Monday, January 17, 2011

Border water

It was a sweater weather morning underneath a shear blue sky. We drove west of Naco on the Mexican side of the border. The road was rougher than a washboard – at one point we got a little air under Seth’s truck. We journeyed between a multi-million dollar US wall on our right and an old Mexican farm barbed-wire fence on our left. My guess is that the fence on the Mexican side did its job better than the US wall was doing its work.

The Border Guard drove on the north side of the US/Mexican Border wall taking careful notice of us. Paradoxically, there were a few random horses scattered across the rolling high desert south of the ancient barbed-wire fence that also took notice of our travel with curiosity.

After four anxious miles we spied the lone blue flag that was flapping just above the desert brush. Under the blue flag we knew we would find a twenty-gallon drum of water intended for those who were intent on climbing the US wall just yards across the way.

Coming out of the Mexican desert were dozens of fresh footprints. We stood among the evidence of migrants gathered around the water tank. Our voices were as silent as theirs. Our minds reflected on those who had journeyed before us and on those who would follow.

Our small group gathered stones from the dry wash in order to build an Ebenezer. Together, we blessed the stones, placing them where migrants would walk across them. It was our contemplative intent to bless them because we all are making a very similar spiritual pilgrimage – one of desert, fear, uncertainty and hopes for a better life.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Prayerful Response to Tragedy

A Prayerful Response to Tragedy

Saturday, St. Brigid's Community was gathered at Chapel Rock Retreat Center in Prescott, Arizona for our annual Young Adult and Young Family Retreat, when we heard the Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several others had been shot. We gathered around cell phones, computers and televisions to read and to listen to reports as they unfolded.

Like most people that I know, we were in disbelief, confused, frightened, uncertain and clearly without words to express our overwhelmed spiritual and emotional selves. We, in other words, were in shock.

Being the leader of our group it took a bit to process this on a personal level and then to gather myself, and our group, for a community response. We did the only thing we knew to do, and what millions of people did, we prayed. And we are still praying.

On Sunday our community gathered in worship at Chapel Rock. Sunday was the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is our practice on this particular day to renew our Baptismal Covenant. The Baptismal Covenant begins with a question and affirmative response to the Apostles Creed. The Creed is followed with these questions.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

We are asked to respond to each question – “I will, with God’s help.”

In response to tragedy, in response to that which steals our words and freezes our emotions, we are called to pray. But, then, what do we do when our words return? Do we fall prey to the temptation to make a response with our words that is as violent as a gunshot? I am praying that our community will not do such a thing. I am praying our community will continue to pray and to respond to our Baptismal Covenant with the words, “ I will, with God’s help.”

For the remainder of January and maybe for some time beyond, I am asking the St. Brigid’s Community and the St. Augustine’s Episcopal Parish to renew our Baptismal Covenant each time we gather to worship as our response to violence. These may be the only words we can say with any confidence and any promise of hope for something good to come from something so dark.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Tears at True Grit?

True Grit, brought tears to my eyes.

Reading that there was a re-make of the John Wayne movie, I was skeptical and decided I didn’t want to see the 2011 version.

Hearing that Jeff Bridges was staring as Rooster Cogburn made me hedge – realizing the Coen brothers were producing the film, pushed me over the edge. I saw it on the eve of New Year’s Day.

Bridges, was, well, Bridges – that’s why I went to see the original, to see John Wayne be John Wayne – and Bridges did not disappoint, he played himself, extremely well.

Matt Damon gave a great new interpretation to his role as Texas Ranger Laboeuf. Good thing, Glen Campbell almost ruined the original. Fortunately for the moviegoers, Campbell never did another movie. And Damon did nothing to diminish his excellent career.

Haliee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross gave a stellar d├ębut performance – she may have actually up-staged her more experienced co-stars. The chemistry between the three actors produced timely “western” humor and as artists, they created a believable story that was well worth the time and money.

The Coen brothers kept to the story and did nothing but enhance the “old western feel.” The movie had that “Unforgiven,” Clint Eastwood, touch going – nice. Using hymns as the soundtrack had its desired effect. However, the scene with Cogburn carrying Mattie on Little Blacky was hooky; sorry guys, you blew that one. Sometimes, you have to “fill your hands you Son-of-a-bitch,” and just shoot the scene without telling a story.

I would see the film again – I own the original, I’ll probably own a copy of the Coen brother’s version.

Admittedly, I was probably the only person in the theater with tears in their eyes at the end, or any other time for that matter. And, truthfully, it probably had nothing to do with the movie itself.

John Wayne was my grandfather’s “guy.” And True Grit was his movie. We watched it together dozens of times. He died twenty years ago this month. Watching Mattie Ross stand at the foot of Rooster’s grave with “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” playing over the scene, well – it was the end of the year and a time for reflection. The tears were filled with good memories. Thank you Coens.