Saturday, June 28, 2008

In Memoriam: PFC LaVena Johnson

From the Friday June 27 issue of Salon Magazine, this devastating story...

The tragic story of LaVena Johnson

Salon has published quite a bit about how American women in the military sometimes face more danger from their fellow soldiers than from their enemies, but the stories never seem to stop. And all too often, they go largely ignored by the media, as with the case of Pfc. LaVena Johnson.

In July 2005, 19-year-old Johnson became the first female soldier from Missouri to die in Iraq. She was found with a broken nose, black eye and loose teeth, acid burns on her genitals, presumably to eliminate DNA evidence of rape, a trail of blood leading away from her tent and a bullet hole in her head. Unbelievably, that's not the most horrifying part of the story. Here's what is: Army investigators ruled her death a suicide.

Beyond the obvious evidence of abuse, there was no sign of depression or suicidal ideation in Johnson's psychological profile. The bullet wound was in the wrong place for her to have shot herself with her dominant hand, and the exit wound was the wrong size to have come from her own M-16, as the Army suggested it did. The blatant lie the military has tried to sell Johnson's family is on a par with the cover-up surrounding football star Pat Tillman's 2004 death in a friendly fire incident. Unlike Tillman's widely reported story, however, outside the blogosphere -- where writers like Philip Barron have worked tirelessly to keep Johnson's name in the spotlight -- the LaVena Johnson case has rarely been noted. And sadly, it is far from unique. In a story in the New Zealand Herald on Wednesday, Tracey Barnett writes, "[LaVena's father] John Johnson has discovered far more stories that have matched his daughter's than he ever wanted to know. Ten other families of 'suicide' female soldiers have contacted him. The common thread among them -- rape."

Regarding the runaround her family got from the military, Pat Tillman's mother said to the New York Times in 2006, "This is how they treat a family of a high-profile individual. How are they treating others?" LaVena Johnson's story is just one tragic answer to that question.

-- Kate Harding

Go to LaVena's family's site to get information on which members of the House and Senate to contact re: a petition to re-open the investigation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Home With the Children

Both my children are home for most of the summer.

Ain't we got fun?

Petra, my younger, seems to have suddenly realized that she is fifteen, and therefore all words which proceed from my mouth are to be met with just the tiniest flicker of an eyeroll. This morning, when I mentioned the pit of Gehenna that is her bedroom floor, she... snorted.

Mourn with me, daughters of Jerusalem.

We used to be best pals, best buds. Many late evenings you can still find us, lumped together on the living room couch like a pile of puppies, watching dvd's of this or that (we're currently moving through all seven seasons of a perennial favorite, "The Gilmore Girls." Does that detail alone illuminate my distress?)

In two weeks she heads off on an Excellent European Adventure through an outfit I originally confused with "Up With People," but which turns out to be a rather serious student ambassador situation. But today, the effort to get her to pick up one piece of clothing from aforementioned bedroom floor may drive both of us over the brink of madness.

Then there's Larry-O. He too is headed off shortly for a summer class in New England. He is miserable to be home. He is mostly polite, but time in the Big City has rendered our Humble Town just a little too small for the likes of him.

We also are having the tiniest difficulty maneuvering the brave new world of parents and children all on Facebook at the same time.

Does a mother respond to her child's status updates, when said updates sound a kind of alarm in her? When they sound like... oh, the child is in distress, or perhaps engaging in activities that might be... well, not so great?

Turns out, no. It is the Rubicon which the mother must. not. cross. On pain of scorn, derision, and the odd temper tantrum.

You know, I was never the mother who said, "Oh, I just loved them when they were little... those were the days!" I did love them, of course, when they were little. But I always, always thought the cool part would be when they became the people they were destined to be-- the grown-ups. Unexpected, mysterious-- I couldn't wait!

Are we there yet?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

For the Non-Presbyterian Crowd

The post previous to this, filled with alphabet soup of sections from esoteric sounding tomes such as "The Book of Order" and "The Confessions" amounts to this:

At our semi-annual Big Meet-Up, taking place as I type this in San Jose, a committee has voted-- by the largest margin a committee has ever voted on this matter-- to remove language from our constitution that has sought to prohibit LGBTQ folks from being ordained to ministry.

It has sought to do so. It has failed miserably. Throughout this denomination faithful people are trying to serve the church and live good lives, all the while living in relationships with persons of the same sex. They're everywhere-- closeted and uncloseted, pastors, elders and deacons. They're already here. They're already serving God and the church and the people with all the energy, intelligence, imagination and love they can gather. They're doing it quietly, or loudly. In some places they are able to be more open than others.

This language has been in our consitution the entire time I have been a Presbyterian (it preceded me by two years). It's time to remove it. It's well past time. It never should have been.

Praise the Lord!

Sing to the Lord a new song,

his praise in the assembly
of the faithful.
Rainbow stole by "Bless My Stole."

From the Presbyterian News Service

[Committee on] Church Orders votes 41-11 to recommend deletion of G-6.0106b

by Jerry L. Van Marter

SAN JOSE, June 24, 2008 — By a vote of 41-11 Tuesday evening, the Assembly Committee on Church Orders and Ministry recommended to the 218th General Assembly that it send an amendment to the presbyteries to delete G-6.0106b — which requires “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness” for church officers — from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Book of Order.

A number of committee members, knowing the inevitable vote was coming, didn’t return to the committee’s meeting room after the dinner break. The Rev. Emily McColl, who was on the losing side of the vote, asked committee members to call those who didn’t return for the evening, saying she was “so saddened by their absence that my heart can hardly stand it.”

She also expressed hope that congregations that simply cannot tolerate another debate over ordination standards will be allowed to “graciously leave” the denomination.

The overture approved by the committee came from Boston Presbytery. Overture advocate the Rev. Roderick MacDonald said the proposal — which includes replacement wording for the current G-6.0106b as well as amendments to G-14.0240 and G-14.0450—“offers something in place of what is removed. It reaffirms standards that are important to us in our ordination questions.”

The proposed new G-6.0106b states:

“Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003), pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) establishes the candidate’s sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.”

The other two proposed amendments (to G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) lift up assent to the ordination questions as key components of examination of candidates for ordination.
Speaking in favor of the overture, committee member Andrew Cook said, “It seems to me the revised language reaffirms the importance of all the ordination standards, rather than singling out just one. It says we care about standards and determining if candidates are prepared.”
Committee member David Reimer predicted the fallout would be heavy. “I have a fear that the ramifications will be severe,” he said. “Churches won’t wait for the ratification votes [by the presbyteries] but will leave immediately, though I hope they won’t.”

McColl agreed with Reimer, saying “many churches will no longer consider us Reformed in their understanding of biblical interpretation and theology.”

Robert Bruce, a youth advisory delegate, responded that he hoped “we will look at God’s will for this church, not at the numbers.”Since G-6.0106b was put in the Book of Order in 1996, two General Assemblies—in 1997 and 2000—sent out amendments to delete it. On both occasions, the presbyteries rejected it.

Committee member the Rev. Sue Fisher was undaunted by the history of previous efforts to remove G-6.0106b from the Book of Order. “I feel compelled to take a motion to the floor so the Assembly can decide whether to send it to the presbyteries,” she said.

“One day this will be deleted,” Fisher said, “if not today then some day and I want to give the Assembly the opportunity to determine if this is the day.”

Thank God.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Well, That Was an Ungracious, Bitchy Thing to Say

These are the words that popped into my head as a church member-- whom I have thought of as a smart, funny, interesting, want-to-use-her-gifts-in-the-best-way-possible person-- slammed one rather important aspect of yesterday's service.

It was a beautiful service, thanks, in large part, to persons other than myself leading and ministering beautifully.

It was a meaningful service for the five individuals who joined the church (including my Petra).

It highlighted one aspect of our ministry, but, I believe, appropriately, and within the context of our ministry of worship.

She was the very first person to greet me at the door as the service ended.

What she said was mean-spirited, aimed at one person (not me), and totally objectionable.

So... help me let go of it, God. Why is it still bothering me?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Nothing Too Wondrous

Courtesy of the Presbyterian News Service, this bit of hope for the church I love:

The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, 39, an energetic new church development pastor in San Francisco and leader in the "emergent church" movement, was elected moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Saturday night (June 21), capturing a second ballot victory.

Reyes-Chow — who received 48 percent of the first ballot votes — won an easy majority on the second ballot with 390 votes or 55 percent.

The Rev. William “Bill” Teng of National Capital Presbytery finished second with 255 votes or 36 percent. The Rev. D. Carl Mazza of New Castle Presbytery finished third with 52 votes or 7 percent. Elder Roger Shoemaker of Homestead Presbytery trailed with seven votes or 1 percent.

Reyes-Chow is pastor of Mission Bay Community Church, an innovative new church of San Francisco Presbytery that was recently named winner of a 2007 Sam and Helen Walton Award for outstanding new church development. In his address to the Assembly, he noted that he makes as many pastoral calls by email as by in-person visitation.

Such is the future of ministry, Reyes-Chow said. Mission Bay has a state-of-the-art Web site and extensive electronic communications among members and participants, which he said is absolutely essential for a congregation that is predominantly under-40...

Read more here...

My favorite quote of Bruce's from last evening perfectly captures why I supported him for moderator:

In both his speech and his responses to questions, Reyes-Chow reiterated over and over his belief that “nothing is too hard or too wondrous for God. If the church steps out in faith rather than clinging to survival, to be more intent on being faithful than on being right, to be together based on our common covenant in Jesus Christ rather than by property or pensions, then we will be able to live into a future in which we are a vital and vibrant presence in the world.”

Nothing too wondrous. Nothing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Warning: Institution of Marriage Under Attack

Oooh.... I see what the conservatives mean. These two look pretty darned scary to me.

"In San Francisco, Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 84, longtime gay rights activists, were the first and only couple to be wed on Monday, saying their vows in the office of Mayor Gavin Newsom before emerging to a throng of reporters and screaming well-wishers."
As I read elsewhere, these women fell in love when you could lose your job, be arrested, and be sent for electric shock treatments for being gay, lesbian or any other kind of sexual suspect. Oh... wait... you can still do two of those things in the United States, and the third in plenty of countries around the world.
Go read about it here.

Then, write your Senator and Congressional Representative to get on the stick about this as a federal issue. It's time. It's past time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I've been tagged by Iris for the following game. Fun!

Rules: The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions/statements about himself or herself. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Ten years ago:

I was working (very, very happily) as the Director of Christian Education and Youth Ministries in a fabulous church, where I had just become a Presbyterian (on my birthday, no less). I had also just returned home from my first Annual Recreation Workshop at Montreat, a conference I urge anyone who is involved in youth ministry to take in at least once. My children were 1o years old and five years old... in other words, they were still enthralled with church and everything I had taught them about prayer and God. I was still married to my college sweetheart (we would celebrate our 16th anniversary that fall).

Five things on today's "to do" list:

  • Letters to church members about membership status.
  • Write a "Hello, I'm the Pastor!" letter for the front of our church's new pictorial directory.
  • Lunch with the sewing circle at a wonderful local diner, to which we drove under the bluest sky filled with the fluffiest clouds I've ever seen.
  • Drive a beloved friend to an ultrasound appointment.
  • Cook beef with broccoli for myself and those two children (who are now 20 and 15, and have pretty much made up their own minds about life, the universe and everything).
Things I'd do if I were a billionaire:

  • Give at least 90 percent of it away-- to food pantries, human rights organizations, other causes that help "the least of these." (That still would leave me with a tidy $100 million).
  • Buy Larry-O an apartment in NYC so that he could start his acting career without having to worry about paying the rent.
  • Travel more... I want to go to every continent. First, the Holy Lands.
  • Buy my dad a place near me. OR get a private jet so that I could see him more.

Three bad habits:

  • Allowing clutter to build up-- especially paper.
  • Avoiding doing the things that make me anxious.
  • Caring too much what other people think.

Five places I've lived:

  • In an apartment above a liquor store
  • In a college dorm
  • In a roach-infested city apartment
  • In a Cape Cod style house in a college town
  • In a hundred year old house in an historic district

Five jobs I've had:

  • Secretary at an insurance company
  • Singer in a bar
  • Area Assistant in an HMO Health center (receptionist)
  • College Chaplain
  • Interim Pastor
People, tag yourselves! (I guess that means I broke the rules).

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Torture and What It Means To Be Human: A Sermon

“Torture and What It Means to Be Human”
Genesis 1:26-28, Psalm 8, Matthew 5:38-48
June 8, 2008

Who among us hasn’t had to have a painful family conversation? Sometimes we need to sit down with one another and speak lovingly about the things that are tearing us apart… someone’s drinking or drugging, someone’s irresponsibility with money, someone’s unacceptable behavior, hard choices to be made at the end of life. We need to speak of the things that tear at the fabric of our lives together. And this type of conversation might not be over for a while, because there seems to be ever more information to be disclosed. We learn things about one another we didn’t know before. They may be painful things, they may be surprising things. But the better we know each other, the closer we are able to be as a family. The more honest we are able to be with each other, the more open we can be, I believe, to the movement of God in our lives, as individuals and as a community.

Throughout the month of June religious organizations all over the United States are thinking and speaking about the issue of torture, which continues to be brought to our attention by news reports, government investigations, criminal cases, and documentaries such as “The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib.” This is happening in June because of the initiative of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. In Our County about a dozen ministers, priests and rabbis have pledged to speak with their congregations about this issue, in various kinds of forums, including sermons. I am one of those ministers. And so I come to you today, armed only with my conviction that I must speak on this painful issue, that it’s time to begin this conversation as a family that cares about one another. This is a sermon about torture, and what it means to be human.

Nearly four years ago the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) adopted “A Resolution and A Confession Upon the Torture and Abuse of Prisoners.” This resolution called “upon the whole Presbyterian Church (USA), while recognizing the honorable performance of the majority of coalition forces” in Iraq and Afghanistan, to nevertheless join with the church to

A. reaffirm our support for human rights and the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war;
B. explicitly reject torture and abuse as methods of interrogation and treatment of prisoners for they are inconsistent with the Gospel; and
C. acknowledge we are inescapably part of our culture and offer our confession in repentance.

These are the words of our church as it has already spoken out on this issue. They are strong words. And I know from a conversation I was privileged to take part in at our last session meeting, they do not strike everyone who hears them the same way. As Americans and as Christians we don’t all agree on what is the right thing to do in this time of war. As one person said, “Of course torture is wrong. But what about the things they did to us? What about beheadings?”

There are many reasons why faithful people and patriotic people support whatever means our troops need to get the information that will help to keep our nation safe and secure and to help to defeat those who would wish to destroy us. There are also many pragmatic reasons why equally faithful and patriotic people reject torture as a method of gaining information and treating prisoners. One of the most compelling reasons is, simply, torture does not work. FBI, military and police interrogators—experts in their fields—tell us that torture is not effective. The information gained is usually not reliable, and it is often completely false. Though we may be enthralled by TV shows such as “24,” depicting the use of extreme methods to find the “ticking time bomb,” those who actually have experience with this sort of thing assure us: this is fiction, this is effective storytelling. In real life, torture does not work.

Another compelling and very pragmatic reason to reject torture is the fact that, when our troops engage in these acts, it makes them more vulnerable. When those against whom we are fighting know that we are engaging in these methods, they are more likely to retaliate, and to use these methods against our troops when they are captured. In the name of gaining safety, we actually lose safety.

But I am here today, not as a military expert or an FBI agent, or even as a television writer or producer. I speak, not as an expert on national security or military strategy. My concerns are not pragmatic, even though I believe there are pragmatic arguments to be made. I am here today as one whose responsibility it is to preach the gospel. I am here to say, even if we believed torture to be effective, the overwhelming witness of scripture is that it would still be wrong. One of our confessions describes sin this way: “We violate the image of God in others and ourselves.”[i] I believe this is precisely what torture does.

The bible begins with the story of creation. In Genesis, we see creation unfold as a beautiful symphony, theme and variations on the following: God decides to create, God speaks a word, creation comes into being, and God pronounces it good. On the sixth and final day of creation, God creates human beings. God says,

“Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

~ Genesis 1:26-28

In this passage we are told that God has created human beings in God’s image, and in the context of this passage, being made in the image of God has to do with entering into the creative process along with God. It’s too bad the translators use the words “dominion” and “subdue” here; in fact, the Hebrew word translated “dominion” means something more like care and cultivation; it has to do with tending and keeping the created world. And the word translated “subdue” carries with it connotations of development. To be created in God’s image means to be brought into partnership with God in the act of creating, in caring for creation. God created us to be co-creators, co-tenders with God of all the gifts of creation.

This is our human calling, prior, even, to our Christian calling, co-creating with God. Think what a violation of our essential calling it is to deliberately harm other human beings, to do unspeakable things to them for any reason whatsoever. To maim and hurt and even, sometimes, to kill. This diminishes creation in other human beings. This violates the image of God in them.

No one is in favor of torture. We all know that. It is at best considered to be a lesser evil. But consider this: as much as torture harms other human beings, who are also created in the image of God, torture also harms those who perpetrate it. A recent documentary, “Taxi to the Dark Side,” tells the story of a 22-year-old Afghan cab driver who was mistakenly arrested and turned over to US authorities in Afghanistan. He was tortured for 5 days by young men, some of whom were his own age and younger—National Guardsmen and CIA interrogators. Amazingly, they knew on the third day of his captivity that the man was innocent. But by then, as the filmmaker describes it, the beast within them had been released. And they continued for two more days, until the young cab driver died of his injuries.

The young men who participated in this scenario are devastated, and they are deeply, deeply haunted by what they did. The Pentagon has recently confirmed that more than 30% of our troops are now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder upon their discharge from military service.[ii] Imagine how that is compounded in the cases of the young men who participated in these brutal acts, imagine their even deeper suffering.

I grew up in a household with a veteran of the Second World War. This is a war that virtually every American citizen affirms was a necessary war, one in which most of us would have enlisted had we had the chance. My dad served honorably in the South Pacific as a paratrooper. And he witnessed some of the horrors of that war. My mom told me, many years later, that my dad had nightmares each and every night of their marriage for the first ten years after his honorable discharge. Ten years of nightmare, every night. I witnessed, just a few years ago, my dad having another of these nightmares—apparently still present with him more than 60 years after he returned home from the service.

One way to think about how to make ethical decisions is to imagine if we would be willing to do something ourselves. Would I participate in water-boarding? Would I attach the electrical wires to someone’s body, pull the switch? If the answer to these questions is “no,” then do I have the right to have someone else act on my behalf? Someone else’s son or daughter, mother or father, husband or wife? Do I have the right to commission someone else to carry out the acts that I find morally unacceptable? I think the answer to that must be “no.”

I’m willing to guess that almost every single one of us knows and loves a soldier or a veteran. I love one who is almost 87 years old, and who has no regrets about his wartime service to this country he loves. A second generation American, son of Eastern European immigrants, my dad plants red, white and blue petunias in pots outside his house every year in the spring and summer—his own way of participating in co-creating with God, I suppose. My dad proudly flies the American flag outside his house—it is out already, in preparation for Flag Day next Saturday. I would pray and hope that, in times of war, we would do our best not to condemn those we love to 60 years of nightmares by their participating in acts that torture their consciences for the rest of their lives. In the name of the God who created us gloriously in the divine image, I would hope and pray that we could find our way, as a nation, back to an honorable place that elevates the principals on which the US was founded—a sense of the inalienable rights of every human being to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I would pray and hope that this is the beginning of a family conversation we can have as Christians and as citizens, a respectful conversation in which we may come to know one another better, as well as our calling in God. As we sing our hymn, I invite you to see it, with me, as a prayer for our nation to live into its beautiful and promising heritage, in every era, in every war, in the work we charge every soldier to do. Thanks be to God. Amen.

[i] A Brief Statement of Faith of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
[ii] “PTSD Cases Soar In Combat Veterans,” May 28, 2008, United Press International. /Top_News/2008/05/28/PTSD_cases_soar_in_combat_veterans/UPI-83571211975104/

Saturday, June 07, 2008

In Praise of Great Women and Men

Friends, I have no deep wisdom on this day on which Hillary Rodham Clinton conceded that Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee to be President of the United States. I was a Hillary supporter. I realize that, among many of my friends, that makes me somewhat of an oddball. I was an Edwards supporter originally... I believe his programs to address poverty were easily the most compelling of the entire field (back when it was a field). But when it came down to two candidates, both of whom I admired for their vision, both of whom I agreed with on many positions, neither of whom I agreed with on everything (primarily the hawk factor), I chose the Senator from New York, and voted for her in the primary.

I have no regrets. She ran a mostly very good campaign, with some noted missteps. But the people (and the Democratic party rules) have spoken. And I will happily pull the lever for Barack Obama and Whomever is his Vice Presidential pick in November, and I won't even have to hold my nose to do it.

I suspect the bitterness, the "We'll vote for McCain first!" is at least partially media hype. The media loves nothing more than a good old knock-down, drag-out fight. But I really believe that Clinton supporters will see, very clearly, that John McCain is Not. An. Option. And we'll come together, and the country will be on a better path.

Go and read this very good piece in today's New York Times by Gail Collins, What Hillary Won. No matter your position on the Junior Senator from New York, she broke some barriers down in the last year and a half. Our Obama-supporting daughters (yes, I have one) will be able to thank us on the day when a woman is sworn in as President of the United States for the trail she blazed.

Now let's get to work.

No2Torture! A Poem

Ann Weems, beloved Presbyterian poet, penned this in honor of the No2Torture initiative. It is so true. What the hell happened?


What happened that the world doesn’t know
what the church stands for?
What happened? What happened? What happened?

What have we in the church been doing
when we should have been voicing,
should have been making clear
who we are......
who Jesus is????

Has it come to this?
That we in the church must say,
must shout,
must stand
for what we believe?
Does the world no longer know us
by our fruits?

Do we have to have a discussion,
to inform the world that the Church says
No2 Torture?
Is there any doubt that
The Church of Jesus Christ
does not condone torture?
Any question,
any room for discussion?

What happened to
The Church of Jesus Christ?
Jesus who said,
“Love your neighbor as you love yourself”?
Jesus who said,
“Do unto others as you would have
them do unto you”?
What happened?
Who is it who came along and
changed the Word of God?
There is no room for
torture in the words of Jesus.
He did not say:
Return evil for evil.
He did not say:
Hit back.
He said, Turn the other cheek.
He said, Love your enemies.
He said, Follow me.

The world should have heard us
shouting good news from the roof tops,
singing Alleuluias in the streets of the world!
The world should have seen us
praying for our enemies.
The world should have seen us
following the Prince of Peace.

Oh, God, may they see us now!

Oh, God, may they hear us now!


- Ann Weems
May 4, 2007

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Before It Slips Away: Memories of Youth Sunday

Last Sunday was Youth Sunday at the church I serve. Our children and youth (of whom we don't have an enormous amount, but enough to make a nice little group) led worship, sang the anthems and solos, delivered the sermon via homemade sock puppets (a hilarious playlet called "God in a Box"), and joined me around the table for Communion.

As they approached the table, their eyes widened-- the little ones especially. Some of them had never been right up to the table on a communion Sunday. They regarded the bread, the juice, the gleaming platters and servers, with something like wonder.

I did a brief invitation, and then invited the young people to help me to pray the great thanksgiving. "What shall we give thanks for?" I asked.

"Food," someone said. Yes! Standing around a table full of bread and juice, of course, food! And prayer for those who don't have any or enough. "What else?"

"Our friends," another said. Yes! The people who love us, and who we love. The people who, when we look at their faces, we just have to smile. What else?

"The earth." Yes! And the thanksgiving went on like this, until we had given thanks, additionally, for our families, for our church, for the spring, for music, and more things-- wonderful things-- that have already slipped away.

"And we give thanks, most of all, for Jesus," I said. "What do we know about Jesus?"

A high school junior answered, "He is the Christ." Yes! God's anointed one, the messiah, come to save his people. What else? What did Jesus do? During a pause, I looked at a boy who was wrapped in sheets the day we read John 11 during Lent, and re-enacted the raising of Lazarus. "J., do you remember what Jesus did the day we wrapped you up in sheets?"

"He raised some guy from the dead!" J. said. Yes! And a girl, too. And what about other people, people who were not dead yet...? "He healed them!" said someone. Yes. He healed them. And what else?

"He gave people food." Yes. I picked up the bread. "What did Jesus do at dinner, the night before he died?"

"He shared bread with his friends." Yes... but before that, remember? What do you do before dinner? "He said thank you." Yes. He said thank you. Then he broke the bread, and he gave it to his friends, and remember what he said?

"Do this in remembrance of me." (An older youth). Yes.

And then, what did he do after dinner?

"He took wine." Yes! But we use juice. What did he do with the wine?

"He gave it to his friends." Yes, he said thank you for the wine, and then gave it to his friends, and said, "Take this, all of you, and drink it."

"He said 'This is my blood.'" Yes, he said, this is my blood. Do this in remembrance of me.

Then we joined hands around the table, and the young people repeated this prayer after me:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. Bring us peace, wisdom and joy. And let this meal be our true communion with one another and with you. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

It was the truest communion I've known in the body of Christ in this time and place. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Inner Mind of the Blogger

I'm wondering if any of you have read this article, from last Sunday's New York Times magazine (5/25): "Exposed: What I Gained-- And Lost-- By Writing About My Intimate Life Online," by Emily Gould. Gould is a former Gawker blogger who seems to have taken that subtitle to the implied extremes . Some critics are calling it "masturbatory" blogging, or even "vagina monoblogging."

I was pointed to the article by a friend who knows that I blog but really doesn't get why anyone in her right mind would do so.

"So, it's like a journal that everybody reads, right?" she says. "That's sick."

Well, yes, and no. I kept a journal beginning when I was a young girl, and intermittently into my adulthood. A traumatic experience with my mother reading my journal when I was a teenager caused me to have some anxiety about the safety of committing my unedited thoughts to paper, though I kept experimenting with the medium well into my thirties.

Blogging is different. It is not a journal. I do edit my thoughts here, for example. I don't share all the details of my most intimate experiences, though I have written in broad strokes about divorce, parenthood, ministry and the death of a parent. Blogging... I don't know why I'm telling you this; you know perfectly well... is both more and less than a journal, for me. It is more because of the possibility of making connections with others through what I write. It is less because, by my own standards of what is acceptable, I choose not to write with absolute transparency and candor. That stuff is for my friends and my therapist. Some of it is only for me.

I think people get into trouble blogging when they get too addicted to the rush of how many comments they get, or how many hits their blogs get. That seems to be what happened to poor Emily (though the girl doesn't have the sense a rabbit was born with, if you ask me. And no one did, I realize). I like hits and comments as much as the next girl, but what I like better-- what I love-- is the sense of community in this blogging world, imperfect as it is. I love the fact that real caring and real relationships spring up... sometimes leading to real life encounters that are all the richer because we actually know one another just a bit better than most people meeting for the first time.

I'm interested in what you think about Emily. But I won't go into the tank if no one comments on it.