Thursday, February 26, 2009


I talked to my counselor this morning about how it felt having Luv with me at the ceremony. Here was a guy who had no experience with Christianity, barely any experience with New York at all, and it was my opportunity to introduce him. I was thrilled, and he was wide eyed asking all sorts of questions. When I told him, "Well, the priest puts the ashes over your forehead with his finger and makes a sign of the cross, much like in baptism," he looked at me and said, "What's baptism?"

Then there was the church. The place seemed like an exact replica of Holy Trinity.
Here's St. Joseph's outside:................then Holy Trinity:

St. Joseph's inside.................then Holy Trinity:

I felt like I'd come back home.

And the service was just the same as Holy Trinity, a young choir, a hopeful and eloquent priest, great songs, and a sense of peace. Luv sat there and asked if he should come down with me when I went for ashes, but I said they preferred you at least be Christian before you do so. I wonder if that was the right thing to do, but I suppose it'd be better if he at least knew what the ceremony meant before he joined me. As it was, he was only just beginning to understand.

I gave up something for Lent that I've been wanting to give up, which is looking at little YouTube clips for the over-18 crowd, clips of actresses like Alyssa Milano or Drew Barrymore in some B-movie about the naughty babysitter or the innocent art student seduced by vampires. Though I'd only watch this schlock for 10 minutes or so on a given night, it hasn't felt right, and shedding that for Lent feels like a step in the right direction.

I pray that you are also stepping in the right direction wherever it is you wish to go.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I went today to St. Joseph's Church in the West Village for Ash Wednesday service this evening. It wasn't my original plan, but the more I saw young people walking by with the ashes on their foreheads, it made me feel like I wanted to be a part of it again. I wanted to get back in that spirit of penitence, and I think I also liked the idea of making my faith visible. Ash Wednesday seems to be the one day of the year when we wear our Christianity on our faces, and what's more it's perhaps one of the most Christian ways of showing our faith. It's not like carrying some t-shirt that says "Jesus Loves You" or reading the Bible on some street corner: this is the kind of sign I like-the kind that makes people squint their eyes and wonder what it's all about. Because the jesus i understand wasn't about blasting his message out on loudspeakers. He was more interested in washing people's feet. So seeing our faith in the ashes we wear seems more in line with the strong silent type that Jesus often was in his message.

Even though it was being done in a Catholic church, I felt I could return to the Catholics for this ceremony. And so I planned to go to St. Joseph's Church. During dinner beforehand, I was sitting with my Indian friend Luv, a Hindu with no knowledge of Christianity whatsoever. When I told him my evening plans, he asked for an explanation of it. So I invited him to come along and see for himself...
More tomorrow.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I read from the Shane Claiborne book "Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers" this morning. It was one of the first times in the last few weeks that I have felt like my search for faith had found the right leader. The right guide. Reading Rick Warren, I felt there was too much certainty about God. Reading Thomas Merton, I felt put off by the degree to which he identified passion and desire with selfishness. Reading my passages of the Men's evangelical Bible, I felt that I was just retreading territory I'd already visited before. Claiborne's book unlike any of the others emphasizes the things that used to really bring to me close to God in everyday life: attempting to help people, to be present with people in need, to see injustice and how we can work against it, to see isolation and try to heal it.

Here in Greenpoint, I wake up every morning and see these old Polish men with dirty wrinkled faces, sounding drunk and standing in a stupor next to the corner liquor store. One yesterday had his nose cut open, with blood caked from his eyebrows down to his lips. I stopped momentarily and said, "Are you alright?" But there was little I could do-I didn't know him. I didn't even speak his language. That to me is tragic.

Sometimes I feel like God overdid it in that story in Genesis where he punishes us for building the godless tower into the skies by confusing all our languages. It makes showing his compassion so much more difficult to our neighbor. Yet one more sign of my growing conviction that God does not always act rationally or for the best of people, if indeed he does exist. But spirit-spirit I believe in, and if we can get in our spirit, THAT does usually have some logic to it, and usually means the best for us.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What you don't know can hurt you

Lately I've been spending my money without much regard for how. I try to be thrifty where I can, but ever since my counselor told me that saving up money wasn't something most grad students are able to do, I stopped paying as much attention to my budget. To my own detriment. Even if I can't save a huge amount up, I can still watch my spending. Besides, it at least helps me have a local perspective on the economy.
I noticed last night that Trader Joe's at 14th Street again had a line going out the door and down the street past some four other storefronts. They're huge now. How can it be that there's only one of them in the city?
For my part, even if the deals are good, I can't stand waiting in lines that long, especially when it's just to get in the door!
Got my food shopping done tonight at the Polish Associated Supermarket on Manhattan Ave. I asked if they had coupons. The Polish checkout girl gave me a weird look and said, "No, no coupons. If there is discount, we have it all in our heads." Good to know.
$41.37 spent altogether, mostly the basics:
$8 for two loaves of bread, Arnold $ Stroehmann-where are they coming from?
$4 on soy milk (gotta have my Silk)
$8 on chicken - trying out breasts and ground chicken, which was cheaper
$5 on cold cuts (got a lb. of the cheapest available...)
$4.79 on a 20 oz. box of shredded wheat. Cereal prices are so damn high. I've been told getting high fiber in the morning makes for a healthy breakfast. So that should help.
$3 of orange juice on sale,
$2 of eggs,
$2 on soap,
$2 on paper towels,
and $2 of some unintelligible Polish snack food that looked like it had honey- tastes darn good.
I guess the rest was tax.
I know that when it comes to following my spending, I need to adopt LITTLE habits that I can begin to accumulate.
I can start to write some of these purchases down, at the very least. I don't want to be paranoid about it, but I do want a better idea of where my money is going. It's easy to ignore this stuff, but sooner or later the money will ignore you back.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


I was once told that one big difference between Americans and Europeans is that Americans live to work, while Europeans work to live. While there's probably just as much bull in that statement as any other, there's also a kernel of truth. My father said that when I come to the end of my life, one regret I probably won't have is "I wish I had spent more time at the office."
I just thought about this because I feel like I spent the week busily working away, then came to the end and had very little planned for the weekend. I'd like to balance things out a bit more, put the same value, if not more, into my life as into my work.