Wednesday, April 29, 2009


We have a little girl from our church sick with the flu. Not sure yet whether it's the swine flu but I heard today that her whole elementary school has been shut down until May 11. Goodness!

I guess the 'authorities' are just being extra cautious.

The senior minister at my church has been reading a book about the Flu Epidemic of 1918, and he's saying that one of the worst mistakes made then was that officials continued letting people congregate.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Foundational" Moral Impulses

End of a long week. I preached at both services today. Seemed well-received, but oh, boy, I'm exhausted. (I don't preach regularly anymore. When I preached every week, or even every six weeks on a schedule, it didn't take this much out of me. Whew.)

A friend sent an interesting article from AlterNet this afternoon concerning the moral reasoning of liberals and conservatives. According to this article, Jonathan Haidt has come up with five foundational moral impulses:
1. Harm/care. It's wrong to hurt people; it's good to relieve suffering.
2. Fairness/reciprocity. Justice and fairness are good. People have certain rights that need to be upheld in social interactions.
3. In-group loyalty. People should be true to their group and be wary of threats from the outside. Allegiance, loyalty are virtues. Betrayal is bad.
4. Authority/respect. People should respect social hierarchy. Social order is necessary for human life.
5. Purity/sanctity. The body and certain aspects of life are sacred. Cleanliness and health, as well as their derivatives of chastity and piety, are all good. Pollution, contamination and the associated character traits of lust and greed are all bad.

Liberals feels strongly about the first two--preventing harm and ensuring fairness--but often feel little, or even negatively, about the other three. Conservatives generally rank loyalty, authority, and purity over harm prevention and fairness (which they do acknowledge are important, but not as important, in their view.)

That pretty much squares with me, a die-hard liberal. I'm always supporting stands that relieve suffering, that see everyone as valuable with an inherent dignity, that support basic fairness (I often bitterly rail against ridiculously high corporate executive salaries, for instance, and would support a law limiting those kinds of salaries).

My faith helps me see some things are sacred, though (#5).

Yes, authority is necessary (#4)--without some order life would be unbearable. But the regular questioning of authority also seems like a pretty good idea to me.

And loyalty? Well yes, but blind loyalty is such a problem that I tend to hold #3 rather lightly.

What about you?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Little Respite

Oh, a day off! Yummy!
Except it's not really. I have to write a sermon and put together two services for Sunday.
Still, it's so nice to be at home. I'm sitting now on our back porch at our little patio table and chairs, sipping coffee, listening to the wind through our cathedral of trees. Oh, and although it will get to the 90's today, this morning the breeze it so nice and cool. I almost need a jacket.
I was at one of our local hospitals yesterday at 6:30 am to pray with one of our parishioners. Although I felt how afraid she was, I was also aware of how deeply fulfilling it is to me to be a minister, to be with someone, praying, at a time like that. Thank you, God.
The morning before that -- Tuesday, that would be--I was at my church at 6:45 a.m. getting ready for what some friends and I are calling our Fullness of Life Group. This was our initial meeting. Eight of us. I knew all but two of the people--no one there knew everyone else, which made it kind of nice. New people. We are folks who felt the need to gather for community, a safe place in which to talk about the issue of vocation and spirituality. I'm not looking to change, but with FOUR jobs I do need all the help I can get from people who can keep me looking within and asking the deeper questions of me. That's what this group will do. Several of those who gathered are in new jobs; others want to change or deepen their work; others are seeking a group to hold them accountable to various promises they are making to themselves about their work.
As we all sat down together, my friend who came up with the idea spoke a few words and then asked me to lead us in a time of breathing.
That pretty much describes this group. !! I love it.
Anyway, I've had a week of very long days, and it feels so lovely to just sit here this morning before I take my computer back inside and begin writing and planning. Thank you, God.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Life from Death: Yes, Jesus, I Believe

What an awesome experience tonight at my lectio divina group. I've been meeting with this group for over 10 years now, and it's nearly always amazing.
It's as if God's Spirit just manifests and we are all suddenly AWAKE and AWARE, in our "God spot," as someone described it this evening.

We take turns leading the group, and tonight was my turn. I chose the passage in John 11 about Jesus raising Lazarus, but we only read verses 17 through 26 which ends with Jesus asking Martha, "Do you believe this?"
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;26.and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

I spoke about my struggle with death...the idea of my own, and seeing my mother die in 1994. One moment "she" (my mom) was there, occupying the body lying there in the hospital bed, and the next moment, "she" was no longer there. Whatever it is that animates us as humans was simply gone. AND WHERE DID IT GO? Existentialist that I am, that question came to me within just a few moments of losing my mother, seeing her take her very last breath on this earth. Where is she? Where did she go? And that question has never really been far from my conscious awareness ever since.

I said something about feeling more comfortable with death in recent years only as I've become more aware of the utter mystery of life.

At that point someone else began talking about the soul and about how we are all connected, which led to conversation about quantum physics and the scientific evidence supporting our actual connectedness at the subatomic particle level. And how when we are in our "God spot" we are aware of the truth of all this.

Someone else spoke of how she began to understand the meaning of "grounded," and how she feels that rootedness and groundedness, not so much in her family of origin, but in her "tribe," meaning us, her spiritual family. She said "tribe," I think, because someone else had mentioned that recent PBS show tracing the origins of humanity through DNA, and how scientists can show how humanity migrated across the continents, evolving facial features and body types slowly through the centuries as the different climates dictated. We are all one!

And then someone else spoke of an "I AM" experience she's had in a spiritual therapy group. This was something with which I resonated deeply. Growing up feeling disconnected, not belonging...we experience something so foundational that it gives us a sense of boundaried self, the "I AM." I am me. I am here. I am of some kind of substance, even if it's only a kind of energy. I am.

The evening's sharing/witnessing-- all together it reminded me of how I believe so deeply that all human beings are created in the image of God, and how, for me, that means we all have something indestructible of God in us -- the soul. Something of us continues after death because something of us IS the lifeforce of the whole cosmos.

"Do you believe this?" Jesus asks me tonight.

Yes, Jesus, I believe.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

"The wrath and whisper of the dove..."

It is 2:44 a.m. As part of our Easter Vigil, I promised to pray in the middle of the night.

Since keeping my eyes open is a definite problem, I thought I'd share with the blogosphere something of the beautiful Good Friday Service I experienced at Broadway Baptist, my husband's church, and the church in which we were married.

Here's a photo of it, which of course does not do it justice. It is a grand, majestic place. I sat there feeling swallowed up in God, eager to be filled.

Broadway always publishes some beautiful quotes in the Order of Worship in order to enhance the service in general and also to use during the silence which is always built into its worship. Here are a couple of lovely ones concerning Good Friday.

"This liturgy that Christ enacted on the cross represents the culmination of precisely this liturgy, the 'liturgy of the world.' This is the liturgy which reveals, ultimately, God's plan for human history, which shows the world not as some 'evil, godless realm,' but as a holy space permeated by grace, as a "Neighborhood' where God may be known and named. In the world's depth, at the center of each person, God's grace glows, burns, illumines, hallows, pleads, reproves, invites, emboldens, subverts and enlivens." (Nathan Mitchell)

"And on this day Christ died. It was for love and was his only pride: it was the rock he struck and traveled to, on this day he did what he meant to do. It was the wrath and whisper of the dove: the pure and original spring of love."
(Peter Levi)

I pray...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tillich's Love, Power, and Justice (installment 1)

Notes from Paul Tillich's Love, Power, and Justice

"Ontology: What does it mean that something is? What are the characteristics of everything that participates in being? What does it mean to be?

"Ontology characterizes the texture of being itself...One cannot escape ontology if one wants to know! For knowing means recognizing something as being. And being is an infinitely involved texture, to be described by the never-ending task of ontology.

"Early philosophers, when they tried to speak in terms of the logos about the nature of being, could not do it without using words like love, power, and justice. Metaphysically speaking, love, power, and justice cannot be derived from anything that is. They have ontological dignity.

"In Plato, we find the doctrine of eros as the power which drives to the union with the true and the good itself. In his interpretation of the ideas as the essences of everything, he sees them as the 'powers of being.' And justice for Plato is not a special virtue, but the uniting form of the individual and the social body....

"Hegel a philosopher of love, and his dialectical scheme is an abstraction from his concrete intuition into the nature of love as separation and reunion...

"It should also be mentioned that in psychotherapeutic literature the relation between power-drive and love is in the foreground of interest. Love has been more and more acknowledged as the answer to the question implied in anxiety and neurosis.

An Ontology of Love
"All problems concerning the relation of love to power and justice...become insoluble if love is understood as emotion....

"Life is being in actuality, and love is the moving power of life. In these two sentences the ontological nature of love is expressed. They say that being is not actual without the love which drives everything that is towards everything else that is. In humanity's experience of love, the nature of life becomes manifest. Love is the drive toward the unity of the separated...

"Love can be described as the reunion of the estranged. Estrangement presupposes original oneness. Love manifests its greatest power there where it overcomes the greatest separation. And the greatest separation is the separation of self from self. Every self is self-related and a complete self is completely self-related. It is an independent center, indivisible and impenetrable, and therefore is rightly called an individual.

"The separation of a completely individualized being from any other completely individualized being is itself complete. The center of a completely individualized being cannot be entered by any other individualized being, and it cannot be made into a mere part of a higher unity. Even as a part it is indivisible and it is as such more than a part. Love reunites that which is self-centered and individual. The power of love is not something which is added to an otherwise finished process, but life has love in itself as one of its constitutive elements. It is the fulfillment and the triumph of love that it is able to reunite the most radially separated beings, namely individual persons. The individual person is both most separated and the bearer of the most powerful love. [K: we are fragmented.]

"We have rejected the attempt to restrict love to its emotional element. But there is no love without the emotional element, and it would be a poor analysis of love whichdid not take this element into consideration. The question is only how to relate it to the ontological definition of love. One can say that love as an emotion is the anticipation of the reunion which takes place in every love-relation. Lobev, like all emotions, is an expredssion of the total participation of the being which is in an emotional state. In the moment in which one is in love the fulfiloment of the desire for reunion is anticvipted and the happiness of this reunion is experienced in the imagination. This means that the emotional element in lobve does not precede the others ontologicallhy but that the ontologically founded movement to the other person expresses itself in emotional ways. Love is a passion; this assertion implies that there is a passive element in love, namely the state of being driven towards reunion. Infinite passion for God as described by Kierkegaard is, no less than the sexual passion, a consequence of the objective situation, namely of the state of separation of whose who belong together and are driven toward each other in love. [K: We belong together, God and me.]

"The ontology of love is tested by the experience of love fulfilled. There is a profound ambiguity about this experience. Fulfilled love is, at the same time, extreme happiness and the end of happiness. The separation is overcome. But without the separation there is no love and no life. [K: We are always separated in this life.] It is the superiority of the person-to-person relationship that it preserves the separation of the self-centered self, and nevertheless actualizes their reunion in love. [K: How we remain individuals in a love relationship.] The highest form of love ... is both the subject and the object of love. [K: Appropriate love of self and other.]

"If love in all its forms is the drive towards the reunion of the separated, the different qualities of the one nature of love become understandable. ... be continued...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Grateful for the passage of time

I'm 53 years old. Who would ever have thought I'd be this OLD! That's the thing about getting older and the passage of time, it just creeps up, and suddenly I'm definitely no longer young. I have certainly felt old during Lent this year...every week I've been working my rear end off, 15 hour days, trying to get done everything I set out for myself to do. I'm SO glad it's over. Next week I can look forward to getting back to my normal routine and not coming home exhausted. Seriously, tonight I came in and could barely walk to the bedroom, my feet were hurting so badly. (The good thing about that, though, is that David felt sorry for me and gave me a foot rub!)

Time just passes so quickly.

I remember my mother reflecting on this once--when she was in her late 50's or early 60s, probably. She said she still felt she was the same person she was in her twenties. I guess she meant that her sense of self had not changed.

I know I'm the same person, too, and yet I think back and realize how drastically different I am from the person I was in my twenties. So many situations ~ life itself ~ frightened me. I lived in an almost constant state of fear, but I didn't realize it until years later.

Fear and unhappiness. I'm pretty sure I was clinically depresssed as a teenager.

I had my little areas of competence, areas where I felt confident. That allowed me to get hired at a company that paid me extremely well when I was only 25. And I always did well at my work. But even there, I was so afraid. My performance reviews were always excellent, which meant after a while that I was asked to be on special task forces appointed by people way above my boss. There I was out of my element and always felt I wasn't up to par. So full of self-doubt, second guessing myself, beating myself up, unable to find my voice (any voice, oftentimes). When I think about the level of underlying stress...Yikes. How did I survive?

For some reason, I sought help. Not until my father died ~ that was the trigger-enough for me to see a counselor for the first time. I was 31 then. Around the same time I joined a church for the first time, too, and I began to really find glimpses of a truly meaningful life.

Through those twin portals, therapy and spirituality, I slowly found the courage within me (the courage we all have, I believe). Over time, with that courage, I began to face those ubiquitous fears. Years and years. Mountains and valleys. And even HUGE leaps of faith.

At 53 I can look back now and be so very grateful for the passage of time.

Wonder who I'll be at 73? :-)