Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Continuing Education

We have joined the Books Program, started by NY Senator Libous. The program encourages parents and children to read together by offering rewards after certain numbers of reading-hours are accumulated. (The first reward is a McDonald's gift certificate; but the second reward is a pair of passes to a local educational museum.)

So I try to keep track of the times I spend reading to Gwendolyn. Since I have to read for work, I figure it's fair game to read out loud and get credit for Gwendolyn. Thus it is that we are logging time spent reading a classic middle-English epic poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

I remember having to read it for senior high school English class, but all I retained from it was that it had something to do with Sir Gawain from King Arthur's court and, well, a green knight.

Now, having developed a good deal more interest in the kinds of things they were trying to teach us in high school, I am enjoying the second read very much. It is a masterful work of art, even in translation (I cannot read the middle English text). Since it is poetry, it reads out-loud much better than, say, Jared Diamond's Collapse. And when the alliterative assonance gets rolling, Gwendolyn joins in with raucous cheers.

If Gwendolyn ever decides to pursue studies in English literature, perhaps we'll know why. Thanks, Senator Libous!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Reason to Cry

Someone (it may have been Mark Twain) once said, "The doctrine of sin is the doctrine that enjoys both the least general acceptance and the most objective proof."

I just witnessed a stranger saying to his over-tired, crying and disobedient three-year-old, "Keep it up, and I'll give you a reason to cry."

There are few sentiments which prove with greater acuity humanity's need for saving.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ironies of Parenthood

Dear G,
I am totally thrilled that you are sleeping soundly, even through your coughing. However, I am caught by the irony that the night you choose to do this is the night that I have chosen to stay up much later than normal to take care of you.
You see, almost every night for the last two months, no matter what time you go to bed and no matter when we've fed you, you've woken up at least once before midnight and needed a new diaper or snack. Tonight, I was going to preempt being woken up out of my sound sleep and stay up. And you're sleeping through.
I love you and sleep well.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

October Tid-Bits

So October is flying past us! I have been busy with craft shows, sewing, crochet and this little person, who is just as mischievous as this look would lead you to believe!

As she's working on getting on her feet we've entered the stage of booboos and bonks. Usually the cry is worse than the injury and the pride is the most hurt.

Most days have their fair share of smiles and fun as GBaby explores her developing personality. Although, having cut eight teeth in eight weeks, we've had our fair share of rough days too. My favorite new game is putting three or four finger foods on her high-chair tray and watching which ones take preference. Some days its the green beans, other days the cheerios win and since goldfish crackers are a new food of the week, they're getting a lot of preference.

GBaby and I spent a week with my parents so she got some quality time with Granny and Granddad. Here Granddad is teaching her about fall leaves. She wants the contract to do the taste testing.
Our days are full, our nights still interrupted but joy abounds.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Kissing Virtues

Here is the text of the sermon mentioned in the last post. The text read was Psalm 85, and specifically verse 10.

"I have decided that because the Lord saw fit to include so much poetry in our scriptures, I may, on occasion, preach in poetry. So whatever mental or physical posture you need to adopt in order to hear poetry well, I invite you to find that place now.

A poet remembers the faithfulness of Yahweh:
“Lord, you were favorable to your land;
"You restored the fortunes of Jacob.”
But that time is no more.
Salvation has fled, tribulation has come.
Doubt shrinks the hearts of the people of God.
Can Yahweh make things right again?
“Lord, let us hear you speak again!”
says the poet.
“Our lives cry out with pain;
"The infection of sin grows red and inflamed.
“Will you speak words to us again: words of healing, words of hope?”

says the poet,
“the Lord has a word for you.”

85, verse 10:
Love and Faithfulness meet together:
Righteousness and Peace kiss each other.

Lovers apart so long
Brothers apart too long
How long have they been apart? Where have they been?

What has Righteousness become without Peace?

A pair of old calloused hands, smudged grey
By twenty years without a single sick day,
Tough and precise, devoted to the job;
A furrowed brow beaten low by a boss
Then another, then another
Who never once said thank you
Flawless in duty
But hiding a heart that still fears a slight slip of paper
Colored pink.
Righteousness without Peace: do you want him?

A child whose A never has enough pluses,
Whose friends always have too many piercings
Or tattoos in places no decent parent would allow
Whose concertos, though perfect, lack just the right feeling,
Or maturity
A life in which an ounce of approval
Would cure a pound of challenge
Whose pillow whispers fear:
Can I be more than the sum of my achievements?
Righteousness without Peace: do you want him?

A life of defiance against the evils of the world
Whose fingers stab accusation that “they” are the cause
Of my ills and our sufferings
Without “them” we would be safe
The nerds judging jocks, or the farmers the mean girls
Or blue collars seething at big banks
Or flags waved at Iran
Those protestors marching at the end of the parade
“Jesus or Hell” signs flapping in the breeze
Faces set harder than the concrete they tread
Yes, they are righteous, but where is the Peace?

Torn from his lover, his God-given spouse
Righteousness craves the touch of his bride:
To be frozen forever, sculpted in bronze, in that moment of passion,
That lostness in bliss,
The bare-naked second that parents will try to distract
Their young children from seeing
Until they are older
And then they will desperately hope
Those children will have it

Righteousness misses
The kiss.

But where is his bride?
Where has maiden Peace wandered, and what has she done?
What dress does she wear when her husband’s away?

The smooth-sliding rapture of hormones
And touch that drags teenagers
And college students, and middle-aged adults, and
Those in the prime of life
Into the “feel good” relationship:
No worries, no cares, no boundaries, no bothers, it seems,
Yet doubt slivers in, because this isn’t the way it used to be:
Didn’t Grandma describe it differently?
And didn’t her happiness seem deeper?
Peace without Righteousness: do you want her?

A cheek stung daily with the white hand-print of rage,
The soft flesh that was made to be caressed
Abused instead by an intimate liar with cowardly fists,
Its only chance for safety, another hour without pain, is to stay silent
To hold its Peace
Even as the flesh cries out:
This is not right!
Peace without Righteousness: do you know her?

Nations, villages, genders, ethnicities, kept hooded and bound
By the muzzle of a gun, a machete, or
An intercontinental ballistic missile
Who know their place in an age of empires
At the bottom, uncertain whether their children will have children
And so remain captive to economics and power
While whimpering hope to the soft-spoken big stick
That they just want food and water and medicine
Peace without Righteousness: do you want her?

When the house, or the car, or the MRI bill, or a winter of fuel
Requires a loan
That does not look good three years down the road
But the banker says, Don’t worry, the economy will change
And quietly, cheerfully, another bale falls
On the back of the camel
Peace without Righteousness: didn’t I see her just the other day?

She, too, misses her spouse
And no phone calls, emails, or Facebook messages will do
She wants to be with him
To hold Righteousness close
So that if you’re talking to one, you must talk to the other
She wants them to meet, to hug, and even
To kiss

Do you remember them together?
You’ve seen them apart, but to see yellow and blue
Is not to see green

Did you catch it before?
Did you see it?
What the poet speaks of with joy, did you hear him?

A stranger in the temple, a teacher attractive and odd
Named Jesus
When a pack of Righteousness came and threw down before him
A woman who had looked for love in the wrong place
And when the wolves, wanting justice, said
“What do you say?”
He said, Let the perfect one among you condemn
And let his words fall like rain on the rightness parade
Until only she was left
And she had to look at him
And know she was wrong
And think she was dead
Because she craved a kiss that she could not have
Until now

Standing before the first man who sees
Not just the evil she had committed
Nor the curves of her body, the only power she had
But the image of God and how it might mend
And the hope that forgiveness can bring
The man who said,
You have seen Righteousness, now receive Peace

Then outside the city he would sit with his students
And teach them of Peace
But not the kind they had known
This Peace would equip them to walk into flames
Of anger, offence, of hatred and scorn
Of peevish little words that no one says matter
But everyone knows
He taught them the Peace that never stays silent
In the face of injustice, or error, or pain
But sings truth in the tone and the timber of love
Who gives up a house when the enemy needs a motel
And builds a new bridge when all the others are burned
And drives to the sister all the family scorns
Pregnant with sorrow, weeping with cold
To bring another chance

He taught them a Peace that walks
With Righteousness
Like old lovers with many grandchildren
And more than a few great-grandchildren
Hand in hand through the hayfield of dreams and realities
Whose life has been hard, and happy, and grey
With hearts deeply scarred by trusting through pain
Whose commitment some years
Was the only thing they shared
They stop once in a while to lean on a shoulder
To sigh and to smile
And to kiss

And when their great-grandchildren
The students of Jesus
Look out from their windows and see the old lovebirds
Who gave them Life
They cannot imagine Peace without Righteousness
Or Righteousness without Peace
And know how the two hate being apart
But still they must wonder
Will we be like that someday?

The Word of the Lord . . ."



My profession carries with it the hazard of drowning in platitudes. Now, I must be clear that sometimes platitudes are desirable. They can smooth social interactions which, for reasons known only to one party or the other, might otherwise be uncomfortable. They have their place and are happy to be left there unattended.

It is perhaps the commonality of platitudes in my profession that makes events rising above the level of bland, generic affirmation such precious jewels to be held.

So many Sundays, after delivering to the congregation what I pray will always be an encouraging and insightful interpretation of a scriptural text, I receive a host of comments affirming the "good sermon" and "good service." This past Sunday, however, was different. I chose to render my sermon in poetic form, departing from my usual habits of logical and narrative flow. After the worship service, a high school age member of the congregation approached me and asked for a copy of the poem.

Never before has someone under the age of fifty asked me for a copy of a sermon manuscript, let alone someone in the high school age bracket. It is precisely this bracket that I often fear I am not reaching with my words.

So the Holy Spirit has done something wonderful this week: Victory!