Friday, March 6, 2009

Gifts, Day 1

Keeping track of the gifts in everyday life until I’ve listed 1,000…
Inspired by Ann Vonskamp:

Children in the library who think dictionaries with small print are “really cool.”

Red shoes that make my feet look sexy.

Knowing that my brother, should he never return my emails, is at least safe, healthy, and successful and far away from the pain.

A conference speaker that inspired me concerning missions instead of stifling with guilt, shame and feelings of worthlessness. We’re all in this together, whether we’re missionaries or not; and that was a wonderful reminder.

Wish bones from roasted chickens. Being silly I pulled it apart by myself yesterday. When the smaller end broke off into my right hand I let out a pathetic whimper that I lost, and then laughed at myself because it meant the “winning” side was in my other hand. It was a ditzy moment that was also profoundly sacramental: I receive both good and bad from the hands of the Lord, wins and losses, sometimes in the same circumstance.

The Catholic Encyclopedia in the library with its gilded pages, green cover, and lovely old book smell.

The warm weather.

Bradford Pear blossoms, even though they’re stinky.

My bean plants, fresh and new, sprouting from tin cans.

Butterfly tea cups with gilded lips.

Gaining some degree of “fame” (or infamy…) for my theological and historical knowledge concerning the early church.

My husband’s arm around me when we sit side by side in the chapel.

My quilted purse.

Working at a library.

Manischewitz Kosher Blackberry Wine before bed.

Playing Purble Place with Craig (a children’s deductive reasoning computer game).

Meetings with wise professors.

Starbucks dates with my sweet husband.

The ability to go on a Starbucks date because of my generous mom (my mother in law, but she’s the only mom I’ve ever known so she gets the distinction of that wonderful appellation : - ) ).

The fact that I can call someone “mom.”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s homilies.

This lyric:
“The pain is self inflicted
I know it's not good for my health
But it's easier to please the world than it is to please myself
The rest is out of my hands.”
Lyrics can help me process a world of unspoken emotion.

Ephesians 5:14, because it is the prayer of my heart: “Awake O Sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”

My grandmother’s diamond ring that I wear as a reminder of the past. Not to dwell on it, but to acknowledge it and resolve to move on in difficult moments when I have the propensity to react to situations like her.

This precious ruby, the color of passion, of Christ’s blood, of fire, of clay, of wombs that surround and nurture new life, of the blood of martyrs, and of love. Love deep and overflowing and rising and surging and healing.

Day 1, 25/1000

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Flowers from Ashes

I light candles to soothe my mind and relax in the warmth and beauty.

One particular night I lit candles on our dresser and was prepared to curl up under the covers when I noticed the shadows the light created.

Lacking a traditional jewelry box (on purpose; I find them cumbersome) I hang my necklaces on a coffee mug stand I found at a thrift store. The candle light created a stark shadow between the stand and the wall that appeared to be Christ’s head, crowned with thorns, hanging down from the cross as He gave up His life.

I told this to my husband who turned and saw it, remarking, “Oh yeah, it does,” and then he went about his business.

I kept the other thought to myself.

It’s scaring me.
Perhaps it’s because horror films are inundated with Christian imagery that is then interpreted as creepy, such as Carrie or the Constantine series.

But I noticed on Ash Wednesday, as I did the previous year, that I felt odd with that “smudge of ashes” on my forehead (to borrow my friend's Marissa’s phrasing). Conspicuous.

Maybe these ashes don’t belong here.
I have two rosaries with crucifixes. At the suggestion of many books on contemplative prayer, I’ve tried to meditate on them.* But I’ve never been moved to tears or felt God’s love. Time eked by in an agonizingly slow fashion and then I moved on to reading the Book of Common Prayer or an ancient church homily or saying my petitions to God. It made me feel uncomfortable.

But that shadow crucifix terrified me. He came out of nowhere, and I couldn’t control it. People with ashes on their heads appeared out of nowhere, their crosses ministering to me, showing me the suffering that I didn’t want to acknowledge.

Because there, in that image, is the answer to the ancient question. When I ask, “Why me?” Christ shows His wounds. And then my defenses are gone. I must either accept His answer or cling to my excuses.
And more often than not, I cling to the excuses.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux compared the tree of the cross to the Tree of Life, and the treasures to be found in Christ’s suffering and resurrection to flowers and fruits of that tree.
With eager hands I have plucked flowers from His Tree of Life. They are more gorgeous than any I have ever beheld. When they take in the light of the Son and the Water of Baptism that remain in them, so that they illuminate with holy light and cleanse and refresh with an eternal spring. When I bury my nose in them I become drunk with love like Solomon’s bride because the fragrance is so intoxicatingly sweet.

I take my horde, clinging them to my chest, and then horror upon horrors, I lay my treasure down, and stomp on them.

I, who adore flowers, destroy the most unique and beautiful for the short-lived pleasure of stomping upon them to release my tension, my anger, my bitterness, or my hatred.
Maybe their presence reminds me of my unworthiness of that beauty and I take it out on them.

I do not love the gifts that You secured for me through Your Passion. I do not care that I have harmed them.

I try to forget, and I put You and Your flower-laden tree out of my mind. Until You appear again without my consent. And I am forced to reckon with You.

Unlike Solomon’s bride, I am not sick with love, but with death. Put Your wreath in my hair and Your bouquet in my hands, and make me walk the aisle to You. Remove the veil and take me in Your arms so that I may see the wounds, and not turn away again.
*Note on meditation on icons, statues, images, etc: I am aware that none of these images are Christ. But they are reminders of Christ’s work and life, and in the same way one meditates on words about Christ without confusing the ink and paper with Yeshua, one can meditate on representations of Christ.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pudgy Graces

I had hurried from the crowded, humid reptilian exhibit with its sticky heat and noisy bird calls.

I wanted to escape that warmth and let my mind sail over blue ripples in the water and sit at the feet of the manatee.

I stood at the back as the same crowd surged around the thick glass that guarded the elegant beasts, but soon found an opening and rushed forward.

I sat
like a child
my skirt curled under me,
and pressed my face against the glass,
like a child.

And there I prayed that she would glide by me, so I could gaze upon her.

And she did.
Her body descended from the rays of light in the water,
and she showed off her curves and ripples of fat as she danced past me.

And then her face met mine. Nose to nose, through glass. Deep to deep, through glass.

Her eyes penetrated mine, and she shared a joke, a poem, a lesson, a metaphor, a dream, a belief.
And in them was more truth than in a million sermons.

I sat stunned and she turned and touched her fin to my hand, and then swam off, large and graceful in her sleeve of silvery blue flesh.

I want to wear her image around my neck,
as a reminder of that unspoken sermon
to be content, to be love, and to show off your curves in glorious twirls.