Sunday, July 29, 2007

My letter to the editor of the Providence Journal earlier this week:

This is a buried treasure I would rather not find.

Last night, my husband and I took the kids to beautiful City Park in Warwick. We were down on the beach watching the sunset when a woman and her two white dogs walked by. Almost simultaneously, the two dogs squatted and defecated on the sand. The woman kept walking.

I was floored.

"You should clean that up." I called to her.

"Oh Really?" she replied, and kept walking.

This on a beach that kids, toddlers and babies play on all day long.

There was once a time when dog lovers could walk their dogs all over the place, but one by one, parks and beaches and recreation areas are closing to them. When I spoke to the Parks and Recreation Department of Warwick today, the gentleman said they will install a sign prohibiting dogs from the beach at City Park.

It's a shame, really, that irresponsible and rude dog owners ruin it for everyone else.


I have been working on getting over my anger all week. The letter helped. Calling the parks department helped. But maybe those are just vindictiveness.

Lord, give me the grace to let go of this anger without lashing out at the woman with the dogs.

Bang Bang

My friends and I played our djembes in front of Grace Church before the service today. Cars slowed as they passed. Passers by smiled. Some crossed to the other side of the street to avoid us. Maybe they thought we were buskers.

Someone opened a window on the second floor of the hotel next door. He yelled to us, but we couldn't hear him over the syncopation of our hands slapping the goatskins. We smiled up at him and wondered if we woke him up.

Get out of bed and go to church, we joked.

Ours was a loud call to worship.

Monday, July 23, 2007


I only missed church for one week, yet felt, yesterday, as if it had been months since I took communion. The kids were hanging out in the nursery, so I had a rare time of solitude in my pew. I knelt and buried my head in my arms and spent the time before the service began in prayer.

Around me I could hear the bustle of people entering the nave, sitting, chatting quietly, greeting one another. The choir was practicing. But none of it distracted me from the sense that I was sitting in the presence of Jesus.

I had things to confess. Things to tell him. I realized, for example, that the reason I didn't approach the pharisee woman in Chicago was really because of fear. I had to admit that to him. (And will, perhaps, confess it to my priest at my next confession.)

He challenged me. "What if I ask you to leave your church?"

"I will do as you ask."

"What if I ask you to stay?"

"I will do as you say."

I even imagined, for a moment, what I would do if I became pregnant. 42 years old. Would I be afraid? Would I want to have all kinds of prenatal tests to insure the baby was healthy? Would I be willing to have the baby no matter what? In my heart I said, yes, yes, yes, Lord. I would pray for strength and courage.

My friend Pete jokes that he gets hit by the two by four of Christ now and then.

Yesterday I was whacked.

During communion, I wanted to weep with relief.

Two weeks is too long to go without it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I was grateful for the rain today. It meant that I could spend time tidying my office without feeling guilty that I wasn't outside somewhere with the kids.

My schedule is crazy this week, with 5 kitchen tools shows scheduled. I wouldn't normally work that frantically, but since I was out of town, I needed to catch up. And since I am working towards earning a cruise to the Caribbean, I am happy with the extra work. (It's a sales gig, after all. They give us incentives!)

So, rain.

And now, sleep.

Oh, and PS: I was chatting with my dad on the phone today and told him of my adventures in African drumming. I think, this time, I have finally managed to blow his mind. It was so unexpected... so completely out of left field he was almost speechless, LOL. He took a class on Ethnomusicology in college, so he knew a little about the complicated rhythms of west Africa. But I don't think it ever occurred to him try and play them. I explained that this was yet another way of plumbing the depths of my humility.

When he comes for Thanksgiving (Yeah!) I will have to play some songs for him.

Rain makes my drumhead loose.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


I was at a kitchen tools convention in Chicago for the last few days.

I was rooming with a good friend of mine. G was raised Catholic, but has had many doubts in the last few years. She is struggling with her faith.

So, at lunch one day, we were sitting with a table full of consultants from Ohio. They were a pretty friendly bunch. We chatted a bit, introduced ourselves, compared notes on the conference so far. At one point, I got up to use the restroom. When I came back, G said to me,

"You missed saying grace."

No problem. I bowed my head and said a little prayer of thanks, silently, and started eating my salad.

Throughout the conversation over lunch, the woman next to G became increasing rude and hostile towards us. If we tried to make conversation with her, she was cold and condescending. Finally, we just quit bothering and talked with the woman next to me, instead.

After lunch, G said to me:

"That is why I think Christians are such hypocrites. That girl made a big fuss about saying grace, and then was rude for the rest of the meal."

At which point I was tempted to go find that girl and tell her how much damage her rudeness had just caused. In fact, when I saw her later, in a workshop, I sat and prayed about whether I should approach her. I would have told her that, as a Christian, she needs to be sensitive to the effect she has on others. Being openly rude after you just made a big production about prayer is not going to help bring about the kingdom. And since it happens that my friends faith is already being tested, she just added to her struggle.

I didn't approach her, in the end, because I felt like she wouldn't have been able to hear what I was saying.

But I did take the opportunity to share with G about the fact that all of us, including those of us who profess to be Christians, are flawed people. None of us are perfect. I also shared why confession is such an amazing process. She listened intently as I described it, and was surprised by how loving an act it is, after spending years thinking of it as a kind of intrusion.

In the end, I will try and pray for that woman at the table. And for my friend, who is truly one of the most generous and loving people I know. And for all who do not yet know Jesus.

And I am once again reminded that being a Christian carries huge responsibilities. When we are open about our faith, we must also accept the fact that we are ambassadors for the Kingdom. I pray every day that I can share the light of God with those I encounter. And when I fail, I pray I have the courage to confess it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Holy Halal Cow, Batman....

I suppose this is all over the media, but I have been following the story of Ann Holmes Redding lately.

She is an Episcopal priest from Washington who has recently converted to Islam. She hopes to continue as a priest, stating that she feels there is no conflict between Islam and Christianity.

Here's the story as reported in the Seattle Times.

It turns out, she doesn't fall under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Washington, but somehow, she falls under the Diocese of Rhode Island. So our Bishop has apparently had a discussion with her and has put her on a one year leave in order to discern whether she is, indeed, a Christian. In addition, the Bishop has set up some kind of spiritual direction for Redding.

This is an interesting story for a former UU. In my old church, the idea of being both a Muslim and a Christian would probably barely raise an eyebrow. In fact, being a Christian would have been more suspect!

But I have to wonder at the christology of someone who can claim both Islam and Christianity. One fundamental difference between the two is how you view Jesus. If Redding's christology is such that Jesus was a prophet, or even without sin but still fully human, it makes me wonder what she is doing with that bread and wine every week.

Episcopalians like to think that the wide highway is the better choice. That we can all somehow exist comfortably, even with profoundly divergent theologies. And as parishioners, that may very well be true. But it seems to me that a priest that is basically crossing her fingers behind her back when reciting the creed should not be leading a flock. Truly, if you take Jesus out of the picture, what does that leave us with? It stuns me that she was the head of faith formation for her local diocese.

Jhn 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

I applaud Bishop Wolf for taking action on this issue.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Nothing went as planned

But that certainly didn't stop us from having a wonderful time.

My husband took the kids fishing, which gave my brother and me a rare afternoon alone. We cooked.

The menu was one of off-the-wall excess. Exactly what I complain about in the previous post.

We made beef ribs in homemade barbeque sauce. Two racks of baby back pork ribs. Homemade cole slaw. Homemade baked beans. Cornbread. Corn on the cob.

We mixed and marinated and basted. The beef ribs were braised in a slow oven for a few hours before we threw them on the grill for the final step. The pork ribs were so incredibly lean and tender we ate them rare.

Jake showed up with a couple of iced coffees. We talked about stuff. We joked around. The weather turned to rain just as we were ready to sit and eat this huge feast. The kids and husband pitched up and we laid all the meat on a groaning table, side dishes dotting the table wherever they could fit.

We gave thanks, oh Lord, for the bounty of this table. May it remind us, always, of your abundant love.

And then we ate.

No fireworks. Round bellies and good company.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

4th of July

There are lots of things that piss me off about this country. It is easy to take pot shots at it. The culture of excess, the obsession with huge, the bizarre combination of puritanical and prurient.

But when I am tempted to fall into cynicism, I also have to remember the things I love about it.

As a Rhode Islander, one of the greatest gifts we have is the mix of cultures. Being a coastal state, we have immigrants from all corners of the globe. Many were economic immigrants: the Irish, the Italians, the Portuguese. Others are political refugees, most recently the South East Asians from Cambodia, Laos, and my husband's country of Vietnam.

I know the debate is raging in Washington about the recent immigration bill... but for me, one of the truly great things about this country is that it is made up of people from all over the world.

So, on this 4th of July, even as we are mired in an unjust war in the middle east, even as we are collectively consuming way more than our fair share of the Earth's resources, even as we are still driving ridiculously huge gas guzzlers to the grocery store, I give thanks.

(Photo of my husband, kids, nieces, by my brother, Jake Hegnauer)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The laying on of hands

On the first Sunday of the month, if you come to Grace church, you can ask a prayer team to pray with you during the Eucharist. After you take communion, walk to the back of the church and you will be annointed with oil and your hands will be held and you will be listened to. And then the healing team will put our hands on you and each other and say prayers and lift you and the people you love up to the Divine Healer of us all.

Bring your fears, loves, joys, sorrows. Bring your suffering to be shared, and maybe transformed. Bring your experiences, good and bad. Bring your family and friends. Bring yourself, in your frailty and strength.

And as we pray with you and for you, we, too, will be healed.