful to him for bringing the best thing in my life into this world with me, for changing and washing and hanging out to dry all those cloth diapers, for hiking all over creation with our son in a back-pack, for being able to answer all the little guy's questions about how machines work, for laughing at all his silly, boyish, body-function humor, for being the kind of dad who is able to hug and kiss his son and tell him how much he loves him every day. He's a good dad, too.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Yoga blogging

It just begs the question: why?

And now for something completely different

Need a break from the sin thread, so more eye candy. PJ, is this better than Brad?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Warning: Friday Rant

Oooo. I have one of those "I think my head is going to explode" feelings. Thoughts re: sin and salvation and Christianity's take on it and how that relates to Jesus' take on it and Buddhism's take on it and Judaism's take on it and the Tao's approach ... swirling, swirling, swirling. Perhaps a thoughtful post will emerge soon. More likely just some incoherent journal entries.

In the meantime, here's my rant for today. It's not sin I have a problem with. Sin seems self-evident to me. (Read newspaper or watch current administration for examples. But then, I am a Calvinist, so I do read through that lens. Whose post today referred to Ruth Bell as "Staunch Presbyterian" and then thought that phrase might be redundant?)

Anyway, it's judgment that's the problem. Not the fact of sin, but the response of judgment. And in Christianity the two so often go hand in hand that they get conflated and confused. So, for example, while we Christians love the stories of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) and the Woman at the Well (John 4), when we try to apply that philosophy to real life, we get squeamish. I mean, we really can't just let people's behavior completely off the hook, eh? Don't we need a little side dish of judgment to go with that mercy entree? Doesn't one need to clean up one's act before serving God?

Pema Chodron has been so helpful to me in recent months.* She teaches about the Buddhist concept of "maitri" or "unconditional friendliness with oneself." It is an incredibly nonjudgmental practice. It's not about "pampering our neurosis" but about "sticking with ourselves when we feel like a loser." At moments, I've wondered if this concept was compatible with Christianity. And then I get these great big "DUH!" moments. Hello!! Ever read the gospels??

Here's what the church preaches on Sunday morning: the prodigal son returns to find a party; the wanton woman makes the best evangelist.

Here's what the church practices: well, of course God loves you, dear, but you really do need to spend a few years feeling very, very bad about how you've behaved.

(Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese" comes quickly to mind: "You do not have to walk on your knees/for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting." But I digress.)

What came to me on a run through the rain today is that there are very, very few things that I would actually give my life for. My son's well-being is one of them. Another is this fact: God welcomes the prodigal with a party -- immediately. No repentence required. I know this because I have experienced it. And no amount of theology or church policies or anything else will ever take that truth away from me.

Why is it that my Buddhist and Taoist friends get this so much more easily than my Christian ones?

*highly recommended: "When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times" by Pema Chodron.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sinners in the hands of a merciful God

Sarcastic Lutheran has her usual thoughtful posts going, this time around sin. This week's lectionary readings have seen fit to fall in line with the conversation. Since I was taking up so much comment space over there, I thought it only fair to bring my end of the conversation over here. Then I remembered a sermon I once wrote using this week's gospel lesson, in a series I preached about salvation. So, in what probably won't be a regular feature, I'm posting an old sermon below.

You've been warned.

"Saved from What?"
A sermon on: Exodus 6:1-9; Luke 7:36-50
Given on March 9, 2003

Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

If you have ever joined this church or any Christian Church, for that matter, you have answered this question or one very much like it in the affirmative. Yes, you have said, Jesus is my Savior. And so, when someone knocks at your door wanting to know if you have been saved, you can say with great confidence, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I have."

But what does it mean? What does it mean to say you've been saved? The question begs another one and that is, saved from what?

To read the tri-fold brochures handed out on street corners, it would seem that the obvious answer is "saved from hell!" Well, that calls for another whole sermon on "What is hell?" I'm not preaching that one this week. In regards to the afterlife, suffice it to say for the purposes of this sermon: God is gracious. If we work on the life we have right in front of us, we can trust God to worry about whatever comes next. Besides which, there are plenty of earthly hells on which we can focus our attention.

So, for this life -- right here, right now-- what is it that we need to be saved from?

Those of us who have spent some time attending 12-step meetings, either to deal with our own addictions or those of people we love, have some pretty great stories we can tell about people's lives being turned around. The tales of rescue from addictive behavior have a nice sense of drama about them that we can understand. "I used to do drugs, I lost my family, my job, my money, I was sick and tired -- and then I turned my life over to my Higher Power and now I've been clean and sober for 12 years -- I've got a new job, new wife, I've reunited with my children and I'm teaching basketball to young guys like myself." Even if you've never been to an AA meeting, you've probably heard one such story somewhere along the way.

They are good stories. Like the tale from Luke's gospel, they focus on being down and out; on the "real" sinners, who turn to Jesus and find a whole new life. And I have seen the truth of these stories time and time again.

The problem with hearing these stories is that if you fail to identify yourself with one of those "down and outers" you're stuck being the nice Pharisee who invited Jesus over for dinner and got in return "little love." If you aren't the addict or the prostitute, will you ever really get it? Will you ever be part of the inner circle of people who really know what they mean when they say they've been saved?

And so again, let's ask ourselves: saved from what?

The root of this New Testament word refers to rescue, as from a great danger, but also to protection, preservation, and being kept in good health. The good health can refer to physical health, but also to inner health -- to a sense of well-being, peace, integrity. To feel fully human.

In the Hebrew roots, the word means literally, "to be roomy." Salvation is spaciousness. And it is out of that sense of spaciousness that we find the related meanings of freedom and deliverance. The classic story for this sense of salvation is, of course, the exodus. The Israelites were saved from the oppression of Egypt and were brought into a new land -- a "broad" land; one where they would have the space to live in freedom. (1)

In our text from Exodus, God promises to redeem the people "with an outstretched arm" and even the imagery speaks to the sense of spaciousness being offered. God goes on to promise that the people will be freed from the burdens of the Egyptians.

In our two Biblical texts today, we get a wide vision of what it is from which we're being saved. From oppressive political forces, from economic bondage, from unbearable living situations, from the burden of forces which hold power over our lives, in the Exodus story. And in Luke's story, from the sorrow of sin, from a broken life, from a damaged reputation, and maybe, in the case of Simon, from the lack of love.

In all cases, we are being saved from sin. Sometimes the sin of others (as in the Exodus story) and sometimes our own sin (as in the gospel). But what is sin?

Mind you, not what are sins? But, what is sin?

When we speak of sins, in the plural, we generally begin thinking immediately of specific activities. The list is different for different people and even for different denominations. Sexual sins always seem to make it pretty high on somebody's list, though general greed and hoarding never seem to be quite as clearly problematic. Greed is bad when it is our child grabbing an extra helping of candy away from another child, but maybe not so bad when it involves the way we invest our retirement funds or play around with family assets in order to make sure grandma gets medicaid to cover the nursing home without dipping into our inheritance.

But whether lust or greed or gluttony or any of those deadly seven we've heard about, speaking about sins in particular misses the bigger point.

The bigger point being our sin, in the singular. This kind of sin is more existential. It is less concerned with particular actions, and more concerned with our general state of being. Barbara Brown Taylor nicely divides the two this way: "sin [is] the existential state of distance from God and sins [are] the willful human choices that maintain that distance."(1)

Sin has been called missing the mark -- and the mark we are to be aiming for in the Christian life is love of God and love of neighbors as ourselves. I have always appreciated the definition of sin I learned as a teenager that sin is separation: separation from God, from other people and from our deepest selves. To expand Taylor's definition then, the particulars would be those actions and decisions we make that keep the gap wide.

But the thing I always need to remember is that there are forces at work in my life that keep me in a state of sin even when I am trying my darnedest to not act out those particular sins.

Some are forces of personality, family, mental health ... some are forces of culture, government and economics. Some are forces I can do something about, some are forces I have little to no control over. Nonetheless, I am still responsible to the state of separation in which I find myself.

And that is why I need, so desperately, to be saved. I need to be saved because I scream at my son, I say mean-spirited things to my husband, I criticize my colleagues, I lust after people who aren't my husband, I fail to show kindness to the grocery cashier, I fail to say thank you to people who care, I fail to notice when someone near me is hurting, I worry too much about my money, I whine, I drive when I could take the bus, I buy clothes made in sweat shops, I don't give away as much as I could ... and that was just yesterday!

Sure, I need to be saved from my sins. But I also need to be saved from my sin. The fact is that I live in a body and a community and a nation and a world where sometimes I simply don't even know which of my actions are sinful. When, even with the best of intentions, I cause hurt or distress. When even my best efforts at peacemaking cause unintended harm.

And not only do I need to be saved from my sin, but I also need to be saved from the world's sin. The sin that is visited upon me.

Have you ever had one of those mornings in church where the prayer of confession really didn't work for you? You're reading about all this ugly stuff you're supposed to be sorry for and you think, "I may be bad, but at least I don't do that." Actually, I rarely feel that way, because I usually have plenty of sin on my mind when I get here, but on those rare occasions when I do, I remember that our prayer of confession is a corporate confession. We are praying with and for each other, as well as for ourselves. Otherwise, we could just say our personal prayers of confession at home.

But we live in a world where we are caught in webs of sin, not of our own spinning. If there is such a thing as original sin (and I tend to agree with the comedians that there is not much original about most sin!), it is simply this: that even before we are conscious of it, we make choices that have painful consequences. Sin acts upon us even before we are aware of acting in sin. And so, in addition to our own particular sins, we are praying for the sins of our church community, our city, our culture, our nation, our human race. We are holding each other up, asking for forgiveness for our particular role in the sin of the world, but also for the simple fact of it.

This is a broken, sinful world.

This is a world where we all, individually and corporately, have missed the mark.

This is a world where separation is as much a reality as connectedness.

And so, we all need to be saved.

Lent is the time each year when we focus some extra attention on this fact. So I invite you to continue to explore the question, "saved from what?" this week. Next week I will raise the question, saved for what? Until then, the first question should give us each plenty to chew on.

(1) Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. (Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985). pp. 1132ff. (Back to text)

(2) Barbara Brown Taylor. Speaking of Sin: The Lost Language of Salvation. (Cambridge: Cowley Publications, 2000), p. 16. (Back to text)

Yoga Cat

Just to be consistent: shopping leads to yoga.

Shopping update

My glasses came in today and I am reconsidering the maxim that money can't buy happiness. (Breaks suddenly into a spirited rendition of "I feel snazzy, oh so snazzy. I feel snazzy and jazzy and fine!")

Monday, June 11, 2007


I've been tagged by PJ. Here's what I have to do:
*I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
*Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
*People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
*At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
*Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

1. My favorite scotch is Balvenie Doublewood, but I can't afford it, so if you can and want to send me a nice gift, now you know.

2. I had never driven a stick shift when I bought my first car at age 26, so a friend had to test drive it for me. My new car is the first car I've bought since that wasn't a manual.

3. I once went to a Barry Manilow concert.

4. The musician I have seen most often in concert is Bruce Cockburn.

5. The best concert ever was Bruce Springsteen in the Olympic Stadium in Munich on his "Born in the USA" tour.

6. My 8 y.o. has a much nicer website than mine.

7. I used to fantasize about being a Broadway star, but somewhere along the way I developed a vocal cyst and now I periodically lose my voice completely for periods of days to months (very bad for a preacher). The times I lose it always are when I am going through a big transition (to college, to ministry, to marriage, etc.) so I'm expecting it to go any day now. The cyst is subtle neither in its appearance (comes when I'm trying to find my new voice) nor in its leaving. Last time I got my voice back mid-way through a Pentecost service.

8. I'm a one-to-one 8 with a strong 7 wing on the enneagram and an ENFJ on the Myers-Briggs.

OK, I don't really even know 8 bloggers to tag but I'll try some that I think don't respond to this sort of thing and see what happens:

Laura C. (to coax her back into blogging)
Grandmere Mimi

Saturday, June 9, 2007

I coulda been doing ...


Shop till you ... stop?

I was so very American today. I indulged in shopping therapy. This is something I can honestly say I have only done a few times before in my life. I'm with my mom who says, "If I wake up and find myself in a mall, I'll know I've died and gone to hell." Shopping is something I do out of necessity. (I do like grocery shopping, but that's just because I like food so much.) Today I got: a purse, a pair of shorts, a summer shirt, a pair of linen just-below-the-knee slacks, some good dark chocolate, 2 bottles of wine, assorted junk food and (ta-da!) a funky new pair of glasses.

I'm pretty sure that only the chocolate was fairly traded.

Of course, I can tell you why I needed each of these purchases: pants because my weight has been in flux and I keep changing shapes, the purse because I don't have a light-colored one for summer, the wine because I have friends coming over this week ... etc., etc. And other than the glasses (which were the most expensive pair I've ever gotten!) all of these things were inexpensive, no splurges.

But here's the thing: I did it to make myself feel better. I went out with the intention of buying stuff to improve my mood. It certainly distracted me for a while. (I'm wearing the shorts and I just have to say: they are cute.) When my glasses come in, I think I'll enjoy the perky red frames. And let me be honest here: the adoring attention of the woman at the glasses boutique was delightful ("Wow - those really make your eyes pop!" "Oh, those brighten your skin tone!"). This is why they can charge so much more than Sears Optical.

Now it's Saturday night, and I'm still without my son and still feeling spiritually adrift about my life in general and still wishing my closest friends were closer in location. Like all distractions, shopping's effect lasts only so long. What if, instead of shopping, I had spent those same hours: doing yoga, journaling, helping an older neighbor, doing something creative, reading the Bible, reading a novel, working on a Habitat House, even visiting my father (intead of snapping at him on the phone, which I did this morning).

Of course I know that one day of shopping therapy is not a huge deal. God knows I've done much, much worse in my life. And I know that even if I had not gone shopping, there's no guarantee I would have done something more productive or helpful or creative or grounding. But it occurs to me that when one is suffering from self-absorption, shopping is probably not the best antidote. Maybe I'm writing this to remind myself: OK, that was fun. Now, what are you going to do tomorrow?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

More Eye Candy

OK, it's not the sultry thing I had up earlier, but what can I say? I LOVE this man. And smart is sexy.

Thought for the Day

"The winds of grace are blowing all the time. You have only to set your sail." Krishnamurti

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Cups of Kindness

My son is on vacation with his father this week. The reality of my new life hits me in this way: I don't get to share in all my son's vacations any more. Time off from your kid when you have a family and you haven't had a night to do fun adult things in weeks is nice. Time off from your kid when you're separated? Not so nice. He will probably finish the Harry Potter we've been reading together before he gets home.

At the beginning of the week I made a list of all the things I could get done in a week without a child to cook for, play with, keep track of, clean up after, read with. The list sits in my kitchen, lonely, ignored. Things not on the list but which I have accomplished: finish Ben and Jerry's in freezer, open new bottle of scotch.

A surprise arrived in the mail today: a CD from a woman I haven't seen in years. She saw my blog, read about my separation, sent me a kind note and a some beautiful music. I have discovered deep kindness these last few months. A woman who took me in on a handful of nights when I needed a safe and quiet place to go. She hardly knew me, but for some reason I was drawn to her house and not other friends ... and she fed me and gave me her bed and wrapped me in loving care. When I needed some free advice from a lawyer, one of the funniest and sweetest men around gave me hours and hours of his professional services, sprinkled with common sense and compassion. On a lonely night, a new friend took me for a ride in his convertible through the mountains. People I have always known to be kind have proven even more so: my mom, my best friend, some colleagues.

I've been struggling recently to envision my future, to know what good work I could be doing in the world, wanting to offer up to God whatever talent I might have, wishing that my brain could start swimming again instead of constantly drowning under the weight of my emotional baggage. I know that my calling right now is to a simple daily practice. "Be here now" has become cliche, but that's it really. Be a mom. Do my job. Take care of my home. Walk the dog. Take care of myself. Clean the cat litter. Learn from my mistakes.

And practice kindness. The simple kindnesses of people around me have kept me sane this year. (Well, let's say saner). It's the least I can do in return.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Motor Oil and Vinegar

Just started reading Barbara Kingsolver's new book and I can't even get through the first chapter without wanting to share:

"A quick way to improve food-related fuel economy would be to buy a quart of motor oil and drink it. More palatable options are available. If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That's not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast."

--Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Saturday, June 2, 2007

This just in ...

Those of you who stay more consistently plugged in than I may already have heard this, but in case you missed it, Dubya's new pick for Surgeon General, Dr. James Holsinger, is actively anti-gay. Pay attention to how your senators and our presidential contenders vote during his confirmation.

Friday, June 1, 2007


I discovered a new (to me) poet today, so I have to share. David Whyte:

The Journey

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
enscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes
of your life.

You are not leaving
you are arriving.

Hitch-hikers and angels.

I've been having a bit of a pity party lately and didn't want to invite my readers, so no posts. Also, so much good blogging was going on around Memorial Day and then Cindy Sheehan's transition out of the anti-war movement, that I didn't feel like I had anything to add. And other bloggers had better jokes, too, so why bother?

Then tonight, on the way home from a work-related event, I run out of gas. Not like -- having writer's block running out of gas. Like, my car stopped moving. On the exit ramp. Next to a hitch-hiker. I have never run out of gas before and I wasn't far from home, so I picked up my new cell phone and called my ex. Could he maybe help? No, he was too busy putting our son to bed. (At 10 p.m.??) He said he'd gotten me AAA before we split and I could call them. But then my cell phone battery ran out.

OK, so I'm sort of dressed up at 10 p.m. on a Friday night and a sketchy looking guy is standing next to my car, which isn't moving, and my cell phone won't work. Now, I'm not really skittish about hitch-hiker guys. I pick them up sometimes, in fact (do NOT tell my mother). But this guy was not giving me good vibes. But what could I do? I had to grab my purse, get out of my car and start walking.

I haven't gone one block when a pick-up truck pulls over and the woman at the wheel asks if I need help. I explain that I've run out of gas and she laughs and says she'll take me to the gas station down the road, but first we need to stop at her house (which is just around the corner) and get something to put the gas in (which she has). We turn out to be neighbors, to know people in common from her work and to both drive a Prius (the pick-up is her boyfriend's). She runs out of gas regularly. She blames it on the Prius, so I'll do that too.

Cops are on the scene ready to tow my car when we get back, but they have the hitch-hiker under control and help me get gassed up, with a simple scolding for not leaving on my hazards. The neighbor woman is rolling a cigarette as she tells me I can't pay her, but I need to pass on the goodness and promises me that the universe will bring it back to me, just as it brought her to me tonight. She smiles and leaves.

I think maybe I can get over my pity party now.