Saturday, March 22

joking with the dead

One day during the last year of her life, Granny Goo and I struck up a conversation about potatoes. When I peel and cut potatoes, I will sometimes sneak a crunchy, wet, starchy slice: water chestnuts without the intrigue of being put into some Oriental dish. A friend had protested my practice, it was grosser than gross.

Granny Goo assured me that eating slices of raw potato was usual in our family, telling the story of her brothers who would snatch bites while Omie was peeling potatoes on the back porch. "What do you think I'm doing??? Cooking for the public?" she would bark in objection. Granny Goo chuckled at the memory.

Since then, and more since she died, I recite it to myself when I prepare some Irish goodness. And I chuckle to myself. I suppose it is my way of joking with Granny Goo; as remembering the event was her way of joking with her mom and brothers.

Each person's humor: unique as a fingerprint. My roomie returned last night from a week away and we are at it again: joking with humor we create together, one that is our own. Wordplay and feigned earnestness, we find these funny. More than unique for the individual, humor is unique to the relationships of the people it inhabits, just like lovemaking.

I was given the opportunity to live in Brazil for a summer. Once there, I found humor the toughest of my language studies. I still am not sure what is funny about "a wooden face." Differences of culture and language render humor less translatable. You know for a fact that Jesus was telling SOME kind of knee slapper when he made his sad joke about rich men and camels and needles, but I still don't get it. Do you? Miles and time make the absurd less funny.

 "To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die." ~Thomas Campbell

Mercifully, the heart pays no mind to miles and time. These people and these moments, they are yours. The people who you laugh with today will go, but the smile will still be there in your heart.  Which is how I know that I have to keep Granny Goo alive, close to my heart and alive. Because I don't want to live without the jokes we made together. Having watched her after she lost so many, I know I don't have to. My whole life, she had a plaque with Campbell's quote on her living room wall. She typified its wisdom.

That is why much to my friend's chagrin, I will eat raw potatoes. I will eat them now more than ever. And I will whisper to myself the intergenerational joke:

"What do you think I'm doing??? Cooking for the public?"

Wednesday, March 19

since feeling is first by e.e. cummings

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

Sunday, March 9

Thank You for the Bracelet and the Reminder

Dear Tween Girls at Dusk,

1. What do you think you are doing, ringing doorbells of strangers and giving out bracelets? I am scared for you; my heart is in my mouth. There is no TELLING what kind of crazies hang out behind suburban doors!

That said: 

2. Thank you so much for the Rainbow Loom bracelet! Blue and green really ARE my favorite colors. I put it on and called my mom right away after you left, because I think you are an example to me. You touched my heart.

When I was about your age, Granny Goo had cause to say to me, "If you're bored, you're BORING! This world is too big and too good for you to go around saying that you are bored." Rather than succumb to tween boredom, you chose to create. You chose to give... for free. It does not benefit you in any way to give to strangers, but you did.

Thank you for the example. I often need to be reminded to consciously bring beauty into the world, to create. I need to remember to give without thought of reward. I need to remember that "With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." ~Max Ehrmann

With Gratitude,

A Formerly Bored Tween

Saturday, March 8

Christian Schism and International Women's Day

"(Modern) feminism is misogyny in drag." ~Joshua Sturgill

It's International Women's Day!

I've been intending to write about women since Tony Jones called for a new schism in the Church over women's roles in November 2013. The subject of women is so huge that the pages and pages I was writing about in my mind imploded on themselves, and I ended up writing nothing... yet.

In his manifesto, Tony Jones states:

"The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.

That means:
  • If you attend a church that does not let women preach or hold positions of ecclesial authority, you need to leave that church.
  • If you work for a ministry that does not affirm women in ecclesial leadership, you need to leave that ministry.
  • If you write for a publishing house that also prints books by “complementarians,” you need to take your books to another publishing house.
  • If you speak at conferences, you need to withdraw from all events that do not affirm women as speakers, teachers, and leaders."
When I hear that it is International Women's Day, or that people are ready to schism over women, I get very ambivalent about the subject. I know that there is inequality, injustice, and abuse directed at women specifically BECAUSE they are women. (Sex trafficking, child brides, illiteracy, rape, portrayal in the media, etc.)

But shouldn't we be actively fighting against those things not because women are women, but because women are... PEOPLE?

I grew up in a home where my mother and father played out extremely traditional gender roles. There was a bit of misogyny thrown into the mix of my home and church life.

After I grew up, I trained for evangelical Protestant ministry; my B.S. is in ministry. I did not go onto a church staff, I went on to train and become a elementary school teacher.

But as you can see, on paper, I should be right there with Tony Jones. Down with the misogyny inherent in the system! Let's rend asunder the Bride of Christ again!!! (And again...)

Since that time, I converted from evangelical Protestantism to Orthodox Christianity. I've heard evangelicals speak badly of liturgical and sacramentally oriented churches, because only men are allowed in the altar. We're so repressive.

Remarkably, for a woman who can smell misogyny from 1,000 paces, for someone who would be first to defend the place of women as ministers of Christ, I just can't manage to feel repressed in my church.

In the first place, I have the suspicion that men in the altar has not to do with gender but to do with apostolic succession. The priests of the Orthodox (and Roman Catholic) churches can trace their ordinations in a direct line back to any one of the specific twelve apostles. And I don't care how you slice it, NONE of the apostles were women.

In my church growing up, women (even the "directors" on staff) have no vote in the governing body of the church, the board of elders. At my current church, women have places and votes on the parish council.

In the married relationships at my church, I don't usually catch whiffs of "you must submit to me, woman!" There is an attitude of mutual respect and support. If people are jerks to each other, it is because they are being individually crappy people, not crappy because I am a man and you are a woman. The relationships that have a tinge of that seem to be comprised of converts that come from a background of more misogynistic dogma.

Most importantly, I have been allowed and encouraged to do more ministry since I have become Orthodox than ever before. I don't think the priests of the church even realize that my original training is in ministry, yet both of them have encouraged (and sometimes even asked) me to write, serve on committees, run small groups, etc.

It is important to note that I never have felt like they have asked or allowed me to do this with any consideration that I am a woman. They have asked or allowed me to to these things because I am... a person. I am made in the image of God. I have the aptitudes that will enable me to fill these ministry roles.

Isn't giving someone a microphone or leadership role or place to write because they are a woman itself misogynistic? It has been so freeing to feel as if I am viewed beyond my demographic and seen for what I actually am.

To be clear: inequality, injustice, and abuses everywhere must be addressed. NEED to be addressed, because they are wrong.

More thoughts occur on why the problem in the Church has become what it is, but I will let this blog post suffice as a beginning of my thinking on the subject.

What say you, women? What say you, priests and ministers of Christ? Isn't it misogyny to give someone a place because they are a woman? As if you are doing her a favor, giving her a leg up because she is somehow less than? Please discuss in the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts.

For a high-quality, absolutely invigorating perspective on feminism and the Church, I give you Angelina Stanford's What Is Woman?: A Reexamination of Feminism and the Church

Friday, March 7

Lent by Jean W. Watt

Lent is a tree
without blossom, without leaf,
Barer than blackthorn
in its winter sleep,
All unadorned unlike Christmas
which decrees
The setting-up, the dressing up
of trees,
Lent is a taking down,
A stripping bare,
A starkness after all
Has been withdrawn.
Of surplus and superfluous,
Leaving no hiding-place,
Only an emptiness
Between black branches,
A most precious space
Before the leaf, before the
time of flowers; Lest we should
See only the leaf, the flower,
Lest we should miss the stars.

Jean W. Watt

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