Thursday, November 30, 2006

Receiving the Day

I've come across these two quotes in my studying for my exam today. I share them with you because they just seemed too overwhelmingly beautiful for me to keep all to myself.

"We do not know that breathing can be communion with God. We do not realize that to eat can be to receive life from God in more than its physical sense. We forget that the world, its air or its food cannot by themselves bring life, but only as they are received and accepted for God's sake, in God and as bearers of the divine gift of life. By themselves they can produce only the appearance of life." -Alexander Schmemann

"This applies to the [gift of the] present time as to manna: one must gather it each day, without ever being able to store it up or to amass it as far as to dispense with receiving as a gift. The manna of time thus becomes daily for us. . . .The Christian names her bread 'daily bread' first because she receives the daily itself as bread, a food whose daily reception -- as a gift -- no reserve will spare." -Jean-Luc Marion

And so, may we experience this day as gift--for God's sake. Amen.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

One Foot in Front of the Other

...and soon you'll be heading out the door!

I'm digging in this morning to a full day and evening of studying as I prepare for the very last step of my Comprehensive Exams--the oral exam. (Every time I use the phrase, I have images of dentists peering into my gaping mouth looking for stray words about Foucault or aesthetics or ritual theory. Creepy.)

The task before me today is to flesh out the parts that I wrote about over the past year. To review my notes, page through the books again, to delve into the "more" of what I've already said. I feel confident that what I wrote is good. What I feel nervous about are questions that will push beyond what I wrote.

But I figure if I jump into the pond today (How many metaphors have I mixed in this one posting? Good grief.) and simply immerse myself in everything again, then I'll have something to say.

The morning here is brisk and spectacularly beautiful. The sun is flooding the living room and kitchen through our big front window. The cat is warming himself in the sun's fullness in the best sphinx pose he can muster. It was 60 degrees in the apartment when I got up this morning, but the heater, along with the sun, have toasted the air comfortably. I've had yummy oatmeal for breakfast and some wonderful Irish Breakfast Tea from Adagio. The Monk left the house singing. All of these suggest that the next 48 hours or so will be possible.

Prayers for focus, calm, memory, and clarity are deeply appreciated.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Been There, Done That

I'm slowly getting caught up on all the blogs I used to read regularly but had to quit while I finished my exams. I came across this fun meme on Lorna's blog from way back in October. Thought it would be fun to give it a whirl. The things I've done are marked in bold.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain (Mt McLoughlin in Oregon. Boy, did I regret my smoker's lungs then!)
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula (uhhh, no!)
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you’ and meant it!
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris (well, I saw the sunrise in Paris from the airport window on a brief layover on my way to Italy. But I figure since it was the sunrise it counts...)
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights (in Beach Haven, NJ of all places!!! I had no idea what they were. I thought it was the end of the world. I was 20 years old and I'm ashamed to admit that I immediately repented of all my liberal beliefs in hopes that it would save me in the last minute. Pathetic.)
15. Gone to a huge sports game (World Series Game 4, 1993, Blue Jays v. Phillies in Philadelphia; Phillies lost.)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa (Okay, didn't walk to the top. They don't let you anymore. But I did stand right next to it.)
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables (Well, I helped plant cucumbers one summer.)
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars (Absolutely! More than once!!!)
20. Changed a baby’s diaper (Absolutely...more than once...)
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Drunk champagne (-sigh-)
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight (and lost.)
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster (hated it!)
35. Scored a winning goal (in, like, air hockey)
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Visited all 5 continents
40. Taken care of someone who was drunk
41. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
42. Watched wild whales
43. Stolen a sign
44. Backpacked
45. Taken a road-trip (our honeymoon was a roadtrip to New Orleans almost fourteen years ago. We went through Nashville, Memphis, and Graceland and stopped at deathrow in Alabama on the way home. Don't ask. We also made a trip across the U.S. in 2003 with five-year-old Monk in tow.)
46. Gone rock climbing
48. Midnight walk on the beach (and skinnydip, of course.)
49. Gone sky diving
50. Taken a train through Europe
51. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
52. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table, and had a meal with them (at every meal on the train across country in 1989)
53. Milked a cow
54. Alphabetized your CDs (what else would you do with them?)
55. Sung karaoke (poorly)
56. Lounged around in bed all day
57. Gone scuba diving
58. Kissed in the rain (and danced)
59. Gone to a drive-in theatre
60. Started a business
61. Taken a martial arts class
62. Been in a movie
63. Crashed a party
64. Gone without food for 5 days
65. Gotten a tattoo
66. Got flowers for no reason
67. Performed on stage (does the fourth-grade play count? I played a stewardess.)
68. Been to Las Vegas (ick)
69. Recorded music (I wrote one song with five chords on the guitar and recorded it on a cassette tape, dreamt of fame and fortune ala Indigo Girls, then promptly gave it all up)
70. Eaten shark
71. Buried one/both of your parents
72. Been on a cruise ship
73. Spoken more than one language fluently (aw man. Why don't they ever ask what languages you can read? Hebrew, Greek, German, and French!!! With dictionaries at hand anyway!)
74. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over (just to start a PhD anyway)
75. Walked a famous bridge (Brooklyn and the Golden Gate)
76. Had plastic surgery
77. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived (Does driving off a mountainside count?)
78. Wrote articles for a large publication
77. Tried to lose weight seriously.
79. Piloted an airplane
80. Petted a stingray
81. Broken someone’s heart
82. Broken a bone
83. Eaten sushi (yum!)
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Parasailed
86. Skipped all your school reunions
87. Shaved your head
88. Caused a car accident (Does backing into a schoolbus in high school count? I was digging around for my cigarettes while backing up. Good grief.)
89. Pretended to be “sick” (-cough- -cough-)
90. Swam in the Pacific Ocean (too cold!)
91. Saved someone’s life
92. Fainted (How Victorian of me.)
93. Been in the room while someone is giving birth (me!)
94. Hitchhiked
95. Adopted a child
96. Been caught daydreaming
97. Been to the Painted Desert
98. Called off a wedding engagement
99. Donated your blood
100. Become a follower of Jesus Christ (still working on this one.)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What's Beginning to Emerge

I haven't managed to get myself back into West Coast time yet. Last night I (barely) managed to stay up 'til 11. (If you don't count snoozing on the couch for an hour before that.) But still can't seem to sleep past 6 in the morning.

The nice thing about that is two or three hours of a quiet apartment, some "stolen" time to get some work done. It's a beautifully peaceful feeling.

This morning I've been doing some work in preparation for our class this Tuesday. I haven't written much (if at all) about this course I've been co-teaching. I think it's one of those professional/personal boundary things when it comes to blogging, I suppose. But my lack of writing about it here doesn't convey the extent to which teaching this class has been an excellent, wonderful, fantastic experience over these past few months.

The course is focused on Worship in the 21st Century, with a particular eye toward postmodernism. This coming week (our last week of instruction before student presentations on their final projects), we'll be looking at emergent worship. This morning I've been reading through some of the many websites dedicated to the subject. This alone is a fascinating aspect of the emergent movement(s)--how web-based it is!

To be honest, my heartbeat is quickening as I look through all this stuff. Emergent has been a woefully neglected part of my PhD education in liturgical studies. What I am learning about it, I am doing on my own. And what I am feeling, to an increasingly fervent degree, is that it's exactly where I ought to be putting my energies right now. (The parrots are flying by as I write that sentence. I'm starting to trust the parrots' arrival.) :)

On Saturday evening at the AAR I attended an "additional meeting" session that focused on the Emergent Movement. Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, and Peter Rollins were on the panel. Each person spoke for about twenty minutes and each was brilliant. It was thrilling to me to hear intellectually stimulating, grounded (and yet visionary), substantive reflections from these three "movers and shakers" in the Emergent movement. For an mp3 of Peter Rollins's remarks at AAR visit here. (With thanks to pomomusings.) Whereas I went into the session fearing that Emergent is more of a flash-in-the-pan, I left feeling certain that this movement truly holds (lightly and reverently, it seems) the future of the church in its hands. (Not in the hands of those three individuals, but in the hands of all the networks and gathered emergent people across the world.) This is something that can't be ignored. And I feel excited to be on this edge of the movement with my academic career yet in front of me.

If you're interested in knowing what the heck I'm talking about (I barely know myself), take a look at these websites.

Emergent Village
EmergingChuch.Info (interview with Peter Rollins)
Ikon, the emerging "becoming church" community founded by Rollins in Belfast, Ireland
Vintage Faith

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Gift of More

Last Spring when I wrote my two devotionals for the RevGalBlogPal's book Ordinary Time (advertised at right), November seemed so unimaginably far away. But here we are, about to heft the last days of the month onto our backs and carry them into December. I shamelessly invite you over to Ordinary Time to read the devotionals I wrote for yesterday and today. Both of them are based on the same text--David's last words--which are part of the lectionary readings for this coming Sunday when we celebrate Christ the King.

As I recuperated over the past couple weeks during my blogging hiatus, I sadly missed my first blogiversary. I published my first entry here on the Blanket in the Grove on November 14, 2005. If you're disposed to such things, I invite to you to take a step back for a moment and read my debut here. At that time I had just returned from the East Coast (as I have now, as well!); I was preparing with great (and as it turns out, unnecessary) trepidation to propose my comprehensive exams, (I'm now preparing for my final, oral exam next week); and had just been licensed for ministry in my congregation (where my hours expanded considerably for this current year).

Each of these things continue to be the benchmarks that help me know my place in this world. I had titled that first entry "In Between" and in some ways I wonder if this is always my experience. There is an enduring sense of being on a journey (as I know so many of us feel) and that the in-betweenness of that journey is the gift of it. Every arrival eventually becomes an invitation to set out again toward another unknown.

So I am recently returned from the East Coast again--arrived Tuesday night from Washington DC where I attended my first-ever Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society for Biblical Literature. As D pulled the car up at the airport about 8:00 on the night I arrived, Monk spotted me and opened his door before the car had come to a complete stop--so eager was he to greet his ol' Mom. There was no danger, really, the car was going slow enough by that point and he was well-strapped in. But it did give me a bit of a start!

I want to always remember the moment, though--the prodigal son who looks with overflowing eagerness for the return of his mum. In the car as we drove back home, Monk burst over with stories and laughter. When I would turn and look at him, I was amazed at the light in his eyes. I felt it all as gift.

Going to AAR was everything I needed it to be. I am so glad I was there this year. It got me out of the cozy box I'd had to live in over the past year as I answered the questions for my exams. It reminded me of all the amazing questions being asked by academics all over the world. It demystified some of the Big Names I've been reading all these years--I got to see them as people, laugh at their jokes, appreciate their three-dimensional humanness rather than their two-dimensional texts!

I was also able to reconnect with old friends in a way that simply helps me remember who I am.

I also was able to talk with people fruitfully about the next step in front of me--proposing and writing my dissertation. I won't say much about that now, but imagine it will be a subject which accompanies me in this blog for some time to come now.

One of the highlights of the trip, rather unexpectedly, was the opportunity to go to an exhibit at the Sackler Gallery (one of the museums of the Smithsonian Institute) where they featured Bibles (as in codices, scrolls, papyri, and eventually manuscripts) prior to the year 1000. You can read more about it here. What an awesome experience! With all the talk about fragmentation in postmodernity, it was humbling, indeed, to see the fragments out of which we have pieced together our scriptures. There is something fundamentally deceptive about the neatly contained, uninterrupted solidity of our bibles published by major publishing houses today. It was truly humbling to see the fragments of our scriptural origins, their very physical tentativeness seems to stand as a crying plea to careful, gentle, tentative exegesis--rather than the heavy-handed, confident, and stern certainty that all too often is our approach to biblical texts.

Not only that, but the reverent beauty with which many of these pages were created was awe-inspiring. Though I have to say that it occurred to me at one point that these pages were once somebody's deadline. Perhaps merely what had to get done, somebody's work. My sense is that they were not alienated from their work, as we so often are from our own. But I bet there were at least some moments when the monk working on his page felt the pressure to simply get it done. Perhaps he suffered from a sleepless night on occasion, worrying about the page he had yet to finish. This thought pleases me for some reason. To see the page a thousand years later seems to give those moments simultaneously unbearable weight and unbearable lightness. It matters; it matters not.

Well, there still feels like more to say. And for this, in and of itself, I am grateful. Too many weeks of dry silence in my world. So good to wake up to fresh dew on the grass.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I have been in the midst of a rather unplanned blogging hiatus lately. It has everything to do with just finishing my comps. The written ones, anyway. My oral exam still awaits me at the end of this month.

It is a testament to just how insanely I worked over the month of October that in the week after finishing the exams, both my body and my computer decided they could go on no further.

I continued with some pretty fantastic back pain for a week or more after the last exam. The remnants of this pain are still with me. I am not entirely free of it. So I proceed cautiously.

Meanwhile, my computer stopped communicating with its power cord and refused, utterly refused, to believe it was plugged into the socket. After about a week of feeling lost and disenfranchised, I managed to get it back up and running with the simplest and least expensive solution (a new cord was needed, not a new port).

Despite the pain I was experiencing and the loss of my computer for a week, all I could do was thank God that these things happened after the exams were written and not in the midst of them. And as for the pain itself, I felt I had to absorb it, mind it, and apologize to myself for taking such poor care of my body in the midst of my work.

I expect my postings will still be sporadic as I prepare to leave for the American Academy of Religion conference happening in Washington DC at the end of this week. I hope I'll be able to get some blogging done from there, but we'll have to see how the schedule goes.

I do hope, though, to be back up and running consistently very soon. I've missed this space and the relationships I've experienced here.

Peace and love.