Friday, June 16, 2006

Truth to Power

Thanks to True Majority, I just spent a bit of time looking over the transcript from the House's debate on Congressman Murtha's Plan for the Responsible Redployment from Iraq. In addition to some fantastic, gutsy comments from Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) I was really pleased to come across this fearless recounting of recent history by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). She said, on the floor of the House:
The truth has been a major casualty in the war of Iraq.

It is worth reviewing just a few of the statements presented as truth that have been proven to be not true, never true, and still today not true:

Dick Cheney said in August 2002, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

In March 2003, Donald Rumsfeld said, "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

The President said in May 2003, "We found the weapons of mass destruction."

And Donald Rumsfeld on the cost, "Well the Office of Management and Budget has come up with a number that is something under $50 billion for the cost. How much that will be the U.S. burden and how much will be other countries is an open question."

Dick Cheney said May 30, 2005, "I think they are in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

. . . Yet by the end of this year we will have spent $450 billion in Iraq. Some say at the end of the day the war will cost $1 trillion taxpayer dollars. . . . We could have insured 165 million children for 1 year, provided more than 13 million American students with 4-year scholarships at public universities, fully funded global anti-hunger efforts for 11 years, give basic immunization to every child in the world for 92 years, and I believe that would have brought us more security than invading Iraq has done.
To read Representative Schakowsky's comments in full, go to the True Majority site (here). To search for your own representative, you'll need to enter her/his name in all caps for the search to work.

Amen and amen!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Meeting God's Broken Presence

Yesterday I walked over to our Hip Neighborhood Cafe, bought some Black Currant tea (loose, of course), and settled in for a lovely morning of work--reading Bruce Morrill's Anamnesis as Dangerous Memory. No sooner had I sat down when an older gentleman in an electric wheelchair cruised over to my little table built for two. He gestured and said just enough for me to understand that he had difficulty speaking. I quickly perceived that he had likely suffered a stroke at some point which had stolen his mobility (he was paralyzed on his right side) and his words.

He handed me a laminated photograph of himself as a much younger man. The photo showed him in an artist's studio, surrounded on all sides by large, colorful canvasses. "You're an artist?" I asked him. He nodded, then handed me a plastic grocery bag. Inside it I discovered numerous prints of his paintings on card stock paper, folded in half. They made fair-sized greeting cards or could also be framed. They were abstract, beautiful, evocative pieces.

"You painted these?" I asked.

"Yes," he responded.

"And you can still paint now?"

"Oh, yes!" Then somehow (I don't know how I got all that he told me, how much he communicated with words, how many blanks I filled in, I'm not sure.) he conveyed that he'd had a stroke but that painting was what he could still do.

"My father and grandmother both had strokes, too." I told him. "My father is an artist. But the stroke took his art away. He can't paint anymore." The man's face showed shock as I told him this. "Painting is all I have!" he told me slowly.

"My grandmother's stroke took away her words." I told him. He nodded, understanding.

Strokes have been especially cruel to my family. My father's stroke came when he was only 59 years old, too terribly young. An artist his whole life--the way he made his living, but also the way he perceived the world--it was life's most cruel trick to steal that away from him. His mother already had suffered for some years without the words she needed to express what was inside of her. She stumbled over what had become too solid, too inflexible and ungiving. Eventually it took her laughter, too.

He was selling his prints for $5, which was about what I could spare. I told him I could get one and started to go through the prints once again, looking for the one I would select. Then I paused, as if someone had placed her hand on my shoulder for a moment to cause me to pay attention. I looked up at him and said, "Is there one you think I should have?"

He smiled broadly and pointed to a beautiful print showing three faces with expressions of longing in a blue-green swirl of plants and flowers. In the midst of the faces danced several (spirit)animals, one of which is being cradled in the hands of one of the people in the painting, hands that are cradling, hands that are praying.

Only a day or so away from Trinity Sunday, I received the painting as one might receive an icon--gift, beauty, God present with us, for us. I share it with you now in the same spirit.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Red, White, and Screwed

If you can stomach the language, I highly recommend Lewis Black's latest HBO Comedy Special, Red, White, and Screwed. Not only because Black does his usual fantastically scathing rants about the state of politics today, but also because of his excellent reflections on the Christian appropriation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Reflecting on George Bush's comment, for instance, that "the jury is still out on evolution," Black remarks caustically that Christians simply do not understand Hebrew Scriptures. "If you get confused by something in the 'Old Testament,'" he offers, "then why not ask one of the Jews who walk among you?" His comments are brilliant and serve as a profound warning to tread carefully and respectfully when it comes to biblical interpretation.

Speaking of stomaching the language, Black's routine includes his reflections on being asked to be the keynote at the Congressional Correspondents Dinner. After reluctantly agreeing to accept the invitation, "because my parents made me," Black receives the instruction that he cannot use bad language in his routine for that event. (Just to give you an idea of how well-seasoned his work usually is, Black had to switch venues for this HBO Special away from the Kennedy Center because upon review of his last special, the Kennedy Center was troubled that he used the f-word 42 times). Black was astounded that the leaders of our country would be so sensitive that they could not handle "bad language." "The man who declared to the world's terrorists to 'bring it on,' which, by the way, was the single-most stupid public statement ever made," Black rails about the president, "is too delicate to hear 'bad language?'" Switching into a groveling tone, he mocks, "Why didn't he just say 'poopy'? Why didn't he just say 'poopy'?!"

Black takes issue that in today's world there is any such thing as 'bad language.' He suggests it's our only alternative to physical violence when faced with the frustrations and rage at our world's injustices. His point, I think, is that the bourgeois love of all things decent all too often glosses over what is most indecent about our world.

While I don't entirely agree with him on this count, I do think he makes an excellent point in this case. While I believe language carries the power to shape the world--so that in some sense it can be equally as violent as any physical action--I think he is right, absolutely right, to expose the hypocricy of our "decent" ruling class.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Fresh Saturday

A beautifully lazy Saturday. The first one that I can remember in a long time. The Beautiful Boy has his own name for a day like this: he calls it a "fresh Saturday." That communicates volumes to me. This morning he came out to the living room and marvelled, "This is the first Saturday we can just stay here." How wonderful not to have to go back to the old apartment anymore, no depressing loose ends to tie up.

Oh, we still have some boxes left. And about four of them remain in our little living room space. So we're not done. But today has been a day to take it easy--and that's what was needed most. (Though, poor D has been working away on a book in time to meet his deadline on Monday. So only 2/3 of have been able to be lazy unfortunately.)

After lunch we all did manage to head over to the Recreation Center that's right across the street from us. It looks great! I discovered they offer Yoga there a couple nights a week. And three nights a week they have an exercise room, with free weights, treadmill, and elliptical machine available for free to City residents. Wow! (Unfortunately the Yoga isn't free. But at least it's not unreasonable.)

Last night we watched an intense and excellent movie: Dirty Filthy Love. It had played at our local theater for a while, but I was put off by the title. Turns out it's about a man who suffers from Tourettes Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It's a very moving film, showing his decline into the illness as he goes through a divorce and eventually meets others who suffer from the disease as well. I highly recommend the film.

This evening I'm very pleased to represent our church at a local "Witness Our Welcome" service. An interfaith worship service which celebrates welcoming and affirming congregations in our region. The service will be held at a Lutheran Church this year, which utterly warms my heart. To my dismay, I don't think I've attended a Lutheran worship service since I left seminary! Hard to believe. It's in my bones now, after all. As much as I'm looking forward to it, I'm a bit nervous. I've never been to this worship service before, though it is apparently held annually. And I'm fending off feelings of being an imposter, since I haven't been ordained. (Fortunately I can recognize the absurdity of that feeling; nonetheless, it's there.) Well, I'll happily report on the experience once I've had it. :)


Friday, June 09, 2006

Back to School Friday Five

I can hardly believe the summer is nearly over. I love the start of school. But I am always soooo sad to let my boy go back. It feels like giving birth all over again, having to let him go a little bit more each year.

The RevGal's Friday Five is a Back to School theme today. And I just couldn't resist the fun!

1. What is your earliest memory of school?

I think my earliest memory of school is my deep longing to go to school! I am three years younger than my brother--and when he headed off to school it just broke my heart. I couldn't bear not to be there yet--to have those big fat red pencils and equally rotund crayons, the smell of chalk or freshly washed blackboards, the glossy pages of reading books. Oh, how I longed to be there.

I think this must be why at 37 I'm still in school.

2. Who was a favorite teacher in your early education?

Mrs. DeMosk, my third grade teacher! As I remember her, she was like a willow tree--thin, welcoming, beautiful, comforting, peaceful. I used to try and get in trouble just so I would have to go back to the classroom after lunch while the rest of the class was outside at recess.

3. What do you remember about school “back then” that is different from what you know about schools now?

We always had to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance with our hands over our hearts, then sing a patriotic song like My Country Tis of Thee or Grand Old Flag (which was my favorite). My son has never had to engage in these activities, but I don't know if that's common across the country or just the case in our historically liberal city.
n;font-size:130%;">When thy bosom first feeleth
The pain of contrition
And evil
Thy heart meant to do.


Copyright ©2006 Man of a Thousand Poems

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Won't You Be My (Feline) Neighbor?

We've been in our new home two weeks now! In some ways it feels like much more than that--we feel at home here. But I'm also aware of how much we are still transitioning. Yesterday we made our pilgrimmage to Ikea and bought a couple more bookshelves. D spent a good part of the rest of the day building the cases, emptying boxes, shelving and re-shelving books, and attaching the cases to the wall. Me? I crashed. I was exhausted yesterday and was not much good to anyone.

I rebounded today, however, and had a good solid morning of studying. Then in the afternoon I ran errands, swept and mopped the bathroom and kitchen floors, and re-filed our papers into sturdy file boxes to replace the behemoth, ugly-as-sin filing cabinet with the cranky drawers.

As I write this blog entry, you should know, my dear 8-year-old boy is whistling, a long single note until he runs out of breath, then gasps for air and starts again: "Do I sound like a fire whistle?" he just asked me (having no idea that I was writing about him at the moment). Apparently this is the sound he's happily going for. :)

In the two weeks we've been here, I am delighted at the number of neighbors we've managed to meet. As soon as we meet someone, we scribble down their names so we can remember them later. Then we post the list on our fridge.

This neighbor list is my favorite of all time. Because everyone has at least one cat around here. A number of them are outdoor cats, too. So we get to interact with them also. So of course, whenever we meet someone we also ask the name of their cat! The names are fantastic. And since I don't think cats are concerned about anonymity on the internet, I thought I'd share their names with you. So without further ado, here are our feline neighbors: Ghengis; Bonkers and Bogey; Myles and Isabella; Niko; Menchu; and our own marvelous cat Felix.

Alright, I guess that's it for me. Maybe I'll try and catch up on some of my Bible reading for the day.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I spent a good part of the morning typing up the first draft of a new job description for me at church. Things are still in flux about this, so I won't really write any details about it yet. But I am excited about the possibilities and eager to share them as soon as it seems prudent.

As I drove home from a meeting at church, it happened to be a little after 6 pm. The radio station I was listening to was celebrating this congruence (of 06/06/06 at 6) by playing an hour's worth of songs that made some reference to the devil. They called their segment "music to apocolypse to." I was very amused by it all. I can't remember all the songs I got to hear, unfortunately. But I know INXS "Devil Inside," Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper," and "Disco Inferno" were included in the set list. It made me grin the whole time I was in the car.

After dinner tonight we walked across the street to our park, sat in the bleachers, and watched an adult softball game. What fun! The league was co-ed and not super competitive. It seemed like folks were having fun and they were kind and encouraging to one another. So a real pleasure to watch.

Today I am thankful that it's the first day since we moved to our new apartment that I haven't been wracked with allergies.

Oh, and how could I have forgotten--D's team won the championship (in roller hockey) last night! Very cool.

Hm. Felt like there was more to say. But drawing a blank at the moment. Must be that time of night.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I'm Sorry. More Random Thoughts.

Seems random is about my energy level for words these days. Couldn't possibly form a whole thought. Too sleepy.

1. Today was the last big push. After a fairly successful yard sale on Saturday, we went back over to the old place today and emptied out the last of the junk, er, belongings. And we cleaned. We took over a car packed full of stuff to our favorite thrift store (where the proceeds all go toward HIV/AIDS research). Although the few boxes of toys we had to take to the Salvation Army because our favorite place wouldn't take them. Funny that combination of benefactors.

2. Just after we dropped off that last load of donated goods, I saw a man loading a big box into a truck. And I commented to D, "I wonder how much of human beings' time is spent moving things from one place to another." The thought amused us tremendously. D suggested it would make a fun sci-fi short story--where aliens visiting earth file a report to their motherplanet--"These creatures always seem to be moving things from one place to another. They have devised all manner of ways to do this: by automobile, by train, by air, by ship, on small metal things with wheels, in personal packs that they carry around on their backs. What we haven't been able to figure out is why, once they have moved their objects to another place, the objects just seem to sit there unused. Why move them at all when they were perfectly unused in the former place?" And so on. It made us laugh to think of it. And kind of disturbed us, too. Thoughts from the Latter Days of Moving. It's either utterly clever and brilliant or completely daft. We wouldn't be able to tell the difference at this point.

3. Something I'm thankful for: the past two days I was wandering around in two different stores, clearly looking for something and clearly not finding it. At each place, a salesman perceived my trouble and asked, "Can I help you find something?" Then graciously proceeded to lead me directly to the thing I was looking for. (A new dish drainer and those yellow dishwashing gloves, if you must know.) :) Such a delight to have someone make an effort like that. What a difference it makes. I kvetch about miserable customer service--so I figure I ought to celebrate it when it's great.

4. Yesterday I wore my purple dress to church. You need red to make purple. It was the best I could do. And G lent me a brilliant red stole. :)

5. This past week a woman in our church died after a couple weeks of hospice care. She was 105. Up until a month ago, she was in church nearly every Sunday.

6. D has discovered a "slight imperfection" in our laundry room here. Seems the washer walks a bit. Not such a big deal, right? Well, seems when it walks it shimmies on over in front of the door that leads into the laundry room! So after a load, you can only open the door partway, reach in, and muscle the washer out of the way in order to get inside. That is hilarious to me. But then again I'm not the one who does the wash.

7. E came in first place in his school chess tournament again today! Second time in a row! And D is playing in his final hockey game tonight with a chance to win it all. House of champions, I suppose. Me? I got nothin'.

8. My letter 'i' key seems to be cooperating today. That's somethin'.

9. We live three blocks from the train tracks now. The train just passed with whistle blaring. It fills the apartment with its sound. I love it. Don't you think, if trains were invented today, towns would pass all kinds of ordinances preventing it from blowing such a loud whistle? But because it's a part of our world, we just live with it. Some of us even romanticize it a bit. (Not that that's the least bit unlike me.) I wonder what my cat thinks the sound is. A pterodactyl?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Some Random Friday Thoughts

1. Last night was our last symphony excursion for the season. We saw Mahler's Symphony for a Thousand Voices. I kind of feel like this one missed me for the most part. I was tired. (Hm, wonder why.) And felt like I was under some kind of spell of sleepiness through the first half or so. This also caused me to lose my place in the playbill, so I couldn't tell where we were in the program. It was a very lush performance. I estimated maybe 500 or more voices in the chorus, including a children's choir of about 60. There was no intermission--so it was really an all encompassing experience, a rather magnificent wash of music.

Afterwards we came back to town and went out for drinks at a posh little spot downtown. I had an Andalusian Sidecar and a Venetian Martini. I don't really know what either of those things are. The first one was a very complicated flavor. Not something to like so much as to interpret it as you drink it. :)

2. The birds and squirrels around our apartment are amazing. There were not very many birds at all at the old place. (It's amazing the climate and habitat changes we've experienced with this move of only about two miles!) Our cat, who was feral for the first three days of his life (a fact that D insists Felix claims proudly), but who has been an indoor cat for the rest of his life, just quivers with excitement as the birds swoop and the squirrels scamper and chatter in the trees outside our window.

3. In about two hours from now I'm meeting with the pastor of the church where I've worked for the past year (and attended for the past two) about the possibility of increasing my hours and taking on more leadership responsibilities for planning worship.

4. Our new apartment building does not have any bins for recycling. I called our City's Ecology Center and found out that they will deliver bins and pick up our recycling for free! They're supposed to bring bins by today. I feel as though I've helped make the world a better place with this little action.

5. My laptop was carried carefully over to the new place in my car. It was not moved, you see, but carried here. Nonetheless, when I plugged it in the other day, the 'i' key had decided not to work corrrectly anymore. I think that's just rude. Now I have to go back countless times and whack the living daylights out of the 'i' key in order to get it to register anything.

6. I lost about 30 lbs in 2004-2005. And I've been maintaining the new weight for about a year now. Even though I continue to wear several sizes smaller than I did two years ago, there is not a single day that goes by when I don't look at my body and convince myself I've gained it all back. I hate this. I wish I could be utterly free of it. It's my own little special relationship with the Accuser.

7. This Sunday is Pentecost. I'm going to be the worship leader. We're all supposed to wear something red. I don't think I own anything red. I certainly don't own a red dress. I cannot imagine myself in a red dress. Purple is as bold as I've ever gotten (at least in the past twenty years). I'm so much more of an earthtone kind of person. I just don't think I can existentially bear wearing red.

8. I had my first UPS package delivered to my new home yesterday afternoon. Wihoo! It was the book Anamnesis as Dangerous Memory by Bruce Morrill.

9. We're hosting our first-ever yard sale tomorrow morning outside the old apartment. Any advice for us?

I think I'll end my random thoughts there, since 9 is more random than 10.