2008/05/29

My High Hopes

The Gospel reading for yesterday -- at least for the Greek Orthodox -- was the story of the feeding of the five thousand. You all know the story so I am not going to recap it for you here.

What has been rattling around in my head on it is the part where everybody has eaten their fill and the disciples are picking up the left overs. Do you remember exactly what it says about that? Here it is:

And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost."

It's the "...that nothing may be lost" part that's got me thinking.

I have heard people say that nothing is ever wasted, that God finds a way to use everything.
I want to believe that. I do. But, there are some things about me that seem pretty unredeemable. And it seems like maybe they should be wasted. You know, you've got to know when to cut your losses. There are some things... I just don't see it.

I hate to be so faithless.

If God is going to gather up the scraps of my life that means He will see them I suppose. My inclination is to ignore them. "Oh, those little scraps... well, Lord, let's just leave those." I want to move on without God seeing some things. There are some things that it would be easier to loose, rather than have them exposed to the light of redemption. Ouch! Couldn't we just leave a few scraps?

"...that nothing may be lost."

I believe in miracles. I've seen God turn heart anguish into bliss. He's done it for me! Yet there is a piercing, there is pain in such transformation and for some reason I continually avoid it.

I hope it's true. I hope that God can make something of the useless and irredeemable pieces of me.

I hope I am not too much in His way.

Such high hopes early this morning.

2008/05/26

A Question From The Devil

I’ve been watching TV again. This time I’ve clicked past the glitz of the sparkly clad Joyce Meyer and opted for the folksy down-home preaching of Gloria Copeland. You may know Gloria. She’s the prosperous wife of the prosperous Kenneth Copeland. They’re prosperous.

I’ve got nothing against prosperity, by the way. I wish I had a little more of it to be honest. But I was not all together comfortable with Gloria’s sermon about it.

Gloria says that God wants us to prosper. And, I think that She probably does. I’m just not sure that God and I are on the same page about what prosperity really is. And, I’m not too sure about Gloria either.

Gloria told us that we should tithe, and I agree with that too. She says that if you can’t afford to tithe then, “Man, you need to tithe quick!” She says that if you truly don’t have any money, then you can just go around your house and find some stuff to give away. Don’t send that crap to me though. Give it to Good Will, OK?

Of course, Gloria quoted some scripture for us. She’s a Bible Believer, don’t you know. She seems especially fond of Luke 6:38:

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

And, you know what, that IS in there. And I believe it’s more or less true, just like everything else in there.

I have a question about that though. And, I’ll tell you where I got my question. I got it from the devil. And before you call Gloria to schedule an exorcism for me let me tell you my question. The question I have this morning is, Why does that matter… all that pressed down, running over business? I mean, is that why we give? Are we motivated only by what’s in it for us? That doesn’t seem quite right to me.

You may not know Gloria Copeland but I’ll bet you do know the devil… especially you Lutherans.

The story is that the devil had just come in from a tour of the world and he went to see God. God asks the devil what he’s been up to and the devil tells God all about his experiences of walking up and down on the earth. So, God asked the devil if he happen to see a fella’ called Job. “He’s upright and blameless,” says God proudly. Unimpressed, the devil responds with our question for today,

Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has? "

"Shoot,” says the devil, “anyone would be faithful to you if you took care of them the way you care for Job.” OK, maybe a little interpretative license there. But, you know what I mean.

If I were speculating, and I am, I’d guess that the devil HAD noticed Job. How else would he have known about the fence? The fence is “…on every side,” the devil reports.

Well, except for a few assorted heathen types, you all are Bible readers. You know what happens next. But, this is not really about Job. We are way off track if you think this is about Job. That would be too easy. This is about us. Why are we faithful?

I suspect that there are as many ways to be faithful as there are lovers of God, and I would also say that there are probably as many reasons. Sometimes I do get something out of it. Maybe a peaceful easy feeling, or a feeling that I am a little bit holy. I love that. I do. Sometimes I even feel that all my praying does something. We're silly creatures, aren't we?

But, again just speculating, I suspect that it is when we get nothing and yet remain faithful that we are truly blessed. It’s a way of believing without seeing. It’s steadfast.

I know, I know… before you say it… I know that it’s hard. And I’m not telling you that you should be faithful. I don’t know why any of us remain faithful. It’s a big mystery to me, people and their responses to God. I can’t even explain my own small faithfulness. But, to be totally honest, I don’t think any of us have fences around us the way Job did. And so I wonder what does motivate us. I think that’s a good question even if it did come from the devil.

I want to make sure that my own answer is more along the lines of loving God, and not so much about the stuff that God might give me.

Just something to think about…

A happy Memorial Day to all. Rowan and I are going out to the lake to see some friends and hang out. Nothing too fancy but a good time will be had by all. Rowan has some new balls and a new shirt which is real sporty. You know how the dog loves to dress up!

I love you all.

2008/05/22

Teach Me To Fear Nothing But The Loss of You

My computer is usually still sleeping at this time of day but for some reason -- maybe for THIS reason -- I sat down here this morning for a quick look at the internets. Nicked from Susan Russell's Inch At A Time blog, this spoke to me this morning.

Most Loving God, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds from this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

I started crying at the end of the second line.

I have been so discouraged lately. It really has been two steps forward, three steps backward, or something like that. I'm not that good at the math. But, it does seem like things are not moving forward for me. And -- I mean, it just seems cosmically bad.

Realistically, I have a lot to be thankful for. I am in the habit of counting my blessings more than my sorrows. Somehow God has kept me both alive and out of either prison or the nut farm all these years and if that sounds mildly amusing to you... well, you just don't know where I came from.

I am lucky that I know how to be happy when the Sun shines, or if a flower blooms, or an ant crawls. There's hardly anything I won't send up a little prayer of thanksgiving and wonder for. I know what a blessing that is, just to be aware. And I am thankful for that too.

But I also know that I don't have the personal resources that some people have. That is not usually the first thing I think about in the morning but... some days... after sleepless nights. Sometimes my deficits just seem more apparent. I won't bore you with that.

Sometimes my worldly anxieties do cloud my vision. I often totally loose sight of any spiritual reality and fret over all kinds of things. And my troubles seem big to me when they're up close like that.

I wonder if my heart can know God at all or if it's too hard and dumb.

It is time to toddle on back to my study.

Please God, hear me, and teach me to fear nothing but the loss of you.
Abandon not the work of your own hands. Not now... don't give up now.

And then Susan gives us the reading from Isaiah too and I'll paste that in here for you because that's just the kind of blogger I am.

Thus says our God: “At the time of my favor I will answer you, on the day of salvation I will help you. I will keep you, and appoint you to be a covenant people. I will restore the land and assign you the properties that have lain waste. I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out!’ and to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves!’ ...

2008/05/20

My Favorite Book

You may remember that back when I had my old blog, Diane tagged me to reveal to you the one single book which I absolutely could not live without. Just for good measure I couldn't name the Bible, which I might not have named anyway. And, I suppose that for those liturgical types our prayer books are excluded too.

I was sorely tempted to do some kind of sneaky compromise which allowed me to name one dozen books, or all the books on one book shelf, instead of just one single book. But, for once in my life I am actually following the rules and I will now reveal to you the one book I wouldn't want to give up:

Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tsu
translated by Gia-Fu and Jane English

Sometimes when I need perspective, I turn here. It helps me remember that this life is short, that I may not know so much as I think, and that softness, a supple spirit, will survive almost anything while hardness will break.

Lao Tsu's basic teaching is that the Tao that can be told is not the real, or eternal, Tao. Interestingly, and unlike so many in other traditions, Lao Tsu doesn't presume to tell us what the eternal Tao is. He just reminds us that if we think we know what it is, we don't.

The legend is that, heartsick at the state of the world, Lao Tsu was on his way out to the desert to die. As he passed the gate going out of northwestern China the gatekeeper persuaded him to write down his teachings for posterity.

As a blogger I sometimes think about that and I wonder what I would write if it were the last thing I would ever post. What is my own basic teaching? Fortunately, I have the rest of my life to get that worked out.

Here's a chapter of Lao Tsu's teaching which I like a lot:

Yield and overcome;
Bend and be straight;
Empty and be full;
Wear out and be new;
Have little and gain;
Have much and be confused.

Therefore wise men embrace the one
And set an example to all.
Not putting on a display,
They shine forth.
Not justifying themselves,
They are distinguished.
Not boasting,
They receive recognition.
Not bragging,
They never falter.
They do not quarrel,
So no one quarrels with them.
Therefore the ancients say, "Yield and overcome."
Is that an empty saying?
Be really whole,
And all things will come to you.

Thanks for this cool Meme Diane. I enjoyed spending some extra time going through my books and thinking about which I really like most. I am tagging Grendel because I want to know what dogs really read, Alcibiades because he's so interesting, Barbi because she's so cool, my favorite cousin Sherry, and Ann because I just want to hear her answer. Ann's book is another one I reach for pretty often. Unfortunately, I've given away my copy of Streams Of Mercy AGAIN so I'll be ordering another one.

Love to everybody.

You can read Barbi's answer here.

You can read Alcibiades's answer here.

2008/05/18

Doubt and Discipleship

The Gospel reading for this week was Matthew 28:16-20. It's short so I'll cut and paste it for you:

"The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

I had not noticed that the whole passage, to the end of the chapter, is about the disciples. And, when they saw Jesus, they worshiped him and some of them doubted too. The disciples! Doubters. This doesn't seem to bother either Jesus or the author of Matthew. The writer takes sort of a wheat and tares approach to it, letting everything go on as it is knowing that it will all get sorted out in the end. Here, as in most of our churches and, if we are honest in our own hearts, doubt and discipleship go together. And, it's not such a big deal.

A blessed Feast of the Resurrection and a happy Trinity Sunday to you.

2008/05/15

What I Learned From Joyce Meyer Today

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


I don't usually watch the Joyce Meyer TV show. I don't like the clothes she wears, I don't like her theology, and I don't like the way she talks. The whole thing makes me feel like I'm at a washateria. But I am curious enough about Joyce that if I happen to run across one of her TV sermons I'll stop and listen for a few minutes. This is what she said on my TV yesterday.

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

If I were guessing, I'd say that fully half of the angst in my life is over the question of why. I won't give you a litany of all my big WHY questions. You probably have enough of your own without hearing mine.

Why... all those things. Why indeed. And I've spent a good deal of time thinking, praying and bitching about my own why questions. But all of them boil down to WHY. Why.

I am a Christian, have been for a long time. I know that God is in control. I do. I know it. Yet I feel almost as if I have a right to know why certain things are the way they are. Not that I question God but sometimes it does seem like He may not have all the facts. If only I knew what God was thinking, maybe I could be of some assistance, helpful soul that I am.

In her own special way, Joyce Meyer finally gave me the perspective I've been missing on that. Probably the rest of you were reluctant to say it to me. But, it's just none of my business. What God does, why God does it... It's none of my business. I don't need to know.

I find it easier to trust God when God is doing things that I understand, especially if they are kind of in the direction I was trying to lead Him anyway... Know what I mean? But, if I really have any confidence in God, if I have any faith at all, then maybe I will get out of the business of monitoring God's activities and allow myself to be the subject of them, maybe I will stop passing judgment on God's reasoning and accept the fact that it is too high up there for me, maybe -- just maybe -- I can stop being God and let God do it for awhile.

Joyce Meyer False Teachings
Our Joyce

2008/05/13

Pausing for Pentecost

Christ may be born a thousand times in Bethlehem, but if he be not born anew within your own heart, you remain eternally forlorn. -- Angelus Silisius

I guess this is kind of how I’ve been feeling about Pentecost this year. Pentecost and Shavou’ot being twin celebrations for me, you understand… Hang on and I’ll show you why I can’t possibly be a Christian without also being a Jew.

Shavou’ot is not until June 10 (6 Sivan on the Hebrew calendar) but it is still linked to Pentecost and by more than just its name. On Shavou’ot we remember the time we were given Torah. It was at Mount Sinai and all us Jews were there, not just Moshe and Aharon. I was there, Fran was there, Diane, Paul, Mike, Kristen, Ann, Mimi, everyone. Women separate from the men for the first time in 400 years. What a grand gathering that must have been -- Me and my sisters singing and dancing while we wait for Moshe to return. (You know, after the golden calf business.) And then Torah was given. How I wish I could remember that day!

There is great anticipation leading up to Shavou’ot/Pentecost/Hag Matan Torateinu. (You can call it a lot of things. Still, it’s the same thing.) It’s so eagerly awaited that we count the days, 50 of them, between Peasach/Passover and Shavou’ot/Pentecost/Weeks. This is called “Counting The Omer” and it’s a mitzvot to do it, highly spiritualized by some Kabbalists.

At Pesach we are physically brought out of slavery. Fifty days later, on Shavou’ot, we are brought out of Spiritual bondage through the gift of the Torah, the written word of God. That’s the connection, thus we count a golden number of days from one to the other in celebration of freedom, new life.

Then along comes Jesus. The word incarnate. And by his coming we have new life, we are freed from the law of the written Torah and given a new commandment -- love. Just as it was hard for the Israelites to learn how to live as free people and they needed Torah to guide them, so do we find ourselves in new territory with this new commandment and we too need a guide. And just at the moment of greatest disorientation, when it feels like we may never be able to live within the new law, the Holy Spirit is given.

I hope I can celebrate Pentecost in Italy someday because I heard that in some churches they throw rose petals off the balcony onto the worshipers and I would like to see that. I’d like to look up and see fiery rose petals coming toward me, feel them land on me.

For fifty days now we’ve been in this incomprehensible place where Jesus dies, then he lives; we see him, then we don’t, then we do. And all the while he is reminding us of his hardest teachings. It IS dizzying. Then, when we are good and confused, Jesus leaves. Oy g’veigh! We need help. And here she comes, just in the nick of time too as hope was dwindling.

There are things that we don’t know, trials we would run from, devils lying in wait for us. And God’s response to that is not a book, or a bush, or even a prophet, all of which would be easier to deal with. God responds with a presence. The onus is no longer on something external -- the priest or an angelic messenger -- from now on we are responsible for hearing and delivering God’s living word. We are free from the tyranny of hierarchical rulers and bound to a tyranny of love and all its demands, free from the rule of the tribe, and the rule of the law, and bound to the rule of love.

So, you can have Torah, the Bible, and all the priest, rules, dogmas, and doctrines you want. If there’s not something of love, something real in the heart, then, as Angelus Silisius says, you [we] remain eternally forlorn.

Let there be love.

2008/05/11

Our Ultimate Standard

Peter Jasper Akinola (left) the Archbishop and Primate of Nigeria and Several American Parishes and General Anglican Big-Shot, has issued a statement on polygamy. Try to be serious now…

As usual, I am having difficulty following Peter's logic. Also as usual, it's his Bible teaching I am having a hard time with.

From the article:

He [Big Pete] also said that any attempt to trivialise the Bible’s teaching on monogamy as the ultimate standard for the Christian family “will make a mockery of whatever else we stand for.
I am not so sure about this Bible teaching concerning polygamy. “Ultimate standard” and everything….

I am trying to figure out why Peter would say such a thing. I guess it's because of Jesus being monogamous. And, we do all want to be like Jesus don’t we?

Oh, wait. Humm..... As best as I can tell Jesus was celibate. And even if he weren’t, I'm pretty sure he wasn’t married. Wink-wink.

Well, I guess it’s because Jesus talked about it so much then.

But, hold on... That doesn’t make much sense either does it?

So, what gives on the “ultimate standard?” About all Jesus said is that we are supposed to try and be like Him. And, on marriage, he said it doesn’t matter too much because we won’t have that in the Kingdom Of God anyway.

Nowhere is polygamy prohibited. Nowhere is monogamy exalted as any kind of standard, certainly not the ultimate one.

I understand that sometimes polygamy is a brutal way of life for women and that there might be some reasons to look at it askance. I also understand that there were times when all marriage was brutal. We have been willing to let monogamous marriage develop into something new, why not polygamous marriage too? I’ve got nothing against it. Apparently Jesus didn't either. But, neither is the “ultimate standard” I don't think.

Want to know what the real “ultimate standard” is? Because I can tell you.

Ready?

You think I don’t know, but I do. Honest.

I’ll bet my protestant friends have already said it under their breath.

It’s Jesus.

That’s it. The one true and ultimate standard of our faith is Jesus .

It may seem hard to relate to a standard like that... Jesus being the Son of God and all. But, when you are talking quietly with Jesus, remember that he is your brother. You can ask him for right desires. After that, see what is in your heart. You just may find that you have a desire to marry one or more people. You may have a desire for more quite talking, or silence, or if you are lucky celibacy. But, the standard is that the desire itself was forged in the dynamic life of the Trinity, shot into your own heart with Jesus’ bow, delivered on the arrow of the Holy Spirit.

You are not under the authority of any book or bishop. You are a free child of God -- A king, a member of a royal priesthood. You know whether or not to marry, and who to marry, and even, possibly, who else to marry.

Stay close to your standard. Check in all the time, never cease with that. Keep your heart ready for piercing by the arrow and the flowering of whatever follows.

Oh, and when you are talking with Jesus you might want to mention Big Pete… maybe Jesus will pierce his heart too. God only knows.

Lindy Responds to Episcopal Life Article

...there are reminders that the Holy Spirit is at work and that the Churches do want to provide a pastoral ministry to all people and develop a deeper understanding of an issue that often sparks more heat than light.

URL: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/80050_97023_ENG_HTM.htm

It is also true that in many dioceses of our own dear TEC the Church does not really care about providing a pastoral ministry to -- much less with -- all people; nor do they seem too interested in understanding issues which are easier to ignore.

I don't think anyone expects the Church in Sudan to drop everything to have a "listening process." There are good reasons in lots of places for homosexuality not to be on the agenda. I really do, however, expect that Texas should be able to at least acknowledge that there are gay men and lesbians who exist. Our bishop seems unable to even say the words that might lead to a listening process.

To completely ignore a population is perhaps the most pernicious hatred of all. To the best of my recollection Don Wimberley, who occupies the office of bishop, has not said anything at all about homosexuality, nothing on B033, not a single pastoral word to gay men and lesbians, not one. It's as if we don't exist. By making gay men, lesbians, and differently-gendered people invisible he has let it be known that we just don't matter. It's a subtle hatred that cuts to the bone. It is mean-spirited and unbecoming a Christian, certainly one who claims the apostle's mantle.

Texas has a much different situation than Sudan or Congo or even Japan. In Texas we have the means and the opportunity to talk about almost anything. The thing is that this diocese -- contrary to our great Anglican tradition of discussion and questioning -- they simply won't talk about any subject about which there is not already enough consensus to quash dissent. It is a sad, stupid, and unnecessary situation created by a simply incompetent clergy corps.

I don't want to push any province or diocese beyond its ability for dialog. But, I do wish we would push Texas a little bit more.

I am copying those who occupy the office of bishop in Texas in case they wish to point us to any statements that have been made which might be even mildly pastoral towards the GLBT community. At this point we may only hope for something pastoral. Maybe someday we can be so daring as to hope for something welcoming and inclusive... someday.

Linda McMillan
Austin, Texas


Happy Mother's Day to EVERYONE

I think that we all agree that we hate this very stupid and bad day.

In the UK -- Oh, sorry MP, in Eeeengland -- it's Mothering Sunday and it is about the motherly qualities we value in God and one another. That seems like a good idea. But, here in Ah-merkah it's about the mindless worship of any female who conforms perfectly to the societal demand that we all should reproduce. To contribute to the overpopulation of this already small planet is the only requirement. It is a stupid and bad day.

There is, however, a mother that even us crass A'merkuns can turn to, one who never fails, who is always wooing, comforting her little ones. So, whatever else your society and/or church forces you to put up with today -- how many wilted carnations out there? -- I offer you these selections from my own prayer book:

First an ancient hymn

Quem terra

The womb of Mary bore him whom the heavens can not contain.
See the earth, the waters, and all the heavens worship, bow down, and proclaim him.
He is the one who governs the world, Yet he entered the womb of a woman and was contained by her, even though the sun, the moon, and all things serve him forever.
Mary's womb was full of the grace of the heavens.

Blessed mother, by God's gift, the One who is the highest of all powers, the One who holds the world in his hand, was cloistered in your womb.
You are blessed and full of the Holy Spirit by the messenger who came from heaven; in your womb, he who is desired by all people was brought forth.

Glory to you, Lord, who were born of a woman!
With the Father and the Holy Spirit, you dwell forever.
Amen!

It was customary in the 15th century or thereabouts to have a scripture reading followed by some prayers to Mary -- this was during Morning Prayer. The prayers are followed by versicles and responses but I am just going to give you the prayers. It's OK because the versicle/response sequence in Sancta Maria Virgo talks about how Mary bore him whom the heavens could not contain, which is the subject of Sancta Dei genitrix; and the versicle/response sequence in Sancta Dei genitrix is about Mary's worthiness to conceive which naturally leads us to the subject of Mary's meekness in Sancta Maria, piarum.
Enough commentary... just enjoy some time with your Mother.

Orisun I - Sancta Maria Virgo

Holy Mary, you are the woman of all women, you are the mother and daughter of the King of Kings.
May we have with you, the mother of the heavenly kingdom and of all God's chose, a reign with your Son that lasts forever.

Orisun II - Sancta Dei genitrix

Holy mother of God, you deserved to conceive him whom all the world could not hold.
Because of your submission to God's will, our guilt has been washed away, and we have attained the Holy Spirit and the hope of endless life, and will dwell with the Son forever and ever!

Orisun III - Sancta Maria, piarum

Holy Mary, meekest of all meek women, pray for us.
Holiest of all holy women, take our prayers to Jesus, who for us and for our salvation from all evil, was born and reigns above the heavens; for by his love our sins are forgiven.


Orisun is a word for prayer, by the way. It's Latin. It more closely means expression, or opening. More commonly, mouth. Just throwing a little something fancy in there for you today.

I want to be clear that Mother's Day is for everybody. If you have a mother, if you need one, if you mother at all, regardless of sex or gender, if your children are alive, no longer living, from your own body or someone else's this is Mother's Day. A day for all of us.

Each one of you are precious children, valued and wanted. And you are mothers to a nation of kings and priests.

Take some time to thank God for being our mother, and thank Her for all those saints who have mothered you. And give thanks also for the astounding privilege of co-mothering with God this creation, this realm to become Heaven. And pray like mad for the children.