What I'm Reading: Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye

I picked up Marie Mutsuki Mockett's book on a whim, grabbing one adult book along with my stack of Bob Staake-illustrated board books.  It looked exactly up my alley: investigating grief and loss with an eye toward the influence of culture.  Even better, it was described as being part travel-narrative, so I figured I had work reading combined with my favorite leisure reading, all in one go.

Mockett addresses her individual grief over the death of her father, while also exploring the corporate mourning in Japan after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  I found the work she describes Buddhists priests doing in temporary shelters fascinating-- chaplaincy both similar and dissimilar to the work done in the West.  Her personal grief and pursuit of religious education felt to me very much like Eat, Pray, Love.  Both authors undertook internal work with a publisher's deadline, and the result for me in both cases seems self-conscious and too quick for deep processing.

The written images in the book are beautiful.  When Mockett describes festivals, traditions, temples, the word pictures are stunning.  It's very enjoyable, but by the end I wondered if it was colored by an outsider's idealism (Mockett is Japanese-American).

I'd recommend it, but it's not going on my resource list.


Pew Exchange

One of my goals for 2015 is that once a month, I will (try to) worship somewhere other than the congregation where I am member.  It's fortunate that I'm flexible with my yearly resolutions, because I am really not making it to church every Sunday as it is.  Still, this feels important.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once famously said that 11 o'clock on a Sunday is the most segregated hour in America.  I think it's still true, and I also think that knowingly perpetuating religious segregation makes my life as a Christian duller, less interesting, less love-soaked, and smaller than it could be.  As I look for other communities to worship with, I'm thinking both about racial segregation and theological segregation.  What it means to be saved (or how much we desire salvation) depends very much on what we most long to be delivered from.  Jesus saves from many things, and if I believe in the whole body of Christ, in the entire communion of saints, then maybe I need to be witness that wide variety of deliverance.  Some churches will have an emphasis that doesn't meet my needs.  That's good.  It's good to be more aware of other needs.  Makes my God less small. Also: some churches will meet needs I don't know I have.  That's good, too.  Makes my heart a little bigger.

I can't bear to think that the Little Biscuit might grow up thinking that saints all look, think, and sound like him.  It's uncomfortable to take in disparate ideas of what it means to be Christian, but choosing to be uncomfortable is also choosing to respect and be formed by our sisters and brothers who practice in unfamiliar ways.  Because God help us when we think that only the familiar is holy.


Weekend Flowers

Monday is Hero Day

I realized a few weeks ago how badly I need heroes. A marvelous friend (one of the Bosom of Aunts) gave the Little Biscuit a copy of Despereaux. I picked it up at bedtime (needing to unwind, and having no ability to focus above a 4th grade reading level). 

I finished it that night. And wept. 

I am at my very best when I am a happy warrior. I am capable of long, repetitive days-- but I lose a bit of myself when I can't step outside the routine. 

But-- we need routine right now. Toddlers need stability and routine and kindness-- and a thousand repetitions of "Old MacDonald."  And I'm so, so grateful to be able to provide it. 

And so, to stay in touch with my own heart, I'm looking for the lionhearted around who inspire me-- fictional and otherwise, present and past. And with them, I feel again the excitement of the dragon-seeking quest. 

Who inspires you to climb into your steed and gallop off?