Poetry Friday: “I Am Poured Out Like Water”

6712511817_1621527225_zWhat attracts me to this poem is something deliberately absent yet evocatively present: baptism in a river. Starting from the very first line—during monastic prayer, the speaker’s mis-chanting “Lord’s forever” as “Lord’s river”—rivers are central to each vignette. There’s the creek where, as a kid, the speaker “took a girl down to the river to play—not pray”: that teasing echo of the song about river baptism. There’s the deer he then killed, stumbling “toward the Smith River”: its death “brought the Lord by the water.” There’s the speaker and his Dad fly-fishing, with the memory of his Dad as close to “a saint.” And finally, there’s the barge breaking up ice on the Hudson River outside the monastery as Matins is chanted. All these river images bring us close to the sanctifying water of baptism—close, but not quite there. Yet in a marvelously mysterious way, our baptism into Christ’s life and death is at the poem’s core.

-Peggy Rosenthal [Read more…]

C.S. Lewis, Less the Magical

c.s. lewisI first encountered C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, then quickly consumed The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and The Abolition of Man before feeling like we’d hit a good place in our relationship.

I tend to be cautious like that with authors. I don’t want to lose the (perhaps childish) affection that first obsessed me.

That’s why I’ve never read all of the Narnia Chronicles. I know they are like the Children’s Bible for some, but after three volumes I lost momentum, so I quit while The Abolition of Man was still fresh in my mind.

Yet on a whim, recently, I began reading Out of the Silent Planet. I thought I was prepared for either pleasant surprise or disappointment. Maybe I wasn’t. [Read more…]

The Cult of Emotion

6342521726_1709c6f3f5_zAs a newish, struggling Christian recovering from two years in a fundamentalist youth group, I committed to starting afresh in college. I was going to get fellowship right this time.

My high school church had been all about the rules: No secular music (unless oldies from the 1950s). No shorts with hems higher than the ends of your fingertips. No left-leaning politics.

But the people I met at Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of California, Riverside, were all about the heart. As I started spending time in Bible studies where I learned to read the scriptures for myself, I wished I had understood all along that Christianity was about following Jesus, not a list of don’ts.

But even the heart seems to have some rules. The heart can quickly become an idol, our emotions, laws. [Read more…]

Eat the Delicious Earth

2440065352_c094834b71_zA year ago, I started cooking and learning how to prepare and love food in new ways. How to spend time with it, think about how it comes apart and together, how it draws lines back to heritage and times when I loved my insides, when love had all kinds of ungraspable meanings.

I’m lucky to have a family that taught me that food was pleasure, that if you ate for nutrition only, one day you’d return your carotids to the good Lord, who’d spread them with his mighty hands, inspect their immaculate insides, and ask what on that delicious earth you’d done with your life.

Paella. Extra saffron for the vermilion color that makes me think of mercuric sulfide. Pretend poison. The coral threads were a gift, and I have to use it up before it’s useless, conserved and tasteless.

Chorizo, the fat and fiber melding with the lush gore of the battle scenes on Game of Thrones as I eat late at night, until I have to throw the rest away. Green and red bell peppers; when I had a regular salary, I’d chop off the top and throw it away; now that I freelance, I cut carefully around the stem. [Read more…]

Gotta Dance

2350196127_9f6e774f0b_zMy mother was a dancer. I use the term dancer in the most flexible possible way, to mean: “One who dances.”

She said that she had always wished to be a ballerina—an image that didn’t compute with my childhood understanding of my mother, a labor room nurse who played racquetball at the YMCA, and otherwise attended a smattering of sports events in which my siblings and I competed.

She wore tight jeans and therapeutic sandals, and most of the dancing I saw her do was with her friends in the neighborhood on Friday afternoons, when everyone finished work and school, and the children played while the women drank wine coolers and bumped hips to Neil Diamond hits.

For the children, women dancing and drinking in the living room with the massive stereo speakers turned way up, was something to be avoided. So we played hide-and-seek, Legos, Barbies, and otherwise averted our eyes to the mothers.

[Read more…]


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