Monday, September 16, 2019

Anaphora

Sometimes we give our 2-year-old granddaughter a treat, like a cookie, and then we tease her by saying, “Can I have your cookie?” She is such a sweetie she always says, “Yes. Here,” and holds the cookie out to us. She is giving back to us what we already own and gave to her.


Anaphora. Ever heard of it? I had not. I heard a poet, Scott Cairns, on a podcast explaining what it means, “Anaphora is a formal (rhetorical device) representation having to do with repetition - lines that begin in the same way and build out.” Once I heard of it, I thought of many instances of anaphora: Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, a benediction (blessing at the end of a service) I often hear, “May the Lord bless you and keep you | May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you,..” for example. Scott Cairns read his poem. repeating and building on “To behold the sublime.”

Anaphora

by Scott Cairns

To behold the sublime, one must first
accede that one is also held, beheld,
beholden to. One must first agree.


To behold the sublime, one must first
forgo all hope of standing clear,
of standing far apart. One must see.


To behold the sublime, one must first
suspend long habits of self-
sufficiency, accept the pulse. The sky
held close to all that lay in view,
with mist and wood smoke mingling
low amid the deep expanse of green,
availed a glimpse, if momentary,
of what one's hunger must occasion
shy of satisfaction, even so.


Cairns also talked about a prayer used in Catholic worship services during the Eucharist (Communion / Lord’s Supper) called the Anaphora of St. Basil. He said in the sacrament of communion, we celebrate the gift of Jesus’ presence as we eat the bread and wine and we offer that gift of his presence back to God. We are giving to God what is already his. 


Because we love God and are grateful to him, we give things to him. It might be money that we give to our church or to charities that help others. It might be work we do for others as a way of honoring God. It might be songs or prayers. When we offer to God what he, in the first place, gave to us, it is a kind of anaphora. God says, “Here you go,” as he gives us everything and we say, “Here you go,” as we give it back to him. Like my granddaughter with her cookie.


Do you think that means our giving is meaningless, or may less meaningful? I don’t. We can take the story of my granddaughter further. Yes, she’s giving me back what I gave her in the first place, but her act of giving fills me with joy. 


Praise God that he gives us everything -- every square inch. And praise God he fills our hearts with love and gratitude enabling us to give back.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Jesus is like a fish.

Several things have come to mind that make me think: Jesus is like a fish.

I wrote recently about Jesus being like cellophane, and now like a fish. :) I guess that’s finding God in everything!

1.


I heard an interview with Fabien Cousteau. He is Jacque Cousteau’s grandson. Jacque Cousteau was famous as I was growing up. He led ocean expeditions. He had several documentaries and TV specials and astounded people around the world with his discoveries underwater. Many of his descendants carried on the tradition and Fabien Cousteau is one of them.
In the interview, Fabien told the reporter about his plan to build a submarine that looked like a great white shark. He had seen that people thought of sharks as mindless killing machines. We only saw them attacking divers in observation cages. He built this lifelike shark submarine so he would be a shark. As the reporter wrote, “The grandson of famous oceanographer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau believes the best way to learn about sharks is to become one.” (Wired, “Cousteau Sub Mimics Great White,” Alison Strahan, April 2, 2005.)

2.

This story of becoming a shark reminded me of an old Don Knotts live action animated movie, “The Incredible Mr. Limpet.” Don Knotts’ character, Henry Limpet, loves fish and longs to become one. Mysteriously, one day when he falls into the ocean he turns into a fish. He goes on to help the Navy locate German subs and ships during World War II. By becoming a fish, Limpet becomes a true member of their community. He takes on a partner, Ladyfish, and lives out his life as a fish, eventually training other fish to help humans as he had.


3.

I thought, too, of a passage in The Jesus I Never Knew, by Philip Yancey. He wrote of keeping a salt-water aquarium, “no easy task,” monitoring chemical levels, pumping in nutrients, maintaining filters, controlling light, and so on.

You would think, in view of all the energy expended on their behalf, that my fish would at least be grateful. Not so. Every time my shadow loomed above the tank they dove for cover into the nearest shell. They showed me one "emotion" only: fear. Although I opened the lid and dropped in food on a regular schedule, three times a day, they responded to each visit as a sure sign of my designs to torture them. I could not convince them of my true concern.

Yancey realized that he would have to become a fish for them to know him.

To my fish I was deity. I was too large for them, my actions too incomprehensible. My acts of mercy they saw as cruelty; my attempts at healing they viewed as destruction. To change their perceptions, I began to see, would require a form of incarnation. I would have to become a fish and "speak" to them in a language they could understand. (The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey, Zondervan, 1999)

4.

In The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr, Rohr writes “God loves things by becoming them” and that statement is so striking, one famous reader, Bono, called and told him, “Richard, you’ve got to name the book God Loves Things by Becoming Them.” Rohr says since God created ALL things, everyone has to carry the “divine DNA,” and to truly connect with his creation, to show his deep love, God becomes one of his creations -- a human.

----

So, that’s how God is like a fish! To show his love, to connect to us humans in a way we can understand, he became one of us.

I especially like the illustration from Philip Yancey realizing that the only way the fish in that aquarium would understand his acts of mercy would be to become a fish. I don’t know about you, but the thought of becoming a fish is not a pleasant one to me. Fish are slimy, they have bulgy eyes, they eat yucky stuff, they are constantly threatened by bigger, scary fish. Is that repugnant reaction similar to what becoming a human could feel like when you are God? Imagine deciding to give up your human body, your current life, and take on the body and life of a fish. Ew. No thanks.

Praise God that he loves us so much, he became one of us.

What can I pray about for you?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What is this?? A while back, I had an idea. I was thinking of some friends I wanted to pray for, but I didn't have a specific thing to pray about on their behalf. I decided to pray that they would feel God's love. I decided to send them an email when I prayed, so they'd know and be encouraged. Then I thought about my many other family and friends who I would like to encourage with prayer, and decided to start this email.
    Two things I try to do:
-- Encourage you with a reminder of God's love. My goal is to avoid anything where the response is "I should..." Just a short reflection of God's love.
-- Pray for you. I'll pray with each email, and please reply to me with anything you'd specifically like me to pray for you. I'll keep it confidential, don't worry..
.     If you would like to send me specific prayer requests. I will gladly pray with you. Email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Let's go Jesuit on it

Andy Pettitte by Keith Allison on Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7727038
"You hypocrite!" I have always wanted to avoid that label. I think of myself as a person of principles, trying to "walk the walk," live out what I believe, follow my principles. If I did not do that, I would be a hypocrite, right?

This 3-part podcast series made me think more deeply about following principles. Have you heard of casuistry (KAZ you is tree)? I never had.

Malcolm Gladwell did a 3-part series about casuistry on his podcast. Fairly short episodes and they give you a good overall definition, with examples (stories and interviews).

"Revisionist History" (Malcolm Gladwell's podcast - "About things overlooked or misunderstood")

"How to make sense of novel problems" series:

1 of 3 - The Standard Case - Season 4 - Episode 5 - 42 min.
2 of 3 - Dr. Rock's Taxonomy - Season 4 - Episode 6 - 43 min.
3 of 3 - Descend into the Particular - Season 4 - Episode 7 - 42 min.

At one point, Gladwell talks about principles. He says when you are facing a new problem, principles are not helpful. They are based on past experiences and they are only helpful in the world those past experiences helped create. When you are facing a novel problem, the Jesuits say you have to proceed on a case by case basis (paraphrased).

Of course, I've heard of looking at things on a case by case basis, but this is different. There's more to it. Using casuistry, you first look for other cases that are similar, and see what case this novel problem is most like. Then you determine which case is most like the one you are considering, and how your thoughts and decisions about one might help you figure out what to think about the other.

One story he used as an example was about a baseball player taking drugs. One ball player, Andy Pettitte, was injured and his doctor injected him with growth hormones to help him heal. He was called out as cheating because he took a drugs. However, Gladwell compares it to other similar cases, such as Barry Bonds. A key difference is that Bonds took drugs to quickly get better at ball playing than he ever was before. Pettitte took drugs to heal an injury and was no better at ball playing afterward. The principle is that sports people should not take drugs, but when you get into the specifics, that principle does not apply to all cases.

Not sticking to your principles at all costs. Not sticking to your principles to avoid being a hypocrite. Lots of places this comes into consideration -- my own life, my life online, political discussions, religious discussions, on and on.

Listen to the podcast -- it's stories and people with wry commentary from Gladwell. He talks about casuistry in a much more engaging way than I ever could. It made me laugh when he said, "Next, let's go Jesuit on the case..." Yes! I plan to add that to my vocabulary: "Let's go Jesuit."
Church of the Gesu, Rome, Italy

Friday, August 23, 2019

Christ is like red cellophane

Christ is like red cellophane.

It’s kind of hard to see, but this is a plastic holder from the old Password game. Some of you of a certain age may remember that game. On TV, there were 2 teams of 2, with the host Allen Ludden. Allen would give one person on each team the secret password, and they would try to get their partner to guess the word by giving them one-word clues. In the home game, the secret passwords were typed in blue on this rectangular card you see in the image, typed over with red letters so you could not read them until you slid the word under the red cellophane (or maybe it’s plastic) window, which made the red letters disappear and you could read the blue password.

The image of this password holder comes to my mind when I hear verses such as 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Because I am in Christ, when God looks at me, he sees the new, unblemished me, not the one covered with those obstructive sins and screw-ups, like the red words on the password card, made to disappear by the red cellophane. Christ is like the red cellophane.

Sometimes I imagine Christ as a kind of translucent figure standing in front of me, his arms outstretched like the crossing guard in front of a grade school. God looks at me and sees me through Christ.

Recently I read an article where the author said God knows our sin and does not look at us with rose-colored glasses. I thought, “Oh oh, my red cellophane thing is like rose-colored glasses.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot. God does know our sins, our mess-ups, the times we failed to show love, the ways we have hurt ourselves or others. But he transcends them. He lifts them. We don’t have to carry them or let them come between us and God’s love.

When I was at one of my retreats, a priest told the story of a retreatant who was wrestling with shame. (Forgive me if I'm repeating myself -- I've recounted this story to many people.) This person said that he imagined holding Jesus' hand and walking with Jesus deep down into his own heart, to the darkest part of his heart that he was so ashamed of he could not face or talk about it. And he stood there, in that dark place, holding Jesus' hand, and Jesus did the work. Jesus took care of it. The person did not have to worry about it anymore, did not have to be ashamed anymore. 

When I was growing up, it was a tradition to have a time of confession and forgiveness in our church services (and we still have these elements in our worship). After our prayer of confession, the pastor often quoted 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” So there you go, God sees our pure hearts through the red cellophane Christ.

What do you think?


What can I pray about for you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What is this?? A while back, I had an idea. I was thinking of some friends I wanted to pray for, but I didn't have a specific thing to pray about on their behalf. I decided to pray that they would feel God's love. I decided to send them an email when I prayed, so they'd know and be encouraged. Then I thought about my many other family and friends who I would like to encourage with prayer, and decided to start this email.
    Two things I try to do:
-- Encourage you with a reminder of God's love. My goal is to avoid anything where the response is "I should..." Just a short reflection of God's love.
-- Pray for you. I'll pray with each email, and please reply to me with anything you'd specifically like me to pray for you. I'll keep it confidential, don't worry..
.     If you would like to send me specific prayer requests. I will gladly pray with you. Email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

small things

My last email was about the grandeur and beauty of God’s creation and how his creation shows God’s love without words. Today I am thinking of small vignettes giving evidence of God’s love in all things.

I wrote about this one a couple years ago:

Yesterday when I was getting coffee at Starbucks, I saw what I guessed was a sister and her brother. The sister looked around 11 or so, the brother around 5. First, in line, the sister directed her brother to go sit at a table. Later, when I was outside, returning to Starbucks, she and her brother were, too. The sister was several feet ahead and said, “Better hurry up, I’m going to leave you!” Soon the brother caught up and as she held the door open for him, she said, “You know, I would never actually leave you, right?”

Doesn’t that just fill your heart?

Another time near that same Starbucks, which I wrote about, too:

The little boy was an incredibly cute chunk of a guy, toddling along beside his mom, chattering away, oblivious to everything, walking to his personal drummer. Mom had to pull him gently toward the car, then stand to block him from walking off to who knows where while she opened the door. She had to set her coffee on the ground and put her purse on the car floor, then pick him up -- he continued to babble away --, twist her body into the car in order to get him situated in his car seat, then retrieve her coffee, get herself in the car and they were off.

I was struck by the sweetness of it. The baby completely oblivious but so incredibly cherished. The mother so matter-of-factly performing this act of love.

Yet another time:

I was watching people entering a church where you had to go down a few stairs to get to the courtyard in front of the door. A woman probably in her 40’s was walking arm-in-arm with an elderly lady, perhaps her mother. At the stairs, the woman put both her hands on the other’s arm, to get a more secure hold, and bent her head to carefully watch the progress of her elderly companion down the steps. The solicitous bend of her head was such a tender posture, her attention so loving.

This poem expresses what I am thinking of. The “bless you” part makes me smile. I often think how nice it is to have an excuse to bless people.

~ a poem by Danusha Lameris~
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”



What can I pray about for you?

love and blessings,

Mavis
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What is this?? A while back, I had an idea. I was thinking of some friends I wanted to pray for, but I didn't have a specific thing to pray about on their behalf. I decided to pray that they would feel God's love. I decided to send them an email when I prayed, so they'd know and be encouraged. Then I thought about my many other family and friends who I would like to encourage with prayer, and decided to start this email.
    Two things I try to do:
-- Encourage you with a reminder of God's love. My goal is to avoid anything where the response is "I should..." Just a short reflection of God's love.
-- Pray for you. I'll pray with each email, and please reply to me with anything you'd specifically like me to pray for you. I'll keep it confidential, don't worry..
.     If you would like to send me specific prayer requests. I will gladly pray with you. Email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

God tells you he loves you without using words.



Randy and I got home a few days ago from a 3-week vacation. We went to Michigan where we visited Randy’s family and picked up the new travel trailer we had purchased. We camped first in Grand Haven (MI) with some of the Moon clan, then went to Glacier National Park (MT) for a week.

God’s creation is amazing. Surrounded by its beauty, it was all I could do to keep from singing out loud, “How Great Thou Art.” 

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
(by Stuart Keene Hine)

We read about God’s love in words and stories from the Bible.  The world we live in -- the universe, the galaxy -- is another way we know God loves us. We “read” his love in the “words” of his creation, too.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalm 19:1-4)

May you see, hear, read, and know God’s love through the incredible world we live in.

What can I pray about for you?

love and blessings,

Mavis

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What is this email?? A while back, I had an idea. I was thinking of some friends I wanted to pray for, but I didn't have a specific thing to pray about on their behalf. I decided to pray that they would feel God's love. I decided to send them an email when I prayed, so they'd know and be encouraged. Then I thought about my many other family and friends who I would like to encourage with prayer, and decided to start this email.
    Two things I try to do:
-- Encourage you with a reminder of God's love. My goal is to avoid anything where the response is "I should..." Just a short reflection of God's love.
-- Pray for you. I'll pray with each email, and please reply to me with anything you'd specifically like me to pray for you. I'll keep it confidential, don't worry..
.     If you would like to send me specific prayer requests, I will gladly pray with you. You may email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Monday, July 22, 2019

What it's all about

I wrote about this is in my reading blog and decided to put this part in here, too, since it is something close to my heart. It is about the book, On Reading Well* by Karen Swallow Prior, a chapter about the virtue of kindness.

The chapter revolves around the book Tenth of December by George Saunders, which was one of my book club’s choices, if I remember right, but I did not read it. 

The character Don goes into the woods (on the 10th of December) to end his life after being becoming sick and weak with a fatal disease to “ease the burdens of those he loves” (p.213). A boy, Robin, finds the coat Don took off and searches for the owner. “When Don spies the boy carrying his coat in search of him, even his weakened mind is troubled at the thought of a child stumbling across the scene of death he is about to create…’That could scar a kid,’ he thinks (pp. 213-14). Then the boy falls through the ice on a pond and Don manages to save his life. They go to Robin’s home and the boy’s mother cares for Don, who realizes a “renewed joy in life.” Then he is reunited with his wife.

Before they reunite, though, “Don pauses one more time to consider whether he really wants to continue living, knowing the days he has left are numbered and will be filled with great pain (p. 217). Quote from The Tenth of December:

Did he still want it? Did he still want to live?
                Yes, yes, oh, God, yes, please.
                Because, O.K., the thing was—he saw it now, was starting to see it—if some guy at the end, fell apart, and said or did bad things, or had to be helped, helped to quite a considerable extent? So what? What of it? Why should he not do or say weird things or look strange or disgusting? Why should the s----- not run down his legs? Why should those he loved not lift and bend and feed and wipe him, when he would gladly do the same for them? He’d been afraid to be lessened by the lifting and bending and feeding and wiping, and was still afraid of that, and yet, at the same time, now saw that there could still be many—many drops of goodness, is how it came to him—many drops of happy—of good fellowship—ahead, and those drops of fellowship were not—had never been—his to [withhold].

Prior says whenever she reads this passage, “it pierces [her] every time” (p. 218). She confesses to being “terribly, terribly afraid of dying.” Afraid of all the things Saunders writes of Don fearing. As Prior says, these fears are natural and normal, but she feels they are heightened for her because her husband’s father killed himself when faced with the fate of dying from a fatal disease. It scarred her husband and all his family.

For those so sick or scared or depressed that they think their loved ones would be better off without them, I so wish for them to know what Don Eber came to know; caring for those bodies we inhabit for a while—whether that care is of our own or someone else’s body—isn’t a distraction from what life is all about. It is what life is all about.
                In lieu of death, be kind to one another.

That pierces me, too. I think of many things. Jean Vanier and L’Arche, living with and befriending lonely, mentally challenged people. My brother finding so much humor in his life during the 6 months it took him to die of ALS. My mom feeling so ashamed when she came home from a walk around the block with exactly what Saunders listed, s------ running down her legs. My sister and sister-in-law faithfully present for Mom as she declined both physically and mentally with Parkinson’s. My dad, from his own deathbed saying, “Move her closer, closer,” when we wheeled Mom in to his room so he could hold her hand and say, “Hi, sweetheart.” Dad holding my own hand, kissing it, and saying, “I love you so much.” My aunt – my mom’s sister – sitting beside Mom shortly before she died, looking at old photos and knowing exactly what my mom meant as she managed to speak one or two words the memories those pictures evoked. My sister reading Psalm 23 to Mom as she breathed her last breaths, with Mom silently echoing the words. Yes, that is what life is all about.



* On Reading Well, Finding the Good Life Through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior. Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, MI. copyright 2018.