Dollar Store Evangelism

7983352_ae05874354_oBecause I enjoy the finer things in life, I ran into Dollar Tree the other day to grab a few bottles of shower gel. The store is a bright, stale-plastic-smelling establishment specializing in glow bracelets, “chocolatey” Easter candy, and knock-off pregnancy tests. (Why didn’t they carry those during my childbearing years?) While it’s preferable to the more staidly dismal Dollar General, it’s certainly not a place for spiritual awakening.

The young man at the checkout, who probably had already swiped several dozen last-minute gift bags across the scanner by this point in the day, smiled warmly at a sixtyish woman standing in line in front of me.

“Are you having a good day?”

“Why, yes!” she beamed, unfolding a few bills from her coin purse. She thought a bit. “You’re so friendly to everyone here. I really like that.”

“Well,” he said, looking up shyly, “I just like to treat people the way I would like to be treated.”

The woman brightened immediately. “You know, the Gospel of John says Jesus even lays his life down for his friends. And he says we are his friends if we do what he commands.”

My eyes caught his, and in a microsecond, everything was said: I was trying to be nice. I didn’t mean to bring Jesus into it. I’m trapped and embarrassed you’re hearing it too.

[Read more...]

My Only Begotten Sin

11087699415_16fe60c2bb_zBecause I remain restless and impatient even in middle age, I am often only halfway listening to important things spoken of in church. Therefore, I can mishear what the priest is saying, sometimes to comical effect.

Like Bart Simpson, “In the Garden of Eden” becomes “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” I have heard “sex” for “sects” and “possums” for “apostles.” When I was a boy, for the longest time I thought “Agnus Dei” was the name of the woman up front who played the choir organ: “Agnes Day.” [Read more...]

The Tenth Leper

512px-ChristCleansing (1)Guest post by Kelly Foster

If you grow up in the South, you learn to write thank-you notes. You write thank-you notes for kind gifts. You write thank-you notes for kind words. You write thank-you notes for kind thank-you notes people send to you.

It’s a vicious circle of gratitude, but I suppose there are worse circles to be caught up in, and plenty that don’t provide one with an excuse to keep a ready supply of handmade stationery in reserve. So it goes.

[Read more...]

Back to the Drawing Board

colorbookTo say I can’t draw myself out of a cardboard box is to assume I know how to find the opening in the first place. I’m not spatially oriented, to say the least. I’ve always struggled to transfer any sort of mental vision to physical form, whether it be drawing, floral arranging, or applying a streak of eyeliner. I’m stymied by reading (as well as refolding) maps, folding sweaters, or closing Chinese takeout containers.

[Read more...]

Rules for Celebrating: An Observation from the Way of Saint James, Part 2

altarContinued from last week.

The Way of Saint James—El Camino de Santiago—is a pilgrimage across Spain that began in the Middle Ages and remains popular today. Each year 200,000 pilgrims walk a route to Santiago de Compostela, a city where, according to tradition, the apostle James the Greater is interred.

Last September my husband and I were among the pilgrims. We hiked 200 miles from Léon in stages, many with Fr. Lukasz, a sprightly, thirty-something priest, and a group of young adults from the Catholic Newman Center at the University of Washington.

Fr. Lukasz set the pattern of our days right at the outset of the journey. We rose before dawn and departed Rabanal del Camino, a stone village with a tiny central square. As we walked beneath the moon and stars, guided by a few pilgrim headlamps, I could feel the grade increasing, straining the backs of my legs. We were ascending the pass of Irago. Soon the sun rose lemon-yellow, revealing iridescent mountains, releasing the scents of heather and gorse.

By midmorning we reached the Cruz de Ferro, a simple iron cross atop a weathered pole that marks the Camino’s highest point. There we stopped for morning prayers before descending the pass through several villages: Manjarín, Acebo, and Riego de Ambros, where we walked through a grove of giant chestnuts and a green, wild-flowered vale. After crossing a Roman stone bridge over the Río Meruelo, we stopped at Molinaseca, a medieval town where we would spend the night. [Read more...]


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