Imitating the Saints

Heaven's gatesSt. Therese once wished aloud that her own mother would die. When her mother scolded her, Therese explained that then she could sooner go to heaven.

My children received this anecdote with perverse joy, telling their siblings to jump off a bridge, run out in the street, and let go of the tree branch…that you may sooner see paradise, of course.

Given a choice between heaven and hell, they will gladly choose heaven. But faced with a choice between heaven and earth, they start hedging: Are there Legos in heaven? Who’s going to be there? Is the music any good? Why do they have a gate that keeps all the fun people out?

They’ve already noticed the problem that villains are usually the most interesting character in any novel or movie. It’s far more troubling to envision characters who are not completely wicked, characters who struggle with temptation but don’t succumb.

I tend to love my heroes too much to attribute them with serious flaws. Or I imagine there is a class of unsullied souls, anointed souls who somehow, magically, don’t sin. They may have sinned in the past, but no more. They meet Jesus, they fall off their horse, or maybe they’re just born with an incredible endowment of piety, and sin can’t touch them. A heaven full of such insufferable people really doesn’t sound appealing. [Read more…]

A Rabbi, a Priest, and a Wedding: Part 1

By Danielle Leshaw

JudaismFather Bill offered a set of instructions. “Walk beside me, never on my left, but always on my right.”

I nodded.

“And we’re walking towards Jesus.” He pointed across the church. “Shall we practice?”

“Yes, please,” I answered.

We processed up the aisle, an elderly priest and a young, female rabbi. I matched his steps. His brown frock went swish-swish while the long, braided belt knocked against his knees. It was a long path, from the entrance doors of the church up the aisle to the ornate dais. This gave me time to look around. The Stations of the Cross were divided up around the big room, white pedestals with hammered copper sculptures of Jesus during his final moments. It was a sunny morning. The skylights streamed light beams. Every Jesus, big or small, hanging or standing or crouching or sitting, was illuminated. And as if by divine command, there were little specs of glitter dust in each ray of light. [Read more…]

Believing in the Beach Boys

The_Beach_Boys_(1965)The first church I attended as a teenaged new believer swiftly taught me two doctrines:

  1. There won’t be any Democrats in heaven.
  2. Secular music is tantamount to heresy.

The first one was easy enough to get. Reagan had saved us from the devil Jimmy Carter, and now Jesus had the go-ahead to return whenever he wanted. The second proved a little more complicated. What was I supposed to listen to?

The youth pastor’s wife took me to a Christian bookstore so I could tell the musically redeemed clerk about my favorite bands and find equivalencies worthy of the kingdom of God. My ears turned pink as I told the twenty-something, crisp-collared man about the Beatles, Erasure, and Siouxsie and the Banshees cassettes rattling around in the passenger seat of my car. He raised his eyebrows, then grabbed a copy of Maranatha Praise, Volume 6, the closest match. I put it in my tape deck on the way to school the next morning, a first step in my journey of spiritual transformation. [Read more…]

Fairies and Mystics

F‏irefliesOn the first day of summer, my daughter created a makeshift microphone in the backyard with a curved branch stuck into the wet soil. Behind, her younger brother beat on an upturned ice cream bucket with two sticks. They were practicing fairy music, they said, to welcome the fairies on summer solstice.

Three days earlier, we’d made fairy oyle, partly from a recipe in my daughter’s fairy book, and partly, as many good recipes go, a bit of this and a bit of that: A pinch of thyme, a few chamomile flowers, some red clover leaves, and plantain (thrown in for the strength of its elastic leaf structure). The oyle, when put upon the eyelids on the first day of summer, was supposed to make the wearer able to see through a fairy’s glamour. [Read more…]

Dancing on the Way to Prison

By John Bryant

Worshipping HandsI’m standing in a circle with thirty singing and swaying old men and we hold each other’s hands because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and signal the presence of His Spirit by fluttering our fingers during certain parts of the song, the fluttering strange at first and then completely appropriate and satisfying.

There is an old man in front of me with wide forehead and dark eyes and he is bald and tall and strong and he is dancing. He shakes his hips and leaps on one leg and then the other in those impossible khaki shorts he wears in winter, and he looks like he would’ve been a murderer or bouncer or head of a biker gang if he’d not been made a perfect child and clown by the Holy Spirit.

We release hands and begin another song, and these strong old men fold their hands behind their backs like little children holding flowers for girls and they put their voices into the middle of the circle where the song gathers like a creature rising out from fire and for all their gruff, worn appearance the singing is impossibly loud, sincere, and generous. [Read more…]


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