Category Archives: Prayers of the People

Need Reader Feedback

Hi folks.

I am going to be closing down this blog in the next several weeks. There are many reasons for this, but I won’t get into them now.

What I would like to do, however, is compile the most useful posts into categories and bind them under an e-cover for download in case really, really interested folks still want to read them, or share them with others.

This is the compromise I’ve come to between just shutting down OR leaving the blog archives sitting here forever.

What I would love from you is some nominations for posts you’d like to see preserved in e-book form. I will try to edit and/or update any posts that go into that format, so if your favorite one is old and needs some revision that’s okay too.

I have in mind a total of say, 100 posts.

Help? (Please leave your suggestions in the comments so people can see each others’ okay?)

 

P.S. I’m also taking some of the posts from this blog (mostly since 2009) and backfilling Muse of Fire with them. So much of the more recent material will still be on a blog.

On my Children, my Father, Life, Death and Vegetables

I wrote the following for my church’s weekly newletter. You can find the original here.

Train up a Cucumber

Nat Harvests Radishes in the SPR Garden

“They are like children!” said one of the garden ladies. “They will climb up, but you have to give them a little help and show them where to go.” She gently lifted a cucumber vine and twined it through the netting so it would climb.

My children have grown a bit this summer — more than a bit, perhaps, to judge by shortening dress hems and tightening shoes. But they have also grown in understanding.

This summer, they lost their grandfather after two years of watching him fight cancer. It is their first death, and they have taken it hard. As my older daughter said the week after the funeral, “I don’t want anyone who loves me to die!”

I sympathized and told her I felt the same way, but there was nothing we could do about it. One of the hardest things about losing my father has been losing some of my children’s confidence that I can make anything and everything better for them, if only I want to and am willing to try.

I could do nothing to save their Granddaddy, even though I really, really wanted to. So my kids learned the sad lesson that parents are fallible and that sometimes death wins.

But the SPR garden also has been a pastime for them this summer, in the weeks we have been home and able to get to church on a Sunday. It has been a reassuring counterpoint to the fact of death, and that is the very concrete, undeniable fact of life.

When my children ask me questions about God, I tend to tell them some version

My father loved this picture he took on a walk with my girls.

of this: “God is a very special mother who takes care of the whole world. God makes things be alive. She makes things grow.”

(As a result of this teaching, when my younger girl saw a landscaper doing some work recently, she said, “look, that man is helping God! He’s taking care of the world.”)

When things in a garden die, my children know that nature turns them into dirt again, like the compost in the buckets on our own patio garden at home. New things can grow from that next season.

A garden at church is the perfect object lesson for them to connect the sacred and mundane facts of life — that God makes life, makes things grow, turns death and decay into something new and beautiful and perhaps even delicious, like a cherry tomato picked right off the vine, warm from the sun.

But this comes at a cost — a cost of labor and time and sometimes the frustration of fending off rapacious beetles that would chew down your vine before it can blossom.

And some people, work as hard as they will, never can get that vine blossoming.

This summer, along with the sad fact of death, my kids also have begun to learn the sad fact that life is not fair. Some people have more than they need, while some don’t have enough. The good news is that those who have enough can share and even the score just a little bit, almost every day.

When we go to the grocery store each week, we have a list of “Things We Need” and a list of “Things We Want.” My older daughter carefully crosses things off our “need” list and adds the prices as we shop. We have a budget every week and we are never able to get everything on our “want” list. But “sharing food” for the basket at the church altar is on the “need” list.

We always have enough to add a can of beans or a package of cereal for someone who might be hungry, even if it means we can’t get a candy bar for ourselves. It’s a lesson the children take with all the faith in the world that what I’ve told them — sharing is part of being who we are — is a simple truth. They never quibble about this.

Granddaddy and Nat

Recently, my older daughter badly wanted to eat a fresh pepper harvested from the SPR garden. I told her no. She kept begging and cajoling and I kept saying no until the thought struck me to simply explain. “The garden vegetables are sharing food,” I told her. “Oh!” She put down the pepper gently. She has never asked me to eat food from the garden again.

But she loves the garden nonetheless for that. She is as happy as she can be, helping pick ripe veggies, pulling weeds, plucking beetles off the plants and asking the expert gardeners a thousand questions.

The morning after my father died, my younger daughter asked, “will God make Granddaddy again?” I explained that Granddaddy was one-of-a-kind and that God is just too creative to ever make the same thing twice.

But although it may sound odd at first, I’ve told the girls that Granddaddy is a little bit like the compost. For one thing, he donated his body to cancer research. So there is an obvious way in which his physical being has been used to renew life among those of us who are still here slogging along on the Earth. But in the end, my father’s body was just a body, and it has returned to dust, as every one of ours will someday.

My Father and Me

And yet, like the compost that gives so much vitality to a tomato plant, my father’s love for his children and grandchildren will become — has already become — a part of who they are.

My children are stronger, happier, more loving people for having known his love for them. The spirit of sharing that he demonstrated even after death, he passed down to me to pass on to my own children. If all goes well, someday they will pass it to theirs.

And SPR — both in the garden and elsewhere — is a place to nurture those seeds of generosity and kindness, of sharing and enjoying people from all over the world (or from just across the neighborhood at KAM Isaiah Israel!). People come and go — even the ones who love us.

But in the end, it’s that very love that really wins.

A Creative Interlude

One thing Nat has been doing a lot of lately, is writing. She often produces spontaneous poems or song lyrics when the mood strikes her. Yesterday, she was especially taken with the baptisms of two babies at church. She wrote this poem when she got home. I share it with her express permission.

Baptized Babies

Tomorrow, babies are baptized in the morning.
We baptized babies in the morning.
Yesterday, I baptized babies in the morning,
On Saturdays and Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Fridays.

by Natasha

I especially appreciate her use of the ancient Hebrew poetic device of repetition to drive home the theological undertones of the piece, don’t you?

The Truth about “Gay Adoption” and Religious Freedom

I saw a video recently of Newt Gingrich claiming that gay rights gains in some states had “forced” Catholic Charities to end its adoption services because the government was insisting they allow equal access to gay prospective adoptive parents.

Newt claimed this was a violation of the First Amendment (which says the government may neither establish nor impede religion, for those of you outside the U.S.).

In fact, Catholic Charities (and/or the government) were already in violation of the First Amendment, because Catholic Charities was receiving government funding. Their choice was to refuse further funding or to open their doors to everyone, regardless of sexuality.

They took the third route and quit doing adoptions and foster services.

I wrote about this for BlogHer a while back, when last summer, Illinois (my state) began offering marriage-like “civil unions” to same-sex couples and a local branch of Catholic Charities shuttered its adoption and fostering services.

See that post here.

For Pride Sunday 2011

The following post was written for the weekly newsletter of my church. You can find the original here.

 

I became a member of the Anglican Communion when I was confirmed by the Bishop of Man (UK) at Pusey House, during a year of honors undergraduate study at Oxford.

Pusey House, for those of you who don’t know, is the bastion of what remains of the Victorian Oxford Movement — a movement within the Anglican Communion to rejoin Rome. It is, in its own way, the most conservative spot in all Anglicanism.

I haven’t changed much in my basic radical progressiveness since my college days. Walking into Pusey House was almost an accident for me. But once I got there what I found was not just a bastion of conservatism, but also a small though tightly knit community of people who met every morning for Mass, then for toast and tea around a dining table in the library.

One morning, several months into my Pusey adventure, I found myself thinking about the possibility of confirmation. I distinctly remember stopping in the middle of a bridge over the Isis on my way home from breakfast and thinking, “If I join the Church, it is going to disappoint me someday. That will have to be okay. I will have to commit to staying anyway.”

And I did. And it did. And I have.

I knew just what I was getting into because none of the leadership at Pusey House approved of women priests (the Church of England would ordain them for the first time the following year). And though I was not a lesbian at the time — at least, I didn’t yet know I was — I was a feminist.

My fellow Puseyites knew I was different from them. Even so, the priest-in-charge agreed to prepare me for confirmation, invited a bishop he thought was most in line with my own beliefs (a low-church radical!) and asked only that I please stop taking Communion in the meantime, as this was strictly reserved for not just the baptized, but the confirmed, in Dr. Pusey’s view (God rest his soul).

Ironically perhaps, Pusey House’s conservatism has remained a symbol to me of one of the things I love most about Anglicanism, and that is the way that it embraces such incredible diversity within its arms. If the president of Pusey House and I could sit over our toast morning after morning, genuinely liking and respecting each other across our miles of differences, anyone can surely sit with anyone in this Church.

Because the heart of this Church is community, not dogma.

I am sorry that the Church of England Newspaper decided to publish a critical article about our practice of open Communion here at SPR, but I also know that what we do is, in some way, the very heart of Anglican tradition. At least one way to understand Anglicanism is as a tradition that says, “let’s all practice these things together and see where it leads our hearts.”

The fact is that there is room. There is room for everyone in the Church. SPR is proof of that. Because even as they frown on us, we are still here, proudly and Episcopally welcoming the neighbors — of all races, economic statuses, genders, sexualities, ages, levels of education, walks in life — into the great dining hall of our nave. And they are coming.

I’m proud that SPR doesn’t just welcome me as a lesbian, but celebrates me as such. But I am prouder that in order to do this, it need not bill itself as a “Gay Church.” We are simply members of a worldwide communion that has room for everybody.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s what the Church ought to be. It’s why I decided to take a leap of faith and join an organization I was sure would disappoint me in the future. When it does, I hold on to the vision I will always cherish, not so much of taking Communion, but of sitting around the breakfast table with eight or nine others, sharing our lives and our opinions over toast and tea, then washing up together afterwards.

That’s probably more or less the way Jesus did it anyway.

In Honor of the Rapture: A Poem for my Grandmother

Cross-posting, or rather, sending you to my writing blog for this one.

If You Haven’t Already Seen It

This is my latest post at BlogHer. It’s about Selina’s baptism on Mother’s Day in 2008.