This winter, please, dear Lord
Send us a real good storm
One where we’re all snowed in
. . .
We who get so uptight
Need a good snowball fight
And should be forced to ski
To rent a DVD
So heap it up to the window sill
Make the mad world stand still
Bury us Lord
Under a real good storm -- Peter Mayer (the Minnesota one)
We are giddy around here, anticipating a real good SNOW tomorrow! For people who fear every winter is our last (and I mean that our in the collective sense, and winter in the meteorological sense), there's nothing like a prediction of 6-10 inches to lift the spirits.
Now, those of you who hate shoveling and long for wearing your sandals again, I don't want to hear any whining. It's almost December, and you live in Minnesota. The larger climate pattern of the earth favors you summer people anyway. Let us have our snow days. .. lots of them, please.
I am such a sucker for seasonal books, especially Advent ones. My newest purchase is from Paraclete Press, which has been putting out some of the most downright beautiful (in the visual sense) Christian books lately. God With Us got my attention with lovely art as well as an unusual mix of contributors: John Richard Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris, Scott Cairns, and Eugene Peterson, among others. I'll be eager to read it. . . slowly. They also have an online subscription available for the Advent/Christmas season, but I had to go for the real paper.
Here's an image for all of you fellow preachers out there, getting ready to proclaim with John the Baptist, "prepare ye the way of the Lord." My colleague Warren has been a regular participant in RAGBRAI, the annual (Des Moines) Register and Gazette Bike Ride Across Iowa. A few years ago Warren met the man whose job it is to GPS every pothole along the course each spring so that the highways folks can smooth out the road for the 10,000 or so riders who will make the ride in July. Preparing the way is not about "making a list and checking it twice" or starting your shopping in September, but maybe it does require the kind of up close attention to the state of our souls that this gentleman pays to the roads.
One of my husband's colleagues in the world of urban planning has a great new blog, live.eat.play.Twin Cities, a New Urbanist's (and new Mom's) take on all that is wonderful about the neighborhoods of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Take a look. If you live here, it will make you proud you do. If you don't, it may help you explain the rabid look of pride in Minnesotans' eyes when they speak of home.
I just finished Fieldwork, by Mischa Berlinski, who will be at the Festival of Faith and Writing this spring. As the LA Times reviewer said, it's a "entertaining and surprisingly readable novel of ideas." Occasionally it plods in backstory; which makes a lot more sense when you consider he started out writing a work of nonfiction. It was going to be about the work of Christian missionaries in the mountains of Thailand, and ended up being about a particular anthropologist and a fictional people called the Dyalo.
This would be an interesting read alongside The Poisonwood Bible, because Berlinski's missionaries are believable and sympathetic characters. His narrator doesn't need to shake a finger at them for cultural insensitivity, and he never lets us believe that we understand the Dyalo any better than the missionaries do. For all the "telling" that happens in this novel, Berlinski "shows" when it most matters, and allows us to draw our own conclusions about culture, faith, and the mysteries of the spirit.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of the prophet
lately. For one thing, it’s Advent, and we’re about to get our annual shout
from John – the Baptist, the one to whom Lutherans don’t generally give a lot
In the absence of credible Christian prophets these days, we
have some thoroughly secular folk taking on the cause of waking us up. There’s
the Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping warning
us of the Shopocalypse, and plenty of environmentalists telling us to wake up,
I am sympathetic to these messengers, and like to think that
I am pretty awake myself, on my better days. But the pastoral side of me wonders
about the long-term effects of fire and brimstone. I suspect that some people
enjoy getting a good beating on a Sunday morning, feeling bad for awhile and
thus being certain that they’ve done their emotional penance. Then they go back
Or, there’s the effect Janisse Ray wrote about recently in
Orion, in which the true believers gather, tsk tsk at all those who are deaf to
the message, and then head home, ignoring any further changes they may personally need to make. What if “the choir” is not really doing that much better than middle America? If I know
about global warming and believe in
it, does that automatically make me more righteous than the doubters? Am I
justified merely by my faith in the wrath to come?
Here’s the irony: many of these “prophets” have long since
eschewed any semblance of religious faith. In fact, many of them assume that churchgoing
Christians like me are the opposition rather than allies. If you asked them
about matters of heaven and hell, personal righteousness or eternal judgment,
they’d probably insist that they don’t believe in judgment. But they sure as
heck use the language of guilt, sin, shame and, sometimes, fear – as well as and
sometimes better than street corner prophets. Walter Brueggeman argued in
Sojourners recently that Rev. Billy is most definitely using the methods of Old
Testament prophecy (e.g. performance art) in his Starbucks tirades. These
prophets believe firmly in the end of the world as we know it. They just think God has no part in it.
I’m pretty sure that the end of the world as we know it will
come about through human hands. We can create a shopocalypse, an end to oil, a
global climate crisis without any intervention at all, thank you very much. But
I’m also pretty sure that sustained, hopeful, joyous resistance to the status
quo needs something more than my humanity – it needs my trust in a God more
powerful than my own sleepy soul.
What wakes us up best – the screaming smoke alarm or the sounds
of nature? I’m not sure either one works perfectly for everyone. For some the
rude awakening just arouses anger at the source of the noise; others are just
too darned exhausted to let anything wake them.
It’s been years since I needed an alarm in the morning. I
have something much better now – my children. Their voices are insistent,
piercing and still beautiful. And they need me, now more than ever, to wake up.
Three cheers for the National Wildlife Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council for sponsoring this new Catalog Choice website, where you can opt out of most major catalog mailings. This is one of those things I've been meaning to do for a long time, but never have wanted to endure the phone call hell such a request usually requires. With this, there's no sales person badgering you -- "Are you REALLY sure?". You just create an account and click away. (Of course, I just found out about this, so we'll really see how well it works in another 6 weeks or so).
Yes, I want to save some trees, but I also want the "buy, buy, buy" message to stop coming daily to my mailbox. If I need something, I'll still find it online, but I don't need these people creating new desires via glossy photos every day. It's those desires that have the worst impact on the environment in the long run.
My friend Jenell managed to find something useful to say about the program in homemaking that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern Baptist) is offering only to women. Not surprisingly, her blend of compassion and wit made it onto the LA Times Op Ed page. Go Jenell! Well said.
I went to a Disney movie last night, and I enjoyed it. It
was, as all the reviewers have noted, new territory for Disney, spoofing its
own star brand, The Princess. Creating
Giselle, a Cinderella- Snow White - Briar Rose – Ariel- Belle amalgam, the
makers have thrust their cherished meme into the (sort-of) real world of New
York City, where she must find her way, at least until her True Prince finds
her. They manage to make you laugh at all the truly laughable qualities of the
Princess while still letting you care about her enough that, in the end, you
don’t resent the storybook ending one bit.
Well, maybe a little bit. At first, the movie seems like a
wink at moviegoers my age, who have figured out that the princess dreams we
grew up with were not necessarily our allies in facing the realities of modern
love and marriage. OK, Enchanted admits, love at first sight is not the wisest
basis for a lifelong relationship. The Princess is even allowed to get angry –
in fact, this anger is the pivotal moment in the movie. They even let her
rescue her guy, sort of.
I would be a scrooge to begrudge the ending, in which
Princess simultaneously gets her guy and grows to appreciate some of the contours
of real life relationship. At least they don’t kill off the mature, assertive,
rival girlfriend. But the lapse into
fantasy that most irritated me was when Giselle steps into a maternal role.
What, you may ask, seals the deal with her potential stepdaughter? A high end shopping spree capped by a
mother-daughter pedicure. “Is this what
it’s like?” the little girl asks. “What?” Giselle says. “When your Mom takes
you shopping.” Yes, there it is, the real thing that binds us to one another
in families: shared self-indulgence. That’s the scene I don’t want my little
girl to see.
The moment that most encapsulates the Disney mythology is near
the beginning, when the realist father gives his six-year-old a book of
heroines: Rosa Parks, Marie Curie. He wants her to have it instead of the
fairytale book she wants, he explains, because these are real life women. “See?
Madame Curie,” he points, “she devoted her life to science and research, and ..
uh . . . died of radiation poisoning.” Every man’s dream for his little girl.
There’s the rub. Fairytales never end with the heroine
actually dying. Actually, some of
them do, just not Disney’s Americanized versions of them. Despite a Disney ban
at our house, we still have lots of princess fantasies going on, and I’ve made
my peace with them by reading – reading the original tales by Hans Christian Anderson or even the
Brothers Grimm, as harsh as they may be. There is some very deep archetypal stuff going
on with the good and evil in these tales – they have survived for a reason.
Yes, mature and good women are often
lacking in these stories, but I’m secure enough in my motherhood to believe
that this alone won’t warp our mother-daughter relationship. And if I’m reading
to her instead of popping in a video, I am neither the Absent Mother nor the
Evil Stepmother. And maybe she’ll be less likely to assume that a true princess
has to have a microwaist and a $70 manicure.
Journey with Jesus is featuring a series of guest essays for the season of Advent, including pieces by Nora Gallagher and Sara Miles in upcoming weeks. This week's is from Joan Roughgarden a Christian evolutionary biologist who teaches at Stanford. I'm afraid the last writer in the series will be a bit of a letdown after this line-up. But, in the spirit of Advent, we'll just have to wait and see.