23 September 2018

assembled to survive

The assembly of the Synod of the Northeast (PCUSA) was just held in Albany.  Plenty of wonderful things happened, such as the sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett, review of Synod refocusing (actually more interesting than it sounds), and a document prepared by young ministry leaders called “A Confession for Such a Time as This.”

But one event really stuck out for me, and it was the closing worship service, featuring the choir from Valley Stream Presbyterian Church from Long Island.  This white guy was once again introduced to the deep well of the African-American spiritual tradition.  I was moved by their performance of Hezekiah Walker’s “I Need You to Survive.” 

Alyssa Rosenberg, writing for the Washington Post, remarked on its “audacity.”  She said, “If ‘I Need You to Survive’ is situated squarely on the line between romantic and spiritual love that makes gospel such a compelling musical genre, it’s also about the territory that personal relationships and political movements have in common.  Telling someone ‘I need you to survive’ is such a raw statement that it feels almost obscene to utter aloud.” (June 19, 2015)

I wouldn’t use the word “obscene,” but there is a bold, vulnerable honesty to it.  And as I sang those words, I realized in a brand new way, that yes, I need you to survive—or what will become of me?  What will become of us?

Jesus says to all of us, “I need you to survive.”

“I need you, you need me. / We’re all a part of God’s body. / Stand with me, agree with me. / We’re all a part of God’s body.

“It is his will, that every need be supplied. / You are important to me, I need you to survive. / You are important to me, I need you to survive.

“I pray for you, you pray for me. / I love you, I need you to survive. / I won’t harm you with words from my mouth. / I love you, I need you to survive.

“It is his will, that every need be supplied. / You are important to me, I need you to survive.”

17 August 2018

thoroughly satiated

Fatty Patty.  A fight with a homeless guy over a donut in front of a convenience store (Booze and Stuff).  Punches are thrown.  A summer spent with jaws wired shut.  The completely-believable loss of over 70 pounds.  Returning to school in the fall a skinny and hot Patty.  One who is “insatiable”—including a desire for revenge.

There’s the premise for the tv show, Insatiable.

The big controversy about the series is that it engages in fat-shaming.  Much of that criticism was based on the show’s trailer, which does seem to illustrate the quote, “skinny is magic.”

However, the show’s creator Lauren Gussis begs to differ.  She bases the story of Patty Bladell (played by Debby Ryan) on her own life.  In a Vanity Fair article, she says, “I always had issues with my body and weight.  I was always in the 90th percentile for weight.  I always felt bad about it.  I was bullied when I was a teenager.  My friends dumped me.  I felt alone without the protection of friends or being one of the popular girls.  I got attacked a lot.  I think that made me isolate, and I think food became a solution to that for sure.”

For fans of dark comedy—and high school trauma—Insatiable fits the bill.  Bob Armstrong, played by Dallas Roberts, is a disgraced lawyer whose real purpose in life is coaching beauty pageant contestants.  The ridiculous nature of the pageants provides a running backstory.  Alyssa Milano plays his wife, who has her own struggles to overcome her past and join the Georgia town’s elite residents.

There are plenty of sight gags and over-the-top moments of humor, but there are scenes which display Patty’s futility in finding peace and acceptance.  She still battles with her demons—figuratively and literally!  One especially heartbreaking incident of struggle comes when no sound can be heard.  We can sense Gussis channeling the self-hatred she had to have felt.

Maybe “skinny isn’t magic” after all!

21 July 2018

prayer for Ordinary Time

It’s true, Ordinary Time is about the ordinals—
the 3rd, the 13th, the 23rd Sunday.
But we usually just think of it as…
ordinary time.

It’s ordinary; it’s everyday.
It’s a placeholder in between times.
It’s in between Epiphany and Lent.
It’s between the light shining over the whole world
and the call to reflect, renew, and repent
(you know, do an about face).

It’s in between Pentecost and Advent.
It’s after the fire has fallen
and the Spirit has set the church on her course.
It’s before your Son arrives as the God-baby
and returns in glory and power.

But that’s not where most of life is lived.
We don’t spend much time in those grand, majestic moments.
No, we live in between.

In ordinary time.

That’s where life happens.