The Entertainment Report

The problem with delayed updates is that there is way too much to say!

There have been movies! There have been books! There has been music!

Not to mention the Inauguration, two trips, one to Roanoke and one to Richmond and the anticipation of starting Spring term on the 4th!

Let’s start with the movies. I saw Slumdog Millionaire right before it won a bunch of Golden Globes so I was right there with them when they celebrated their unexpected win. It’s a gorgeous film, full of the tragic bittersweet comedy of life, set in India and somehow illuminates the paradox of savage beauty that exists there… the poverty and caste systems that grind people up and spit them out and the joyful triumph of overcoming it.

I also checked out StepBrothers on DVD and thought it was quirky and sweet if forgettable. I felt like the director watched the movie several times and purposefully added gross out humor in to the slow spots to juice it up for the primo demographic for that film…young adult males. While visiting my mom in Richmond during the Inauguration we also watched Appaloosa, a western featuring Scott Glen, Viggo Mortensen and Renee Zelwegger. It was entertaining and had flashes of humor. Zelwegger irritates the spit out of me a good half of the times I see her in films. Don’t know what it is. However, she looks really cute in an upcoming film called New in Town.

Now on to Books: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger is a fantastic read. It is so well written and engrossing that everything I’ve read since suffers in comparison. Better reviewers than I have described this novel which wrapped around my heart the way Huckleberry Finn did when I was a child, still my all time favorite.

Dead for 10 minutes before his father orders him to breathe in the name of the living God, Reuben Land is living proof that the world is full of miracles. But it’s the impassioned honesty of his quiet, measured narrative voice that gives weight and truth to the fantastic elements of this engrossing tale. From the vantage point of adulthood, Reuben tells how his father rescued his brother Davy’s girlfriend from two attackers, how that led to Davy being jailed for murder and how, once Davy escapes and heads south for the Badlands of North Dakota, 12-year-old Reuben, his younger sister Swede and their janitor father light out after him. But the FBI is following Davy as well, and Reuben has a part to play in the finale of that chase, just as he had a part to play in his brother’s trial. It’s the kind of story that used to be material for ballads, and Enger twines in numerous references to the Old West, chiefly through the rhymed poetry Swede writes about a hero called Sunny Sundown. That the story is set in the early ’60s in Minnesota gives it an archetypal feel, evoking a time when the possibility of getting lost in the country still existed. Enger has created a world of signs, where dead crows fall in a snowstorm and vagrants lie curled up in fields, in which everything is significant, everything has weight and comprehension is always fleeting. This is a stunning debut novel, one that sneaks up on you like a whisper and warms you like a quilt in a NorthDakota winter, a novel about faith, miracles and family that is, ultimately, miraculous.Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

I’ve also been meandering through The New Kings of Nonfiction edited by Ira Glass
It’s a collection of the best new non fiction writers stories. Magazine and newspaper articles written with emotional engagement and cleverness, wit and more than a touch of humor. It’s great on the metro on my way to church.

There’s also been some interesting music. I watched Oprah quite by accident on the 19th and saw the premier of America’s song. It was incredibly inspiring. Sung by will.i.am, Faith Hill, Seal, Mary J. Blige and Bono it somehow reminded me that America isn’t hampered because of it’s differences and divisions but strengthened by them. Check it out!

Then there was a trip to Roanoke the weekend before the Inauguration. Had dinner at Grace’s Place pizza which turned out to be very tasty and inexpensive and then went and had hot beverages to keep warm at Mill Mountain coffee downtown. I love their English Breakfast tea which they serve in a little pot. Tastes so much better than bags or even sachets. I went home and had a glass of wine and caught up on some TV before snuggling up and sleeping all tangled up, safe and secure and utterly at peace for the first time in weeks.

The next morning I had warm bagels and watched the news and vegged out until 3 in the afternoon when I went out to meet my friends Christina and Jennifer and her adorable girls.  Afterwards we went to the good ol’ Fork in the Alley for an early dinner/late lunch before I had to head home. They have killer hot dawgs. Almost as good as the Dew Drop…almost. I can’t wait to eat there next month! That’s the first place I am eating when I go home for Mardi Gras. I am gonna’ have a chili cheese burger, fries and fried okra! Mmmm. Too bad my daughter won’t be with me, she always got the onion rings and I usually swiped one. I could never eat more than that, but I liked having one. We went home where we lingered for a while before loading up both cars and then saying our goodbyes. It was a wonderful tonic though to see me through until the 30th.

After I came back and worked most of the day Sunday at the 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. services Sunday, I was so overwhelmed by the crowds on the metro on my way back home that I decided to go to Richmond for the rest of the Inaugural. There must have been several thousand people crammed into the train I squeezed on to. It was only 2 stops before they exited at the stop closest to the Lincoln Memorial where they were going to attend the free concert there, but the station was crammed with people too, and the people who exited had very little room on the platform to get off the train onto. Phew. Once they were off though it was OK until I got off at the last station. When I parked there in the morning it was practically empty. Now they had barricades up and lines had formed. They were checking every person before they went through the turnstiles. It was scary. All the more reason to hit the road.

I went home, did some laundry, packed my car and bailed. I couldn’t reach my mom on the phone so she was a little surprised when I woke her up banging on the door, but happy to see me none the less. She was off for a bit so we got to spend some quality time together. We went to dinner at Carrabas, got a couple of videos and then ran some errands together the next day. I played with my puppy dog the whole time and he slept with me too. I miss him a bunch and get to pick him up to take home on the 29th.

In the meantime, there is Ice Skating at the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Art on Friday, I give my 3rd sermon in the big church at the 12:10 on Monday (!) and it’s on Paul’s conversion no less. I have Saturday off to do something fun and I am giving a presentation on using technology to grow your church on Tuesday to the Church Growth committee. So lots of stuff to look forward to.

I have one solitary ache in my heart but I am counting on God to assuage it. I trust that he will. He is all that I ever need.

Ruminating silently… alas

I say silently because I have lost my voice.

Lately I have become something of a regular listener to several Christian pop musicians. It all started in Sunday school. We’ve introduced a new less “craft based” curriculum and we also have a large age range in the class so I’ve tried to play some of the videos from the older Live Big curriculum we used last year. It features mainstream artists and most of the kids just get glued to the TV when it comes on. I noted down the names of some of the artists that appealed to them and then purchased them from iTunes. I am planning on burning a CD for them for this Sunday.

My favorites are:

Leeland

Phil Wickham

Krystal Meyers

Brandon Heath

The kids love this song called “Dive” by Steven Curtis Chapman

Mom has purchased me a used Nissan Sentra and I will get it at the end of the month. Her stuff will get moved on the 13th and I will be moving on the 15th. My housewarming/jewelry party is supposed to be on the 16th. I had lunch with my new roommate today and I look forward to hanging out with her. Fall formal is this Saturday and I and my group of friends are very excited about that.I also have a terrible cold. Laryngitis. It started with a vicious three day migraine over the weekend.  I am a pretty bad patient. I usually refuse to rest and attempt to go on as if there is nothing wrong until I either pass out or end up in the hospital. I am due to turn in poetry this week.

There is the election of course. I am sitting here writing while sweating out the wait for the results of the biggest election of my lifetime so far. I voted early and eagerly. I’ve been champing at the bit. I just want Obama to win and be done with it. I need the hope. We are seconds to some projections.

Vermont to Obama
Kentucky to McCain

All else still too close to call. The tension is unbearable. I think my heart will just break if this election goes against Obama.
So I pray.

I was directed during prayer to hold off on visiting Yale so I canceled that trip. I was thrilled to be awarded a competitive internship in DC. I’ll get to work at the “Church of the President’s” right across the street from the White House. I have planned my Spring schedule and I am going to try and switch to working weeknights instead of weekends.

Much cheering on TV since Obama has picked up a few more states! He is leading in the electoral count 102 to 34. We are still waiting on Virginia.

Recently ate at Tony Pope’s. I have always had wonderful meals there. The food is probably the best in town. The only complaint you can make about it is the service which is not bad, just so unaware and inexperienced as to be incompetent. Young. But every time I go there, Tony Pope himself has in some way made the night special. When I called to see what was on the menu, I left a message asking about it. He personally called back and left me a message with the details of the night’s menu. When they were out of what I wanted, I asked if he could just make me some pasta with vegetables, which was the side, but he offered me anything on the menu for the price of the missing entree. I had the steak! It was so delicious. Perfectly cooked.I was very happy with the meal, it was the best I’ve had in Roanoke.

I recently had dinner at 202. I’d eaten there before, about a year ago when they first opened. I tried it a few times, but thought the chef used too many ingredients and tried too hard to justify the over priced menu. Things have changed. The vibe is laid back, prices lower and the service is attentive, professional and expert. Probably some of the best service I’ve had in Roanoke. I ordered Truffled Gnocchi and Carpaccio. The Gnocchi came out quickly, was cooked perfectly, and had delicious crumbles of blue cheese casually scattered throughout. I ate it in a jiffy. It’s a small plate, actually an appetizer, and scrumptious. They have a nice brand of tea called Tea Forte there as well. The server brought me out “one perfect scallop” compliments of the chef. I’ve never eaten a scallop, I don’t really eat seafood, except for shrimp and crab. Shrimp because they are basically brainless and crab because they are mean scavengers that pinch children, kill fish and deserve to die.

So she brought me this scallop, which I felt I then HAD to taste. I might not be a big scallop fan, but it was extremely fresh, cooked to an exact translucent temperature, and browned golden on top. It was served with some delectable little sauce smears. After sampling it, my carpaccio was served, and it was tender and sweet, and not nearly enough. I finished my meal with a well executed classic creme brulee. The portion was large. I would have preferred a mini dessert like Metro.

I miss my daughter, I miss my voice. I hate being sick. 😦

I think I need something warm to drink for my throat.

On the bright side, any minute now, Obama is going to win the Presidency!!!

What a happy, happy day.

Warning: Girly Stuff Ahead

Tonight I decided to go to Metro and indulge myself a little. A very little. Honestly I am a little stressed out about my mother moving away. I knew it was coming and I am cool with it, but it doesn’t make me happy. I will miss having her at home at night, caring whether I am home or not, eating or not, healthy or not. It makes me long for the days of salon visits and retail therapy. What I wouldn’t give for a mani/pedi, a decent salon hair treatment and a facial. I’d love to follow that up with an afternoon of shopping at some of my favorite stores, J. Crew, Ann Taylor Loft, Banana Republic and the Apple Store. Sigh. Maybe a little detour into Williams-Sonoma.

Those were the days. When money and things ruled my life. 🙂

Just kidding. There definitely is a part of me that misses that lifestyle, but its a very small part.

So tonight I used a great little coupon I got in email after signing up to Metro’s mailing list. 50% off an appetizer. I was helped by a very earnest gentleman named Justin. I started with my usual Lavender Earl Grey Tea by the Republic of Tea. I once complained that they didn’t have Rooibos or English Breakfast tea at Metro, but it was there that I first was forced to try this version of Earl Grey and it is now my current addiction. For a starter, I decided to try their French Onion Soup. I’ve been eying it for a while and I wondered how it was. It was boiling hot but delicious. They used one of their now Perfect yeast rolls as a crouton. I especially liked the Gruyere they had grated into the soup. Yummy.

For my entree I got another appetizer. I chose a repeat of the miso glazed beef I had last time on a smear of apple butter. It wasn’t the Kobe beef that they originally featured, but it was still flavorful, rare and delicious. I had the Pot du Creme, and felt a nice little purr settle in my tummy.

This was my second trip to Metro in the last week and a half. I met a colleague who leads the youth ministry from church there last week and we had a wonderful meal on the sidewalk outside. It’s a great time of year to eat in their outdoor dining area. We enjoyed the sushi happy hour. (50% off from 6-7 every day on all sushi) I always order the same thing, a shrimp tempura roll, no tobiko, add cucumber and add avocado. We split some edamame, which is outstanding there. It’s dressed with sea salt and lime. My entire meal with the sushi, edamame, tea and the usual pot du creme was under $20 including a 20% tip. I always tip a minimum of 20%.

I don’t want to get too much into politics or the financial crisis because it make me a tiny bit aggravated. OK, a lot aggravated. I find myself agreeing with Dennis Kucinich about the idea of trying a New Deal approach, a bottom up investment into the infrastructure of this country rather than this immoral idea of investing into the top of the economy and hoping it will trickle down.

My poetry was workshopped and will require a lot of revision. I am pining a bit for my absent loved one. He lives in a city two hours away and when I mapped my semester, I made sure to be busy beyond belief. I planned on not dating or being involved. I certainly did not plan on him. I think about Fall Formal and try to find a Sari to wear. The theme is “Marigold Dreams” and it is loosely based on Monsoon Wedding, or the idea of a modern Indian Wedding. So everyone is planning on wearing a Sari for the girls and Indian attire, Nehru jackets or Jodphuri suits for the guys, the food will be Indian and we’ll have performers, mendhi for our hands and a themed specialty drink.

I just want to be beautiful and be light as a feather. I am getting a bunch of my friends to go too and can’t wait to dance and be surrounded by people I care about. There’s something magical about a dance. Especially a formal dance. It brings out the fairy tale in every girl and it’s romantic to be at a ball accompanied by a handsome prince.

When I say Weekend Baby, I mean WEEKEND

I saw The Rocker on Friday night. I love Rainn Wilson on The Office, he plays a character named Dwight Shrute who somehow manages to steal the show. (In my opinion.) I wasn’t sure what to expect out of his feature debut as the lead character, though I had appreciated his cameo in Juno, and his roles in My Super Ex-Girlfriend and The Last Mimzy. This was really HIS film. He carried it off admirably. Rainn Wilson has such an unusual charisma about him, both dorky and charming, likable and vaguely off putting at the same time that he is a real magnet for the eye on screen. You are literally waiting to see what he will do next, his face can make the strangest gross out contortions and then moments later look bereft and all little boy lost. In this film he plays a man stuck in a moment that happened 20 years ago when he was booted from a band that went on to great fame. He has burned with rage ever since and when his Emo nephew asks Fish (Rainn) to sit in as the drummer for the Prom gig his band ADD has managed to scare up, all hell breaks loose. While the plot can be a bit predictable, what’s fresh are the supporting actors who play ADD, the nephew’s band. A couple of faces will be familiar from SuperBad. The performances all around add depth and development to the relationships in the film which relieve it of the one note gimmick it could have been in the wrong hands. Poignant and sweet with a clear message. I.E. hope and optimism and the values of friendship versus the values of shallow, self serving, self promoting pursuit of fame and wealth. Overall a nice little pic. A perfect Friday night flick. Also the added benefit of seeing it at the Grandin.

On Saturday a good friend from Greensboro came up to visit and we had lunch at Metro to try their new Emma pies, kind of like a little popover invented by the owner’s 5 year old daughter. It was ham and Gruyere cheese rolled into fresh baked yeast rolls. In theory it sounded wonderful and for only $6, with hand cut fries, quite a deal. Only, it came to the table cold which was a real disappointment. I enjoyed the fries and had a nice cup of very fragrant Revolution Teas Earl Grey. They have a semi decent selection of teas there, though I have to mention they do not carry my two favorites, staples in my estimation: Rooibos and English Breakfast. Since I ate there for dinner on Friday at Sushi Happy Hour as well, I feel like I should get frequent flier miles or something. I did get OpenTable points. 🙂 After lunch we went to see Tropic Thunder. Again for me, which was twice as good as the first time. No, wait, just as funny the second time around. I also read about a new film with RDJ coming out soon called The Soloist, perhaps then I can slake my thirst with a bit more screen time for him. After that I had to rush home to get attired for work. I served at an 80th birthday party for a judge. He and his wife were wonderfully sweet and charming and I enjoyed working with them and my team mates to ensure the party met their expectations. One funny thing happened, the wife wanted to add confetti streamers to the tables and had brought them, but couldn’t figure out how to unfurl them. I say funny because every child in Mobile, Alabama has thrown reams of those streamers at Mardi Gras, so it was interesting to use a childhood skill in this capacity. She was happy I was able to take care of it for her because she was really having the dickens of a time with it. We served the wine and cheese, and several vodka tonics along with it. Grey Goose was the most popular brand with this crowd. Then they had shrimp cocktail, salad and a plated dinner before we led them in the singing of the traditional birthday anthem for the guest of honor. A lovely party all in all. It did run late which was a shame.

I had to dash home, jump in the shower and get all dressed to go out with my friend for a drink. We went back to Metro, which turns into a nightclub after 10 and had a Stoli Cosmo and danced to a great mix starting with Viva La Vida by Coldplay all spun by a visiting DJ. We then headed over to 202 for a little Latin salsa to close out the evening. With all of that I slept in this morning, only dragging myself out of the house in time to meet for a late breakfast at noon at Ye Olde Cracker Barrel. Comfort Food. Just a scrambled egg and biscuit, and a nice cuppa tea and then we went off to the mall to window shop for a while. We talked and browsed the book store before I got dropped off at church for the 5pm service where I was reading the Prayers of the People and my friend headed back to Greensboro to tutor a student.

I’m in a real Amy Winehouse mood for some reason. A couple of her songs have been with me for the last 2 days so those will be my songs of the moment. One is a little melancholy and is about waking up alone and missing someone you care about. It’s very atmospheric, moody and filled with a mixture of longing and fear. Interesting song. It’s called Wake Up Alone. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black - Wake Up Alone The other Winehouse song that has been playing the back of my head is You Know I’m No GoodAmy Winehouse - Back to Black - You Know I'm No Good. I pretty much like this one because of the very creative and tangible writing style she uses, the language is fantastic, one line is “…and sniff me out like I was Tanqueray”. This song kind of lingers with you. As much as I dislike her lifestyle and choices, she certainly spins dross into gold. What a talent. But to finish on a high note, this last song has to be my happy summer song, Mr. Jason Mraz has delivered the goods before with Wordplay, and I’m Yours is even better because he’s not bragging about his Mad Skillz, but instead singing about unexpectedly falling for someone. Take a listen.Jason Mraz - We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things - I'm Yours

Here are the Lyrics to I’m Yours for those of you who can’t bear to click links. All my links do open New Windows or Apps (Like iTunes) though, as that is a pet peeve of mine. I hate being made to leave the page I am on.

I’m Yours: By Jason Mraz

Well you done done me and you bet I felt it
I tried to be chill but you’re so hot that I melted
I fell right through the cracks
and now I’m trying to get back

Before the cool done run out
I’ll be giving it my bestest
And nothing’s going to stop me
but divine intervention
I reckon it’s again my turn
to win some or learn some

But I won’t hesitate
no more
no more
It cannot wait
I’m yours

Well open up your mind and see like me
Open up your plans and damn you’re free
I look into your heart and you’ll find love love love love
Listen to the music of the moment, people dance and sing
We’re just one big family
And it’s our God-forsaken right to be loved loved loved loved loved

So I won’t hesitate no more, no more It cannot wait,
I’m sure There’s no need to complicate,
our time is short
This is our fate,
I’m yours

Do-da-do do dooj, do dooja, d-d-do, do you want to come?
Scooch on over closer dear,
and I will nibble your ear
Oh yes love, love love love love love
Love you love, love you love

I’ve been spending way too long
checking my tongue in the mirror
And bending over backwards just to try to see it clearer
But my breath fogged up the glass
And so I drew a new face and I laughed

I guess what I be saying is there ain’t no better reason
To rid yourself of vanities and just go with the seasons
It’s what we aim to do, our name is our virtue

But I won’t hesitate
no more, no more
It cannot wait,
I’m yours

Come on and open up your mind and see like me
(I won’t hesitate)
Open up your plans and damn you’re free
(No more, no more)
I look into your heart and you’ll find that the sky is yours
(It cannot wait, I’m sure)
So please don’t, please don’t, there’s no need
(There’s no need to complicate) There’s no need to complicate
(Our time is short) ‘Cause our time is short
(This is our fate) This is, this is, this is our fate
I’m yours, I’m sayin’
I’m yours

Thought, Word and Song

I am planning on incorporating some new features into my blog once in a while. The last one I added was the ability to subscribe to my postings via email, available above the calendar to the right. Today’s new feature and an ongoing one, is the song of the moment. It’s a song that I listened to more than once on any given day. Today’s song is Land of No Return by Wild Sweet Orange Wild Sweet Orange - We Have Cause to Be Uneasy - Land of No Return. You can listen to a sample by selecting the iTunes link/icon and it will open in your iTunes player. If you don’t have iTunes, then I truly think you need help. 🙂

Just kidding. But I highly endorse their product. I am a Windows user, but in some areas I think Apple makes sense. This is one of them. If I were to have 2 computers, my second would be a Mac.

Today was actually quite a happening day. I went to the White Oak Tea Tavern near Fincastle with the always wonderful Reverend Lisa Graves and we enjoyed our English Breakfast tea, me with cream and her without. I poured. We also had chicken salad served with warm fresh baked bread and grapes. Mine was full of cranberries, apples and pecans. She had the warm chicken salad complemented by spinach and Parmesan. The conversation was esoteric per usual and we discussed everything from mystical experiences, to the books we are reading, my daughter’s wedding, my somewhat recent broken heart and interactions with less than nice guys.

She asked about my plans for the upcoming year and I was happy to share them. I hope I can get the internship in January in DC. Yesterday I heard that the selected intern would also get to go to New Orleans for a couple of days to do some Katrina mission work. How cool is that?! They will even probably have scholarship money for the airfare. *sigh* I hope they pick me. I am anxious to see if it has improved after my last experience working there soon after the storm. It gave me a stomach ache to see what that storm did to that town. But to be in DC all of January. To get to go to the National Cathedral once in a while, to work in the “Church of the Presidents”… to be there during the inauguration! That would be spectacular.

After that I stopped in at the church and checked on website progress. There were a few glitches going on, but I think I’ve unkinked the worst of them and gotten things back on track. Thank heaven for Scott Sonia. He is my former Lead Designer and eventually Design Manager at Bose and quite brilliant. For friendship’s sake, he is looking over the CSS (programming) of the current template the resource at St.John’s is developing and helping him troubleshoot it. What a sweetie. I miss working with Scott. I also recently heard from another dear colleague. She was the Editor of Bose.com and the manager of all my writers. She is also sincerely missed and I think about her often. It’s really what I miss about Bose. The people that I loved and sometimes, just being able to work with people that understand what I am talking about when I get jargon heavy.

Of course now I am learning a whole new set of jargon and am a complete novice. Nothing like being a beginner to remind you of your humanity and ultimate powerlessness…and help you rejoice in that. It’s strange to believe it, but even a year ago I wasn’t where I am now. Sure I was in school, I knew I had to follow the path towards the priesthood. I felt that clearly it was what God wanted from me, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled with giving up my Audi and the 6 figure job or the power that went with it. I’m afraid I liked my $400 salon visits and weekly shopping trips. So it was with some amazement that I realized on my last trip to DC, that I didn’t look on people around me who were still living my former lifestyle with envy. Instead I just felt relieved. Relieved that I was over that part of my life. I think my belongings and trappings possessed me as much or more than I possessed them. Even a year ago, I would have come back from that trip and started looking at jobs in my former field with frustration and longing. But not anymore. Now I just feel…content. The most amazing and simplest realization I had during my internship had to be this…I really do belong in the church. It’s as if everything else I’ve worked on has been an exercise in trying to cram 10 lbs of potatoes into a 5 lb sack. Have you ever felt that way? You are always shrinking yourself to fit into an ill fitting role? That you make yourself less to accomplish the task at hand?

Or can you turn to a colleague and speak the most secret parts of who you are in almost a short hand, and they would understand? Or like me, you could witness a moment of worship on a high holy day of special transcendence and see the same reverence and joy reflected in their eyes. You suddenly know you aren’t alone. That they see what you’ve been seeing your whole life and that for once someone else understands. You are not alone. What a gift.

My mom, being a mom, said that the church was getting a good deal to have me work there for the summer so not to be too humble. But I just can’t see it that way. I feel so incredibly lucky to have found this, my vocation, what I was actually MADE FOR, that I am profoundly grateful for any little thing that I am allowed to do. Every time I serve at the altar it is euphoric. It is joyful. When I went to the nursing homes and administered the Eucharist with the Rev. Lisa Graves I felt like I was in the middle of a codeine buzz. I know what that feels like because I’ve taken it for migraines. Trust me, it feels really GOOD. So, if I am allowed to do this for the rest of my life it will be a tremendous gift.

An old friend recently got in touch and was featured in a magazine. I think that’s generic enough, because actually I have 2 old friends, who have both been featured in magazines recently. However, one of them has a pretty tough job according to this article. He’s kind of surrounded by people who have abandoned many of the tenets of behavior of say…an Atticus Finch. I use him as an example, because he is one of my heroes and an all around gentleman. So, my friend is surrounded by people who aren’t gentlemen, they’re churls, villains, punks. What effect can that have on him? Does it make him think that this behavior is the norm? Or is it the case that in the darkest of surroundings our own light shines the brightest? Can his own good example influence others? Perhaps he is the only positive influence for many of these misguided and lost boys. It really is a dilemma. It must seem unrelenting. I know it would to me, the endless profanity and adolescent humor. The lack of honor or principles. Most of all, an inability to show respect and courtesy. Of course, our society as a whole places less value on these basics of good citizenship. But that’s probably because citizenship is no longer taught in schools. After all, we aren’t citizens anymore, we’re consumers. And the consumer is always right. Since each consumer is an individual with no need to be conscious of the feelings, indeed existence of another human being, it makes it even easier to devolve into the crudest of social interactions. Anyway, it made me feel very sad for my friend and wish better for him. I always knew he would do well and go places. That is no surprise at all. I just wish for his sake that his travels might take him to a place where he can be surrounded by people that bring out the best in him, because it’s always better to use your superpowers for good rather than evil. 🙂

It was my second night on the job tonight and I worked with 2 young gentleman. I rather enjoyed their company. James and Stephen were very professional. I shadowed James but he actually just let me wait on his first table of 7 since tonight was “Prime Rib” night. That means there is a carving station with prime rib, a chicken dish, a couple of side dishes, rolls and a salad bar. I just made beverages and cleared plates. There was no bartender tonight so I got to make some drinks too. It’s actually a lot like hosting a party in your home since it is a private club. Everything is low key, it’s all charged under the members name and billed to them monthly so it’s very non restaurant feeling. It was fun tonight. Tomorrow I get to work at an 80th birthday party. I hope I get to sing Happy Birthday!

These last few days I have been thinking about love. How it enters your life, sometimes softly and sometimes like a bolt from the blue and how it leaves. Whether slowly, withering day by day or in fire or ice. Occasionally I see someone who reminds me of somebody who stole a little piece of my heart and for a moment some old loss washes over me anew. Just an instant and then I shake my head and it’s gone.

I like this poem, because it reminds me of that thought, of love, how it can permeate us, our lives.

Love Like Salt
by Lisel Mueller

It lies in our hands in crystals
too intricate to decipher

It goes into the skillet
without being given a second thought

It spills on the floor so fine

we step all over it

We carry a pinch behind each eyeball

It breaks out on our foreheads

We store it inside our bodies
in secret wineskins

At supper, we pass it around the table
talking of holidays and the sea.

I just read a fantastic interview with Barack Obama regarding his selection process for choosing his VP. He’s also just a really smart man, and what a pleasure to read such thoughtful, to the point answers to questions.

Today’s Sermon and Divine Inspiration

Sermons like the one given by The Reverend Barkley Thompson today at my church, St.John’s Episcopal in Roanoke, VA are convincing examples of the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit in action, at least in my own experience.

Very few people know how difficult it was to relinquish all of MY hopes and dreams for my daughter’s future and embrace hers. It sounds easy and like the right thing to do, but when your child decides to follow a path that diverges radically from yours and that of her closest family members it can feel like a rejection of all that you are as a parent and as a human being. Not to mention all that your family stands for. It causes feelings of loss, grief and failure. Deep sorrow. The death of a dream is still a death.

My daughter has embraced a strict version of Islam, while I an Episcopalian of boundless faith and many mystical experiences, have watched with dismay. Through prayer I have come to understand that this is her path to the holy and what she believes is the only way to God. This saddens me as much as it comforts me. Comforts me that she knows God, saddens me that she has to follow this path. How my heart ached for her on the day before her wedding. I once was in a similar position, wanting with all my heart a level of certainty and belonging I thought I could get by marrying and joining a community that would accept me completely if I adhered to their clearly spelled out rules. It was simple to understand if not easy to do. Not as confusing as the world I grew up in, where people said one thing but did another, promises were broken and parents no longer held children accountable. The world seemed like a dangerous place back then.

In time I learned that I was able to form my own order out of chaos and act with honor even if others did not. While I couldn’t control or even trust their behavior, I found comfort in acting in good faith. If I was occasionally disappointed, I learned from each experience and grew stronger and more compassionate. I failed myself and learned that forgiving others came easier than forgiving myself. In time though I even learned how to do that.

This morning’s sermon actually moved me so much tears came to my eyes. First I will post the relevant verse of the Bible and then Reverend Thompson’s sermon. If you can see the parallels between the Pharisees and modern day Muslims, as I did, you will understand the compassion that filled me and the love that welled up for my child. I so pray that she loses her fear some day and comes to understand the trust and safety that is the hallmark of faith. I wish that for her and for her new husband above all else.

Matthew 15:10-28 (New International Version)

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

10Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ “

12Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

13He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14Leave them; they are blind guides.[a] If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

15Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

16“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’ ”

21Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”

23Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

27“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

28Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

The True Model of Faith
Matthew 15:21-28, Pentecost 13, Year A
17 August 2008
By The Reverend Barkley Thompson

This morning’s Gospel passage is very difficult.  On the face of it, here’s what we see:  Jesus is sought out by a woman in need.  He insults her and only ultimately helps her because she won’t stop badgering him.  Jesus’ behavior, it seems, is hardly in keeping with one we call “Lord.”  Some have tried to excuse Jesus here by claiming that he is testing the woman’s faith, but to be honest, I find that interpretation of this passage noxious.  God doesn’t treat the hurting that way.  So what is going on here?  Well, to really understand this story we need to back up a bit.

Earlier in the fifteenth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus finds himself—for about the hundredth time—confronted by the Pharisees.  First century Pharisees, like all Palestinian Jews in that day, were faced with a real problem: secular culture was challenging their religious lives.  (Does that sound familiar?)  For years the Romans had ruled Palestine, and for centuries before that, the Greeks had been in charge.  During all that time, Greek culture, with its idols, its materialism, and its tendency toward nakedness and permissive sex had filtered into Jewish life.  What had traditionally been forbidden was now accepted without question.  To the Pharisees, it must have felt as if their world was a ship slowly but surely filling with water.

The Pharisees responded to this threat with a vengeance.  They were the keepers of the Jewish law, and they looked the part.  They wore long, traditional robes and placed phylacteries—small leather boxes containing passages of scripture—on their foreheads and arms.  They knew the Torah better than anyone, and they insisted that the only way to preserve Jewish life was to circle the wagons, keep outsiders and outside influences at bay, and declare unclean anybody who wasn’t as rigorous in religious observance as they were.

This is why the Pharisees get so irritated by Jesus throughout Matthew’s Gospel.  Jesus’ way of being Jewish couldn’t be more different from theirs.  He disregards many of the purity laws they cherish.  He consorts with all sorts of people that they see as moral and cultural threats to Jewish life.  While they set rigid boundaries to God’s grace, Jesus throws boundaries to the wind and includes any and all within the family of God.  And so at every turn the Pharisees debate Jesus over the particulars of the faith they share.  They think of Jesus as uneducated rabble, wishing to humiliate and dismiss him, but again and again Jesus bests the Pharisees, silencing them with the depth and faith of his Gospel message.

An interesting and quirky exchange happens just before today’s passage.  Jesus accuses the Pharisees of using religious tradition to justify taking some of their income that should be used to care for their aging parents and instead sheltering it by designating it for the upkeep of the temple.  It’s an accounting trick worthy of Enron!  In other words, the Pharisees manipulate their faith for all sorts of ends rather than directing it toward the weak and vulnerable—even those closest to them—who are in need.

Now, we need to remember that the disciples are with Jesus whenever these sparring matches between Jesus and the Pharisees occur.  Frankly, the disciples are dunderheads.  Throughout Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus has tried to show them by his actions and reveal to them through his parables what it means to have faith, but they never seem to get it.  The disciples probably feel a bit ambivalent whenever Jesus and the Pharisees debate.  After all, the Pharisees answer quite clearly the question about how to be faithful to God.  One is faithful by following all the right rules, observing strict and inflexible moral guidelines, and lashing out against any whom they perceive to be threats.  Though rigorous, theirs is a simple faith, easy to understand and to follow.  Jesus, on the other hand, when asked what faith is like tells strange stories about mustard seeds, buried treasure, and whatnot.

All of this gets us to this morning’s Gospel passage.  Jesus has just finished wrangling with the Pharisees, and as he often does after such encounters he leaves to rest and spend time away from the crowds.  This time he leaves Jewish territory altogether, entering with the disciples into Gentile territory—a place where the Pharisees will definitely not follow him, since foreigners are to be avoided at all costs.  As soon as Jesus arrives, a strange encounter ensues.

A Canaanite woman finds Jesus and throws herself at him.  “Have mercy on me Lord, Son of David,” she cries.  She then tells Jesus a heartbreaking tale about her daughter who is possessed with a demon, a sad fact that would have made both her and her daughter outcasts in their community.  Jesus is tired and haggard, and in a very human way he tries to ignore her, but she will not be ignored.  She kneels before him, blocking his way.  The disciples are visibly embarrassed by this woman who is doubly to be shunned—being foreign and having a crazy daughter, both stigmas in Jewish eyes—and they gruffly ask Jesus to send her away.

And that’s when the story turns.  Only upon hearing the disciples’ remark does Jesus’ exhausted stupor subside, and he realizes the moment that is before him.  He launches into action, but not in the way we expect.  “Woman,” he says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
She’s not an Israelite, but she will not be moved.  “Lord,” she repeats, “Help me.”
“It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus parries.
But again the woman comes back, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs from the master’s table.”
It is at this point that I imagine a huge smile beams across Jesus’ rejuvenated face.  “Woman,” he says, “Great is your faith!  Let it be done as you wish.”  And Matthew tells us that the woman’s daughter is healed instantly.

What has happened?  Matthew’s intent is subtle, I believe, and it cannot be understood apart from Jesus’ prior debates with the Pharisees or from the disciples’ attempt to manhandle and dismiss this woman.
When the disciples ask, in essence, “You want us to get rid of her, boss?” Jesus realizes that they regard the Canaanite woman as disparagingly as the Pharisees would, as one who is outside the scope of God’s grace.  Jesus throws them for a loop by engaging her in exactly the same way he has earlier engaged the Pharisees, except that here he takes on the role of the Pharisee in order to accentuate her as the model of faith.  I can imagine the look on the disciples’ faces as Jesus begins his debate with this poor, uneducated woman in learned rabbinic style.  I can also imagine how that look deepens when, whereas the Pharisees are repeatedly silenced by Jesus’ first words, the Canaanite woman stays with him and eventually triumphs.

The difference between learned Pharisee and poor, foreign woman is this: the Pharisees in reality operate out of fear and desperation, but the Canaanite woman speaks from true faith.  That she does so gives her the strength to struggle with God for the good of her daughter.  She acknowledges Jesus’ identity immediately upon meeting him—something the Pharisees never do—and she continually calls him “Lord” throughout their exchange.  She does not ask for God’s healing grace to preserve some cherished, idolized way of life—as the Pharisees do—but rather for someone dear to her who is hurting and vulnerable.

It is Jesus’ hope that this real life situation will finally teach his disciples what faith looks like.  It is a situation as topsy-turvy as the best parable!  The conventional wisdom, that the learned and exalted Pharisees are the embodiment of faith, is upended.  Faith’s true model, the one whose faith is so strong that she will struggle to know God against all odds, is the very least person that the disciples would expect: a foreign woman with a possessed child.

Why is this important to us?  Because we are just as liable as the disciples to be mistaken in our models of faith.  In our world as in theirs, it very often seems like our faith is being assaulted by the culture around us.  Violence, promiscuity, and greed are so pervasive that in our reflective moments we become startled at how numb we are to them.  We may react by looking for guidance to those who would circle the wagons, who would have our religion stand in starker relief to the outside world by making religious observance more grandiose and morality more rigid, arguing that one’s faith hinges on which side you fall on any number of moral questions.  Yet such reactions reveal more about our fear than they do about our faith.  And when such reactions make us blind to those around us who are in real spiritual need, ignoring them as unworthy of our attention, such reactions actually move us away from, not closer to, the God we so desire to know.

The Canaanite woman’s engagement with Jesus shows us the way of faith.  What does she do?  She doesn’t exhaust her spiritual energy being obsessed with the moralistic judgment of those around her.  She doesn’t waste time debating who has and who lacks God’s favor.  Instead, she seeks God’s grace for the one in spiritual need, and she seeks strength and solace in Jesus, the God Incarnate in whom these things can be found.  This is the way of faith for her, for the disciples, and for us.  This is the faith I pray we come to know.
Amen.

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho!

Tonight is a big night and the summit of an already long day. The peak of the Perseid meteor shower is this evening, late, and we will be driving from Roanoke to Norfolk, VA with the top down to catch an early flight to Orlando. I will see my daughter tomorrow! 🙂

Tucker is tucked in with his new friend, a big chocolate Lab who resides with a friendly couple from church. He seemed happy to be there and I know he will get a lot of attention and play. No doubt he will be glad for some solitude when we return.

The big news of the day, and yes it seems silly to get so excited after some of the roles I have had in my life, but I am anyway darn it, is that I got a job today. Yep, just a little part time server job at the Hunting Hills Country Club, but they worked with me on my tight schedule so I’ll be able to contribute a little to the household which will make me feel a lot better. It’s hard enough to have given up every aspect of monetary achievement that I am accustomed to, I dislike adding to it by feeling like a slacker and having days off. School is a luxury. It may be hard work, but I am LUCKY to be going. I never forget that for an instant. The least I can do is use the free time I have generating some income. My talents as an Internet consultant are a little exalted for Roanoke. I can use them, but never make what I am worth or be able to invest as little time as this will require of me.

I will start a week from today. Yay!

In the mean time I get to go to Orlando, have a little vacation, see my daughter get married and go swimming. I love to swim. I am in a pretty good mood right now.

I went to Metro last night after all. I had shrimp tempura sushi with cucumber and avocado added, no tobiko and their sweet tofu and scallion sushi rolls. I also love their new Parker house rolls. They seem to be making the bread in house now and it shows. Yum. I had a much better experience this time. I made sure to have a reservation through OpenTable.com. Ben said hello (the server who was a little short with me) and I nodded at him. However I was fortunate to be waited on by Erin and Charlie. They worked well together and were a great team. Charlie answered a menu question, set me up with a drink, bread and all the knick knacks and Erin took the order. I was so happy and felt so welcome I went ahead and had Roanoke’s best dessert (In my opinion) the dark chocolate pot du creme. It’s to die for.

It was a good night.

Now I need to go eat dinner, and pack for my trip. *BIG GRIN*