Monasticism in Lockdown America, Part 9: Psalms, In the End

Continued from yesterday


11826685814_171e060196_mThinking of the psalms as a way to cycle through the entire range of human experience, I recently brought them with me into juvenile detention.

The kids there, on Sunday afternoons, shuffle through automated doors wearing orange jumpsuits and pink booties and take their seats shyly around bolted-down steel tables with me.

These are boys and girls who have likely seen, and felt on their bodies, and heard, what no child should have to see or feel or hear. And after absorbing all they’ve endured and trying to maintain composure, they have probably been kicked out of classrooms for not watching their tongues. For small outbursts, foul language, bad attitudes. Now, in detention, they spend most of their time in lockdown, in cells of their own, alone. [Read more...]

Monasticism in Lockdown America, Part 8: Psalms, In the Beginning

4591112088_e1c7fb17da_mI always privately hated the psalms.

Most of them, anyway. As a teenager, I’d leaf through the Bible’s songbook quite often and feel it was full of self-pity and self-righteousness, often launching into bombastic praise of God and two lines later wishing curses on enemies. I didn’t understand why Christians still used the psalms, and so often.

As I got older, it was the worst part of visiting a monastery for me: hearing monks or nuns fill up so much of their time together chanting through these oft-sub-merciful prayers. The sentiments throughout the ancient songbook seemed so far from the heart Jesus teaches us to inhabit. They felt human, as Nietzsche said, all too human. Yet monasteries cycle through the entire Psalter month after month, year after year. [Read more...]

Sugar, Sugar, Part 2: May 8, 2015

Continued from yesterday

2629206224_7d8554b1d8_mWhen the editors of Good Letters first asked if they could rerun my 2011 post on my sugar addiction, which was posted yesterday, I couldn’t even bring myself to read the old post before saying no. I felt too weird and vulnerable about what I’d written and preferred that it stay buried in the archives. So I wrote other stuff, until I found myself coming back around to this topic in my life. Addictions don’t tend to go away. They are either active or in remission, rarely cured.

A new twist for me: Weeks after I wrote that original post, I had some medical tests done and got a new diagnosis and learned that in fact I’m a type one diabetic, not type two as originally pegged. Type one is an autoimmune disease and typically has an onset in childhood or adolescence, but it can also hit people much later in life, as it did me. Once properly diagnosed, I got some basic training on how to calculate and inject insulin and was on my way. [Read more...]

Sugar, Sugar, Part 1: June 10, 2011

1374816661_c4e7e255fb_mI’ve written before about my father’s alcoholism. From my adolescence until his death, I spent a lot of time and energy being angry with him, and letting myself be hurt by him. At the core of my anger and hurt was the belief that he was consciously and willingly choosing alcohol over everything else—our family, his work, his passion for life and music. Dignity, peace, joy. Me.

Instead, he chose getting drunk, getting sick, losing everything good. I couldn’t understand this, or forgive it. At his death, our relationship was virtually non-existent. Watching him struggling for breath in the end, and looking so ravaged at a relatively young age, some part of me kept thinking, perplexed, You chose this.

I have an eating disorder. My struggles with it now are much less intense than they were, but the disorder isn’t vanquished. Years ago, in my efforts to figure out my behavior, I read up on the idea of sugar addiction, and decided that the word “addiction” aptly described my behavior with sugar throughout my life. [Read more...]

Internet Jubilee: A Holy Year of Mercy

On a recent Sunday, my pastor preached on the idea of the jubilee year as outlined in Leviticus, a time when debts are settled, slaves are set free, and land is returned to families. Last month, Pope Francis declared approximately Advent 2015 through Advent 2016 a jubilee year, the Holy Year of Mercy. “Let us not forget that God pardons and God pardons always,” he said. “Let us never tire of asking for forgiveness.”

When my pastor gave the Leviticus sermon, he said something along the lines of, “Imagine if you got a notice from the government saying that your student loan was forgiven, or your bank said your credit card balance had been paid.” Yes, thanks, that would be awesome! Yet as great that would be, an even more powerful metaphor for me was to imagine if my forty-thousand tweets could be deleted in one fell swoop, and every snarky, judgy thing I ever said anywhere online could magically disappear. [Read more...]