Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Oh what fun, how indulgent, how middle-income American and in-love-with-Steve-Jobs I am....

D and I are both pretty good with money. I mean, we both came into the marriage with zero debt. We kept our separate banking accounts, but we put the other person on the account, so we both have access to all the money--but his check goes to his bank, and my check (such as it is) goes to mine. Well, anyway--that's more than you wanted to know, huh? I started with that in order to say that we are both experiencing some guilt because of our over-spending (?) this week.

We bought ourselves iPhones from Apple.
WOWEE!

As we walked into the AT&T store, D said, "We'll just talk to someone today and get the numbers, then decide later. We don't need to buy anything today."

"Right," says I.

"Good," says he.

The young salesman let us hold one--to test it out.

Not 10 second after the demo, D turns to me and says,"Well, should we go ahead?"

"Why not?" I say. And away we went!

Totally indulgent behavior, huh? But, oh, are they ever fun.

Now, I am never without my calendar...internet...email...maps so I'll never get lost again...weather conditions so I'll know not to get out and get lost in the first place...a camera....i-Tunes which I'll rarely use...texting which I'll never use...a calculator which you never know when you'll need...You Tube in case I'm ever on it....clock, another one of which is always handy, right?....and stock reports which...someday I might care about.

I thoroughly enjoy spending money on things that I totally need.

Don't you?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hillary! You GO GIRL!!!!

My husband and I wake up every morning to the radio and NPR's Morning Edition. I've been getting up at 5 am for the last few days, but this morning, I slept in a bit. As I lay there, still mostly asleep, I had this thought, which I assume came from a story on the radio that some teensy bit of my brain was listening to:

Hillary. You go girl. Wow. You're so strong. No matter what happens, you keep at it. You refuse to give up. You are amazing.

And now the songs from Helen Reddy's song are coming to me:

I am woman, hear me roar, with numbers too big to ignore,
and I know too much to go back and pretend.
YOU CAN BEND BUT NEVER BREAK ME,
AND IT ONLY SERVES TO MAKE ME
MORE DETERMINED TO ACHIEVE MY FINAL GOAL.
I AM WOMAN. I AM INVINCIBLE.

WOW.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Being creative

My husband and I have both been pretty creative lately. I've put together a brochure for my church--the best and most sophisticated I've ever done. I'm getting pretty good with Publisher and photos and line drawings, if I do say so myself. And I love doing it! It occurs to me to put together some examples and try to market my services to churches~see if I can't make some moola!!

But my husband has been creative in a different way. He's building a deck! I think that's just pretty amazing. He's never done one before, but he has experience from when he was young...his father is a person who's always been good with a hammer and saw. D has been an intellectual who loves to read (and, unlike me, actually retains most of what he reads), but now, as he says, he is 'channeling' his father! And all to our benefit! I'm so impressed with what he's done and how quickly it's come together. Wow.

While I'm at it, here's a picture of the beautiful American Elm in our backyard. You can't really tell how huge it is, but I still like the picture.



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Obama's speech in Indiana

Barack Obama....he speaks my language. Read this from his speech in Indiana last night. I listened to it in its entirity on NPR and I was spellbound:

After fourteen long months, it's easy to forget this from time to time – to lose sight of the fierce urgency of this moment. It's easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness and the tit-for-tat that consumes our politics; the bickering that none of us are immune to, and that trivializes the profound issues – two wars, an economy in recession, a planet in peril.
But that kind of politics is not why we're here. It's not why I'm here and it's not why you're here.


... We're not here to talk about change for change's sake, but because our families, our communities, and our country desperately need it. We're here because we can't afford to keep doing what we've been doing for another four years. We can't afford to play the same Washington games with the same Washington players and expect a different result. Not this time. Not now.

… We can be a party that says there's no problem with taking money from Washington lobbyists – from oil lobbyists and drug lobbyists and insurance lobbyists. We can pretend that they represent real Americans and look the other way when they use their money and influence to stop us from reforming health care or investing in renewable energy for yet another four years.

Or this time, we can recognize that you can't be the champion of working Americans if you're funded by the lobbyists who drown out their voices. We can do what we've done in this campaign, and say that we won't take a dime of their money. We can do what I did in Illinois, and in Washington, and bring both parties together to rein in their power so we can take our government back. It's our choice.

… In the end, this election is still our best chance to solve the problems we've been talking about for decades – as one nation; as one people. Fourteen months later, that is still what this election is about.

Real change had never been easy. But don’t ever forget that you have the power to change this country.

Reality of God this Day (Merton)

Wednesday Dawn, from Thomas Merton's Book of Hours:

Our souls rise up from our earth like Jacob waking from his dream and exclaiming: "Truly God is in this place and I knew it not"! God becomes the only reality, in Whom all other reality takes its proper place--and falls into insignificance.

May our Loving God be our only reality this day....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Interplay and a memory of my mother

I'm reading a book called "What the Body Wants," written by the founder of Interplay. There's one little paragraph that brought back a memory for me.

She writes about her middle-school daughter who complained about the way she, the author and mother, woke her up every morning for school. "Mom, could you cool it with the sing-song?" Apparently the mother/author knocked on her daughter's door and said, "Wake uuuuuuup. It's time for schoooooool." Her point was that the body knows its rhythms and what works best for it as it awakens from sleep.

I remembered how my sister and I once got together and decided we were going to confront our mom about the way she woke us up--which was basically with a screech: "Get up! It's time for school!" We went into her room and said we needed to talk to her. (I can only imagine where her mind went at that point.) We said, "Mom, could you please try to wake us up more gently, without the yelling every morning?"

To her wonderful credit, she changed and did as we asked.

I don't think it was difficult work waking up my sister and me in the mornings. We were both pretty good about things like that. So I have to wonder, sadly, why my mother chose to yell like that. Chances are good that she was waking up with a heavy heart.

Dawn, Hagia Sophia, T. Merton

For this early Sunday morning, Thomas Merton:

There is in all things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light,
a meek namelessnss, a hidden wholeness.
This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all.

There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity;
a silence that is a fount of action and joy.
It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me
from the unseen roots of all created being,
welcoming me tenderly,
saluting me with indescribable humility.
This is at once my own being, my own nature,
and the Gift of my Creator's Thought and Art within me,
speaking as Hagia Sophia,
speaking as my sister, Wisdom.

I am awakened, I am born again at the voice of this my Sister,
sent to me from the depths of the divine fecundity.

May we all be awakened to Wisdom this day.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Carrie Newcomer

We had a wonderful night out yesterday. Went to City to the East to hear a concert by Carrie Newcomer. What a voice. And her songs are meaningful...she's worked with Parker Palmer and put some of his poems to song. Check her out!

Friday, April 18, 2008

My sweet husband

My sweet husband surprised me yesterday. He'd read my blog where I said I wished I still had a copy of Atlantic High by Wm. F. Buckley, so he ordered it for me from Powell Books!

How thoughtful! Is he the sweetest husband on earth?

I joked with him that night--After reading a few pages and not remembering anything about it so far, I said, "You know, I think it was my friend Roberta who liked this. And she just told me about it." Ha!

(trouble is, I really wasn't joking!)

(D's still sweet, though!!!!)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bishop Gene Robinson on Fresh Air

I'm listening to Bishop Gene Robinson on Fresh Air.

Terry Gross asked him about how the church is changing. He pointed out how Jesus said "there are many more things I want to teach you, but you are not able to hear them now, so I will send to you the Holy Spirit." He said that full inclusion of women and GLBT people in the church is the Holy Spirit leading us to a fuller understanding of God's love. He said that in Jesus' day people might have said, OK Jesus this is all good, but you know, we really have to the draw the line with lepers...or with prostitutes. For countless generations various groups of people have been told that they are not loved by God. Jesus countered that, always, within the culture in which he lived. We are called to do the same.

I think that's so true. I feel such heartache, even pain, whenever the subject of Episcopalians in my part of the country comes up. Women cannot be ordained around here if they are Episcopalians. What evil rot.

He is planning a civil union ceremony this summer with his partner Mark. "I knew it was a mistake when the words came out of my mouth," he said, but while on C-SPAN he said "Well I always wanted to be a June bride." This raced around the world on the internet, and the reason it did, in Bishop Robinson's opinion, is because of misogyny. "I'm suppose to be privileged because I'm male, so to refer to myself with a feminine word such as 'bride' offends the patriarchal structure."

Two years after he was consecrated he wrote a letter to his congregants saying he was going into rehab for alcoholism. Felt that alcohol was becoming a "too-easy" crutch. Never interfered with his work life, but he kept drinking when he got home, to relax. But it increased. Decided to put himself in God's hands, and through the miracle of God's grace, now "I'm in a place two and-a-half years later where I rarely ever even think about alcohol. Such an astounding miracle. I had spent such energy worrying about it." He was concerned about making this public, but said that Scripture reminds us that God's work is done by people with clay feet, by people willing to be who they are, warts and all. Yet God does amazing things through them. "We're all flawed. I'm trying to be faithful. Trusting that God would make an Easter out of this Good Friday."

How do handle the stress now? "I use to bring work home and do it with a glass of wine. I don't work at home much anymore. Mark and I both love to garden. I bought a bike the other day. And of course my prayer life. The older I get, the fewer words I use in my prayer life. I sit quietly, close my eyes, and I let God love me. My spiritual director suggested that I think of it as light or warmth flowing over me, letting God's love ooze over me like warm butter. Feel God loving me. I find that brings me such peace and joy and reassurance and confidence, and literally in this storm I'm in, it brings me back to the center where God is, where I remember who I am and Whose I am.

How beautiful. To just stop. Stop. Stop. And let myself FEEL God's love.

What do you do now with the anger you might be feeling? Well, I'm very grateful to have my partner and others who know and love me and with whom I can give voice to those initial feelings--I can say to them the anger I'd never say to other people. Plus I really do believe what I say, which is that I can't write anyone off, that God loves all my enemies as much as God loves me. And God sees something in that person worth loving, so I should try to see something worth loving, too. I know I sound kind of Pollyanna, but I really do believe what I'm saying.

Pretty amazing coming from someone who has to wear a bulletproof vest and have security whenever he attends big functions. Wow.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Five. Moving.

Mother Laura writes: We are right in the middle of a move--only twenty minutes away, but we're still a mix of busy, excited, nervous and surprisingly full of grief about what we're leaving, for me at least. So this week's Friday Five asks about your experience of the marvels and madness of moving...

1. How many times have you moved? When was the last time?


Oh gosh. We moved at least 9 times before I finished high school. Three times in 7th grade. (Yes, it was traumatic.) I won't count college, but after that I have moved...well, as it turns out, I've also moved 9 times since then. (I'm 52, so that's quite a slow down)


2. What do you love and hate about moving?

I hated moving when I was growing up. Since then, it's depended on the circumstances. I didn't want to give up my beautiful home to move to a rental place to go to seminary, although going to seminary was something I loved, so overall it was worth it. But I had some grief work to do about leaving that house--it was the best place I've ever lived.

I kind of like the packing and unpacking--it gives me a chance to re-organize which I love to do!


3. Do you do it yourself or hire movers?

Oh, I ALWAYS hire movers.


4. Advice for surviving and thriving during a move?

Plan it.
Organize it.
Get your friends to help you (pack, unpack, feed you, etc!).
Get pictures up on the walls quickly (somehow, nothing depresses me like empty walls) .


5. Are you in the middle of any inner moves, if not outer ones?

Well, yes, some inner moves, but I'm not quite ready to write about it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Living Abundant Life

Here's my latest article for Feminist Theology in an Age of Fear and Hope. I'm taking a break from writing for it for a while, but I urge you to read the lectionary-based essays written by a variety of folks.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008 Easter 4

A Reflection on Abundant Life, John 10: 1-10,

In John 10:10 Jesus says “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” What amazingly powerful words. Jesus came, he lived and he died, and he lived again so that we might have life. But not just any life—abundant life.

In a spiritual direction group about a year ago, a woman suddenly stood up, threw her arms open wide, and shouted up to God: “I WANT IT ALL, LORD! I WANT IT ALL! YES! I. WANT. IT. AAAALL!”

Oh, what an image she created in my mind. She was without a hint of self-consciousness. Her action was completely spontaneous and completely beautiful. I knew—indeed, everyone in that group knew—that the abundant life was already hers.

The abundant life can be thought of in many ways, of course. What I offer here is a brief reflection based simply on that amazing image created by my friend. It seems to me that her action was an embodiment of abundant life because it held in creative tension two opposites: empowerment and vulnerability.

She embodied a sense of empowerment. Imagine with me, if you will—My friend is in her late 50’s, beautiful silver hair, and petite. She SHOT straight up and declared in exuberant and no uncertain terms that she wanted LIFE! She wanted it ALL! At a deeper level, her declaration was perhaps the most powerful prayer I have ever heard or witnessed.

Walter Brueggemann writes about how the ancient Hebrews had the nerve to hold God accountable. In the imprecatory psalms, the psalmist(s) figuratively shake their finger at God and say, “You promised to stay with us. We have done everything you asked, but you have abandoned us! Wake up! Rouse yourself, O God, and come to our aid as you promised!” I’ve always loved that—the whole idea that we “mere” human beings would have the courage to stand up to God and say, “Hey! Thing is wrong!” fills me with a sense of how intrinsically valuable we are, how we are indeed made in God’s image, and how we need not fear.

My friend’s action that evening reminds me of that: she knew her intrinsic value, she acted from within the center of the image of God within her, and I think she was so filled with exuberant love that there was no room for fear of any kind. What gorgeous power!

Think about it for a moment. In my own life and as a pastoral counselor, I know the ubiquitous role fear plays in our lives, whether we are aware of it or not. I once did a study of the number of words/phrases in the English language that signify fear. Here are a few:


—dread, chill, foreshadow, fright, trepidation, agitation,
hysteria, apprehensive, cowardice, ‘oh, that was creepy,’ dismay, disquieted,
fainthearted, jitters, misgiving, nightmare, cringe, quake, qualm, warning,
nervousness, tense, scare, suspicion, timid, trembling, unease, intimidated,
shudder, angst, anxiety, horror, terror, terror-alert, panic, awe, fretful,
consternation, dismay, alarm, foreboding, ominous, ‘oh, you startled me,’ worry,
concern, hesitant, bashful, meekness, insecurity, threatening…cold feet, backing
out, chicken, chicken-hearted, chicken-livered, sinking feeling, second
thoughts, weak-kneed, yellow streak, gutless wonder, turned-tail and run, funny
feeling, mousiness, wimp, shrink from, bad omen, goose bumps, the
heebie-jeebies, mass hysteria, big baby, fraidy cat, jellyfish, sissy,
lily-livered milksop, milquetoast, and yellow-bellied doormat, paranoia, night
terrors, mass hysteria. And of course, ALL defense mechanisms are trying to keep
some kind of fear at bay: compensate, deny, displace, dissociate, obsess on
something else, make a joke, idealize, identify, intellectualize, refocus
threatening anger onto ourselves, isolate, minimize, project, rationalize,
regress, repress, split, substitute, sublimate, and suppress. Not to mention
just good old fashioned avoidance. And phobias? oh, please. We can take almost
any noun in the English language, and somebody is afraid of it! Fear of cats.
Fear of rats, bats, crickets, dogs, bogs, mice, lice, heights, flights, water,
worms, sex, speed, space, race, constraint, cocktail parties, office hours, old
friends, Friday the 13th, and fat. [Miller, The Mystery of Courage, Harvard
Univ. Press, 2005]. Fear underlies all anger—because all anger is a response to
some kind of threat. Fear often accompanies love—few people are spiritually
mature enough to love without fear of losing love.

And we know that fear funds sexism, misogyny, heterosexism, racism, classism, ageism, ableism—all of which at their core are fear of difference. But when we exuberantly love, when we are filled with a passion for LIFE, then fear doesn’t stand a chance. There’s no room for it within us! Jesus’ promise of abundant life provides the empowerment we need to live courageously and joyfully inside a culture of fear. Wow.

At the same time, my friends’ action also embodied a sense of trusting surrender. Her gesture of arms thrown open wide spoke of utter and conscious vulnerability, offering no protection whatsoever. The gesture never fails to remind me of Jesus on the cross. It is crucial to remember, however, that this gesture is made consciously. Jesus was aware of what might come when he decided “not my will, but Yours.” And my friend is no innocent babe in the woods—she knows from experience the bitter realities of life. Her gesture came amidst acute awareness of the inevitability of loss and suffering, of our own mortality, and of the evil that human beings can and do perpetrate. The consciousness of this vulnerability is what makes her action an embodiment of trust.

The tension between our empowerment and our trusting vulnerability is a creative tension that results in an abundant life, a life lived to its fullest.

My friend threw her arms open wide and said Yes to abundant life. May each of us know that kind of trusting courage as well. Amen.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Iraq and William F. Buckley

I never cared for William Buckley's conservative view of things--his privilege blinded him. But there was something engaging about him. He wrote a book back in the 80's about sailing called "Atlantic High" that I remember as utterly delightful. I wish I still had a copy of that book.

Arts & Letters Daily has a link to this article about Buckley's view of the Iraq War. Here's the beginning of the article:

Right at the End

William F. Buckley’s last gift to conservatism may have been his opposition to the Iraq War.
by Jeffrey Hart


Soon after Bill Buckley died, William Kristol published a column called “The Indispensable Man” in the New York Times. He celebrated Buckley as the founder of the conservative movement, and his tone was not only celebratory but affectionate. And surely Kristol was right: Buckley was indispensable. Without his leadership there would have been no conservative movement. Yet at the end of his life, Buckley believed the movement he made had destroyed itself by supporting the war in Iraq.

The central foreign policy initiative of the Bush administration had two rationales: eliminating Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and, by establishing democracy in Iraq, turning the country into a beacon of liberty in the Middle East. Both National Review and Kristol’s Weekly Standard followed Bush on Iraq and continue to do so. But Kristol must have known that Buckley had grave doubts about the war.

Buckley published three syndicated columns about Iraq, all of which were reprinted in National Review. The first argued that it is doubtful that an effort “hugely greater in scale and more refined in conception” would produce the desired result. When no weapons of mass destruction were found, Buckley speculated that this rationale for the invasion, now discredited, would not matter if all ended well. But as the 2004 presidential election approached, he compared the evident quagmire to the French defeat by a brutal insurgency in Algeria.

In these pieces, Buckley diverged sharply from the generally optimistic view of Iraq taken by National Review. Kristol must have read these columns at the time but had perhaps forgotten them when he wrote his column about Buckley—or else dismissed them since the Weekly Standard still believes that the Iraq effort has been a success.

But the conviction hinted in the columns only hardened during the last year of Buckley’s life, when he arrived at a tragic view of the Iraq War. He saw it as a disaster and thought that the conservative movement he had created had in effect committed intellectual suicide by failing to maintain critical distance from the Bush administration.

His entire life as a conservative leader lends authority to this judgment, which should stand as the final word of Mr. Conservative, so allow me to provide some impressions of Bill Buckley as I knew him. ....

Friday, April 4, 2008

Friday Five. Revelation of God.

Sally at RevGalBlogPals Friday Five:

"With this Sunday's gospel reading in mind, that wonderful revelation of Christ to the companions on the Emmaus road. I wonder where you might have been surprised by God's revelation recently. So with no further waffle I offer you this weeks Friday 5:

How has God revealed him/herself to you in a:

1. Book.
Oh, so many choices here. One of the most recent was a novel by Stephanie Kallos called Broken for You. I cried. Cried some more. Then used a portion of the book in a Communion Meditation.

2.Film.
As I've written, I love movies!
I'll say Dead Poet's Society in which God's self was revealed to me through the courage of the character played by Ethan Hawke. Although his best friend had committed suicide and his favorite teacher had suffered betrayal, banishment and gross injustice, I saw God's redeeming power displayed in how Hawke's character found himself through this terrible tragedy. Found himself and was thus able to stand up to the power of oppression all around him. What he does at the end of this movie is a testament to the ultimate power of God in this world, the power of good, the power of empowerment itself, the power of authenticity and integrity in one human being. Oh, I love that movie for how it reveals the love--even the joy--of God in the midst of terrible pain.

3. Song.
I recently downloaded from I-Tunes Helen Reddy's I Am Woman. Every time I hear it, I feel empowered, more hopeful and more confident. Ally McBeal's therapist prescribed music therapy for her--remember? It's so true! God is at work through music. I am Woman, hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore, and I know too much to go back and pretend. I've heard it all before and I've been down there on the floor. No one's ever going to keep me down again. Yes I am wise, but it's wisdom born of pain. Yes, I've paid the price, but look how much I've gained. If I have to, I can face anything. I am strong. I am invincible. I am Woman!


Remember? Oh, yeah!


4. Another person.
Again, so many choices. I'll say my therapist, Mary R_____. She is the mirror through which I really came to see my God-given true and authentic self. She is a healer and her wisdom reminds me of Jesus Christ every time I think about it. I try to model my own pastoral counseling practice on what I experienced of Christ through Mary.

5. Creation
I know from experience that God inhabits beauty. I recently completed (sort of) a project to put all my old photographs on a private blog--it's a good way to organize them and share them with family members and friends. Going through those photographs I remembered so clearly my time in Weesen, Switzerland. I spent a few days there by myself. My days were filled with walks along the lake, sitting in a little park by the lake watching the ducks and feeling God's presence surround me. I journaled some, but mostly felt at peace in the world in a way that was somewhat new to me. The beauty of that place haunts me still. Calls me, still.




A Sermon of Doubt and Faith

Here is the sermon I preached at both services last Sunday:

Conviction Arising from Mystery
John 20: 19-31
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe!” So said Thomas, one of the Twelve disciples, upon hearing from his friends that Jesus--crucified and buried—was alive. “Jesus appeared to us, Thomas,” they told him. “In this room..."

“No. Unless I put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will never believe that,” responds Thomas.

One week later, same thing happens. This time Thomas is there and Jesus invites him to “reach out your hand and put it in my side.” He does. He then responds with perhaps the most powerful confession in the Gospel: My Lord and my God!

Jesus gave Thomas what he needed to believe. Actually, if we read this passage carefully in vs. 20 we see that it’s the same thing he gave the other disciples. And in vs. 29 Jesus gives us all, these many centuries later, what we need: reassurance that seeing the Risen Jesus physically is not necessary for faith. [NIB]

This morning I want to talk to you about faith. My context for this topic is my own faith journey, so let me begin with a caveat. I’m convinced that my own faith journey has something to say about how faith happens and how we mature in faith. At the same time, even though I’m portraying this with real conviction, conviction is not certainty. Faith is always interwoven with not-knowing, and my own particular journey to faith is by no means the way God brings and matures everyone to faith.

We didn’t go to church much when I was growing up, but at 17 I went on a high school choir trip and “got saved,” as the terminology goes. Joined my local Baptist church and was baptized there. In college I got involved with a conservative Christian group, one that passed out those little tracts, those little books that explain God’s plan of salvation. It was appealing to me at the time. I was looking for answers, and it felt good to have this 'certainty' safely tucked inside my wallet!

Through the years, I began to think about things more deeply, and to wonder. If this is the way God works, if this little diagram of the plan of salvation is right, it certainly leaes out a bunch of people. All the people in the whole world who don’t profess Jesus? Well, they're going to hell, I was told. All the people through the centuries who never even heard of Jesus? Nope. They're going to hell. A heckuva lot of people I know and love today? Sorry. They won’t be making it to heaven. And I wondered: What does that tell me about the character of God?

And there were other questions that troubled me deeply--questions about this human being who at the same time was God. How to make sense of something so impossible?

Mind you, I didn’t talk about my questions to my Christian friends. Oh, blasphemy! Christians do not doubt! My friends would say I was going to hell if I spoke these questions out loud!

I finally began to wonder about the wisdom of having those little answer-tracts when all they did, for me anyway, was create more questions.

But I did keep going to church. I kept going to church because something about the religious life just made sense to me in my gut. Intuitively, it felt truthful, worshiping God in community.

In 1988 a friend invited me to East Dallas Christian where I got to know the senior pastor pretty well. Michael M____. I was in the Sunday School class he taught, and I’d ask all kings of things—not the most important things, of course, because I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t a real Christian. But I’d ply him with other, lesser questions. Sometimes he’d offer his thoughts. Most of the time, though, he’d just annoy me by taking the question even further than I’d considered it, and then he’d just sort of leave it hanging in the air for me to think about further. It was irritating to have him not give me all the answers, but by that time in my life another part of me deeply respected it. Somehow, it evoked trust in me. At least this guy isn’t going to give me a stock answer—he’s going to wait until he and I understand the importance of the question to me.

One day I got up the nerve to make an appointment with him to talk about my doubts. This was an extremely scary for me to do because down deep I had actually bought into this notion—hook, line and sinker bought into it—that to doubt was the opposite of faith. So, with fear and trembling, I broached some questions to him. And finally I voiced 'the biggie'—I said this whole thing about a person being God just didn’t make sense to me. (And I’m just churning inside. Part of me couldn’t believe that these blasphemous words were actually coming out of my mouth.)

Well, Michael sat back in his chair and I’ll never forget what he said to me. He said, “ Katherine, I drive down Central Expressway some mornings thinking, ‘What if it’s not true? What if I’ve given my life to something that just isn’t true?’

The cosmos exploded! My whole world just detonated! My mouth dropped to the ground. A minister was saying this to me?!

I realized later that Michael was giving me permission to explore!...And in that one moment, I began to know true faith. Contrary to what that little tract would lead me to think, I began to sense how doubt is not the opposite of faith. It’s doubt that may open the door to faith!

Faith is that story of Jacob wrestling through the night with God, and coming away from that experience a wounded, but transformed person. Mature faith is like that—it’s grappling with BIG uncertainties. It’s not passively accepting answers… In that one moment I saw how the questions were drawing me to God…not the answers. The questions!

The MYSTERY of life and death…I saw my mother die. One moment she was alive, and then, with her last breath, she was no longer there. Well, what is that?! What is it that really animates us?

The MYSTERY of what it means to be saved… Salvation. Oh, it's so huge. Is it only about the afterlife? Or can it have something to do with life in this very moment?

The MYSTERY of how time and eternity meet when God does indeed come to this earth, knows great suffering and great joy, experiences death, and lives again! That Incarnation of God. Oh, my.

One of my professors at Brite, Andy L____, made the same point to me years later, bringing the whole thing full circle for me. I don't recall the context for this now, but we must’ve been talking about faith. Seared into my brain is the phrase he used. He said, “Well, Katherine, you’ve staked your life on the Christian gospel.”

Staked my life.

He said I’d staked my life on this truth of Jesus—the story of God’s work in the world through the Christ. And he was right. We’re not just betting a few bucks, or risking a few years of our time. We’re betting our very lives! How we’ve committed to living our lives in this world depends on what we cannot really know. We are betting our lives on things not seen. We’re staking our lives, how we live on this earth, on things that will not be proven.

Through the years, I’ve come to see that for me certainty is egocentric. Certainty is always about me—I know this. I’m certain of that. But Christian knowledge is grounded in a mystery that takes us beyond our little egos—the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. It’s one of the best paradoxes I know: assurance and conviction arising from mystery.

I’ve come to see also that God keeps refusing to fit inside my little box labeled “comfortable faith.” Faith is a horrifying business. At some level it requires a decision to let go, to not know, to jump off a cliff! and simply TRUST--trust in this awesome, beautiful Mystery that is God, the Holy One, known best to us as Christians through Jesus Christ.

Finally, I’ve come to see that the Risen Christ provides what we need to live our lives faithfully. Jesus is no longer here physically; we can’t touch the wounds in his side. But in another very real sense he is still here--His Spirit is here. And that Spirit continues to breathe on us and constantly give us New Life, constantly make New Life available to us.

That’s what my faith tells me, anyway--that with the Spirit of the Risen Christ we can jump off a cliff and trust that no matter what happens—as St. Julian of Norwich reminds us, we can risk everything and still trust that all shall be well. All shall be well. And all manner of thing shall be well.

I want to close with a prayer of thanksgiving. Will you pray with me?

"Receive our thanks, gracious God, for the miracle of Easter, for the power that changed the lives of the disciples. We give you thanks for the witnesses to the Risen Christ you have raised up in each generation. We thank you for those whose faith encouraged us. We thank you for parents and grandparents, friends and neighbors, teachers and pastors, and our children who have helped us to learn of you. We give you thanks for those with courage to act on their faith, those public witnesses whose lives reflected a gracious goodness. The Risen Christ meets us constantly with new life for each moment, and it is in his name that we pray and give you thanks. Amen." [from Logos]

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My Free Wednesday Morning

Today is really my first "free" Wednesdsay morning since I worked myself out of that little $15/hour clerical job. That was about a month ago, but since then I've either been out of town or had some big "to do" hanging over me.

Oh, this feels good.

I have lots of options for what to do with my free time...do a little more marketing of my pastoral counseling/spiritual direction practice, research what I want to write (I've decided to try to write some essays for publication), organize my workspace, do a load of clothes, just read and/or journal, walk down to my aunt & uncle's house for a little visit -- Oh! the list is endless!!! Yippee!!!

If I decide to read and journal, I'll post some more this morning. Otherwise, Happy Wednesday to you all!