Lenten Slow: March 2004

Lent in Santa Cruz is ridiculous: Trees covered with pink, white and yellow blossoms. Multicolored flowers springing up everywhere. Soft languid air breezing through in the high 70's. It is nigh on impossible to feel solemnly repentant in the midst of such bounteous beauty.
We went up to the mountains last weekend. The weather was gorgeous there also; slushy for skiers but perfect for ambling about in tennis shoes on cleared roads, beholding rapturous mountains robed in brilliant white, sturdy rocks and whispering pines.
The condo was luxurious. Everyone outdid each other in cooking. Lolling about on burgundy leather couches with tummies stuffed full of breakfast burritos, was hardly congruent with Christ in the wilderness--even though we'd driven hours to get out of Dodge.
The only thing I've fasted lately is communion, which is hardly the point. Two weeks slid by. Not the intentional 'Giving Up Church for Lent,' that I did some years back, but rather the slithery bog of Other Things Intervening, which is the curse of the age. So many other things intervene that you lose track of which is The Thing and which is The Other Thing.
Meanwhile, I'm starving. I don't know how 'them evangelicals' make it going month to month. I would be fainting on the sidewalk; fallen in the street with truth, that fell some time ago and is currently taking hits from every passing vehicle. Two weeks is long enough. Too long. Any moment now I may turn stones into bread.

In the preface to a collection of BEST SPIRITUAL WRITING OF 2002, Philip Zaleski writes of eliminating submissions because they attack other people's beliefs. "...the favorite targets for religious bigotry, at least among the cultural elite, now include Muslims, Catholics and evangelical Protestants." He writes about how Sept. 11 triggered attacks against Islam, and sexual scandals involving a tiny percentage of priests unleashed an unprecedented wave of Catholic bashing. "As for evangelical Christians, it remains business as usual: this group continues to receive a steady stream of contempt and scorn from those who certainly should know better."

One of the nicest comments about The Word Shop showed up on ChristianCruz.com, a local website of churches, ministries and events in the Santa Cruz area. It's easy to submit your news and the site is well organized. Check it out.

I'm currently reading FORGIVE FOR GOOD, a secular book on forgiveness that Nick brought to our attention. Most Christians know they're supposed to forgive. The question is how to get from here to there. Author Dr. Fred Luskin has some good ideas. His notion of holding unenforceable rules is worth the price of the book ($13.95). "I am convinced that when you try to enforce something over which you have no control, you create a problem for yourself."
The writing of this book is a bit clunky, but the information is valuable. Here's another quote: "I regularly ask people why they do not dwell on their good fortune with the same energy that they invest in their bad fortune. This question always catches people by surprise."

Everyone should read one good novel a month. (Another enlightened, unenforceable rule.) Of course, you may have to plow through three mediocre novels to discover a good one. How any particular book gets in front of my eyes remains a mystery. Someone came into the store asking about A. J. Cronin's THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM. I'd never heard of it. All I could think of was Pat Robertson's THE SECRET KINGDOM. This was not even close.
Sometime later THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM drifts in. Of course by this time I'd forgotten who asked about it. Did I write it down? No, I did not. So I felt I had to read the book. (The logic of this will undoubtedly escape most normal people.) It was a good novel written in 1941 about a Scottish priest who became a missionary to China. Such issues as competition between missionaries, the numbers game, pacifism and institutional foibles were handled beautifully. There was only one short torture scene, which I read with my eyes shut. This is a nice HB copy, $7.

Our wonderful Charlie wrote that prevaricating was probably not the word I wanted when describing my throes of indecision over going to see The Passion. I looked it up. He was right. Just what we need, I thought, another teacher in the family. But what word was I looking for? Surely it was a P word. This is the sort of thing I think about at 4:00 am. Since no P words came to mind, I finally decided on altercate. "After altercating endlessly, I decided..." Actually ALTARcating would be even better. Altarcate: the process of bringing your heart in line with the heart of God. New word. Put it in your spell check next to infopinions.

Anita wrote that the best comment she'd heard re the crucifixion of Jesus was made by her cousin's son when he was about three years old. Aaron had heard something about Jesus' death. With anguish in his voice he asked his mother, "Was that my Jesus they killed?"

I'm rather fond of Gordon's comment about all the fuss over whether the Jews killed Jesus. "Rather silly...seeing as how he is alive."

Alliee +