Thrift Shop Treasures

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” May 20, 1997] I've walked a hundred miles in another woman's shoes, and I don' t even know her name. I've ironed her blouse, hemmed her skirt, and carried her handbag. She's not one person, but a composite of dozens, women of all ages and races and creed. But there is one thing they all had in common: they were all mostly my size.

Lenten Sacrifice

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” March 4, 1997] Scattered among your friends and neighbors are those now living a shadow life: people observing Lent. For them Easter waits at the end of March, but preparing for Easter takes time; time for reflection, time for repentance and reordering a life. The Church counts backward seven weeks to allow this breathing space, and begins the season with Ash Wednesday.

Truth and Beauty

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” June 24, 1998] He was an Episcopal priest, but he was standing in an Eastern Orthodox church on this Saturday night and thinking about Truth. At the altar a gold-robed priest strode back and forth swinging incense, moving in and out the doors of the iconostasis according to rubrics that were as yet unfamiliar. Golden bells chimed against the censer, and the light was smoky and dim. Over to the left a small choir was singing in haunting harmony, voices twining in a capella simplicity. The Truth part was this: the ancient words of this vesperal service had been chanted for more than a millenium. Lex orandi, lex credendi; what people pray shapes what they believe. This was a church that had never, could never, apostatize. She was his wife, and she was standing next to him thinking about her feet. They hurt.

Horse Trough Baptism

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” June 8, 1998] In this ranch house in an older suburb, the carpet in the dining room is vintage orange shag. But no dining table stands on it tonight; we moved out the table and moved in a giant Rubbermaid horse trough--the hundred-gallon size. The baptismal service is in full swing. As incense rises and the choir sings, my husband, the priest, floats blessed oil on top of the warm water. Then it' s time for Mitchell to step in. Some churches sprinkle for baptism, or pour water from a silver cup. But the Eastern Orthodox Church prefers full immersion, dunking the entire person underwater.

Holy Week

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” April 14, 1998] Holy Week is 501 pages long. My husband's Greek-English prayerbook begins with Palm Sunday evening, but the week actually starts the day before, Lazarus Saturday, when we commemorate the raising of Jesus's friend as a foreshadowing of Pascha. Some churches anticipate Lazarus Saturday with a service Friday evening. That's the Orthodox way: can we add a few more icing roses to the top of this cake?

Forgiveness Vespers

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” March 2, 1998] On the first night of Lent, as Vespers comes to an end, my husband turns from the altar. He asks everyone to form a circle around the interior of the church, and when we're in place, the person next to him--in this case, our son David--steps over to face his dad. My husband crosses himself, bows to David, then says, “Forgive me, my brother, for any way I have sinned against you. ” David says, “I forgive you,” and they embrace. Then it's David' s turn to bow to his dad and ask the same question, and receive the same forgiveness and embrace.

Kosovo

[NPR, ”All Things Considered, June 7, 1999] As a convert to Orthodox Christianity, I' ve been undecided about Kosovo. While most Orthodox take a pro-Serb position, I don't feel compelled to follow; when I converted I joined a faith, not an ethnic group. Throughout history members of my Church have done both good and evil, and Serbia's Orthodox identity does not alone prove their cause is just. On the other hand, I'm reflexively anti-war, and have been since my college days during Viet Nam. Perhaps war can be a justifiable last resort, but this situation doesn' t reach that standard.

Time Out

[Christianity Today, October 25, 1999] My daughter gave me a round clock for my birthday. It has a round white dial like a full moon, dashed with tapering black hands. Black Roman numerals swing around the circumference of the disk and at the bottom stand serenely on their heads. Each snap of the second hand is accompanied by a tick. I haven't had a round clock for a long time. Megan told me this was for my desk, so I put it at the back, just under the window. It joins three square clocks already in residence: one on the far edge facing the sofa, one on top of the computer monitor, and a tiny one in a corner of the monitor screen. When I sit at my desk I am relentlessly aware of what time it is. These three square clocks, with their segmented black numerals, flash time that looks impressively specific. However, they habitually disagree with each other, reminding me that specific is not the same as accurate. Right now I have my choice of 12:31, 12:32, or 12:33. Make that 12:34.

God as Suffering Parent

[Beliefnet, December 22, 1999] * Selected for Best Christian Writing 2000 * On a cold day in December a mother gave birth to a baby boy. Seventeen years later he sat in her kitchen with a towel around his neck while she trimmed his hair. When a boy reaches a certain age he doesn’t like his mother to touch him any more. This is as close as she’s likely to get, circling him, nipping behind his pink ears with scissors.

My Spice Girl Moment

[Christianity Today, January 11, 1999] When I was first approached about becoming a member of the Spice Girls, I was a little taken aback. My impression was that this troupe of British singers was salacious and provocative, one more example of the debasing of our culture. “I'm embarassed to admit it, Mom,” my 21-year-old daughter confessed, “but I actually liked the movie. It's harmless--a teenybopper thing, like for preteen girls. It's singing Barbies, and there's nothing dirty about it. It has that nutty English humor, kind of like the Beatles' Help!, so I actually ended up really enjoying it--I even watched it twice.”