Thursday, November 16, 2006

Chain Prayer

To all my dear friends: Stop sending me schmaltzy chain prayers and Precious Moments pictures. I don't forward them. I delete, and move on.

But this one I liked. It didn't send me into a diabetic coma, and it actually spoke to where I am in my life at this moment. I still didn't forward it, but I AM posting it here, with some editorial bolding. Enjoy!

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let His presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise, and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.

A Blog of Biblical Proportions

Let's face it: The Bible is a daunting text. Thousands of years old. Countless languages and translations. In-depth scholarly investigation. As many interpretations as there are readers. And one massive, overwhelming, mysterious, confusing, powerful, inexplicable God.

It's enough to make me not read it. (Oh wait. I don't. Hmm.)

Now we can thank David Plotz for approaching the material with a self-described 'lazy but faithful' eye at Slate.com's Blogging the Bible.

Basically, Plotz's entries tackle each book of the Bible in succession, and put into plain English what he thinks each one means. Some might read this and think it spiritually illiterate, but I find it honest, raw, and frankly, funny as hell. (I mean ... heck. Sorry Bible.) Just take his latest entry on The Book of 2 Samuel. Who else would describe Joab as an early Donald Rumsfeld?

But it's not all snarky comments and anachronistic comparisons, and that's what ultimately makes this blog project stick. Plotz asks some really hard and heartfelt questions about the confusing and contradictory elements that emerge in Biblical stories. And he opens it up to the worldwide audience for theories, explanations, and discussion.

At its heart, Blogging the Bible provides what many Bible studies purport to offer, yet do not: a welcoming forum, open expression, and the freedom to doubt and question. In my own experiences with Bible study, both Catholic and Protestant, I have acutely felt the lack of that last freedom. I don't understand the often angry and vengeful God of the Old Testament. I don't agree with the Bible's writings on homosexuality. And I don't take the story of Genesis literally.

These, among other viewpoints, have frequently put me at odds with many of my faithful peers, but I never could quite believe I was an exception. In fact, I think I'm closer to the rule. Blogging the Bible renews my belief in allowing people to question and accept at their own pace, and the power that doubt wields in forging a more perfect faith.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Manna oh Manna

Just got back from another successful Manna on Main St. lunch in Lansdale. The menu: nutritious and delicious three bean chili, tossed salad, whole fruit, and fun-size candy. Perfect for a damp and chilly day in November. No wonder this is rapidly becoming one of my favorite activities. It combines all my favorite parts of being Italian--food, love, and hospitality!

But it's our guests that remind me this isn't a run-of-the-mill holiday party. Our visitors often look tired, worn out, ragged,or dirty. Their clothes are stitched, and their glasses taped. Sometimes whole families come, the young kids eager to eat up. Today we had a crew from a mentally retarded group home. Every time it's a different crowd, with one common thread--hungry stomachs and hungry hearts.

That's why Manna becomes much more than a hot meal. The open door and open conversation are the nourishment that's needed most. It's a time to rest and put up one's feet, meet new people, and share personal stories, without fear of being turned away or forgotten.

The real travesty, however, is how inexpensive it can be to feed the hungry with balanced, nutritious meals. We fed over 20 people today for about $20, and no one left unsatisfied. That's $1 a person--less than a Starbucks coffee.

My question is, why aren't we feeding more people? Yes, we helped 20 today, but what about the millions left? This is a chance for social justice in action, and we need to act on it.

Gathering around the table is one of human civilization's most revered, dignified, and constant acts of love and community. Providing that opportunity to those who might not have it is the greatest offering we can give. And I intend to keep setting the table until all have a healthy, happy kitchen of their own.

Friday, November 03, 2006

At the Intersection

Thought from Taryn at yesterday's YourFra meeting (which I am loving, btw):

"Many people have a vertical faith, where their spiritual life concerns only their relationship with God. Many others have a horizontal faith--their spirituality is expressed in their relationship to the people and world around the world.

Put these faiths together, you have a cross. And at the intersection of the cross is Christ. That's where we are trying to be."

At the moment, I have a horizontal faith, and I need to develop the vertical. What's that you say? Prayer? Prayer will help with that? Do tell! I might have to try it sometime ...