Friday, March 14, 2014


Pulled out of the garage early this morning when there were streaks of brilliant pink in the eastern sky. Pulled back in this evening with streaks of pink in the west. Now I'm eating green mint chocolate chip ice cream--a color just as bright and fleeting as those sun-traveled skies.

I went to a funeral today at my church for a father of six children, grandfather of eighteen. A much-loved coach, cook, and encourager, a good friend to many. I know some members of his family. I hadn't expected to be able to go to this funeral, but the morning turned out differently than I had thought it would.  I opened the wooden doors into the narthex expecting to find the service already underway. Instead this man's large family was gathered behind the coffin, ready for the service to begin. I turned quickly to the side aisle door and hurried into a pew as the processional cross, the coffin and the mourners came down the aisle. The congregation sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," and I joined in, though not very well. One must get one's bearings before one can sing the hymns at a funeral with a steady voice. And that's hard to do, because inevitably I find myself slipping into that imaginative space where I begin to remember my own dead and begin to grieve for them anew.

I am not special. Everyone at that funeral, at least everyone over the age of 30, has lost someone, has seen firsthand that lives come to a close. Which, I guess, is why we come to funerals--to share the family's grief, to extend the care that we ourselves have received, to carry our own part in this collective grieving about human mortality. And to pay death its due. The sun rises. The sun also sets.

Jesus knew that too.

Every gospel has Jesus knowing something about his death, warning his disciples about it, speaking with Moses and Elijah on the mountaintop about it. He was human. He could, he would, he must die. 

Good to know. Bring the body to church. Speak God's word. Share the meal and then return the much-loved loved one's flesh to the earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. 

You find your bearings in this dirty world of death, and when you do, you can sing the songs of resurrection with a steadier voice.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Lent and taxes

So yeah, I just noticed that Lent and tax season coincide.

Repent. Or something.

I really, really, really need to read a book that will change my attitude toward money. Get out of the shame/fear/loathing/guilt thing where money symbolizes so much, and go to the matter-of-fact, deal-with-it, I-make-choices place.

Like reading a book could do that.

"One does not live by bread alone," said this morning's Gospel. I am reading Anthony Trollope's "Barchester Towers" which is about 19th century Anglican clergy maneuvering for power and preferments (i.e., positions with income attached to them). What they really want--the bishop, the archdeacon, the chaplain, the preceptor, a couple of wives and one widow, is to be confirmed in their own self-importance, or more charitably, to be affirmed in their sense of what the world is and how it is surely moving towards what it ought to be. Trollope being Trollope, it will not come out exactly how anyone wants it to be.

It is a hard thing to give up--what you think the world ought to be and your own important role in getting it there. How I think things ought to be places me in control of my destiny, my income and my taxes. But life is what happens for real, even while you're imagining something else.

This is true on so many levels. Kids head into a basketball tournament dreaming of championships, but mostly fail to bring home the trophy. The sound heard from the real choir is not the one imagined in the director's head when programming the piece. The life you live is not the one you imagined for yourself. Maybe it's better, but maybe it's lonelier.

Also from the morning's lessons, this time from Romans 5:
 If, because of the one man's trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
I often feel, reading Paul, that all his drawing of parallels between old covenants and new, Adam's sin and ours, inhabits a logical world of its own and that his whole framing of the issue does not have much to do with my experience--despite many years of having it explained to me in Lutheran schools and churches. Paul's framework is the Jewish rabbinical teaching that he has given up or revised because of the new life he found in Jesus. I'm in the grip of other things--happily-ever-after fairy tales, the American Dream, family life in all its variety, politics, and some rather fuzzy ideas about living for art. 

Yet like Paul, "much more surely" will I exercise dominion in my life if I do so through "the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness" found in the life and death of Jesus Christ. 

In Lent (and taxes) I don't feel powerful. I don't feel in control. 

"Jesus walked that lonesome valley," sang my youth choir this morning. "Jesus bore the cross to save us." And they sang, "We will take our cross and follow." 

So I'm repenting, giving up--to make room for grace, righteousness, and new life. 

Sunday, March 02, 2014


Transfiguration Sunday, though it moves around on the calendar, is the day I mark the anniversary of my blog. And I can't mark it without posting. So--random Sunday observations.

Church began with "Love Divine, All Love Excelling," the hymn sung at my wedding, sung again at my husband's funeral. Kinda blindsided me this morning. I'm not sure I know what "changed from glory into glory" means, but I love to sing it, even if it makes me cry. Something to look forward to.

It's Oscar night in glorious Hollywood. It is the night in the year when I most miss Lon. We always watched the Oscars. It was a big night for someone who covered Entertainment. We watched together at home on the couch, or in the late 80's and early 90's by phone, because Lon was in his office at the SunTimes, taking phone calls from Roger Ebert who was dictating his front-page story from the bottom up. on the coast. Chaz must be missing Roger tonight.

This afternoon was taken up with a two-hour forum on hope for a just peace in Israel and Palestine. It was the culmination of many months of discussion and work by a committee I chaired. It was not a "balanced" presentation where people supporting opposite sides of the conflict face off in debate. The real problems are not going to be solved with a debate about right and wrong, or by measuring one side's injustice against the other's. People must be willing to put away fear and be courageous about doing justice. And not just in the Middle East. Right here in midwestern suburbia too.

And if that all sounds grand, or pretentious, or idealistic, or whatever, well, I've spent a long time on this. And I've arrived at a place, not where I shrug my shoulders and say it's difficult, but where I have convictions. And where I pray.

This blog has not been an especially lively place lately. Haven't posted since before Christmas. I've been sometimes lazy about writing, sometimes too busy with other writing, sometimes just out of words or reticent. This post, like so many before it is far more serious than I set out to be as the Perverse Lutheran.

More randomly: I'm watching the Oscars, and just wandered off to Twitter to see Ellen DeGeneres' selfie. Retweeted. But how petty that seems next to the happiness and beauty of the young woman from Twelve Years a Slave who just won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

I feel like a kid writing an essay for school (while watching TV). Have I met the word count yet?

Enough. The Perverse Lutheran, eight years old, more or less, today.