Tweeting my Theology

When I went to seminary, there was concern. Friends whispered. Had I gone rogue? Or worse: been “saved”? Would I suddenly start dropping things like washed in the blood into regular conversation?

Admittedly, the calling to serve the church was sudden and powerful, like lightning. I had always considered myself a Christian, even if I didn’t attend worship. But the closest thing I got to church during those years in North Carolina was dating the daughter of an Assemblies of God pastor. And he didn’t like me.

In the fifteen years that have passed, I’ve grown into the role of theologian. That word—theologian—still isn’t easy to type. To be a theologian sounds laughably grand for a guy like me. That’s the stuff of Tillich and Barth, of thousand page tomes. I write novels about kids who work in grocery stores and talk about professional wrestling.

But if I’ve learned anything it’s this: don’t wrestle the stranger. All you’re going to get is a limp.

So I talk about God online. [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “New Year, Good Work”

Just Bens Photos on flickr woodworkingA delightful scene is set in this poem. At the start of the new year, the speaker and some friends are doing volunteer woodwork to repair their church’s altar. As the speaker details the steps of their careful work, we’re carried along by the poem’s base rhythm of iambic pentameter. Soon religious language enters the speaker’s account: as their sawdust fills the church, they feel their labor to be “sanctified,” and the motions of their attentive work become a “ritual.” Though they’re amateur carpenters, they strive for “such perfection / as can be achieved on this job, in this lifetime.” Then, taking a break, they recall that their “patron in this place” (who is Jesus, though he’s not named) was a carpenter. But Jesus’ carpentry immediately becomes symbolic. Paintings of him at work, “a long shaving furled / round his wrist,” holds in its grain “the meaning of life and death / and pretty much everything in between.” As carpenter, they muse, could Jesus have made anything “less then perfect?” The scene then shifts, for the poem’s final stanza, back to the church that the speaker and his friends are working in. “The incense of our craft” will linger in the sanctuary during Sunday worship. And this, the speaker concludes, is all the payment they need: “an answered prayer for good work, done.” This “good work,” here and in the poem’s title, carries a double meaning: it’s work well done, but also morally good work—like that of Jesus.

—Peggy Rosenthal [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…]

So Much for the American Dream

Daisy YardMy six-year-old son caught me off guard. “I wish we had a backyard,” he said one afternoon. He had been playing more or less quietly with his Legos, and I was enjoying a book.

“Oh, yeah?” I responded. “Why is that?”

“Then we could just play outside and you wouldn’t have to watch us,” he said, and I knew he meant that he could play outside while my wife and I could stay inside doing the kinds of things we give as reasons we can’t take our children to the park, like working, cleaning, preparing dinner.

“Yeah, buddy, that’d be nice,” I agreed and let the subject drop.

I omitted any mention of how he hit on one of the only regrets I have about not owning a home—and the only regret on that short list that makes my heart ache when I think of it. [Read more…]

Tale of the Lucky and the Star-Crossed

Lady Awaiting InspirationThey say that luck is where hard work meets opportunity. But often the ones who say that are those who are the greatest beneficiaries of luck. It seems a way by which the fortunate can reclaim a portion of the credit for the things that have befallen them:

“Yes, X happened, and it was indeed fortuitous, but had I not stood ready to seize the moment and make the most of it—had I not prepared my body and mind for just such a chance—nothing would have come of it all.”

And in a sense, a portion of that seems so. Even when the stars align, the sea parts, and before us lies the golden way, only those who have the presence of mind to capitalize upon the moment, to swoop in and storm on to claim the happy day, can smile when they later tell the tale.

At times, the teller is humble. He admits that what has come his way is inexplicable, all talent and effort aside. “What I got from life was more than I would have dared ask for,” a great singer once said. The profligacies of fate are not always lost on its beneficiaries, and the best of time’s favorites acknowledge that to be the case. [Read more…]