I spent New Year’s Night singing hymns in a church, unaccompanied, with 300 or so other people, all more churchly-dressed than I. The crowd was diverse in age, but entirely white in skin color. Most of the women wore small white caps over hair that had never been cut. Their dresses were knee-length or longer, and many were ornamented with small children at the hem. I whispered to my friend that I felt like a Rahab, in my jeans and quilted vest, but mainly because of my flippy haircut, uncovered. I was there with an old friend from college and a new Korean friend. We three sat in the back pew, belting out such strong tenor and alto that the young women in the pew ahead of us turned around and stared, giggling. The Korean friend had never sung in English before, but managed to sight-read from the Harmonia Sacra book just fine, singing tunes from the 1850s. Many of the lyrics we sung were about the passing of time, fittingly enough, so many yearned to join friends “gone on ahead. I don’t mind the pilgrim language, the pining for Jerusalem, and I’ve always loved singing about crossing the Jordan. But I’m thinking of the actual river, with water, not the metaphorical one that lays before the pearly gates.
At the end of the year I like to write Intentions for the year ahead. How do I intend to live my life just a little bit differently? Working on the list. My hawk is on her tree branch as I type. I know one intention will be about being open to the Spirit. Thing is, I’ve lived that way before and it’s scary. Is that how I want to live 2008?
Today one friend’s blog said her baby was born early this morning. Congratulations to her!
Today another friend’s blog told about a funeral for a 24 year old who took her own life, and how the mother wailed.
I have given birth, and I have been the pastor at difficult funerals, so it isn’t hard for me to slip into those remembered feelings, like sliding into familiar sheets. The unspeakable tenderness of holding a new baby. The unspeakable pain of losing a child.
Unspeakable, but I’m a preacher, which means I traffic in words. The word that’s stuck in my brain this evening, as I work on an Advent sermon: incarnation. Which is perhaps a shorter way to say: we have this love in flesh, but only for a time.
I’m ready to slip into my sheets tonight, next to my husband, just to smell him, his alive-ness, and listen to his precious beating heart.
Have you ever put together a 1500 piece puzzle? All by yourself?
Decadent, that’s what it is, to waste all those hours. My brain emptied itself completely as the puzzle took shape, all my usual words and thoughts pouring out, being replaced with a fixation on nuances of color. I’d pick up a piece (yes, puzzle-shaped, since you asked) and wonder: is this beige piece a sort of rosy-beige and belong in this top-right section, or is it more beigey-beige, and belong in this bottom-right section? I love thinking like this. I did not think about Christmas shopping, or pie recipes, or my next sermon, or what should be done about global warming.
Instead, I just compared shades of beige and the relative sizes of the bumps and thingies on little pieces of cardboard. Family members stopped by to help with a piece or two, and we talked a little as we searched together.
When the puzzle was done, we all admired the picture, which was the parables of Jesus. Right in the front is the prodigal son, of course, being clasped by the forgiving father. The puzzle pieces picturing the father’s fingers were the easiest to identify in the whole box, and the most thrilling to put into place.
Some of my friends are unhappy about the way Halloween costumes for girls have become “sexified” in recent years. Being the mother of two daughters myself, I understand their concerns.
Our culture doesn’t show real women’s bodies in an honest way. I remember having conversations with my daughters about Barbie dolls, in which I carefully explained that real women don’t have those anatomical proportions. More lately, as cosmetic surgery has become normative, I am still prone to blurt as we watch TV together: Don’t tell me those are real! I tell them that real breast tissue, on a woman in a reclining position, does not stand at attention.
I’ve wanted daughters to know that they are more than their bodies. To use the biblical language, they would know their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, not commodities to be made perfect, not playthings for boys.
But now I wonder if I took all this body-business a little too seriously. What about the “shadow side” to borrow from Jung? What about being what you’re not, one day of the year? What if you’re a nice modest girl/woman all the time, and once a year you let the world know you have cleavage? (You must remember, I am writing as a woman who wears a black robe and preaches in a pulpit.)
Three years ago my husband bought me my domain name for Mother’s Day. He said “it’s for when you get published.” Well, the years go by, and it’s like having a piece of lingerie in the drawer that’s “too good to use.” Which is not my style. If you looked in my drawers you would understand that this is not a metaphor. I like to use what I have. So I figured I’d use this space to put my works-in-progress — as an encouragement to myself, and maybe to other writers. Let’s find each other. Let’s talk. Let’s write. Let’s make each other laugh. Let’s be absurd. Maybe we could borrow adjectives from each other.