Saturday, September 30, 2006

Cry, the Beloved Country

I'm working on materials to go with this book for my business and thought I'd post what I considered a powerful quote:
But there is only one thing that has power completely, and that is love. Because when a man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore he has power. I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good of their country, come together to work for it.

He was grave and silent, and then he said somberly, I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating.

Tiger kills the 18th for the third day in a row

They'll be lengthening the 576 yd par 5 18th hole at The Grove after Tiger's assault this week.

Day three of the Am-Ex tournament and Tiger is out front going into the last day by six strokes. Six. He's never lost a tournament when he's ahead on the last day.
Woods is 37-3 on the PGA Tour (43-5 worldwide) when he has a 54-hole lead, one of the most intimidating marks in golf. He has never given up a final-round lead when leading by more than one shot, so that doesn't bode well for the rest of the field.

But that's all old news. I'm posting this little entry because for three straight days, Tiger has eagled the 18th hole of this course. He holed a 35 foot putt today to end the round at 4- under.

Looks like he owns the 18th and the whole tournament.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

When intolerance comes for you

This week's UPI column was surprisingly hard to write, even though the experience is so fresh, I can't escape it.

I wish I could get beyond the feeling of being misunderstood and judged. My editor reminded me that Jesus felt this way throughout his ministry. Isn't that ironic? I didn't know that by questioning orthodox doctrine, I'd have a Jesus-like experience. The mother who issued the warning about this blog and the column said that she has a sacred duty to pass on the Catholic faith to her children and therefore she must protect them from influences that undermine that perspective.

It occurred to me today that I hold a different sacred trust. I believe it is my duty to pass on to my children the actions and attitudes I see modeled by Jesus... to show mercy, to release people into freedom, to be transformed by encounters with others, to forgive, to bless, to offer hope, to not draw the circle too tightly around "correct" doctrine or beliefs.

I understand the impulse of the warning... I've lived there. What I haven't experienced or understood before is what it's like to live on the other side of the warning. Time for me to learn how to tolerate and forgive what hurts me.

In that vein, I think it's time to open the Gospels...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Some James Buchanan quotes

I listened to a lecture by my professor last night at a seminar called "Visions of Hope and the Global Ethic." He had some quotable quotes I want to share here:

On dialog (particularly interreligious dialog)

If you don't have the will to risk (your assumptions, your presuppositions, your beliefs), you won't be afforded the pleasure of a genuine conversation anywhere, nor will you have a genuine democracy.

He also said that transformation only occurs if we are willing to be changed by our encounters and conversations. Otherwise, all we have is presentation meets presentation.

On the perception of America around the world:
America is the gated-community of the world neighborhood. We want to keep others out and protect what we've got inside.

On invading other countries:
We can now invade a country with a satellite dish.

On hope and hopelessness:
Hopelessness causes us to withdraw, to lock doors, to retreat into the safety of our enclaves that share our beliefs, worldview, assumptions.

People go into their enclaves to avoid the big open spaces that postmodernity created.

If you have hope, you act. Hope leads to risk-taking action.

Hopelessness leads us not to creating a better world or believing one is possible but to protecting what we've got, to defending what we already have from being taken.

Dr. Paul Knitter, another one of my professors, was also there last night and he made this point about hope. Hope leads you to risk your life. Even when he worked in El Salvador in the 1980s and friends were kidnapped and murdered, they never gave up the fight. Losing someone you love forces you to hope that you can overthrow what is oppressing you. Hopelessness thrives when there is nothing to overcome and we fear losing what we have.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

First time in church in, uh, five years

I darkened the doorway and entered. Church in question: the Vineyard.

Jacob (14) wanted to go to the high school group with friends. We are Vineyardites by history and it's where most of our homeschooled homies go. So we committed to taking him.

Jon took Jake last week and this week it was my turn.

I didn't actually attend the church service, but sat in the swanky atrium where hungry believers feed on cafeteria food, get free coffee from the coffee bar or check up on email on their four wired computers in "Connections Cafe." The church is set on an expansive grounds with a big pond complete with reeds and a fountain. It has taken the full seven years since they built the church for the grass to take hold and really grow in. Looks nice.

I settled myself in a chair and pulled out my reading for grad school. While I sat there, the worship leader's songs were played on monitors all over the room (words superimposed over the band). I knew all but two songs and was startled to remember that I knew the song writers (in person - used to work for Vineyard Music). "Amazing love, how can it be?" Couldn't help but sing along.

And that's why hymns are still sung today. Back when hymns were the freshest thing since tongues of fire over the tops of the apostles' heads, hymns were "real" worship. Some people still believe that, amazingly.

And so shall be the three chord worship song whose lyrics must include "amazing" and "forgiven" in at least two of the stanzas and the chorus if at all possible, amen and amen. Generations to come will be trained to believe that these songs are true worship whether or not the songs even remotely resemble the times in which future believers live. That is also amazing... and if you're keeping track, I've managed to squeeze that magic word in three times already.

It didn't really matter that the lead singer couldn't sing or that the band sounded three legged. I felt this gentle rush inside that reminded me of the thousands of hours I swayed with arms lifted to those very melodies. I save the swaying and lifted arms for U2 concerts now (incidentally - U2 and Green Day on Monday Night Football at the Superdome 9/25).

The songs ended and the Bengals-jerseyed dude who does announcements bopped up to the stage. Obligatory jokes made as well as a reference to the promise that we'd all be home in time for the truly sacred event: Bengals v. Steelers, 1 p.m.

Then the pastor gave a sermon to a congregation which may have gone unheard as visions of TJ Houshmandzadeh danced in their heads.

And that's when I tuned into my book. I can't wait to write about what I read: Sandel on the reason the ambitious project of liberalism has failed in America, and why we don't want to let it go either.

While I read, the sermon went in and out of my consciousness. At one point, I closed my eyes, bowed my head and paused. It was a kind of prayer - the kind where habit took over and peace filled me and I felt benevolence toward my past, toward all those millions of moments where I checked in with God, with myself, with the transcendent. I smiled.

I had only wanted to be good. That's what everyone in that building wanted.

And what's wrong with that really?


P.S. Damn the Bengals had me scared. But hey! They did it, as did Notre Dame. Heart stoppers. My dad and I have had two good phone calls as a result.

And let's pretend the Ryder Cup never happened, deal?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Word-Slinger Writes God

Today's UPI column comes from a final I wrote for a class called "Approaches to God." This piece was an attempt at writing an analogy for God. I also wrote an apophatic reflection, a psalm and a lamentation for that final.

It's a short piece, but it seemed to be a good choice for today and how I'm seeing God two years later, even.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Darfur What You Can Do

Brian at "The Beautiful Heresy" has a post that helps us know what to do when we think we can't do anything.


Did you see Pete Rose's latest antics?

Coach Bill Cowher actually said Ben Roethlisberger plays well when he's sick (he registered a temp of 104 yesterday before the game). After last night's stellar performance, I say, schedule surgery on Ben's pancreas right before the Bengals game so he'll be in top form!

And I must sing a dirge to Notre Dame. I grew up the daughter of a Notre Dame fanatic and alum. (Said father is understandably in hiding this week. I will send chocolates.)
Tear, tear for old Notre Dame
Put to bed the ashes whispering her name...

College football had it all: scandal, upsets and the University of Cincinnati on national TV!

Edited to add: Bengal linebacker David Pollack is out for the season with a broken neck. What a dangerous game! What mother in her right mind lets her sons play football?

More theology later. :)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Who dey? 2-0 that's who!

Carson Palmer makes it look so easy. His first TD pass to Washington bordered on ballet-esque! He leapt to the right in a lateral move, body leaning right, toes off the ground and pointed while he drilled the ball into the receiver's waiting hands. Poetry. No photo of that pass, but this one shows off Carson's ferocity.

Bengals over the Browns 34-17. Suh-weet.

I promised Dave that Carson would make an appearance on this blog, so here he is. It's a good day to be a Bengals fan! Let's hope all those injuries are minor. Crossing fingers and praying the Cincinnati rosary for sure.

Steelers next week...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Simply Christian: Chapter Two

'The hidden spring' of spirituality is the second feature of human life which, I suggest, functions as the echo of a voice; as a signpost pointing away from the bleak landscape of modern secularism and toward the possibility we humans are made for more than this.

The first feature which Wright characterized as an echo was the internal craving for justice. The second is the thirst for spirituality. He sees this thirst as another signpost of God's stirrings inside of us. He says that today, many of us are travelers in the desert in search of an oasis of spiritual refreshment.

Instead of writing a long treatment of this topic, I thought I'd ask you all a few questions:

What does it mean to call this "hidden spring" an "echo of a voice"? If you haven't read the book, that's fine. Just share what the words "echo of a voice" feel like to you. Is that a powerful image? A weak one? If God speaks, is it sufficient that the voice we hear is an echo?

Why is secular humanism seen as a "bleak landscape"? I have to be honest here. I find it a tad "weighting the scales in his favor" to characterize modern secularism as a bleak landscape without sharing why he says so. For me, modern secularism is also responsible for the rise of Christian faith in our country. The fact that religion is not married to the state and can continue to be a prophetic voice in our system of politics and social mores is in direct relationship to the fact that secular culture and modernism saw fit to protect religion from the control of government, to keep it in its own sphere. In Europe where religion remained connected to the state, there is a much greater dropping away of faith. Some have suggested it is due to the fact that religion and government (when they both exert political power) can be seen as tools of oppression. Protest means resisting both. When religious faith is separate from government, it can be a refuge and a source of critique.

Do you see any other benefits to the rise of secularism or do you agree with Wright's characterization of it being a "bleak landscape"?

Is spiritual hunger a universal human characteristic? Do you agree or disagree with Wright's idea?

Sunday, September 10, 2006


9/11 is the day I went into labor ten years ago when my daughter Caitrin would be born on 9/12. She got her ears pierced today to celebrate her decade on the planet.

But 9/11 will never be remembered as the date of anticipation again since 2001. Matt posted a nice entry that I wanted to feature as a way of remembering (and also to introduce you to his very nice blog!).

Sting's CD "All This Time" was recorded on 9/11/01 in Italy and is the one I play every year to remember. His voice breaks in the opening song "Fragile" which says it all for me.

Peace to you and everywhere today.

A rough week turns sweet

Last week reminded me of two other hard weeks I've lived since embarking on an authentic journey of spiritual self-assessment. Earlier in the week, I posted an entry to this blog that I then removed as I thought better of it. I then attempted to make peace with the awkward event inside my soul by myself (it's another one of those "outings" where who I am is discovered and then seen as suspect, and someone I consider a friend feels the need to warn others about me...). Instead, I found myself waking up at odd hours of the night defending myself to the phantoms in my dark room.

I have this bad habit that comes from my ENFP Myers-Briggs temperament. I really believe that if I could have two hours of your time and goodwill, I could win you back to my side.

The odd thing is... when I'm seen as dangerous (after I feel like throwing up) I usually want to laugh. I've spent more time bending over backwards to protect the reputations of the religious conservative and fundamentalist in places where they are criticized than the conservatives who find me dangerous. I know their rhetoric and theology, I understand their values and passions, I admire and protect their intentions. It's almost laughable to me that anyone would imagine that I'd be a threat in any of of their communities since I have been one of them and protect them when they are misunderstood.

But if I know all that, I also know (when I'm alone in the night with the phantoms) that all that cache of understanding and empathy goes out the window when I bring critique to the theology I used to believe.

And you know what?

This week I realized I even understand that feeling and don't want to be angry about it.

I remember shaking and sweating as I opened a book about Jesus written half by a Jesus Seminar member and the other half by an Anglican. What was I, the conservative, spirit-filled, evangelical afraid of?

It was this... this very experience of being rejected, misunderstood, and ejected from community; it was the unsettling discovery that Christian theology was perhaps wider, more diverse and more creative than I'd believed before. It was... fear of the unknown.

This week, though, in the midst of that soul-swooping experience of spiritual vertigo, some of my friends helped me back up onto my feet. A couple of them found me by email and sent virtual hugs. One sat across from me at a lunch table and let me pour it all out while she nodded so sympathetically, I teared up. Another stood up for me and with me.

I'm humbled. I'm touched. I'm... just glad, to have friends.

Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said to leap for joy when you are persecuted. I'm leaping today for joy because some of my friends reached out to me while I felt the heat of criticism and suspicion.

All this to say: Thanks. You know who you are.

Bengals over Chiefs (23-10)

Though I'm glad for the win, I'm horrified by Trent Green's concussion. I remember Troy Aikman (former UCLA grad, btw [g]), saying that his concussions throughout his career fundamentally altered his brain chemistry. Ugh.

Here's hoping Trent recovers well.

Football is so brutal!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Head Cold and Flu Undermines Blogging

I would blog, but my head says no. Hoping that the weekend says elsewise.

In Sports:
Can't bring myself to write anything about the Reds.

Shout out to Tiger for last week's fifth-in-a-row win.

Boo-hiss to the Steelers. Rather than focus on those Super Bowl usurpers, I'm linking to a piece about Carson Palmer's swift recovery.

ESPN's Eric Casillias picked the Bengals to go to the Super Bowl yesterday, though he says they won't win it.

We'll see. Tiger stripes are everywhere in this town. Here's crossing fingers and praying rosaries that Carson's knee holds up on Sunday against Kansas City and leads to a terrific season.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Dusty rooms and memories

In September of 1979, I loaded my blue Mazda GLC with boxes of clothes, a comforter and sheets featuring Kliban the Cat and my record player. I'm sure I did this because I know I lived in an apartment about half a mile from the campus of UCLA and I have photos of that bed with the cat all over it, to prove it.

But I don't remember leaving home. No one remembers it. There was no one there to witness it.

My parents were in the middle of a divorce. Not the time to feel sad at the oldest child leaving home. Home itself was already gone.

Today, when Jon and I unloaded boxes of stuff into Noah's college apartment, I didn't cry. The "first child leaves home" sadness hasn't settled in yet. Instead, I saw the realization of a tiny hope that was birthed nineteen years ago when Noah was born. I wanted more than anything to be married to Jon, his father, when he left for college. I wanted to buy him toilet paper, to wash his clothes and bleach out the stains before he left home (whites currently soaking downstairs as I type), to "oo" and "ah" over his roommates and to organize his chest of drawers.

Today, I saw it all... the bed under the little window in his attic room, his collection of books (Pride and Prejudice, his anthology of Shakespeare plays, his Role Playing Game guides and his collection of linguistics literature), the posters that went from bedroom to apartment. All there, reassuringly Noah and home but in this new exciting setting.

"We've done it," I told Jon the other night. I felt proud of us. It's no small achievement to pay for sports, braces, education, clothes and vacations for each child, and then to take on college without too much trepidation. It's even more satisfying to still be married and to be glad about it.

I thought about all the thousands of conversations Noah and I have had, the one where we were driving at night and we talked about faith and his future. I was struggling with our withdrawal from church, with my need to know what kind of Christian I am before I simply adopt a church's belief system. I felt badly about it for him, for the kids.

He said, "Mom, I know you're having questions. The thing is, I still believe very much the way we always have. But I know the day will come when I too have questions. When it does, I know that you will be someone I can turn to and you won't turn me away."

I thought of that today as I wiped the dust off his desk, as I packed his Bible and biblical Greek notes in with all his other books, as I watched the boy-man go off to live on his own and figure out how to be an adult. Like I did when I went off to college and began that same journey that continues even today.

How can I be sad? It's all turning out so beautifully.