Archive for March, 2008

Grace or casseroles? A non-believer’s musings on prayer

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” on one of my flights a few weeks ago. (It’s a wonderfully insightful and beautifully written book; I highly recommend it.) There’s a passage where the author, having recently developed a personal relationship with prayer and a self-styled spirituality, is describing an exchange with her pragmatic sister, Catherine.

A family in my sister’s neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy when both the mother and her three-year-old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, “Dear God, that family needs grace.” She replied firmly, “That family needs casseroles,” and then proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing the family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this is grace.

Karsten and I got talking about my father’s death. My father was a popular man, loved by many in his town and with a wide circle of friends and family across the country. Many people were praying for him as he waged his fight with cancer. Some people would probably conclude that the prayers must not have been very effective since the cancer ultimately won. But even as a non-spiritual person, I think that’s an unfair characterization of the effects of that praying. I would never attempt to claim that there is no power in prayer. I just don’t think it’s the only vehicle for the conveyance of caring, and it’s loaded with religious affiliation, which has no appeal to me. But I have no trouble accepting the possibility, perhaps not as a direct result of prayer, but perhaps resulting indirectly from the quantities of people who simply told my father and the rest of his family that they were praying for him, that my father died with more awareness of how loved he was, and that we, his family, could accept his death with more comfort because we knew how loved he was.

Maybe you wouldn’t call that the power of prayer, per se. And I would agree that it’s something different, but I think — and this is a non-believer attempting to understand the minds of believers, so I may have it entirely wrong — but I think there’s something uniquely potent about prayer to a believer that is somehow not present in the offerings of “thoughts” or “good vibes” or “positive energy,” or any number of alternatives you or I might suggest.

That’s the struggle I have as a non-believer who wants to offer comfort to my loved ones. I wish I had something I could offer my cousin’s family as they’re dealing with my 17-year-old cousin battling lymphoma. I have told them I’m thinking about them, but I feel acutely that that’s not as powerful a statement as telling someone you’re praying for them. To my eyes, as a non-believer, that’s the power of prayer: a communication shortcut that says you want to intercede for someone; that you feel their situation merits grace, and you’re looking to powers bigger than yourself to provide it.

But without that communication shortcut, I guess I find myself in the role of the pragmatic sister, trying to think of when and how to make the proverbial (or literal) casseroles and hope that they are received as grace. (Here I should mention how humbling it is to have a sister who is both a praying person and a casserole maker in the most active sense — she was recently awarded Citizen of the Year in her hometown for her efforts in setting up a non-profit organization that helps the poor and needy in her otherwise well-to-do suburb. She’s a double-helping of grace.) What I lack in spirituality I make up for in plain old compassion, but how can I be of much practical use to a family hundreds of miles away? There’s a missing ingredient that could help bridge the distance, and to say “I’m thinking of you” sounds hollow.

I suppose it’s relevant in some way that I’m musing about this on Easter morning. I have no real ties to Easter: nothing about its religious implications carries weight with me, and the childhood chocolate-fest is behind me. Even the pagan traditions offer little to the pragmatic, so it’s simply a Sunday when more businesses are shuttered than usual. But there is something about the hope of renewal, the rituals of rebirth that carry through from the pagan to the Christian traditions, in welcoming spring and recognizing the cyclical nature of life — something about that does appeal to me. (Maybe it’s the gardener in me.) I know I’m looking for a chance to discover something in myself — some offering I can provide to those who need comfort that feels as powerful as prayer and does as much good as casseroles.

I don’t expect to find the answer today. But I’m asking the question, and questions are more important than answers.

Happy Easter, happy March equinox, happy Sunday, happy day. I’m thinking of you.

links for 2008-03-23

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Amazon email mishap - “please fill in”

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

I’m not one to take glee in others’ misfortunes - schadenfreude just ain’t my style. But there’s something about this email mishap from Amazon in my inbox this morning that just made me giggle, and it’s not the likelihood that someone in Seattle has just lost a job. Maybe it’s the idea that even in a company as big as Amazon, where the job functions are no doubt as specialized as insects in the rainforest, where filling in a few lines of text in an email is probably the bulk of what someone is paid to do on a daily basis, that this kind of thing can still happen. It amazes me.

(In the words of long-lost Brittney, click the image below to embiggen.)


Quite possibly my favorite quote ever

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008
I think porn is kind of boring, frankly–it’s like watching monkeys type. Yeah they can do it and it LOOKS real, but you know it’s all a setup.

- Kat Coble

This blog now iPhone-ready

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

beehiveblog-iphonetheme.pngThanks to the fine folks at ContentRobot, this blog is now equipped with an iPhone-ready theme. If you view from an iPhone, it will automatically show up in a minimalist iPhone format.

And thanks to Dan Dickinson’s simple explanation, the whole site now has a custom webclip icon if you add it to your home page.


Things that probably deserve their own post

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

Yes, each of these probably merits a post of its own, and my blog has been sorely neglected of late. But since I’m powering through my to do list, I’m giving them each a bullet point, and I may choose to come back to one or more of them later.

  • I’ve been working very, very hard. If you visit over the next few months, you may see some cool changes start to take place.
  • I’ve been traveling a lot. Since the beginning of February, I’ve been in San Francisco, New York, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Chicago, and Boston. And not in Nashville very much, clearly.
  • My 17-year-old cousin (well, first cousin once removed) has lymphoma. But she’s got a great attitude and a lot of fight in her. I’m thinking a lot about my cousin and her family.
  • My coworker’s 10-year-old nephew just died from cancer after 9 months in the hospital. And then, at the funeral, the same coworker’s mother-in-law collapsed, had a heart attack, and died. I’m thinking a lot about that family.
  • Karsten and I are about to go on our first cruise. It’s a vegetarian cruise.
  • This weekend is the fifth anniversary of the crazy little experiment Karsten and I performed that we like to call “getting married.”
  • I finally convinced Karsten to join Facebook. We’re now married on Facebook! I feel so hip.

links for 2008-03-16

Sunday, March 16th, 2008
  • My buddy Joe Hendricks just launched a new web site for wine comparisons and education.
    (tags: wine)

Like to write? Want to get paid?

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

It’s not in my particular group, so you won’t even have to report to me! But my colleague is hiring a writer, and I know there are a lot of writers amongst my friends. So here’s the description:

Are you a marketer who enjoys writing?, the leading online provider of magazine subscriptions, is looking for a creative writer and search engine content creator to join our team.

Your responsibilities will include:

• Writing: articles for search engine marketing

• Text, images, and HTML handling for email marketing

• Proof reading and copy editing

The successful applicant will be imaginative, flexible, self-motivated, work well on deadline, pay attention to detail, and be passionate about e-commerce and pop culture. To apply, please send your resume and writing samples to Michael Utley at

Responsibilities: Produce and distribute 20 articles per month with links back to Post social site links and content back to Assist with email production and more.

Lance Armstrong speaking at Omniture Summit

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

Girly movie night in-room party, commence

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008