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McDonald’s breakfast with Mom on our way to Trader Joes. Daffodils .99 a bunch so we got two. She put some in a clear vase and a few in a “pretty blue vase” that can sit on the table by her chair. Daffodils are just so cheery.

Washed the floor, cleaned the bathroom, finished up the dishes, watered the porch plants and packed up my stuff. Kissed Mom goodbye. Headed to Napa for a meeting.

Great (hands free) conversation with friend, eL. Stunning scenery along the way. Some things I noticed:

Trees starting to bud out.
Trees flowering exorbitantly in pink and white
Highway hillsides covered with daffodils
Blues skies
Green earth and brown spring water in the chanels.
Then a huge white egret spread her wings and flew right towards me landing just yards away from the car on the roadside. Whew.
eL’s laugh is like a refreshing waterfall and her still joyous outlook on the world even in the midst of the busyness of school and community life and the sad note from a Bolivian friend is like balm.

Then the blowout on the highway. Hmmm. Well, there you go. No matter what plans you make, you just aren’t really in charge. I was actually going to be on time this time! Sigh. So, I knitted the twenty minutes waiting for the AAA fellow to arrive. It was a dangerous part of road, so I stayed put. “Wrong move,” said the police officer who stopped to “push” me off the road. His advice – officially given – no matter what, drive the car off the road (I thought I had, but not to his satisfaction,) so you don’t get hit. It’s dangerous out there.

Thirty minutes of meeting, ten of chatter after then headed back to San Francisco in time to go to friends’ for Oscar. Door prizes and this was the menu:

Menu for the Seventy-Sixth Academy Awards
(C and S’s Sixth Annual Party)

Dinner

Julia Roberts Stars in

MYSTIC PIZZA

Terrence Malick’s masterpiece
THE THIN RED VINES

The Horror Classic
CHILDREN OF THE (POP) CORN

The Drama of Race in America
RAISIN(ETS) IN THE SUN

Al Pacino’s Classic New York Summer
HOT DOG DAY AFTERNOON

Dessert
Ze French Feel Good Hit
CHOCOLAT (PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIES)

Yay, Renee and Tim. Sorry Bill.

I want to thank Mom, Lorraine, Chad, Shannon, Kate, Tom, the tow truck driver and you, God.

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9:00 p.m. Friday (for Diana)

It’s not too late, but I’m tired. I’m exhausted, truth be told. And I recognize this feeling. I had it the other night when I came home from the movie. I was tired, I was cranky and I wasn’t generous. Rats.

I saw The Passion of the Christ Wednesday. It was brutal, it was grotesque, it was violent, but it was also beautiful in some ways. I was angry when I returned home from watching it, though I couldn’t have told you that then. Perhaps you could tell from the reflections I rolled out the next morning. Written the night before, they were from my tired cranky brain.

I wanted to see a movie that would help me understand why Jesus died. Why anyone dies. And that’s not what I saw. And it made me angry.

Jesus died. That’s it. He loved people. He was God choosing to suffer what we suffer. And he took the hard way out that so many people have to take, no choices. And I still want to know why.

As my mom continues to live through tedious and tiring chemotherapy treatments which will only end when her life does: I don’t know why anyone has to die. It makes me crazy when I think about it. My Mom! Don’t you get it, (God!) she’s my MOM! She lived and so I do too. She loves and so I do too. Why would she have to die? Why, I ask, does anyone. If life is so great (and there’s the real question.) why does anyone have to leave it? (That was cranky, angry brain too.)

So, I was disappointed with the movie by Mel Gibson. I set myself up to be. Really. It can’t answer any questions I have. I get the suffering bit. I see it around me daily. I taste it too. A bit. I watch my mother struggle with her loss of independence; her loss of mobility and her loss of desire and appetite. This sucks. Why? I guess I’m ever going to be asking this question.

Her suffering? No sense.

The Passion of the Christ is a powerful movie. That’s obvious. People are being moved by it. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, agnostics, everyone is talking about it. Well, I should say everyone I know is talking about it. Of course almost everyone I know talks about God. So, there you go. I think Mel Gibson, God bless him, has tried to make a movie that will touch people. I think he’s done that. I’m looking forward to Mel’s next movie: The Resurrection of the Christ. That’s the one that’s going to give me hope.

Some say this movie is a great evangelical tool. That it’s the best such tool we’ve had for 2000 years. But I think the tools for evangelism have been around not only for the last 2000 years, but since the beginning of God’s creation of humanity. My Mom still laughs. She still cries. She still loves. Evangelism. Mel ain’t got nothing on Mom.

I’m hardly making sense now. I don’t know some of it seems so clear to me and some of it doesn’t. If something seems clear to you after seeing the movie. I’m glad. Moments of clarity are a gift. Moments add up. Please, share them. I need all the clarity I can not only find in myself, but can borrow from you too.

Thanks.

Random Lenten thoughts:

Lent has got to be one of the great seasons of the year! It’s a time to practice things which make us more holy and happy. My friend, Teresa, told me that the homily she heard on Ash Wednesday invited her to practice lent by “not giving up what you like,” but practicing something that will make you happy (a state God really wishes for each of us.)

So, as she noted, rather than “giving up chocolate” because it’s something one likes, one could “give up overeating chocolate, beer, salty snacks, etc.” because doing so will help me to be more healthy and happy and, yes, holy!

Okay so here are my Lenten “practices” for 2004 in no particular order:

• Write every day. No matter what. Something, somewhere, somehow. Going to try to post each day to the “blog” as external deadlines work for me. Writing is a gift, I think, from God and I need to explore what and how it can lead me closer to a real Christian life.
• Give up sugar, real and artificial (if it’s in the top four ingredients, pass it by). For me this isn’t about giving up something I like, it’s practicing living without something that makes me crazy. I’m pretty sure I’m one of those sugar-sensitive folks. A little sugar in my system means I crave more – all the time. So, Lent offers me this amazing period in which I have not only the will power, but the grace to work through the addiction in a different way. So, I’m also reading “The Sugar Addicts Total Recovery Program” this Lent too.
• Begin a program for more holistic attention management (mindfulness). Getting in touch with the divine in the here and now – cuz that’s where the divine is and as I hurry and hustle and bustle about I remove myself from the presence of God and my sisters and brothers – who are right here right now and this is IT!

I think this is enough. Each of these things is intended to bring me closer to being the healthy person God would like me to be. Each offers me the opportunity to sacrifice some and to practice something that can bring me closer to God and others. Here we go. And you?

Teresa, if you read this, get the book: Sabbath, by Wayne Muller. Just a thought.

Warning… Spoilers below

Brutal, yes; graphic, yes; new information? Not so much. It is as it was? Give me a break. This was one man’s interpretation of a variety of sources. “Made you look.” That’s what I’d imagine Mr. Gibson is thinking and if he’s not, then he may not be fully in tune with his own motivations. The movie is manipulative to say the least: music: slow motion, special (read, “cheap”) effects (which probably cost a pretty penny.) If you are going to the movie to “feel” something, you will. If you’re not, Mel has certainly done his best to make you.

The Gospel according to Mel? Perhaps. It’s not the Gospel I’ve read. There are too many freedoms taken with the “additional” characters, most notably “evil” gliding about through the story and the crowds. (just bizarre.)

In a couple of the Last Supper flashbacks, I wondered, “who are these people?” – well all the way through the movie I kept wondering “Who are these people?” Character development was not the strong suit for this film. I love a good story and I like my characters, even the minor ones, to be developed. Call me curious. I like to see “why” someone does what they’re doing, not just the “stock” character whose sole purpose is to do what the script says, no questions asked. I like questions asked. I like some hints. The Roman thugs are a prime example. Right. Roman, soldier = thug. I’m not so sure. People aren’t that simple.

Mary, now she’s a devoted Mom. A brave and loving woman; a soul in love with her son and the God from whom he came. It’s pretty clear that our moviemaker is deeply in touch with his Marian side. He’s sure she was a saint. And he’s pretty sure who else is a saint. Even if he plays fast and loose with the stock and minor characters (even the legendary ones, like Veronica).

More the story of Mary than Jesus. While Jesus is the main character, he doesn’t really do a whole lot. (The doing of his life happened before and here he’s BEING – which is one of the points well made.)

John, Mary Magdalen, cast in the roles legend and tradition have created for them. Peter, ah, our impetuous Peter. Judas, well now that was pretty well done. Judas’ sin, of course, was not so much the betrayal of Jesus, but his inability to believe the message of forgiveness that Jesus had tried so hard to share with him.

But I get away with myself. That’s the LIFE of Jesus. And this movie doesn’t have a whole lot to say about that; nor the Resurrection. No Easter eyes cast on this story.

Am I glad I saw it? I am. As a “missaphobe” I’d have wondered if I hadn’t. It didn’t transform my image or experience of the passion of Christ. I was left wanting to see more of the life of Jesus and the Resurrection visitations. So, off to the scriptures I go. And perhaps to that other movie, The Gospel of John. I’ll be taping Judas on TV in two weeks too. So, left me wanting more, that’s something great.

I’m glad I saw it. I’m not sure I can recommend it. And I know I don’t ever need to see it again. I’m very sure young folks shouldn’t see it. The graphic, brutal scenes, I don’t even want that in my head; I’d certainly not want to put it in the heads of the young people I love. No way. And truthfully, though here it’s depicted in ruthlessly tedious fashion, I don’t think there’s anything depicted here that one hasn’t seen on primetime TV. Just not so concentrated. Surely the cumulative effect is the same – deadening us to the brutality.

Meanwhile, if you aren’t Christian, you probably won’t become one because of this movie. But who would expect a movie to convert anyone? It’s just a movie after all. The question I’d ask, in those shoes, is why was anyone so devoted to him. That’s the rest of the story (and the first of the story) and it’s missing here.

My ongoing question is this: what did/can/are we learning from the death of Jesus the Christ? How do we continue to challenge ourselves to see the violence we inflict on others as just the same – guilty or innocent (Dismas or Jesus,) no one deserves to die this way. It’s not our place anyway to kill them. Life = gift from God. Take it from others at your peril.

Pick up your cross and walk… No, wait, that was pick up your mat – a miracle cure that Jesus used to instruct his listeners in what is harder – healing a person or forgiving their sins. (Forgiveness being a central theme in the Gospels.)

Mark 2:3 ff. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?

So, it’s Ash Wednesday and while I prepare to take up my cross for the day and go see that movie I’m reflecting on the power of movies. Easier to see a movie about the Passion of Christ, I imagine, than the daily living of what it taught us.

We are all, as Gibson keeps saying, culpable for the murder of Christ. Most Christians acknowledge this. What the Passion really offers is a glimpse into our culpability for ALL murders. Each victim of murder innocent as Jesus was. Did Jesus deserve to have his life so violently ended? Does anyone? If Jesus’ death showed anything (and it showed plenty,) it showed most clearly how humans who sacrifice other humans for the sake of the community’s welfare are certainly misguided. “Better that one should die for the many?”

Each time we put the death penalty into play, each time we scapegoat one villian or another, even in our day to day lives – those who disagree with us, those who live differently, those who are different, painful to be around, just plain annoying – each of these times we are re-enacting the sacrifice of Christ. While perhaps technically guilty, the victims are still innocent, still children of the same God, still children.

And we never saw that before Jesus. I hope those who see the movie come away seeing it even more clearly now. I’ll let you know how it goes for me. You can see for yourself on KRON 4 at 8:30 tomorrow morning.

Remember the Pilot who tried to evangelize his passengers, what, last week? The week before? Salon’s Ask the Pilot and the responses, gave me a moment or two of humor today.

….and let’s go ahead and stave off the jokes and cartoons before they happen, assuming it’s not too late: Flight attendants will not be coming around with collection baskets; seats will not be replaced by pews; a copy of the New Testament will not be found in your seat pocket; a tablet-style recreation of the Ten Commandments will not be posted on the first-class bulkhead. Yes, an aft lavatory is about the correct size and shape of a confessional, but no, there is no need to address the captain as Father, Pastor, Reverend, or His Holiness (though you are free to speak at will of his all-knowingness, and for $4 he will turn your Diet Pepsi into a small bottle of wine.) The separation of church and sky is well assured, if not by the Constitution, then at least by good sense.

Thank goodness the pilot wasn’t a Catholic. Imagine having to kneel between economy class seats. — Bob Palmer

Yeah, I can barely fit my 3 carry-ons – oh, oops, I mean 2 carry-ons in that space!

Well, there’s likely to be a lot of suffering for me as I am being interviewed on Thursday about that movie (and don’t pretend you don’t know the one I mean.) I had no intention of seeing it (violence and all) but, it’s an opportunity to let people know there are young adult Catholics too. So, here I go. KRON 4 News – Thursday, Feb. 26. 8:30 a.m. (or so they tell me.)

Love or In Love? That is the question. When it’s both, it’s the best!

To assess whether you and the person you’re in love with are ready for a serious relationship, you can ask yourself some key questions: Has your relationship been tested by differences of taste and opinion? Can you talk seriously and openly to each other?

Well, I can say my relationship with God has been tested by differences of taste and opinion. As Anne Lamott would say, when you find that God seems to like the same people you do and, well, not so much the others that you do too, you can probably assume you’ve created God in your own image. I TRY to defer to God’s opinion. Succeed now and then too. Fortunately, I’m finding, I can (if I allow myself) talk seriously and openly to God. The problem there, of course, is that I don’t always listen seriously and openly! It’s a work in progress.

Hope yours is too. Happy St. Valentine’s Day

The quote at the end of my email read:

“In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice (or more accurately a rolling tangle of choices) between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot — and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy. It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty. And curiously, uncertainty is the comforting choice.” from Art & Fear

My brother responded:

Now I do not understand why “uncertainty is the comforting choice”. My brain does not connect with the philosophical rationale. I am full of disconnects this week!

Allan

I responded to his response:

Not giving it your best shot — and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy. If you don’t give it your best shot – it certainly won’t make you happy. But if you do give it your best shot, it’s got a fifty fifty chance of actually making you happy. But it still might not. You only get the chance that it will make you happy by giving it your best shot – but it’s uncertain. certainly this is clear? 🙂 tee hee.

Christine

Then he responded to the response to his response:

In examining this idea, I certainly understand now what you are saying and it certainly sounds like confusion, looks like a tangled web of logic, but intellectually (the hardest examination) makes sense.

Allan

All in all a charming exchange.

We’re just a drop in the bucket, and that’s meaningless. But we say, ‘No, wait a minute. If you have a bucket, those raindrops fill it up very fast. Being a drop in the bucket is magnificent.’ The problem is we cannot see the bucket. Our work is helping people see that there is a bucket. There are all these people all over the world who are creating this bucket of hope. And so our drops are incredibly significant. — Frances Moore Lappe

Recently my friend Chad told me about the students at St. Ignatius Prep who, upon learning there’s no place serving breakfasts to homeless people, (lunch and dinner are more common) decided to do a little something about it. Now they do a “comfort run” each Thursday bringing sandwhiches to anyone who wants one in front of St. Joseph’s in San Francisco. Hundreds of the students have participated. It’s a teen idea, a teen action and a teen supported deal. Go teens!

Teen voices and teen actions are changing the face of the world.

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