Sunday, December 21, 2014

Life as a Clergy Wife (Christmas Edition): You Don't Hear What I Hear

Yes, I was eavesdropping, how could I not? If I've said it once, I've said it gazillion times, "Inside voice, please."* But to be fair, certain types of the Clergy Voice will forever trump the Inside Voice.

And so it came to pass that I heard my husband's conversation with the puppeteer-ventriloquist the Vestry had booked for the Christmas Eve show worship service. He thinks this might possibly be an annual thing at the church where he has been serving as interim Interim.**

I was in the kitchen making an East Indian curried cabbage dish, so sauteing was going on. Still, through the sound of mustard seeds a-popping, I could hear him say, "Jesus loves you, no matter what."

While I could easily come up with several reasons to say this to a puppeteer-ventriloquist whose gigs include churches, why was he?
"She wanted to know what message I'd be delivering on Christmas Eve."
"Jesus loves matter what?"
Turns out I hadn't heard the lead-in, his framework for delivering on Christmas Eve, this core Christian message about Jesus' abiding love, mercy, and grace.
"Santa is the only one who cares if you're naughty or nice, but Jesus loves you no matter what." 
I treasured all these words and pondered them in my heart, wondering out loud if this might mean that Santa, not Jesus, was Jewish. Also, why would the puppet be a goose? Given the Anglican tradition of tucking into roasted goose for Christmas, wasn't that just a wee bit weird and possibly traumatizing for the little ones?
"You don't have to go."
I'm thinking I should probably thank Santa for that.

Christmas Hamper by Robert Braithwaite Martineau

*Around here, "inside voice" refers to being inside our home, not inside a church whose sound system is at best iffy.
** interim Interim is not a typo.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Schlep of the Magi (2014): Miracles Abound

The Magi stop to behold 
yet another great miracle.*

*"A dreidel has one Hebrew letter on each side. Outside of Israel, those letters are: נ (Nun), ג (Gimmel), ה (Hay) and ש (Shin), which stand for the Hebrew phrase "Nes Gadol Haya Sham." This phrase means "A great miracle happened there [in Israel]."After the State of Israel was founded in 1948 the Hebrew letters were changed for dreidels used in Israel. They became: נ (Nun), ג (Gimmel), ה (Hay) and פ (Pey), which stand for the Hebrew phrase "Nes Gadol Haya Po." This means "A great miracle happened here."The miracle referred to in both versions of the Hebrew phrase is the miracle of the Hanukkah oil, which lasted for eight days instead of one." From: What Is a Dreidel?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Schlep of the Magi (2014): Pause on the Journey

The 2nd Sunday of Advent Comes
on Little Cat Feet*

*Ok, who among you gets this reference? Hint: poetry.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

An Author's Life: How to Tell Fact From Fiction

Oh let's not call it procrastination. Instead, let's call it creative warm-ups. Jumping jacks in place. While slumped in a desk chair and staring at a computer monitor.

To be a bit more accurate and only slightly less dramatic, I was sorting through seven years of blog posts to...oh, what the hell does it matter? I wasn't writing what I'm supposed to be writing, although I was thinking about it. No news there, because I'll be thinking about the damn thing (aka, manuscript) until I turn it in. Of course, I do need to write it first. There is that.

I digress. See? Not procrastinating! Digressing! A creative detour...sorting through blog posts and stumbling upon a virtual pile of unpublished posts. Some happen to be exactly what I'm supposed to be writing, evidence that I've been thinking about this stuff for ages upon ages.

Along the way I rediscovered this quote from an interview with Hilary Mantel. Mantel, who won the Booker Prize twice, is best known for her historical novels about Thomas Cromwell: Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies (Wolf Hall, Book 2). I loved both, but loved even more her novel about the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety: A Novel.  It's so complex and dark that it makes what Alexandre Dumas and Charles Dickens wrote seem like light-hearted Disneyfied fairy tales about the best and worst of times.

I digress...again! But not really, because here's how I tie it all together: I write nonfiction. I've always written nonfiction (plus dismal adolescent poetry) for two major reasons. First, I simply don't "get" the process of writing a novel. Second, I've learned that I simply cannot make up the stuff that I have and continue to experience.

And so, imagine my delight to stumble upon what Mantel said about distinguishing fact from fiction. Not kidding, imagine my delight. Whatever you're able to imagine is a probably a true fact.


Monday, December 1, 2014

#GivingTuesday: Support Art, Healing, and Hope (The Walking Gallery Center)

A swift search* on Google and now I know that #GivingTuesday was created in 2012 by New York's 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation. Silly me, I expected to find an ecumenical, if not interfaith, coalition behind this much-needed corrective to the rampant consumerism of December.

Sadly, not. And much as I'd love to rant about the sorrowful mystery of it all, I'm skipping directly to highlighting the organization that's receiving my charitable contribution: The Walking Gallery Center for Arts and Healing. It's not yet fully funded (see below) but I'm hoping artist and healthcare activist Regina Holliday (@ReginaHolliday) receives the financial support she needs to move this project forward.

Last week, Regina posted these top ten reasons for establishing The Walking Gallery Center in Grantsville, MD. Of those ten reasons, these three resonated the most:
#8  Children need to see the arts as highly valued in our society.
#7  We need a culture of healing in healthcare and not just a sickness model
#2  Some of us need a safe place to go.
Here, I'll reprise in a bit more detail what I mentioned in my comment on Regina's blog: I'm someone for whom the arts provided a much-needed refuge during childhood and adolescence.

I started taking art and music lessons when I was seven years old. By 7th grade, I'd become one of the kids who found safe shelter in the art and music practice rooms, who received essential nurturing from art and music teachers.

My high school art teacher advised going to a liberal arts college with a good art department, rather than an art school with iffy liberal arts. I didn’t have the grades for the former, so attended the latter. I withdrew from the art department during my sophomore year. More accurately, I had a major meltdown that involved shoving everything into my art locker and leaving.

I explored other majors. Dropped out of college for a bit. Worked in design studios, then stopped all of it -- drawing, painting, music -- for well over a decade. I did eventually find sanctuary in Sociology, an academic discipline that because of its emphasis on seeing and interpreting the world seems to attract refugees from the creative arts.

Looking back, I think it's absolutely no coincidence that my physical and emotional health declined significantly after I stopped creating art and making music. And it would take nearly 18 years before I connected those dots. Not that I hadn't glimpsed that truth much earlier. For two years during graduate school I was in psychoanalysis three times a week.

There’s not a whole lot I remember from that period of my life, but I do remember the cognitive and visceral burst of recognition when my analyst observed the salvific power of art. “The artwork you did as a child probably kept you alive,” she said.

Later, I would do more psychospiritual spelunking about when and why writing replaced artwork as my preferred medium of expression. Would you be surprised to learn that an icon painting workshop ended up being where I finally felt safe enough to pick up a paintbrush? More than a decade after that first icon workshop plus years of music ministry and I'm still in the throes of integrating writing, art, and music from a place of health and healing. I suspect this will be an ongoing process -- and project -- for the rest of my corporeal life. Lord, have mercy.

And that, somewhat briefly, explains why I know The Walking Gallery for Arts and Healing will make an important difference in the lives of all who participate in this "creative placemaking." It's also why I'm asking readers to contribute help The Walking Gallery Center for Arts and Healing get started.

Watch the video below to learn more or click MedStartr to make a contribution.