Saturday, March 28, 2020

Earthlings


During this time of Covid-19, my mind keeps thinking about Star Trek. I’ve never been a “Trekkie,” but I did grow up watching Star Trek. I thought it was pretty hoaky and often wondered why in the world Captain Kirk thought he was God’s gift to women! I enjoyed the movies that came later and thought Picard was a great captain.

In the Star Trek world, humans “identified as” inhabitants of the planet Earth. I don’t know if there are places in the series where countries and citizenship may have been discussed, but I don’t remember any. The passengers and staff of the U.S.S. Enterprise were Earthlings. Well, Spock was a Vulcan, so perhaps there were other planetary beings, too. But the characters were either Earthlings or citizens of another planet -- Vulcans or Klingons or others -- not Americans, Italians, Iraqis, Russians, whatever -- just humans from Earth.

We Earthlings are all susceptible to Covid-19, regardless of what country, city, or place we are citizens of. The virus is horrible and scary and I wish all the effects of it were not happening, but nevertheless it reminds us that we are all one. Weird, right, that something so evil reminds us of something so beautiful?

Today (Friday, March 28) Pope Francis prayed a prayer called Urbi et Orbi (“'to the city [of Rome] and to the world' - denoting a papal address and apostolic blessing given by the pope on certain solemn occasions.” -- Wikipedia). It’s a beautiful prayer. I encourage you to read it. He used the story in Mark 4:35-41 where Jesus calms the storm to illustrate how we feel in this storm happening in our lives right now. 

That story, too, reminds us that we are all one, and that Jesus -- incredibly -- is one with us. In the story, Jesus is in a boat with the disciples.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

We are like the disciples, and Jesus is with us just as he was with them. Right now we, too, wonder, doesn’t he care? Pope Francis said:

Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most  when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.

Jesus, “more than anyone,” cares about me, about you, about all of us Earthlings.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Lou, are you breathing?!

On our answering machine when we arrived home one time years ago:

Lou: I guess they’re not home.
Fran: I wonder where they are.
Lou: Yeah. [Pause. Chuckles} I suppose she’ll hear this.
Fran: Mavis, it’s your mom and dad. Call us when you get home.

My parents were Lou & Fran Kok. Over the years, my phone calls were often with both of them at the same time -- each on an extension (back in the days of landlines). Every once in awhile they’d get into a discussion or argument with each other. I’d think, “Um, do I really need to be here?” as they went back and forth.

Every so often, on these 3-way phone calls, Mom would suddenly say, in a disgusted tone, “Lou, are you breathing?!” Mom never seemed to realize that the person on a phone extension sounded extra loud to the person on the other extension. Sometimes she would hear chewing and say, “Lou, are you eating something?” and Dad would guiltily confess he was. But when she asked if he was breathing, it kind of confounded him. “Well, yes, I am. I have to breathe.” I would laugh and tell Mom that I didn’t hear anything, it was okay.

I’ve written before about Aslan’s breath in The Chronicles of Narnia. Jill rode his breath to a new location. He brought back to life the people and animals who the wicked queen made into statues. He also used his tongue. He would lick someone to show his love, often when a character came felt shame and guilt in a face-to-face encounter.

I have to say this whole thing of breathing and licking would normally totally gross me out. I take after my mother in that hearing people breathe near me gives me the creeps. When the kids -- or Randy, or anyone -- try to read over my shoulder, I say, “Don’t breathe near me!” And licking. Oh my goodness. I am like Lucy in the Peanuts cartoon. Seeing a dog lick a person nearly makes me gag. And don’t even make me think about being licked myself!

But I love the images of Aslan’s breath, and of his tongue providing gentle reassurance. In the Bible when Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection, it says,

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:21-23)

What does that look like? Jesus breathing on them? I don’t know, but somehow it’s beautiful. I think it’s symbolic of Jesus’ promise to send them the Holy Spirit, the great comforter, which happens later after he ascends to heaven. It reminds me of the spirit hovering over chaos in the Genesis story. (I’ve written about that before, too.)


And who can resist the overwhelming feeling of joy in watching a baby breathe? That little chest going up and down, that tiny puff of exhaled air, the quiet inhale. Breath is a sign of life. Jesus breathed on his disciples and they knew he was alive again.

A reminder to “just breathe” and be grateful in this weird, worrisome time. Thank God for his breath, for his life, for my breath, for my life, for your breath, for your life. With every breath you take, Jesus loves you. Peace be with you.

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.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Love & donuts

Saturday morning means donuts for breakfast in our household. We usually walk across the street to the neighborhood donut store. Nearly every time we do this, we see a man and his son walking to the same place. His son is apparently mentally challenged. He walks in an ungainly way, flails his arms, and often sings or yells loudly. He’s usually carrying a little American flag. I noticed last week that he and his father were both wearing a red sweatshirt. The sweetest thing is that he tucks his hand into his dad’s elbow and they walk along that way, arm-in-arm, side-by-side.

We have seen this dad and son walking to the same corner stores we do for years and years. The father’s hair used to be jet black and is now gray. The son grew from a toddler, his height barely above his dad’s knees, to now being a big boy a few inches taller than his dad.

I imagine what it must be like to be this boy’s parents. It must have broken their hearts to learn that their son was challenged in this way, that he would not be “normal,” as we think of it. I am sure they love their son and care for him with love. His joy every time we see him is evidence of that. Now as the parents are aging I can only imagine they sometimes wonder how their son will be cared for after they are gone. I hope they have figured out a plan for that. 

The overwhelming thought I have when I see this father and son, though, in their matching red sweatshirts, the son jubilantly waving his flag and singing, is the father’s faithfulness. Week after week he accompanies his son. He gives his son a sweet treat -- the donut -- every time. He lets his son express his joy in the way that best suits his son, regardless of how awkward it might seem to others. He gently guides his son across the street, keeping him safe. It is a model of God’s love and faithfulness to us. He tucks our hand in the crook of his arm and walks step-by-step beside us, never failing.

Praise God for his faithfulness..

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 sending an 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, February 15, 2020

Bless you!


Even when I was a little girl, I liked the tradition of saying “Bless you!” or “God bless you!” to someone who sneezed. I like receiving the blessing and giving it. Padraig O’Tauma, an Irish poet, says this:

“Bless” — I think of the word “bless” as an extraordinary word of generosity. “Bless” doesn’t need God. “Bless” doesn’t need any religious system to think through. “Bless” is just a word of kindness, a word of beatitude, a word of generous enfolding, to say “Let me wrap you in a word that is meant for pure goodness.”

Yet I believe a blessing holds a secret bit of God’s goodness. It may be true that blessing does not need God, as the poet says -- people often say “Bless you” purely out of habit --, but I believe God hears us when we ask that he bless the “sneezer.” Little do the “blessers” know, they are saying a prayer.

For the past few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about blessings. I even wrote one for my daughter, and am hoping to write one for each of my loved ones.

The blessing that got me thinking is this one, by John O’Donohue. (The link in the title is to a recording of John O’Donohue reading the blessing.)


On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green,
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.

[Note: "Beannacht" is the Gaelic word for "blessing." A "currach" is a large boat used on the west coast of Ireland.]

When I hear a blessing, it is like receiving a gift, it is a wish as well as a prayer and a poem, with its rhythmic cadence (“May the...., May the... , May the…). When we give a blessing, we are wishing good things for someone and at the same time we are praying to God for those gifts to be given. The imagery is beautiful, too (May the clay dance..., May a flock of colours…, A path of yellow moonlight…., An invisible cloak…)

The Bible is full of blessings and stories of blessings. How wonderful we are reminded that God sends his love when we say the blessings. One of my favorites is in Psalm 1:

Blessed is the one ... whose delight is in … the Lord... That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

“...like a tree planted by streams of water...” Isn’t that a beautiful image? In our church’s worship service, after the pastor reads the Scripture for the sermon, we have a responsive reading using that image.

Pastor:  Let us pray for the presence of the spirit.
People:  Spirit of Truth, plant us beside the life-giving stream of your word, that we might grow and bear fruit for your kingdom. Amen.

And now I will sign off with the “benediction” or blessing (from Numbers 6) that we often hear at the end of worship services.

May the Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

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..
    You can opt out any time, no hurt feelings, no need for explanation, no worries. Just reply with a subject like "Unsubscribe" or "Opt out" or "No thanks" or whatever
.     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.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Forgivenesses


"Friendship only survives with multiple forgivenesses."


A couple weeks ago I went on a retreat called “A Weekend with the Poet David Whyte.” I love David Whyte’s poetry and not only was this a chance to see and hear him read and talk about it, but it was also in a beautiful setting, Asilomar, which is in Monterey Bay. It was a wonderful weekend.


I picked up a book he wrote that contained 52 words with his reflections on them. One of the words was “friendship.” I keep thinking about what he wrote about friendship, in particular that "friendship only survives with multiple forgivenesses." It pleases me to hear "forgiveness" made into a noun like that. Each forgiveness (or less poetically, each act of forgiveness) is like a stone of a path, multiple forgivenesses creating a beautiful path of friendship.


Multiple forgivenesses. Isn’t that the truth? How many times in my relationships have I needed forgiveness! I can’t even count and I’m sure I barely remember all my mess-ups. He also wrote, “All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness.” As in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.” Mutual. I need to both be forgiven and forgive.


I started thinking about my friendships, about different times where I’ve needed mercy and where I’ve needed to practice mercy. Then I thought about Jesus being my friend. Wait, where is the mutual forgiveness there? Of course, Jesus forgives me for the many times I blow it, but I don’t have to forgive Jesus, right? He doesn’t do anything to me I have to forgive, he’s blameless, perfect, without sin.


I have some thoughts on this. I do not know if they are theologically sound. It occurred to me, though, that we do have to “forgive” -- in a manner of speaking -- Jesus for what we expect from him. It’s not a case of forgiving Jesus for having wronged us, as he does for us, and we mutually do with our friends. But sometimes we think that Jesus should do certain things, or prevent certain things, and when that does not happen, it almost feels like we have to forgive him.


We know intellectually that being a friend of Jesus does not mean our life will be free and easy. It does not mean nothing bad will ever happen. It does not mean we’ll be a better, more good, kind, and sweet person than all others. But often, in spite of that knowledge, we do think that way. “I don’t deserve to have this happen to me” is a common response. Then we remember that bad things do happen to people who are Jesus’ friends, just as they do to those who do not claim that relationship. And we thank God we have Jesus walking beside us every step of the way.


So it’s not that we actually need to forgive Jesus as we forgive our other friends. But there’s a way that it almost looks or feels like forgiving when we accept that Jesus will not protect us from every bad thing -- but rest in the understanding that he will be with us, guide and comfort us, and help us get through whatever comes. There is mutuality in that.


What are your thoughts on the mutuality of our friendship with Jesus?


FRIENDSHIP is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.  ~~from Consolations by David Whyte

Thank God for forgivenesses.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Anthropology...and a clown parade of jackwagons

I never heard the terms "lower anthropology" vs. "higher anthropology" in relation to your view of human nature, in the context of faith, and today I read about these terms in 2 different places within the space of an hour.

The first place I saw these anthropology terms used was in a book I just started this afternoon, Churchy, The Real Life Adventures of a Wife, Mom & Priest, by Sarah Condon. I "met" Sarah Condon on the podcast, The Mockingcast. I love her. I love her voice. I love her Mississippi accent (writing Mississippi is fun). I love her slightly sailor mouth. I love her sarcastic, self-deprecating humor. I love her rants. I love her brash outspokenness. I love the way she emotionally blurts things out. I love the way she tells her story honestly and apologetically.

OK, I guess you have the idea. Anyway, Chapter 2 of that book (which I highly recommend), is called "Low Anthropology is my Love Language." She writes "people accuse me of being negative and depressing. They tell me human beings are inherently good." Then, I can just hear her voice as I read:
To be clear, I do not want to be negative for negativity's sake. I just have what theologians call a "low anthropology." Which is to say, my theology tells me humanity is a clown parade of jackwagons. This is the crux of  why we need Jesus to save us. He didn't come because we are all good vibes and motives. He came because we have always been a sinking ship of fools. (p, 16)
So there you go! Why did Jesus need to save us? Because we are a clown parade of jackwagons.

Higher and lower anthropology are defined in my second reading:
Broadly, we can classify anthropological theories as being either higher or lower, more optimistic versus more pessimistic. A higher anthropology tends to be optimistic about human nature and capacities. At root, we're both good and capable. Just give us room to grow! A lower anthropology, by contrast, is pessimistic about human nature. Humans are fallible, sinful, and weak. ~~ Richard Beck, from his blog, "Experimental Theology," The Gospel According to the Lord of the Rings: Week 3, A Lower Anthropology
Jackwagons is a new word for me, too. How about you? When I read it I thought it must be a less vulgar way to say "jacka**es.* But, no, it's actually a word -- slang, but still. According to Urban Dictionary, it is:
n. Slang term derived from the Freight or Chow wagons used in the late 19th century. These were often the last wagons in a wagon train, making them the least favorable to drive due to the dust, waste, and debris from the front of the train. 
When used as in insult it refers to one's lack of intelligence, implying the insultee is capable of no more than operating a Chow wagon. 
example: You're doing it wrong, you Jack wagon!
Praise God he loves us jackwagons.

Early wagon train, from Spartacus Educational


Saturday, January 4, 2020

too good to be understood

It may be too good to be understood
but it's not too good to be true
He may be too good to be understood
but he's not too good to be alive.
~~ “Too Good” by Jess Ray

“It may be too good to be understood but it’s not too good to be true.” Today I ran across these words in a song by Jess Ray. And then the last line, “He may be too good to be understood but he’s not too good to be alive.”

What a perfect way to describe God’s love -- and God himself! I kind of hate to write any more. What can I say? If you want to stop reading now and just think about the words, I don’t blame you. I’d love to hear what thoughts come to you as you listen to the words.

Here’s a link to the song, and to Jess Ray’s website.

One thought that came to my mind was what I have read about midrash. I can’t remember who said it or where I read it, but they talked about admiring the Jewish practice of midrash because it allowed unanswered questions. Midrash has several meanings but one is the practice of interpreting Scripture that “asks questions of the text; sometimes it provides answers, sometimes it leaves the reader to answer the questions." (Wilda Gafney, from Wikipedia). 

We want answers, we want solutions, we want to figure things out and understand. Usually I can’t relax until I have the answer. Resolving things brings peace. But many things in life don’t have an answer, especially all the examples of evil in the world -- all the bad things happening to good people, well, to everyone. Why does God let those things happen? Is it really God letting them happen or is there a different way to look at it? Why was there a “miracle” for one person but not for so many others? 

If God is God, He is not good,
If God is good He is not God
~~from the play J.B. by Archibald MacLeish, a retelling of the book of Job

But he is both. God is God -- all-powerful -- and God is good. They can’t both be true but they are. I imagine standing in the middle of a teeter-totter, leaning one way, then the other, finally getting to the balance point where both sides are equally off the ground -- and then relaxing there. At peace.

Too good to be understood, but not too good to be true, not too good to be alive. He loves you.
https://www.etsy.com/listing/746196599/3-in-1-balance-set-for-toddlers
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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, and if you would like to be added to the mailing list, email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.