Tuesday, February 28, 2006

And so it begins...

I am standing in the produce aisle at the grocery store and I feel my eyes welling up with tears. I know it is ridiculous, but I have an overwhelming desire to fall to my knees in the middle of Shaw's and just thank God for Jesus. I resist the urge and pretend to be looking at apples. But really, I want to fall down and pray.

(Given my bum knee, I would have had to lay flat out on the floor. I wonder if they would have dragged me out. Or called an ambulance.)

It all started with playing the Messiah in the car. I chose, of course, the Easter section of the Bernstein version. Behold the Lamb of God: the Savior of the World, it begins.... I had a hard time leaving the car at all, wanting, instead, to sit and listen to the entire score. But the groceries beckoned and that is when I found myself weeping in the produce aisle.

And Lent hasn't even officially begun yet.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Gettin' Lenty with it....

Don't look at me like I am crazy, but I really love Lent.

My first Ash Wednesday as a Christian, I went to S. Stephen's in Providence with a friend and got the ashes placed on my forehead. It was amazing to walk outside into the world marked as a believer. I was so psyched by it I went home and rubbed some of the ashes onto a piece of vellum and glued it into my journal.

That first Lent was extraordinary. At first it was about the sacrifice. But as the season progressed, it was more and more about the upcoming Holy Week. And what a weird week it was. On the Tuesday of Holy Week, I found out that a childhood friend had committed suicide. So the week was very intense, with grief over my friend comingling with my first taste of the devestating grief of Jesus' death. I cried through the Passover Seder we had a Bell Street. And through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and even Easter Even. I wondered, at points, if the grief would ever go away. Not on Sunday, but by the following Monday I woke up with such Joy in my heart... such a lightness of being, I knew that it could only mean that Christ has risen.

I figured last year would be easier and less emotional. And it was, on many levels. (No suicides, Thank God.)

But in our bible study we were coming to the Passion and the week before Holy week we read the story of Gethsemane and I was so horrified at the disciples abandoning Him I wanted to run away. I remember rushing home and breaking my fast. I wanted to run away. I wanted to sleep through it. Suddenly the pain of abandoning Jesus was so real I couldn't bear it. On Maundy Thursday I sat at the alter of repose for a long time, not wanting to leave him. Trying to reassure myself that I was not abandoning him. But eventually, of course, I got up and left. As we all do.

This year, I have no idea how this will go. For the first time my children will be fasting with me. (They are giving up candy and meat on Fridays!) It touches me that they want to do it.

I am giving up sweets. And meat on Fridays. I am recommitting to my centering prayer practice and finishing the bible. But mostly I am trying to be open to whatever God has in store for me.

Cleanse me, oh Lord, that I may be worthy of you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Life's monkey wrenches...

The deer was a monkey wrench. It was a crazy episode that required us to stop what we were doing and take on something completely unexpected.

When I first considered bringing it home, I pictured leaving the animal in my garage for the weekend and then driving it up to the slaughter house on Monday morning. I pictured picking it up a few days later, neatly packaged in white paper wrappers with labels indicating what each package contained.

It didn't work out that way. When Nguyen was struggling to get the deer into his truck, a hunter happened by and offered to help. He told Nguyen that the deer would have to be gutted that very night or else the meat would go bad. At that moment, my husband, who had never done anything like it in his life, decided he was going to butcher an entire deer. In our garage. In the middle of the night.

When we were kids, things like this happened all the time. A farm is a place where monkey wrenches get thrown into your life at unexpected moments, with unpredictable results. And it is always about life and death.

The day a dog happened by and killed our entire flock of chickens for sport, my parents were up until late into the night plucking and gutting and cutting and wrapping the dead birds so we could freeze them and salvage something from what was a terrible loss.

Or the day our cow was trying to birth her calf and was struggling. My brother and I got up before dawn and went to the field with my parents. We watched my father reach into the cow's vagina up to his elbow to try and determine if the feet sticking out were hind or fore. And when a little nose appeared, we were amazed when a tongue started licking my fathers fingers as they were pulling on the calf's feet. She was born after the vet appeared and had a special chain that he looped around her feet. One great pull and out she slid.

Life on a farm was always about these little emergencies... some terrible, many wonderful. A friend drops off a baby pig. We rescue an abandoned pony. Adopt a dog that needs a home. Watch our barn cat eat an infant rabbit. Play host to a lost homing pigeon who has mistaken our barn for his home.

We always had to be open to dropping everything and adjusting to the latest monkey wrench. The disruptions were part of the rhythm.

It doesn't happen as much in suburbia or in the city. Or maybe the monkey wrenches are of a different sort. Having your water boiler blow, or getting mugged, or losing your car keys are different things altogether. There is no adventure in them. They are just a pain in the ass.

The deer was different. It was a monkey wrench on a grand scale. We haven't gotten to bed before 1 am since we brought it home. Last night, Nguyen was butchering... cutting the meat into sections based on a crude diagram I found on the internet. He laid a plastic bag over a table in the garage and went to work. I took each piece into the house and washed it in my kitchen sink. Rubbed the stray hairs off. Cleaned off the bits of coagulated blood. Dried the pieces on an old towel and wrapped them in foil and plastic bags and labeled each one. Then, when we were finished, we had a fridge stuffed with venison and sat at the dinner table and talked late into the night about Vietnam and the farm I grew up on and the simple truths of life and death and gratitude.

We are grateful for the meat. We are more grateful, though, for the experience. Our kids learned a lot this weekend. They were scared at first, then interested. They wanted to watch the meat getting cut up, so we let them get out of bed and put on coats and gloves and come out to the garage to see what we were doing. Just like when I was a kid. I told Nguyen that they would never forget the day he brought a deer home.

On Sunday, I was praying in gratitude to God, for the deer, my family, my husband. I was grateful for all He has given us. For reminding us that hiding in the monkey wrenches are the keys to grace.

As I was writing out my check for the collection, I noticed the check pattern. It is a new checking account, so this checkbook has samples of all the different kinds of checks you can get: Anne Geddes, Scooby Doo, blue safety paper.

Mine was a nature scene

with a white tail deer...

I laughed out loud.

Thank you, Beloved, for the monkey wrenches. I pray that I will always see them as the gifts they are.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Oh, deer...

It is freezing ass cold tonight and I was driving home from a kitchen tools gig when I passed a dead deer on the onramp to the highway. I pulled over, put my flashers on and seriously considered whether I wanted to throw it into the back of my minivan. Didn't have a garbage bag on hand, so I decided against it and rushed home to my darling husband and told him to go and get it with his truck. We'll see if it is still there.

There is a slaughter house in Swansea where we can bring it to get dressed.

I grew up on a farm and it is moments like these... passing a dead deer on the road, with my first thought of venison stew with artichokes and sun dried tomatoes, that I realize that I am a farm girl, deep down in my soul.

We slaughtered things. We raised them, loved them, treated them well and then either carted them off to Swansea or just took care of it out in the lean-to of the barn. By the time I was 9 I could dispatch a chicken with little fuss. I could strip it of feathers, clean the guts and cook it, too. Same with rabbits.

My friends had farms too. Steve and Linda were Portuguese, their old man ran a nursery in Portsmouth. Once I was hanging out over there and wandered into a huge outbuilding. There was a skinned cow hanging from the ceiling by one hairy hoof. I was struck by the ridiculousness of it.

My husband didn't live on a farm as a kid. He grew up in a town, but they raised pigeons in the back yard and sold them to the local French restaurant. They had a couple of chickens too. Everyone in Vietnam did.

So, I don't know if he'll actually have the nerve to bag a whole dead deer.

I'll keep you posted.


It is now 1:06 am and I just spent the last hour coaching my husband on how to gut a deer. It's in the garage even as we speak. Skinned and hanging from that incongruously hairy foot.

A strange night in suburbia!

Venison stew with artichokes and sun dried tomatoes: It's what's for dinner.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Something in the air?

It strikes me as odd that in the last couple of weeks I got news that a play about my baptism was produced in Washington State AND notice that the book I wrote an essay for is available for pre-order.

The play is called 'Unheard Voices in Unitarian Universalism: Christians' and was written by the Rev. Amanda Aikman. 2 years ago Amanda emailed a UU Christian online list I belong to and asked if anyone wanted to share their conversion stories. Mine was still very fresh in my mind, so I emailed her back and we set up a phone call. Later she asked if she could interview my minister, Steve, who had performed my baptism. I agreed and she called Steve to get his side of the story. She interviewed several other UU Christians and created a play that weaves several of the stories together, with my baptism as the backdrop.

At the time the play was being written, I was still a UU. I had hoped that my story would help other UUs understand a little bit about what being a UU Christian is all about. I also wanted to witness to the power of God that he could come and find me, even in the UU church! When Amanda called me last week to tell me that the play had been performed at a UU Church, she shared with me that several members of the audience were actually moved to tears. I was stunned and grateful.

The book came from the same UU Christian online list. I had done a lay-led service at my church about my conversion. When the editor of the book, Kathleen Rolenz, solicited essays on my list, I sent her a modified version of my sermon. I was surprised and pleased when she wrote me back and said that it had been accepted.

Strangely, after a couple of years in the works, both projects are coming to fruition at the same time. And I admit I feel a little unsettled that I am no longer in the church that produced them. I wish that they could put an epilogue stating that I left the UU faith. I have conflicted feelings about all of it. Part of it is totally personal: I want people to understand that there came a point in my spiritual journey when I could no longer hyphenate my Christianity. I am not a UU-Christian. I am a Christian. Period.

But part of it has to do with the denomination itself. It is HARD to be a Christian in the UU church. Even at my former church, where I felt loved and welcomed, every now and then a subtle hostility towards christianity would creep to the surface. In the denomination as a whole, there is nothing subtle about it.

So, I am glad these pieces have come out. I think they are relevant. I think they might help people understand what it means to be a Christian in a faith that has abandoned it's Christian roots.

But I feel a little melancholy about it too. Like I have recently ended a long but difficult relationship. It's like finally printing the wedding album after the couple has gotten a divorce.


I am starting the Proverbs of Solomon. I think it is far more interesting to read the words of the characters in question rather than the histories of them. The earlier parts of the bible certainly have value... they lay out the context, which is really important. But the histories are, for the most part, detached from the actual characters involved. With a few exceptions, the histories never get into the heads of the folks they are describing. (There are wonderful side effects of that sometimes, though. Like when we hear the kids taunting Elisha... " Hey Baldy!" I am guessing if it was a first person narrative that story would have been described differently! LOL)

So, on to the Proverbs. Solomon says at least three times in the opening chapters not to get involved with married women. Oh, the consequences are dire. Their tactics at seduction irresistable. Why not be satisfied with the breasts of your own wife? All this protesting convinces me that dear Solomon must have learned this particular lesson the hard way. I think it is hilarious that in his world, the adulteress is the one at fault, luring helpless married men to their doom.

Here's the thing though. As a woman married for almost 17 years, I have come to believe in the idea of marriage as a sacrament. It is one of the aspects of life that Jesus speaks to explicitly.

Since becoming a Christian, I have felt that my marriage has been more important to me. In the past, I would joke that the only reason I stay with my husband is because I love my in-laws so much. Actually, I still make that joke... but the truth is that I have been much more focused on choosing what is healthy for our marriage than I ever was before. Something shifted after the Big Dunk. I began to realize that what is most important is living a Loving, Godly, life. And that is most possible for me when I am focusing on my ministry of not driving my family insane. (I wonder if, for Lent, I should give up nagging?) In marriage, as in all things, the question that comes at the crossroads of life is: does this enhance or hurt my relationship with God? To me, that question is pivotal. It has kept me clear of all kinds of difficult and destructive situations. My ministry is well served when the answer to that question is 'enhanced'.

So, as funny as King Solomon's diatribes are, I think they ring true for me. He may be a tad hyperbolic when he says that adultery leads to death... but I can buy that it would be a spiritual death if not a physical one. Anything that separates you from God is a kind of death. Anything that distracts you from your relationship with God is, for me, the very definition of sin.

That Solomon. He was a pretty smart guy.

It's a shame he ended up on God's shit list.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Trying out new looks on the blog. Don't be scared!

I may be changing it in the next few days...

In the mean time, an update:

My knee is doing much better! I am walking around with hardly any limp, even in the snow. I go to the accupuncturist for one more treatment tomorrow. Oh, and I forgot to take my Naproxen today and I did just fine, so I am thinking I'll wean off it and see what happens.

Still reading the psalms. I admit that they are getting some competition from the Olympics. I have been pretty pleased with the coverage this time around and am glued to the set most of the night.

I LOVE the winter Olympics. As a kid, I was totally hooked.

My favorite sport? Speed skating. Yup. I love it. I love to watch those crazy big thighed men and women. I love the arm movements and the way they cross over their legs when going around the turns. I especially love the long races... the 5000 meters... 3000.

A few years ago I got my first pair of inline skates. Although I am not, by any means, an athlete, I would go to the bike path in East Providence and strap on my skates and pretend I was a speed skater, flailing my arms and crossing my legs on the turns. Until I would catch my other skate and trip myself flat on my face.

It was about that time that I started playing hockey with a bunch of guys I worked with. I even convinced my husband to play. We would take over a run down basketball court and bring a bunch of cheap wooden sticks and a bright orange ball. I was the only woman in a crowd of 20-something year old men. I was the oldest, too. But I didn't smoke anymore and didn't drink as much as the boys, so I had pretty good stamina. I sucked at skating, but found it was much easier with a hockey stick in your hand because it offers balance. Checking a 20 year old was kind of sexy. Sweating was fun. It was the first time in my life that I played a sport because it was FUN. And it was. Even the day my beloved husband elbowed me in the mouth and I nearly lost my front teeth. (Mouth guards? Ha! ) Later that week I went out and bought a black plastic mouth guard, deciding that even if I had no other padding, my teeth needed protecting. A few weeks later I found out I was pregnant and that was the end of my hockey career.

Now I am waiting for my kids to get old enough to strap on their skates and play with me.

I might even have a mouth guard lying around somewhere....

Saturday, February 11, 2006


I'll say it again: reading the psalms in context is a completely different experience.

I have read the psalms several times. The Episcopal Book of Common prayer has them conveniently laid out as morning and evening prayers over the course of a month and I have read them several times in the last year or so. I have used several different translations, too. I even did some as plainchant, since I have a prayerbook with the music included. I love the psalms. I find deep meaning in them. Once, as an exercise, my director suggested I read the same psalms every day for 3 months. I chose three and read them over and over again. It was a wonderful exploration.

But I have never before read the psalms in the context of King David's experiences. It is really powerful. They are beautiful.

Also, I never noticed that the later psalms are attributed to Asaph. And indeed, they sound different. They have a different 'voice'.

It is interesting to contrast the experience of reading the same psalm daily for 3 months with reading the entire psalter over the matter of a couple of days. I would have thought that the speed reading version would be less satisfying, but instead I am finding it deeply moving. I know, like Job, I will need to go back again and reread it. But in the mean time, I am blown away.


Psalm 67

Psa 67:1 To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, [Selah]
Psa 67:2 that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving power among all nations.
Psa 67:3 Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee!
Psa 67:4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for thou dost judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. [Selah]
Psa 67:5 Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee!
Psa 67:6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.
Psa 67:7 God has blessed us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

I praise thee, Beloved.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

What is that thing?!?!?!?!?! Why, it's a.....

knee cap.


I can actually see that in the middle of my leg there is a boney thing that looks for all the world like a knee. Yay!

I am now, officially, a huge fan of Dr. Jiao. I have had two treatments so far and the swelling is down and I am walking without a cane. The first day I went in, he took one look at the cane and said "No more cane. Cane is for old lady. No more cane!" and sure enough, the very next day I was walking without it.

I had another treatment on Wednesday and today I can see my knee. I even crossed my legs at one point, for the first time in 3 weeks.

But what is best about Dr. Jiao is that he is completely convinced that I have nothing systemic wrong with me. He laughed when I told him about all the tests. He asked me at the first visit if I kneel. I told him that I kneel in church. Here's the funny thing: I like to kneel on the floor at Grace, rather than on the kneelers. The big, hard, floor. So I admitted this to Dr. Jiao and he told me to tell the priest that I am not allowed to kneel anymore. He said that is how I injured myself. It sure seems like a better diagnosis than, say, Lupus.

I cooked dinner this week.

I went to pick up some groceries.

And, I am a new Pampered Chef consultant and had to stop doing my parties for awhile and now am so happy to be able to get back to it. (Kitchen gear is one of my secret loves! How great is a job actually selling the stuff?!)

So, thankyou for your prayers. Thank you, God, for keeping me sane in the midst of this difficulty. And most of all, thanks to my dear dear husband and kids who picked up the slack for 3 long weeks.

A knee.


(Beloved, maybe from now on I'll just have to lay flat out on the floor when I pray!)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Guest Blogger: Noah

Here is my son's "I have a dream" speech: (He's in 3rd grade...)

I have a dream that most mystical creatures set foot on the earth like dragons, harpies and shark men, for a lesson from God. To teach us to work together. All weapons have turned to dust. After we figured out the lesson, all the mystical creatures help us make the world better.

Interesting theology, huh?

The patience of....

Job isn't that patient, actually. Through the whole book he is railing at God. Complaining, basically, that he didn't do anything to deserve this torture.

The book of Job fascinates me.

It is essentially a dialogue between Job and his friends. He bitterly denies that he ever did anything wrong and his friends reply that he must have because God only punishes the wicked. There is so much to wrestle with theologically.

Up to this point, we have understood God's actions based on his pronouncement to Moses: If you are righteous, you will be blessed... if you do evil you will be punished. It stood to reason, then, that anyone who suffered was assumed to be wicked. God wouldn't be punishing them if they were righteous, now, would he?

Job is the first instance where the innocent suffers. And he gets mighty pissed off about it.

What is so fascinating is that the issue really isn't ever resolved. Job's youngest friend Elihu, timidly pipes up and suggests that Job has no idea what it is like to be God. (an incredibly poetic monologue, if you ask me.) and says that only the son of God could truly be righteous. Then the Big Guy himself comes along and basically reaffirms what Job's friends have said before. AND tells him to quit being a whiny pants or he'll get really medieval on his ass.

All of which finally humbles Job and all is forgiven. By God, I mean.

And one last fascinating detail: Job's new DAUGHTERS are described and named and his new sons are not. I believe that might be the first time in the Hebrew Scriptures that the emphasis is on the women folk.

I think the book of Job would make an amazing play. It is already written in dialogue form. Staging it would bring so much power to these words. It is an amazing book.

I know that it would be a simple matter to pick up my Oxford Bible Companion and see what the liberal eggheads have to say about this book... when it was written and by whom... but I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying reading these things within the context of the scriptures themselves. I'll save the history of the work for later, after I have finished the whole bible.

And on to the Psalms, which I have read many times before... but never having read the history of King David before. What a difference it makes to read them in THEIR context. Even psalm 22, which is one of the most wrenching pieces of writing I have ever read has a different nuance when reading it as one of David's songs.

A copy of the Zondervan Bible in 90 Days- $19.00
Reading the bible straight through: Priceless.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Over the weekend, I was doing much better. The swelling in my knee was going down. The pain was subsiding. I was getting around without my cane. I even got to church yesterday and had a really great experience at the healing service. The accupuncturist seemed to help, too.

Last night, I began the book of Job. I only got a few pages into it, but already it struck me that this was one of the books that I would have to go back to and read at a more leisurely pace. It is packed full of stuff. Mostly, so far, it is about Job's despair at feeling betrayed by God. He can't understand why someone as righteous as he would be punished so mercilessly. He curses the day of his birth. He is a very pathetic puppy.

I have never felt like this health issue was a punishment. I have felt all along that God would be with me throughout it. God is faithful. I have felt the prayers of my friends... real life ones and cyber...

Well, today I have started to have a relapse of some sort. I am a lot of discomfort again and it is clear that my knee has swollen back up again. I am disappointed, it is true. I had made a lot of progress over the last couple of days. I called my husband to tell him. I cried. I went to bed. The kids trashed the house. (5 and 9. Its what they do best!) I got up and made dinner, damn it, for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks.

Beloved, stay close. I trust you.

Stay close.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Communion and Kosher Franks

Fr. P came bearing gifts today.

He said a collect.

He read me the Gospel for today, which was the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. We confessed together, then he granted absolution. He annointed me and gave me communion. I admit I was a little weepy.

Later, we shared a meal and prayers and marveled at God's work in our lives.

When I lay down for a nap this afternoon, I noticed that for the first time in two weeks, I didn't feel pain in my knee.

God rocks, doesn't he?

Thanks for all your prayers.

I get the blood drawn tomorrow for the Lyme and Rheumatoid arthritis tests and it'll be a week before I get the results, but I am feeling at peace with things. I feel pretty sure I don't have either.

I have decided to see an accupuncturist, though... so I meet with him after my regular medical doctor tomorrow.

I'll be on pins and needles, LOL!

Edited to add: Lupus is on the table too. My internist was hesitant to even have me tested for it because it gets a lot of false 'maybes' as a result, but I convinced him that I wouldn't hit the panic button, so he went ahead and ordered the test.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Rheumatoid arthritis?

Lyme disease?

I think I'll go read some more of my bible.