“Never Forget” and “Do this in Remembrance of Me:” Thoughts on how we remember September 11th.


The cross on the World Trade Centre site

The cross on the World Trade Centre site (Photo credit: almost witty)

Today my FaceBook feed is wrought with variations and recollections of the event of September 11th from twelve years ago.   The personal recollections have shrunk from previous years and some simply share a photo or state, “Never forget.”   Seeing that phrase repeated over without more context has begun to trouble me, and not just a little.   What is “never forget” supposed to be shorthand for on this kind of anniversary?

On one hand I think it is referring to a kind of remembering that simple tries to honor those who have suffered, especially the handfuls of people who were not merely victims, but heroes who sacrificed themselves for others.  It is good to remember heroic lives. There are, however,  other kinds of remembering too, which may be mingled in there as well.  Some ways of remembering may be the very spiritual disciplines of a never ceasing war.   It strikes me that the real challenge we face is is not just to remember, it is learning how to remember, how to tell the story in such a way that is about speaking the truth, but it is also about speaking the truth in love. Continue reading

Is This Seat Taken? My night as the welcomed stranger among the even stranger at a Passover Seder.

English: Passover Seder Table, Jewish holidays...

English: Passover Seder Table, Jewish holidays עברית: שולחן הסדר, Original Image Name:סדר פסח, Location:חיפה (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Tonight I realized how much laundry had to be done and my mind immediately started looking for other things to do.  My newsfeed on FaceBook kept informing me that a good portion of my friends (most of them burners) were either confirming or canceling their RSVP to attend a Passover celebration that some someone was holding somewhere.   It turned out the someone was a indeed a fellow burner with whom I had many mutual friends and the somewhere was his house.  So I did what any self respecting burner and experienced procrastinator would do, …I invited myself over. Continue reading

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