Sermon for the Letter “O”

Before I knew poetry, I loved its power.

I can’t remember now when I first memorized the Nicene Creed–perhaps for First Communion, perhaps for Confirmation.  I do not recall anyone teaching it to me by lesson the way my grandmother made my learning of the Our Father and Hail Mary her active duty.

My mind did not learn the creed.  My body learned it: ear, rhythm, voice.  I had, and still have, two favorite parts of the creed:

God from God.

Light from light.

True God from True God.

Begotten and not made.

Notice I’ve instinctively added line breaks where I’m not sure they exist.

I also really loved this:

We believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic church.

As a child, I was not making a profession of faith–how could I have done so?  As an adult, I know that one can only profess a faith once she has the capacity for abstract thought.  Abstract thought, and doubt: the front porch that welcomes us before we step into the old home of devotion.

No, I didn’t know what I was saying.  But I loved it.  I loved the sound of it.  All that assonance:

God from God.

Light from light.

True God from True God.

Begotten and not made.

I liked those “o” sounds packed so tightly into the same breath.  The hardness of the “g, an aspiration, and then the “o” forcing the mouth open even wider, the exhale extended.

But that “o” is not the “o” that really got me.  No, I like the long “o” in words like home, lonesome, atone, soul, poem.  That kind of “o” holds oceans and oceans of the unsayable inside its orbit; a black hole of sound, sob or sigh, prodigious little letter.

holy, catholic, apostolic

It would never have mattered to me then what the words meant.  They bewitched me.  I’m not sure it matters to me even now.

People seeking the divine are often sent in search of vastness.  Go to the mountains, we say.  Go to the desert or caves or sea or sky.  Go to that which is bigger and more beautiful than you.

But language, born of the body, is a landscape too.

I say go to the vowels and consonants.  Let them hold you.  Go to the phonemes if you want to go home.

 

Amen. 

Sermon for Hope

I’m so not with child.  So not knocked up.  So do not have a bun in the oven.  Etc.

But I am pregnant.

The word pregnant has several meanings aside from the most commonly used.  Pregnant also means expectantfraughtweightycreative.

I am expectant in the sense that I expect to get pregnant even though I have not yet.

My days are fraught with expectation and desire.

My fraught expectations are weighty too.  I carry them like one might carry a baby.  They are sometimes hard to carry through a day, an hour, the three minutes required of the little pee stick.  I often think of what writer Pablo Neruda said at fellow poet, Cesar Vallejo’s funeral: For him, carrying a day was like carrying a mountain, and Vallejo, presumably, never endured the two week wait.

And I am creative.  I create all the time.  I create expectations for myself that are fraught with desire and weigh too much.  I create symptoms too.  I implant my creations into soft beds and will them to grow.

So, ironically, some days I’d like to be less pregnant, less filled to the brim with want.

The Dalai Lama tells us that having few desires is vital for contentment, but that we must desire in order to live.  Translation: be a little bit pregnant.

Romans 12:12 tells us to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  Translation: Be very pregnant, but be pregnant with hope.

I am not the only one among us who finds it difficult at times to remain pregnant–not with desire–but with hope when the world is so consistently unfair.  I am thinking in particular of Claudia Rankine here, this lyric from Don’t Let Me Be Lonely:

Too many of us fill ourselves up with expectation, desire, and blind optimism instead of hope.  Hope is hard.  Hope is hard because hope, born of the soul, is different from desire or blind optimism, hope as the great poet Czelaw Milosz wrote “is when you believe the earth is not a dream, but living flesh.”

May we all be pregnant, even those of us suffering from desire in the face of difficulty.

May we all be heavy, heavy with hope.

Amen.

Christmas Sermon with Plumeria

On the island of Kauai, near the town of Kapa’a, at the head of Opaekaa Falls, lives an 86 year old man named Fred.

If a visiting couple–on their honeymoon, say–were to pass by on a cloudy Christmas day and happen to catch Fred in his yard, he might call out to them.

He might say, “Hey!  Are you visiting us?”

“Yes,” they might call back and stop, mid-stride, relieved for the break from a non-committal jog they embarked on mostly out of a rain-induced malaise and holiday nostalgia.

Fred might wave them over, and they might watch him cross his yard, bend with a surprising amount of dexterity toward the freshly mown grass, and pick up a perfectly five-pointed, pink plumeria, yellow pooling from its core.

“Here,” he might say to them and hold his hand out.  “This one is pretty.  And this one too.”

He might lean over then to inspect another flower.

“Thank you,” one of the honeymooners will say, the bride probably, and hold the pink plumeria up to her sweaty ear.

“People use them to make leis,” Fred will say.  Despite his spryness, Fred might not notice that he has stopped the couple in the middle of a workout.  That, or he thinks workouts less serious business than plumerias.

“You have nice teeth,” he might say to her then, suddenly, causing her first real laugh of the day.  “Take care of them,” he says.

He will tell the couple about crossing the continental mainland of America five times in his youth.  He’ll  make them guess his age.  Seventy, they might say to flatter him, but they will still feel shock when he says no, eighty-six, and shows a whole set of teeth with his grin.

One of the honeymooners will finally explain that they have no way to carry the two plumerias, because they’re headed two more miles down to the sea.

“You’re going ALL the way down?” he might gasp.  “Oh, to be young again.”

“Listen,” he’ll say.  “I’m going to place these flowers in a paper bag and put that bag right there between the mail boxes, so you can pick them up on your way back.”

On their way back up the mountain and into the inland jungle of Wailua, the couple might cross the street from left to right, noticing the Danger signs that mark the ledge near the waterfall.  They will feel curious and skeptical about the bag of flowers.

But there it is.  A brown paper bag between two mail boxes, folded pristinely at the top into two hems.

They might open the bag them, expected one pink plumeria and a slightly wilted white plumeria.  Instead, they might find twenty flowers–red, pink, white, and yellow–stuffed to the brim of that bag.

In their rental cottage far removed from seaside resorts and condos, they’ll steep the flowers in a small glass bowl filled with water and set the bowl, blooming, by their bed.

In her sleep, the bride will dream she has grown old.  In her dream, she will wear a long dress that billows at her feet.  At her feet, a yard sewn from soft petals.  She might wake late that Christmas noel to remember the story of Bethlehem: the manger, the inns with no more vacancies.  The simplicity of the divine and our call to welcome the stranger.

She might think, of course, this is the best any of us can do, especially in the second halves of our lives.  Her Christmas gift, a lesson that says: Let us gather the flowers from our yards before they wither and brown, let us offer them in plump bundles to strangers, passersby and young people, that they might wear the flowers like tiny sunbursts in their hair as they walk to the shores and stare out over the wide horizons of their new lives.

Amen.

Sermon for a Honeymoon

The alarm tolls at 3:45am.  We groan our way out of bed, shuffle to the bathroom, brush our teeth, and jam deodorant, facial moisturizer, Sensodyne, and sample lotions into our see-through travel bags.  This is an ungodly hour; we prove incapable of smiling at each other even though this, this journey, this honeymoon, marks the beginning our marriage.

The cab driver is chatty.  I grimace; my husband squeezes his eyes shut and open and shut.  She is new at the job, so it takes her a few seconds to start the meter.

“Everyone’s allowed to make mistakes when they’re learning,” she tells us.

Based on her skin tone and thin accent, I start guessing in my head: Eritrean?  Somali?

“I’m from Ethiopia,” she says, and then proceeds to tell us her entire life story.  Her sister has just given birth to a baby girl.  When she delivered, the doctors inadvertently found a tumor in her brain, so this woman, our driver, has moved from Sacramento to San Francisco to care for her sister during chemotherapy and, God willing, surgery.  She hates the cold and all the people crammed onto the steep streets here.

“What brought her to California from Ethiopia?” I ask, hoping to keep her talking so I won’t have to.  I dig some sleep crust from my eye.  The city still sleeps, the hills heavy and dark, a few dim lights blinking at every horizon.

“She was escaping an arranged marriage,” she says.  “She ran away. To Oakland. Me?  My parents arranged for me to marry at 14 to a man who beat me.  I have two sons.”

My husband sits up taller.

“I’m happily divorced now,” she beams.  We exhale slowly, in unison.  We all three laugh.

“Flying home for Christmas?” she asks.

“No,” I say.  “We’re going on our honeymoon.”

On the quick flight to L.A., where we’ll catch a connection to Kauai, I feel a dull pulling between my collar bones and my stomach rumbles.  Something isn’t sitting right with me.

Yesterday we walked a mile in a steady downpour, tucked under the same umbrella, to City Lights Bookstore, where my husband perused the philosophy section and I grazed among the literary magazines, flipping through the tables of contents and making a note of all my friends and contemporaries in the writing world who have published this month.  There are many of them—in one journal, I find five: two authors I graduated with and three others I’ve invited as readers for a series I help organize back home.  When my husband meets me at the register he has Anne Carsen’s translation of Euripedes.  I have The Virginia Quarterly.

“You okay?” he asks.

I nod.

“I should be writing more,” I say.  I nod again.  “I’m okay.”

Am I okay?  I’m married.  I’m a wife.  Does that make me okay?  It’s funny—I have a friend who told me it never felt weird for her to use the term “husband” once she married.  She had much more trouble, she found, hearing herself referred to as a “wife.”   I have had the same experience.  I wanted my husband.  But I’m not sure I ever wanted to be a wife.  The titles “mother” and “woman” and “author” our titles I have long coveted.  But wife?

It’s not polite to say what I’m about to say.  In our culture, we do not allow much room for grief. A blushing bride has no right to grief or worry.   But every major life change requires grieving time.  For every thing we gain as we grow, we also leave something behind.  So I’ll say the impolite thing.  Standing in the bookstore and listening to our early morning taxi driver, I found myself grieving, confronted by the conundrum of many ladies of my cohort.  I know that “wifedom” isn’t always great for women (especially women from certain cultures and of certain less traditional persuasions); it’s one way to become tied to the “particular” as Aristotle and Socrates first referred to the domestic sphere where women supposedly reign, and which they used as a rationalization for keeping women out of the universal, the vita activa or active life.  Generally, I loathe domesticity—I like to travel, I moved 12 times in my twenties, I let dishes stack up in the sink, I avoid buying clothing that requires an iron or a hangar, I balk at routine, preferring improvisation even when it means disorganization.  I do love to cook, my one concession.  Statistically, marriage improves men’s lives more than women’s.  In a recent study on longevity, researchers found that, contrary to findings in earlier studies, single women live longest, beating out the runner’s up, married men.  Single men have the shortest lives.

Alas.  There’s this little bugaboo: I fell in love with a man who tugs me toward the domestic, in a good way, and at an age where some semblance of settling down makes sense.

But on the airplane I wonder about honeymoons.  Traditionally, they mark a period of celebration before the hard stuff, the inevitable messiness of living with another person. Another friend recently told me “marriage is harder than having children.  It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do.”  But I think she didn’t mean that living with another person is the hardest thing so much as living with one’s self in the presence of another self in another kind of life that might, even unwittingly, subjugate you.

I love my husband.  I expect our partnership to be one of the less painful variety, even at its most difficult.  I will not have to escape to Oakland.  I will be treated with respect and decency.  But for me this honeymoon is not so much a prelude to marriage with a man as it is a prelude to the greatest challenge of my life, a prelude to the Sisyphean task of living as both autonomous “woman” and committed “wife.”  And I must be able to live as both.  I must.  Motherhood and wifehood are honorable, respectable, important roles, and I want them, but I must be a citizen in the world of women and the world of wives, and this dual citizenship–a straddling–is not always so stable a stance as my feminist foremothers evangelized.

In the plane, I hold my husband’s hand as I stare out the window.  The backlit clouds hover low over the coastline, cloaking the land.  They divide earth and sky with a fat veil.  As we descend, my husband says, “I hate this part.”

“What part?” I ask.

“The part where you leave the open sky for the ground, but you’re stuck in the clouds.  That’s where the turbulence always is.”

And then we enter the clouds.  For a few moments we hang there, suspended in a thick fog that from afar looked impenetrable, but in fact holds our weight with ease.  The aircraft barely stumbles.

“I don’t mind it so much,” I tell him.

This, after all, is where I will live.

Amen.

Sermon as a Faith Story

I grew up Catholic.

I was baptized, confirmed and educated in the Church, but I learned what it meant to be Christian mostly by example.  When I was a child, my father resettled refugees for the YMCA, and then worked for many years as Vice President of Catholic Charities in the Houston-Galveston diocese, and my mother taught science at a troubled, inner-city high school.   We often had 3 or 4 people living with us while they were transitioning from one country to another, and my parents also welcomed several foster children and exchange students into our modest home. 

We were not a typical “parish” family—I was only required to attend CCE classes until I was confirmed, and even then, my parents did not require regular attendance at mass.  However, somehow my brother and I still intuited that we were to act within the walls of our home and in the larger world as loving followers of Christ’s example.  We were not told this in any explicit way; rather, we witnessed it.  Both of us can recite the Corporeal Works of Mercy faster than we can the Nicene Creed. 

In this way, Catholicism for me became a familial, cultural, and private aspect of my identity, a thing I was born into, a thing I could no more choose than I could my hair color or height or Southern accent.  I never felt the need to proclaim it or restore it in public—it was as deeply hidden and powerful in me as my chromosomes. 

 I did not recognize my Catholic upbringing as an influence on my behavior or my writing until recently.  In 2007, a man I loved asked me to marry him, and I said yes.  He was raised in the Baptist and then Presbyterian traditions and after our engagement began to push me about my spiritual life.  At the same time, I was experiencing a crisis in my writing life.  I spent three years in an MFA program swinging back and forth between writing fiction and nonfiction, having much difficulty discerning between the two and convinced one—fiction—was the higher form.  This crisis grew out of an earlier one.  When I decided to dedicate my energy and time toward writing by leaving my job at a human rights non-profit organization, I suffered a crisis of conscience.  After all, I had been heavily schooled in the idea of vocation and service—how could my writing serve the world in any real way?

 What saved me was my teaching obligation.  Teaching was certainly a form of service, as I knew from watching my mother.  I still believe that teaching is sacramental in that it is a kind of “anointment”—teachers anoint their students with knowledge and thought.  And teaching, of course, is a kind of communion, the classroom a sacred space.  

But at that time, as my fiancée began to push harder—our disagreements as political as they were religious—I found solace in reading and writing the personal essay.  As a friend of mine once described it to me, the personal essay is a space for provisional truth.  That is, the essayist never reaches her destination but is ever-arriving.    The personal essay, then, becomes a space for deep contemplation, a tool for the vital attempt we all make to transform the private and personal into meaning.  The essay form offered me a way to voice what I like to refer to as my “intellectual faith”, or what Marilynne Robinson refers to as “faithful doubt.” In my romantic relationship an expression of doubt was a touchstone of failure and in my academic community of writers an expression of sincere Christian struggle was laughable.   This paradox often left me feeling bound and voiceless.  The personal essay unshackled me.

I began to study and be moved by writers like St. Augustine, Robert ColesSimoneWeilThomas Merton, Marilynne Robinson, and Andre Dubus.  Formative books for me during this time were Dubus’ “Mediations from a Movable Chair” and Coles’ “The Harvard Diaries” as well as his biographies of Weil and Dorothy Day and his writings on the relationship between story-telling and moral imagination in children.   One particular passage of Coles’ rang true to me.   He writes:

…in the lecture halls and seminar rooms of our colleges and universities, where relativism and deconstructionist criticism make a mockery of any person’s struggle to find a faith that persuades, convinces, and even a mockery of the attempts that particular novelists, or poets or short story writers have made to find meaning in life, and render it through words, through images, through narration that bespeaks of, well, the utter essence of their humanity: we are the creature of language, and through it a moral awareness that gives us a sense of the ought, and naught.

For one thing, I felt protective of my fiancée.  His increasingly traditional and conservative religious practice and beliefs left him susceptible to ridicule by my university colleagues and contemporaries.  In my soul, I agreed with them.  But I also knew from my experience as an undergraduate student in the Northeast that liberals and academics, many of my closest friends, could be some of the most intolerant people on the planet.  I did not want to be intolerant—what kind of liberal would that make me?  How could that kind of intolerance inspire people to change?

Still, a fierce loyalty to my family’s variety of Catholicism made it impossible to abide my fiancée’s shifting beliefs about homosexuality and abortion.  My own relationship to God, while cultivated and real was less literal than his, and occasionally his language and the language of his church alarmed me.  We both worried about raising children together.  Most of all, both of us wanted to be loved for who we were and not in spite of it.  Our friends and family members, at best, were good skeptics.   Every day we endeavored to avoid name-calling and blaming, to praise each other’s sincere efforts, and to hold each other accountable for our actions and beliefs so that we could live together peacefully.  At that time the country was in the thick of the 2008 election season; the political and religious climate heightened our awareness of discrepancies in our worldviews.  I was all in for Obama.  To my dismay, my fiancée was not.  In many ways we became a microscopic reflection of the painful reconciliation required at much higher levels in the nation.

In the end, while the nation found the common ground to say, “We can,” my fiancée and I failed to say, “We do.”  I left him.  In one of the saddest and more pathetic moments of our demise, I cried and screamed at him, “I don’t want to marry a Republican,” and he whispered back, “I know you don’t.”  At that point neither of us could tell the difference between “Republican” and “Christian” and “conservative” much like the rest of the country.  I threw myself into writing essays in the wake of our dissolved engagement.  While my pain was personal and private and real, in my writing I did not want so much to vent or confess as to relate and work through what I recognized as an essentially American story—a Red State story, a Christian story.  I also began to see my nonfiction writing as a form of service and vocation that harkened back to my spiritual upbringing.  I recognized what I thought of as a failure of liberal Christians in the face of rising Christian fundamentalism.  We had lost our voice, or at least our willingness to use it. The ascension of fundamentalism and its hold on vulnerable young people like my ex-fiancée was, as Marilynne Robinson writes, “the fault of the liberals in large part, because they have neglected their own tradition, or have abandoned it in fear that distinctiveness might scuttle ecumenism.”

I think what I have been trying to achieve in all my essays is a return to the beautiful “story” of Jesus, because as I writer I know the metaphor moves people, the symbol.  This is because when an artist uses a metaphor she is reaching toward something God-like that is unreachable.  The metaphor is the artist’s confession: the best I can do is approximate.  There is no symbol, no representation that will suffice, there will never be a symbol that will suffice, and so those symbols must be graceful, thoughtful, and sacred. I think the writers of the Gospels instruct us to read their words metaphorically, and encourage us to use our own metaphors.  Each book of the New Testament is replete with similes, sentences that begin, “God’s Kingdom is like…” or “God’s love is like…” We cannot know God, we see, as Peter reminds us, “through a glass darkly”.  Our imagination brings us closer to God—to be a Christian (or religious in any way at all) is to have a wealth of imagination.  St. Paul says in is a hard life, Kierkegaard says it is a foolish life precisely because it requires a faith in the improvable thing. (I cribbed that line from my father.)

It is not important that I write my life from a doubtless and fixed place, and therefore reduce God to a concept that fits neatly into my narrow vision, and then live a rigid life according to that vision.  No, what is important is that I seek in the direction to which those symbols point—that I look unflinchingly toward redemption, forgiveness, and hope even when I suspect these things might elude me in my work and in my life.  The artist’s job is to open new avenues of hope, widen the space for definition and representation, and welcome others into grace.

 Or, as Thomas Merton advises in his New Seeds of Contemplation, “Let no one hope to find in contemplation an escape from conflict, from anguish, or from doubt.”

 I will always be “catholic.”  But when I go to church now, I attend the Episcopal church—close enough to Catholic that I feel comfortable (I don’t want my grandmother rolling over in her grave), but the Episcopalians have demonstrated great foresight by moving with the tide of history in terms of gender and sexuality issues.  I am most recently inspired by the writings of Henri NouwenAlain de BottonRebecca Solnit, and Bishop John Shelby Spong.  My (new) fiancée finds the ritual and serenity of the Episcopal Church inspiring, having grown up, like my first fiancée, in more spartan churches.  We live inside our doubts; they form the walls of our home and church.  Inside these walls we observe our own unique brand of shared faith.  We will both vote for Obama in large part because his story more closely resembles our own faith story.

 Architects build skyscrapers to withstand wind load by making them bendable at the top, much like nature’s trees.  A tall building’s ability to lean in strong wind protects it from falling.  I think the long tradition of intellectual debate, contemplation, and personal writing in more progressive Christian sects—as in Judaism and other faiths—acts in a similar manner.  Moreover, this tradition matters a great deal in a culture where ego-driven confession is sold on television and in bestselling books as entertainment and our politicians and religious leaders engage in nuanced debate less and less frequently. Our doubts and fears, thoughtfully considered and expressed, are the wind-bearing architecture of a kind God, given to us so that we may bolster ourselves and construct meaningful lives.  

Amen.

Sermon in which I Ordain Myself

Because some things require a pulpit.  


Because some things scream, say me.  Teach me.   I have something to say.  I have something to teach you.  Yes, little ol’ me.  Yes, you.  There in the front row.  Upright and early.  And you in the back row too.  Reluctant and late.  Especially you folks sheltered snugly in the middle rows—noncommittal, passive doubters, the whole lot of you.  Thinking you’ll slip by on the sly.  For a long time I hid too.


Because I want my words to sniff you out.


Because I want my words to redirect their paths like tiny Doppler radars toward your heartstorms.


Because I want a pulpit.  (I say that as though it is an easy thing for a woman to say.)


Because I want a flock: with wings not wool.  


Because every good woman has a story.  She understands her story as part of a community story.  Her story is intimate, private, and also shared.  Her story is a small circle inside rings of concentric circles: family, neighborhood, city, state, nation, world, out and out like that into the universal.  A story needs a beginning, but not necessarily an end.  The beginning of my story will always be: I loved my grandmother.


Because I loved my grandmother.  When my younger brother and I stayed with her in the house in Richardson, Texas, we looked forward most to the off-white bedspreads on our matching twin sleepers in the small room that faced the front yard.  During the day we built mansions out of playing cards and watched them crumble onto the lush carpet in the den.  Or we counted the beads inside a smoky red blown-glass bowl on the side table and touched every pretty thing twice.  Because she let us. She never stooped so low as to speak a don’t touch that or be careful.  Somehow we intuited that in her eyes we reigned as Most Precious Objects in the house. 


At night, we knelt at one twin bed, the three of us—me, Ben, Grandma—in a semi-pious line, our elbows atop the mattress. 


“Which do you want to say?” Grandma asked me.  “The Lord’s Prayer or the Hail Mary?”


The Hail Mary was shorter, but more obscure, and I wanted to please her. 


We’d get part way through, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, and then–


A stifled laugh, a squirm fest, her unruffled voice. 


“Ben, say the words with us.”


Ben never knew the words.  To this day, I’m not sure why.  He could handle The Lord’s Prayer, although for a long time he misheard hallowed for Harold, as in “Harold be thy name.”  I still like to imagine God as such an everyman: Harold.  


When I ask him about the Hail Mary now, in our thirties, he says, “I don’t know.  It’s weird stuff, really, to make children say.  Fruit of thy womb?   All that tortured syntax.”


I liked the Hail Mary.  I liked the line he always forgot, blessed art thou amongst women.  Perhaps at that age I needed to believe the world might single me out from my kind: more beautiful, more talented, more sacred


My grandmother died of ovarian cancer the year before I began confirmation classes at St. Thomas More Catholic Church.  My reverence for that process betrayed less about my faith in God than my nostalgia for her voice in my little ear, “Which prayer do you want to say?”  Mr. Nelson, my confirmation teacher, wrote me a note that I kept for many years afterward.  It read:


I have this idea that some people have the Holy Spirit in them only after confirmation, and some have the Holy Spirit in them always.  You, Casey, are of the latter type.


Because if I have anything resembling the Holy Spirit in me, it will reveal itself as the breath of women past moving through my lungs, down the long hallway of my throat toward the light, their exhalations a mist that loosens the corners of my rust-red lips.


Because I hear voices.


Because I have a voice.


Because vocation means a “summons” or “spiritual calling,” from the Latin vocationem (nom. vocatio), “a calling,” from vocatus “called,” pp. of vocare “to call.”


Sing to me of the girl, Grandma, the girl of twists and turns.


Because a man I loved once complained that he felt I was lecturing him when really I wanted to talk out some big ideas.


Because if I’m going to be perceived as lecturing, I might as well have a pulpit, a little authority.


Because my grandmother’s memory authorizes me.


Because the word author lives inside the word author-ity the way I live inside my memory of her.  The way I wear her cool blue beads on my hot chest or push my nail beds into the soft bristles of her silver brush.


Because I respect form.  Because I need a new form, something novel that is not a novel.

Because things change.


Because some things never change.


Because she raised me Catholic, and even now I tend to respect authority when it implies a learned-ness, when that authority has been rightly earned and rightly employed.  I don’t want Joe-Schmoe down the street interpreting anything for me, especially any bible.


Because many Joe Schmoes preach.  Because many people abuse the church-pulpit, the chalkboard-pulpit, the page-pulpit too.


Because I have no idea what I’m doing (which is still such an easy thing for a woman to say).


Because I row out and out to drift on the fickle waters of the blank page and I wait and wait for the words to spawn and swim up so I may offer something of myself to the people I love. 


Because I am like a fisherman or sea-shepherd.  I am trawling for words; I am corralling them, I am searching for her.


Because my story is our story.   


Because we do not know when we are young that the body is an archive. That after years of amnesia, the body, without warning, will kneel down.  The body will remember and repeat its earliest prayers, and that those fledgling prayers do not change much over time, but only reach higher and higher toward heaven from their stubborn roots.


Blessed art thou amongst women. 


Amen.