A to Z Challenge: R is for Really Busy

keep-calm-and-busy-busy-busyI’ve missed blogging a couple of days in the last week. I’m also lagging on getting comments moderated and responding to them. There’s a reason for that: Life has just gotten busy. I plan on finishing the challenge, but I may not get all of the letters of the alphabet blogged about. Last week in the Christian tradition was Holy Week and Easter. I’m Episcopalian, and we Episcopalians do what I call the Holy Week Marathon. The Marathon includes services on Maundy Thursday (when the Christian Church remembers the institution of Communion during the Last Supper), Good Friday (observing the day Christ was crucified), and Easter Vigils on Holy Saturday (Vigils start in darkness and candlelight as we hear stories from the Christian Old Testament. Baptisms and receiving people into the church also occur during this service.). All of these services climaxed on Easter Sunday with our service celebrating the Resurrection of Christ and the Easter Feast that followed. Being a Good Church Lady (we call ourselves the Marthas*), I was also doing a lot of behind the scenes things to get ready for all the services.

The last few days have been spent catching up on all the things that were ignored during Holy Week and Easter (like sleep and sending out resumes) and preparing for the conference I start attending this afternoon. The conference goes though Saturday, and I’m fairly certain I will be missing tomorrow’s challenge. The conference I’m attending is called Unholy Trinity: the Intersection of Racism, Poverty and Gun Violence. I live in Chicago. For those of you who don’t live in the USA, gun violence and deaths are at an all time high for a second year in row in our city, which makes both local and national news on regular basis (POTUS loves to tweet how he wants to send the National Guard in to save us from ourselves). As a person of faith I want to learn on-the-ground practical contributions I can make to help reverse this alarming trend.

So that’s why I have fallen behind on posting as well as responding to comments. Please be patient with me. I promise to get comments moderated within 24 hours and some responses up in a couple of days. But right now life is really busy. I’m really enjoying the challenge and getting back to having a daily writing habit. That’s the reason I started this challenge to begin with: to get back to writing. And it’s working. I’ve really enjoyed meeting all of you and reading your blogs and getting to know you. And I hope we will continue to see each other around blogosphere after the A to Z Challenge is over.

*You can go here to learn more about St. Martha and why the Church Ladies of Chicago Grace Episcopal Church claim her as our Patron Saint.

A to Z Challenge: P is for Poetry

Emily DickinsonApril is National Poetry Month. Emily Dickinson is my favorite poet, and these two of my favorite poems of hers.

150
She died,—this was the way she died;
And when her breath was done,
Took up her simple wardrobe
And started for the sun.

Her little figure at the gate
The angels must have spied,
Since I could never find her

Upon the mortal side.

1129
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant–
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind–

A to Z Challenge: My Favorite Novels

a-book-a-week-image

In no particular order here are some of my favorite novels. Some are new finds and others are old friends I visit again and again.

The Little House on the Prairie set by Laura Ingalls Wilder: one of my first loves.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The Thomas De Quincey trilogy and Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell
J. F. Penn’s ARKANE thrillers
Sunshine and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
A Wrinkle in Time set by Madeline L’Engel
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

What are some of your favorite novels?

A to Z Challenge: M is for Mary Magdalene & the Women of Holy Week

footofthecross2Today is Good Friday in the Christian tradition. Today we remember Christ’s death on the cross. So today I want to remember Mary Magdalene and the other women of Holy Week (there were at least two other Marys) who faithfully and tenaciously followed Jesus through his trial, crucifixion and entombment.

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph.Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid (Mark 15:40-47, NRSV).

Mark’s Passion Narrative began in chapter 14 with the female prophet who anointed Jesus as king and prepared him for his burial. Mark’s Passion ends with Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Salome, and “many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem” bearing witness at the cross, and the two Marys holding vigil in front of the tomb. Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, denial, trial, and crucifixion are held in the embrace of the women who “had followed him and ministered to him when he was in Galilee” and continued to follow him to Jerusalem.

In Mark those who follow Jesus are disciples. Minister comes from the Greek word group from diakonos, which means to serve (and the word we get our word deacon from). Originally meaning “table service,” in the New Testament it becomes a specialized term which means ministers of the Word and Eucharist. In Mark the only other times minister is used are when the angels minister to Jesus after his temptation, when Peter’s mother-in-law ministers to Jesus and the disciples after Jesus heals her, and when Jesus says “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” in Mark 10:45 (which means the only man serve or minister is used for in The Gospel of Mark is Jesus. The other times the words are used refer to angels or women). Elizabeth Struthers Malbon notes “Not only does Jesus take up women’s work, but women take up Jesus’ work. Women, from near the bottom of the hierarchy of power, have served and remained faithful followers to the end–although even they are ‘looking on from afar’….It is striking that Mark chooses to emphasize the presence of women followers in the absence of the male disciples at the crucial moment of Jesus’ death. Those with power can learn from those with less power” (“Gospel of Mark,” Women’s Bible Commentary, 491).

Mary Magdalene, Mary, Salome, and the other women continued to faithfully minister to Jesus until the end. The did not run away; they did not hide. Even if it was at a distance, they stayed with Jesus. They bore witness to his death, and they made sure he did not die alone. Mary Magdalene and Mary watched Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus then remained at the tomb holding vigil. On Sunday morning they would be the first ones back at the tomb to finish anointing Jesus’ body for burial. We come full circle: at the beginning of the Passion Narrative the female prophet anointed Jesus to prepare him for the days ahead, and now Mary Magdalene and the other women who followed Jesus from Nazareth (and the prophet could have been one of their number) now come to finish anointing Jesus’ body.

Their tenacity, perseverance, and faithfulness is rewarded: they are the first to hear of the resurrection and see the risen Jesus. As they bore witness to the death and burial of Jesus, they now bear witness to the resurrection of Christ and are commissioned to tell the rest of the disciples that God has raised Jesus from the dead.

A to Z Challenge: L is for Ada Lovelace

adalovelace1
August Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852)

I will always be thankful to the computer software engineer I married for introducing me to Ada Lovelace. Due to the male-obsessed viewpoint of history in all my education–high school, college and graduate work–I never learned that the person who invented computer programming and developed an outline for what would become an algorithm was a woman. I guess when you want girls to believe that boys are better at math and science, it would be counterproductive to teach them about Ada.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron and Annabella Milbanke, who was a mathematician in her own right. During her life Ada managed to combine both of her parents’ first loves in what she called, poetical science. She believed that because she loved both mathematics and poetry this enabled her to make connections, she otherwise wouldn’t have made, which may be the reason why, when she heard Charles Babbage talk of his Difference Engine, Ada was able to leap beyond him to write a programming language for what would become the groundwork for the first computer.

Ada believed that the imagination worked by combining and discovery:

What is Imagination? We talk much of Imagination. We talk of Imagination of Poets, the Imagination of Artists &c; I am inclined to think that in general we don’t know very exactly what we are talking about. Imagination I think especially two fold.

First: it is the Combining Faculty. It brings together things, facts, ideas, conceptions, in new, original, endless, ever varying, Combinations. It seizes points in common, between subjects having no very apparent connexion, & hence seldom or never brought into juxtaposition.

Secondly: It conceives & brings into mental presences that which is far away, or invisible, or which in short does not exist within our physical & conscious cognizance. Hence is it especially the religious faculty; the ground-work of Faith. It is a God-like, a noble faculty. It renders earth tolerable (at least should do so); it teaches us to live, in the tone of the eternal.

Imagination is the Discovering Faculty, pre-eminently. It is that which penetrates into the unseen worlds around us, the worlds of Science. It is that which feels & discovers what is, the real which we see not, which exists not for our senses. Those who have learned to walk on the threshold of the unknown worlds, by means of what are commonly termed par excellence the exact sciences, may then with the fair white wings of Imagination hope to soar further into the unexplored amidst which we live.

This imagination allowed Ada to see that Babbage’s machine could handle far more than numbers and mathematical calculations. She believed the numbers could stand in for anything and be used musically, symbolically and in other artistic notations. According to Walter Isaacson in his book The Innovators:

The reality is that Ada’s contribution was both profound and inspirational. More than Babbage or any other person of her era, she was able to glimpse a future in which machines would become partners of the human imagination, together weaving tapestries as beautiful as those from Jacquard’s loom. Her appreciation for poetical science led her to celebrate a proposed calculating machine that was dismissed by the scientific establishment of her day, and she perceived how the processing power of such a device could be used on any form of information. Thus did Ada, Countess of Lovelace, help sow the seeds for a digital age that would blossom a hundred years later.

Unfortunately Ada would die young, as her celebrated father did, at the age of 36 from uterine cancer. And although she had never met him in her life (he died when she was eight years old), she was buried next to him.

But her legacy lives on every time we turn on our desktop computers and open our laptops. I think Watson would make her very happy, and Watson is here because of the work she started.

To learn more about Ada Lovelace go to Maria Popova’s labor of love: Brain Pickings. The following posts about Ada were the inspiration for this post:

The Art of Discovering and Combining: Ada Lovelace on the Nature of the Imagination and Its Two Core Faculties

How Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s Daughter, Became the World’s First Computer Programmer

Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer, on Science and Religion

A to Z Challenge: K is for Klimt’s The Kiss

Klimt The KissI’ve always loved this painting. I love the simple lines, the colors, and above all the intimacy depicted here. I love how the woman takes center stage without being a madonna, whore or femme fatale. She is simply embraced and kissed for who she is. I also love the way he holds her face as he kisses her. I’ve always been in awe of the intimacy of this picture. I feel like I’m interrupting an extremely private moment. I think that’s the true power of this painting: the fact that you feel like your intruding on a private moment between a couple that no one else should be privy to.

A to Z Challenge: J is for The Plight of the Junior Detectives

junior_detective_day_logoThe junior detectives debated
Exactly how they’d get the evidence
Without them (and their jorts)
Winding up in jail.
“We’ll need Jesus and a few miracles
Plus a whole lotta Hail Marys.”
The jelly bellies did not bring
Additional inspiration,
On how to maneuver through their
Jungle of questionable legalities.
They were following the jack rabbit
Down its proverbial hole.
With loud jeremiads and weeping they
Finally decided they weren’t brave
Enough to make their home in a jail cell.
The case forgotten,
They decided the only thing to do
Was drown their sorrows in junk food
And lose themselves in an iCarly marathon
Lounging in their jammies.

I couldn’t come up with anything for this post, so I went to Facebook and asked for help. All the J words in this poem were suggested on that post.