You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2015.
I don’t know what it is about me. Introvert though I may be, I seem to invite intrusive questions and comments from strangers. I’m amazed at how many of them are about my son. When I was pregnant, people would ask me what he was going to be. “I don’t know. I haven’t met him yet.” I know it sounds rude but I was mystified. And it’s probably just as well that I didn’t try to guess because it is clear that God is the one that chose his talents. Me? I’d have done a few things differently.
In many ways, we’re a lot alike. We’re both introverts who genuinely like people to a point. When we’ve had enough, we’ve had enough. We both love movies and books and super heroes and gaming and animals and science and history. That’s a lot of common ground, but God also gave him interests and talents that are entirely his own.
One of his all-time favorite Scouting experiences was Pack and Paddle, a leadership training course that required him to spend a week backpacking and canoeing. Me? I have a house. Why would I sleep outside? After the zombie apocalypse fine, but for fun? No, thank you.
Then there’s swimming. He adores swim team and the sense of camaraderie. Water is his element and he’s actively swimming from early June until mid-November. Although parents are required to work only one swim meet, I usually work more like 6. I’d rather be on deck and close to the action in spite of everything.
This summer, someone told my son that he’s lucky I love the water. “She’s always here.”
These assumptions may confuse me, but my son laughs. “You’re kidding right? She hates water.”
The thing is God created us as two very different people. My son loves things I don’t — swimming, camping, and rock climbing. But that’s okay. You will never find him knitting, crocheting or writing. We each have our God given talents.
We just need to remember that God knit him together to be one person and He knit me together to be another. The key is remembering that our Creator loves us in our diversity and we need to do the same.
Of late, the popularity of Pope Francis has plummeted, particularly in the U.S. I guess some people (particularly Conservatives) don’t like what he has to say. Which is really funny when you think about it — because there’s nothing that Francis is saying that hasn’t been said before, by Jesus himself.
Feed the poor? Check. The rich man will not get into heaven unless he changes his ways? Check. Blessed are the suffering and outcast? Yep, that too. Honestly, you’d think the Pope was saying something radical. Anyone who’s read the Gospels knows who the real radical was and is. It’s why Jesus was put to death: Instead of leading an army against the Romans, He took the side of the marginalized. He wasn’t what the people of the time expected from a savior. Nor is Francis what you might expect from a Pope. He eschews pomp and circumstance for humility and simplicity. He doesn’t try to be popular.
Just as Jesus riled up the powers-that-be, Francis disconcerts the mighty. As well he should. Who said being a Christian was going to be easy? Anyone who thinks so is barking up the wrong tree (in the medieval sense, where “tree” meant “cross”). It is the Pope’s job to disconcert. That is how change occurs.
And, as ever, we need to change. Thousands and thousands of years post-Christ and what have we learned? We still choose war over peace, division over communion, and money over just about everything else. We still lack in love. We would still crucify Jesus for not being what we want.
If Christ came back tomorrow, I daresay he would be even less popular than Francis, especially in America, a country that many (especially those in power) call “Christian,” a country that claims to be “one nation under God.” Which begs the question: Do we really know what being Christian means?
Look to Francis for answers. And if you don’t like those answers, feel free to be disconcerted. You should be.
The other day, my laptop stopped working. It had no power at all; just a black screen and silence. At the computer repair shop, the technician took out the battery, plugged in the cord and pressed the power button for several seconds. It turned on and I nearly fainted with relief.
He explained that, rarely, a computer may reach a point where there is so much energy being used that it just calls it a day. It shuts down and leaves town.
Oddly enough, on the day before my laptop died, I had my own it’s-all-too-much moment. Things started to weigh on my spirit and I had quite a cry. Later, I realized that I had been thinking of negative things, some of which had happened years ago.
It was like taking a virtual tour of old, bad neighborhoods that don’t even exist anymore. Like walking through the remains of a factory that makes obsolete things, like Square Wheels, or Maps for Men. (Just kidding, males of the species! Nothing but love for ya.☺)
There really is no benefit in re-hashing things that were unfair, wrong, or hurtful. The people who did those evil deeds will have to answer for their own bad behavior, but you have the right to let go of what’s wrong. In fact, you have an obligation to your own soul to release what doesn’t serve you. Staying locked into that one location in time is like saying, I don’t want to move forward. I don’t want to feel good. I don’t want to live well.
Focusing attention on what you don’t want means you’re not scanning the horizon for blessings already headed your way. It means you might miss the good life that wants to find you, because the bad life of the past has filled the parking spaces earmarked for joy, warmth, and camaraderie.
It may be time to hit “refresh.” Visualize your life, exactly as you want it to be, in living color. Think of it as a palate-cleanser for the soul.
You’ll find that this choice comes in some form every day:
Do you know what happens to misery when you finally decide to obsess less and say yes to what will bless? In no time at all, it has join Elvis, who – as you know – has left the building. Yep, it shuts down and leaves town.
I’ve always thought of myself as possessing unlimited imagination, a riotous garden abloom. But just as weeds choke young flowers, so anxiety seizes me from time to time, strangling creativity before it can blossom. I get scared, see. And nothing does that more effectively than conflict.
My problem is that I want to be liked by everyone. But no one can be. People are far too variable in their affections, oscillating from fast friendship to loathing, allegiances twitching like a needle on a seismograph. Knowing this does not help; I still want everybody to be happy all the time. And where two parties’ happiness is diametrically opposed — aye, there’s the rub.
Simple answers present themselves: God loves me. Being loved isn’t my mission in this world; doing good is. You can’t make everybody happy. None of these truisms helps me sleep at night. (Okay, maybe the first one.) I am a perpetual middle child, always seeking harmony, always on edge.
All of which is to say that I have nothing to say. I cannot hold up any platitudes for you to embrace. I am all out of stories illustrating God’s Providence in the world. And you know what? That’s okay.
Being empty is also a state of being ready to be filled. And even in my darkest hours, I know this is possible, as I have been filled endlessly — to overflowing — by God’s movement in my life, over and over again. To say it can happen is to acknowledge that it will happen. And so it does.
Conflict will come and go; people will always resist the urge to let their gears mesh smoothly, often for very good reason. All I can do in these times is offer a place of peace. And when all peace has been drained from me, I can frankly and freely offer my empty cup to Christ. His peace is flowing like a river. He will always have some to spare.
The scientific community celebrated this week as an unmanned probe flew close enough to Pluto to take clear pictures of the planet.
But some were asking the question: Why spend money on the space program?
People here on Earth are hungry, they say. We need real-world projects funded. For instance, almost half the population of India and over a million Americans live without indoor plumbing.
How can we justify space exploration when so many problems exist here on the planet?
Like so many things we can’t explain to naysayers, it really is a leap of faith.
In my teen-age years, I spent some time as part of a Pentecostal church. On Sundays, there was quite a lively service, complete with congregants “speaking in tongues” and getting “slain in the spirit.”
Often, I’d look to my left and right, and see people in pews with heads tilted back, and they were just gone. They had a faraway look, and, if you spoke to them at that moment, they wouldn’t have been able to hear you.
What were they looking at?
This summer, the Grateful Dead will hold its final tour. The fans can’t always put it into words, but the swaying of their bodies and the joy on their faces says it all. The band speaks for them with their music. Troubles are put aside, and everyone agrees to get along and get lost in the moment.
What are they hoping to find?
We’re all looking for something that gives life meaning. Connection, community, kinship. Purpose, passion, promise. That place in the world where you feel at home. That place inside where you feel hope.
“We explore because we are human and we want to know. I hope that Pluto will help us on that journey,” said Stephen Hawking.
In other words, if we reach for the stars, we might find out something about ourselves in the process. We’re not so much traveling far into space as we are deep into the soul.
What are we looking for?
Does it matter? As long as we keep the faith and keep looking, with anticipation, the journey really is the destination.
If you’ve read this blog for any time, you know that I love music and singing is a huge part of my individual worship. Like anyone who finds joy in something, I want to share it with others.
Recently, I invited someone new to join the choir. “Oh, no.” She shook her head. “I can’t read music.”
Why do we so often avoid using an imperfect talent? I’ve seen parents pull their children out of sports because they didn’t win enough ribbons or trophies or zoom from one level to the next. I actually had one friend tell me that if God wanted her child to play this sport, she would be better.
The funny thing? Like the person I invited to choir, I don’t read music. I know treble clef vs base clef, EGBDF and FACE and middle C. I can tell the difference between a whole note, a half note and a quarter note. On a great day, I can tell you how many beats each note has. But hand me a piece of music I’ve never seen before and I have no clue how it should sound. It might as well be Sanskrit.
Hand this same piece of music to one particular choir friend and she can sing it. Yes, she has to look at it for a minute but then she’s ready to sing. That said, if we have an accompanist who doesn’t keep a steady tempo, it drives my friend crazy. Heaven forbid we have someone who improvises.
Me? I just close my eyes and listen. I have a good ear so I can follow along.
Neither of us is perfect, but God has put song in both our hearts. What slightly imperfect gift has He put in yours?
The Pope is coming! The Pope is coming! Already he is in the Americas, being besieged everywhere he goes by happy, hopeful people. Our Papa is a ray of sunshine after a very long stretch of darkness. I’ve lived half a century, and Francis is the first Pope that has prompted optimism in my soul. No, the Church isn’t actually changing much, but even hearing words of acceptance, possibility and radical positioning with the poor and marginalized causes me ineffable joy. As it does in many others. This is where the Church should be going.
Alas, Francis has hinted that his papacy may be short-lived. While I sympathize and understand — being Pope must be the most exhausting position possible — I hope it will not be so. The Church needs the breath of fresh air Francis brings, and I fear that if he steps down (or God forbid, dies), the Cardinals will waste no time in reacting with a swift slamming of the door, almost certainly installing a Pope more reactionary and conservative than even Francis’ predecessors. While Francis is certainly loved, he is also feared by those who would keep the Church immured in the Middle Ages.
What else is in the news? Reaction to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on gay marriage, that’s what. Already some people are nervously squawking about religious freedom being breached. Don’t worry, chickens! The Church is not changing. Yes, civic marriage is legal for homosexuals. But they cannot receive the sacrament of marriage from the Catholic Church. The Church decides who receives which sacraments (and why). They cannot be made to change by anyone outside of the Church.
Which is not to say that homosexuals cannot receive sacraments. Clearly, they already do. Still, it’s safe to say that whether you (or anyone) is “good enough” to receive one sacrament but not another is an assessment that only the Church in its infinite mystery is allowed to make. Women, for instance, cannot receive Holy Orders. In fact, only a man can hope to attain all seven sacraments. The rest of us are excluded not by unfitness so much (though many in the Church hierarchy might argue this point) as because of things we cannot control. Because we were born women. Or gay.
Is this fair? I don’t think so. But I don’t make the rules. However, I believe I can state (as our pastor did) that the Church will not be performing gay weddings anytime soon. On the other hand, our pastor also warned me not to express the opinion I just expressed at the top of this paragraph. I will continue to do so. Because what has sustained me though all of the dark nights of the Church is my right to dissent.
Sometimes prayers are answered when you least suspect them. Francis is proof of that. Let us pray for many more open doors.