[NPR, "All Things Considered," June 24, 1998]
An hour before worship my husband and some guys from church arrive to set up, going down the alleylike passage to the side door, past cigarette butts and soda cans. It isn’t a church building, and it isn’t ours, except on Sunday morning; the rest of the week it’s a day care center for adults with psychiatric disabilities. Since we’re Orthodox Christians, creating a worship space takes some work.
[NPR, "All Things Considered," June 24, 1998]
[NPR, "All Things Considered," June 8, 1998]
In this ranch house in an older suburb, the carpet in the dining room is vintage orange shag. But no dining table stands on it tonight; we moved out the table and moved in a giant Rubbermaid horse trough--the hundred-gallon size. The baptismal service is in full swing. As incense rises and the choir sings, my husband, the priest, floats blessed oil on top of the warm water. Then it' s time for Mitchell to step in.
Some churches sprinkle for baptism, or pour water from a silver cup. But the Eastern Orthodox Church prefers full immersion, dunking the entire person underwater.
[Christianity Today, May 18, 1998]
Twenty-four years ago this month I learned something specific. The specificity of what I learned is what makes it, to many, offensive.
Twenty-four years ago a hitchiking jaunt around Europe brought me one afternoon to a church in Dublin.
Unpublished, May 1998]
Come on in! Just have a seat on the sofa, and my husband will be in in a minute with some coffee. Where’s the bathroom? Ah, better have a seat first. I need to explain something. I should tell you why the walls are lumpy.
Last summer I was looking at that paneling—well, actually, I guess it really began back when we bought the house, a few years ago—no, to tell the truth—
It all started when I was about six, and built a fort of sofa cushions on the living room floor.
[First Things, May 1998]
Last spring saw a free-for-all break out in the evangelical Protestant camp over a proposed new "inclusive language" translation of the New International Version Bible. While World magazine, which sounded the alarm, was scolded for joining battle in hysterical and sarcastic tones, the translators were compelled to explain in what sense it was "accurate" to render masculine terms neuter, singulars plural, or produce grammatical whimsies like "everyone...they."
[Unpublished; Spring 1998]
“The more I think about it, the more it bothers me,” my husband said. He had spent the morning with our teenaged son playing paintball, a first-time experience for both of them. This sophisticated version of “capture the flag” pits two teams against each other, each armed with modified guns that shoot a non-staining liquid. Anyone “killed” must retire from the game. My husband’s concern was that the game was too realistic. It’s the closest thing imaginable to actually killing people, he said.
“I support the military, and I understand their need to prepare,” he went on. “There’s a reason for soldiers to play war games. But I’m not sure its right for civilians to do it, just as a form of entertainment. You shoot someone, see liquid explode on his body—it’s not the sort of thing a Christian should enjoy.”
[NPR, "All Things Considered," April 14, 1998]
Holy Week is 501 pages long. My husband's Greek-English prayerbook begins with Palm Sunday evening, but the week actually starts the day before, Lazarus Saturday, when we commemorate the raising of Jesus's friend as a foreshadowing of Pascha. Some churches anticipate Lazarus Saturday with a service Friday evening. That's the Orthodox way: can we add a few more icing roses to the top of this cake?
[Christianity Today, April 6, 1998]
On the old "Bob Newhart Show," the one that cast Bob as a psychiatrist, one recurrent character carried meekness to a fault. He was a failure as a door-to-door salesman because he feared knocking on people's doors might disturb them. So he'd wait on the doorstep, hoping they'd happen to open the door.
[Books & Culture, March, 1998]
Stacks of poetry books are resting on my desk, slim books with shiny covers, like hard little pills of intensity and voluptous emotion. They are the paper equivalent of social x-rays; they exude the philosophy, "You can never be too thin or too rich." No wonder I'm intimidated.
My husband and I agreed to armwrassle a hearty stack o' poetry in preparation for National Poetry Month, and I think we were selected primarily for our ignorance. In my case, it's an ignorance standing in heroic resistance to years of experience. I started out writing poetry, and at the age of 13 won an award for one about a deserted town, I think because of the dead flies on a windowsill. I also got to say "thee" and "nought" and other hoity words you can only use in poems. For ten years I had a ball being a poet. I read and wrote a great deal of the stuff, then gave it up for changing diapers.
[NPR, "All Things Considered," March 2, 1998]
On the first night of Lent, as Vespers comes to an end, my husband turns from the altar. He asks everyone to form a circle around the interior of the church, and when we're in place, the person next to him--in this case, our son David--steps over to face his dad. My husband crosses himself, bows to David, then says, "Forgive me, my brother, for any way I have sinned against you. " David says, "I forgive you," and they embrace. Then it's David' s turn to bow to his dad and ask the same question, and receive the same forgiveness and embrace.