A complaint I often hear about liturgical churches is, "people just repeat all those prayers without even sounding like they mean it." This is true. I am perfectly capable of rattling off any number of prayers and creeds, all the while wondering if there will be any good cookies at coffee hour. I am equally capable of opening my Bible in the morning and reading the daily dose of scripture, while half my brain is bumping around possible ways to get my ipad on-line so I can take credit cards at an upcoming event.
The miracle is that God is also in the mix. He can suddenly anoint a particular line of an oft repeated prayer, or highlight a scripture I've scanned dozens of times. He can speak in my heart. The amazing thing is that God wants to join the conversation. God is willing to have the same kind of conversation that you and I have all the time: conversations where attention moves in and out, and the mundane is mixed with the profound.
Liturgy is like steps to a dance. At first you're tripping all over your feet thinking, step, behind, step, kick. After a while the basic steps become automatic. This leaves you free to focus on who you're dancing with.
"Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance." ~Dave Barry
In February I went to a Jesuit retreat, which was billed as an artist retreat. "Lord That I Might See." I felt an attraction, decided the retreat could help with the Illuminated Journaling classes I teach, went. Turned out the retreat was led by two people from Homeboy Industries, a multi-service ministry amongst the gangs and jails in Los Angeles.
I got interested in their work: counseling, education, legal help, substance abuse...OK, that's pretty cool. But starting a bakery, a cafe, a silkscreening operation, tattoo removal, selling chips and salsa--now we're talking a whole different approach. (You might guess that I'm particularly attracted to Marketplace Ministry.)
Cruising their website after I got home ( homeboy-industries.org ) I discovered that the founder, Greg Boyle, had written a book, TATTOOS ON THE HEART: The Power of Boundless Compassion. I ordered it. WOW! I gave the book to Michael who took it up to the mountains. Over the phone he told me that he would read a bit, and then he had to put the book down and walk around; the stories were so powerful. When he finished it, Michael applied to be a Big Brother here in Santa Cruz. "I can't do what Boyle does," he said, "but I can do this."
I ordered ten copies of TATTOOS ON THE HEART to foist upon people. Our March Literary Party theme was Little People Who Make a Big Difference. I waved the book around with vehemence. Carolyn brought 4 (count 'em) books to the party, including STONES INTO SCHOOLS, the new book by Greg Mortenson, the THREE CUPS OF TEA guy. George Müller made an appearance via Vi. Susan brought an eBook, which limited her waving around abilities. Justin brought a book about THE WOMAN WHO WOULDN'T TALK. Krista wandered into the scene and talked about Shane Claiborne's JESUS FOR PRESIDENT.
After this fine frolic through literary forests, I returned home to discover an email from Simon and Shuster saying that Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries and author of TATTOOS ON THE HEART was coming to Resurrection Church the weekend of April 8 and 9. Would I like to handle the books for the event?
Suddenly I am catapulted into a whole new strata. While I have brought book tables to conferences before, they have been primarily books from our store. I have never handled an author signing for a large event. I have never ordered a thousand dollars worth of a single title. It's a good thing I don't chew my nails, I wouldn't have any fingers left.
Because I want this book to go to as many people as possible, I'm working to set up the ability to take credit cards. This might be useful in the long run for those of you who are out of town. I won't however accept credit cards from Jim and Nickie, because Nickie always puts confetti stars and angels in the envelope with their checks. I'd miss the scattering of joy on my desk.
"Never trust spiritual leader who cannot dance." ~Mr. Miyagi
For you locals, here are the details for the event at Resurrection Catholic Community on Soquel Drive in Aptos: Book signing Friday, April 8, from 6 - 7:00. Greg Boyle speaks at 7. Come early if you want a seat. Saturday, April 9, he speaks again at 1:00. Following that will be a discussion among local people who work in gang related arenas. If you're planning to go on either day, and would like to help us with the Book Table, please email me. I'm definitely in an ALL HANDS ON DECK mode.
"A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for." ~Grace Hopper
For years I have had an hour of prayer at the store, between Easter and Pentecost. This year I am doing something different: Prayer Dance. Since moving and stretching to various kinds of Christian music would be BUMPY in The Word Shop, what with all the chairs and furniture and falling books, I have received permission to meet in the parish hall of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, which is the first left off Park Avenue as you head from the freeway toward Soquel Drive. Tuesdays at 1:30, beginning April 26.
"Stifling an urge to dance is bad for your health - it rusts your spirit and your hips." ~Terri Guillemets
The reason I'm doing this is that I don't like getting all kinds of weird music stuck in my internal radio from secular movement classes, and I don't like people telling me how to move like in Jazzercise. (We'll be doing nonLiturgical dance.) I'm more likely to dance if you come and join me. The cost is a donation of any amount. Let me know.
Praise him in the Dance.
PS Do you have a MiFi hot spot that we could borrow for the TATTOOS ON THE HEART book signing event on Friday and Saturday? Verizon is being too greedy.