Sunday Morning

Belief is tricky. One day I do. One day I don’t. Believe. But there are things I believe that have never wavered. My belief in God is not one of those. Not long ago, I made a list, my attempt to address this question: “Do I believe in God?” It went like this:

God as an old white man with a beard—No

God as a human—No

God as a being—No

God as energy—Yes

God as consequential—Don’t know

God without definition—Yes

God as a creative force in the Universe—Yes

God as natural processes in motion—Yes

God as evolution—Yes

God as gravity—Yes

God as love—Yes

God as forgiveness—Yes

God as beauty—Yes

God as a no and a yes—Maybe

God as wrathful and merciful—Perhaps—This one scares me.

God as Mystery—Most certainly

I realized through my Q & A exercise that my problem is with the word “God,” for all the limitations it has placed on my imagination, such as “God the Father.” This was the beginning of my erosion with Mormonism in particular and religion in general. It happened early. I watched birds and studied them. If I dreamed of a great horned owl and saw one the next day, that was normal, to be expected. If a yellow warbler came into my mind, it was not unusual for me to hear one. As a child, I came to understand my relationship to nature was reciprocal and that nature had a relationship with me. We called to one another. We called one another into being. What I mean by that is we have evolved together. I still have a tailbone. I trust what I see and I believe what I feel. Trusting direct experience is the open door to revelation. This was my foundation for faith. It still is.

~ Terry Tempest Williams, Erosion: Essays of Undoing (Sarah Crichton Books, October 8, 2019)


Portrait of Terry Tempest Williams by Cheryl Himmelstein

Sunday Morning

October.  Its brilliant festival of dry
and moist decay.  Its spicy, musky scent.
The church’s parking lot deserted
except for this one witness,
myself, just resting there.

Somewhere a radio plays Flamenco.
A spotlight of sunshine falls on the scattered debris.
Blood-red and gold, a perfect circle of leaves
begins to whirl,
slowly at first, keeping the pattern,
clicking against the blacktop
like heels and  castanets,
then faster, faster, faster. . .
round as a ruffle, as the swirling
skirts of an invisible dancer.
Swept off into the tangled woods
by the muscular breeze.
The hoarse cheering of crows.

Inside the dark empty church,
long cool shadows, white-painted wood,
austere Protestant candles thriftily snuffed,
Perhaps a note on the altar,
Gone dancing. Back on Sunday

~ Dolores Stewart, “Outside” from The Nature of Things 


Notes: Poem, Thank you Beyond The Fields We Know. Photo: Pixaby

Sunday Morning

“You’re going to ask if you can marry my daughter,” Nan’s father said.

“Yes,” James answered.

“Why?”

James thought: Because she is jolly and pretty and bright, like a firefly, blinking in and out of hedges and trees. Because I imagine her in the kitchen, washing dishes, looking out the window and humming to herself, her brow knit in concentration. I imagine myself coming up behind her, putting my arms around her, resting my chin on her shoulder. I imagine her face turning up to me, bright and pale and astonishing, and I imagine her lips just before I kiss her, full and parted, almost singing the words of a song. Because I think beyond kissing her, because I think about her naked and warm under clean sheets and damp from the bath. I imagine her bare ankle rubbing against my own. I imagine her hair disheveled; I imagine myself smoothing it out of her eyes. I imagine making toast with her and eating it at a round table. When I do, I am just as crazed with passion for her as I would be in bed. There is no difference between imagining her naked and imagining her with a kerchief over her hair. 

“Because I love her,” he said.

~ Cara Wall, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, August 13, 2019)


Notes:

Sunday Morning

It’s hard to hurt things.

Isn’t it.

I’m afraid of spiders but I still scoop them cold

into my hands & let them free.

Where’s the church for things like this.

Talin Tahajian, from “No steeple” (Cosmonauts Avenue)


Notes: Poem via bostonpoetryslam. Photo “no bell” by Christian Collins

Sunday Morning

I asked my Mother if she believed in God.

“People are my church,” she said.”

~ Sarah McColl, “Joy Enough: A Memoir.” (January, 2019)


Photo: Luke Jackson-Clark, Jamnik Slovenia (via Landscape-Lunacy)

Running. With Turtlenecks.

Christmas morning. I’m running.

35° F, feels like 26°.  Wind cuts, it’s wet, akin to wind coming off Lake Michigan in Chicago, the Windy City. It penetrates the bones. I shiver.

I pull down the zipper on my jacket, and reach for the zipper on my running shirt.  I zip it all the way up. This blocks the wind but triggers another, deeper, pain point.  The moisture wicking fabric on the running shirt wraps snugly around my Adam’s Apple. Oh, God. No. My hand instinctively claws at the shirt to pull it away, offering temporary relief, but no more. The shirt snaps back around my throat.

I scramble to unzip the jacket, to unzip the shirt, freeing my throat. The cold air swooshes in. But at least it’s free. Can’t have anything touching the Adam’s Apple.  We all have our tics. This one is mine. Raye speaks of a Medium calling for a new Puppy in 2019. I believe her, but don’t believe in Mediums, Tarot Cards or any other woo woo, but I shudder to think what the Medium would say about this Adam’s Apple thing – some horror in a prior life.

In his story titled “Little Birds“, Simon Van Booy describes memories as “Each year…putting a new coat over all the old ones. Sometimes I reach into the pockets of my childhood and pull things out.” So this triggers a pulling out of a thing. My little bird. With its broken little wing. [Read more…]

Stir the Soul


Notes:

  1. Attendees at Christmas Eve Mass in Surabaya, Indonesia. (Juni Kristwanto, wsj.com December 25, 2018)
  2. A man stands inside a damaged church in the village of Tel Nasri, Syria. (Rodi Said, Reuters, wsj.com December 25, 2018)
  3. An elephant wearing a Santa Claus costume performs for Thai students during Christmas celebrations at Jirasart school in Ayutthaya province north of Bangkok. (Chaiwat Subrasom, wsj.com December 24, 2018)

Sunday Morning

“She had described her home and her life in a way that had often returned to me during those years and that I could still clearly recall. Her description of the town where she lived – a place I had never been to, though I knew it wasn’t far from here – and of its beauty had been particularly tenacious: it had often, as I had said, returned to my mind, to the extent that I had wondered why it did. The reason, I thought, was that this description had a finality to it that I couldn’t imagine ever attaining in my own circumstances. She had talked about the placid neighbourhood where she had her home with her husband and children, with its cobbled streets too narrow for cars to pass down, so that nearly everyone travelled by bicycle, and where the tall, slender gabled houses were set back behind railings from the silent waterways on whose banks great trees stood, holding out their heavy arms so that they made plunging green reflections in the stillness below, like mirrored mountains. Through the windows you could hear the sounds of footsteps on the cobbles below and the hiss and whirr of bicycles passing in their shoals and drifts; and most of all you could hear the bells that rang unendingly from the town’s many churches, striking not just the hours but the quarter and half hours, so that each segment of time became a seed of silence that then blossomed, filling the air with what almost seemed a kind of self-description. The conversation of these bells, held back and forth across the rooftops, was continued night and day: its cadences of observation and agreement, its passages of debate, its longer narratives – at matins and evensong, for instance, and most of all on Sundays, the repeating summons building and building until it was followed at last by the joyous, deafening exposition – comforted her, she had said, as the sound of her parents’ lifelong conversation had comforted her in her childhood, the rise and fall of their voices always there in the next room, discussing and observing and noting each thing that happened, as though they were making an inventory of the whole world. The quality of the town’s silence, she had said, was something she only really noticed when she went elsewhere, to places where the air was filled with the drone of traffic and of music blaring out of restaurants and shops and the cacophony from the endless construction sites where buildings were forever being torn down and then put up again. She would come home to a silence that at those times felt so refreshing it was like swimming in cool water, and she would for a period be aware of how the bells, far from disturbing the silence, were in fact defending it.”

~ Rachel Cusk, Kudos: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; June 5, 2018)


Notes: Photo above & Book Review: ‘Kudos’ by Rachel Cusk deserves kudos indeed.  This book, the last of a trilogy, was named one of the NY Times Top 100 Books of the Year in 2018 and an Amazon Book of the Month in June 2018. Reader beware, imo, “Outline (Trilogy Book 1)” and Transit (Book 2) were preferred by this reader.

Easter is calling me back to the church

I went to church on Easter Sunday last year, and never went back. It wasn’t a boycott, exactly. It was an inability, week after week, to face the other believers…At church, all I could think about were the millions of people likely to lose their health insurance thanks to Catholic bishops who opposed the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act. I was supposed to be thinking about the infinite love of a merciful God, but all I could hear were thousands of Christians shouting, “Build that wall!” By the time Easter had come and gone, I was gone too…

In the past year, while my husband and his father were at church on Sunday mornings, I was in the woods, where God has always seemed more palpably present to me anyway. (And not just to me: “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,” Emily Dickinson wrote back in the 19th century. “I keep it, staying at Home.”) For me, a church can’t summon half the awe and gratitude inspired by a full-throated forest in all its indifferent splendor.

The year away from church hasn’t made me miss the place itself. I don’t miss the stained glass. I don’t miss the gleaming chalice or the glowing candles or the sweeping vestments. But I do miss being part of a congregation. I miss standing side by side with other people, our eyes gazing in the same direction, our voices murmuring the same prayers in a fallen world. I miss the wiggling babies grinning at me over their parents’ shoulders. I miss reaching for a stranger to offer the handshake of peace. I miss the singing.

So I will be at Mass again on Easter morning, as I have been on almost every Easter morning of my life. I will wear white and remember the ones I loved who sat beside me in the pew and whose participation in the eternal has found another form, whatever it turns out to be. I will lift my voice in song and give thanks for my life. I will pray for my church and my country, especially the people my church and my country are failing. And then I will walk into the world and do my best to practice resurrection.

~ Margaret Renkl, from Easter Is Calling Me Back to the Church (NY Times, March 25, 2018)

 


Photo: Arnaud Maupetit

Gotta have these boots. Now. Right Now.

Dianne Alfaro sat in a pew in the back of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, her head bowed during Mass on Sunday morning. She cast her eyes down as the hymn “Jerusalem My Happy Home” swelled around her.

As the words “Hosanna in the highest!” echoed in the cathedral, she never looked up. That is, until she finished buying a pair of black boots off the internet on her iPhone.

“At some point, the priest during the Mass says, ‘Lift up your hearts.’ He does not say, ‘Lift up your cellphones to take pictures,’” Pope Francis said last week during a general audience at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, where he urged Catholics to leave their phones home.

But during Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, it seemed either the pontiff’s message had not yet reached across the Atlantic or the churchgoers were not listening.

Beside a font of holy water, tourists took in the Mass via the screens of their phones, some mounted on selfie sticks. By the entrance, devotees stood praying, but every so often phone-holding hands would pop up above the crowd to snap a picture. One man stood in the back, hunched in what appeared to be deep devotion — to select the perfect photo filter for his picture of the cathedral’s eaves.

In the pews, most people pored over the missals. But a surreptitious few checked email, planting their phone between the pages of the Psalms. One woman strode boldly through the nave as the organ played, her earbuds in, video chatting all the while.

“It’s probably a trend they should embrace,” said Edward Zhong, 25, a doctor visiting from Australia with his brother Mark, 21, who spent much of the homily taking pictures. Dr. Zhong suggested the church might go so far as create an app for use during Mass. “They probably could access a greater demographic — people who are born with an iPhone in their hand.”

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said that some churches already offer apps, a trend he does not approve. “There are enough occasions for our mind to wander during Mass; we shouldn’t be using these artificial things that take us away,” he said. […]

But as the Mass ended, Ms. Alfaro, shoes newly purchased, was unrepentant. She finds her connection with God, she said, on her own time, in her own way. And as for internet shopping in the pew, she added, “It’s not a sin.”

~ Sarah Maslin Nir, excerpts from Pope Says No Phones in Church. Parishioners Keep Scrolling. (NY Times, Nov 12, 2017)


Notes:

  • Post Inspiration: Thank you Karl Duffy via Mindfulbalance: “How much does a person lack in him or herself who must have many things?” by Sen no Rikyū (1522 – 1591)
  • Photo: Nordstrom
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