Tag Archives: Chicago

Lent Day 12: A Long Drive

Today I had the good fortune of driving for about 5 hours by myself. And, yes, this is good fortune. I love a long, solitary drive. I can have silence to think about whatever I want. I can listen to music. I can sing (poorly) as loud as I want. I can take in the scenery. I can stop and get out and walk around if I want. And, I can listen to podcasts, which is exactly what I did today.

First, I listened to a couple of episodes of On Being with Krista Tippet. In one episode, she interviewed Rosanne Cash. I’ve never heard any music by Cash, nor did I know she was a writer and a physicist, but I was so impressed with her that I couldn’t stop listening as she described her process of making music as “catching songs,” a phrase I believe she credited to Tom Waits.

In the second episode, Tippett interviewed Tiya Miles who is a public historian, doing research about Cherokee slave holders and their African American slaves. Miles mentioned a line from Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved in which the reader is asked to consider a story that should not be passed on. Of course, Miles used it to frame her discussion of whether or not slave holding by Native Americans was a story that shouldn’t be told (passed on) or one that can’t help but be told (passed on).

What I love about On Being is that Tippett somehow manages to get every guest to relate his or her career, vocation, passion to spirituality, and she does it without being heavy handed or forceful. The exploration of faith or spiritual matters as invited by Tippett seems like a natural progression of the conversation, like the guests’ beliefs are so intrinsic to who they are, they can’t help but shape and formulate the interaction between them and their livelihoods, and that, in turn, can’t help but spilling out into the airwaves of the show. Krista Tippett has my dream job.

The next podcast I listened to was the Jesus Radicals‘ Iconocast where they interviewed Shannon Kearns, the pastor of the House of Transfiguration in Minneapolis. Kearns spoke about flattening the hierarchy, queer theology, and the ways in which the gospel is simultaneously intellectual and emotional. He also fielded questions about God and gender and the ways in which his own transgendered body informs his understanding of theology, the church, and God. Perhaps most interesting to me was his discussion of wounds and the way they record, they are the proof of, transitions.

This Seems Like a Queered Crucifix to Me

This was one of the better interviews they’ve done, and I think I may just drop by this church in a couple of years when we move to Minneapolis. While I admit I am nowhere near where the Jesus Radicals are, I very much appreciate their ministry, and I respect their beliefs. I especially love it when they help give voice to people who are helping the Church move in ways that are more inclusive to those who have been disenfranchised by the wider Church family.

Finally, I listened to T.C. Boyle’s “Rapture of the Deep” on Selected Shorts. Jacques Cousteau’s temperamental French chef plans a mutiny because he is sick and tired of preparing and eating poisson, poisson, poisson. My favorite part is when the chef beings making bad American comfort food, like macaroni and cheese or tuna casserole. Hilarious.

Peace.

Lent Day 11: A Lesson in Love and Humility

Without giving too many details, I will just say I have learned a lesson in humility and love this weekend at AWP. To make a long story short, my insomnia didn’t, in fact, go away. It only got slightly less ferocious, allowing me five hours of of sleep for one night instead of three. When I don’t sleep, I get mean, curt, short-tongued. I have been all of those things this week, which led to quite a large eruption of misunderstandings last night between a friend and myself. The quarrel led to me moving down to the lobby of the hotel for quite some time, so I could recompose myself and not put my fist through the mirror in our room. See I told you I have some anger management issues, and I felt as if I could beat my way with small, tight fists through the thickest, heaviest punching bag on the market. I didn’t.

Instead, for a change, I left the room to recompose myself elsewhere. By this morning, after a conversation with my beautiful and sensible wife, some coffee, a session on queer YA fiction, and some prayer, walking, and meditation, I was able to calmly and rationally initiate a discussion of the events of last night. And, of course, we came out on the other side with love and grace, because I am learning that’s how things work out when you practice humility and love.

Here is the photographic chronology of my day:

Walking North on Michigan Avenue

Walking North on Michigan Avenue

A Coffee Shop I've Always Wanted to Try and Finally Did

A Little Morning Reading and a Mexican Mocha

Buildings Dating from the Mid-1800s

Do You Need Some Art Supplies?

Capitalism Block on State Street

I decided to go to church tonight, but I wasn’t sure where to go, so I literally typed the address of the Palmer House in the first blank of the “Get Directions” feature in Google Maps, followed by the word Methodist in the second blank. I figured I couldn’t lose since I live four hours away, and I’d never see any of the people again. I mean, it’s always a crap shoot when you’re a lady-boy lesbian and looking for a church in a different city. Each time I risk rejection from the body to which I’ve belonged since the age of four when I “gave my life to Jesus,” a form of rejection that breaks my heart again and again.

I walked to Temple Church (a.k.a. First United Methodist of Chicago) with low expectations and hoping that I wasn’t dressed too shabbily. I can never accurately anticipate the dress code at a “First United Methodist,” because they are usually the big, old churches that are trying to stand guard and keep from dying out. But that guard-standing usually comes outfitted in whatever is the latest fashion.  I always assume that the dress code is on the upper end of the spectrum, not jeans and the sweater I was wearing. But, as I mentioned, I’d never see any of these people again, so I pressed on.

Temple Church's History in Stained Glass

Destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire

As I walked past the beautiful arts garden, pictured above, I looked to my right and got a glimpse of the Chicago Picasso. I could feel that this hour of my life was going to be an adventure. Electric Jesus was in the air. I strolled through the revolving door and up to the security guard. Yes, you read correctly, I walked confidently over to the security guard, and said, “Can you please tell me where the church service is meeting tonight?” She pointed me up the stairs and through some double doors.

I was a bit disoriented as I walked through the thick wooden doors, because I was released into a space that looked like a storage closet, only without anything in it, too big to be a closet, too small to be a respectable hallway. The space was a hallway nonetheless, and I began to search for what I was sure would be a large stone chapel or sanctuary. Instead I found the small, intimate chapel pictured here. In fact, I had to ask the lovely man in the picture if I was in the right place.

A Tiny Church Service in a Huge Church's Small Chapel

By the time the service started with a greeting and then a hymn that none of us really knew, I realized I was experiencing the Body of Christ in a very real way. The mix of people was diverse: various ethnicities, social classes, sexual orientations, gender identities, and abilities. There were people there with children of varying ages, and older people who were there alone. The bulletin specifically spelled out that we were all welcome.

The service followed the liturgy while still being personal: we confessed as a group and then offered silent meditations of our own. When it came time for the prayer requests, the congregants shared intimately and without reservation, and then we prayed for those concerns. We passed the peace! Finally, we collected tithes and offerings and shared the Eucharist together. We stood together around the communion table and celebrated the Great Thanksgiving as we looked each other in the eyes. I could feel the Holy Spirit hovering there in our midst, like the soft breeze that blows off Lake Michigan in the summertime, and as refreshing.

Jesus’ body was broken, His blood was shed, and we were redeemed yet again. A glorious miracle.

Several times the intimacy and the beauty of it all overwhelmed me to the point of tears. Here, four hours away, is the type of community I long for each Sunday. Here, in a church I assumed would be too uppity for my jeans and sweater, I met my Jesus in the realest way I have experienced in years. Here.

Today was a beautiful mess. Peace.

Lent Day 10: More AWP

I am still at AWP: writing is exactly spirituality. We are born to create, to go forth and multiply, and by taking a little liberty with what that command might mean, I find that writing or making art is doing just that. Through creation of text or visual media, we multiply all that is good and right and beautiful in the world. We cause people to think through the less appealing parts of the world in order to see the more appealing ones. We can take the worst situations, the most horrible events, and create through them healing, help, peace, and grace with our words and images.

Part of today’s daily prayer from Common Prayer reads: “Sometimes we don’t realize the intensity of the things for which we pray, Lord. Keep us courageously mindful that your way is laden with tears on the way to resurrection. Amen.” Keep us courageously mindful that the way to creativity is laden with tears on the way to resurrection. Keep us courageously mindful that your way is laden with tears on the way to creativity and rebirth. Keep us mindful.

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I went for a run this morning after sleeping for five whole hours last night.

The Reason I Slept So Well

Wacker and Wabash in Chicago

Chicago River "Private" Walkway

I'm Lovin' the Ferris Wheel

One Lighthouse

Super Yellow Beanie and Cityscape

Another Lighthouse

Lake Michigan

Ferris Wheel in B & W

Marilyn Monroe on Michigan Avenue: Fidelity

The Giant Bean and Some Tourists

Don't Let the Pigeon . . .

Peace.

Lent Day 9: Insomnia and Catharsis

I haven’t had insomnia this badly since I was in college. For this week, I am averaging about three good hours of sleep. At least, unlike college, I am not so jittery I can’t stay horizontal, so I am rested, but not well-rested.Our hotel situation worked out strangely, in that many of the AWP Conference goers received king-size beds instead of two double beds for groups of three adult-size people. I refuse to sleep in a king-size bed with two friends, no matter how close they are, so I volunteered to sleep on the floor. I don’t mind sleeping on the floor, but it isn’t as conducive to good sleep as I would like.

Tonight’s keynote address is with Margaret Atwood, the author of one of my favorite books, Oryx and Crake, and another book I have found becoming frighteningly realistic, The Handmaid’s Tale. After her address, several of us are going to go out for a bit. My plan is to exhaust myself and have a couple of nice hard ciders, so that I will be sure to get some sleep tonight. I also plan to run in the morning. I haven’t been exercising much the past couple of weeks, and I think the extra energy I’m not spending may be contributing to my insomnia. We’ll see.

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Chicago is a spiritual meditation. Chicago is cathartic.

Stop Here to Get Chocolate-Covered Gummi Bears

Don't Forget to Exit I-90 Before This Toll Booth

Expect a Beautiful View of the Lake

Bring Plenty of Supplies

Eat at Lou Malnati's on State Street

Eat at Trendy Cafes

Consume the All American Breakfast of Sausage, Eggs, and Hash Browns

Wash It Down With My First Greek Coffee

Don't Swirl Well Enough

Watch A Worker-Artist Clean A Goddess

Watch Him Work Some More

Make Black & White Photos During a Session in a Ballroom

Revel in Beauty Whenever & Wherever She Shows Her Face

Hope and pray and wish and dream that I can sleep tonight.