“Prayer”: A Poem from “The Voodoo Doll Parade” by Lauren Schmidt

Lauren Schmidt’s The Voodoo Doll Parade was selected by Terry Wolverton for the Main Street Rag Author’s Choice Chapbook Series. The profane becomes sacred under this poet’s unflinching attention, in earthy poems about illness, sex, and prayer (and sometimes all three tangled up in bed together). The heart of this chapbook is a series of unforgettable narratives about homeless and mentally disabled clients of The Dining Room, a soup kitchen in Oregon where the author volunteered. The poem below is reprinted by permission. See her author page on the MSR website for more samples and purchasing information. Please order books from MSR to support this excellent small press that publishes writing with a social conscience.

for Jeremy

When I clear your table after you’ve gone, there’s a small scrap
of paper which reads: “God Bless You. You are Beautiful.
I Promise to Pray for You.” Pray for me? Pray for me?
Then pray for me that I wake up in the morning in a bed
and lie there, that I give my blessings their proper names
and faces, the blessings that keep me from a life too like
yours, pray for me. Because the first thought of my day

is hunger, pray for me that I eat. But pray for me that I know
hunger, pray for me. Pray for me that I feel myself in
the growl of your belly, that I remember I am more like you
than I remember, pray for me. Pray for me that I am Rodney
with his weary eyes who is all at once teacher, cousin,
neighbor, friend, and the stranger who held the door for me
when my arms were full of bags, please pray. Pray for me

that I am the woman with earth-rich skin. Pray for those hands
that slammed her plate face-down into the table for me to clean.
Pray for me that I know no such grief, pray for me.
Pray for me that I am Larry whose fingers shoot music
into the belly of the piano; those same seven songs spark
from its upright head. Pray for me that I have the comfort
of knowing what comes next, pray for me. Pray for me that I am
the blind man because the room knows to make room for him.
People move tables, chairs, themselves, part a path for him as if
he were a king. But pray for me that I make way, pray for me.

Pray for me that I am Amber with her Vaseline face,
whose words are frenzied centipedes that scatter from her lips
and braid above her head. She stares at them like a mobile
or a noose. She stares at them like she would a heaven. Pray for me

there’s a heaven. That the demons inked along Leanne’s spine
do not exist, pray for me. Pray for me that my back can carry
such blackness if it needs to, pray for me. Pray for me that I am
the pregnant girl who is allowed a second plate. Pray that I know
the power I hold in my body, for a tiny king can grow eyes in my body,

please pray. Pray for me that I am the man in this same room, seated
at another table, the man that gives the girl his milk. Pray for me
that I remember to give up my milk. Pray for me that I am the milk.

Two Poems from “Slouching Towards Guantanamo” by Jim Ferris

Jim Ferris is an award-winning poet and professor of disability studies at the University of Toledo. His first full-length collection, The Hospital Poems, won the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award in 2004. In The Hospital Poems, Ferris writes about the multiple surgeries he endured as a child to correct skeletal abnormalities. He questions the purpose of the isolation, pain, and stigma he experienced as a perpetual patient. Was this course of treatment really for his benefit, or primarily to bring him closer to society’s idea of a proper-looking human body, to make others comfortable looking at him?

In his new book Slouching Towards Guantanamo, also from Main Street Rag, Ferris extends this radical inquiry to our body politic. Our discomfort with the body’s vulnerability forces certain lives offstage–the lives of the crippled, the war-wounded, the oppressed–and once we can no longer see them, we can allow ourselves to think that they don’t have feelings equal to ours. Who sees and who is seen? What is the difference between being seen and merely being looked at?

This prophetic poet asks us to shed the burden of our ego so that differences between ourselves and others can simply coexist without comparison or judgment. Notwithstanding the spiritual weight they carry, these poems are playful, musical, satirical and passionate. The poems below are reprinted by permission. Read more on his MSR author page.


Where’s the glory in it? I am not
a survivor. Whatever the state
of my legs, whatever happened
there, know this: I walk down the street
whole, whether I limp or stumble,
cane or crutches, roll in a chair.
This is my body. Look if you like.
This is my meat, substance
but not essence, essence but not
fate, sum of all its particles
back to the big one but particular
to no single interpretation
in a cosmos of possible ontologies
that we all try to limit with all
our soft might but which accepts
only the most temporary
instructions: you, sir, explain
that birthmark, and you, how about
that nose? We are not signs,
we do not live in spite of
or because of our facts,
we live with them, around them, among,
like we live around rivers, my cane,
your warts, like we live among animals,
your heart, my brace, like we live with,
despite, because of each other.



I love Mark Twain and the Mississippi steamboats and Abraham Lincoln’s dogs.
I love the fields of wheat and corn and the smell of Virginia tobacco.
But I am not American.
. . .
Take the stripes of your flag
and give us the stars.
     –SAADI YOUSSEF, “America, America”

I see you, America.
I am your dying son.
I recall your stories
of hope and of glorious
trails to true freedom.
Give me liberty, go west, go deep.
One small step one giant

I hear you, America.
I am your deaf-blind child.
I may have been cute once,
up on that poster, but America,
you are my inspiration.
We hold these truths
to be self-evident,
we who have hands to hold
and eyes to see.

You watch me as I cross the street—
I must be something to see.

Send me your tired,
your poor, your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free—
take a deep breath—now ask
why they look at us that way.
Greatest country on earth—
in the history of the earth.
In the universe. Ever. Top that.

I smell you, America
you are in my pores, you
are the dirt beneath my nails—
you are my nails. All I eat
and drink and breathe are you.
Why am I no longer high?
Why does my head hurt?
Why do I have so many staplers?

You watch me as I buy groceries—
I must be something to see.

I feel you, America,
even deaf-blind I feel you go by,
I am your comatose wife.
Yoked together by a vow
made long ago, now I lie
here, and you lie away. When you love,
when you honor, will you protect
me from yourself? Just who is

your self, America? Do I
count? Three-fifths, say? I
am the crippled newsy on the corner,
the guy on the knuckleboard, not a leg
to stand on. Now I am the standard-bearer,
standing out not up. Stand by, America—
this just in: you need me. I am your face
in the family portrait, just as you blink.

You watch me though you are discreet.
I must be something to see.

I taste you, America,
pilgrims pride and fruited plain,
turkey dinner once a year,
I am your orphan child.
I am your silenced majority.
You would pave me to make me whole,
bronze our laughter to save it,
feed the world on hamburger,
coke, fries, and freedom’s tales,
talk of choice and honor
and a thousand channels.

I watch you, America,
I am your slow son,
your dumb-blonde daughter,
you are what’s on. Is anyone
listening? I am the deaf-blind cripple
who is always listening,
watching, waiting to be fulfilled.
I see you, America, I see you,
see me, hear me, be me too.

You watch me like I am quite chic.
I must be something to see.

I am too hard for poems, America,
too empty. You are too brittle, too small.
One drop overflows me,
the oceans cannot fill you,
nothing soaks through.
The maw of America is open,
friendly is our middle name,
the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
We take care of our own. We’ll take care
of you, too, if you don’t watch out, bud.
We have no room for poems, no time
for poems, no place for the people
of poems. Be one of us, be
a winner, be a saint, be secure
in righteousness, look forward to glory,
and take rewards both here and hereafter.

You watch me as I eat.
I must be something to see.

Liberty or death, America,
and you stand for both, indivisible,
one nation under the wrath of an angry God,
meting out liberty and justice to all
who get in our way. Forty acres and a mule,
America, paddy wagons and loyalty
oaths, banned books and internment
camps, peace pipes and more treaties,
and how about some blankets, too.
The policeman isn’t there to create
disorder, America—the policeman
is there to preserve disorder.

You watch me as I walk down the street.
I must be something to see.

I have a dream, America. Ask not.
I have lost my way, America,
but I’m right here with you.
Oh, you who would eat the earth
and call it free, the only thing we have to fear
is fear itself. Take this hand, you who love arms,
take this hand, America, opposable thumb and all. We
are the people of poems. Let us bind up our wounds
and refit the prostheses we all require.
I need you, America,
I am your child and I need you.
We are all your children, the atoms of your hope.
Let the better angels of our nature
form a more perfect union,
and let us be orphans no more.
The tired, the poor, the high and low—
we are all watching.
I see you, America. We see you.

How to Help Children of Africa Hope Mission

Earlier this summer I blogged about courageous straight allies Rev. John Makokha and his wife Anne Baraza of Other Sheep Afrika-Kenya, and their charity Children of Africa Hope Mission, which offers food and education for the poorest children in Nairobi. The mission school was founded in 2009 by the women of Riruta United Methodist Church. In addition to providing free education, this school is often the children’s only source for regular meals and health care.

Their web presence is currently under construction so no online donation page exists. Carol Berg from First United Methodist Church of Wabash, Indiana is their U.S. relief coordinator. Donations can be sent to Carol at 529 Bryan Avenue, Apt. C, Wabash, IN 46992. She is working on setting up a direct bank account for the school. Below, Carol shares her thoughts about the mission and its needs:

“One of the things that some people do not understand is that without food, there is no school. Some of the kids at the school have nothing to eat from the time they leave in the afternoon until they arrive again the next day. I would imagine there are a few of them who have nothing to eat from Friday afternoon to Monday morning.

“As I see it, those kids need more than rice, cornmeal, oatmeal, kale, and tomatoes in order to thrive. I have not yet figured out how a child can grow a good body, let alone a well-functioning brain, without proper nutrients. As we both know, it cannot happen. I am hoping that we can send enough money for good, nutritious food so that Anne does not need to worry about feeding the children. She will have the opportunity to worry about other things. I think that people of good will can feed those kids and lift that burden from Anne and company.

“As you probably know, the school needs everything…including a floor that doesn’t get muddy when it rains. Everyone understands that the ultimate goal is self-sufficiency, and step by step I believe that will occur…and I pray that it happens. The kids deserve good food and an education. They have no chance at all without both….

“I have a number of people who give $10.00 or more a month so that the school has money for food coming in monthly. Without food the school cannot exist. I send the money to Anne Baraza, the director of the school at the beginning of each month. I ask the monthly givers to get the money to me by the last Sunday of the month. I consider the money well spent. We are not only feeding the children, but we are also making certain they get an education as well. Without food, the school closes. It is just that simple. God has given me this task…to feed these kids so they can learn. It is difficult because people give for awhile and drop out. Therefore, I continue to search for giving people just to keep $200 a month going to the kids for food. Of course, they need more than that to have a nutritious diet which they deserve in order to have healthy bodies and brains. They also need mosquito nets because of all the malaria. The school needs all the school supplies you can imagine…especially paper and pencils including some of the larger ones for little hands….

“It seems that it wouldn’t take too many people of good will to feed those kids and their teachers well. I received a message from a kid named Melvin. He said that he likes to go to school because that is the only time he eats….from one day to the next day at school he doesn’t eat; from the end of the school on Friday to his return to school on Monday, he doesn’t eat. Melvin isn’t the only child in that situation, but he is the one who wrote about it in such a specific way. Other kids said they liked to come to school because they had something to eat.”

Mark Driscoll’s Guide to Nutrition for Real Men

Megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll has been attracting heat in the blogosphere for a Facebook status update in which he invited people to make fun of “effeminate anatomically male worship leaders”. Driscoll is known for his over-the-top macho pronouncements, which he justifies as necessary to attract men to the church, but which his detractors describe as bullying of non-gender-conforming men and women.

For instance, he’s said that liberal Christians “recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in his hair”, which must be wrong because “I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” (See Dianna Anderson’s theologically astute takedown of this remark on her blog Be the Change.)

When former National Association of Evangelicals leader Ted Haggard’s longstanding relationship with a male prostitute was exposed, Driscoll said it was the responsibility of pastors’ wives to keep them from falling into such temptations:

“It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.” (Quote courtesy of Huffington Post)

With this as context, I am pleased to share this satire written by a friend who wishes to be identified only as “Chorisande Davita”. My friend is a devout, contemplative woman with quite conservative views on the Bible and sexuality. She’s also passionate about naming and stopping abuses of power in the church.

Mark Driscoll’s Guide to Nutrition for Real Men

by Chorisande Davita

Transcription from YouTube video . . .

Mark Driscoll adjusts his headset, and leans his meaty forearms on a lectern. His adam’s apple bulges beneath a necklace made from a strip of leather, and his furrowed brow and flushed face are ominous signs of what’s to come. Either that, or signs of high blood pressure and a suppressed urge to scratch the scrot rot on camera. He clears his voice and fairly shouts:

“It’s been brought to my attention that there’s stuff circulating on the Web where some poser’s pretending to be me and telling dudes about the diet of real men. He supposedly claims that fries and ketchup are the only masculine vegetables that I say a real man should eat. That’s a damn lie! The God-fearing farmers in this country work hard to make a living, and I’m not some pinko pansy who won’t support them! There are a lot of vegetables that men can eat, and I’m about to tell you which. So stop accusing me of being unpatriotic!

“First off. There are absolutely no fruits a man can eat. If you eat them, you’re not a real man. There are no exceptions. So stop asking. So. Stop. Whining. . . Wash a vitamin C down with your stout or something, but stop crying about it. Suck it up and get a masculine perspective! Elijah ate locusts, you ninnies! I’ve put a lot of thought into the matter of masculine vegetables, and I want you men to pay careful attention. Women, you need to listen as well so you can be blessed wives and not disrespect your man with what you’re cooking and serving him. Single women, pay careful attention if you want a manly husband and want to know how to recognize one.

“Since fries and ketchup were mentioned, let’s start there. Some say tomatoes are a fruit, but I say they’re not, so that’s that. Mark Driscoll says they’re a vegetable, dammit. Ketchup is a masculine vegetable, the poser got that right, but there are other tomatoes which are OK–heirloom and beefsteak varieties are okay, but only if they’re sliced thickly. And preferably sitting on top of a burger. A real burger, one made out of beef! By the way, watch out for those 5 dollar foot long meatball subs–they’re mostly soy, those lying bastards. I’ve half a mind to sue those pansies, but there’s not enough cash in the coffers right now. Anyway, tomatoes. Sissy varieties like cherry and grape are out! Got that? Can you imagine Peter and Paul tucking into a plate of baby lettuce with tiny grape tomatoes? No!!!

“Fries are very manly. Tater tots are not. Home fries are okay, hash browns are not. Other forms of potatoes can be okay, depending. Scalloped potatoes are for low-rise, stove-pipe jeans wearing wimps who floss their teeth and get out of the shower to take a piss. Baked potatoes are okay, but only if they’re sitting on a plate next to a steak that’s at least 12 ounces. On their own, you have to be careful. With chili on top they might be okay, but you have to exercise discernment and insist on chili with chunks of beef, not bits of mystery meat. Topped with broccoli and cheese sauce, no way . . .”

There is some kind of disturbance in the audience. Mark quickly looks out over the people and someone shouts,

“But what about cheese in a can?!”

Mark blinks thoughtfully and says, “OK, dude, spray cheese in a can is definitely masculine. But none of that gruyere or brie or swiss crap in a sauce, okay? Think like a man. Where was I? Baked potatoes. Sprinkled with minced chives–do I even need to say?”

Laughter and snorts of derision throughout the audience . . .

“So, let’s try to get through the rest of this quickly. Onions and peppers–these can be okay if they’re balanced or outweighed by the amount of meat. You know–fajitas, pot roast, manly meals like those. Greens are real tricky. Watch out! Mesclun is not for dudes, lettuce and spinach are not for dudes. Popeye was part of a conspiracy to promote the convenience of canned goods while giving the appearance of masculinity–don’t take the bait. Frisee, endive, leeks, and arugula are for chickified, hanky-carrying, herbal tea-sipping eunuchs who’d be too afraid to scratch their spuds if they had any. Kale, mustard and some other greens can be masculine, provided they’ve been sufficiently stewed with ham hocks.

“Corn is only okay if you’re eating it on the cob at a fourth of July cookout with a sufficient amount of fireworks and flags on display, and everyone there can see that you’ve got serious animal flesh on the rest of your plate. But be very careful to watch what you’re doing with your little fingers while you’re handling the cob! I don’t ever want to see some dude from my church holding a corn cob with his pinkys sticking out–if I do, you’ll be mocked at the next leadership meeting and called out on our next retreat. Those baby corns they put in Asian food? No way. If you’re eating out, let your daughter pick them out of your Chinese food. If the wife brings them to the table, send it back and remind her of your headship.

“Cukes are not to be consumed. They’re for alternative purposes–see This is Spinal Tap. Carrots are very feminine, and not for real men to eat. Exercise careful discernment here. Like, if you’re outside building a snowman with your kids, of course make sure they see you doing the heavy lifting. When it’s time for the nose, have your wife hand your daughter the carrot and then lift her up so she can put it in and no one sees you handling a carrot, dude.

“Squash is masculine only if eaten on Thanksgiving in front of the game and there’s enough poultry on your plate to warrant fiber tablets with the pie. Don’t even think about squash filled ravioli with sage leaves and brown butter, dude. Only if you want people to think you wear lace anklets, push back your cuticles, use body wash, and get your chest waxed. (Guffaws throughout the audience.) Hey, you know it would happen. This is why you came! It’s why you brought a friend. I’m entertaining, I know it, it’s a gift, what can I say. . .

“Real men should stay away from anything that can be broken into florets, described with the word “nibblets,” or prefaced by the adjectives “baby,” or “sweet.” Legumes are complicated. Eating someone’s liver with fava beans and a little Chianti was cool for Hannibal, but you need to be cautious about what you pair with your choice of liver. (Groans and deep chuckles from the crowd.) Now, beans mixed with lots of pork or beef is good, honest, masculine food. Popping edamame is for incense sniffing castrati who order curdled cream and scones and wish they could wear their Spanx in public. I could punch those skipping hippies in the throat! Put down that can of mousse and listen to me, you long-haired gardenia-scented fuschia-wearing ponce! Eat like a man! Be a man! Don’t act like being a Christian means singing love songs to Jesus and noshing on sprouts! It doesn’t! This makes me so mad . . .

Driscoll’s voice fades under the sound of loud rap music, while images from a butcher shop flash to the pulse of the beat . . .

Ruth Sabath Rosenthal: “Bad Apple”

Ruth Sabath Rosenthal’s full-length poetry collection FACING HOME and beyond (Paragon Poetry Press, 2011) includes and expands upon her chapbook Facing Home (Finishing Line Press), 2010, which I excerpted on this blog last year. Ruth’s clear and sharp-witted writing addresses themes of family alienation, Jewish heritage, and the hard-won wisdom of an older woman who’s had to learn to rely on herself. The poem below, reprinted by permission, captures the spirit of this collection, by way of some lesser-known details about the Jewish legend of Lilith. Visit Ruth’s website to learn more about her work.

Bad Apple

What anguish when Lilith figured out
her Adam was a die-hard prick, repeatedly
refusing to let her flower atop his stem.

From the get-go, he commanded she be
on the bottom. Wanting his seed, she was dutiful
wife, coy lover swallowing bile, biting her tongue,

bearing him sons, and yet, the stiff-neck refused
to soften his manner or change his position:
He wanted her always under his thumb,

kissing his feet, the ground he stood on. She revolted,
and under threat of God-awful wrath, took one hell
of a lover — a swain who liked her on top,

but said kids were not fit to live with.
She sided with him, decided to leave Adam,
against the wishes of three angels who warned

they’d kill off the hundreds and hundreds
of sons she expected to bear, if she carried
out her plan. She turned that around by conceiving

her own twist on their threat: She would kill all
the newborns she cared to — a diabiblical campaign
the angels condoned only after she swore to

spare those infants wearing a talisman inscribed
with the angels’ names. And furthermore,
she’d seek to demonize men by having her way

with them in the deep of sleep, turning each
into licentious pricks lusting to distraction,
perversion. As for women, she’d instruct each

to cease acting beneath men in any manner or form.
Her plan carved in stone, she bid Adam farewell,
but not before ribbing him unmercifully

about his dream of finding the perfect wife,
“a fit wife.” And likely he would, as one man’s poison
is another man’s pleasure
, or so it is written.

Alegria Imperial: “this change of name”

Alegria Imperial, a frequent contributor to this blog’s poetry pages, shared with me this meditation on an important upcoming transition in her life. Originally from the Philippines, she will now have dual citizenship in her adopted country, Canada. Her spare, elegant language and attunement to nature show the influence of yet another country, Japan, as her writing has been shaped by the discipline of studying haiku and tanka.

Alegria says of her multiple identities: “I’m about to take my oath as a Candian citizen and pledge allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II! I find it both exhilarating and ironic (the pledge of allegiance, in particular); here I am coming from a country that fought for freedom from Spanish royalty for 300 years, regained it, lost it again, and gained it back, but chosing to move to Canada I will now willingly become a subject to a queen in a few days.”

this change of name
by Alegria Imperial

it is
a matter of spelling
this change of name

or am i fooling
the skies i look up to
the clouds
none i can name

the mountains
that shimmer
stealing in in stead
the names

of mountain ranges
facing East
among its jungles
my spirit roosts

alien snow
now smothers
my laughter
i drift aground

is earth
unlike the sun
by sorrow?

i hear
from mourning doves
the language
of dawns

i mismatch
evening clouds
in my dreams
the chill stays

yet the sparrow
shares its songs
that seep into my sleep
lull my world

i regain my name
on Hollyburn
where a lotus by itself
on the lake

–such poignancy–
mirorring my loneliness
soaks the sun
as if enough

i trail the buds
lined along the Fraser’s North Arm
winding down and up
the river bed

the tide cuts a line
between my dreams and the sky
ripples catch my breathing
in rhythmic sighs

i’m scaling the breast
of Burnaby Mounains
my soul resists
its longings

i’m close to home
close to sinking
in the foam
skirting Horseshoe Bay

an eagle skims
my rhyming
my longings weave
in and out of the air

on a skein
of cherry blossoms
once only paintings on scrolls
i learn to haiku

–thinking of moths
in my childhood those slivers of light
that die on the light
and fade in the morning–

on my waking
i am who has always been
the city aground on my steps
whose name i can now say

even in sleep–

Sunday Non-Random Song: Keith Green, “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful”

Some Christian friends and I were recently talking about what it means to “give your heart to God”. The one thing we could agree on was that we worried we weren’t doing it thoroughly enough! Perhaps, we thought, the first step is simply surrendering those spiritual performance anxieties into God’s hands.

Whether the object of our devotion is God or an earthly beloved or vocation, we sometimes confuse surrender with renunciation. Is devotion best measured by how much you push other things out of your heart to make room for God? Unless those affections have become disordered in some way (selfishly possessive or addictive), I would say not. The God of the Bible persistently asks us to rethink the scarcity mindset that makes us see interpersonal relations through the lens of desperate competition. In my Father’s house are many mansions.

Surrender, on the other hand, could be about trusting God to protect and give meaning to the life we already love, and thereby coming to see God’s presence in more and more places. We go from being Martha, who is anxious about many things because she thinks it all rests on her shoulders, to Mary, who sees that only God keeps the cosmos in existence from one second to the next.

For me, giving my heart to God starts with remembering that (1) I have a heart and (2) there is a God. That is, it’s about re-opening, yet again, to the vulnerability of joy and trust and hope, which requires me to rely on the God who has guaranteed that those qualities will ultimately triumph over cruelty and meaninglessness. I might think that that kind of God is a nice idea, but I can’t say I believe in Him until I actually act as if He were there to catch me when I fall (or am pushed).

That inward softening often happens when I sing worship songs. Something about opening to the flow of breath relaxes my emotional center as well. This simple, powerful song by Keith Green always moves me in that direction. I hope it warms your heart as well.

Read more about Keith Green on the Last Days Ministries website. He devoted his talents to spreading the gospel through music until a plane crash tragically took his life at age 28.

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful,
Your face is all I seek,

For when your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful,

Your face is all I seek,

For when your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.

I want to take your word and shine it all around.

But first help me just to live it Lord.

And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown.

For my reward is giving glory to you.

Oh Lord, please light the fire,

That once burned bright and clear.

Replace the lamp of my first love,

That burns with Holy fear.

I want to take your word and shine it all around.

But first help me just to live it Lord.

And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown.

For my reward is giving glory to you.

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful,

Your face is all I seek,

For when your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful,

Your face is all I seek,

For when your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.

(Lyrics courtesy of www.sing365.com)

Advice to Myself, Across 20 Years

“I once believed in causes too, I had my pointless point of view…”Billy Joel

I turned 39 this week, and I intend to stay that way for quite some time. (And if you get that reference, you’re older than me, haha.)

Twenty years ago, I was named one of Glamour Magazine’s Top Ten College Women, either despite or because of the fact that my hair was the size of a small hedge and I had no idea how to apply eyeshadow. Yes, I was a diversity hire: the crazy poet quota. The magazine treated us to a lovely weekend in NYC, including a Revlon gift bag and a visit to the MTV studios, and published our pictures in an issue with Cindy Crawford on the cover.

Earlier this summer, a Glamour staff member sent us alumnae this intriguing question:

We would like to know what you would tell your Top 10 College Woman self. If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice at the moment that Glamour honored you, what sage nugget of wisdom would you like to impart? We’re considering sharing some of your advice with our upcoming winners in the magazine.

With that in mind, here’s what I wish I could have told Jendi-in-1992:

Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself in the service of the truth.

You have a right to believe that you are beautiful.

There are as many ways to perform femininity as there are female-identified people.

Get therapy and a decent haircut.

Someday, you will have good sex.

You don’t have to wait for someone else’s permission to grow up.

Style knows no dress size.

Don’t go to law school.

You’ve got to be your own mommy.

Walk away from any relationship that threatens your safety or your integrity. No exceptions. There’s always another way to reach your goal.

Every five years, you will completely change your mind about something important, so don’t be a butthole to people who disagree with you now.

Signs of the Apocalypse: Heartbreak Hotel

This item from the Springwise trend-watching newsletter qualifies for our Apocalypse Watch as yet another attempt to give a cheery (and moneymaking) facelift to what ought to be a solemn event:

For most separating couples, divorce is a process they would like to get out of the way as quickly as possible. Often, however, divorces can become lengthy and drawn out, as couples negotiate through reams of legal documents and calculate the repercussions. Hoping to speed up the process and provide all the assistance one could require, we recently came across Dutch Heartbreak Hotel.

The Hotel service promises to be able to care of a couple’s divorce over the course of one single weekend. For EUR 2,499, the separating husband and wife are booked into separate luxury five star hotels while the company handles all the paperwork — providing financial consultants, lawyers, and even child psychologists as part of its service. On the last day of the weekend, the necessary documentation is completed and signed by the couples, and the divorce is handed over to the courts.

Hotels are already known for
other amusements incompatible with marriage, such as co-ed business trips and pay-per-view movies, so I suppose they just wanted to capture maximum profits from this scenario. Wonder if you get a discount for booking your wedding and divorce as a package deal?

Dissecting the Divine Element

At least since the Scientific Revolution, Christians have been on the spot to explain how, exactly, the soul coexists with the body. Should we try to locate the divine element in a specific organ, as Descartes argued for the pineal gland in the brain, or in a behavior supposedly unique to humans, such as abstract reasoning or moral sentiments? Suggestions abound, their common feature being the attempt to separate some pure substance from the biological muck. We find it difficult to picture spirit and matter truly commingling.

The Incarnation poses similar imaginative challenges. I believe in the “wholly divine/wholly human” character of Christ, partly because the church has fought to keep alive a belief that so fundamentally disrupts our preferred dualistic thought patterns. There must be something in this concept that we really need, that keeps us searching for truths beyond our current evolutionary level of understanding.

Yet we often put Jesus through the conceptual centrifuge, once again wishing to sift out the human features so that the divine element can be untainted and obvious. Did Jesus sweat, pee, lose his temper, have sexual feelings, misjudge people, make factual errors? The gospels themselves suggest that he did. If he was human, he must have done.

The more we admit this, though, the more we become anxious that we can no longer isolate the “God part”. And if we can’t isolate it, we worry it doesn’t exist — never considering that perhaps the overcoming of dualities and the all-pervasive sanctifying of mortal existence is where God resides. This is what God is most passionate about communicating to us status-obsessed monkeys.

I was led to these thoughts by my ongoing conversations with Christian friends about the authority of the Bible. As I study how women’s inequality has been built into the societies that wrote Scripture and is perpetuated today by communities that cite these texts, I feel strongly that we must not gloss over the Bible’s embeddedness in all-too-human hierarchies. Then where, my friends might ask, does the Logos come in? By what standards are we to pick and choose the passages that are “more inspired” than others?

I have some ideas about this, centering on the ethics of Jesus as the standard for our interpretations, but I’m beginning to wonder if we’re asking the wrong question. If the Bible is a gateway to divine connection — as it continues to be for me — perhaps that connection does not reside so much in any particular passage, least of all in the effort to shield the text from political critique. Could it not reside in the truth-seeking passion that motivates us both to learn gratefully from the Biblical writers and to challenge their limitations? Could it be something that proceeds from the loving, reciprocal accountability of believer and text, the way the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son?