Friday, April 29, 2016

And they walked off to look for America

I grew up in a military family which meant, for me, cumulative days and weeks driving between duty stations with my two little brothers, our dog, and whichever cat was lowering himself to abide with us for the time being. We were all in the backseat, filed together side by side but not very neatly. A row of elbows and knobby knees, one of us on the hump of a white Pinto wagon or, later, a red Volvo station wagon.

Entertainment was limited in the 1970s and early 80s, driving from Virginia to California to Maine to South Carolina and points south. So this was our catalog:

1. We had two Superscope story tapes. Superscope Storyteller presents: Moses in Egypt and The Adventures of Spiderman,

2. We also liked to sing The Gambler by Kenny Rogers with lyrics we made up each time (and laughed uproarously over),

3. We liked to sing Don't Go Breakin' My Heart with Elton John and Kiki Dee,

But mostly we listened to:

4. The Mamas and the Papas Greatest Hits,

5. Simon and Garfunkel's Concert in Central Park, and 

6. Zero Mostel, in a production of Fiddler on the Roof.

Tevye: Rabbi, is there a blessing for the Czar? 

Rabbi (singing): May God bless and keep the Czar...FAR AWAY FROM US! 

Not a bad catalog. Though I do remember one of us asking my dad, "Who is Ed Koch and who are 'the guys sellin' loose joints?'"

Rolling along, I read all of the Little House books and Narnia books a hundred times each, or a thousand, when I wasn't snoozing from Dramamine. I was a bookish, very shy, easily-carsick girl born into a traveling family. (By the time I graduated from high school I had attended ten schools.)

There is a special mental state you reach when you are bored of being bored. A Boredom Rubicon is crossed. Born of resignation, resolution, but call it magic, for I would lean my cheek on the vinyl window bumper and stare out at the sky -- a clear blue endless day, a rainy roof of grey, a whiteout blizzard in Iowa, a midnight sky full of a spray of stars big and bright. California dreamin'

I saw Half Pint trundling across a prairie in her wagon in a calico dress, and Pa shouldering his way through a blizzard to feed the horses. I saw the Children of Israel pulling carts across the yellow sand and water spilling from the rock. I saw Lucy in the snowy woods, and Caspian turning his ship away from the long blue wave on the Silver Sea to go back and marry the star's daughter. Kindred spirits, I imagined, all of us -- Moses, and me, and Caspian the Seafarer.

Sunrise, Sunset.

So we all rolled along to the tune of the traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway or my brothers' action figures shooting each other. In between the battles and songs and stories, I told my little brothers my own invented, wandering story that re-commenced with each new road trip. It was a story about some kids who found an ancient, secret door in a gnarly tree, which led to a secret tunnel under the road, which led to a secret room, which led to adventures.

In some of the adventures, there was a Gila Monster. ("...and that's when they turned the corner and came upon THE HEELAH MONSTER!")

My dad had introduced us to The Gila Monster into his own "Billy Boy" story series -- concoctions initially developed to keep us amused on the exceedingly bleak and ominous day two of the five day trip to Arlington, Virginia from Monterey, California. My brothers and I imagined him as some kind of bloody-mawed, man-eating Godzilla. (So imagine our surprise and amusement when, much later, we learned that gila monsters are small, harmless lizards in the American southwest. Not even Japanese!)

On the road, my brothers asked occasionally If There Are Sharks In That Big River (fresh water disqualification was not really absorbed, for perhaps hope sprang eternal) and How Deep Is That Bay and How Long Until We Get to the Motel. My brothers were always asking about sharks, alligators, snakes, and bears which, they sincerely hoped, lived in the woods by the highways were were driving down.

They also were keenly interested in the depths of the bodies of water over which we passed on bridges. Dad obliged by thoughtfully and confidently making up the answer right out of thin air. "Oh hmmm, let's see. I believe that river is about 50, maybe closer to 55 feet deep at this point."

I eventually fell asleep to my parents comforting, murmuring grown-up conversation, waking up crick-necked and drooling in the McDonalds parking lot or the rest area off of some turnpike.

It makes sense that at some point in middle school I decided the following: The theme song for my life shall be "America," by Simon and Garfunkel.

"America" is a somehow both soaring and pensive traveling song about people and places. It builds a big picture from small things. (I have only reluctantly forgiven Bernie Sanders for co-opting it for his campaign.) It also seemed slightly and deliciously rebellious for me to choose it, because it mentions cigarettes.

It also has the gait, somehow, of a highway song. Do you know what I mean? Some songs have this, not in exactly the same way as each other, but they do. "Driver 8" is a highway song, "Africa" is, too -- not just because of the words, because of the indefinable traveling song-ness of the sound and rhythm. Like wheels thrumming steadily on pavement. Things by Gordon Lightfoot are sometimes traveling songs. "Rocky Mountain High," by John Denver, is a traveling song, and "Country Roads." "Walk on the Ocean" by Tode the Wet Sprocket. There are others.

Anyway, my middle school real estate was in my bag. My bag was a purple Le Sac with a novel, some Trident gum, some Bonne Bell gloss or Cover Girl Frosted Peach lipstick, a retainer, my allowance, a notebook with my friends' addresses from the last place we lived.

That was then. This is now.

In three weeks I move again, this time to Pittsburgh. I have never lived there.

I am 45 and married to a civilian, but he has been a traveling man, as well. If you count the three month stints in apartments waiting for homes, this will be my 30th move. If you don't, it will be my 25th.

It just so happens that the traveler in the song boards a Greyhound bus in Pittsburgh. For some, maybe this means nothing. But, for me, it means that, at age 45, I'm not quite done looking for America.


Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got some real estate here in my bag
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner's pies
And we walked off to look for America

Cathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera

Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat
We smoked the last one an hour ago
So I looked at the scenery
She read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

Cathy, I'm lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come to look for America

All come to look for America
All come to look for America

Read more: Simon And Garfunkel - America Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


SO pretty

The creation waits in eager expectation...

Mountain by Strahan

Saturday, April 23, 2016

To You All Hearts Are Open

This is a prayer prayed at the beginning of the worship service (Rite II) in the Anglican church. It is a good introductory prayer to begin personal heart preparation for Sunday.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may  perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

And here is the prayer of confession coming later in the worship service. I have found it to be a good prayer to use as a prompt for individual confession and as a "just-before bed prayer."

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. 
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. 
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

-- One source for these and more prayers, if you don't have a Book of Common Prayer, is the online Book of Common Prayer:

Friday, April 22, 2016

Christ, our Passover

"Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us.
Therefore, let us keep the feast."

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

-Words from the Book of Common Prayer, Holy Eucharist, Rite II, during the Breaking of the Bread and from I Corinthians 5:7

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

No Such Thing As a Winnable War

Two of the three kids are studying the Cold War right now, so of course, like a good Generation X mom, I am making them listen to "Russians" by one of my favorite artists, Sting.... and when they have, they must explain to me how history demonstrates that Sting was wrong.




And while we are on the subject of Sting, here is one of his best ones, in my humble opinion, a beautifully written extended metaphor (along with the 80's music video which seems weird in retrospect).

Fortress around Your Heart

Under the ruins of a walled city
Crumbling towers in beams of yellow light
No flags of truce, no cries of pity
The siege guns had been pounding through the night
It took a day to build the city
We walked through it's streets in the afternoon
As I returned across the fields I'd known
I recognised the walls that I once made
I had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines I'd laid
And if I've built this fortress around your heart
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
Then let me build a bridge
For I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire
Then I went off to fight some battle
That I'd invented inside my head
Away so long for years and years
You probably thought, or even wished that I was dead
While the armies all are sleeping
Beneath the tattered flag we'd made
I had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines I'd laid
And if I've built this fortress around your heart
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
Then let me build a bridge
For I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire
This prison has now become your home
A sentence you seem prepared to pay
It took a day to build the city
We walked through it's streets in the afternoon
As I returned across the lands I'd known
I recognised the fields where I'd once played
I had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines I'd laid
And if I've built this fortress around your heart
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
Then let me build a bridge
For I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire

Monday, April 18, 2016

When you lose your religion,

you become dogmatic about lesser things.

The Main Story

When a picture doesn't tell a thousand words: here's an interesting article about one famous picture which didn't tell the main story about two men.

VietNam Executioner 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Prayers for the People (47)

47. For Young Persons

God our Father, you see your children growing up in an
unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways
give more life than the ways of the world, and that following
you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to
take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance
for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you,
and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

-- The Book of Common Prayer, online

Autism's Gut-Brain Connection

Autism's Gut-Brain Connection

Friday, April 15, 2016

Articles of Commerce

Here is a quote attributed to Antonin Scalia by Douglas Wilson:

Scalia: “God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools…and He has not been disappointed. Devout Christians are destined to be regarded as fools in modern society. We are fools for Christ’s sake. We must pray for courage to endure the scorn of the sophisticated world. If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”
Scalia was not ashamed to be out of step with the times, so long as he was in step with the truth. Here he is again: “Bear in mind that brains and learning, like muscle and physical skill, are articles of commerce. They are bought and sold. You can hire them by the year or by the hour. The only thing in the world not for sale is character.” 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Does God Care about Education?

Psalm 8 is poetic literature from the Old Testament. (To say that is not to detract from the fact that it is inspired, inerrant Scripture.)

In it, the author makes descriptive use of literary devices such as analogy, imagery, theme, allusion, anthropomorphism, parallelism, polysyndeton, and repetition. (That's a quick list.) 

A scholar of ancient semitic languages and literature tells me one feature of this Psalm is a device common to Hebrew literature (which we also use in English)  -- the "merism."  

Here is what he told me: "The use of extremes (heavens and earth, east and west, morning and evening) is called 'merism.' This is the use of extremes to talk about everything in between. God rules 'the heavens and the earth,' means he rules everything. Do it when you 'lie down and rise up, means do it all the time. Etc."

In our communication, we might say, "I searched high and low." Meaning, "I searched everywhere -- high, low, and everywhere in between."

Aside from its literary value, in this one Psalm, alone, we have references to multiple parts of God's creation and hence multiple subjects of study. From the stars to the seas, from Mercury to the Marianas Trench to man, these subjects to study are bookended by an impulse to worship him.

Furthermore, as my sister-in-law reminds me, in the act of studying and classifying things in this world, we are participating in the creation mandate to subdue -- to bring order to our understanding of creation. 

If we want to know our God, we will study all those things he made in and for his own glory. Learning is one way we worship our Lord God. Whether we are studying the hard or soft sciences or the humanities, in all our pursuits, we begin and end with God. "In the beginning, God..." And who was with God in the beginning? The Word. 

Psalm 8 (ESV)

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth! [WORSHIP]
You have set your glory above the heavens. [THEOLOGY]
    Out of the mouth of babies and infants, 
you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger. [JUSTICE, MERCY]
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, [HARD/NATURAL SCIENCES]
what is man that you are mindful of him, 
    and the son of man that you care for him? [PHILOSOPHY, THEOLOGY]
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings[b
    and crowned him with glory and honor. 
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet, [SOCIAL/POLITICAL SCIENCE, AGRICULTURE]
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field, [ANIMAL HUSBANDRY]
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas. [ZOOLOGY]
Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth! [WORSHIP]

Monday, April 11, 2016

Solid Seminary Training in the 21st Century American City

Reformed Theological Seminary-DC provides reformed seminary training in a center of American urban culture and politics.

Points of distinction

-Faculty involved in academic research but with a history of actual pastoral work -- head, heart, and hands-on experience

-Faculty accessible to student body in side-by-side relationship -- mentoring

-Diverse student body who seek to learn from each other and with each each other -- community

Short RTS Video

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Where Is Trump's Evangelical Base?

My sister in law works for a pro-life advocacy group in DC, and was sharing with me some of the Barna research on self-styled evangelicals who support Donald Trump.

Upon further examination, support for Trump drops off when you filter for "weekly churchgoers." Many of the self-described evangelical Christians who support Trump are not regular churchgoers.

Do Most Practicing Evangelicals Really Favor Trump?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

After the Hashtag

Whatever happened to the kidnapped Boko Haram girls?

Freed but Now Derided and Suspect

Monday, April 4, 2016

Modern Ruins of a Naval Base

Gorgeous pictures of a former Navy Base, some buildings now in ruins, some rehabilitated. I lived on  this base, Charleston Naval Base, situated on the Cooper River, for three years in high school in the 1980s (in the "Quarters H" side of a duplex, pictured in the Retreat Plantation link below).

According to this site, the area was first a plantation (Retreat Plantation), then a park (Chicora Park), then a base, now a ruin with some portions a park (Riverfront Park) and some renovated homes. I worshipped at the [now renovated] Eternal Father of the Sea chapel.

So interesting and faintly sad to see the base's demise in these pictures. It was really a gorgeous base in those years -- circular drives, Spanish moss dripping off primordial oaks, azaleas draped like profligates across the front laps of houses.

How quickly things decay, especially in the south, where the damp and the verdancy seem to creep in the minute you look the other way. But, also, how much man can do to halt or reverse decay. My brother tells me the riverside park there now is very pretty.

North Charleston Naval Base 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

She Shall Not Be Moved

God is our refuge and strength
a very present help in trouble
Therefore we will not fear through the earth gives way.
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah....

"Be still and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

-- from Psalm 46

Friday, April 1, 2016