Thursday, January 31, 2008
Trapped between Panic and Desire
In Northwestern Pennsylvania, while visiting family during the Christmas holidays, we came upon these two tiny towns, several miles apart. I had to stop and take a picture. I had to record the the reality of our human condition. How honestly telling of our human circumstances, that we are all seemingly on an endless journey between panic and desire, hope and fear, possibility and failure, terror and joy. We are rarely peacefully resting in the warm safe light of God's presence in our lives. We more often are plagued by the fear of loss, the ache for more, and the terror of inadequacy. We are caught, trapped, between panic and desire and rarely find a sense of calm or completion.
The psalmist, shepherd, king David reminds us "yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." We all spend a great deal of our lives in the shadow of death, in dark valleys, in financial and personal turmoil, and in trying to make ends meet. Dark valleys, shadowy places. And yet, wherever we feel trapped, I am reminded that God goes with us. From ancient times until the present, we hear that God is with us in our darkest, shadowed, lifeless places. Emmanuel, God is with us, even caught between panic and desire. God is offering comfort, respite and refueling in the midst of our hardest and most perilous journeys.
May today be a moment, when we together are able to stop for a moment to look for God with us. Can you turn for a moment and see the face of God? Is there a sweet sound, a laugh, a sigh that reminds you of God's touch in your life? I find that when I let go of the panic and desire for just one moment, God's light and presence flood in. Its' been there all the time, but I was too busy, turned away, looking for answers, directions, and a way home. All the time God's presence is with us and we are home in the loving arms of a loving savior - where ever we are, no matter how trapped we might feel.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
I have been thinking a great deal about how we separate ourselves from one another -by gender, race, ethnicity and religious affiliation. I have often marveled at how people seem to need so many gates in their lives and even in the afterlife. Does God really separate us? Or are the gates and fences images that we need to feel secure in the present and future? The Creator designed this world with few gates, and although the mountains, rivers and oceans might be considered barriers, most humans have found them to be challenges to overcome, and part of the journey of seeking and finding others. Explorers and dreamers have never imagined our world as gated or fenced, but rather as an exhilarating creative opportunity.
Recently, I was ticketed for overnight parking in neighboring town, as a relative was caring for my car while we were away. They have unposted rules to keep the streets clear of unwanted persons. Like me, I guess. Hidden fences, my sister calls them. We live in a time where we celebrate fences, alarm systems and homeland security. We rejoice in border fences and heightened security, thinking we are safe. We think if we can wear enough armor, keep danger at a distance, then we will be free. I think we are trapped by our gates and fences, even when they are open. Because, to believe that we are gatekeepers assumes that we can control and manage the messy world around us. I don't think we can. This world was created to be explored and we were created to cross barriers, seasons, oceans and mountains to seek out the face of God in others.
Can you join me today in imagining heaven without gates (and afterlife mints)? Can you engage, just for today, with life as an exhilarating creative opportunity? May you find the Creator's breath in your own today, rising with the hope of new possibilities and finding God in the other creation, the other person, just beyond the walls you have made.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Just a dreary Tuesday but the thought of these young women taking on the world gives me great joy. It was these three and their Dad that taught me to laugh until milk came out my nose and who make fun of me when I get full of myself. I am who I am because they forgive my impatience, encourage me through challenges, and will defend me fiercely when the world overwhelms. Our house is full, messy and overflowing because of their lives and love. On this dreary Tuesday, remember to give thanks for the ones in your life who still can fix most everything with laughter. Give thanks for those who mess up your life, and who fill your world with noise and laundry.
Monday, January 28, 2008
When winter comes
The pool is covered and the leaves
fill the old claw foot tub, crimson and orange
rust and yellow wet and running
together with the cold grey
rain and the seeping darkness that surrounds
us as we linger in the brisk air wishing
for one more hour of light.
There is nothing left in the yard but broken
sticks and a few yellowed papers we forgot
to collect and now are too wet to touch.
There is little to say except we should
go in now that the twilight plummets and
slams evening down to the earth.
You wrap in sweaters I wrap my hands
around a tea mug and we wonder in
silence about the one who runs
this show and why the shift from light to dark so
fast and permanent.
We are living in the creator’s hands, which take
a rest to grow new light and
new hearts. We bundle together and shrug
shoulder to shoulder waiting to be buried
and reborn in the artists better knowing
remade to bloom in a different place and time.
I am not afraid knowing we
are wrapped and held together until
the light returns. We are bound up
in the love of one who made us and
can welcome the rest.
Theology is not generally considered a creative process although those of us who take theology seriously. We tend, as a group, to consider God as ultimate Creator, primary progenitor, parent par excellence, but fail to consider theology as a creative exercise. We are studying the Creator, not participating with the Creator. It is very hard for preachers, teachers and church leaders to be creative. We tens to be legalistic and canonical whenever we have issues and struggles that threaten to divide us. The truth is that Anglicanism at her best, is a creative rather than dogmatic, theological model. In her best moments, her round, soft, pliability has made it possible for her to take root in new cultures, enjoying and inviting, its tongue, its food and its music. They become her language, taste and sound. At her worst she becomes an angry matron, abandoned by her children, unable to adjust to adjust to their emerging individual identities. Each child, in turn, has used their mother’s anger, has paraded as the self-righteous parental authority, and in turn, has been found wanting. As no one child holds all the genetic material, inspiration, beauty or capacity of their forebears, so too, can no one parent expect any one child to honor and know all tradition, suffering and beauty. To claim only one way of knowing and being is to limit not only the capacity and experience of the God bearer but to declare that multiple and diverse expressions must be stillborn. Rivers overrun their banks and we cannot contain them. God, who created all doesn’t view all flooding as danger but as a dampening, a moistening, a preparing for new crops in strange lands.
I believe that we are on the brink of a most creative and teachable moment. The well has been empty for so long. Tensions over a single way of being one family have come to the forefront. We have been aging war, a sibling war, a rivalry of most familial kind. Oldest ambivalent offspring are set against the hungry, driven and unsure lower birth order children. A mother has woken up to the fighting in these her later years. She is elderly, unable to function without multiple levels and kinds of support. She wants to be young and vibrant again and jumps into the fray with her brittle body. Her children are no longer able to hear her clearly, over the distance and culture, her words are hesitant and rigid, casting back to an era and expressions long gone. The younger children never knew her supple beauty. They never knew her youthful scorn and impetuousness. They know her stiffer, more practical maternity with many and multiple surrogates. They tasted milk of a franchise, a secondary, modified offering. They want their sustenance to be understood as purified and corrected. One was milk mixed with blood and tears, the other were milk reconstituted after the violence.
In every Bible story we receive, God’s work is not complete until the one child redeems the others. God’s work is not complete until Joseph redeems his brothers and their families and his father. God’s work is not complete when might or right wins out but when redemption and reconciliation are complete. The story of the Prodigal son is about the older brother and the work he has to do to know God’s activity in his life. Son, everything I have is yours. The redemption and reconciliation of all God’s children is everyone’s work and no one can say we are not family. We cannot cast one another aside as accidents or mistakes of misguided parents.