Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Haiti: Theology & Theophany

I couldn't write the blog for a few weeks.. I was silent in the wake of Haiti. I didn't have words for it; writing about anything else seemed beside the point. This past Sunday, we had a service of solidarity for the people of Haiti. We called the names of just a few of those missing and presumed dead. I piled up 100,000 sunflower seeds on a Vodou altar, which people could touch, take home, feed to the winter birds, or try & plant. And we listened to haitian music and several reflections, of which the following is one:

HAITI: Theology & Theophany

(Song, "For My People in Haiti," Wyclef Jean)

I love this song by Haiti’s most popular contemporary artist, Wyclef Jean. The line, Where is god when we need her? is the question, whether you believe in her, in him, or not. It’s another way of saying, where is Hope? In the song he closed the TV special with, he rapped, “Earthquake. Feel the earth shake. But the soul of the Haitian people it will never break.” Hence, he answers his own question.

Only privileged people, people like us, can afford to even consider a God who is a hands-on God. The vast majority of people of the world know that God is not a being, but a way of being. God is a mystery. Their faith in God is strong because they cannot hide, as we can, or could until September 11, 2001, from horror. Because they cannot hide, they know both suffering and joy.

David Blanchard, a former minister here at UUCL, is now my friend on Facebook. He shared with me yesterday these words from Pema Chodron: "How did I get so lucky to have my heart awakened to others and their suffering?" Indeed!

So today I propose that the only answer to Wyclef’s question is not, “There is no God, fool!” but something far, far, deeper.

In 1955, the year I was born, Paul Tillich wrote The Shaking of the Foundations. In this monumental work of postmodern theology, he begins by quoting the Prophet Jeremiah:

I look out on earth. . . lo, all is chaos; I look at heaven . . . its light is gone; I look out on the mountains . . . they are trembling; and all the hills are swaying! I look out . . . lo, no man is to be seen; all the birds have flown! I look out . . . lo, the sown land lies a desert; and the towns are all razed by the Lord's rage. For thus has the Lord said: The whole land shall be desolate. And for this shall the earth mourn and the heavens above be black. I have purposed it and will not repent. Neither will I turn back from it. At the noise of the horsemen and the archers the land is all in flight, men taking refuge within woods and caves, and climbing upon the rocks. Every city shall be abandoned, And not a man dwell therein. You ruined creature, what will you do! JEREMIAH 4:23-30.

And the Prophet Isaiah:

The foundations of the earth do shake. Earth breaks to pieces, earth is split in pieces, earth shakes to pieces, earth reels like a drunken man, earth rocks like a hammock; under the weight of its transgression earth falls down to rise no more!

Lift up your eyes to heaven and look upon the earth beneath: For the heavens shall vanish away like smoke.

And the earth shall grow old like a robe; the world itself shall crumble. But my righteousness shall be forever,

And my salvation knows no end. ISAIAH 24:18-20

Tillich makes it clear that the prophets of long ago could never have understood God as both omnipotent and omniscient. They were not sheltered, like the people of Haiti are not now and have not for a long time been sheltered, from the “shaking of the foundations.” They did not have the luxury of cynicism or aversion. He writes: We always carry the end with us in our bodies and our souls. And often whole nations and cultures succeed in forgetting the end. But ultimately they fail. Tillich writes that the perfect God of the idealist “is not God at all, and does not exist.”

Instead he turns to the atheist Nietzeche for a better metaphor: “God” is the perpetual Witness. From this God, he says, we cannot flee, for he/she is the Ground of our Being. The Eternal. Reassuringly, he adds, “let us not forget that life is also friendly.” There is a grace in life. Otherwise, we could not go on living. (ch6) With our eyes, we see this Grace in the outpouring of compassion, the will to sustain the gaze, even upon unimaginable suffering, and in the outstretched hands eager to help. Therein we find Purpose, Hope, and meaning.

Friday, January 08, 2010

things and people... COFFEE!

Dr.Mehmet Oz is the new media health guru. I figured he was Turkish, because of his name.

Being Turkish, how could he not love coffee, right? (Actually, I have been to Turkey, another thing that makes life worth living.. and they usually drink TEA!)But, I digress.

Dr. Oz says that coffee in moderation is good for you! It contains anti-oxidants; in fact, it is our best source of anti-oxidants. He also says to pretty much avoid any white foods (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, SUGAR, etc) and here's a recipe from his blog that I liked:

But I LOVE me some coffee!!!!

The Magical Breakfast Blaster: Oz and his family love this smoothie for breakfast as a way to deliver nutrients and long-lasting power. The psyllium helps fill you, while the flaxseed contains omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial to your heart.

½ large banana, peeled and cut

1 scoop (½ cup) soy protein

½ tbsp flaxseed oil

¼ cup frozen blueberries

½ tbsp apple juice concentrate or honey

1 tsp psyllium seed husks

8 oz water

Peel bananas; break into chunks. Combine all ingredients in a blender, with a few cubes of ice if desired. Cover; blend until fairly smooth.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

More things... poetry & poets

I think poets are the heroes and heroines of our time. They are the ones who tell it like it is. By crafting reality, even the bitter and ugly of it,into something lyrical or poignant or vivid, they make us wiser, more alert, and more alive.

I write fiction, when I have time and space, but not poetry. I marvel at good poetry, and at good poets. In some ways they are Christ-like, for they take a lot of suffering upon themselves in order to do their work.

Even though I don't like Garrison Keillor much because he makes fun of Unitarians in a not nice way, I truly admire his taste in poetry and enjoy the way he reads it.


If you listen to The Writers' Almanac, you know that he reads a good poem each day. I rarely hear it, but I receive it in an email, (just click newsletter on the right side of the page) which I enjoy tremendously, and from the email I can link to a sound recording of GK reading... or just read the poem myself. It is a great joy for me each day!!

Here's one of my favorite poems (I have about a thousand):

FERN HILL  by Dylan Thomas

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs

About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,

The night above the dingle starry,

Time let me hail and climb

Golden in the heydays of his eyes,

And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns

And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves

Trail with daisies and barley

Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns

About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,

In the sun that is young once only,

Time let me play and be

Golden in the mercy of his means,

And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves

Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,

And the sabbath rang slowly

In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay

Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air

And playing, lovely and watery

And fire green as grass.

And nightly under the simple stars

As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,

All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars

Flying with the ricks, and the horses

Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white

With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all

Shining, it was Adam and maiden,

The sky gathered again

And the sun grew round that very day.

So it must have been after the birth of the simple light

In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm

Out of the whinnying green stable

On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house

Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,

In the sun born over and over,

I ran my heedless ways,

My wishes raced through the house high hay

And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows

In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs

Before the children green and golden

Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me

Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,

In the moon that is always rising,

Nor that riding to sleep

I should hear him fly with the high fields

And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.

Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,

Time held me green and dying

Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Things that make life worth living: Katrina Volunteers

Who could have dreamed of all of the thousands of miracles that would come in the wake of the biggest natural disaster of the decade (in the US)... tens of thousands of lives changed.. not only those who survived and overcame the effects of the disaster, but all of those who were blessed to be a part of the recovery? It continues still! Our church has traveled for three Christmas vacations now to Biloxi, MS, there to work with an agency that was born after Katrina:


We've built homes and much more: made friends, learned oodles about economic racism and environmental disasters and socioeconomics, taken exchange students from all over the world, built community among our own congregants, and shared our work with the congregation through reports, blogs, photographs, and stories. They, in turn, have generously funded our trips! For sure, people are still suffering from Katrina, and some of the roots of disaster have yet to be addressed, but that does not diminish the wellspring of joy and connection that has come from an event of destruction.

Our own church web site has a page on this year's project. 09-10 Volunteers return tonight!


Friday, January 01, 2010

Things & People That make Life Worth Living: Sasha Obama

All kids are not cute!

I am a kid-lover, but some children are downright unappealing. That seems to have been the case with many of the first-family children over the decades of my life, possible exception being the Kennedy children. The Obama girls, it goes without saying, are darling! They are adorable not only because they have the genetic good looks of their parents, or the grace and bearing that was probably instilled in them by their grandmother, but in the case of Sasha especially,because she is so damn genuine.

Malia, a bit older, and growing like a tree, has some of the her mother's seriousness and intensity. Sasha is impish and delightful, with that same mischevious glint we sometimes detect in her father. I love her! Just can't get enough of the photos of that girl.

May she remain as spontaneous and natural and wholesome as she is today! May the cruelty and envy faced by all in the spotlight not leave her bitter, but make her stronger and stronger. May she become exactly whatever she is most suited to be:  farmer, a politician, an athlete, an inventor or a homemaker!