Today I went to see Krista Tippett at Stanford. She is there through March as a "Distinguished Visitor." She had a conversation with Abraham Verghese and Denise Pope. It will be a podcast someday -- cool to think I was there!
At one point Abraham Verghese was going to read this poem, but he got too choked up and asked Denise Pope to read it for him. It is beautiful.
Friday, January 25, 2019
May it bring you joy and comfort to know that you - YOU! - belong to God and all of us need you.
As a kid, I enjoyed the comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schulz. Years later I often thought of the series in that comic where Snoopy’s body parts argued with each other as he jogged. Every body part argues that without themselves, the whole body would be in big trouble. And they’re right!
It’s easy to focus on the things in yourself that don’t, in your mind, measure up: I’m weak. I don’t pray enough. I don’t go to church enough. I was mean to someone. I didn’t show God’s love the way I should have. I wasted my time. Other people are way better at this or that than I am. There are billions of people; I’m nothing special. On and on.
But God loves you. You are special, beloved in fact! And each of us, as it says in the Bible, are a part of the body of Christ. People who may not believe in Christ know they are a part of something bigger. The saying “It takes all kinds to make the world go round” says that. We need our differences. We need each other.
Even people who used to be called “idiots” are needed. Have you heard of Jean Vanier? Years ago, he started a movement called L’Arche (“the ark”) where people with and without disabilities live together. Your first thought (if you’re like me) is that the people with disabilities need those without disabilities. The ones without disabilities are the caretakers for those with disabilities -- they are the necessary ones.
That’s true, of course, but the people with disabilities are necessary, too. People who live in these communities have story after story about the ways those with disabilities care for them. Here is a young woman telling one of those stories. She describes how those for whom she is a caretaker took care of her. At the end of her story she says she learned about God’s love: “how we are beloved in God’s eyes,... that we are worth loving and even in the moments when it feels like we’re not worthy of love or we’re being a burden on somebody else that God is there for us through other people and God’s love will show through.”
How beautiful is that? You, with all your faults and weaknesses, with all your seeming unworthiness, you are God’s beloved.
Unity & Diversity in the Body (I Corinthians 12:12-34)
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
Saturday, January 19, 2019
It was a delightful bookstore, neat and organized, with two cats. As Cori and I wandered and shopped, we talked about various books and authors. We ended up at a display labeled "New Non-Fiction." I picked up a book and said, "Look, a new Wendell Berry!" Cori responded that she knew I liked him and have a lot of his books. I said, "Yes, I thought I'd try to own all his books but I don't think I can afford it. I think he's written something like 50!"
A man on the other side of the display looked up when I said that and our eyes met. I said, "Do you know Wendell Berry?" He said, "Yes, I know him personally."
I said -- rather stupidly -- "Wow! That's just one degree of separation!" I asked, "How do you know him?" "I lived in a log cabin in Kentucky for 10 years, just a few miles from his home," he answered. I came around to his side of the display. "He and another author used to go to events together and park their car at my place."
We talked for a while about Berry. Berry doesn't do interviews, and the man said that he works through his wife. He said he tried to arrange visits for people to Berry through his wife, "who is delightful," but she knows she needs to protect him. I talked about a podcast I listen to named "The Membership" (a word Berry uses to describe the community he writes about) where they read and discuss all 3 genres of his work: poetry, non-fiction, and fiction. I said one of the hosts did succeed in getting an afternoon in person with Berry but the others have not met him; they just all love him and his work. I said that Berry told the one who ultimately got the face-to-face meeting that he "said all he wants to say in his books."
|How I imagine Dad's hay wagon experience looked. |
Saturday, January 12, 2019
God loves you so much he says, "Go ahead and take the day off."
Yes, really! Last week I wrote that I was considering the word “Sabbath” as my word for the year. I wasn’t so sure I wanted that word because it’s associated (at least in my mind) with rules -- especially don’t-do-that and you-must-do-this kind of rules. I have a tiny problem with authority. I don’t like anyone telling me what to do!
After I sent that email, my brother sent me the Heidelberg Catechism question and answer for the fourth commandment. The fourth commandment says, “"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (The Heidelberg Catechism is a series of questions and answers that our denomination uses as one of its core confessions.) Below is what the catechism says about the Sabbath commandment.
Look: No long list of do’s and don’ts! Basically: Go to church, and “rest from your evil ways” all the time.
Where I work, years ago we did an employee survey asking people what they thought was a good thing to do for a holiday celebration. People had all kinds of answers -- a formal party, an outing such as bowling, a picnic, money, a PTO (paid time off) day, and more. As I meditated on the concept of the Sabbath, it occurred to me that one interpretation could be that God was saying “take the day off.” I have heard it explained as a day to do something different than you do every day, and what is that but a day off?!
I’ve always been kind of confused by the story where Jesus says to the Pharisees, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) Huh? But it makes more sense when I think of the Sabbath as a vacation day. God didn’t give us a day off for his own good, it’s for our good. It’s a gift he gives us.
Lots to think about with the word Sabbath: What does it mean for me to “rest from my evil ways”? I wonder what “the eternal Sabbath” will be like? How can I make the Sabbath -- Sunday for me -- feel like a day off? “Festive”? How do I make it festive? But, hey, I’ve decided to take a year to think about it, so lots to think about is a good thing.
AND, when you think about the Sabbath as a gift, a treat, a reward, something good God is giving us, it’s yet more evidence of God’s love. God loves you so much he says, “Go ahead and take the day off!”
Lord’s Day 38 - Q & A 103
Q. What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment?
that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained,
and that, especially on the festive day of rest,
I diligently attend the assembly of God’s people
to learn what God’s Word teaches,
to participate in the sacraments,
to pray to God publicly,
and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.
that every day of my life
I rest from my evil ways,
let the Lord work in me through his Spirit,
and so begin in this life
the eternal Sabbath.
Friday, January 4, 2019
God looks at you and sees that you are good.
“Choose a word for the year.” Have you heard or read that recently? I’ve seen it a lot. I don’t know if I’ll end up deciding on one and doing something with it, but the idea appeals to me. I like the idea of having a sort of theme for the year, of reminding myself to live that theme, of seeing how it connects to what I do, and using it as I make decisions on how to spend my time.
One article I read (which of course I cannot find now!) about the word of the year concept said the way to choose a word is to just think about it a while and see what comes up. I’ve been doing that for several days now. Almost against my wishes, the word “Sabbath” is rising to the top.
Why against my wishes? Because Sabbath, like so many things associated with religion, comes with a lot of baggage, specifically a lot of rules. Even the newest discussions of Sabbath (and it has become more popular recently), seem kind of rule-laden. No technology -- that’s a big one. And of course I get it! Technology is a huge factor in deciding how to spend our time. I myself, a big reader, have seen how I read less books because I spend more time online. Even though some of that online time is also reading, it’s a different kind of reading than when you sit, read, and get absorbed by a book.
I am going to meditate more on the word Sabbath, and read more about it. One thing that immediately comes to my mind is the creation story where God established the day of Sabbath, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2,3)
As I was thinking about that story, I also recalled the recurring chorus at the end of each day’s creation, “And God saw that it was good.” Could you consider that short verse, that time of God looking back at the day, at his creation, and finding it good -- could that be Sabbath, too? Sabbath doesn’t have to be boxed into one day, one specific time period, right? I wonder.
Whether you think of it as Sabbath or not, that verse, “And God saw that it was good,” is yet another reminder of God’s love. There are all kinds of theological ramifications, theories, arguments and discussions that can be made about God seeing us and all his creation as good. There are feelings, too, that with all the sin we have inside ourselves and all the sin we see around us, it cannot be true. For me it’s helpful to remember that if one of my children does something awful, I don’t stop loving them. I still see them as good. All the more with God.
For you and me and all us humans, and for all of creation, God looked -- and looks -- at us and all that surrounds us and sees that it is good. Because love.
What can I pray for you?
Email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.
Tuesday, January 1, 2019
When you feel unloved,
Like a bro, may Jesus’ arm come around your shoulder
and his hand grasp the top of your arm as he pulls you close.
May his squeeze fill your heart
And your mind with the surety that Jesus loves you.
He is your brother.
When you feel unworthy,
Like Mr. Rogers, may Jesus tell you he loves you just the way you are
and he’s glad you’re in his neighborhood.
May his words ring true in your ears
And may you believe that he loves the unique you.
He is your friend.
When you wonder if God even exists,
Like a loving nemesis, may Jesus come beside you
and his steps keep time with yours.
May his presence be in and all around you
And your doubt be there but not matter.
He is your silent partner.
When you’re too busy to even think about anything to do with God or the meaning of life,
Like a philosopher, may Jesus think for you
and make purpose and meaning happen anyway.
May you one day look back and see the good
That God made while you were unaware.
He is your life coach.
May God’s love fill you
like a bank of clouds fills the sky,
like mountains fill the horizon,
like sunshine fills the landscape,
like Mom’s hug fills your soul.