Good Letters Is My Devotional

Image Glen OnlineBy Cathy Warner

I came to Christianity in my mid-twenties and joined a Protestant church whose denominational arm publishes devotional booklets that called to mind the copies of Watchtowers Jehovah’s Witnesses used to foist on me.

As a new believer, I was supposed to develop a disciplined spiritual life, the cornerstone being morning devotions: Rise at dawn, open the booklet, read the single line opening prayer, open the Bible to the selected lectionary verse, etc.

But I’m an insomniac who began my sleep-deprived days with a quick shower and breakfast eaten while commuting. I tossed the tiny booklets with their small font and facile prose in the recycling, unread.

By the early 2000s I was writing poetry, prayers, and meditations for my congregation and denomination. Finally, in the act of writing itself, I had found a form of spiritual discipline. I never woke at dawn, but I remained faithful to the practice.

Though I was adept at writing the devotional formula, it quickly began to feel constrictive. I wanted to read outside the “inspirational” genre. I began to hunger for risky, authentic, platitude-free writing that could inspire my own clumsy efforts.

I shared my longing with an artist-painter-pastor who recommended Image. [Read more…]

A Farmer’s Lament

christina-peterson-farm-imageLast weekend, I cooked lunch for three farmers. One of them was my husband. The other two were a couple who were being forced to close down the small organic vegetable farm they’d been building together for nearly a decade. I could see the loss in their weary smiles, in the holes in their clothes, in the fact that they were even sitting with us. They were usually working so hard that they didn’t have time to go anywhere.

They’d given everything to a dream of beautiful clean food. And they hadn’t been able to make it continue. [Read more…]

Stiff Necked Church Lady

red-pews-by-charles-clegg-on-flickrChurch Ladies.  Most of them are pretty darn good souls. They’re at the church every day, bent over pews, cleaning the sanctuary, baking pies, and keeping all the committees peopled. They’re also gorgeously individual souls with their own private concerns, loves, and extracurricular interests.

But everyone’s probably known at least one church lady like the iconic Church Lady rendered by Dana Carvey on Saturday Night Live: easily scandalized and convinced that even benign things are the property of Satan.

I’ve been that Church Lady. [Read more…]

The Resurrection Volvo

ljubljana_car_crash_2013Just about nine months ago—the Tuesday after Valentine’s Day, to be exact—I hit a carload of nuns.

It’s not like I was trying to or anything, though: It was the middle of the morning, a misty winter day. I was driving on a quiet street in the part of Washington, D.C. that’s sometimes called “Little Rome,” owing to the number of monastic institutions surrounding the Catholic University of America. From the right lane, the carload of nuns made an unexpected wide left-hand turn passing in front of me, and my Honda ran right into their left-side passenger door.

With a pop and the faint burning smell of sulphur, the airbag exploded into my face, like a kind of giant, surreal mushroom.  I put the stick shift in park and—amazingly collected—turned the radio and then the car off, and got out calmly.

These were young nuns, twenty-something, in long habits—one of whom came running over with: “Oh my gosh, that’s not cool.” [Read more…]

My September 11 Story, and Ours, Part II

1024px-010915-N-3995K-024_Old_Glory_at_ground_zeroFor Scott Simon, and for Bill Craven

Continued from yesterday.

In the back of my closet, inside a cellophane folder where I keep the rarest papers I own, there is a plain piece of unremarkable 8 ½ by 11 printer paper. At the top of the paper is the inscrutable coding “TC2001091307CD22AM.”

Just to look at this piece of paper makes me shiver, a bit, in recollection. Here’s why:

The first days after September 11 were just as bewildering as the one that had come before, though the daily schedule picked up again almost instantly—this was, you see, the circumstance for which the phrase “the new normal” was actually created. [Read more…]