Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Saints

One of the strongest memories I have of All Saints’ Day is being annoyed.  I know it might seem odd that I would have a vivid All Saints’ Day memory, but it is easily explained:  My childhood friend, Tom, would always have a Slumber/Birthday Party on Halloween Night.  Now, the problem was that I could not go because November 1st was All Saints’ Day and in the Roman Catholic tradition, that was a “Holy Day of Obligation.”  For those of you who may not be familiar with this term, it meant that all good Catholics were to go to church on this day.  And the problem was that it really ruined the slumber party when you had to be up and leave early to go to church.  But, in my family, if it was a “Holy Day of Obligation,” then you were in church!
Of course, I would whine and try to get out of going, but my mom would not be budged.  God was more important than any slumber party, so the slumber party always took second place.  But I wanted to know WHY we had to go to church on All Saints’ Day.  She explained that it was to thank God for all the Saints that God put into the world to show us how to be Good Christians
Oh!  We were going to thank God for Grandma!  Grandma taught us how to be good Christians!  And we were going to thank God for Sr. Vencita, she also taught us to be good Christians.  (I was not old enough then to realize that I should thank God for my Mom and Dad, too, as thy were teaching us, in this very act of making us go to church, how to be good Christians.) 
But I was to learn that this is not the case; on All Saints’ Day, we thank God for the REAL SAINTS, the saints that use capitals letters to call them “Saints” and have churches named after them.  When we were to thank God for Grandma was on All Souls’ Day, the day after.  This was the day we thanked God for all the nice people who have died but were not good enough to be considered Saints; and since this was not a “Holy Day of Obligation,” it was up to us to decide if we wanted to go to church or not.
This always seemed odd to me.  I remember reading about some of the “Saints,” and really didn’t see how these people taught me about being a good Christian.  They were doing things like dying of stoning for being a Christian and suffering from boils to proclaim the faith.  And in my life, nothing like that ever happened.  And if having people throw stones at you was what it took to be a “Good Christian,” then, quite frankly, I was pretty content to be a mediocre Christian.
You see, I think I was right!  If a saint is someone who teaches us how to live our lives to be the best Christians we can be, then my Mom, my Dad, my Grandma, and even Sr. Vencita, did a better job than St. Stephen ever did.  St. Stephen may have gotten stoned for his faith, but it was in seeing each of these people, living out their faith through their lives, that truly taught me what it meant to be a good Christian.  These quite ordinary people were the ones who helped me to learn about the love of God.
For most of us, our faith is not something that is plopped down upon us, fully formed, from Heaven; it is something that is grown over time.  It is something that we have nurtured by those, who, as I like to say, live their faith “out loud.”  It is something that is planted and tended by those who live their faith in their lives.
I am willing to bet that each of you sitting here today is sitting here because of a saint in your life.  You are here because your mother, father, grandma, grandpa, godparent, teacher, lived their faith through their life and challenged you to live out your faith too!
Faith is spread like dominoes.  It started with God and is passed through people.  Each person lives out their faith and passes it on to another.  Just like dominoes toppling, one saint passes the love of God on to others who in turn pass that faith on even farther.  Many of us are here today because Fr. Jerry passed his faith on to you.  He lived his life of faith, passing God’s love on to those he met.  And it was through him, and through the others in our lives that we find ourselves sitting here this morning.
I have given each of you a domino as a way of remembering and also as a challenge.  When you look at this domino, I ask you to remember those who have passed their faith on to you.  I ask you to remember the parents, the friends, the Sunday School teachers, the priests and deacons, all those people who have been important in your growth in faith.  Whenever you look at this domino, I would ask you to thank God for those people who loved you and cared for you.  Whenever you look at this domino, I would ask you to thank God for those who cared enough to spread the story of God to you.
But also, whenever you look at this domino, I ask you to be challenged.  Are you sharing your faith with those around you?  Are you nurturing the love of God in those whom you encounter on a daily basis?  When you look at this domino, ask yourself if you are part of the chain that has started with God, and will pass on through the ages, or have you pulled yourself out and now there is an empty spot.  I ask you to see this domino as a challenge to spread the faith that has nurtured and sustained you.  I am asking you to be a saint in the world, just as others have been a saint to you!
If you feel so inclined, I also challenge you to share the story.  I challenge you to take a domino and give it to someone who has been a saint to you!  Give it to a person whose love and kindness helped you to learn what it meant to be a Child of God.  Give it to the person whose unselfish act reminded you that there is more in the world than just the greed and self-centeredness we seem to be surrounded by.  Give it to that person, and share with that person why he or she is part of the chain of faith, the Communion of Saints, that have made up your life.  Give it to that person, and let him or her know that their love has changed you.
A final challenge I give you, especially you who are parents, is to  take a domino and give one to each of your child and tell them how you have worked to nurture the love of God in each of their lives.  Share with them the dreams you have for their lives and let them know the joy God has brought to you because of them.  Give this domino to them the same way that I give it to you, as a reminder and as a challenge.
Today, we gather to thank God for the saints in our lives; the ones with the first name of “Saint,” but also the ones whose names begin with Mom, Dad, brother, sister, Father, Deacon, aunt, uncle, or friend.  We gather to thank God for those who have shared their lives with us and in the process shared God with us.  Today, we come to church, not because it is a “Holy Day of Obligation,” but because we wish to thank God and praise God for all the saints that God has placed into our lives.  We thank God for those who helped us to make the hard decisions, the faithful decisions, even when we would have preferred to go to the slumber party or the soccer match.  We thank God for those who taught us what it means to be good Christians in the world, not just mediocre Christians ruled by the world.
We gather today to give thanks for all the saints in our lives. We thank God for Fr. Jerry and all those who, like him, took the time to teach us and nurture us.  We thank God for all those called to the table and those who may not yet feel welcome to the table.  We join in thanks for all those who have gone before, and we gather to ask for the strength to continue the chain of faith and to be part of the Communion of Saints.
God has given us the gift of saints, and we are grateful!  And now we are called and challenged to go out and become saints for others.

Happy Halloween!

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Believing is Seeing

Mark 10:46-52

Yesterday, Gigi, Kelly, and I were at the Diocesan Convention.
As part of the convention, our Bishop, The Right Rev. Harvey Holy was speaking about perspective. He was talking about how our perception on the world has a major effect on how we see the world. He showed the picture, asking if it was a vase or two faces. He showed a glass, asking if it was half-full or half-empty. He talked about how in most of these situations, how we saw the picture had little to do with what was there and everything to do with our perceptions.
The glass is both half-full AND half-empty. The picture is both a vase AND two faces. They are both! But where we get into trouble is when we start insisting on one and only one perception. If we see the glass as only half-empty, and insist on only that perception, then we have a problem with someone who perceives that glass as half-full. And the same with the vase and the faces: as long as we insist that only one view is correct, there will be problems with those who perceive otherwise.
This got me thinking about a class in sensation and perception that I took many years ago and also about the gospel reading for today. From the class, we talked about how our perceptions can totally effect what we see and what we don’t see. Depending upon our perceptions, we may actually be blind to some very obvious thing. From the gospel, I started to think about being blind and how our perceptions can cause us to be blind to some things that may be totally obvious to someone else.
In the gospel reading, we have the story of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar. Bartimaeus’ one wish is to be able to see again. I guess this is an understandable request. But actually, it is not one that most of us would understand. Thankfully, most of us have never been blind; so we cannot know what it would be like to be without sight or what it would be like to desire to have that sight returned. But for most of us, if not all of us, we do know what it is like to be blinded by our perceptions. And it is in being blinded by our perceptions that we can learn much from Blind Bartimaeus.
As I said, perceptions can blind us just as much as having no sight at all. When we believe that our way of perceiving is the only way, we can become blinded to what Christ may have in store for us. When we believe that what we have always been or what we have always done is the only way it could ever be, we become blinded to the potential that could be ours in Christ. When we are not in contact with Christ, we lose our perceptions, we lose our way, we lose our sight.
Bartimaeus had it nice, he was able to be right there in the presence of Christ. He was able to ask Jesus to change his perceptions and to help him see. For us, this is a little more difficult; Jesus is not walking the world any more. But this does not mean that we are totally left alone. This dos not mean that we are totally left to our own perceptions. It is the view of the world that we do not have Christ to lead us, and that is what has gotten us into the troubles we see around us.
But we have not been left alone. We have been promised that we would not be left alone. Christ promised us that we would have a comforter and an advocate that would be given to us. And we have! We have the Holy Spirit. Christ gave us the Holy Spirit to support us and guide us. Christ gave us the Holy Spirit to help us with our perception.
Part of how we maintain our perceptions in Christ is when we gather together as the body. When we gather together as the church we support each other and we help each other to grow. When we invite others to join us in worship, we broaden our perceptions. Instead of just seeing the vase, we can now see the faces. Each new person who joins together in community increases our perception and helps us to see the fullness of Christ in the world.
But coming to worship is just the beginning. We also need to continue to learn. We need to continue our life long study of scripture. If we never had an experience of a vase, we would never see the vase. If we have never seen a face, we would not understand that the background was composed of faces. But because we are familiar with these things, they alter our perception of life. When we limit our faith to those things that we learned in confirmation, we limit our perceptions and choose to walk through our world with blinders on.
The Bishop spoke of the three steps in changing our perceptions. The first step is “Repentance.” Now this is not the usual way we think of repentance. We usually think of repentance as being “oh so sorry” for all the things that we have done. But there is a problem with this; if we don’t’ perceive properly, we will never know what we should be repenting of. So our first step, our repentance step is to work to see the world as it really is, not as we wish it were. And again, I believe the Spirit is best comprehended when we gather together as a community to worship and to study.
The next step is that of Renewal. Renewal is being open to change. We may see reality truly and accurately, but if we are not willing to make the necessary changes, we are just as blind as if we did not see reality at all. Change may be frightening, but one of the facts of life is that change will and does occur. When we open ourselves to renewal, we open ourselves to the changes that God will bring into our lives.
And the final step is Revitalization. Revitalization is exactly what it says, it is making us once again vital, bringing us new life that we can find in Christ. When we look at life in an open and honest manner, when we join together and open ourselves to the working of the Spirit, when we join together as a repentant community of renewal, we open ourselves to change that God will bring into our lives. And when we are open to this change, God will bring new life to us. When we are open to new life, God will open our eyes so we can truly see.
Bartimaeus wanted to see, and he knew that Christ could give that gift to him. We, too, are blinded by or perceptions, but when we come together as a community of faith, we find our perceptions changed and our true sight restored. We find the gift of perception when we join together for worship, for communion, and for study. This is a great gift that has been given to us, and it is a gift we are call upon to share with others.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why Do We Grasp?

I think one of the downfalls of having a background in psychology is that you become a watcher of people.  Whether you like it or not, it just becomes something you do.  And you don’t just watch people, you pay attention to what they are doing and try to figure out just exactly why they are doing what they are doing. 
Take kids for instance.  I used to direct an after school program.  No matter what we were doing, if it involved a line, all the kids would try to get to the front of the line.  If we were going outside, there would be a push to be the first one by the door.  It we were going to have a snack, there would be a push to be the first one by the window.  It didn’t matter what, there was always the push to be the first one in line.
This behavior confused me.  If we were all going to be going outside, then why was there such a rush to be the first one?  We always had enough snacks for everyone.  Why would there be such a rush to be sure to be the first to get one?  What was so important about being the first person to get something?
Well, I was thinking about this while swerving in and out of traffic while trying to get to the Meridian Mall.  And while I was driving, I started thinking: Why was I rushing?  Why did I need to get ahead of everyone else?  It was not like the mall was going to disappear at a certain time; it would still be there.  So why was I rushing?  It really struck me as weird.  Why was I putting so much effort into rushing, pushing, and trying to get there first?
Now, not to be so hard on myself and on the kids, but trying to be first does make some sense.  When things are limited, trying to get there first makes real sense.  If you are not one of the first, you may not get what you want.  I don’t know if you remember, now what is many years ago, the whole big uproar over Cabbage Patch Kid dolls.  I remember people getting into fights just to get one of these things.  People would wait in line for hours and then push and fight just to one of the few dolls that were available.  If you wanted one, you had to be first.
I guess we want to be first because we want our own part of the limited supplies that there are.  And not only do we want a part, we want the best of it all.  We want to be first so we can have the best seat in the house, the best gaming system, or the best new gadgets there are.  We want to be first so we can get the best.  And really, wanting what is best is quite natural.  If you have the best, you tend to live better; you tend to live longer.  Having the best is not a bad thing.
So when we look at James and John in today’s gospel reading, we can understand what they are trying to do.  They really are not doing anything that is all that unnatural.  They wanted to be assured that they would have the best places, the places next to Jesus.  I guess it would be like having front row seats at a concert.  To sit at someone’s right and left would be to have your status publicly acknowledged.  To sit at someone’s right and left would be to say that these people are “second in command.”  By sitting on someone’s right and left, you get to bask in the light of the person who is sitting at the head.
John and James wanted these positions.  They wanted to be seen as those who were in power.  They wanted to bask in Jesus’ light.  They were like the people waiting to the Cabbage Patch Kids, they wanted to be there first so they could get the best.  Although they wanted to be in positions of power, they really didn’t seem to understand the whole message of Jesus.
But not too surprisingly, the other disciples didn’t seem to understand the message either.  The others become angry with James and John.  I am guessing the reason the others were angry was because they had not thought of asking first!  When they heard James and John’s request, their thought was probably, “Why didn’t I think of that!”  The other disciples didn’t want James and John to get the best positions, so they got angry with the two.  But, you know, the other disciples didn’t understand Jesus’ message either.
Our reading for today follows the stories of bringing the children to Jesus and the rich young man.  In these past stories, Jesus was showing them, and showing us, that in the reign of God, things are not always as they seem.  The young children are the ones Jesus tells should be brought to him, and all the wealth in the world cannot buy our salvation.  What we see is not what is real. 
The reign of God that Jesus has been trying to show is the reign of abundance.  In the reign of God, the blind see and the deaf hear.  The ill are made well and the poor hear the good news.  The reign of God is not filled with Cabbage Patch dolls or other things that will parish.  The reign of God is unlimited!
The request of James and John, and the other disciples’ response to this request, shows us just how much they believe in a limited God.  The disciples were constantly with Jesus.  They saw how Jesus healed, how Jesus taught.  They heard Jesus tell that the reign of God is at hand.  But even with all of that “proof,” the disciples still didn’t get it.  Even with all they had seen with their own eyes, they still believed that the world of limitations that they saw around them was the world of reality.  Even though they saw the abundance poured out through Jesus, they persisted to believe in the world of scarcity.
Our whole economy is powered by our belief in scarcity.  Our prices are set, based on how scarce an item is; whether this scarcity is real or perceived.  Because this belief in scarcity surrounds us, it is hard for us to think in any other manner.  However, Jesus presents us with a different worldview, a radically different worldview. 
So often we say that Jesus presents a radically different view of the world, but have we really considered how different this is?  Jesus does not view the world from a viewpoint of scarcity.  Jesus does not see the limits that we impose on the world.  Jesus functions within a worldview of abundance and tries to pass this view on to his followers.  He tells them that whoever wishes to be great must become a servant and whoever wishes to be first must become a slave to all.  We have been given a choice:  if we wish to be first, we must become a slave, if we wish to be great, we must become a servant.
Have you ever been someplace with a caterer?  Often the staff is allowed to eat.  But when do the servants eat?  (Or maybe I should call them “waitstaff.”)  Do they eat first?  Do they eat before the people at the party?  No, they would eat after the party is over and all of the people left.  It is then that they can eat.  But lets think of something else.  What would happen if the servers knew that the way they were serving the food would result in there being no food left for them to eat?  What would happen then?  Would the servers truly serve?  Would they give all they were supposed to give or would they hold some back some food for themselves?  To truly serve, there needs to be the assurance that there will be enough for all.  After the guest have eaten their fill, the servers need to be the assurance that there will also be enough left for them.  If there is not the assurance of abundance, the servants will hold back food for themselves and not truly serve as they should.  Because we are human, we can only truly serve when we have the assurance that there will be enough.  When we are assured that there is an abundance, it is then that we humans can serve with a loving heart.
Jesus calls us to be servants.  He wants us to go out and serve with a happy heart.  When he calls us to drink the cup that he drinks and to be baptized with his baptism, Jesus is calling us to God’s reign of abundance.  In these words, Jesus is calling us to give our lives in the service of others.  If we believe that God is limited, like Cabbage Patch dolls, we will have trouble giving our life, but Jesus shows us that we have life in abundance.  In the reign of God, there is so much life that death does not even have the final say.  Although Jesus was killed on the cross, death did not have the final word.  In the reign of God, abundance of life will always have the final word.
What is interesting is that Jesus does not say who will sit at his right and left.  Jesus says that is for God to decide.  So who does God choose to sit in these coveted positions?  Well, when Jesus is crucified, who flanks him on the cross?  Is it his disciples?  No, when Christ is undergoing the ultimate humiliation, the two who are on his right and left are two criminals.  Two recognized sinners are placed in the positions of power!  God’s love for us is so abundant that even the criminals are included!  In God’s reign, even the sinners are given positions of honor!
We can be servants because we know there is an abundance.  We can be generous because Christ shows us that scarcity is an illusion.  The world of God is not a Cabbage Patch kind of world!  It is a world where leaders are servants.  It is a world where the powerful are lowered and the lowly are raised up.  It is a world where the killed becomes the savior who brings eternal life.  The world of God is the world where the place of honor is reserved for you and for me.  The world of God is where all are wanted, all are cared for, all are loved.  We don’t need to rush, we don’t need to be first, we don’t need to grasp for whatever we can get.  The God love has placed a world of abundant love right in our midst!  We just need to look with the eyes of faith.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Spong Manifesto

I have not found a definitive link to this,  but I have found it all over and have not found Spong refuting it.  So it must be ok.  Even if it is a fake, it is something that needs to be said!

A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!
John Shelby Spong
I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is "an abomination to God," about how homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle," or about how through prayer and "spiritual counseling" homosexual persons can be "cured." Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate "reparative therapy," as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality "deviant." I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that "we love the sinner but hate the sin." That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is "high-sounding, pious rhetoric." The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn't. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to "Roll on over or we'll roll on over you!" Time waits for no one.
I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church who seek to break away from this body to form a "new church," claiming that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings, who are so deeply locked into a world that no longer exists, to form a community in which they can continue to hate gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless rhetoric and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.

In my personal life, I will no longer listen to televised debates conducted by "fair-minded" channels that seek to give "both sides" of this issue "equal time." I am aware that these stations no longer give equal time to the advocates of treating women as if they are the property of men or to the advocates of reinstating either segregation or slavery, despite the fact that when these evil institutions were coming to an end the Bible was still being quoted frequently on each of these subjects. It is time for the media to announce that there are no longer two sides to the issue of full humanity for gay and lesbian people. There is no way that justice for homosexual people can be compromised any longer.
I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude. I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance and even killing prejudice is somehow acceptable, so long as it comes from third-world religious leaders, who more than anything else reveal in themselves the price that colonial oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our world's population. I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it. I will dismiss as unworthy of any more of my attention the wild, false and uninformed opinions of such would-be religious leaders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Albert Mohler, and Robert Duncan. My country and my church have both already spent too much time, energy and money trying to accommodate these backward points of view when they are no longer even tolerable.
I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church. "Don't ask, don't tell" will be dismantled as the policy of our armed forces. We will and we must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself. Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a "mobocracy," which this nation rejected when it adopted its constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.
I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.
The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture's various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.
I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the "Flat Earth Society" either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church's participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.
Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: "New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth." I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.
This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring will help cleanse both the church and this nation of its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both church and state. It will signal that a new day has dawned and we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to celebrate it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rude Society

I don't know if I have just become that depressed or what, but it seems that our world has just become rude, touchy, I don't know.  We can no longer take a joke.  Everything is of Earth shattering proportions.  I had a life long friend totally block me from Facebook because I found a situation involving Rush Limbaugh to be funny.

The situation involved me posting a screen capture with a truncated headline which read, "Pulitzer Winner Compares Rush to a Plant..."  the last word was "Plantation Owner" but I thought the inadvertent commentary to be funny.  My friend did not.  This fiend went into a tirade about how Rush has be so maligned and how we just need to pay attention to Fox News to learn all we need to know.  Another friend chimed about how this needs to not be so political which ended in another tirade.

I defriended both of them because I was tired of having everything that I posted becoming a shout-fest.  I then went back and first invited the friend in Germany, explaining that I enjoy chatting with her, but could she please not comment on the other person's comments?  She was fine with that.

Then I went to search for the childhood friend.  I could not find her.  I then searched for her using Nick's account and there she was!  She had blocked me!  Because I had found the Rush situation funny and was not going to put up with Fox News fueled rantings, she has decided that defending Rush is more important than friendship.

She will probably say that I am being closed minded or uncaring, but I am still totally confused how a usually sane woman can get so anxiety plagued.

How have we become this shouting, screaming, childish society? 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Then and Now

Dr. Spo had this posted.  Thought it was interesting.

Then ~ October 1989
1. Age: 25.
2. Romantic Status: Alone.
3. Occupation: Grad Student

4. Fun night out: Going to the bar in the Holiday Inn and playing funny money poker.

5. My BFFs: Doug and Collen
6. I spent way too much time: playing with the computer.

7. I spent not enough time: Being true to myself.

8. I wanted to be when I grew up: An experimental psychologist.

9. Biggest concern: Getting assignments done
10. What my biggest concern should have been:  Getting assignments done. 

11. Where did I live: Cedar Falls, IA

12. Dumbest thing I did that year: I really don't know.

13. If I could go back now and talk to myself I would say: Get over yourself.  Come out.  Get into therapy.  Deal with life!

Now ~ October 2009
1. Age: 45.
2. Romantic Status: partnered for 4 years.

3. Occupation: Priest/Barista
4. Fun night out: Burgers and Beers

5. My BFFs: Nick!  Doug and Colleen, Anna, Dennis, Beth

6. I spend way too much time: Playing on Facebook

7. I spend not enough time: Trying to find a better work situation.

8. I want to be when I grow up: Happy and working in a fulfilling area.

9. Biggest concern: being trapped.

10. What my biggest concern should be: Doing what I am called to do and leaving the world to tend to itself.

11. Where do I live: Lansing, MI

12. Dumbest thing I have done this year: Signed up for overdraft protection.

13. What I think I would say to myself in 10 years:  Your job is not to save the world.

1. What do I miss most from 1989: That feeling of sheer potential

2. What do I miss least from 1989: Feeling like I am being a fake to myself and the world.

3. What have I accomplished in 20 years that I am most proud of: My relationship with Nick.

4. What have I NOT accomplished in 20 years that I wish I had: (I will steal Spo's answer) Feeling secure.

Mental Wresteling

I guess if life were easy and predictable, it would be boring.  But sometimes, it would be nice if it just slowed down a little.

I keep having to wonder if I am in the right place being in the Episcopal Church.  I keep wondering if I am the kind of person that the church needs.  I am definitely not a high church kind of person.  And all the canons and rules drive me nuts. 

I feel like I came out of the closet just to go back into another one.  This time, it is the closet of theology.  I feel like I have to hide my  theology and my feelings to be acceptable. 

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bitch Session

Sometimes I wonder how I keep going on.  It just seems like thing never end.  The moment it seems like we are finally getting back on our feet, something comes and kicks us out at the knees.  All of this and the truck is acting up again.  I don't know if I want to cry, scream, or go barista on someone's ass!

Come Out, Com Out, Wherever You Are!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama Derangement Syndrome

Give It Away

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’”
Ok, there has GOT to be a mistake here!  Someone, somewhere, must have made a translation error.  I am sure the verse went something like this, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You’ve worked so very hard to get all of your money.  You deserve to give yourself a treat.  Go out on a shopping spree so you can show the world how much you have been blessed.  And then, when you are comfortable, you can come and follow me.”  That HAS to be the translation.  The Bible says that Jesus loved the guy!  When we love people, we don’t want them to be poor, do we?  But there it is, “go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor...”  That is what Jesus says to those whom He loves.
I find it interesting that even people who claim to interpret the Bible literally will drive expensive cars and live in expensive homes.  They seem ever ready to jump on the “literal” meaning of the Bible, except where it becomes difficult.  And I should not be so quick to lay judgment upon others; aren’t we all like that?  (I say this at the risk of tarnishing my liberal reputation)  I heard Dr. Laura once say that we would all like to have OTHERS have a Biblical morality.  We think it would be great if others followed all the rules in the Bible and followed all the Ten Commandments.  But when it comes to us, we would like to have a little wiggle room.  Ok, we would like to have A LOT of wiggle room!  Living life is not easy.  And trying to follow all the injunctions of the Bible is not easy.  So it just seems cruel to lay all of these injunctions on top of a difficult life!  If Jesus really loved the guy, Jesus would have been willing to let the young man spend all of his money, and Jesus would have made all of the man’s water into wine just to help ease the burden!
But that is not what we are told happened.  Jesus loved the man, and in loving him, Jesus told the man to sell everything and give it to the poor.  Then, after he sold everything and had nothing left, then, and only then, should the man come and follow Jesus.  These are very uncomfortable words.  And as I said before, words that even the most staunch Biblical literalist finds ways to avoid.
The effect these words of Jesus have should be very similar to the effect of last week’s gospel reading.  We should be jarred by them.  They are not what we would expect to hear and they should cause us to sit up and take notice.
Does Jesus really want the man to become poor?  This seems kind of silly.  He sells all he has and in the process becomes poor.  It seems to kind of defeat the purpose.  And yes, you would be right.  But, Jesus, being the great psychologist that he is, knew how to make a point. 
See, when talking to people, if you want to make a point and don’t want to offend people, you use a HUGE example.  This allows people to get involved in the story and does not make them feel like the example is directed specifically at them.  So in this case, Jesus is using the example of selling EVERYTHING to make a point.
So what is the point that Jesus is making?  Well, once the man sells everything and gives it to the poor, it is then that Jesus tells the man to come and follow.  Does that mean that Jesus wants us all to be poor?  No.  But it does mean that Jesus wants us to be in a state where we are ready to learn.
Have you ever tried to teach something to a “Know-It-All?”  It is really difficult!  Nick tells me stories about a guy where he works who will ask a question. Then, when Nick tries to answer it, the man says, “No, that is not right!”  Nick wants to scream and say if the guy already knew the answer, why was he asking questions!  Whether we want to admit it or not, we quite often approach our faith in this manner.  We will go to God in prayer about something, but we already have the answer in mind.  So when the answer comes to us, we are very ready to say, “No, that is not right!”  We want God to answer our prayers, but we want them answered in the way that we already figured out!
I am sure the man in the gospel reading had some idea in mind when he asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.  I am sure he had some kind of “To Do” list and was looking for Jesus to verify his ideas.  I am sure he was not so much searching for truth as he was looking to have his ideas verified.  But that is not what happened!  In bringing his question before Jesus, the man had his world rocked!  After his encounter with Jesus, I am sure the man would not look at the world in the same way again.
What Jesus told the man, in effect, was, “Everything that you consider to be important, is not!”  Think about this!  How would you feel if Jesus told you that the sacrifices you made raising your family were not important?  How would you feel if Jesus told you that the money you contributed to charity was not important?  How would you feel if Jesus told you that the time you donated to the homeless was not important?  In all of these things, what you did was a good start, but was not enough?  What YOU did was not important!  How would that make you feel?  I would guess it would probably make most of us feel pretty bad.  And in the gospel reading, we see this very response; the young man went away grieving.
Now this seems cruel, and would be except for one thing:  We are told that Jesus loved the young man.  Jesus was not doing this to the man to be cruel to him, he was telling this to the young man because Jesus loved the man!
So, there has got to be some clues here to help us.  If we look, we see that Jesus does have a plan for the young man.  The young man, after removing all those things that he, the young man, thinks are important, can finally open himself up to those things that are truly important.  It is only when the false idols, or maybe we could call them “False Securities” are gone that the man is finally able to follow Christ!
We are pretty self-reliant people.  We want to be in control even if that control is an illusion.  We want the lists and we want the ironclad contracts.  We want to know exactly what we have to do to get into God’s good graces.  We want to know just how many sins we can commit, or what type of sins to avoid, so we can be issued a heavenly harp upon our death.  We want to be sure we have it all sewn up before we die.  We don’t want to leave it up to chance!  This was the mindset of the young man:  How could he use his money to assure his place in Heaven? 
And Jesus jarring response is the loving truth:  You can’t use your money to assure a place in Heaven.  Money can buy you a seat on the Heavenly Bus just as easily as it will allow a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  Our money, our possessions, our talents will NOT assure us a place in the Eternal Kingdom.
So, what is our assurance?  Well, for God, all things are possible.  We have been given money, and gifts, and talents to use for the promotion of God’s reign on earth, but these are not what assures us of Eternal life.  It is our faith in Christ in all things.  It is our faith that if we release these things that we hold so dear and allow God to work through our lives, that we will find the life we have been looking for.  It is in our faith that God will provide for our needs that we find the truth.
How is our wealth holding us back?  I am not just talking about money here!  We may have a wealth of insight.  We may have a wealth of strength.  We may have a wealth of caring.  How are we holding onto these things as a means of ensuring that we will receive Eternal Life?  How do we trust that God will not abandon us and just go out and give it away?  That is not an easy question, is it?  But that is the ideal Christ places before us.  Christ wants us to be as extravagant with our gifts has God has been in giving us gifts!  Our gifts are to be used and shared!
We have been assured eternal life through our Savior.  We do not need to be searching for ways to save ourselves.  Christ saves us through faith, which opens us for a whole realm of possibilities!!  Do we wish to hang on to those things that we feel are important or do we want to follow our faith and find the true treasure?
This is the challenge placed before the man in today’s gospel, and this is the challenge placed before us.  But we have one advantage!  We know that Christ is raised from the dead and has saved us by his blood!  This is the good news of the Gospel!  This is the true treasure we can hang onto, even while we share it!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Seven Meme

I stole this from Ur-Spo.

7 Things That Scare Me
1. Crashing Planes (When I am on them!)
2. Being found to be clueless
3. Being wrong
4. Preaching a bad sermon
5. Being totally broke
6. Nothingness
7. Having Nick angry with me.

7 Things I Like
1. Cuddling and MORE! with Nick
2. Cuddly kitties
3. Really heavy quilts
4. Good beer
5. Snow
6. Storms

7 Things I Hate
1. Stupid People
2. People who will not admit to what they want and manipulate people to get it.
3. Smokers throwing their butts out the car window (pigs!)
4. Biblical Literalists
5. catchup
6. Green Peppers
7. Hypocracy

7 Things In My Room

1. Nick and Claudia

2. Computer
3. Television

4. Christmas Count-down Clock

5. Various stained glass pieces

6. A trunk that a former parishioner brought with her from Russia


7 Things About Me

1. I tend to over idealize things.

2. I secretly feel like I am failing at most things.
3. I was a State Hula-Hoop finalist
4. My family used to do "Sunday Drives" and I still love them.
5. I listen to Christmas music year round.
6. I like making people question their faith
7. I love trivia!

7 Things To Do Before I Die
1.Go to Paris
2. Travel in space
3. Own a cabin in the mountains with a natural hotspring (an no neighbors!)
4. Write a book
5. Create a monumental piece of stained glass
6. See a green flash
7. Own a Frank Lloyd Wright or Fay Jones home.

7 Things I Can Do
1. Recall a lot of trivial stuff
2. Break a femur with my foot
3. Make a kickin' White Mocha
4. Quote almost the entire "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" (NOT THE MOVIE!)

5. Whip out a sun-catcher at a moments notice

6. Speak Systems Theory with the best of them.

7 Things I Can’t Do
1. Roll my tongue
2. Understand what is so attractive about one's pants being around one's knees.
3. Tolerate hypocrisy
4. Understand finances
5. Be traditionally organized
6. Understand how people can be fundamentalists
7. What people see in NASCAR

7 Favorite Movies
1. The Rose
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
3. Harold and Maude
4. Memento
5. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
6. Bladerunner
7. A Christmas Story

7 Things I Say Often
1. "I love you!"
2. "Do you want whipped on that?"
3. "Would you like that Grande sized?"
4."I don't want to go to work."
5. "Ouch!"
6."God loves you more than you can ever conceive."
7. "I don't know where Ross is"  (Ross is the lead barista.)

Thoughts on Life.

Well, things have been going. Life is... I guess.

Some to the things that have been going through my head lately have been thoughts about what does it mean to be "Happy." Do we have the ability to be content? Do we need to be constantly entertained? Are we lacking the ability to just exist in the world anymore?

I grew up with the TV on and my parents were not well educated so reading was not lifted up. We had a radio on and the TV on. Life had something going on. We also were not allowed to have sad or angry feelings. We could only have happy ones. (Or at least that was all we were allowed to express.) So now, it seems that if I am not "happy" I must therefore be "sad." The concept of just existing was not acceptable.

This has carried on throughout life. I have to learn to be ok with being ok.

Someone said that we are the generation of perpetual novelty. We need to be bombarded by "the new" or we cannot function. I am definitely in agreement. I am also afraid of what is going to happen as our children grow. The TV has grown into iPhones and PSP's. (I almost typed PCP! Maybe not that far off!) Yesterday, walking through a store, I saw two children (less than 12) with their noses buried in an electronic device. The act of shopping was not stimulating enough, they had to be playing too.

Have I been so overstimulated as a child that now I cannot exist without "gosh golly wow" moments constantly filling my life? Can I learn how to be content and not see this as something that is bad? Do I see "normal" as a proving to the world that I am NOT one of the jocks or one of the popular people? If I were, my life would be one giant party and one continuous HAPPY! I know this is wrong, but it is the script that continues to resonate through my mind.

And I have to wonder, will this sense of ennui continue through our children? Will they continue to have to be entertained or they will just sink into depression?

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Mark 10:2-16

Isn’t it fun to watch little kids? They are so interesting, and in many ways, so predictable. I have a little thought experiment for you. There is a plate of candy sitting on a table. Now, there is a little kid in the room and you tell the kid to not touch the candy. To make it even more interesting, you say, “Now, don’t touch any of that really yummy candy!” Then, after saying that, you walk out of the room. I am sure all of us would agree that the kid will go about doing whatever the kid was doing previously and will not, no matter how long the kid is left alone, touch the candy.
Who am I kidding! We know that the kid, no matter how good, will eventually go over and take a piece of the “really yummy candy!” That is just the way kids are. The moment you tell them “no,” it is then that they want to do exactly what you told them not to do.
And even though we are adults, I think we are still guilty of this behavior. I have seen people in stores handle things while standing in front of a sign that says, “Please Do Not Touch.” I have seen people graze their way through a grocery store knowing that they will never pay of the things they have eaten. We are told, “No, we should not do this,” but we still knowingly break the rules.
Does this behavior make us horrible people? Does it make us terrible people? Does it make us “BAD?” No, nothing of the sort! So what does this behavior make us? Well, it makes us human. Part of being human is to see how far we can push the rules. Don’t believe me? It this weren’t so, we wouldn’t need police; we would all know that rules and not break them. But because we are human, we always push the rules.
And if anyone would understand this, it would be God. God knows we are going to push the rules. Heck, more than that, we will knowingly break the laws God has given us. God has given us freewill and in the use of freewill, we WILL go against wishes of God. That is just a simple statement of life.
So, because kids, and adults, are going to break the rules, does this mean that we totally abandon all laws? Because just about everyone ignores speed limits, does this mean that we never have speed limits? Well, of course not. We have rules and laws in place because it is a good thing to do. Rules and laws keep us safe. Rules and laws make life easier to live. Rules and laws are a good thing. Rules and laws make our lives better.
But we still have the problem of breaking the rule. Well, there are the possible consequences such as getting an upset stomach from eating too much candy or burnt fingers from touching the hot pan on the stove. There are also other consequences such as the anger and disapproval of the parents or possible fines. But even with all the consequences, I think we would all agree the world would be a better place if we would all just follow the laws and the rules. But, alas, being human, we just aren’t going to always follow the rules.
Is God going to abandon us if we don’t follow God’s laws? Or should God just stop making rules and laws and allow us to do whatever we want? Of course the answer to both of those questions is, “No.” God will not abandon us if we don’t follow God’s laws. God wants us to follow God’s laws and rules, these make life more enjoyable, but God will not abandon us. And God is not going to stop expecting the best of us. Just as we expect the best for our children, God expects the best from us. But God is not going to abandon us if we fall short of the goal. Just like we would not abandon our own children if they fall short, God will not abandon us.
This is the lesson we are to learn from today’s scripture readings. God has great plans for us, but when we fall short of these plans, we are not abandoned. God wants what is best for us, but when we don’t live up to these plans, God does not leave us dangling. Although God wants what is best for all of God’s children, God loves us enough to have some contingency plans.
Jesus tells us that divorce was not part of God’s plans for us. God does not want our relationships to fall apart. I am sure we have all seen some pretty messy divorces and I am sure we can agree that a world where divorce was not necessary would be a pretty wonderful thing. But I think we would also agree that in some situations, divorce can be quite a blessing. Although we may not want to see marriages end, in some cases, the best thing that can happen is for a marriage to end and for the people to continue their lives apart. Divorce is not what God wants for us, but because we are human and we have freewill, divorce is given to us. Divorce, even though it is not the ideal, is still a gift.
God knows that we are not perfect. God knows that we are going to wander away and try to do things our own way. God knows that even though we are given an ideal, because of freewill, we will fall short of that ideal. And in God’s goodness, we have that out. But Jesus also reminds us that this is not what God had wanted for us. Just like we do not want our kids to get into trouble, and we would like for our children to listen to us, God wants us to pay attention and to learn. But when we fall short, we are not abandoned.
Now lets do a quick jump to the end of the gospel reading. At the beginning of the reading we have all this talk about divorce and adultery, all this really deep stuff. But suddenly, at the end of the reading, we are talking about children. "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” The shift is almost jarring. However, it is this jarring shift that should make us think.
The children are brought into the picture to help us to gain perspective. How do we love and care for our children? We set up rules, we set up laws. We provide expectations and we send them on their way. We know that our children will make mistakes, but we also know that our children will learn from their mistakes. We would hope that our children would listen and learn, but we also know that our children will have to experience life in their own way. We would hope that we could pass our knowledge on to our children, but we know that our kids will go out and find the truth themselves.
And as jarring and disjointed as this shift may seem, it does make sense. God has a vision for our lives. God has a dream for our lives. But God also knows that we, just like we know our children will do, will go out and experience life. We will run over God’s law and we will experience the pain of our mistakes. But in the midst of our experiencing of life, we are given the assurance that because we are the beloved children of God, we can still come to Christ, and we will still be accepted with open, loving, arms. "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them…” That is what Jesus is saying to us. God would prefer we follow God’s plan for our lives, but when we take the candy from the candy dish, we can rest assured that we are still loved and accepted.
We are the children of God and we are all accepted. Even if we fall short, God is there for us. Even when we flaunt God’s law, God still calls us to the table. God is the ultimate parent; we are loved more than we can ever know. We are called to the table in love, and we are called to spread that love to the world.