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An explanation and apology

Dear Blog Friends,

I am sorry that I've not been in touch with you. Several weeks ago I thought I was starting a project that would take a week to ten days. I didn't think you'd even notice I was gone.

Turns out that this is more demanding than I'd realized and taking longer too. I wish I'd written to you sooner to let you know that I would be out of pocket. The time has slipped up on me though. A month has passed already.

I am still here, still fruity, and hale and hearty. Rowan is well too.

Please forgive me for ignoring you. As I've continued to pray for you and think about you this last month I realize that you really are more than "virtual" friends to me. You're real, after all. And my affection for you is real too. I know that some of you have been concerned for me, and I am sorry for causing you to worry.

I really find my lack of consideration in this matter pretty appalling. But, as you already know if you're a blog friend, I am prone to sin and screw-ups like the rest.

I am back in place for a few days. Planning trips to the bank, post office, stylist, and doctor. Just taking care of the things that have lapsed this month. I may not be back to regular blogging for another month or so. But, I will not neglect you in my prayers and I'll be back in the blog world soon.




On an unrelated note...

This is my new favorite picture of Rowan, my little dog. He knows he's supposed to place the ball at my feet but he loves playing tug-o-war with it.

In this picture he's "talking" to me, making the most unusual dog sounds you've ever heard.

Rowan has just posted some new photos on his own blog. It'd make him feel real good if you went right on over and gave them a look-see.

Here's the link.


Things Seen And Unseen

Last night the moon was at less than ten percent, just the thinnest sliver. And black clouds were afoot in the black night and, as if from nowhere, they marched across the face of the moon sometimes making it go away entirely.

Because we are sophisticated and scientifically enlightened people living here in the 21st century, we know that clouds can't make the moon "go away." We further know that the moon was not only ten percent there last night. It's just that we could only see ten percent of it. the whole thing was still there... in darkness.

It's about what you can see... and what you can't.

When we sing or say the Shema we say the first verse at a normal volume, clear and strong:

Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.

And the second verse:

Barukh sheim k'vod malkhuto l'olam va'ed.

is almost a whisper. Very, very, quietly...

The reason we do this is to remind us that sometimes we can hear God and sometimes we can't. God is there just the same, speaking just the same. Sometimes we hear, sometimes we don't.

It's about what we can hear... and what we can't.

In the same way, sometimes light shines on the cactus in a way that reveals the thorns...

And sometimes in a way that reveals the flowers.

But, look closely...
Both are present...

The flower and the thorn grow from the same plant, receive their nourishment from the same source, come forth from the same ground.

It's about where the light shines... and where it doesn't.

I've been thinking about how much there is that I don't know, things I don't see at all, even though in a different light, come the morning, or on another day they may be clear.

I once knew a boy, nine or ten I'd say. And he took to meeting me in the courtyard outside my office in the morning times. I told him about the various plants and taught him how to identify several birds by the sound of their call. We talked about the seasons, his family, what he was studying in school. Originally I thought of him as an intrusion. Later, as a friend.

On the second to last day of school he came to the courtyard and we talked about his summer plans and mine. Then he said ten words that pierced my heart, "Thank you for teaching me how to pray this year."

Obviously if I had known that that's what we were doing, if the sun had shown in a different direction or if the clouds had moved and I'd realized that that's what we were doing... learning to pray! Obviously, I would have run screaming from the whole thing. But, it was the second to the last day of school. Too late to run.

I remember rattling off some things that both he and I have forgotten. I told him that prayer takes many forms, that his praying would change over the years and I hoped to Hell that he would be better at it than I am, that he would be more faithful, more honest, braver, truer. And after he left I prayed all that for him knowing what a poor and weak teacher he'd had. ...Also hoping that his agnostic parents didn't find out.

I think that more often than we realize, we are not at all doing what it is we think we are doing. My young friend was kind enough to tell me what I'd done. It wasn't what I'd thought. I thought I was just being kind to a boy who didn't have many adults in his life. I thought I was being a patient administrator. I thought a thousand things... but not that.

I want to have a greater awareness of these hidden things. I don't know how to do it. I am not sure I have that level of sensitivity, if I can be that aware. Sometimes God does have to be awfully blunt with me.

But, I am going to be looking. I am going to listen more closely. I am going to think outside the box to see what might be there. Because I don't want my life to be what it seems, and no more. I want to believe that in all the mundane, boring, insanely stupid things I do all day long there is at least a little bit of God and that He is doing something. Please, God, don't let it all be for nothing.

How Do You See Things?



Living No Longer For Ourselves

Last week when we talked about Gloria Copeland's sermon on giving we somehow got off on this:

"He died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them."

Diane adds: Living no longer for ourselves. what would THAT look like?

There is a story I want to tell you about that. It's such a good story that I didn't want to just tell it and I had to go through some books to find a version of it that I really liked. This is from The Divine Romance, it's a collection of talks given by the master Paramahansa Yogananda. This is directly from the book:

"Krishna had many women disciples, but one favorite, Radah. Each disciple said to herself, "Krishna loves me more than anyone else." Still, because Krishna often talked of Radha, the others were envious of her. Noticing their jealousy, he wanted to teach them a lesson. So one day Krishna feigned a terrible headache. The anxious disciples expressed their great concern over the Master's distress. At last Krishna said, "The headache will go away if one of you will stand on my head and massage it with your feet." The horrified devotees exclaimed, "We cannot do this, You are God, the Lord of the Universe. It would be highest sacrilege to desecrate your form by touching your sacred head with our feet!"

The Master was pretending an increase of his pain when Radha came on the scene. She ran to her Lord, saying, "What can I do for you?" Krishna made the same request of her that he had made of the other devotees. Radha immediately stood on his head; the Master's "pain" disappeared, and he fell asleep. The other disciples angrily dragged Radha away from the sleeping form.

"We will kill you," they threatened.

"But why?"

"You dare to step on the head of the Master?"

"What of it?" Radha protested, "Did it not free him from his pain?"

"For such a sacrilege you will go to the lowest stratum of Hades."

"Oh, is that what you are worrying about?" Radha smiled. "I would gladly live there forever if it would make him happy for a second.":

Then the all bowed down to Radha, They understood why Krishna favored her; for Radha alone had no thought for herself, but only for her Lord's comfort."

Obviously, there's a lot to think about there.
  • What would happen to our ideas about what is sacrilege if we were like Radha?
  • What "sacrileges" would Jesus just as soon us give up?
  • When I insist that others conform to religious expectations am I really just envious?
  • Am I willing to risk going to "hell" to bring a moments comfort to Jesus?
YIKES! But, that is a pretty good example of what it means to live entirely for someone else. I'm not saying I do it. I am not sure I'm even trying very hard. But, there it is.


Summer Meme From Presbyterian Gal

I got tagged by PresbyterianGal for this fun Summertime meme. Here you go...

1 - What first tells you Summer is here?
Suddenly there are more kids in need of supervision or a hobby and they all want to be where I am.

2 - Name five of your favorite distinctively Summer habits or customs.
I'm a little like the Almighty on that. I never change. I guess I move some of my outdoor activities to the morning. That's about it.

3 - What is your favorite smell of Summer?
I guess I just don't smell of that much stuff.

4 - What is your favorite taste of Summer?
I do like a cold watermelon. Even better with cold vodka injected into it.
Pear tomatoes

5 - Favorite Summer Memory?
I really like Spring and fall. Summer is a time of misery. I am not sure I have any really fabulous memories of Summer per se. The first day of Fall... Now, that I could maybe come up with some memories for.

6- Extreme hear or extreme cold? Which would you choose and why?
We don't have to choose. I am glad for that. But, again, I like the moderate temperatures. I like sweaters, not coats. I like short sleeves, not bikinis.

7 - What books do you plan to read for the season?
Well it doesn't have anything to do with the "season," such as it is, but I plan to do some re-reading. Judith Antionelli's Feminist Commentary On The Torah is one that I want to re-read. Maybe a few others that I feel I rushed through.

8 - How does Summer affect your faith? Is it a hindrance or an ally?
It does not affect me at all. Maybe it's harder to get away for a retreat but that's so hard anyway I don't see that Summer makes much difference.

Summer annoys me. I think all those children should be in school or detention camps... I don't really care which. I think most of their parents should be there too. It's hot. Too hot. I have to leave my dog home most of the time because he can't stay in the car by himself for even a few minutes. In only a few weeks it will be too hot to do sports outside unless it's very early in the morning. Really, it's not a good idea. A lot of people seem to think that the whole Summer season is a time for them to take a vacation from common courtesy and, between you and me, they didn't behave all that well to begin with. I'm just waiting for winter, that's the only other season we get.


Joyce Meyer Redux

A few weeks ago Joyce Meyer gave us quite a lot to think about with the statement:

If God is in control you don't need to know why..

Hat tip to Ann who helped us question how much control God has. Being crucified, after all, is not really the first thing you think of when you think of a divine being in control of the universe and everything. I let myself off the hook on that by just saying, Oh what an interesting idea... Leave it to our Ann.

But, later, after all of you had moved on to other things, Doxy came along and asked me for a legitimate opinion on that.

I'll admit that one of the things I like best about being an Anglican is that there's never really too much pressure to come up with answer. But, if I am honest, it is also sometimes an excuse to just leave things hanging and not articulate any position at all.

So, I thought about it. And then thought some more. Here is what I wrote to Doxy:

I've been thinking about this for a couple of days Doxy.

I believe that God is in control. I even believe that God, in Jesus, was in control on the cross. It was in not using the control he had -- and, in fact, giving it to others -- that Jesus' death became redemptive for the rest of us.

In writing about resisting evil Swami Vivekananda says this: "The one who from weakness does not resist, commits a sin, and therefore cannot receive any benefit from his nonresistance; while the other would commit a sin by offering resistance." Swami Prabhavanda explains that by saying that we must gather the power to resist; having gained it, we must renounce it.

I think that God has it. I think that Jesus had it. So does the Holy Spirit. It's a god-quality to have all power and knowledge and to also have control. But, the quality that runs parallel to that is the will to relinquish such power.

Now what that means to me in real life is that there are times when I -- not God -- have been granted control which is not really my own. The authority that Jesus gives us is not for us to use for ourselves, it's more of a trust. It obligates more than it empowers.

There is a temptation to take a fatalist approach and say "Oh, God is in control so I have no responsibility." But, the other temptation,the one which says we are in control, implies that we also set the agenda.

I think that it's in exercising control that has been given to us, and on behalf of an agenda that is not our own, that we find the right balance.

Thanks for getting me to think that through.


And, in fairness to me, that IS an answer. It just seems real off-the-cuff to me. It's not something I've thought about very deeply and I would sure take some more grist for my mill if you guys have anything new to add.

Some of you may know that I was raised and educated by Baptists. The Baptists do believe that God is in control of everything all the time. That's pretty deep in me. Yet, it rings hollow in light of my own experience with God and what God asks of me. And then there's that nagging image of God hanging on a tree.

So, I am still in process on that. I am not sure what it means if God is not in control. I'm not too worried about it because, deep down, I believe that He IS! And that just makes it more difficult for me to think it through.

Oh God, forgive me when I accept the questions too easily and fail to wrestle with the gift of their difficulty. There's so much I don't know. But, I thank you... thank you, thank you, thank you, that it's never been about what I know, how much I understand. Lead me into what I need to know, and help me release the rest.