Sunday, April 5, 2015

Moving On

So, I decided to close this blog and start a new one. There were various reasons for this decision, but the gist is that I felt a need for newness, for starting fresh.

Here is the link to the new blog:

I look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Further Up and Further In

On Sunday morning I missed church again, in spite of my best intentions. That afternoon and evening I had to work. My work schedule is all in the evenings, so I knew that my favorite liturgy of the year, the Easter Vigil, was out. As I researched service schedules of both Catholic and Episcopal churches in town, it looked as if I would miss out on Good Friday and Maundy Thursday as well. 

This made me think wistfully of my old parish, which I still tend to think of as "my parish," in D.C. The last two year's I've sat in the front pews for the Easter Vigil, once as a candidate for confirmation, and once as a sponsor. Twice I've been to the front, stood before the bishop's seat, held a candle and walked (terrified that I'd drop it) up and down the aisle as the choir chanted a litany of the saints. That first year I saw a dear adult friend be baptized, and I knelt beside her at the altar rail as the priest put communion in her hand for the first time and said "The Body of Christ." I felt that the world could not contain our joy. 

As I compared the years, I felt empty and cold. I forgot to hope.

By God's grace, within twenty-four hours I found that there was a Maundy Thursday and Good Friday service for me to attend, as well as Easter Sunday. I also found a parish providing a Adoration. Yes, this year I will miss the Vigil. But think what riches I have!

Around the world, Christians are grateful if they even have the chance of meeting together in church once a year. They may go without priests for months. They may not have a full Bible among them. They would give anything to worship in safety. And even they are full of joy: they know how this story ends. 

I found an article about Lent that quotes a child about Lent and Easter. She says, "Mom, I wasn't sure that I LIKED Lent. But, when we're all here together, it's like we're on a mission all together. But, we know how it ends up... It's kind of exciting!" 

Yes! It's the excitement of a mission with all its dangers, except we laugh them to scorn. What can we fear, when God has already been dead and in hell and confounded them both.

"The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."

Friday, March 20, 2015

7 Quick Takes: Songs I Don't Listen to Anymore


My poor mom fought an uphill battle with me about music since I was eight and singing "if you wanna be my lover you gotta get with my friends." As a kid growing up in the 90s and 00s (what's it called again?), my music choices were less than stellar. Some of it was harmless embarrassment, like the Hansens and Aqua, and some of it was.... not stuff I'd want my future children hearing. And some of it I've decided is best left in the dustbin of teenage bad decisions.


If you're young enough, do you remember those Ja Rule duets that were so popular in the early 2000s? He did one with Ashanti called "Always On Time" that my friends and I thought was killer. You know, "Baby, I'm not always there when you call, but I'm always on time, and I gave you my heart, now baby be mine." When it came on the radio we cranked it up and sang at the top of our lungs with the windows rolled down, to the chagrin of anyone nearby. 

My mom once overheard this particular song and decided to have a Serious Talk. It went like this: 

"I listened to a horrible song on that 101 station you and your friends like. The guy was saying that he keeps, um, women, drugged up on ecstasy. Do you listen to that song?"

"Oh mom, I don't even know what song that is. I don't listen to the lyrics, just the beat." As a connoisseur of 60s-70s tunes, I went on the offensive. "Besides, your generation's music was pretty bad too. What about that song that talks about giving head and how he was a she?" 

"What? There wasn't a song like that." 

"That's in Take a Walk on the Wild Side."

"Oh. Well, at least it doesn't talk about drugs." I watched the wheels turn as she realized that the 70s were mostly about drugs and decided to drop the subject.

Fast forward to last month. While putting on makeup I listened to Pandora and this lovely ballad came on. I found myself singing "Bitch you know better, we live M-O-B, Money over bitches, Murda I-N-C. I got two or three hoes for every V, and I keep them drugged up off that ecstasy." And then I switched to De La Soul. Sometimes moms are right. 


Another rapper we loved was Ludacris. He was from the Dirty (that is, the South), which made him a hometown boy by proxy. One of the "hardcore" songs we loved was "Move Bitch." Yep, that's all I need to say about that one.


P.I.M.P. by 50 Cent was another radio hit. I was under no illusions that it was crap music - not with a title like that - but I had forgotten how awful the lyrics were until I heard it the other day: "Man, this ho you can have her, when I'm done I ain't gon' keep her.... Put my other hoes down, you get your ass beat." All righty then.


I was just a little too young to get into 2Pac while he lived, so I made up for it later. He's still one of my absolute favorite rappers - but not every song he did is good for the soul. I loved "I Get Around" for its "beat" and rhythm. And then I actually listened to the lyrics. Nope. 


In college we liked to bang our heads to Korn's "Freak On A Leash," And while I laugh at people who think rock is devil music, there is something decidedly... evil about this one. It's also one of the most depressing songs I've ever heard, and while that darkness spoke to me then, it's best not to wallow in that kind of thing. 


Not all my poor choices were contemporary either. I love the Rolling Stones, and for Christmas one year I was given their 40 licks double CD. There was one song that always made me slightly uncomfortable, but I told myself not to be a prude. 

Sometime in grad school I decided that if being a prude means not listening to Jagger declare that "Under my thumb, her eyes are just kept to herself, under my thumb, well I can still look at someone else," then I'm happily a prude. 

Do you have songs from your past that make you cringe? 

Friday, March 13, 2015

7 Quick Takes: Favorite Reads on Narnia, Confession, Star Trek, and More


In light of a recent tragic event, the Episcopal church has been having a long-needed talk about alcohol addiction. Before converting, I knew the jokes about "whiskey-palians," such as "where there's a fourth there's a fifth." After converting, I was astounded by the amount of alcohol consumed at Episcopalian events. Granted, some of this was baggage from my evangelical days: I knew people who wouldn't even buy alcohol to cook with because it would "be a bad witness" (that's evangelical talk for "give scandal.") However, I do think that the culture in Episcopal churches makes it unnecessarily difficult for alcoholics in recovery. This article has excellent suggestions for how pastors and other leaders should handle this problem.


While thinking and reading about confession, I came across two excellent pieces. The first, from the National Catholic Register, has a great Q and A with a priest about common problems and barriers to confession. 


And the second references a booklet written by Pope Francis as a guide to confession! I really love the questions for examining one's conscience, especially "Do I want to be served?" 


Also from the Register, I was pleased to see someone explain the proper order to read the Narnia series. Since I own the maligned publication pictured on the post, I read them all out of order. As reparation for this act, I offer you the definitive guide to reading The Chronicles of Narnia. Hint: don't do it in the order that they're numbered.

Hint: don't read this one first


While it's doubtful that the Michael Brown shooting was just a racist act, the Ferguson justice department report makes it clear that racism is a widespread problem in their police force. This Rachel Held Evans post nailed it when she asks "Tell me how it's not about race again?


Speaking of Rachel Held Evans, I was pleased to see that she made the jump to the Episcopal church! Welcome, sister. I know firsthand how hard that decision is, especially when your friends and family think you're siding with the whore of Babylon or something. This is a great Q and A that she did about her conversion. Best quote:

"Millennials have finely-tuned B.S. meters that can detect when someone’s just trying to sell us something. We’re not looking for a hipper Christianity. We’re looking for a truer Christianity. Like every generation before and after, we’re looking for Jesus—the same Jesus who can be found in the places he’s always been: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these. No fog machines required."


On a light-hearted note, I'll round it out with a lovely post at Darwin Catholic on aging sci-fi. My husband was a fan of sci-fi before it was cool. While the rest of my generation watched All That and Rugrats, he was watching Zena Warrior Princess and Hercules. When he tried to introduce me to some of his favorites, I was derisive, even though I enjoy contemporary sci-fi like the Battlestar Galactica reboot and Firefly. I think Darwin is spot on about how quickly futuristic fiction looks retro. 

Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Why God Gives Commands

On Sunday, I overslept and missed every service but one, an evening Mass at an Episcopal church downtown. I almost didn't go because I wore jeans and t-shirt to volunteer with my husband at Gnome Con that afternoon (it's a nerd thing). Protestants are much more into being dressed up for church than Catholics; as a child I don't even remember wearing slacks or denim skirts, so I was embarrassed to go to mass in jeans and a shirt with cartoon sheep on it. But I figured that was my pride talking, and went anyway.

Lo and behold, my confessor was celebrating the Eucharist, even though he's not normally one of the priests at that parish (not sure what the story is there). After the service I asked him about his Monday schedule, and he said to come by anytime that morning. So I did.

About an hour before leaving for confession, I wrote down everything I could think of. However, after receiving absolution and returning to my car, I remembered something, and it was a mortal sin. Part of me felt so awkward about going back in, even though he was not yet in a meeting with anyone else. Thankfully, the Spirit would not let up until I walked back inside and shared my heart. He said "I'm so glad you came back." So was I. My shoulders literally felt pounds lighter, and I almost skipped back to my car, spending the rest of the day in a happy glow.

One thing the priest told me is that often times we humans seek emotional release in ways that are inherently harmful: cutting, gluttony, etc. At the time it feels so good, and seems self-medicating, but in fact we are damaging our souls and bodies. After this appointment for my soul, it seems so obvious that God wants only the best for us always. He never gives commands that would harm our souls, and what He does command is for our good and the good of others. Growing up, I used to think that the only reason to try to "be good" was to get to heaven, and since Jesus died on the cross we were redeemed, so why try? Now, the question doesn't make sense. You might as well wonder why an appendicitis patient needs surgery, or why an asthmatic should quick smoking. God longs for our healing - not for Himself, but because He loves us and hates to see us harm ourselves.

Friday, March 6, 2015

7 Quick Takes of Epic Fail


Since I started observing Lent in college, it's followed a typical trajectory: 

Ash Wednesday: the most awesomely reverent and beautiful but simple service evah that makes me feel both penitential and loved and in touch with God all at once. Individual churches can mess up other services - I've seen it done - but no matter where you go, at least in the Episcopal church, Ash Wednesday is done right. (Maybe because the very nature of it discourages liturgical "experimentation"?)

The first week or so: is also awesome, in so far as Lent can be awesome. The penance is fresh and novel and doesn't feel too terrible yet. Except that one year I did a caffeine fast while in college; not one of my more prudent decisions. 

As my Catholic readers know, about half way through Lent becomes a drag. Forty days seems a lot longer than it did on Ash Wednesday.

And then comes Holy Week, which in my experience is jam-packed with services and enough kneeling and calisthenics to prepare you for a burpees contest. 


This Lent has not followed that trajectory.


It's not because God is melting my heart with humility - although the humiliation part of humility has been pretty non-stop. It's because I can't get my shit together. 


And by that I don't mean that I can't do the fasts - although that is true! I haven't kept a single ONE of the promises I made in my previous post, not consistently. I'm doing much better about the shower thing, but the "I'm sorry" thing went out the window in 10 minutes flat after hitting publish. 


Nope, it's that a car won't run without fuel. And I haven't been to a Eucharist service since the Christmas Midnight Mass. Moreover, I haven't taken communion since... I'm honestly not sure. Because somewhere in the fall I knew I needed confession, knew I couldn't take communion while harboring bitterness towards people in my own denomination and my own town, but couldn't get serious enough to go. While my beliefs about confession and Eucharist are not exactly Roman Catholic, I do take Jesus seriously when He says to leave your gift at the altar and reconcile with your brother. And while I've gotten much better about forgiving people in the distant past, there are people in my life right now who have made our (mine and my husband's) lives much more difficult in the past year, financially and otherwise. And when you're still living with the consequences of someone else's actions, forgiveness is hard. And how can I honestly say that I firmly intend to stop harboring bitterness when I can't seem to let go? 


I do know that I could go to church without partaking. I've done it before plenty of times. The reason I haven't has mostly to do with the sin of sloth. For various reasons I've been mostly without a car the past few months, and my husband leaves for his church's first service (and stays until the second one's over) at about 7:30 a.m. There is no bus that comes by our apartment on Sundays, and no churches within walking distance, Episcopal or otherwise. But of course these are excuses, and I know perfectly well that if I cared enough I would have found a way. 


The good news is that now I DO have my car back. No more excuses. I've called the priest for a confession appointment, he called me back, and I need to call again. And I need to go to church on Sunday. Without the sacraments I have no fuel, and I have never known that more than now. 

Please pray for me.

Friday, February 20, 2015

What I'm Doing for Lent this Year

They say that it's easier to stick to something if you tell someone else about it. And since I would feel funny telling most people I know in person about my Lenten plans, here goes. 

(I know that technically we're not supposed to brag about what we're doing. That's not what this is about. This is about hoping that making my plans public will help me keep at it). 

My goal for this Lent was to do something that would be beneficial for those around me, especially my husband. After deciding that forgoing sweets would help my waistline but little else - and might well increase my temper - I went with tackling my poor (as in, horrific) bedtime and morning habits. Aristotle said that the way to grow in virtue is by forming good habits. So if I want to develop the virtue of self-discipline, Lent is a great time to form new habits which, hopefully, I can carry with me after Lent is over. The way I picked these particular habits was that each of these are things that my husband has said time and again that he wishes I would do - and that I've said I wish could do if only it wasn't so inconvenient.

Habit Number One: Get up when the alarm clock goes off, as opposed to hitting snooze eight times.

Habit Number Two: Leave my phone off the bed, as opposed to playing Words with Friends when I'm supposedly "trying to sleep." 

Habit Number Three: Take a shower right after getting up, as opposed to moving my lurching body from bed to couch with little additional change.

Habit Number Four: Stop saying "sorry." 

The fourth one will actually be the hardest. I've gotten into the bad habit of saying "I'm sorry" reflexively, the minute I think someone might be the tiniest bit annoyed with me. The thought of fasting from it began in January with Laura's post about how saying you're sorry can be a sign of pride. (Guilty). This bad habit does damage in a lot of ways: to my marriage, to my self-perception, to my career, to my friendships. Best to nip it in the bud. 

What are your plans for Lent this year?