Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Protesting the Da Vinci Code: Try an "Othercott"

My friend Janet Batchler, a Christian and screenwriter whose wonderful blog can be found at www.quoththemaven.blogspot.com, has come up with a very fruitful idea for letting Hollywood know exactly how you feel about the Da Vinci Code film being released in May. Rather than trying to explain it myself, I'll repost her post here -- she's given permission for folks to do that, as she wants the word spread!

Read on, and plan to go to the movies in May!

From Janet:

May 19th is the date the Da Vinci Code movie opens. A movie based on a book that wears its heresy and blasphemy as a badge of honor. What can we as Christians do in response to the release of this movie? I'm going to offer you the usual choices -- and a new one. Here are the usual suspects:A) We can ignore the movie. ........The problem with this option: The box office is a ballot box. The only people whose votes are counted are those who buy tickets. If you stay home, you have lost your chance to make your vote heard. You do nothing to shape the decision-making process regarding what movies will make it to the big screen.B) We can protest. ........The problem with this option: It doesn't work. Any publicity is good publicity, after all. Protests not only fuel the box office, they make all Christians look like idiots. And again, protests and boycotts do nothing to help shape the decisions being made right now about what movies Hollywood should make (or shape the decisions away from what we might prefer).C) We can discuss the movie. We can be rational and be ready with study guides and workshops and point-by-point refutations of the lies promulgated by the movie. ........The problem with this option: No one's listening. They think they know what we're going to say already. And once again, nothing changes if this is the response we opt for.But there's a fourth choice.On May 19th, you should go to the movies. Just go to another movie.Save the date now. May 19th, or May 20th. No later than Sunday, May 21st -- that's the day the ballot box closes. You'll get a vote, the only vote Hollywood recognizes: The power of cold hard cash laid down on a box office window on opening weekend.Use your vote. Don't throw it away. Vote for a movie other than DVC. If enough people do it, the powers that be will notice. They won't have a choice.Right now there's only one other studio movie scheduled for release, the DreamWorks animated feature Over the Hedge. Based on the early trailers, my kids already want to see it. Let's all go see it. (Or another just-opened movie of your choice, pending the final release schedules.) Let's rock the box office in a way no one expects -- without protests, without boycotts, without arguments, without rancor. Let's show up at the box office ballot box and cast our votes. And buy some popcorn, too.May 19th. Spread the word. Post this on your own blog, send it to friends on your e-mail lists. And let's all go to the movies.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Reading Round-Up, Spring Cleaning Version!

ETA:This post started on April 20th, but I'm just now getting around to posting it on April 25th! (It's our fourteenth wedding anniversary, by the way.) :-)

Well, I've given up trying to do any sort of reading round-up for March...who can remember March? Both the end of last month and the beginning of this one are blurring for me, as I'm far too busy and frankly, exhausted. The past two weeks have been especially difficult: I've been sick with sinus/cough (and it's taken a definite turn for the worst in the past few days so I've had to go on antiobiotics); I've begun my new half-time job as parish administrator at our church (trying very hard to remember all my former secretary skills -- who knew that one could forget years of professional skills and habits so quickly?); my sweet daughter has been struggling with my new schedule and with less time with Mommy and has been acting out her stress through some difficult behavior, especially with her Daddy (and I miss my mornings with her soooo much); and oh yes, I left taxes to the last minute and had to spend several late nights fighting through the craziness of self-employment schedules, etc. Have I left anything out? Well, yes. :-) Those things I listed are just the "biggies" -- all sorts of other things still crowd my days as well, including paper grading, house cleaning, feeble attempts at writing.

I'm feeling a real need of prayer time, significant, real prayer time, rather than hurried prayers of blessing and petition as I run frantically hither and yon. Don't get me wrong: hurried prayers are a lifeline sometimes, and I'm thankful for them. But I need time with God, time to just rest in his presence, time to bring before him some of the hurts in my own heart as well as the hurts of others. After not quite two weeks as chuch administrator, I am already feeling somewhat pummelled by the depth and breadth of need here in our tired little town. More on that later perhaps.

So, with all this going on, have I had any time for reading? You bet. Some nights I'm so wound up after a far too long day, there's no way I can sleep without reading for a while first. And I've had some other moments here and there in the past month where I've been able to cram in reading. I'm doing a good bit of what I call "fluff" reading (helps me in that unwinding process) but I'm also dipping my toes into some more serious stuff. So here's a brief list of what I've been dabbling in book-wise in the past few weeks, though in no particular order:

Dorothy Simpson murder mysteries. Anyone out there know her? I discovered her at a library book sale (all paperbacks ten cents!) and have been absolutely delighted to discover a new Agatha Christie type writer, albeit a bit more contemporary. She's really good at English "cozy" mysteries -- my favorite of the mystery genre. I think she wrote mostly in the 1980s and 1990s (though for all I know she may still be at it) and I love her detective Inspector Luke Thanet. Thus far I've read two books: The Night She Died and Puppet for a Corpse. Very creative.

Jan Karon. I feel like I owe Ms. Karon an apology. I read the first two books of her "Mitford series" about ten years ago, and pretty much ever since then, whenever someone would ask me if I liked them, I added all kinds of qualifiers. "Yes, although they're not really great literature." "Yes, they're so comforting and downhome, I feel like I'm curling up with a copy of 'Southern Living'." "Yes, they're especially good, light reading for when you have the flu." That sort of thing. And...well, there's still some truth in those sentiments, I must confess. But having read through several more books in the series in the past few months (including A New Song, A Common Life and In This Mountain most recently) I have a newfound respect for Karon's narrative art. She manages to capture "slices of life" and very human personalities in poignant ways; she doesn't hesitate to write like people talk and frankly, to write about what real people talk about in the ways they really talk about it (including faith...and let's face it, we don't always talk about our faith profoundly) and she manages to provide her characters and readers with a real sense of hope. In times like ours, I think that's especially valuable. I also think she grew as a writer through the series. I was most impressed with her ability and willingness to have beloved, jovial Fr. Tim, the main character of the books, suffer through the throes of major depression in In This Mountain. Yes, he comes out on the other side (and you want him to!) but it's not cliched and pat at all. And I frankly love some of her minor characters, who remind me a bit of Lake Woebegoners. I'm especially fond of Emma Newland, Hope Winchester, and the regulars who eat breakfast at the Grill on weekday mornings.

And a sidenote: when I started reading Karon ten years ago, I knew almost no evangelical Episcopalians. For the past almost 9 years, I've lived, worked, and prayed with LOTS of them. So now I know just how good Karon is at capturing that particular ethos.

Yikes -- I started this post five days ago and have yet to either post it, or write fully about what I'm reading (I've just covered some of the fluff here!). This is getting way too long, so I'll go on and post. More soon on other things I'm reading by Marva Dawn and Rodney Clapp, among others.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

"Death and Darkness, Get You Packing...!"

Alleluia! The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

"Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.
—John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople; sermon, ca. 400

Death and darkness, get you packing,
Nothing now to man is lacking,
All your triumphs now are ended,
And what Adam marred is mended.
- Henry Vaughan (1621-1695)

Hail thee, festival day!
Blessed day to be hallowed forever;
Day when our Lord was raised,
Breaking the kingdom of death.

Lo, the fair beauty of the earth,
From the death of the winter arising!
Every good gift of the year
Now with its Master returns.

Rise from the grave now, O Lord,
The author of life and creation.
Treading the pathway of death,
New life You give to us all.

Hail thee, festival day!
Blessed day to be hallowed forever;
Day when our Lord was raised,
Breaking the kingdom of death.

--Fortunatus (530-609) translated by Maurice F. Bell

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Day In Between

I decided to walk into the office this morning...no, not working (at least not officially) but I had agreed to proctor some exams for the sister of a friend, who is taking some extension courses through her university. The church offices on a Saturday provide a quiet place for her to take the tests, and it gave me a marvelous opportunity to walk a good, long walk on a beautiful spring day.

I was almost stunned by the beauty. Did spring really arrive overnight, or have I been so tired and stressed all week long that I just hadn't noticed it coming? The trees are in early golden flowered leaf (especially the maples), the birds are singing, and there are flowers and flowering trees, purples, pinks, whites, yellows, almost everywhere. It looked like Easter had come a day early! Except that two churches along my route both still had wooden crosses swathed in black, reminding me (with a beautiful poignancy, since they stood near flowering trees) that we're still experiencing the day "in between."

I don't think we in the church really know what to do always with the day "in between" Good Friday and Easter. At least not most of the churches of which I've been a part. It's something of a blank day. As we follow along in the Gospel story, Jesus has died and is not yet risen. The disciples are in the dark, literally (hiding in locked rooms) and spiritually.

Perhaps it's a day to enter into that darkness a little -- to know in our depths the sorrow that His closest friends and followers must have felt the day after the cross. To know in our depths what it cost God to win us back to himself, what it cost Jesus to redeem us from our subjection to evil and to death.

Maybe that's why we're given Psalm 88 in the morning lectionary. I've always found this to be one of the saddest Psalms -- there seems to be no real hope, not even at the end when so many Psalms (even of deepest, most harrowing complaints and pain) leap into a ringing affirmation (even Psalm 22 moves into a trust song).

Yet today, reading it again, I was struck by these questions the Psalmist cries out in verses 10-12: "Dost thou work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise up to praise thee? [Selah] Is thy steadfast love declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in Abaddon? Are thy wonders known in the darkness, or thy saving help in the land of forgetfulness?"

When I read these on most days, I either read them (sadly) as somewhat rhetorical questions, or (on my better days) as heartrending cries of a lonely and broken heart, but still a heart not expecting to hear an answer.

What we know from the joyous truth of the resurrection we celebrate tomorrow, however, is that there is a resounding answer to these questions. The answer is YES! Jesus is the great YES! God's vindication of His son as he raises Him to new life is a YES! YES, God works wonders for the dead! YES, the shades will one day rise up to praise thee (along with everything else in all creation!) YES, God's steadfast love is declared...even in the grave! YES, God's wonders are known in the darkness (even of our own hearts and lives, even at the foot of a cross, even in locked rooms where we hide)! YES, God's saving help is known even in the land of forgetfulness (which is where most of us live so much of the time)!

May we never ever forget, Lord, the love that took you to that cross. May we never cease to praise and thank you for that love. May we never cease to marvel at how close death and life, sorrow and joy, really are. May we worship and adore you as our scarred and risen King.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Why This Friday is so Good

"The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone."

--Edward Shillito, from "Jesus of the Scars"

What a beautiful poem, and what a beautiful truth. And written by a man who knew the horrors of World War I and knew how badly indeed the world can wound us.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A few more poetry "life/lines"

More lines of poetry keep coming to me:

"Hope is the thing with feathers/that perches in the soul..."

"When despair for the world grows in me..."

"He counted every snowflake as it fell..."

"I shall arise and go now, and go to Innisfree"

"I took the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference"

"Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds"

"Little Lamb, who made thee?"

"I who have died am alive again today"

National Poetry Month

Tired from a too long day, I'm jangling
with bumblebuzz of Irish Breakfast tea...

yep! past midnight and I'm blogging again!


April may be "the cruelest month" but here's one lovely thing to remember: it's also National Poetry Month. Check out www.poets.org for all kinds of goodies.

I spent a few minutes on the site this evening, trying to unwind, and found out about a wonderful project called "Life/Lines." Poets and readers send in lines of poetry that mean something to them, lines they've suddenly recalled or that they've found lodged in their hearts for years. Brief reflections on why those certain lines of poetry stick with them are included. The project's ongoing -- apparently anyone can send in their favorite lines of poetry.

I'm too tired to think properly, but here are a few favorite lines that come to me now as I let my mind wander...(these are just as they come to me; I can't vouch for accuracy of punctuation or line breaks).

"Lord, send my roots rain."

"They also serve who only stand and wait." (This one was submitted by someone else on the site; it's long been a favorite of mine too.)

"Nature's first green is gold"

"Getting and spending we lay waste our powers"

"I shall be the gladdest thing under the sun!"

"I saw eternity the other night, like a great ring of pure and endless light"

"That never was America to me"

Interesting what pops up when you're tired! More soon...and I'll identify all poets later too (if anyone wants to guess or knows who they are, feel free!).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bread and...Hyacinths!

This is just too wonderful and funny.

Just a few hours after I posted my long, rambling post below (see "Bread and Roses") I found this amazing little poem on another blog:

If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.
- Saadi (a Persian poet)

Doesn't this just capture the heart of my ramblings?

By the way, it was posted at www.acircleofquiet.blogspot.com -- an absolutely lovely blog. I check it about 2-3 times a month. I don't know the woman who writes it; it's a treasure I found a few months ago, linking from the blog of a friend of a friend of a friend, I think. Although I don't know her, her site often blesses my life and provides me with moments of beauty (some of the "imagined roses" I mentioned before). Isn't it great...the internet can indeed be a means of transmitting good and gracious things!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bread and Roses

I usually write a "round-up" of the previous month during the first week of the new month, but frankly I've been too tired (and a bit too scatterbrained) to contemplate that posting. Maybe soon. Life is gearing up to be interesting for a while, as I'm taking on a new, half-time job outside the house. It's the first time I will have worked outside the home at all since Sarah was not quite 2 -- in other words, half her life ago. So we've all got big adjustments coming. I'm wishing I didn't have to do this, but I'm also grateful God is providing something for our family -- and I'm trying to be willing to do what needs to be done as he provides.

One of the adjustments I forsee is less time to read and write -- between new work hours during the day, continued work I need to do at night (both as a t.a. and in course development for the course I'll be teaching online next fall) and perhaps most importantly, trying to be as attentive and truly present as I can in the fewer waking hours I'll have with my little girl (not to mention regular "stuff" like ongoing household tasks and -- oh yes! eating! prayer! sleep!) I just can't see how I'm going to carve much of a slice out of that pie to dedicate to writing projects. Once again, I'm faced with the dilemma of having creative fire burning in my bones/longing to flesh out ideas into stories, poems and articles/wanting to use this gift and valuing the gift in and of itself -- and yet being forced to put it low, low on the priority list because it's not "productive" and doesn't help my family economically. I've been here many times in my life, but for some reason being faced with yet one more season of consciously having to push writing into the cracks and crevices of my life hurts a lot more this time around. Maybe because I just had a birthday so am feeling more aware of the swift passing of time. Maybe because the older I get, the more I feel I have to say and the more I long to find ways to say it through story. How ironic that the time periods of my life when I had more time and space to write, I didn't have nearly as much in me that longed to be written.

A week or so ago I read an interesting little book by Jill Paton Walsh, a short novel for middle grade readers called The Green Book. It's fantasy (and sort of rudimentary science fiction) about a family being sent with a small group of other people to colonize a new planet, since earth is dying. This family, a single dad and his three children, are told they must pack light. Each of them may bring one book and one book only. The father agonizes because he longs to bring a Complete Shakespeare but realizes that he needs to bring a book on technology instead, if he's going to help the colony in the new world. He lets each of his children make their own selection without his input, and their choices (and those of the other group members) are interesting, to say the least! When they all realize (after they're onboard the spaceship taking them to their new home) that the youngest child has brought along a blank book (the "green book" of the title) they're dismayed because they think she's made an unwise, even foolish choice. But it turns out to be a creative choice; one that the whole community values once they realize the child has been writing down the stories of the new community/colony. No one else had thought to do that.

I thought about entitling this posting "what book would you choose?" because I'm still genuinely curious to know what other people might pick if you could only pick one book in the world to take with you on a long journey without any real prospect of finding more books where you're arriving. I'm going to presuppose that you could take a Bible, or that the community would have a Bible; otherwise (for Christians at least) the question would be a "no brainer." What one book -- besides the Bible -- would you choose to take? I'm still not sure of my own answer. I think the Complete Shakespeare would be a good choice, actually, or the Complete Austen or the Complete Dickens. Although maybe the "complete" idea is a bit of a cop-out. Any takers here? I'd love to hear some ideas!

But the more I think about it, the aspect of Walsh's story that fascinates me most is that agonizing decision the Dad makes, to choose the "practical" book on technology (needed, productive) instead of the book that feeds the spirit in more intangible ways. How often we think of our more practical, physical needs first -- and I'm not saying that's a bad thing in and of itself, it's just a necessity because we're embodied, physical creatures. But we're so much more than just our bodies. It reminds me of that old workers' song "Bread and Roses" that talks of people's need for both bodily, physical sustenance and for beauty. How often do we have to choose bread and not roses in our daily existence? Most of the time, it seems to me. I also find myself painfully aware that, for a lot of people in our world, the choice between bread and roses isn't even a choice, because they don't have either one. And that should not be.

I know all this may sound a bit simplistic, but it's working on a soul level for me tonight. Bread and roses are more entertwined than we might think, because we human beings are entertwined, made up of body, mind, soul, spirit. Having really struggled with poverty in the past couple of years (although thankfully we've had family to help) one lesson I've learned is that poor people need and deserve good things and beauty as much as anyone else. So often what we give them is our castoffs, our broken and used things; our generic and less healthy food items go into the food pantry box, our faded and somewhat stained clothing goes to the vets, our toys with missing pieces go to the local children's home. Sometime again, when we're not counting every penny and still coming up short, I want to remember this lesson and give someone poor something that they need...on more than one level. Something beautiful as well as practical. Something new.

And as for now, I feel like I'm being asked to make a choice about how to apportion my time, and in some ways I'm having to weight that choice heavily toward practical considerations -- i.e. bread. Which means less time for roses. But I'll survive, and somehow I'll find some time in there somewhere for roses, real or imagined. At least that's my hope.

Monday, April 03, 2006

"The Weight of All My Dreams..."

I've not posted much this past week, and doubt I'll have much chance to in the coming week either. Having to let go of some things right now in a quest to survive and to not give in under the weight of some tremendous stress.

It's not quite Holy week yet, but I think God might be preparing me to walk a passion kind of road. It's hard.

Needing to flee to the life of Jesus. Needing to rest in his arms.

A pause for poetry in the midst of everything. This from W.B. Yeats.

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.