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


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.

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
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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.