Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ignatius Day: another butterfly

Happy feast of Ignatius of Loyola. Here is another butterfly, fluttering about the flowers at noontime on a rare warm-but-not-hot grey day. It is more yellow than the photo makes it seem, as is the beige-looking butterfly below (at the bottom of that post). The BlackBerry camera distorts some colors.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A brilliant new book: geeks and prayer types please note

A Californian acquaintance of mine by the name of Sistertech has written a truly brilliant, not to mention humorous and touching, book of prayers.

Sistertech transmits her spiritual writings via my friend Pamela Hood, Ph.D., a professor of philosophy in San Francisco, and I recently received a copy of this Book of Uncommon Prayer. Here are a few samples from it.

1.1 Prayers for Morning

May The One in Charge bless us this day, keep us from evil viruses, and bring us stable wireless connectivity. Amen.

Dear One In Charge,
You have brought us in safety to this new day:
Preserve us and our tech devices
with your mighty power,
that we may not fall into sin,
or be overcome by phishing scams, spyware, viruses,
or other adversities;
and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose.

A Morning Psalm for Social Media Users
Open my _____ (state name of social media program or website),
O One in Charge,
and my tweets shall proclaim your praise.
Create in me a clean cache
and renew a right spirit of updating within me.
Cast me not away from my Twitter stream,
take not your holy inspiration from me.
Give me the joy of sending tweets again.
Sustain me with bountiful followers
and plenty of content to retweet.

1.4 Prayers for Sleep

O One In Charge,
while our bodies and computers rest
from the labors of the day
and as our RAM, caches, and our souls are released
from the thoughts of this world,
grant that we may stand in your presence
with tranquility, quietness, and peace.

1.5 Prayers Before and After Meals

O One in Charge,
bless this caffeine to our use
and us to thy service.

Bless the bunch that munch
this lunch.

O One in Charge, Giver of all good things,
may this food and drink restore our strength,
giving new energy to tired limbs,
and new thoughts to weary minds.

2.0 Traditional Prayers (Fran, you will love this one)

2.2. Hail Holy External Drive

Hail, holy two terabyte storage drive,
mother of mercy,
Hail keeper of our life's work,
our sweetest digital files,
and our hope of promotion.

To thee do we cry,
poor banished children of incessant computer crashes;
to these do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping
in this valley of infected and corrupted files.

Turn, then, most gracious defender,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this, our exile,
show unto us the blessed repository of our files:

O clement, O loving, O sweet
terabyte drive.

Pray for us, O perfect external drive,
that we may be made worthy of thy promises of safety.

There are prayers to various appropriate saints as well.

There is also a wonderful rendition of the Prayer of Saint Francis, but I will not reproduce it here. You'll have to buy the book!

4.0 The Collects

For Those Who Offer Technical Support

O One In Charge,
we pray that your grace may always precede and follow
those who offer technical support on their service calls.
May they continually do good work
and not make matters worse.

Under 5.4, Ministration to the Sick, there are prayers for sick computers, for the restoration of a hard drive, for computer repair personnel, and so on.

There are also Various & Sundry General Prayers & Thanksgivings including a System Administrator's Prayer for Wellbeing and a prayer For Victims of Gaming Addiction and, of course, For Tech Devices We Love.

I particularly like the Reconciliation of a Penitent, which includes the following:

I confess to The One In Charge,
to geeks everywhere, and to you,
that I have sinned by my own fault
in thought, word, and deed, in things done and left undone;
especially for

(attach digital file if more space is needed.)

For these and all other transgressions which I cannot now remember,
I am truly sorry.
I pray The One In Charge to have mercy on me.
I firmly intend to get a grip,
wake up,
and smell the coffee,
and I humbly beg forgiveness of The One in Charge
and all tech devices,
and I ask you for counsel, direction, and absolution.

Here the witness may offer the penitent counsel, comfort, absolution or a hard time.

Chill out.
Everything's copacetic.
The One In Charge has deleted all your sins.

Whew! Thank God!

And just in case one of your machines has a birthday today...

6.11 For a Birthday of a Tech Device
Watch over this device, O One In Charge,
as its days increase;
bless and guide it wherever it may be.
Strengthen it where it is turned on;
comfort it when it receives error messages;
raise it up if it is dropped;
and in its memory
may thy peace which passeth understanding
all the days of its life.

And there are, of course, Sistertech's Ten Commandments. Do not drink coffee while reading them. Especially when you read the Sixth Commandment:

"Thou shalt not kill thy laptop by spilling within it half-caf/half-decaf, 2%, extra tall, double mochas or any other fluids."

The Sabbath-keeping and no-adultery commandments are good, too.

The Faith FAQ is terrific.

Now this is a book that "prays well."

The book is on sale at 15% discount till August 15 and it is also available as an e-book in pdf form if you prefer.

I know I've posted two pieces of book p.r. in a row, but it's summer, a good time for reading. You will also need this tech-y prayer book when fall comes along, or long before that if you have anything to do with a computer. Yes, you.

Postcript to the Adorable Godson: Don't you dare buy this: I'm sending you one as a new-tech-job present.

Book sale! Get your cool books! ("Cool" rather than "hot:" it's a steamy summer here in the U.S.)

The writing crawls along. Some days are worse than others.

In other news, my paperback publisher has a sale on my book on prayer at deep discount, so buy it! (Let's hope this doesn't mean trouble, just summer sales. Addendum: Nope, no trouble, just some overstock.) It's less than half the usual price! You know you want it. So does your mother. So do your rector, pastor, best friend, father, sister-in-law, lover, parishioner, and spiritual director. Seriously.

I posted this little announcement on Facebook (woe is me, I returned to Facebook, but only for that announcement - true!) yesterday and several people wrote very nice things about the book in response to that update. Those people includes a prison chaplain, an M.D. pathologist, a counselor-in-training, a vocational deacon who works with people who are down and out, and others. Here endeth the shameless self-promotion. Buy the book. Buy ten of 'em.

Thursday night / early Friday : from the New Zealand Prayer Book

it is night.

The night is for stillness.
**Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.
**What has been done has been done;
**What has not been done has not been done;
**let it be.

The night is dark.
**Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives
**rest in you.

The night is quiet.
**Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
****all dear to us,
****and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.
**Let us look expectantly to a new day,
****new joys,
****new possibilities.

In your name we pray.

God forgives you.
Forgive others;
forgive yourself.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meanwhile, over on one side of the house...

Inside the house, Jane continues to write and edit and pace the floor and +Maya sleeps, plays, and pesters Jane for treats, but only when Jane is in the kitchen.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Stalking the butterflies

And finally caught an open-winged photo!

Prayer Posse, this one is for you, with my thanks

My friend Paul the BB is much more faithful than I in posting prayer concerns and requests in his "heart threads" and "Oremus" posts, but I am making bold to join him with a few requests for you intercessors out there.

First there's Kirstin, who is undergoing chemotherapy in an experimental protocol for a nasty recurrence of cancer. She is surrounded by love and very good care and has a strong will to live and live well, but this is one of those cases where the potential cure is very tough on body and soul. Please keep her in your hearts. Pray also (or offer merit or chants -- whatever your tradition is, we welcome it) for her best friend Andee, who has been faithful and compassionate in her attention and care. And for the medical people, of course.

Then there's Joel, beloved spouse of Margaret and informally-adoptive parent of Juan Manuel. Joel has had a bad attack of myasthenia gravis and they almost lost him a few nights ago. He is doing better, "guarded," as they say, and has a host of praying and caring folks in his life, not least of them our Margaret. Please pray for Joel, for Margaret, for Juan Manuel, and of course for the physicians and nurses and other caregivers.

And Fran of Smallbania, dear friend of mine and of many of us both irl ("in real life") and in the blogosphere, has had to forgo a vacation abroad with her spouse and daughter because of a most unpleasant episode in the hospital involving a gall bladder (now gone, bye-bye gall bladder) and several related complications. Fran is at home resting up and improving every day, but she could use some more prayers. She continues to be her thoughtful self and is black to blogging, a sure sign she is on the mend.

Here's a link to the Taizé chant "Bleibet hier" (literally "stay here" and known and sung in English as "Stay with me, remain with me, watch and pray").

Please pray also in happy thanksgiving for Nathan, a young man I've prayed with and mentored a bit, who was baptized yesterday at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Greensboro. Nathan had been baptized as a child but in the tradition of his family, the Jehovah's Witnesses, who do not baptize in the name of the Holy Trinity. So, after becoming quite involved in the Episcopal Church, he asked to be baptized with the ancient Trinitarian formula which is that of most Christian traditions including the Anglican one. Nathan is a member of St. Andrew's but is also involved at St. Mary's House, where he has been co-convening the Centering Prayer and Taizé Prayer with me. (We are on break for July-August but will resume our hour of contemplation -- half Centering Prayer, which is a Christian form of silent meditation, and half Taizé prayer, with chants from the Taizé community, readings, silence and simple prayers -- in the fall semester.) He also helped start a local chapter of Integrity. He is a wonderful young man with much enthusiasm and feels blessed to have found a welcoming and inclusive church with a strong and long historical tradition.

Finally I ask your prayers for me, Jane. I am in hermit mode, chugging to the finish on a very large and long theological project known to the general public as The Big Tome. I have burrowed deeper into solitude and struggle in order to get it done and it is very intense work, even when I am not working consciously. I am well and healthy, I get good nutrition and enough sleep, enjoy the solitude much of the time, and have the wonderful company of Maya Pavlova, Feline Bishop Extraordinaire. She is very good at sleeping, napping, being playful, and keeping me company at the keyboard. She usually sleeps all afternoon but in the evening she tends to be in supervisory mode and hang out here in the study. I have no idea what she does in the morning, since I am keeping odd hours and am asleep much of the a.m. +Maya does come and visit after the alarm clock rings and usually settles on my chest for a while. She is a very civilized cat and does not wake me at 6 a.m. as some other cats are wont to do to their human companions.

I need and welcome your prayers, good vibrations, chants, meditations, and other holy expressions of support. Thank you! Come, Holy Spirit.*

*That's a link to the Taizé chant "Veni lumen" -- "Come, light" in Latin. "Come, Holy Spirit, light of our hearts," etc.

It is beastly hot here in Greensboro as in much of the Eastern part of the U.S. but I do have an air conditioning unit in the study and another in the kitchen/dining room, so I am managing, though the air conditioning is noisy and it is odd to be spending 90 to 95% of my time indoors in the summer. The phlox are blooming outdoors and surviving nicely. The humans, however, are wilting.

Peace to you all, and to all sentient beings.

A photo for fans of +Maya Pavlova

I posted this on Facebook, but those of you who are only blog-readers will enjoy this too, I hope. I took it with the BlackBerry phone camera, so it's a bit fuzzy, but it captures the mood, which is "Ooh, clean laundry!" Not warm, since it had been there for a few days (and to the right you can see the plastic enclosing a freshly dry-cleaned comforter I had brought home around the same time, that's what the shiny thing is) but a great temptation for cats. I'm surprised she didn't burrow in there sooner, but she has other places to go. This was just a brief sojourn.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thoughts on church, change, and living the Gospel: more from Sölle and Naudé (1985)

A follow-up on yesterday's post.

From earlier in the 1985 interview with Beyers Naudé and Dorothee Sölle:  

... If we mean by the church mainly the institution, the structure, the visible, traditional symbols, then I believe that the church, in that sense, will experience one crisis after another, until it comes to the recognition, understanding, that the church, in the real sense of the word, is where the people of God are, where life is being discovered again, the true meaning of love, of human community, of mutual concern for one another, of caring of people, of seeking true meaningful relationship, understand between people, not only between Christians but between all people. Therefore, in that sense I am very hopeful about what is happening, not only in our country [South Africa], but also in other countries, because there are new perspectives, of the Christian faith and of truth, which are being discovered and which are being, as it were, agonized about by so many small groups of people... If I think of South Africa, what encourages me is the fact that sometimes the most meaningful revelation about a new understanding of Christian faith and about the Christian church and about Christian community comes from the poorest, comes from those communities which are normally not seen to be the ones with authority or with power, or comes from those who normally never believe themselves to have any real message. But when you begin to listen to what they are saying, it is absolutely marvellous ... to discover how little I know and how much I need to be constantly converted, in my whole understanding, in my whole willingness, therefore, in true humility to sit at the feet of such people, and learn and hear. ...In that sense I believe there is a tremendous future for the Christian community in the world.

I agree... I think the growth of the true church today comes not from within but from the outside, from the peace groups, from the women's groups, from those groups who in certain fields of post-Christian culture live and think and understand more and more the meaning of the gospel, rather than those who claim to be masters of the gospel, namely those white male, middle-class theologians. ... I think that there is a growth of faith in new forms all over the world, and some of the signs of it are very classical signs, it's base communities..., it is martyrdom, which is one of the classical signs of where does the church live and grow. We in the first world, in relative freedom, don't experience martyrdom in the strict sense of the word. But I think we have to prepare ourselves and others in our midst for more restrictions, discrimination. The price to be a Christian will be higher in the next twenty years, will become higher and higher; it will be much tougher, if you really want to be a Christian. ...I think Christ didn't promise us victory. I think that would be an illusion. Christ promised us life, and that includes death. Christ didn't tell us that we would win. Other people tell us that all the time... We hope to win; we fight to win; we give our blood and our lives... but I think we cannot understand our own struggle in terms of success and non-success.

Hope for Faith: A Conversation
jointly published by Eerdmans and the World Council of Churches in 1986

A post on a related topic (Sölle on the church), from last summer: click here.

This post is especially in response to Claire's comment in the previous post.

Taking the long view

C.F. Beyers Naudé and Dorothee Sölle, at the end of a long interview-conversation in 1985.

(Published first in Dutch --the conversation took place in the Netherlands-- the interview came out in English as Hope for Faith: A Conversation, jointly published by Eerdmans and the World Council of Churches in 1986.)


I think Christ didn't promise us victory... Christ promised us life, and that includes death. Christ didn't tell us that we would win. Other people tell us that all the time... We hope to win; we fight to win; we give our blood and our lives... but I think we cannot understand our own struggle in terms of success and non-success.


Well, the question that I would like to put to you would be this: Do you, in yourself, have the strength to endure whatever may come to you by way of disappointment, by way of rejection, by way of non-recognition, by way of waiting, perhaps your whole life, without being able to participate in the victory of the truth that you are standing for? Do you believe that you will be able to sustain yourself through these years up to the very end?


I am thinking of a friend's answer to that when I was in a state of despair, and had this sense of meaninglessness and never reaching anything, and then he talked about the cathedrals which were built during the Middle Ages. Most of them were built over 200 years, some over 300 years even, and some of the workers in those cathedrals never saw the whole building, they never went to pray there, they never saw the glass and all the beautiful things they gave their life for. And then this friend said to me: "Listen, Dorothee, we who are building the cathedral of peace, maybe we won't see it either. We will die before it is complete, and yet we are going to build it. We are going on even if we won't live in that building." 



Sunday, July 4, 2010

Still life with ginger and chiles in china-red bowl


The bowl was made by a local potter who is a former Guilford English professor.  I remember his saying that the glaze is a Chinese red. I got the bowl a couple of years ago.

The red jalapeños and slim green hot hot hot peppers (I forget their name, they are too big to be serranos, I think) are from yesterday's farmers' market. 40 cents for the lot.

Still life with peaches and ginger

And rolled oats and garlic and regular lentils and French lentil - and phlox and hydrangea.

Farmers' market postscript, Part II

 Photos taken at home today, again with the BlackBerry.



Took several of the tomatoes and even without artificial light they had that shiny reflection - some from the window light, some from the flash. Will photograph with another camera without flash tomorrow to see if I can get a better picture.  The Cherokee Purple tomatoes are delicious.   These are all heirloom tomatoes. 

Farmers' market postscript, Part I

The goat milk camembert from Goat Lady Dairy was to die for.  Is to die for.  I had some yesterday but there is plenty left. I took this photo yesterday a few hours after returning from the farmers' market.

Sisters and brothers!  Do NOT serve cheese straight out of the refrigerator! Take it out ahead of your meal and serve it at room temperature.  For a camembert, don't start storing the cheese in the fridge till you are sure it is ripe.  Then you can start storing it in the fridge, taking it out at least an hour before you plan to eat some of it or serve it to your guests.  Even a hard cheddar will taste better with time to lose its chill and remember its original taste and texture.

This camembert is perfect.  It is runny but still a little firm in the middle.

Have this as a cheese course (after the main course -- I even sometimes have it as the main course, after a big salad), not at the beginning of the meal. Camembert is best with a crusty bread, like a baguette or ciabatta (it needs a good crumb on it as well as a good crust) but a non-crusty one will do.  I tried it with a dense whole-wheat bread from a new bakery I discovered at the farmers' market and it was very good.

Below is a photo (taken from Goat Lady Dairy's website) of the original Goat Lady, Ginnie, who died last year.  Members of the Tate family continue to run the farm and dairy.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Farmers' market bounty, July 3

Tomatoes from Peterson Farm.

The photos are selective, as I tend to buy from the smaller farms that do sustainable agriculture.  (At this market, those farms are mostly not certified organic but they use no pesticides and watch their farming methods in a variety of other ways.  It costs $ to get certified.  One of the best such farms is Peterson Farm, and it has a blog! There are some great photos of the farm there.)  

There were larger displays like the one in the photo immediately below and there was also a lot of good people-photography opportunity, but I didn't have the portrait camera with me, only the BlackBerry in my pocket and my several shopping bags, which rapidly grew heavy with vegetables, fruits, and goat cheeses.

Not sure of the name of this farm.

I went to the market out on Stony Ridge Road in Colfax, off Route 40, not the downtown one near the old stadium.  I prefer this one in the summer most of the time.  Initially I only went to the downtown market when I first lived here. This market one is more basic-NC-folks and much less hippie-lefty and not so connected with the Slow Food Movement, though the Goat Lady Dairy people are at both markets.  Happily for me.  When I became a finalist for my current job at Guilford College, I googled "goat cheese Greensboro" to see what I could find, and sure enough, Goat Lady Dairy popped up; that's when I knew I could manage living here.  Seriously.

Interesting-looking squash from Peterson Farm.

Peterson Farm again. Yum.

Okra from Peterson Farm too.  I just bought one box.

This was a small family farm stand. 

Berries are among the higher-in pesticides fruit but I couldn't resist, and since this isn't an industrial-sized farm, the berries may be less toxic than the ones in the supermarket. I decided to take my chances, and I'll rinse the berries well.  I went for the "3 for $6" deal and got one pint of each of the berries: two kinds of blueberries --they really do taste different-- and big juicy blackberries.

Can't remember name of farm here.  
It's not one I remember from other times I've been at this market. 
Those onions look fabulous! 
They are going to go into one dish with squash 
and another made with okra and tomatoes. 
And I'll still have some left over.  
Four or five of these onions go a long way in the flavor department.

The first corn of the year is out in full glory.  More later in the weekend (when I add more text here) on the white vs. yellow corn disputes in my family.  This is a white corn variety called "Avalon," very sweet, and it turns pale yellow when cooked. I had these two ears for lunch. Here they are post-steaming and pre-seasoning.

And here they are mid-lunch. Olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Nice alternative to butter if you are watching your butterfat intake or if you are a vegan.

I thought to myself, "Well, we are in North Carolina" when I saw these, but that was my bad and my nasty stereotyping.  I am an ignoramus. The true origins of whoopie pies are Pennsylvania Amish and New England.  I looked this up after I got home.  But anyway, there they were. I didn't buy any.

These are all BlackBerry photos. I'll take at least the Nikon digital camera with me next time.  It will fit into a big pocket and I can pull it out easily. 

Pledging Allegiance: a reflection on Christian commitment and community on Independence Day weekend

Ann Fontaine of Episcopal Café fame asked on Facebook what we were planning to do for our churches tomorrow when Sunday falls on July 4.

When I was writing lectionary reflections (meditations to help people who are either preaching or reflecting on the readings assigned for the Sunday in question) a few years back for the late lamented magazine The Witness, I wrote this --and later preached a related sermon-- for the feast of All Saints.  

Though this was an All Saints' Day meditation, it may be apt for July 4 with its "Pledging Allegiance" theme and its reminder of the "Where do we place our security?" question of the 1980s religiously based disarmament movement and the question about who, what, is our primary community

Not to take away from love of country (for the record, I get misty-eyed at "America the Beautiful" -- and at "This Land Is Your Land" :-)) and struggle for independence -- just to put patriotism in perspective.

Cross-posted on Facebook