Saturday, July 11, 2020
Good reminder not to always insist on my own opinion, even when my opinion is good.
But if Christ is amongst us, then it is necessary that we sometimes yield up our own opinion for the sake of peace. Who is so wise as to have perfect knowledge of all things? Therefore trust not too much to thine own opinion, but be ready also to hear the opinions of others. Though thine own opinion be good, yet if for the love of God thou foregoest it, and followest that of another, thou shalt the more profit thereby. ~~Thomas a' Kempis, from *The Imitation of Christ*
Monday, June 29, 2020
Today my morning devotions/meditation (The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Daily Life) had a reading of Matthew 25:31-46. You know the passage: Jesus talks about the final judgment, separating the sheep and the goats. Then he tells them "I was thirsty, I was hungry, I was a stranger, I needed clothes, I was sick, etc." and the people ask, "When did we see you thirsty, hungry, a stranger, etc.?" The Lord answers, "whatever you did / did not do for one of the least of these, you did / did not do for me."
The devotional said, "Consider how Jesus portrays sin as a failure to notice and act." I had never thought of it that way. A failure to notice. Who am I failing to notice??
Sunday, June 28, 2020
A while ago I read this newsletter from Sarah Bessey. She wrote that during this time when she is house-bound with 4 kids, she gets a little time to herself by taking a 30-minute bath every night. On one night:
I got out of the tub ... And the thought came, unbidden, to my mind: I love this in particular. This, the hot water, the smell of the bath salts, the clean towel, the damp paperback on the edge of the tub, the rosiness of my cheeks, the languid heat rising from my limbs, the noise on the other side of the door: love this.…
...I’ve found - entirely by accident - that this practice of loving this in particular a few times a day is actually functioning as both an invocation and a benediction. ... This has been a nice surprise.
A while back I listened to an interview of Ross Gay, the author of a book called The Book of Delights, a book of essays he wrote each day about what delighted him. The practice Sarah Bessey wrote of -- loving this in particular a few times a day -- reminded me of what Ross Gay said. He wrote an “Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt.” Can’t get much less highfalutin and deep than buttoning your shirt. Yet he delighted in it.
Without thinking too much about it, I started noticing little things I love in particular. It came naturally to me. I have read many times about the practice of gratitude, things like writing every day 3 things you’re grateful for, but I could never keep that up. Somehow trying to list what I’m grateful for was harder. It wasn’t something natural that just occurred to me throughout the day. I tended to be grateful for bigger things like my family, the fact I have shelter, my health, and so on. But with loving something in particular, size and importance did not matter.
Here are some of the things I love in particular that have come to my mind in the last few days.
A tree, green leaves, black trunk, its shadow on the green hill.
My granddaughter’s profile
On a walk around the block, the smell of a rosebush that wafted in the breeze when I was still around 4 feet away.
Crawling back into bed after breakfast with my book and my coffee.
I took pictures of some of the things and started a gallery. I keep forgetting to add to it, but it’s a start.
I am glad to have these reminders -- some little, some big -- of God's love in this world that can sometimes seem bleak and full of hate. How about you? What do you notice you love in particular?
Praise God for all the things we love in particular.
Monday, June 22, 2020
c: 408 318 2037
Sunday, June 14, 2020
I paint a Black mother…
holding the contour of her loss.
We all have fears about our loved ones, and for us mothers and fathers, fears about our children loom large. Someone said, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body" (Elizabeth Stone, teacher and author). When something bad happens to my children, it feels like it is happening to me. I cannot think of a greater pain than the suffering you feel when your child suffers.
The painting reminds me of the many images of Madonna and child. I think of the pain for Mary, the mother of Jesus, as she held her baby son. In several Bible stories she heard prophecies about her son and “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Jesus was her “heart...walking around outside [her] body,” and she pondered his life in her own heart.
Imagining Mary standing beneath the cross where her son Jesus was hanging is unbearably, achingly heartbreaking. Jesus embodied their love when he told the disciple standing beside Mary, “here is your mother.”
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27).Even as he was being tortured to death Jesus cared for his mother. How must Mary have felt -- hearing his words of love, watching her beloved son suffering and dying.
It is hard to bear the sadness in this world. As we hold the contour of our loss, God holds us. May we rest in the healing of his love.
Saturday, June 6, 2020
My strength is trust.Recently I happened upon this video.
I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
-- Herman Hesse
I was enchanted by the repeating phrase, “A tree says…” I read it right before going on a walk and started wondering what the other things around us say. In Herman Hesse’s passage, many of the phrases are true of God, of us, and our relationship with God. In my reflections, it turned out that was true of other elements of nature, too. We see -- and hear and feel -- God in everything.
Here are some of my thoughts. How about yours? What do you imagine God’s creations are saying?
The cloud says: I am white, I am gray, I am a wisp, I am fluffy, I am heavy.
I blow in the wind and disappear,
I release the rain, snow, hail, and sleet to water the earth.
I quench your thirst.
The sky says: I am blue, I am gray, I am white, I am midnight, I am starry, I am hidden, I am brilliant.
I am above you, I am below you, I am around you.
I am the portal to outer space, to billions and billions, to infinity.
I protect you.
The grass says: I am green, I am brown, I am smooth, I am rough, I am pristine, I am weedy.
I spread far and rest your eyes.
I cushion you.
The stone says: I am hard, I am sharp, I am round, I am gray, I am white, I am big, I am small.
I skip on the water.
I support your steps.
The rose says: I am red, I am all colors, I am curvilinear, I am blowsy, I am petals, I am thorns.
I am the flower your nose wants to smell.
I bring you joy.
The wind says: I am soft, I am hard, I am mischievous, I am sad, I am gentle, I am rough.In the book of Isaiah, it says:
I make the trees beautiful and I tear the trees down.
I breathe peace.
You will go out in joyThe tree says:
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life.The tree says “I trust that God is in me...Out of this trust I live.” Amen, may it be so for us all.
I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
My strength is trust.
I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
-- Herman Hesse
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Thursday, May 21, 2020
Recently I listened to "The Habit" podcast where Jonathan Rogers talks with Leif Enger. I love Leif Enger's books -- Peace Like A River, Virgil Wander, and So Brave, Young, and Handsome. In the interview, Leif describes seeing a fox near a creek in a park he and his wife walk to (starts at 10:47). He says the creek has a muddy section where you can see tracks of different animals who come to the creek, but the fox never leaves any footprints. He says, after seeing the fox, he walks down to the muddy spot to look for fox prints and there are none. Then he imagines the fox floating to that part of the shore, just a few inches above the ground. And that delights him.
What a good story, and image, isn't it? It reminds me of a scene in his book Peace Like a River where one of the characters walks off the end of a truck bed, if I remember correctly. When I read that scene, I pictured the cartoons where someone like Wile E. Coyote would run off a cliff, first continuing to run straight in the air, then suddenly, usually with a look of surprise and desperation directly to the camera, whooshes down to the ground. But the scene in the book was much more gentle. There was no sudden fall.
Leif Enger spoke at one of the Faith & Writing Festivals I attended. I remember him talking about his process of writing Peace Like a River. He said he started the book planning to tell the story of a dad and his two sons. Then at one point in the story the family was getting into their station wagon, one of the boys opened a door, and there was a little sister. She just showed up! Enger and Rogers talked about that a bit in this interview, too. Both of them said that they write outlines and invariably the plot turns out very different from what they had planned.
This is one of the reasons I like to listen to and read about writers and their process -- the way imagination works. And imagination also is the main thing that attracted me to the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. Ignatian contemplation is all about the imagination.
It's amazing to me that this ethereal thing, our imagination, produces, seemingly independent of our own will, new stories, characters, images, and more. Some writers' imaginations produce a whole world, even new languages the people in that world speak, like Tolkien's Elvish.
Imagine God's imagination! I can't even.
I am so glad we can tap into the gift of imagination. One way we all tap into it is we live in a world, a universe, a cosmos created by God's imagination. There is no end to what we can learn from this creation -- from the tiniest, invisible atoms and parts of atoms to the huge expanse of space, from infrared to ultraviolet and rays beyond both ends of that spectrum, the sounds we hear and the "un-hear-able" sounds below and above that range, and on and on and on.
And we tap into "our own" imagination -- in quotes because somehow our imagination is from outside us, although it's inside us. Writers tap into it, and all of us do as we read and picture what is written. In our prayers we use our imagination to connect with God. Even if we're not practicing Ignatian contemplation, where we imagine ourselves in a Biblical story or with Biblical people, even with memorized prayers like the Lord's Prayer we are using our imagination. We imagine God is listening as we ask for our daily bread, and for his kingdom to come. That's not to say God is a figment of imagination, it's that we use our imagination to picture him, and sometimes even to hear him.
Praise God for our imagination.
Some notes I took with places in the video:
14:29 - The start of a discussion about the current situation and what the church can do in response, the scientific work going on, including a vaccine currently in development, and how the big pharma companies are actually working together - 18 companies working together and actually not worrying "about who gets credit and who makes money."
26:39 - Vaccines and conspiracies question, how do we get along with people who disagree with us.
29:01 - Keller: Suspicion about scientific expertise, particularly acute amongst Christians. Response must be both critiquing and affirming.
29:40 - Keller: Christians have got some reason to be wary, not so much of scientists, but of people who come trying to make a case of something and invoking science, when actually they're making moral decisions or philosophical arguments and they're cloaking it in science.
For example, there really are a fair number of scientists who will take their cultural capital -- science has a lot of cultural capital because of all the accomplishments -- and they'll say -- not too many but some -- "Science proves that there's no God, that there's no soul, that there's nothing beyond this." Some scientists tell us these things, many making money right now with books and things are saying these things.
Christians look at this and say, "Sorry, science does not tell you these things." That's what you might call scientism, a philosophy that says there's nothing real that cannot be empirically proven, there's no reality outside of the natural and material.
With that history, you can see why Christians become wary when people come and say we have this agenda and it's totally scientific.
German philosopher Jurgen Habermaster:
Science can tell you what you can do and what you can't do but science cannot tell you whether or not you should do it.
I can understand that wariness.
On the other hand, Christians should know better, and here's where I would push back.
Herbert Butterfield's book: The Origins of Modern Science. Buddhism and Hinduism didn't believe nature was real. Other religions have nature as power poles battling against each other.
Along comes Christianity which says there's one God, a personal God, who creates the world as an artist, a rational God, and it's in that soil that science can grow. There's nature, a uniformity to nature, orderliness to nature, and the reality is that it was in Christianity where the whole idea of science grew up.
Quotes Bible stories where Jesus showed he knew the difference between demon possession and sick people. He doesn't see everything as a demonic thing. Paul tells Timothy to take wine as medicine to help his stomach, God tells Hezekiah to put some figs on the boil. The Bible is filled with reasons to trust science - not scientism, but science. But I am sympathetic to the use of science to attack Christianity.
36:39 - Prayer or science? What's God doing? Where is God in a pandemic?
38:23 - Keller: Somebody might say, sure he was here, but he isn't anymore.
38:33 - Keller: When he meets Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), he says, Paul, Paul, why are you persecuting *me*? Jesus is present in this world, particularly his people. He is still in the midst of this people and their suffering.
39:27 - Keller: Why did he allow this to happen? Lazarus has died and Mary and Martha ask why did Jesus allow this to happen? Jesus does not give an explanation. He prays, he weeps, he helps, and he does so sacrificially. He doesn't give an explanation and he's there. He prays,, he weeps, he helps, and he does so sacrificially.
We don't know why he's allowing the pandemic right now, we just know it's not because he doesn't love us.
We should follow Jesus. We shouldn't try to explain why is God allowing this to happen. No Christian ought to give an answer. They should pray, help, weep, sacrifice, and be where everybody else is suffering.
Innocent sufferers like Job and Jesus. They remained faithful and that is how they defeat Satan. In both cases, Satan is defeated. If you're faithful you're defeating Satan and getting closer to God, besides helping people.
45 - Keller: Disproportional suffering. Churches need to help each other, churches with more resources help other churches with less.
Sunday, May 17, 2020
Have you heard of the French word “désolé” (pronounced dess-oh-lay)? I keep thinking about it. Sometimes I get kind of entranced by a word; does that ever happen to you? I am re-reading the mystery series by Louise Penny which is set in Quebec so the characters often use French words, désolé being one of them. It means “sorry.” I also happen to be watching a French detective series on Amazon Prime, with English subtitles. Those characters, too, say “désolé” from time to time, with the caption of “Sorry” or “I’m sorry.” It’s a pretty word, I think, but the meaning is kind of sad.
Related to it is the word “desolation,” which is used in my Ignatian studies. One of the Jesuit spiritual exercises is the Examen, in which you review your day as part of a prayer. In that examination, one question you ask yourself is whether your actions or thoughts were a consolation or desolation. The shorthand explanation for that is, Were you moving closer to God with that action (consolation), or away from God (desolation)?
As I googled désolé, desolation, desolate, and desolated, I found another meaning is abandoned, forsaken, alone. I wonder if that sense of the word is part of the reason it is fascinating me right now. We are isolating ourselves, sheltering in place, quarantining ourselves. Those are lonely words, too.
I have been thinking a lot about the concept of being sorry. Sometimes it is hard to say the words, “I am sorry.” Saying those words sometimes seems lame. I tell myself I don’t need to apologize or justify myself to someone else. But while that is true sometimes, it is also true that there are times I do need to apologize. Times I have hurt someone, or said something offensive, or made someone angry, or belittled them, or gossiped about them, or ignored them, or one of many other things we do when we mess up in our relationships. Saying those words, “I am sorry,” and really meaning them, is often the only hope of saving a relationship.
There are times, too, when I tell Jesus I am sorry. When I review my day and remember things I have said or done that take me further from God -- desolation -- I tell him I am sorry. He forgives me. Always. Thank God that when we tell God, “Désolé,” he always forgives and consoles us. He even forgives before we say we are sorry, as when he said on the cross about the people who were killing him, “Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
Maybe this seems like a kind of depressing thing to think and write about. Désolé. There is a sadness about it. But somehow it is beautiful, too.
What do you think?
Saturday, April 25, 2020
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Several quotes came to mind.
"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." ~~Annie Dillard.
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~~Mary Oliver.
Sunday, April 5, 2020
|from The Poultry Pages|