Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Boss is still Boss

If you liked Bruce before, you'll love "Devils and Dust." Its acoustic style with the Boss's trademark storytelling make it easy to listen to and provocative to think about. Great writing!

Rolling Stone Review ****1/2 stars.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Because it was sunny....

my mood improved. Does that not prove that I have SAD!!???

Watched Tupac Shakur: Resurrection last night. Did you know his mother was an active Black Panther? Sophisticated, smart, articulate, passionate, outspoken... and ultimately poor. So poor that despair just rode in and hitched its wagon to her life.

By the time Tupac grew up, she became addicted to crack. Crack!

The ghetto robbed her of her spirit.

Tupac expresses so much of that life and angst in his lyrics. His rap is easy to listen to. He's complex - hard to categorize, to accept or reject. What struck me about the movie is that it was almost entirely his own words. The editing managed to piece together a narrative relying solely on his interviews. Powerful.

The "night side" of history is still making me depressed. We watched "The Little House on the Prairie" and saw with greater clarity the backhanded treatment of the Native Americans. My professor said we made and broke 257 treaties with the Native Americans. Is it any wonder they'd like some reparations?

I think everyone should have to give at least a year to hearing blacks and Native Americans express reality from where they live.

Here are Tupac's lyrics about his mother:

Dear Mama

You are appreciated...

When I was young, me and my mama had beef
17 years old kicked out on tha streets
though back in tha time, I never thought I'd see her face
ain't a woman alive that can take my momma's place
suspended from school, scared ta go home
I was a fool with tha big boys breaking all tha rules
shed tears with my baby sister
over tha years we wuz poorer than tha other little kids
and even though we had different daddies
tha same drama when things went wrong we blamed mama
I reminised on tha stress I caused, it wuz hell
hugg'en on my mama from a jail cell
and who'ed think in elementary, heeeey i'd see tha penitentiary
One day
running from tha Police, that's right
Momma catch me--put a whoop'en to my backside
and even as a crack fiend mama,
ya always was a black queen mama
I finally understand for a woman
it ain't easy--trying ta raise a man
ya always wuz commited, a poor single mother on welfare,
tell me how ya did it
there's no way I can pay ya back
but tha plan is ta show ya that I understand.
you are appreciated......

Laaaaady, don't cha know we luv ya
Sweeeet Laaaady, place no one above ya
Sweeeet Laaaady, don't cha know we luv ya

Ain't nobody tell us it wuz fair
no luv for my daddy, cause tha coward wuzn't there
he passed away and I didn't cry
cause my anger, wouldn't let me feel for a stranger
they say i'm wrong and i'm heartless
but all along I wuz looking for a father--he wuz gone
I hung around with tha thug's and even though they sold drugs
they showed a young brother luv
I moved out and started really hang'in
I needed money of my own so I started slang'in
I ain't guilty cause, even though I sell rocks
It feels good, putting money in your mailbox
I love paying rent when tha rents due
I hope ya got tha diamond necklace that I sent to you
cause when I wuz low, you was there for me
ya never left me alone, cause ya cared for me
and I can see ya coming home after work late
ya in tha kitchen trying ta fix us a hot plate
just working with tha scraps you wuz given
and mama made miracles every Thanksgiving
but now tha road got rough, your alone
trying ta raise two bad kids on your own
and there's no way I can pay ya back
but my plan is ta show ya that I understand
you are appreciated.....

Laaaaady, don't cha know we luv ya
Sweeeet Laaaady, place no one above ya
Sweeeet Laaaady, don't cha know we luv ya

pour out some liquor and I remenise
cause through tha drama, I can always depend on my mama
and when it seems that i'm hopeless
you say tha words that can get me back in focus
when I wuz sick as a little kid
ta keep me happy theres no limit to tha things ya did
and all my childhood memories
are full of all tha sweet things ya did for me
and even though I act craaaazy
I got ta thank tha Lord that ya maaaade me
There are no words that can express how I feel
Ya never kept a secret, always stayed real
and I appreciate how ya raised me
and all tha extra love that ya gave me
I wish I could take tha pain away
If you can make it through tha night, there's a brighter day
everything'll be alright if ya hold on
it's a struggle
everyday gotta roll on
and there's no way I can pay ya back
but my plan is ta show ya that I understand
you are appreciated.......

Laaaaady, don't cha know we luv ya
Sweeeet Laaaady, place no one above ya
Sweeeet Laaaady, don't cha know we luv ya, Sweeeet Laaaady


(Tupac Shakur)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Big Invitation

Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey I know it's late, we can make it if we run...

I took the invitation—Bruce invited us to an earthly life. He wanted us to go out to the edge of town with the ones we love and have fun, have great and better sex, to come along for the ride, to get in the car and drive, to live.

I knew it.

I knew that was the message of that song... in my soul.

It is the one that makes sense.

That graduation gown in rags at their feet....

Like a physical weight that bears down on me
Like a press that marks me
Like standing alone in the gloom before dawn...

You have to rise up and get out of town and drive.

I don't want to die. I know now that I will.

Some of the people I love most are dead, and I've never met them. (Laura Ingalls Wilder, E. M. Forster, Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Some of the people I've loved are dead to me, though very much alive.

And some people can't take the invitation—life is survival; it's the best they can do.

The Moroccan whose car I crashed into commented on the war in Iraq. Iraqis are angry he said. "Its hurt." (sic) He said that democracy costs and the Iraqis are paying a heavy price and "Its hurt."

Their hurt equals death for over 100,000 civilians. Death means the invitation to life can't be answered.

I think of Bono's lyric:
They're lives are bigger than any big idea.

Have we forgotten?

I feel small, tired, unwilling to die and in awe of life.

Bruce Springsteen is on Storytellers on VH1 tonight and will reair over the next couple of days. Brilliant.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Reflections on the Bible Conference

First of all, I am sorry it's been so long since I've posted on my blog. I know all of you were glued to your TVs watching either the Amazing Race or the new Pope being confirmed (white smoke and all that) so I assume you aren't exactly starved for my navel-gazing prose.

Still, I have wanted to share about my experience at the Eastern Great Lakes Society of Biblical Literature conference for some time and finally feel I can spare a few minutes to share some of my experience.

I arrived at Oglebay Resort in Wheeling, WV by 11:00 a.m. The place is set in the rolling hills of WV—such a refreshing change from flat Ohio. I unloaded and found my room where I decided to freshen up. I made the disastrous decision to paint my fingernails... and then to brush my hair and change my clothes. Needless to say, the nail polish smudged, dented and became such a nuisance I wiped it all off with a cotton ball and decided to go "au naturel." Good decision.... though small bits remained and I found myself picking it off in nervousness while waiting for my turn to speak.

The first session, wherein I was slated to speak last, began at 1:00 p.m. The papers in my session were under the subhead: The Old Testament: Women and Song.

The first paper turned out to be one of my favorites. Two men (who were clearly best friends and as playful as they come) did a joint paper on the Song of Moses in Exodus 15 showing that it conformed to the "iconic performance" form, rather than narrative poetry. They didn't read a paper; they "performed" the interpretation and we were all on the edge of our seats interacting and imagining the text with a new vision. Wonderful!

The next paper read was given by my professor of the Pentateuch. She did a treatment of the Old Testament viewpoint related to disability. So many verses that equate God's blessing with health, long life, vitality, the ability to walk or run! Curses from God are often equated with disability. I had not ever noticed. She offered insight into how a disabled person or community could look at those passages without feeling shamed or cursed or abandoned by God and also did not necessarily resolve the inherent difficulty of the passages for the disabled. Provocative.

The paper before mine was offered by another graduate student. He looked at Michal's dance and her anger at David's self-exposure and did so in a way I had never considered. He showed how David usurped the ritual practice of women who worshiped using dance as their vital role in the community, which action pushed them aside. Then he interpreted her reaction to David not as prudish or selfish or prideful but as indignation at the way male hegemony was at work in the Davidic tradition. Really new stuff. Loved it. Great work by a grad student.

Then it was my turn.

I found it daunting to go after so many wonderful papers of such high caliber and thought. I chose Genesis 3:16 for my topic and the title of my paper was/is: "All About Eve and Me: Genesis 3:16." I used an autobiographical critical methodology to engage the text. I examined biblical literalism, the historical-critical methodology and then used the lens of autobiography to help me examine my relationship to both the text in question as well as my growing identity as an interpreter of the Bible.

During the paper (which I read—had I known I could have spoken it like the first fellows, I think I would have preferred that!), I got to the section where I examined my relationship to feminism and the evangelical community. I included personal details related to my parents' divorce and suddenly found myself on the brink of tears. I had not anticipated that kind of reaction in myself. There is something about being in front of other people that pulled deep emotions straight up from the bottom.

Oh was it humiliating! I had to stand stock still and breathe to regroup. Each time I started to speak, I felt myself balancing my voice against the water in my eyes and felt somewhat quavery. But I got through it. And then the applause. And the questions. And the sympathetic feedback. By the end I felt much better. My favorite professor smiled and told me "Well done" which was the most satisfying feedback. He is the kind that will take you to task if you haven't done your work. He'll do it kindly, but he'll do it nonetheless. So his praise meant the world to me.

The two who had begun the session turned out to be Important People. One of them is the current president of the SBL (Society of Biblical Literature). He approached me afterwards to thank me and to affirm the direction of my paper. I felt embarrassed over my tears. He brushed that concern away. I really like him and got to sit with him and his friend later in the evening.

During the president's keynote address later that night, I'll be darned if the same exact thing didn't happen to him! He began to speak of his wife who has cancer, and he got so choked up, he couldn't go on for the moment, tears in his eyes. That's when I knew I was really okay, even as a newbie.

I had lots of wonderful conversations about all kinds of paper topics. I had offers of help to get published (unsolicited) and friendly conversations over wine and beer later that night about the nature of faith and God and kingdom life and so on. Really a rich time.

I met a Vineyard pastor who wrote a paper on the hemorraghing woman: Magic or Miracle? He took the position that it was a miracle. We had breakfast together and rehashed our Vineyard histories.

The whole environment was both challenging and comfortable at the same time. I felt inspired to really work on a topic for a long time, going deep and narrow. I loved the way biblical scholars struggle with the relevance of their work and yet all the same commit themselves to it. An honor to be there.

The next day, I listened to more papers, ended with a wonderful lunch that looked out on sunny hills in a gorgeous room next to my Xavier professors and other students and faculty from other univesities. I took a brisk walk before getting into the car for my next trip.

And if you're still reading and interested, I'd be happy to share my paper with you (if I know you). Just ask. :) I'll send it along. Thanks for all your thoughts and well wishes.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A Prayer I can Pray (Oscar Romero)

The Prayer of Oscar Romero

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

She's Wordy and Wonderful

A Tribute to My Mom

I was twelve.
“I love your story, honey. Let’s see if we can make that opening more vivid.”

My mother gently held my first “mature” short story in her hands. My main character (who like so many protagonists bore a striking resemblance to the author—me, at age twelve) rode a train to Mexico and while on a shopping expedition, got lost.

I wrote the first draft in purple marker. Only a mother would wade through that.

And she did. My mom found all the places of imagination and affirmed them. She identified the crisis and praised it. She laughed at the right moments.

Then with quick and precise comments that made me see possibilities, rather than errors, she deftly re-opened the story by suggesting a little dialog and some “stage business” (as we say in theater). Instead of starting with the usual, “My family took a trip to Mexico” she suggested I begin with a card game between the heroine and her best friend wherein the discussion could turn to the protagonist’s upcoming trip.


I could write that.

And what a difference it made! Suddenly the little story stood up. It felt like the novels I loved to read. I turned it in for a grade and instead received such praise from my teachers that they shared it with the whole class.

I was fifteen.
My first research paper for Honor’s English class. I wanted to be good at it. Expository writing felt like the Olympics of writing and I wanted that gold medal or to at least make the team. So I dove into my topic without help: James Thurber. I made notecards and I read his writing. I wrote a draft. I rewrote it. I edited it.

Due the next morning, I started to type what would be a fifteen-page paper at about 1:00 p.m. Those were not the days of the delete key or cutting and pasting. My first two pages were riddled with errors… and had to be re-typed.

I glanced at the clock and my stomach dropped to the floor: Daylight Savings time. I had already lost an hour…and then I lost my will and faith and any remaining typing ability. Teardrops smudged the ink on the first two pages.

“Give me your draft, sweetheart. We’ll sit together and get this done.”

I relented. She could help me. Fingers flew over the keys without error. As my mom typed, she offered editorial feedback with enthusiasm and friendliness. I didn’t mind because her advice always worked.

We got that paper done after hours at the typewriter and she never complained once. I made the team. Expository writing became my favorite writing form.

I was seventeen.
I filled out my college application on my own. My mother’s life had been turned upside down—no husband, living on her own, trying to make ends meet. I wrote the college entrance application essay and she asked to read it.

“Julie, let’s start with a hook. Sit and talk for a minute about what you imagine life after college will be like for you. I’ll take notes.”

I closed my eyes and saw an older version of me jogging on the beach with an Irish Setter at my heels. I saw myself returning to my beach pad where I poured myself a cup of tea and studied my script for the movie I would be in.

And so my essay began, “Jogging through the wet sand in my blue sweats with my Irish Setter at my heels….”

That essay caught the attention of my composition teacher. He dittoed it off and it became the model for all his seniors for how to write an essay to get into university.

I was thirty.
I had three kids who loved the library. I fell in love with children's literature and so I wrote a children’s book: single-spaced and much too short… and sent it to my mother.

By now you know what she did: she praised it. She found many good things in that little poorly written story and then honed in on the key areas I could expand the writing and make it better. (And she mentioned I ought to double space in future).

She sent me advice for how to submit it for publication and she offered to help me write the cover letters. That week, a book on how to write children’s picture books appeared in my mailbox, sent to me from her personal library.

Once I began to study the craft, I saw how woefully I had fallen short. But my mother never told me that. She believed in me so completely, I steadily improved the piece until I received good feedback from editors.


My mother, Karen O’Connor, has been a writer for over thirty years. She’s published literally hundreds of magazine articles, 52 books and has taught writing for over 25 years. She knows good writing. And she writes really well.

So imagine my delighted shock when I received an email from her last week saying that she’s excited about a new writing adventure of her own: romantic comedies for seniors. And just to be sure she does it right, she signed up… for a writing class.

At 67 years old as of April 8, 2005, my mother is eager to grow, to offer her work for the same kind of critique and praise she’s so generously given over the years to earnest, new writers everywhere (me, chief among them). Always a learner, eager to make a contribution, she lives a life that sees possibilities. This focus in her outlook has literally touched thousands of people's lives.

Because of my mom, I am not afraid to write, to express myself in writing. My mother is the original brave writer in my life. She is also a brave mother and writing coach who has modeled to me what it is to love the writer in each of us.

Thank you, Mom, for seeing the tender soul of the writer in the bad writing and helping to transform that self-expression into a satisfying product that reveals the depths of that soul. You do it so well. When I grow up, I want to be just like you.

I love you,

P.S. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Heading out of town

I'll be away until Sunday sharing my paper at the Society of Biblical Literature. Then I'm off to Columbus for a homeschooling conference where I'll be speaking.

Forgive me if I'm leaving anyone hanging! (Shoehound!)

See you then!


Sunday, April 03, 2005

Bono, the Pope and the Fly

ABC article: The Pope's relationship to Bono and pop culture

From Undercover and the @U2 mailing list
3rd April 2005

Bono Pays Tribute To The Pope

by Paul Cashmere

U2 front man Bono has paid tribute to the Catholic Church's front man Pope John Paul II calling him "a great man".

"The best front man the Catholic Church ever had" Bono said in a statement. "A great show man, a great communicator of ideas even if you didn't agree with all of them, a great friend to the world's poor which is how I got to meet him. Without John Paul II its hard to imagine the Drop the Debt campaign succeeding as it did."

Pope John Paul II died in Rome on Saturday at the age of 84.

He become Pope in 1978 following the death of his predecessor Pope John Paul I who held office for just 33 days. Conspiracy theories state John Paul I was murdered because he was about to unveil a scandal. The conspiracy theory has never been proven.

Bono met the Pope in 2000 following the U2 singer's work on the Jubilee project to eliminate third world debt. Bono gave the Pope his trademark Fly shades at the meeting and the Pope put them on.

The U2 Vertigo tour began in San Diego last Monday.

(c) Undercover 2005

The following photo comes from http://U2log.com and was taken at the Harvard economic conference which suggests it may actually be genuine, though I wonder at the other "glasses-wearers" in the background...?.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Of Silver Linings and Car Crashes

At the top of our hill where Red Mill intersects with Tylersville Rd, there is a blind spot on the left. I know it's there. In my van, I sit up high and just wait a moment to be sure no cars pop into view unexpectedly. Unfortuantely, I was not in my van.

I was in Noah's little Camry. I forgot. I looked left, I looked right, I entered the road turning left, and looked left again when: A car! I gunned it to avoid him and he swerved to avoid me, and mostly did, except crunch—my back bumper and wheel well... I went spinning across the road and into the muddy grassy ditch on the side of the road.

I HATE accidents.

I'm sixteen again and freaking out and feeling like a loser and wondering if I can ever drive again without hitting a car and wondering how I'll explain it to everyone and ticked at myself because now I have to start the count again from scratch ("It's been X number of years since my last accident...").

Then the silver lining appeared...

The guy I hit jumped out of the car. "Are you okay, miss? Don't worry about the cars. Really. They are just cars. But are you okay? Okay, then. That's all that matters." His light foreign accent made me smile. He then made a phone call to his job and told his boss that a certain "Hassan" was on his way... which got me thinking...

"Where are you from?" I asked.

"Um, Morocco."

"No way. I lived there for four years. Salaamu Alaikum. La bes?"


I continued.

Then he started laughing and blasted away in Arabic. We talked for a couple of minutes and then he threw his arms around me in a bear hug and said, "I'm so sorry we have to meet under these unfortunate circumstances. Let's not call the police. Everything will be o-kay."

Of course the nosy neighbor had already called the police and it is my fault so I still got cited.

Still I sat in the car with Farid while I got written up and we chatted up a storm about democracy, Iraq, Mohammed, Morocco's king, mint tea, Ourzazate, and Berber. I salted my conversation with every Arabic word I could remember. What a dear guy! Even had a glass of mint tea in his car.

We left the scene amicably, exchanged all our information and were able to drive our cars. We'll try to repair his without insurance. Noah's car looks worse.

I'm okay, but am starting to feel the muscle strain in my back and neck.

One irritating moment. My car was on the side of the road on a wet muddy hill and needed a push to get it onto the road. The police officer yelled to Farid, "Get behind her car and push it so she can get up the hill."

Excuuuuuse me? Why on earth is he ordering around the victim of the crash... and NOT HELPING!? (I am resisting the temptation to call his behavior RACIST!!!)

So I rolled down my window and yelled at the officer. "Hey! Get over here. He needs your help" ya big doofus... I didn't quite say that last bit but I sure did think it.

Farid was the height of graciousness and sympathy (as I remember Moroccans) and I felt so comforted to have run into him and not some business man from West Chester in a new car.

My friend, with whom I was supposed to have breakfast, came to the scene and then came home with me to drink tea and soothe my spirits by recounting her own history of car accidents.

I'm a little shaky but feeling better now.

And I got back on the horse and drove to Meijer's with Johannah... without incident.