Occasionally, I listen to a podcast called “Homebrewed Christianity” hosted by a handful of PhDs in Theology and Religion who also happen to be involved in local church ministries of various sorts. (They also happen not to be teetotalers, as you may have guessed.) Episodes feature interviews with a huge variety of authors, thinkers, artists, and scholars who contribute in some fashion to Christian thought and practice. The tagline usually contains some variant of “…bringing you the best nerdy audiological ingredients so you can brew your own faith.”
Here I lean over you, small son, sleeping
Warm in my arms,
And I con to my heart all your dew-fresh charms,
As you lie close, close in my hungry hold. . .
Your hair like a miser's dream of gold,
And the white rose of your face far fairer,
Finer, and rarer
Than all the flowers in the young year's keeping;
Over lips half parted your low breath creeping
Is sweeter than violets in April grasses;
Though your eyes are fast shut I can see their blue,
Splendid and soft as starshine in heaven,
With all the joyance and wisdom given
A few years ago, I was called to fill in when the expected Sabbath School teacher, through an honest mix up, did not come. In what was doubtless a Holy Spirit lift, I found myself speaking about the importance of discipleship with greater depth and understanding than I had previously consciously known. It came together more beautifully than I am typically able to accomplish when I spend hours in preparation. The pastor then crowned this experience by focusing on discipleship in his sermon; actually repeating several of the angles we had discussed in class.
Recently, during a rather long episode of very slow stop-and-go traffic, I found myself passing the time by observing the people in the cars around me. A few were on cell phones, or engaging some other mobile electronic device in one way or another. Several others were involved in various other forms of multi-tasking behavior, including eating, reading, checking make-up, managing children, etc. Those listening to music were the easiest to spot; heads bobbing, hands tapping out the beat on the steering wheel or dash board, some even singing along.
“Literature and drama? Hmmm, interesting. And how do you see that fitting in with, you know, the mission of the church?” As an English literature PhD student finishing a dissertation about Victorian theater—Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, and a few other nineteenth-century writers you have probably never heard of—I’ve heard this question a good many times from my friends in church. I used to bristle at this question, however kind and polite the tone; it was like being asked, “Please explain why you should be allowed to exist.” But now that I think about it, it’s not such a bad question.
I was outside my natural habitat, standing before an art design class, but the professor, Martha Mason, builds her classes on a spiritual foundation and a belief that art is important to everyone, not just artists. My limited experience in artistic design focused on redecorating my house, a task I approached with pure mortal terror. I had decorated it once, so doing it again should be no sweat. The house was over 30 years old and I had built it myself when I first moved to Walla Walla.
Then April, gloom and shine,
Sad, merry, wilful, meek,
With a crocus in her tresses
And with tears upon her cheek.
Excerpt from “The Masque of Months” by Edgar Fawcett
Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.
“April Rain Song” by Langston Hughes
Some days Easter is hard to take.
Easter has passed. For a few days my Facebook and Twitter feeds were a cascade of happy, enthusiastic pictures. Choirs with arms raised high. Pastors declaring the end of death and offer of salvation. I saw just about all the stock pictures of tombs with the stone rolled away that there are.
“I’m spiritual but not religious.” You’ve heard it a hundred times, and so have I. To put my cards on the table, I’m not a fan of that statement. Separating out spirituality from religion seems ridiculous to me. As if being “spiritual” is a conscious pursuit that one can so easily divorce from a “religious” context. As if the human exercise of spirituality could have survived through the ages without its cultivation in religion contexts.