As it’s a truly beautiful fall day here in Minnesota (eerily similar to 9/11/2001), I sat outside for a while reading the first half of What Do Muslims Believe? : The roots and realities of modern Islam by Ziauddin Sardar. A brief (140 small pages) but helpful introduction to Muslims and Islam. Sardar starts with a fairly concise, straightforward answer to “What makes a Muslim?” and then explores the historical and modern complexities. I’ll be returning to this book after a bit of a break & nap. Should be helpful preparation for the early evening “Prayerful Action: Reading the Qur’an on September 11, 2010” I’ll be attending.
I began today the way I begin almost every day: made a cup of tea, gathered the cat on my lap, and celebrated Morning Prayer. Currently, the Old Testament readings are from Job and the Gospel readings have been about Jesus healing and performing “miracles” like raising Lazarus from the Dead. What I noticed this morning was how often the issue of “different interpretations” comes up. Job and his friends argue about the meaning of his suffering (God will soon arrive to point out they may not know what they are talking about 🙂 The witnesses to Jesus’s behavior are equally divided about what to make of it.
Hmmm, perhaps I’m onto the theme of the day . . .
After Morning Prayer I re-read the first chapter of Bruce Feiler’s excellent book Abraham. The first chapter paints a stark picture of the dysfunctional family of the Children of Abraham as evidenced by a day in Jerusalem. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that three faiths all tracing their heritage (if not their literal biological selves) back to one man can end up spending so much time fighting. After all, I come from a family of three sisters!
Next I read the Introduction and the chapter on Rosh Hashanah in Rabbi David Aaron’s Inviting God In: Celebrating the Soul Meaning of the Jewish Holy Days. What a lovely introduction to these Holidays/Holy Days! I really appreciated the discussion of the complexities and contradictions and mixed feelings involved in “celebrating” a “Day of Judgment”. I was particularly struck by the teaching about moving from a state of back-to-back with God to a face-to-face connection with God (which is reestablished through forgiveness). The discussion of justice and compassion was also extremely thought-provoking. I’ll be returning often to the distinction between justice (giving you what you deserve) and kindness/compassion (giving to you even if you do not deserve it).
Finally, I read the section on Rosh Hashanah in Robert Schoen’s What I Wish my Christian Friends Knew about Judaism. I thought it would deal more with the nuts and bolts of the rituals than the deeper meaning discussed in Rabbi Aaron’s book. Unfortunately, Schoen’s book seems too oversimplified even for someone as non-Jewish as I am. The tone is more humorous and less theoretical than Inviting God In, but I didn’t feel I learned very much.
Now that I’ve had a bit of breakfast and a break, I’ll be trying to learn a bit about Ramadan . . .
In response to recent events, this year September 11th has been declared:
International Read a Book Day
For an explanation, take a look at this excellent video:
For my part, I’m suggesting that everyone spend at least some time tomorrow “reading about a religion you do not practice”. A group of us over at LibraryThing.com will be reporting in on when/where/what we read. I’ll also be adding new posts here describing what I read and my thoughts and reactions.
I’ll be reading from one or more of the following books (gathered from my own bookshelf and the religion section of the local branch of my library):
Judaism: An anthology of the key spiritual writings of the Jewish tradition edited and interpreted by Arthur Hertzberg
Inviting God In by Rabbi David Aaron
What I Wish My Christian Friends Knew about Judaism by Robert Schoen
What Do Muslims Believe? by Ziauddin Sardar
Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong
No god but God by Reza Aslan
The Wisdom of the Prophet: Sayings of Muhammad translated by Thomas Cleary
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
I’ll also be attending a “Prayerful Action” gathering at a local Episcopal Church where a Professor of World Religion will teach us about the Qur’an and guide us in reading selections from it “as an expression of honor and respect.”
So please join International Read a Book Day and if you don’t have your own blog, add your reflections here at Lucidia!
Lent has continued to be more exhausting than my usual “Lenten Retreat.” Week 2 included more music, less cooking, some minor sewing, ongoing reading, and (most important) the start of the 2010 Baseball Spring Training Season!
I hadn’t been to Jazz Ensemble practice in almost a month (due to snow, vacation days, etc.). This week my violin and I finally got there. And now we have to come up with a 14-bar SOLO for “Play that Funky Music.” This should be interesting 😉
This week was also the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Chopin. MPR carried some great concert segments celebrating the event. And of course I had to pull out my books of Chopin’s piano music (and even ordered some more from the library).
Quite the musical week!
I’ve decided one way to spend less money on food during Lent is to clear out my rather extensive pantry and freezer collections. So this week I roasted some chicken leg quarters (from the freezer) and had them with some beets (from the freezer) and sautéed kale and brown rice (from the pantry). Then ate the leftover baked rigatoni from a couple of weeks ago (from the freezer). Next I’ll be whipping up a curry from a combination of fresh and frozen veggies in the frig. That should last a while!
Never got back to the big sewing projects started last week, but did manage to do some mending and patching this week. I guess that is in the Lenten spirit of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.
Made it through Book IV of Lactantius’ Divine Institutes (see previous post). Still not wild about his style of argument. Also not sure many of his arguments have the Biblical support he claims for them. But the group is still interesting, so I will plod on.
Spring Training has begun. Listened to part of yesterday’s Twins/Red Sox game. Another game is on this afternoon. Probably should take it slow. Don’t want to wear myself out before the season even starts 🙂 I tried not to pay too much attention during the off season. The Twins actually made some impressive acquisitions (Orlando Hudson, J.J.Hardy). Maybe now that Daddy Pohlad is gone, the wallet will open enough to produce a winning team. Not as sure about the Cubs . . . no cable means it will be harder for me to follow them (except when the radio reception from Chicago is good), but that might not be such a bad thing.
Temps were in the 40s most of this week, so I tried to go for a few short (10-15 minutes) walks. I tend to get post-exertional malaise and/or excessive fatigue and/or post-exertional headache from even the briefest attempt at exercise (other than yoga), but I needed the fresh air. Also added “take your daily vitamins” to my list of lenten disciplines (along with flossing and drinking more milk).
Spent today, Ash Wednesday, recovering from overindulgence on Shrove Tuesday*. My traditional Shrove Tuesday* involves pancakes, not running drunk & naked through the streets of New Orleans, but it is still possible to overindulge, especially when you attend TWO pancake events in one day. At noon I had pancakes prepared by a British gentleman (which means they were the style of pancake slightly thicker than a crepe and served with sugar and lemon) shared with Episcopalians and Lutherans some of whom were beginning a Lenten Study of Lactantius (more on him later). In the evening was a more traditional U.S. Episcopal gathering involving traditional American pancakes (plain and pumpkin), sausage, & eggs followed by a raffle in support of Haiti Relief. Between the two events I consumed more eggs, butter/fat, and other things I don’t usually eat than I should have.
Thus, today, Ash Wednesday, was spent with tea & juices, later some yogurt, banana, and eventually a bowl of leftover minestrone soup and some leftover focaccia. I think my system has finally recovered.
This year my Lenten Disciplines are mostly about clearing away some distractions so I can be more mindful about how I spend my time. I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so I need to be more careful about how I spend what little energy I have. I find that when I’m tired I often do mindless things that seem to take little energy, but in reality are draining. Many of these involve the Interweb: Facebook, email, reading news feeds, etc. Last year I gave up Facebook for Lent, though I checked in with folks on Sundays (‘cuz technically “Sunday’s don’t count” in the 40 days of Lent). This year I’m going to try to stay off of FB altogether. I hope to spend the time reading, resting, playing my violin, and working on some projects I’ve been neglecting.
Most years I also try to include some food-related discipline during Lent. I’ve been doing quite a lot of baking (cookies and cakes) the past few months, though I’m really not much of a dessert eater. So, I’m taking a break from baking cakes and cookies during Lent. I will still bake bread, because I hope to eat simpler during Lent (mostly soups and bread) so as to focus on other things. I had considered attempting the 2 Dollar Difference challenge during Lent (where you attempt to eat on $2 per day and donate the difference between that and what you would usually spend), but when I calculated my current food expenditures (approx. $5.50/day), I realized how much work it would be to try to keep track (and find lower cost alternatives) and decided that wasn’t how I wanted to spend my time. I still like the general idea, which you can read more about at 2 Dollar Difference , but my tendency toward obsessive compulsive record keeping would likely ruin any positive effects of the practice.
I promised I would say more about Lactantius, but he will have to wait, as I’m running out of energy.
For those of you observing Lent, may your Lenten Journey be a meaningful and insightful one.
according to my dictionary, the name comes from “shrive” which means to administer the sacrament of reconciliation; to free from guilt; or to confess one’s sins, esp. to a priest; and is related to the words prescribe and scribe (to write). Only instead of preparing for Lent by confessing our sins, modern Christians cleanse their pantries by using up all their eggs, sugar, and butter.