Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I should have known what kind of a year it was going to be with that first sentence...
January: Greetings, all. There's more Latin American stuff coming, and also Sunday's sermon, and a year-end roundup perhaps, but my computer is having trouble.
February: Chora Church, a.k.a. Holy Saviour in the Country, a.k.a. Kariye Müzesi, Kariye Camii, or Kariye Kilisesi (the Chora Museum, Mosque or Church) is the church with the beautiful Byzantine mosaics, as beautiful as Haghia Sophia in its own way.
March: There have been so many questions and concerns about my colleague Jeff that the college has posted an update on its website.
April: It was fabulous. It was packed.
May: Latest in our continuing series of international and intercultural insights by Brother of Acts of Hope.
June: This was a designer who liked women. They don't all.
July: Okay, foodies, here is a little social responsibility post.
August: My friend X has come out of anonymity on his blog.
September: The fabulous FranIAm, friend of the multitudes, has posted on the state of things.
October: Okay, it's not as clever as the Great Schlep of Sarah Silverman and P.J. fame (P.J. told us about it and Sarah Silverman is in it, complete with profanity and with humor which you'll get all of if you're a M.O.T. and some of if you're not), but it may bring in just as many voters.
November: One live, one gone to the ancestors.
December: Speaking of Venice (see previous post, immediately below)... Venice is flooded.
I'm adding a variant to the meme. If you look at the blog post subject lines (I almost wrote “headlines,” old journalist that I am) you get this:
January: Computer troubles, brief blogging hiatus (e-mail on hold too, all y'all)
February: Friday cat blogging: Chora cat
March: Prayers, Jeff update
April: The “Wright Stuff” event
May: Italy: a view from Turkey, in English
June: More prayers for X, who leaves anonymity
July: Quaker Dave flags Trader Joe’s
August: YSL, RIP
September: Disaster update: found new house, packed, moved, exhausted
October: Truckers for Obama
November: Two wonderful men
December: Venice under water
Are we ready for this year to be over?
Here's to a more mindful and, we pray, calmer 2009.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
One of my favorite neighborhood restaurants is closing. Alas. I have had many fine meals there with good friends, and I know the owner. See below. And go there before the finale if you can. Also note the sale and the catering business. And the employee transition fund.
* * * * * * * *
Café de la Paz
P.O. Box 9144 Berkeley, CA 94709
Dear Friends and Cutomers,
Sadly, after 15 years of operation in North Berkeley, Café de la Paz and Country Joe's Café & Music Hall are closing their doors. The recession turned the Café's moderately profitable business into one with unsustainable losses. We simply ran out of money and we're having difficulty refinancing. Given the dour projections for the economy in the coming year, there didn't seem to be any real alternative but to say farewell to our location at Cedar and Shattuck in North Berkeley.
There have been many joyful and memorable occasions and moments at Café de la Paz over the years. I thank everyone who has been part of that for their support. We will be continuing our catering business and perhaps the spirit that has animated the Café will re-surface in the another form and location in the time to come.
January 4 will be our final day of operation. We hope you will make it in to enjoy your favorite dishes once or twice more before we close. If you will pay with cash or personal check it will help. We will be open every night for dinner through January 4 and also for weekend brunch/lunch December 27, 28 & January 3, 4. There will be no more weekday breakfast and lunch except by reservation.
New Year's Eve Celebration. Come Ring in the New Year, next Wednesday evening, December 31, with music, dancing, poetry, great Cafe food and a festive countdown to midnight and then celebrate Country Joe McDonald's 67th Birthday (January 1) with cake. Country Joe will also be one of the featured performers (please see attachment).
Country Joe McDonald's Tribute to Woody Guthrie, Saturday, January 3, at 7:30 PM. Joe McDonald has kindly agreed to give a final, benefit performance of This Land is Our Land in support of the Cafe's Employee Transition Fund. Joe premiered this one man show of stories and songs at Café de la Paz in January of 2007 and has since gone on to perform it around the country to much critical acclaim. Tickets for concert style seating are $25 ($35 for front rows). Dinner reservations at 6 or 6:15 PM, before the show, are encouraged.
Open House, Goodby Party, and Garage Sale, January 4th, 12 Noon to 5 PM. On our final day of operation, in addition to regular Café dining upstairs, we are going to have a Farewell Party in the Fiesta room and Bar featuring:
· Free live music.
· An Everything Still in Stock Buffet including many Café favorites for the bargain price of $10 per guest
· à la carte Sangria, Wines, Margaritas and Mojitos
· A fabulous Garage sale of most everything still in the Café.
We have lots of things to sell. You can buy everything from Huichol yarn art to Fiesta Ware, tables and chairs, an espresso machine, remaining wine inventory, etc. If you would like a list, please send your request by reply email. If you have interest in the Huichol yarn art particularly, you don't have to wait. Everything we don't need to serve or sit on is for sale now.
We are going to publish a Café Recipe Booklet. Several people have asked for various signature Café recipes. A publisher friend has offered to help us produce a recipe booklet of the Café's favorite dishes, salsas and desserts, which we are using to help us raise money for a Transition Fund to pay some severance benefits to our staff during this difficult transition. We are therefore asking our friends to make a donation of $25 to $100 to provide a fund for helping all the Café's staff. You can mail a check (made payable to Café de la Paz, write "Transition Fund" in the memo space) or make donation by cash or check when you come to dine. We cannot accept credit cards for this.
It has been our profound privilege to serve North Berkeley and the East Bay progressive community for the past 15 years. This is a very special place on the planet and it has been great to be part of the fabric of its everyday life. I thank you for your patronage over the years and for many cherished memories.
If you'd like to talk about dates and locations for a catered event or any aspect of this transition, please give me a call: 510 843 0662.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Life has been rough, and for consolation we turn to music.
Ever seen these two together?
Brought to you by +Maya Pavlova, FBE, who assures you that the Canon to the Extraordinary is surviving, but would welcome your heartfelt prayers now and in the coming weeks.
Blessed Christmastide. Don't forget to laugh.
Friday, December 26, 2008
This is going out to Doxy and Dear Friend, with the warmest congratulations of the Acts of Hope crew. We love you!
(Photo: Reuters/Sigit Pamungkas - Indonesia)
Jane will continue to be on blog break (mostly) till at least January 12.
This post brought to you by +Maya Pavlova, FBE, who knows that Jane and her One and Only Sibling loooove simians of all kind. +Maya begs to remind you that we are all for the theory of evolution in this household, but that cats are at the top of the evolution ladder.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
A joyous Christmas to you! I'm grateful for your presence in my life, for your visits with and without comments, and for your blogging, wherever you are on Earth. Thank you for your friendship, for inspiring me, for keeping me informed, for making me laugh. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I hope this day has been a happy and peaceful one for you.
If you are a new visitor to this blog and just stopping by, remember that you are a precious human being, no matter who you are. Nobody can take away your fundamental dignity and worth, even on those days when it feels as if this has happened.
If the holidays are difficult for you, remember that you are not alone. Seek out others, formally or informally, whether they have two legs or four.
If you cannot pray or meditate and are in despair or emptiness, know that this has happened to the best and most holy of people, and that absence can turn to presence. Find the words of others (the ones below are only examples; there are others) and let them accompany you. Or stand near a tree and touch it, breathing, remembering that you are a creature of earth and that somewhere, another part of creation has remembered you.
We Did Not Want It Easy, God
We did not want it easy, God,
But we did not contemplate
That it would be quite this hard,
This long, this lonely.
So, if we are to be turned inside out,
and upside down,
With even our pockets shaken
Just to check what's rattling
And left behind,
We pray that you will keep faith with us,
And we with you,
Holding our hands as we weep,
Giving us strength to continue,
And showing us beacons
Along the way
To becoming new.
Peace Is Every Step
Peace is every step.
The shining red sun is my heart.
Each flower smiles with me.
How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows.
Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy.
*****- -Thich Nhat Hanh
receive our love and worship.
Show us how to give you what we have,
for nothing is too big or too small
for us to offer, or for you to use.
*****- A New Zealand Prayer Book
All of these are quoted in When in Doubt, Sing: Prayer in Daily Life.
Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus, ca. 1970s, "Black Nativity," National Center of Afro-American Artists, Boston.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Once again, our sisters and brothers of the Global Center have spoken with love, faith, clarity, and courage.
Monday, December 22, 2008
"So, if Mary AND Joseph AND Jesus were Jewish, why are we not all Jewish instead of Christian?"
Story from Human Rights Watch via truthout.
Human Rights Watch's website is here.
Photo/poster: World Health Organization.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Samuel 7:1-11, 16
In the name of the God
and Who is to come,
Have you noticed the people of Advent?It’s hard not to notice John the Baptizer,
that strange character with the raggedy clothes and
the strange eating habits, crying on the edge of the wilderness,
haranguing his contemporaries
He is squarely in the tradition of the prophets of Israel,
reminding people in a loud voice
of a God who calls them
and their institutions
to righteous living.
They are the not so gentle companions of Advent.
doesn’t harangue us.
We are observers from the outside,
hearing the story of the first appearance of Mary in Scripture,
perhaps envisioning already in our minds
our favorite Renaissance paintings of the Annunciation.
But Mary too is a prophet.
Do not assume she is only a soothing and innocent presence
on the way to the Christmas pageant.
I am always struck
by the way in which the conversation
between the angel Gabriel and Mary
parallels the conversation
between of God and the prophets of the Hebrew Bible.
You may remember the general pattern:
God calls the prophet. Usually by name.
The prophet says, “Here I am, Lord.”
Then God says, “Listen, here’s what I want.”
And in every case, this “here’s what I want,”
God’s will for the prophet,
involves a particular role within the community of believers
and some kind of proclamation of who God is for this community.
And then the prophet puts up a fight.
Jeremiah says he’s too young.
Moses protests that he is slow of speech.
Amos argues that he is only a herdsman
and a dresser of sycamore trees.
Jonah doesn’t say anything; he just runs away.
Now Mary – Mary has basically the same thing happen to her,
and she does ask a minor question about how this sign from God,
this birth, can happen when she has no husband. A logical question!
But she doesn’t run off or avoid the call;
in fact, in the scene following the one we just heard,
the second act of the story of Mary,
she run toward someone
to begin proclaiming what she knows to be true.
And that someone is Elizabeth, an older woman filled with new life and new hope,
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to Nazareth.
The Mary we meet here is not Mary the mother,
as we will encounter her in just four days, in Bethlehem,
but Mary the young Galilean woman --
still in her northern hometown of Nazareth.
We don’t know much about Mary.
We don’t have facts and details about her early life,
or even about her life at the time we meet her
in today’s Gospel story.
In this she has much more in common
with the unknown people
of the first and the twenty-first centuries
than with those whose dwellings or divorces show up
in People magazine
or whose statements about war or money
make the front page of the newspaper
or prime time television news.
Mary has more in common
with the millions of people,
especially poor women,
whose names we do not know
and whose lives
whose daily courage,
we tend to overlook,
they form the major portion
of our human family.
We do know that Mary came from Galilee.
Galilee was a backwater.
It was that place up north –
a good four days’ walk from Jerusalem
a little less if you had a donkey.
We now know thanks to the work of archaeologists
that in Galilee there were several hundred villages,
and that Nazareth was a small village of maybe 300, 400 people.
It was off the main road, a place of no special importance.
The economy in Galilee was heavily agricultural.
Joseph, to whom Mary was betrothed, was an artisan.
But he and his family would have also had a small plot of land
on which they grew some food – barley and wheat, grapes, olives.
Almost everyone did.
Galilee, even in the villages, was a crossroads of cultures.
In Mary’s daily life, the spoken language
was Aramaic, a close relative of Hebrew.
Educated and business people spoke Greek.
The Romans, who had conquered the land
and still occupied it,
And in the synagogue,
the congregation to which Mary and Joseph belonged,
the language of scripture and prayer was Hebrew.
Still, Galilee in Mary’s day
was far from the circles of power,
though the power of the Roman empire did reach there,
in the form of a triple tax.
There was no middle class. Most of the people were poor,
living at what we would call subsistence level.
The rich and powerful
were a very small percentage of the population.
The story in the Gospel of Luke
is not about them. Not yet.
The second Book of Samuel,
from which we also heard this morning,
is about the powerful –and the famous.
Both books of Samuel are organized around the careers of Samuel, Saul, and David.
An official prophet –a professional—and two kings.
They are stories of the people of Israel
But they are also very much the story of God.
Woven throughout the many tales and adventures of the prophet and the two kings
are God’s attempts “to maintain or [to] recreate a relationship of loyalty
between God and [God’s] people.”
The second book of Samuel is very concerned about institutions.
By the time we get to today’s story,
David has ascended to the thrones of both Judah, the little country in the South,
and Israel, the little country in the North.
He settles in Jerusalem, which is now the capital of the newly united kingdom.
And into the story comes
Nathan the prophet, who gets a little visit from the Lord at night.
Nathan hears from God
a promise that appears to be unconditional:
Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me;
your throne shall be established forever.
But it’s a little deceptive.
As is often the case today,
you need to read around and underneath the sound bites and the official statements
to get the bigger story.
If you read on in the Second Book of Samuel
you’ll see that humans keep behaving
King David, the great king,
gets involved in a good dose of treachery, adultery, plots of murder,
and a few other things that make us love him and hate him
for his larger than life humanity
and also make us wonder
why he gets touted as Joseph’s ancestor.
Certainly not because he is a model of virtue!
Read on in the Second Book of Samuel, and beyond,
and you’ll see that the house of David
isn’t exactly what we would call secure.
A generation or two after today’s story, things start falling apart.
Now, kingship arose at least in part out of people’s need for security;
–all of us, from Galilee to Greensboro—
Give me an answer! Give me a formula!
Give me a strong leader!
Give me an economic miracle!Give me a new technological toy!
Give us a nice clean war!
Give us well defined gender roles!
Give me a quick fix!
Give us ten steps to prosperity or
peace of mind or
firm abdominal muscles!
The major message in the second book of Samuel
is not that the king is the source of the people’s security.
It is that God alone is sovereign.
God alone offers security.
All institutions are relative.
Generations later, the story in the Gospel of Luke tells us,
After destruction, exile, and many other empires,
in the days of the Roman Empire,
a descendant of David now living in this backwater of Galilee,
a descendant named Joseph
is betrothed to a young woman named Mary.
Mary and Joseph were betrothed.
That’s not like being engaged in the contemporary sense.
It had what we would call legal status.
It really was the first of two stages of marriage.
So we know that Mary was from Galilee
in the days when Rome reigned.
We know that she was betrothed to Joseph.
We also know that Mary was Jewish.
As was Joseph. As was Jesus.
They were observant Jews,
living their faith within the rhythms of ordinary life,
daily and weekly,
faith in the one sovereign God.
And this faith,
“belief in one God
whom no graven images could capture
clashed” with the new god who was about in the land:
Caesar, the emperor,
“full of power [and] glory.”
Roman religious belief
was inseparable from Roman politics.
The Lordship of Caesar
was on a collision course
with the religion of Judaism.
Another few things of which we can be fairly certain:
there is a good chance
that Mary was very young.
Girls were betrothed around the age of twelve,
maybe thirteen, fourteen. Probably not much later.
And Mary was likely brown-skinned,
like most people in the region,
from the labor she performed
outdoors and indoors
and which was a lot more strenuous
than pushing a vacuum cleaner.
So Mary, a brown-skinned, muscular,
working-class Jewish girl from Galilee
is sitting around one day
minding her own business (or maybe not)
as happens in biblical stories,
and sometimes in other places too,
an angel shows up.
Shalom! Says the angel. Greetings!
Angels don’t have a translation problem, have you noticed?
They are messengers from God
who speak in the language of the person they happen to be visiting.
We can assume they are a multilingual lot.
Shalom, says the angel.
YOU are special to God,
and God is with you.
“Huh?” thinks Mary.
Or as the text says in our contemporary translation
...she was much perplexed by [the angel’s] words
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
In other words,
Mary was not someone likely to be singled out.
She was not one of the truly destitute or the most marginal:
she was betrothed to an artisan; she had a place to live;
but she was an ordinary girl in an ordinary village.
“Hello, Mary! I’m here for you!
I’ve got a word from God!”
Mary is still digesting this one,
and then comes the big news.
“You’re going to have a baby, Mary.”
And it’s not Joseph’s baby.
This child announced by the angel
is not what we would call legitimate.
Anticipating Mary’s reaction,
the angel reassures her,
invoking her people’s history,
talking of thrones, of David the royal ancestor,
of a kingdom that will have no end.
Being a smart Jewish girl,
though probably illiterate,
How can this be, since I am a virgin?
Or as the original text says much more eloquently,
How can this be, since I do not know a man?
And somehow satisfied with the angel’s answer,
willing, somehow, to say,
“All right, God, I’ll do it,”
Mary the prophet goes forward.
and the village,
the message from God
and one particular, ordinary, daily life,
history writ large
and history writ small.
Here in Greensboro,
it’s four days before Christmas in another kind of empire.
One in which
we, like Mary, are not living in the centers of power,
but where the centers of power reach us.
In this empire as in the earlier ones
institutions and their leaders fail us:
corporations, investment banks, government,
the military, schools, even churches.
We in this American empire
are about to celebrate the birth of Jesus
and we look also in this season of Advent
to Jesus’ coming again
at the end of time.
And what do we do,
as we prepare for this?
We contemplate Mary.
We remember her as the human being she was,
in the little we know of her and her surroundings.
This is a much deeper and more challenging mystery
than if Mary were either the ideal woman
or the feminine face of God
or an archetype or a model
or even the ideal disciple.
“As with every human being, as with every woman,”
[as with every girl, every boy, every man,]
“[Mary] is first and foremost herself.”
I am not saying that we can’t also appreciate Mary as a symbol.
But Mary is and remains
“truly our sister,”
“a concrete human being”
“....who acted according to the call of the Spirit
in the particular circumstances of her own history.”
This is no reason for us to toss our Fra Angelico reproductions in the trash bin
Or to take the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe down from the wall.
On the contrary, perhaps they, along with other images,
can help us to remember that Jesus,
true God among us
and truly human,
was the son
of a truly human mother,
a particular mother
in a particular place.
For some reason
God loves history.
God loves our history.
God lives in our history
It is in that history that Mary will go off to visit Elizabeth,
And that she will cry out in song
That the God of promise will turn the world upside down,
That the hungry will eat,
That the powerless will be filled with new strength,
That the mighty will tumble from their proud thrones,
A message worthy of the prophets
Of Mary’s people Israel.
My friend Gene Rogers,
Who teaches at UNCG, has written a book in which
he comments on an ancient hymn about Mary
from the Christian East
And here’s what he says of her:
As a woman of low estate, she opens up a time for justice;
as a willing recipient of the Spirit, she opens up a site of joy.
In preparing the justice of God’s realm, she plays the role of the prophet.
The Gospel on this fourth Sunday of Advent asks us:
Are we ready
with Mary our sister
to open up a time for justice?
willing recipients of the Spirit?
Not the shortcut solution.
Not the security for which we hunger.
Not the ordinary exercise of power.
The power of the Spirit -
the Spirit of God
the one with the messages in the middle of the night
the one with surprise visits in broad daylight
the one who visits the backwaters of conquered lands.
Are we ready
to open up a site of joy?
Are we willing
as Mary was willing
to be that place
where God lives
and where, make no mistake,
neither Mary nor we
will serve as passive incubator
for a pop-up Jesus?
Will we be
a living, breathing, choice-making site of joy,
a real being who makes room for the action of the Holy Spirit
whatever it is?
At a really inconvenient time?
Think about it:
This woman –we would call her a girl– is virtually married.
And in what form does the Spirit show up?
A baby who’s not her husband’s.
Let’s see. In her historical context
she could lose
her economic support,
even her life.
Never mind the how the pregnancy happened
Look at what the fact of Mary’s pregnancy says:
God is really really inconvenient.
And really risky.
And really close
flesh of Mary’s flesh
flesh of our flesh
is coming soon.
And the angel
in some form, in some voice, in some manner,
will come to us
as the angel came to Mary
the Advent question of God:
Will you bear my word to the world?
Will you hold my word in your heart?
This heart, your heart, in this time in history, in this place,
in your skin, in your faith, in your life?
Will you share my word with the world ?
open up a time for justice
in this place, in this empire?
be a willing recipient of the Spirit?
Will you open up a site of joy?
Will you, with the help of the Spirit
risk being a prophet?
Says the angel with the Advent question of God,
bear my word to the world?
 A dresser of sycamore trees is someone who makes little cuts in the sycamore fruit so that they can grow to be edible. It was a lower-class job in the low-class food business; sycamore fruit was for people too poor to afford dates.
 Elizabeth Johnson makes note of this when introducing Mary’s Galilean context. Elizabeth A. Johnson, Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints (New York: Continuum, 2003),137.
 Johnson, Truly Our Sister, 172.
 Jo Ann Hackett, “1 and 2 Samuel,” Women’s Bible Commentary, expanded edition, ed. Carol A Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998), 91.
 David Gunn, “2 Samuel,” Harper’s Bible Commentary (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988), 287.
 2 Sam 7:16.
 See Johnson, Truly Our Sister, 165.
 Luke 1:29
 Luke 1:34, New Revised Standard Version.
 Luke 1:34, literal translation from the original Greek. This also happens to be the King James Version’s translation, which is not always the most accurate, but which in this case is closer to the text.
 Johnson, Truly Our Sister,101.
 While the phrase “truly our sister” comes from Pope Paul VI, Johnson also notes in the frontispiece of her book that several women theologians, whose writings evoke the words and beliefs of grassroots women in Mexico, Korea, Brazil, and the United States, refer to Mary as a sister.
 “[T]he proposal to interpret Mary within the company of the saints entails this corollary: First and foremost Mary is not a model, a type, an archetype, a prototype, an icon, a representative figure, a theological idea, an ideological cipher, a metaphor, a utopian principle, a feminine principle, a feminine essence, the image of the eternal feminine, an ideal disciple, ideal woman, ideal mother, a myth, a persona, a corporate personality, an everywoman, a cultural artifact, a literary device, a motif, an exemplar, a paradigm, a sign, or in any other way a religious symbol. All of these terms are drawn from contemporary religious writing. To the contrary, as with any human being, as with every woman, she is first and foremost herself. I am not saying that the contemporary human imagination cannot make use of her in a symbolic way. But it is the luminous density of her existence as a graced human being that attracts my attention. As Rahner argues, ‘We, however supremely elevated our spiritual nature may be, still remain concrete historical beings, and for this reason we cannot consider this history as something unimportant for the highest activity of our spirit, the search for God.’” Johnson, Truly Our Sister,101.
 Johnson, Truly Our Sister, 42-43.
 Eugene F. Rogers, Jr., After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology from Resources Outside the Modern West (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2005), 104. For my own rhetorical purposes, I have left out of this quote from Rogers’ elaboration on Hymn XI of Romanos the Melodist a fourth point, which immediately follows the three I quote: “In preparing the joy of God’s realm, she plays the role of patriarch.”
Friday, December 19, 2008
As +Maya noted a couple of days ago, I am in blog slowdown mode. It is not easy, in that I love the company and whatever creativity I can muster and love reading the creative efforts and news of others. But drawing inward in this holiday season has been my plan for a while and I want to keep to it, for the sake of my health and sanity and also to finish up some writing I have had to neglect these past few months.
I'm not totally disappearing: I will be posting this Sunday's sermon, which will be about Mary our sister, the mother of Jesus, but I will be blogging much less between now and mid-January. Please keep me in your prayers, those of you who pray (I welcome good vibrations, thoughts, and incantations from those of you who do not and messages of cheer from any and all of you) and do keep checking in here. Her Grace the feline bishop may make a few appearances, either to keep you posted or to show off her wisdom and beauty.
+Maya Pavlova says: I've been too busy getting extra sleep to write an Advent pastoral letter, but this would have been its theme: "Advent Alertness and Winter Sleep." I am living both. Mmmmmrrrrrrrrooowwwwwww.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Thank you, Tomato! This made my day.
More on the mini-blogswarm for WIDS (which I didn't even ask for -- thanks, friends) here.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
This is a picture of me. I spend a lot of time in the little hollow at the top of the sofa cushion these days. It is winter and it is what I like.
When I am awake I dart about and make mischief, so don't think I have forgotten how to play. I jumped onto the high shelf of one of the kitchen cupboards today. I thought I looked very cute amid the coffee presses and pitchers. I know I am not supposed to be there, but I am +Maya Pavlova and I belong everywhere. I love jumping onto the kitchen counters and from there into the cupboards; if their doors are open, even briefly, how can I not enter?
My Jane is thinking of taking a blogging break. I am praying for her in my sleep.
Love and purrs,
The Right Reverend and Right Honorable Maya Pavlova, Feline Bishop Extraordinaire
The grades are in. I met two deadlines and missed two others. I have to do some more catch-up in the next few days and then I get to settle in for a quiet, I hope very quiet, few weeks.
Sunday I am preaching (always a joy and not part of the pressure; well, just a bit in this case, since it's at a new place*) and I am pondering Mary as Advent prophet.
* [Added later:] No, I haven't left St. Mary's House, it remains my beloved home base, but I will be at All Saints, Greensboro a few Sundays a month until May or so. A wonderful faith community where I have already had the joy of worshipping. I've meant to write about the lovely chant with which they begin the liturgy and in particular the Advent chant. A great idea for gathering, centering and calming, before the processional and entrance hymn.
Monday, December 15, 2008
from "Advent as a Penitential Season" by William Stringfellow (1929-1985)
On the back cover of A Keeper of the Word: Selected Writings of William Stringfellow, we are told "The theological legacy of William Stringfellow --Harlem street lawyer, social activist, and commentator-- is enjoying a revival among a new generation of Christians." This image represents Bill Stringfellow as keeper of the Word, which is symbolized as Holy Scripture burning and glowing inside of him, open to the words of Deuteronomy which he contemplated and lived. This fiery Prophet to America continues to admonish and console through his living presence in the communion of saints, and in his writing which is searingly surgical and thus .. healing.
Words and icon written by William Hart McNichols, S.J., who writes: "This icon was commissioned by Bill's honored friend and fellow Prophet, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J."
May 2007 series on Stringfellow on this blog:
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Biden reward at end of campaign: a poochlet.
Tip of the fedora to Politico, via yahoo.com.
Photo: AP/Brown Family
Brought to you by the Continuing Democratic Dog Watch (an unpredictable occasional feature).
I don't know if it's the book party this evening or the cat's response to the book, but creatures over at klady's and +Clumber's places have been active in the When in Doubt, Sing department. Or rather, not too active! Have a look at them here:
Gracie at klady's
NP-complete at +Clumber's
Last month we read works by thinkers/doers from the African diaspora and Africa: Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu (sermons and essays from the apartheid era which most folks don't get to read, including the oration at Steve Biko's funeral), and Pauli Murray, the first African American woman to be ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, who was from these parts in North Carolina and who was also a jurist and a poet.
The students are from a variety of backgrounds and are involved in a variety of ministries. One does hospital chaplaincy; another works with farm laborers (and is a former scientist who is involved in a bit of farming himself); another is involved in parish work and, I just discovered, is a stylist (as in salon and spa); another is a lawyer who has done poverty and housing law. The wife of one of the students is an oblate in the Order of Julian of Norwich and he was the person who helped us learn about Julian and her life and theology and spirituality.
The students gave me a thank-you present at the end of the session, a low, broad vase in which to make flower arrangements -- or, I'm thinking, an arrangement of evergrees for this season, and a lovely card with "they who sing pray twice" on it. I was very moved. I am glad to have a lighter schedule in the coming months, but I was thrilled to be back in theological and ministerial education, even on this very very part-time basis, and I will miss our conversations.
The deacon candidates will be ordained in June. The postulant is a year behind them. Celebrations to anticipate!
Story on last year's national deacons' conference here.
Blog of Ormonde Plater, our friend the deacon in New Orleans and a mentor to many, here.
Friday, December 12, 2008
I should have posted this before today, but between Finals Week and everything else including waiting for books to arrive (thank you, Publicist of Acts of Hope who chased down errant UPS for two days), I neglected to do so. At least I got invitations out to all of you who are in the area, at least I hope so. If I did not, write me at widsauthor at earthlink dot net: it's time for the Greensboro Book Party for When in Doubt, Sing!
The party is this Sunday evening, December 14 and it is a joint party with a member of my congregation, Sarah Lindsay, who also has a book out. She is a very good poet and we are holding the party at our church (or rather, our church is hosting the party, thank you, church) and thought it would be fun to have our respective crews of friends and colleagues be in the same place. Sarah will read some of her poetry, I will read bits of the book on prayer, and we will sell and sign books when asked (that's why I needed to get 50 books here pronto) and generally eat, drink, and be merry.
Grades are due first thing in the morning Monday (I'm aiming for sooner, but as usual, good luck to me) and I teach the deacon candidates a double session tomorrow an hour away from here. On Monday things slow down. We hope.
Again, please let me know if you are interested in attending the book event. You don't have to be bookish to show up.
+Maya Pavlova, Feline Bishop Extraordinaire, will not be present. She has other things to do and much as I tried to interest her in the book the day the first copy arrived (when I took these photos), she only wanted to groom herself. Her Grace has her priorities.
Bird? What bird? I only pay attention to the real thing.
A truly virtuous bishop, not swayed by the lure of literary fame.
Heavy rains pound Italy, Rome declares emergency.
Photo: Protezione Civile, Roma, via Reuters.
Brother of Acts of Hope, who lives in Rome (when he is not living in Istanbul or traveling to Perugia or Milan for work or on a gig in some other European country), has left New York City, where he and Brother's Dearly Beloved spent most of this week, for Rome. What will await the two of them when they land, I do not know. They live on one of Rome's famous seven hills, so there will not be flooding at the apartment, but who knows what the airport will be like. Stay tuned, and pray for the Gypsies (see the article via the link above) whom the city administration evacuated from the banks of the river Tiber today.
Floods do happen outside of periods of global warming. Below is (according to Reuters) a plaque on a wall in the Jewish ghetto in Rome, reading in archaic Italian "In 1598 the Tiber (river) reached this point." During the great flood of 1598, waters of the Tiber rose 19.56 meters (63.97 feet) above sea level.
Photos: Chris Helgren, Reuters
Meanwhile, it's still soggy in Venice:
Photo: Manuel Silvestri, Reuters.
The post is a reflection by Episcopal priest Sam Portaro, whom some of you may know from his useful Brightest and Best: A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, his work in campus and young adult and campus ministry, or this (which I haven't read yet, but which looks sensible and challenging) on vocation.
Read the post here. Read it slowly.
Thank you, brother Mike, for this reminder.
Photo: Dusk, Porto Covo, Portugal, Wiki Commons. Click to enlarge and see detail.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Obama-Biden inauguration tchotchkes filled the shop. Someone is making a lot of money on the historic event with mugs, refrigerator magnets, t-shirts, jumbo-sized buttons to pin on your jacket, et al. Naturally some of the products are Made in China and one refrigerator magnet was Printed and Assembled in Canada, and one or two products said "Proudly Made in the U.S.A." Ah, capitalism. Oh, globalization.
Off in a corner was some McCain-Palin regalia with a sign saying "75 percent off."
Hugh was quite a character, a New Yorker with the Irish gift for language, great curiosity and wit, and the proper amount of panache. With a name like Hugh Aloysius Mulligan, you also know he had a Catholic connection. See here for the official Associated Press obit. Rest in peace, Hugh.
There's a meditation in that one, but for now, I am in catch-up mode at the office and in continuing mode with the stack of term papers. Church projects await as well - and the gym, to which I have sworn to return this week after an absence of weeks and weeks; most of the semester, truth be told. Not good. I am joining my buddy Paul in hauling my middle-aged arse back to the land of workouts. I've been walking and doing a bit of yoga all semester, but not enough of either. Ever since the tree fell the second week of an already packed semester, my life has been one long sleep-deprived term with less exercise than I have ever had in my adult life. Having to make choices between work and sleep, or sleep and exercise, or exercise and work, is not a healthy way of living. In Advent and as the academic semester ends, I am trying to restore the balance.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Remember: it's never too late to be mindful. Start now.
First Sunday of Advent (Year B, RCL)
November 30, 2008
St. Mary's House, Greensboro
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. … And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake. (Mark 13:33, 37.)
So much for Advent being a season of gentleness.
Today’s lessons for the first Sunday of Advent
have no expectant young Mary,
no joyful song of justice.The baby Jesus is nowhere to be seen,
not even as a twinkle in someone’s eye.
The Gospel is about as earth-shaking as it gets:
****the sun will be darkened,
****and the moon will not give its light,
****and the stars will be falling from heaven,
****and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
And all this will happen after great suffering
and before the Son of Man
comes at the end of time
and makes his power known to the ends of the earth,
and indeed to the ends of heaven.
This Gospel passage is known as “The Little Apocalypse,”
and its images and vocabulary are not unlike those
in the Apocalypse of John, also called
the Book of Revelation.
They also echo the words of the prophet Joel
in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Even more than cosmic revolution,
these words announce a shaking
of the very foundations
on which we stand,
of the sheltering safety above our heads.
They even announce the extinction
of the lights by which
we usually see.
The biblical passages appointed for today
are not really so different from
those of the last few weeks,
with their end-time themes and disturbing images.
On this first day of the church’s year
are we back at the end?
Is the end of time
what Advent is about?
Though not only.
In this culture’s season of buying
and even in our Advent emphasis
on waiting for the Christ child,
it is easy to forget
that Advent is a season of the presence of God
in three ways:
****waiting and hope for the birth of Christ,
****attention to God’s incarnate presence here and now,
****and hope and expectation for the final fulfillment,
****for a future that is God’s future.
It is easy to forget.
Fortunately, we have church.
The liturgy, the scriptures, and the customs of Advent
all focus us on some dimension of the Incarnation.
But another way of looking at Advent,
a way on which I invite you to dwell today,
is that it is a season to examine
the reality of time:
****time in our lives
****and the presence of God in time.
You may have noticed how much the reality of time
is present in today’s readings --
in Mark’s Gospel especially withthe expectation of the Son of Man,
the fig tree and its growth,
the vision beyond this generation,
the view to the future.
Today is the first day of the new year –
--the new church year, that is.
It is a doorway,
into both mystery and insight.
We remember, in this season,
how God’s time
encounters our time.
They are one time, though we do not always perceive it.
They are one time, though our experience of this time is often painful.
In this time the future belongs to God, though we are a part of it.
It is not, in the Gospel, a reassuring future.
Still, the One whom the Psalmist calls the Shepherd of Israel
shepherds us not just in space but in time.
God shepherds us through time.
In time, too, we encounter our faults and our failings.
The lessons today speak of judgment and sin
in a way we cannot avoid.
Entering this season
We cannot deny
the wounds of the world
or our own.
We know and proclaim God’s goodness
in everyday creation.
Still, entering Advent,
we know our brokenness,
perceive our need for God,
the place of despair and grief
where hope is born.
Truth be told,
hope is not born anywhere else.
Long Island and Mumbai
are not about someone else.
It is we human creatures
who rushed to the store
and trampled another human creature;
who fired guns and took hostages ;
who were taken hostage;
who suffered or inflicted suffering
randomly or with intention.
The body of earth is our body
the body of the world is our body
the sky darkens over all of us.
The part of the book of Isaiah we heard
is a book of exiles
In the image given to us by the Psalm,
we drink bowls of our own tears --
bowls of tears!
Long Island. Mumbai.
The nuclear age.
We cry, with the Psalmist,
Restore us, O God of hosts;
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
…show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
This is not the ordinary light,
not that of electricity,
not even that of the moon and stars,
not that of the sun.
a different light:
the radiant darkness of God
the word that comes to us when the ordinary perceptions have gone.
This may well be why
we have this earth- and heavens-shaking
entry into Advent:
to return us to a different light.
It has become a truism that Advent is a time of waiting
I want to invite you to a quality or practice
that is one of the great riches of another religious tradition,
It is not foreign to Christianity
but its Christian form has a different twist
for us as members of a historically oriented religion
This is not to say that our Buddhist sisters and brothers
have no sense of history.
It is that for us, as biblical people,
remembrance is religious practice
because God lives inside history.
So too living in the perspective of God’s future
is religious practice.
And both of these
are practicesof Advent.
But the present
can get squeezed between honoring the past
and looking to the future.
So there you have one of the paradoxes of Advent.
We look forward,
we look back,
we look forward again.
But we also look to the present,
committing mindful acts,
These practices help us to notice
how we live in time.
We rediscover sacred history,
not just as something outside ourselves,
but as our own history.
Or to put it the other way around,
we rediscover ourselves
as part of this sacred history.
We live inside of it.
It lives inside of us.
****mindfulness of what we do
****mindfulness of Christ’s presence in the world now
*******for the fulfillment of all creation.
Note that the Gospel urges upon us
mindful hope –
not mindless speculation about when this final fulfillment will happen.
Mindfulness is difficult.
The attentiveness and staying awake
of which Jesus speaks
Mindfulness, not acting on reflexes
is most difficult of all
with our families,
whether our family of origin
or our family of choice.
Despite the disruptive power of today’s biblical images
most of us do not experience,
and the church does not celebrate,
one great crash landing into the arms of Jesus
though some people do experience this.
But even if they do,
I will be sending you this afternoon
links to a couple of online calendars for Advent;
there are others, of course.
Candles on a wreath.
One small practice,
one gaze at a time,
can help us be attentive
to both the mystery
and the plain and daily presence
day after day, can also remind us:
faithfulness is part of who God is.
Faithfulness is a quality of God in time.
Let me say that again:
faithfulness is a quality of God in time.
I have recently discovered the wonderful Advent blog
of artist, writer, and Methodist minister Jan Richardson.
On it, she writes,
****The older I get, the more I think of God as the Ancient of Days,
****the Holy One of the Long Haul,
****who seems so deeply fond of working things out over vast expanses of time.
This, she adds, is the aspect of God that calls us to trust,
that challenges us to step out
without being able to see what’s ahead.
Taking small steps,
with the cosmic message
resonating within us,
we enter the gateway of Advent together.
We carry our brokenness and our longings
into our prayer.
We let the prayer of the community called church
carry us to the deep places within us,
carry us to the world’s pain,
and see God’s presence
within and with it,
in God’s light,
which begins in darkness.
God’s is a radiant darkness.
Our time is in God’s time.
Stay awake. God is faithful. Walk mindfully.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Tonight we watched in the bedroom rather than the living-room. My parents are both 90 now and tire more easily. I sat between them on the bed and massaged one of my mother's hands for a while (she has a lot of arthritis) and pumped my fist in the air when Russ Feingold, whom Moyers was interviewing, said something eminently sensible.
This was another show worth watching - if only for Moyers's fine introduction, which summed up with wit and accuracy the buzz around the Obama appointments. I am posting it below. Short and punchy.
After that came an interview with Feingold, bless his heart, who explained what being a progressive means if you are from Wisconsin, and who went on to have an intelligent conversation with Moyers about the Constitution, Obama, and other tiny topics. Two intelligent people speaking in complete sentences about the well-being of the nation. What a concept.
Then, after a little fund-raising break, came the second half of the show with Mark Johnson's musical project, Playing for Change, and if you haven't heard of it (I had not) you are in for a treat. It is one of the most heart-warming enterprises out there, and I do mean out there, since Johnson has traveled the planet for a decade and the project links people together in song (when in doubt, sing!) and instrument-playing across national and economic and religious and cultural boundaries.
Here's the Moyers introduction (read it aloud to get the full effect - and I dare you not to laugh at least once):
No sooner did President-elect Obama begin announcing his appointments to office than the chattering classes of print, the airwaves and cyberspace began The Great Debate:
Ah-hah, some said, this proves he will govern right of center. Karl Rove cackled with glee, and even Rush Limbaugh — from his underground bunker — hailed Obama's choice of Hillary as a shrewd political masterstroke.
Establishment Democrats watched the parade of familiar faces and exclaimed: we're back! Not so fast, shouted the Obama net-root activists who pounded their keyboards with fury all year. "In his heart you know he's one of us," they're saying. These appointments will give him cover to channel FDR.
And from their lofty perch above it all, Obama's fellow Brainiacs twirled their Phi Beta Kappa keys, smiled and said "Foolish ideologues." You know intellect will carry the day! And as always, corporate chieftains the country over rubbed their palms in anticipation of a New Age of Pragmatism, crossed Republicans off their Christmas list, and started writing checks to Democrats.
And Obama's not even President yet!
Meanwhile, the people most uncertain of where they stand right now are that political species known as progressives. They hold a healthy distaste for the orthodox ways of the Washington elites who seem to have a permanent grip on how things work, no matter who wins the election.
Progressives are holding their fire right now, giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, but unsure whether all those establishment figures Obama is gathering around him — largely from the Clinton administration — represent a brilliant strategy of co-option or a signal of his true intent.
So what does the leading progressive member of the United States Senate think about all this? We'll ask him.
Full transcript of the show here.
Brother and his Dearly Beloved arrive tomorrow.
P.S. Wireless internet in the retirement community!
I will leave this morning with a stack of term papers to read on the airplanes. (Yes, plural -- there is no longer a direct flight from Greensboro to Boston.)
I have been meaning to post last Sunday's sermon all week but have not had a moment to fiddle with the middle of it, which I changed a bit in the pulpit. Look for it above; I may have time to post it either before leaving or (more likely) at the airport or in chilly New England.
+Maya Pavlova has an excellent cat-sitter.
Blogging will be light.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
I also have a beautiful sermon (not by me) on Ferrer and the community at Little Gidding somewhere, and when I dig it out I will copy it here. Till then , have a look at James Kiefer's bio of Nicholas Ferrar and at the links at the site.
Remembering the year the AIDS Quilt first came to Boston, running into a colleague there and holding him in my arms as he wept.
Honoring my friends who work in the field: Brian. Lisa. Doxy. Will, who worked in South Africa where, he told us, they are burying people two deep in the cemeteries because there is not enough room. Musa, the biblical scholar from Botswana, who works with women especially, but who also educates church leaders of all genders and examines with them how our scriptural interpretations kill or give life. The women of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. Guy and the people at his center for spiritual care in Atlanta, Georgia, many of whom have been homeless. Margaret, who with Guy and like Musa, teaches Pentecostal seminarians and pastors in the Atlanta neighborhood that is ground zero for HIV infection and where the rates of infection are as high as in South Africa.
And the hospice nurses who were my colleagues twenty years ago when we were raising money for the first residential hospice for people with AIDS in Boston, because there were people, mostly gay men, who had no place to go and die with dignity and with the loving care all human beings deserve. Jeannette, now resting with the saints, who after years as a prison chaplain began working with people infected and affected and who opened a home for formerly incarcerated women and formerly homeless women living with HIV infection. Mary, who volunteered without fanfare for years, taking time from a busy job to go and hold infected babies in a Washington hospital. Edward, who is in his second executive directorship of an AIDS-related organization, the first a consortium serving the needs of people of color in a large city in the Northeast, the current one a group advocating for better distribution of life-saving drugs. Joe, who continues to ride his bike each year in the annual fund-raiser for research and care.
Doxy's thoughts are here, Fran's are here, with some words from South Africa.
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation's prevention program is here.
The Frontline PBS series of a couple of years ago, "The Age of AIDS," which you can watch in its entirety in the privacy of your home, but which is also great for group discussion, is here. The movie series is a great place to start if you don't know where to start, and the website is full of good scientific and social information. Its perspective is international --great segment on Uganda-- and it also tracks the social history of the epidemic and related politics here in the U.S.
And here's a quiz for you to take, from the movie's website.
UNAIDS's photo gallery is here.
Learn about the feminization of AIDS here.
From that last one:
HIV infections among women and girls have risen in every part of the world in recent years. The numbers point to a fundamental and startling reality - the HIV/AIDS pandemic is inextricably linked to the brutal effects of sexism and gender inequality, most pronounced in Africa. ... Gender violence and poverty are disease risks.
Speaking of Venice (see previous post, immediately below)... Venice is flooded. Highest level in twenty years. Almost all streets are under water.
Photo: Luigi Costantini, Associated Press. Accompanying paragraph-long description here. That's the Rialto Bridge you see.