not just bread, not just wine [over at Deeper Church].

creative commons.

I’m so thrilled to be sharing my first post over at A Deeper Church today!

It’s a story of Sacraments and sacramentals, and through the sacred and mundane moments, I’m wondering how we piece it all together–

It was a few years ago now that we three were gathered with red wine bought in a hurry and cheap water crackers to carry snooty cheese. Back then, the guys brought the stories and I simply gathered them into myself, knit line by line into something I could wrap myself in for a long time to come. We were in somewhat disparate spiritual spaces then, but located here each week by a fire, by wine, by strands of Gospel-truth nonetheless stringing us together. We spun sacrament and wondered at holy judgment and marveled at the created order telling the same Story over and over again. This night as we talked, I reached over the cheese and absentmindedly broke a cracker in two.

Suddenly before me, it was as the Host, held high above the altar, split down the middle, Body broken for me and for many, wine and Blood to follow.

Will you join over at A Deeper Church, and enter into the mosaic of faith stories? Click here.

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a good friday post.

“Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world…”

When I survey the wondrous cross…

I sing out the words loud and open, knowing that I do so because I love Isaac Watts more than I truly understand the words. This happens to me more often than you’d think—lying in church. But this is why I keep showing up nonetheless: these lies are also prayers that one day I will be telling the truth.

The cross? Wondrous because foreign. That crown? So rich because it’s unreachable.

Love so amazing, so divine

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

This, this is true. This at least. I know what is demanded.

—————–

In these twenty-something years, the cross has held both my highest mysticism and my coldest shrug.

—————–

I cry through the collects.

for those in loneliness, fear, and anguish…

for those who face temptation, doubt, and despair…

for the sorrowful and bereaved…

for those who have lost their faith…

for those hardened by sin or indifference…

these and other passions I know—in names I pray and on my very skin.

The Passion? A distant bloodbath on just another pretty man.

——————

I hold the Eucharist in high regard–you would think I’ve come to terms with the Sacrifice. Each week, Body, broken for you; blood shed for you. Each week, these holy mysteries. But this day of the Holy Mystery, there is no sweetness or burn of wine, no bread, because this day is all Body, all Blood. And I’m standing a million miles away.

——————–

I break my Triduum hiatus from facebook by half-accident to see Preston’s status, and I’m sure this is me:

“[…] See, me, this certain believer, this always in the church Christian, has never struggled with a God big enough and wonderful enough to create cosmos and come again and burst forth on Easter Day. This always-faithful Christian struggles to believe in the God who died. […]”

 ——————

This is the part that will sound better or worse than it was.

This is the part I wish I wasn’t telling you—that I went home from that service, found an odd cigarette from some rebellious night past, and lit it on my back stoop, alone, into the night. I’m not going to pretend this smoke was sacrament, or even right, but it suddenly seemed very very important to breathe the death and guilt into my lungs on this night and watch it materialize in front of me. To flick the ash I missed on my brow almost forty days ago, to taste the darkness on my lips though the flame long extinguished, to feel the sickness coming on me like sin.

Halfway through, street noises died down just long enough for me to think I hear the curtain rent in two.

——————–

Tomorrow, Holy Saturday, I will plant something in my windowbox. A friend told me this is something of a tradition, that what you plant in earth on the day our Lord was in the ground is sure to grow well. This is not quite orthodoxy, but I will get dirt under my nails in fear and trembling. I will pray a small thanks for the more than small hope that my faith doesn’t require total understanding, that my belief holds more and less than my discursion.

But I will plant, hoping something Good and True will rise from the dead.

twenty-twelve debrief: part two.

you can read the first part of this debrief here.

I gave up social media for Lent. 

It was not, after all, all that spectacularly difficult. I didn’t even “cheat.” I checked once on Sundays for notifications and mentions, just, you know, to be polite. I didn’t have many; I had, after all, announced my  “fast.” The quiet was nice. I found myself not obsessing over dings and buzzes on my phone, found the halt when I typed in “tw–” or “fa–” in my searchbar to be nice, too.

Nice. Neato. Not much more, if I’m honest. I wonder if I entered in wanting to be transformed, instead of to be faithful in observing the season, in grieving, in worshipping–and letting Grace transform me in the process. [I was fumbling for bright instead of the Light.] I paused once or twice in forty days to pray instead of tweet, to thumb a homemade chaplet in the middle of a coffeeshop. I didn’t do much of the real work, the heartstuff. Though there is something to be said for praying even when you’re not  paying attention, there weren’t even many prayers to yawn through. No repetition to lean on.

It was, in the end, a very nice exercise.

[Spring Break was nothing much to comment on. I spent the first four days completely in bed reading a book about mental illness and some other book I can’t remember but had been trying to finish for ages. This might have been the apex of crisis.]

Easter weekend came along, to be spent with the guys in Houston. I’ll spare you the gushing about what a weekend that was because I think I’m turning into the very worst mommy-blogger who brags about how awesome her kids are. What a blessing they are and how she can’t take credit. Just replace kids with friends.

[Except my friends ARE awesome AND a blessing AND I can’t take credit.]

But I will tell you that it was my first go-around of observing Holy Week in its entirety: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, Easter morning. And I will tell you that when the light came in on Saturday evening, when the sanctuary of Trinity Episcopal was suddenly overcome with new adornments and Resurrection-song, something of the Resurrection happened in me. As I write this, I wonder if my half-assed Lenten observation was the right juxtaposition with that Easter. That maybe the point of that Holy Week (and maybe all of them) was the redemption despite, not because.

We drove home to Waco with due assignments on our backs, and thus began the series of unnecessary all-nighters that marked the end of my college career. There were late-night baking frenzies, taco runs, library stakeouts, verbal drills for our Great Texts verbal examination, piles of articles and books on my desk that ended up amounting to a crazed and pathetic academic end to the semester.

I dreaded graduation week. It felt like the end of everything. It felt like I had nothing to celebrate.

But thank goodness for those wonderful people to end it with, to remind me of what we had accomplished after all. And we celebrated a lot. Early graduation morning, we sat in the living room of our favorite coffeehouse, favorite drinks in had. Months later, I would sweep beneath the chairs we sat in, wondering if I was gathering any of the last words we spoke as undergraduates, sacraments and pop culture references in the same breath.

We walked across the stage, greeted by cheers and the very best professors at the foot of the stairs.

I took a walk with Erica as the sun went down that evening, with my gifted pearls on, because neither of us could unclasp them. [The things you remember.] We circled around campus, tasting the word “graduates” for the first time. Both of us were staying in Waco, desperately thankful for that “both,” but not knowing how to proceed.

Nonetheless, it was a beautiful sunset.

To be continued, again.

So, this has turned out different than I expected. I’m writing without edits, and that means longer posts, I guess. It’s not really fair to you, but you know, read what you can. Here’s part three.

i cannot write about sandy hook.

Because what would I tell you?

I guess I can tell you that true to form, it took three days for the grief to hit. That it wasn’t until I stood with my congregation to say the Nicene Creed that I realized I was weeping, because I had to fight my way through it, because I meant all the I believes. I could tell you about the woman who had to stop in the middle of the prayers of the people because her own tears had taken over, that phrases like the congress and the courts and those in trouble, sorrow, sickness, need, or any other adversity were punctuation in themselves. We passed peace around as a prayer. I received the Eucharist in desperation, thinking of the Sacrifice in and out of time, of Pascal writing Christ will be in agony until the end of the world.

God with us.

We sang,

He comes, the broken heart to bind,

the bleeding soul to cure…

It all brings into sharp focus the fact that sometimes I need that I need to stand in the words of others to make my prayers more true, to mouth words alongside while all my heart can say is yes.

So. I am offering the words of others to you today, who have written in response to the tragedy of last Friday. Some I know, some I don’t, all I think you should read in light of your questions and heartbreak. And in light of the fact that you don’t know how to respond.

  • An Advent Response to Newtown, Connecticut: “And the most honest – the most faithful — utterance in your soul is, “No way.”  There’s no way this can be right.  There’s no way this is true.  There’s no way we can keep nodding along while children die. That is the real moment of your conversion.” [Thank you, Craig Nash, for sharing this.]
  • God Can’t Be Kept Out, by Rachel Held Evans; calling bullshit and breathing such hope in the same post: “If the incarnation tells us anything, it’s that God can’t be kept out.”
  • Tonight I’m Praying, by Emily Maynard: “I pray especially for the [weird] kids who are picked out because someone can link them in some cruel way to the kid who destroyed so many lives on Friday.”
  • when i am a slow prophet, by Preston Yancey; weaving poetry, prayers, and wisdom: “I am thinking of mother arms. I am thinking of empty mother arms. Christ, our Lord.”
  • a short, but necessary post about the way we’ve been talking about mental illness in the wake of all this: “When we talk about “the mentally ill” in a way that takes for granted the connection between illness and violence, we actually contribute to the systemic problems that prevent people from getting adequate mental health care.” [Thank you, Dianna Anderson, for sharing].

added 12/20:

  • Anger and Advent, by Kristin Tennant: “Facing tragedy in the midst of Advent highlights that conflict. I can’t express both joy and sadness at once. I don’t know how to feel both defeated and triumphant. I can’t seem to marry anger and peace. So I am left feeling numb. Nothing.”
  • Immanuel, by Alise Wright: “When we who claim belief in this story say that God is beholden to our laws regarding teacher-led prayer (because let’s not kid ourselves into believing the lie that God has been completely banned from the public school), we cheapen his presence”

Christ have mercy.

If I find more posts/resources around the web that I think should be included here, I will add them.

If you have read any especially helpful posts/articles, feel free to add them in the comments below.

the stones i stood on firmly.

It happened in an instant.

One minute, the Isrealites are crossing the river, the next, half a glass of Merlot has spilled all over the open lectionary pages of the prayer book. Deep pigment rolls across the scripture references and finally settles in deep. In an odd irrational moment of panic at the potential ruin, I don’t know whether to cry, to Instagram, or to whisper the words that bubble to the surface: “This is my blood of the New Covenant, shed for you and for many…”

Soon, the laughter takes over, especially as I consider how Past Self might react to this little scene. I reach for towels as the reality of the light brown carpet takes over. Carefully separating and drying the pages, something occurs to me. It was during Ordinary Time, wasn’t it? July, even.

I check my app purchases for proof—one of many ways we perform personal archaeology in this age—and discover I’m mostly right. Just over a year ago, I downloaded a Morning and Evening Prayer iPad application.

That summer, I had read a blogpost or two about the Church calendar, maybe a blurb from Phyllis Tickle about Ordinary Time. A strand of something about the Daily Office. So I found Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God in the wrong section of the bookstore and bought it because it was structured around the liturgical year. I downloaded that app.

The summer before that, I scrawled somewhere, who knew reading these saint guys could soften my heart again? after walking through a bit of Bonaventure by recommendation.

Now, I’m soaking up wine from a second-hand prayer book at 11 pm, trying to remember it all, thinking of that line of narration from Beasts of the Southern Wild: I see everything that made me, flying around in invisible pieces. These pieces that conspired in grace to bring me to this moment, carrying my footsteps to places I didn’t even know I was venturing, destinations I did not plan.

Quietly, I also realize that this means it might not always be quite this way.

Yes, somewhere in the midst of the now and forever, Amens, the apportioned readings, and the liturgy, the Holy Spirit made these dry bones breathe and live and know Him as Lord again. Somehow these rhythms of worship feel like a heartbeat, new to me though they may be.

But the honest truth is that I don’t know how long I’ll be here. Many parts of my life are shifting, and so I’m reminded that someday it could mean this bit, too. Depending on where I am and what I am doing, my worship may need to change, my habits alter. I am not sure what it will all look like. When I jump the gun and think about The Rest of My Life, I wonder if I am laying brick or pitching a tent.

I finish the Old Testament reading for the almost-finished day as the wet book flutters under a fan. The LORD commands that stones be taken “from the midst of the Jordan, from where the priest’s feet stood firmly,” that they may build a memorial, a sign of His hand that held the waters of the Jordan so His people could pass through.

 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’  then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’

I think of the books and blogposts and blurbs I mentioned before, the pieces that brought me here. I think of the prayers and the saints, the liturgy and the hymns.

These are the stones, I think, these are the stones I have stood on firmly.

And so in times to come, if I approach another river, wherever that may be, I pray that I am able to look at these stones and know what they mean: that there was once dry ground and once a Mighty Hand to hold the waters back, so I could and will pass through.

color, cacophony, communion.

My colors are loud today.

At least, they seem so in the quiet of the chapel bathed in neutrals. In here, there is no stained glass to add to the banter, to wash everyone else in jewel tones, too.

I’ve already wiped off my coral lipstick as I made my way through the church. It’s the kind thing to do with a shared Cup, I think. But I cannot subdue the turquoise shoes, the canary clutch wallet. And then there’s the siren of a neon-orange manicure that I cannot hide as I pass the peace, or cup one palm in the other, waiting for bread.

And to think, I was just giving eucharisteo thanks for all those tones and shades.

Now, here, they are blaring. And I am being arrogantly self-conscious about it, but it feels like a sign of something else. I know I should instead drink in the grace in Amma Jo’s eyes as she meets mine, beginning in perfect meter, “the Body of Christ…” I know I should instead soak in our peace-passing as it become onomatopoeic, our soft “c’s” brushing against each other’s faces and echoing in this little place.

But I am tired of feeling loud and new and out of rhythm here. I want to skip all the steps of learning how to be in a place and with a people, how to “do” church. I am not willing to see the little things as they come as beginnings. I want the house to be built, but I do not want to build it. And mostly, I do not want to admit the fear.

I am impatient.

And here, at this midweek service, I am waiting for Eucharist to not only be communion with Him in mystery and beauty, but also an enactment of Faith and Life in community, unabstracted. I want to know names and stories, to know for whom this Body breaks, for whom this Blood pours out.

And really,  if I’m honest, I’m the one who wants to be known—well, at least by a different name than the girl with coral lipstick on the back of her hand. 

————

————

two links about communion that are worth clicking:

* Holly Ordway’s wonderful podcast, weaving in truth and beauty of her own: “The Gift of Love: the Eucharist in Poetry by Malcolm Guite and George Herbert.”

and

* “Bread and Wine” by Josh Garrels, new to me. 

Life: Unmasked

i pass the peace.

may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

and with thy spirit.

greet each other with the peace of Christ. 

it’s more like passing the salt

and less like passing by–

                     peace of Christ. 

though i cut my neighbor, brother , sister

–and love only those i already love–

                    peace.

because we are one in Christ

though i would kill you  for a piece of bread–

                    peace of the Lord.

but i give it because it isn’t mine to give.

so when I have no peace left, i pass

                   God’s peace.