Saturday, September 29, 2007

Church of Childhood

I saw this poem on my sister's blog. She wrote it. God, I love that girl. And can you believe I didn't even know she sometimes writes poetry?

"In the Church of Childhood,
a poem to share with my x-Catholic friend"

In the Church of Childhood
I take communion from you,
genuflect to the Procreators.
Place your ideas in my mouth,
teach me, feed me, mold me
on Sunday and everyday.
In your collection plate
I offer up my innocence.
You are my gods,
I am your lamb.
One day the world will reap
what you have sown.
So say a prayer for me.

I like this poem for its emotion, though I realize that poetry is a very personal thing— some of us preferring form over emotion or artfulness over content, etc. So I thought I'd add this little commentary from Pooh to Piglet, on the art of writing poetry:

"And that's the whole poem," he said. "Do you like it, Piglet?"

"All except the shillings," said Piglet. "I don't think they ought to be there."

"They wanted to come in after the pounds," explained Pooh, "so I let them. It is the best way to write poetry, letting things come."

"Oh, I didn't know," said Piglet.

Poem by Sandi S. Used with permission. Church photo by Stefani M. Rossi Used with permission.

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Monday, September 24, 2007



Betty Spackman compares 'souveniring', taking home a kitschy porcelain reproduction of Niagra Falls after a trip to Canada, for instance, to the process of naming. Souvenirs, artless as they may be, help us to "own a place or an experience which is otherwise too big to carry away and too expensive to possess in any other way." (p.78, A Profound Weakness)

The souvenir's value is not in its artfulness, but rather in its ability to spark our memories of a place — just as a name brings to mind our memories and experiences of a person.

I remember that the God of Israel refused to let his people make an image of him, an idol, a souvenir. For while such images could be a memory catalyst, they could also be reductive. Niagra Falls is not a blue painting on porcelain. Holland is not a wooden shoe with a red tulip on the toe. God, likewise, cannot be pressed, minted, captured, pocketed.

And yet God chose the incarnation — the Great "I Am" (no name could capture God) stepped into a fleshy pocket of time and space…became a souvenir we could carry off, to burn a hole through our shelves, to set a tidy existence on fire.

Paris and Holland Souvenirs photo by L.L. Barkat.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


Sandy's Concord and Providence, a poem on naming.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

An Artful Look

My eldest daughter came running into the room, clutching a coil of rope. "Mommy, mommy! Michaela and I can’t agree on what to build. I want to do a suspension bridge. She just wants to make something pretty!"

"Why can’t you do both?" I said. "Useful things can also be artful." She tilted her head, kind of flicked her eyes heavenward and ran out, presumably to present this novel idea.

It is the age-old question of form versus function. Must the two be incompatible? Can we even separate them? Should we?

Betty Spackman, in her book A Profound Weakness, discusses the bias against form and form education (art, if you will). She says…

Today, in North America alone millions of people…are illiterate and depend on the spoken word and on images for communication. The need for pictures to explain text has helped to perpetuate the belief that it is the uneducated, poor and weak…who need images. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons why art is still considered an extracurricular activity, rather than as something essential to cognitive development. Images, therefore, belong to children. They are floss; they are fiction. We can get along without art— and if we can do without art we can do without artists. With this attitude… there has been little prospect for the last hundred years of convincing churches and schools (and, in particular, Christian schools) that they should support the arts. p.30

I try to picture a world without God's art. A flower that would be all function, no form. A web that would be all function, no form. A blankness, a sameness. A visual incoherence. And it escapes me.

You could say that God’s art suggests God's existence to me, with the same weight that the intricate form of all things suggests God's existence to me. And if God bothered to paint, to sculpt, to suspend the universe with delicate artistry, then we too might flick our eyes heavenward to consider the incontrovertible place of art…then run out, our shadows unwinding like rope behind us, to tell the world.

Glass Dollhouse Series photo by Gail Nadeau. (Dollhouse and sculpture also by Gail Nadeau.) Used with permission.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Tag Along

Okay, so Ted tagged me. And I am finally coming along and doing my part. Well sort of. As most readers know by now, no tag appears here in its original state. That's just how it is. Call me the blog owner or something.

Q1. Are you happy/ satisfied with your blog, with its content and look? Yes. No. Maybe. Sometimes. I'll think about it.

Q2. Does your family know about your blog? You mean some people try to keep them secret? Has anyone told them it's the World-Wide Web?

Q3. Do you feel embarrassed to let your friends know about your blog or do you just consider it as a private thing? It seems there's an echo in here (see Q2).

Q4. Did blogs cause positive changes in your thoughts? I celebrate Sabbath differently now because of conversations in the blogosphere. So, yes.

Q5. Do you only open the blogs of those who comment on your blog or do you love to go and discover more by yourself? Natural-born explorer here.

Q6. What does visitors counter mean to you? Do you care about putting it in your blog? It means the place where you get cool brochures, maybe a cookie and a free cup of tea. Maybe I should put one in, next to the living room.

Q7. Did you try to imagine your fellow bloggers and give them real pictures? All my pictures are real. They just aren't of me.

Q8. Do you think there is a real benefit for blogging? A benefit for blogging. Hmmm.... I think I'll just let that grammar stand and go on to question 9.

Q9. Do you think that the bloggers’ society is isolated from the real world or interacts with events? That depends on whether or not you think Mark Goodyear is real. (I think he might be, since I met him and his wife in NYC after he came to my blog and said he likes hamburgers.)

Q10. Does criticism annoy you or do you feel it’s a normal thing? If I say yes, does that answer the question?

Q11. Do you fear some political blogs and avoid them? No. Yes. Just because.

Q12. Did you get shocked by the arrest of some bloggers? It is true. Some bloggers are very arresting. These are my favorite kind. It does not shock me to know this.

Q13. Did you think about what will happen to your blog after you die? Did I think about it? Like when I reworked my will? (Oh, wait a minute, I still need to do that.)

Q14. What do you like to hear? What’s the song you might like to put a link to, in your blog? Crickets. I'm listening to them right now. And it is the most beautiful sound in the world... drifting through my window.

Psychedelic Fan photo, by Sonia.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Verby Pick-Up Duck: "fritter"

Zucchini Fritter

Apple fritters. Corn fritters. Turkish zucchini fritters. When we think of the word "fritter", some of us only think of edible nouns.

I, of course, think of my mother. "Don't fritter away your time. Don't fritter your money away." Fritter. A slow, almost imperceptible wasting of things of value. A little spent here, a little spent there.

I remember a season of credit card frittering. Fresh out of college, I ran up a healthy credit card bill, somewhere around $1000.00. I felt free and a bit powerful. But one day, as I paid the minimum and a $40 finance charge, it occurred to me that I'd foreited the cost of a new tailored shirt. Just for the privilege of owning a few things before I could afford to pay for them. I was frittering my money away. Not long after, I changed my policy: buy on credit only what can be paid in full when the bill comes.

This past year, I've been considering another form of financial frittering. A book here, a book there. A pint of out-of-season strawberries. Eating at a restaurant when there's perfectly good food sitting in the fridge. Twenty dollars here. Six dollars there. Forty dollars in fritters (or maybe pancakes).

These are small bits of money that could impact a life, or two, or ten abroad...rescue for a girl, to a safehouse; AIDS medicine for an ailing child; a micro-loan to a widow who might otherwise be forced to sell a child to make ends meet. (One of the best books I've read on the subject of how a little bit of money can go a long way is Harvest of Hope: Stories of Life-Changing Gifts.)

Fritter. Maybe there's nothing particularly wrong with this funny little verb. But this year I'm hoping to trade it in for a few awesome nouns... contentment, provision, health, safety, life.

Turkish Zucchini Fritter & Chickpea Salad Photo by L.L. Barkat.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

Seedlings history of Verby Pickup Duck

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Shadows of Conversion

Shadow in the Garden

Antony Flew took 81 years to make up his mind. Or to change it. I'm not sure which. And now he's written a book about how he morphed from the "world's most notorious atheist" to being a God believer. What kind of God does he believe in? I suppose his book talks about that. At the very least, the God he believes in is both subtle and powerful enough to assure life with the perfection of the simple electron. (It is the electron, I hear, that tipped the scales for Flew.)

In my experience, conversion hinges on the most unpredictable of matters. An electron. A song. The weight of biblical prophecy. Maybe even a good night's sleep, or a bad one. In other words, "the moment" can seem to hinge on a small catalyst. But to change one's mind is a big thing, probably involving an almost untraceable series of events and impressions.

I like the way Scot McKnight describes this process, saying, "...conversion is more like the evening soft-shoe dance of the summer shadows across the lawn. It's hard to see, but the shadow is moving, and at some point we see that it has, in fact, covered the lawn....[It] is a series of gentle nods of the soul..." (p.96, The Jesus Creed)

Maybe it is a little like falling in love. Or better yet, maybe it is like figuring out what to do with love once we have fallen. I wish I could be more definitive about this, but I admit that it remains largely a great mystery to me. So that I feel I can only touch the shadows of conversion.

Shadow in the Garden photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sabbath Kept

Rose of Sharon in Rain2

The days have been lazy. I have felt a light breeze coming over rippled water, and watched the last rays of the sun melt over a blue lake. In shallow waters, I retrieved an oval, seagreen-colored rock. It sits now on my counter.

With one daughter, I jostled to win air hockey, while she laughed loudly and held my gaze. With the other daughter, I forded a creek we found after hiking through hushed woods. I consider that this daughter now understands something of stone crossings. Both the girls peered with me at wood sorrel, a lemony forest gift we bit into, blinking and smiling.

I read Harvest of Hope and considered the sorrow of the Killing Fields, while also discovering how my small donations can bring new life to Cambodia and other places across the world. I started yet another journey into my childhood past, with a book called The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. I made it halfway through Lynne Baab's book Sabbath Keeping. Indeed, I have kept Sabbath and feel the better for it.

In Baab's book, I found and savored this from Wayne Muller:

Sabbath is a time to stop....To stop working, stop making money, stop spending money. See what you have. Look around. Listen to your life. Do you really need more than this? Spend a day with your family. Instead of buying the new coffee maker, make coffee in the old one and sit with your spouse on the couch, hang out— do what they do in the picture [in the advertisement] without paying for it. Just stop. That is, after all, what they are selling in the picture: people who have stopped. You cannot buy stopped. (p.62)

It is true that you cannot buy what I found over my extended Sabbath. You cannot buy a deep breath, which is precisely what I took. And you cannot buy the free gift of rest, which is a new readiness. Yes, thanks to the gift of rest, I feel ready for the days to come.

Rose of Sharon in Rain photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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