It’s Not About the Chocolate: Grace and self improvement in the season of Lent.

“Eat Chocolate” Caged By Freedom

It is Ash Wednesday and throughout the day and the week my friends and I will be bantering back and forth about what we intend to give up for the season of lent.  The list will inevitably include more and less brave endeavors.  After many years of self-discovery, I now try to keep my personal commitments, ahem, modest.

Lately I have begun to think that our lenten choices are beginning to feel more and more like new year’s resolutions than spiritual exercises: quit smoking, exercise, skip dessert, drink less, eat more broccoli…  And if I happen to loose a couple pounds along the way, so be it.    Self control and discipline are good and praise worthy, but I do have to wonder if that kind of discipline really needs God.  If our lenten practices have become mere efforts of will power and self-help then I am pretty sure we are still missing out on the transformative power of this kind of fasting can be: grace.  Continue reading

Why I Burn Art and Still Go to Church. “Faith For Reasons”

 This is another entry in the Faith for Reasons series, more entries can be found here:  Faith for Reasons.  

The burning man, from the Burning Man Festival

The burning man, from the Burning Man Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am back from another Regional Burn in central Texas (FreezerBurn!) and boy is my art tired.   My bedroom is clobbered with explosions of shiny red costumery and camp-stuffs, my laundry pile smells of smoke and sunscreen lotion, and there is, of course, glitter.

Even for this short winter burn, for which I had made no particular elaborate plans, the hours I spend going, coming, and restoring order once I am home will far outweigh the hours I actually spent on the land.  If you know at all what you are getting yourself into at these things, no matter how hard one tries not to try, these things take work.  (Sparkle Ponies Excluded). Continue reading

Making Sense of It All. How Advent confronts us in the wake of tragedy.

Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 11.23.22 AMWhen tragedy hits, we ask why.  It is visceral, perhaps even instinctual, and almost involuntary.   For the past 48 hours I have mostly sat quiet in my house, mostly alone, listening to people process an unthinkable event, a moment of real evil.    How did this happen?  How could this happen?    Thankfully one of my friends just said it outright, “How can there be a loving God in a world like this.”   We want to understand, we want to explain, at least in hopes that we can make this happen less often.  We dwell on the moment, on the suffering, and ask ourselves, “How can this make any sense.”   But this violence does not make sense.   It never will, nor should it.  There will never be a thought pondered or a sentence uttered that could ever make any one of us pause and say, “well, yes, now I get it.”   This is simply evil.  There is no sense inside it at all.

I woke this morning painfully aware that everyone who is going off to Church today is going to light the odd pink candle in their advent wreaths and celebrate gaudete Sunday, or more poignantly stated, Joy Sunday.   It feels like a set up.   This whole thing seems staged, doesn’t it?   And just in the mere poetry of the whole thing it makes the day feel like it wants to be ironic, a cruel punchline, a bit of sarcasm from a most awful god.   But this is not irony.   It is a confrontation.  It is a vocation, a call to change.   This day in Advent says God has nothing to do with that violence, at least not yet, and it is time for that to change.  Continue reading

What are you waiting for? What Advent can do to fear at the end of the world.

Deer in the headlights

Deer in the headlights (Photo credit: T Hall)

I am an overly cautious driver to begin with, so when I know I am in the Texas hill country at night, and I have already seen 3 deer carcasses that day and five times as many deer warning signs, It is all I can do not to slip in a paranoid hawk-like state seeing antlers around every bend that actually just aren’t there.  In this country you have to anticipate Bambi if you want to make sure you keep safely on the road without a set of antlers wedged in your grill.

But, as I mentioned,  I am an overly cautious driver, which means I do not merely adjust my behavior to the possibility of coming across a deer at night, I base all of my behavior on the likelihood that Texas deer are suicide bombers viciously luring 4×4 Doge Rams to a most fiery and gruesome death.

I feel fairly certain my con-deer-acy theory is far fetched.  What I am also aware of, however, is that the expectations I bring to the road, especially when it is unfamiliar, radically changes how I actually approach it.  Continue reading

Holding Carlos’ Hand: How to let grace cross your threshold on world AIDS day.

For some people AIDS finds it way into our lives because of friendships.  For me, there was one friendship which found its way into my life because he had AIDS.   That friendship changed the face of God for me forever.

In 1989 I was working on a movie when I met the first people I had ever met who were living with AIDS. That fall the university I attended gave me the right connections, permission, and $500 to start a ministry volunteering at a local hospice, Ariel House.  It was there I met Carlos. Continue reading

Five Counterintuitive Things to do to Perfect Thanksgiving.

New Orleans: Thank you message in the grotto o...

Be Alone.    Thanksgiving is a good day to be together and it is an important day to be alone. The pressure of guests and kitchen can make it difficult to really find the deeper levels of gratitude without a little silence or at least quiet. Be especially kind and help make sure your spouse, friends, kids and others get time to leave the house and go for a walk. Be present today to yourself and to God so you can be present to others. Continue reading

The Grace of Forgiving and not Forgetting: We are at the mercy of each other’s memory, for All Soul’s Day.

A detail from John Nava's tapestry of the comm...

A detail from John Nava’s tapestry of the communion of saints. Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The flip of the switch between October and November is not just one, but a string of three different holidays of utter significance. Of course Halloween is the best known and, second only to Christmas, the most expensive of U.S. holidays. It is followed immediately by All Saints Day from which all hallow’s eve gets its name. But it is today, November second, that is my pick of the three: All Soul’s Day. The day, if you play along, is a day that offers a peculiar grace, and a fierce one. It is the grace of forgiving, and not forgetting. Continue reading

Ethics 101: other people exist,… and sometimes they are right.

Over the course of the past couple days I have had some fun experiences that have reminded me of some very basic things I think will make the planet a better place. The first of which I have said before, but I learned it in a new way in life recently and in fact at work yesterday: Other people exist. Continue reading

Shouting at the Bishop: Why agreeing to disagree is not a Christian response to the culture wars.

Chess bishop 1000.jpg

Chess bishop 1000.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few years ago I found myself protesting a certain national politician’s photo-op tour of a shelter for people who had been displaced to my city by hurricane Katrina.   This particular visit seemed a little more self-serving and crass than usual, so much so that it had folks from all-kinds of political persuasions hrumphing a bit.  I was certainly hrumphing. In fact, not that this was the first time, but I made have made a weeeee bit of a scene.   Well, actually I am quite sure I did as I received a pretty direct smack down from the Bishop in the very next diocese-wide newsletter.   Continue reading

An Incensed Pacifist and the story of the Chickens

Another guest post today from Tarah Van De Wiele, an amazing theologian and Biblical scholar living as an ex-pat in England.  You can read more about her and her adventures and her adventures living outside the U.S. at ever popular blog: 2 People, 2 Dogs & 10 Bags.

 I am a pacifist. But historically I am an incensed one.

This is why it has finally become dire that I expend the energy built up inside me from the endless culture wars that inform our language, plague our dinner tables, and crawl across the TV screen like some bug you can’t seem to swat away. Are you pro or anti? Red or blue? Straight or gay? Black or white? Male or female? Enough. Al. Ready.


Chickens (Photo credit: Allie’s.Dad)

The latest culture war sparked by a certain chicken restaurant completely caught me off guard. I spent an entire day stalking the web for pictures of people fighting in the war. After a few hours I managed to succumb to the purest form of rage available to an incensed pacifist, and began to brainstorm what smart but highly insulting sign I would distribute, what post I would send viral, what boycott I would demand. And the only question by 4 in the afternoon was not if I should curse but HOW MUCH.

And then the chickens showed up. Continue reading