Incarnation Is God’s Love Language

Hello, darlings,

I feel like I am coming out of a fog of shock and rage, a fog of soul dismay.

Don’t get me wrong, I still feel a constant sense of foreboding. I still feel a steady sense of horror and disgust. Any thinking American who is paying attention hears this drumbeat, so I know I am not alone.

But I am finding my footing, recalibrating. And it is Advent, thank God, so I am also connected to the mystery of incarnation.

Which means that I am remembering that my own body is made of God’s love and that someone precious to God lives in it.

In these weeks following the election, my skin care regime went from wash, exfoliate, protect, moisturize, dab on eye cream to “quick wipe with a cleansing cloth.” My dental hygiene went from floss and brush and wear nightguard to “wait, did I brush my teeth this morning?” My diet was “What time is it and oh yea, there’s some danish over there at the meeting I will stuff some in my face because I’m not sure I’ve even eaten at all today.” My refrigerator was a collection of abandoned leftovers and take-out cartons. I hardly looked a green vegetable in the eye.

How about you?
A dear friend said she had “taken up smoking” again, and I admitted that I too had smoked my first cigarette in 15? – 19? years recently myself.
I’m not going to start smoking. But it’s shocking that I even had one cigarette.

Put the oxygen mask over your own face first.
You may feel like a wild-eyed prophet in the desert, but please do not look like one. Get to a barber.
Get your blazers and suits to the dry cleaner.
Buy some dry shampoo so you can touch up flat roots.
Bravely apply your lipstick so you do not reveal to the enemies of the poor that you are as defeated and bloodless as you sometimes feel.
This is going to be a great endeavor, and we must not allow our bodies to break down or appear to be breaking down in the struggle.

Put on your armor of beauty, polish, poise and decorum.
We are entering a long season of witness to God’s grandeur and the dignity of ALL people.
Let those of us who affirm the dignity of all people ourselves be dignified.

This struggle will be played out in front of cameras, my dear colleagues.
You take care of you so you can rise to the occasion. Shall we?

Context Is A Consideration, Not a Justification

We all know that how we dress for ministry is partially determined by our context, but I do push back at that concept on occasion when I hear it being used to justify dressing way down. “My people wear hoodies and shorts to worship, so I wear jeans because I want them to feel like I’m not trying to be BETTER THAN THEM.”

Huh? Since when does showing respect for the leading of corporate worship signal arrogance or competitiveness? It’s your job to represent the highest ideals of your religious community, not to attire yourself like a social pal who’s heading to a night of beers and a movie. Wut the wut? Take repsonsibility for your role, people!

Anyway, sometimes I see a garment or accessory that gives me private giggles when I think of the looks on people’s faces if I wore it to church. I was looking at this bag, because I have a funny penchant for Western-style wear, kind of unusual for a New England girl. But I do. So here’s this bag. It’s cute. I’m not going to get it or anything but I like it:

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And then I saw this, and I bust out laughing:

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Good God, that’s about the wrongest accessory I can imagine for my ministerial context. Anyone’s, actually. Unless you’re like the NRA chaplain or something.

Peach, Pink, and Ivory: Aesthetic Beauty As An Expression of Faith

I definitely get inspiration for clothes from interior design, and vice versa. Of course we can’t change our wardrobes on a regular basis but we can pay attention to how colors make us feel energetically and incorporate some of what feels beautiful with little touches.

I wear a lot of black and blues. Lately, I have felt very drawn to gentle shades of pink with neutrals like ivory and white. These interior stylings at ABC Home in NYC were so inspiring. Click to enlarge the photos, darlings:

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Please note the texture. TEXTURE in garments and textiles can do so much when the color palette is neutral:

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Table settings. The essence of hospitality. Some of the items here were repurposed fishing net from Vietnam, which of course made me think of Jesus:

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I love walking around in retail spaces like this for a beauty fix. These places employ talented interior designers and stylists whose work goes unappreciated by consumers who are just beelining for something to buy. I don’t buy anything – I just soak up the vision. Click these babies and see.

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‘Til every casual corner bloom into a shrine. That’s a lyric from a favorite hymn.

You must train your senses to attune to beauty and harmony. Get out of the clutter and the quotidien. Behold. So many clergy focus exclusively on the natural world for their illustrations of beauty but I find that to be boring and even irritating. Why do we extol the handiworks of God but then fail to lift up the importance of human efforts to create beauty? When God does it, we are grateful. When humans do it, we call it frivolous. Not only is this unimaginative and wrong, it alienates the many people for whom aesthetic beauty expresses spiritual transcedence and religious faith.

Feetsies and Halupkes: A Holy Week Prayer

Maybe you can fit in a pedicure today, sweeties.
Tip your lady the cost of the whole treatment. Or bring some matzoh ball soup for the whole nail salon.
I bet they’ve never had any!

I have a chicken on the stove becoming soup right now. The aroma is warm and comforting and I am going to make my first matzoh balls to go in it tomorrow.
Also tomorrow I will be making my first stuffed cabbage! My Baba was brilliant at making it and I am attending a Seder and offered to bring it as my contribution. My Baba was VERY Russian Orthodox and feared Jews (including my father), so I think it’s a lovely reconciling gesture to bring her halupkes to a Seder. I remember when I tried to have a conversation with Baba about the fact that Jesus was Jewish. She got very flustered and upset and asked me not to try to push the subject. We held hands and I apologized. She had a troubled face and furrowed brow. She was born in Slovakia and came here under traumatic conditions at five years old, and never got more than a fourth grade education. Good Friday for her meant a narrative of how the blood-thirsty Jews killed her Lord. She did not have room in her mind to hear that the Jews didn’t have enough power in first century occupied Palestine to make a decision like that. She genuinely believed that Pontius Pilate was trying to be merciful. It hurts me that she couldn’t accept that the historical records showed him only to be the most sadistic of leaders who never once extended clemency to convicted criminals. He would never have even met small-time Jesus. “Vic, it’s too much, honey, I’m sorry,” she said.

Me too, Baba. I’m sorry, too. I’m making your halupkes tomorrow and bringing them a Passover Seder. I’m bringing you with me, too.

Back to pedicures, because some days that’s where my mind goes for a break from the enormity of my family’s frayed and braided religious intertwinings…

I know it seems super frivolous but here’s the thing. Scrubbing the dead skin off your feetsies is so good for your health. Get to them with a moist pumice if you don’t want to get a salon pedicure. Soak first, relax, dream, breathe, pray. Push back the cuticles. Clip your nails and shape them with an emery board. Scrub them with a nail brush. No polish necessary unless you feel like it. Mine are teal blue right now, but they were cheery pink in February:

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What else?

Get the bread for Communion.
Get the wine.
Drop off the whatever to the dry cleaners.
Stretch every morning and evening.
Make some strong ginger tea.
Wash your hands a LOT. Moisturize them, too, as bacteria can get into the cracks on your dry paws.
Be prepared for the Whosever May Come that you know may show up for Holy Week. God has that amazing way of sending us into each other’s arms this time of year. Make sure someone has your back when all the need hits you.

God be with you, in your voice and mind and body and spirit and soul. God be with you in your intention and clarity as those presiding over ancient rites and rituals. God be with you in your presence and your bearing and your dignity as people who unapologetically continue the ancient ways and tell the ancient stories that are so searingly relevant today. God be with you as you walk the road with Him through the agonies of Friday and the devastation of Saturday. God be with you and uplift you and your people at the proclaiming of the resurrection on Sunday.

God be with you in the great work to which this week calls us. Check in here and let’s stay close.

Kiss of peace!