Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"Babble........................."

Nothing in my mind the last few days but babble, at least in the sense of not being able to grab hold of anything long enough to explore the nooks and crannies of it. The caricature I promised our favorite waiter at the Red Lobster is yet unfinished. The Rolheiser sequel that has entertained my love of literature the last couple of weeks has run dry about halfway through it. Services this past Sunday failed to stir me in any way and mostly life has been occupied with browsing through Einstein’s view of the universe, helping my granddaughter piece together a report due Monday. I mentioned Uno’s pizza to Beth Saturday and we drove about forty-five minutes north to a couple of flea markets not visited for years, stopping on the way back for the spinach-broccoli deep-dish we both love. Wandering a few of the outdoor stalls at the one location did bring me four books on WWII for ten bucks; but her back didn’t allow any real search of what was there. For the most part, these places remind me of what I used to see on inner-city street corners in Cincinnati, people hawking items out of automobile trunks, some of it, no doubt, stolen, but everything in the world, toiletries, clothing, jewelry, tools, somebody’s garage or warehouse all spilled out on rectangular tables and up for sale in much the same fashion as some of those Mediterranean ports known to me back in the early sixties. The vendor wanted thirty drachma; you offered him four and worked your way into an agreement. Life, in general, seems that way at the moment. Yesterday morning, having driven McKenna out to the church school, the old man picked up some McDonald coffee and two hash rounds before returning to attend her bi-weekly chapel service. They gather all the kids, kindergarten up to and including seniors, into the main sanctuary, sing a few songs before dismissing the little diddles, then turn it over to a speaker who addresses them with a short sermon before opening it up to prayer. It was an enjoyable hour for me who, so many years ago, double-shifted between its genesis and my job at the railroad, picking up students in an old broken-down van in the beginning and eventually teaching the upper learning center, tenth through twelve grade, the entire class able to fit into the left side of the balcony. Did we achieve anything in so far as our hope to provide a more sanctified, stable atmosphere for learning? Most certainly, here we are yet able to “sow seed”, our teachers all believers, the educational material not purged of that which originally birthed this country. The world is still the world, though; life is still life; and generation after generation makes its own way through this mess that humanity makes of it all. Even sitting in the third pew back, sermon or no sermon, Bible-filled or I-phone saturated, it takes an encounter. My heart cries to see one in our youth……..

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"Hooked..................."

”What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday morning, a little after eight, my wife still in bed, me and the pup up for nearly two hours already, me deep in thought, he interested only in his freedom gained from the cage he occupies overnight. The above quote is an old one, rediscovered via my usual “dumpster diving” at this time of day. That’s probably not the best term to use, such exercise, for me, more like exploring some large flea market and looking for “buried treasure”, in this case not objects, but words, thoughts expressed by others that touch me inwardly, capturing my heart, stirring my mind. Indeed, I collect such finds in bits and pieces, storing them away to revisit again and again. “Metanoia is a Greek term”, an acquaintance once wrote, “with a more expansive definition than its frequent translation of ‘repentance’. Its meaning incorporates the idea of a turn in direction, a change of heart. I am not yet ready for such a transformation, but I am experiencing slight nudges toward whatever life will be in the wake of a devastation that loss of child entails, a return to ‘what once was’ is foreclosed, but I’m willing to think in terms of inclination toward something new. ‘To incline’ implies a degree of hesitation, a certain fragility, an experimental move, some of which might describe the present. Metanoia, I think, is for the long term.” She was transitioning through what all of us hope we’ll never have to face; but, in truth, none of know what tomorrow may bring and, for that matter, have no real understanding of the past. Look back, there are things I regret, decisions made, stupidity on my part. Reflection, though, doesn’t hold me captive other than pondering much of the enigma as to how much was just me staggering down the path and how much was His anchor-line tugging on the inside long before I ever realized He was there……

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Unity..........................."

Many years ago I sat in a Sunday school class under a teacher who declared it impossible for two believers to give the Gospel to others unless they both held the same theology. To which I replied, “Give him to me. We’ll just share Christ and discuss our differences later.” Last night found me seated with six others around a rectangular table in the rectory at Holy Cross, invited by a friend to join his weekly men’s group. It was an enjoyable experience for me, albeit a bit uncomfortable at first, realizing dogma separated us somewhat and an initial request for us to share ten minutes of silence leaving me praying only that the cellphone inside my jacket wouldn’t suddenly come to life with “Anchors Aweigh”. There were seven of us there, three, including me, possessing obvious longevity, Father Barnes positioned where he could easily direct questions to all concerning Ron Rolheiser’s book, “Sacred Fire”. My original intention was to say little, listen a lot, and to simply show my gratitude for being there at all. Prayer, beforehand, sought His presence to use my tongue should it operate in any manner, knowing the differences in dogma and my ability to “open mouth, insert foot”. As it happened, as I should have known, when swords aren’t drawn and nobody’s out to clone the other fellow’s experience, the Holy Ghost in each of us attracts our individual flames, making us one in Him. Freedom was there to speak openly, Jesus the center of what was shared and alive in those words that came forth. The “Tower of Babel” operated in reverse, linguistics unable to divide the truth of Jesus connecting us through the Cross. What an evening, a banquet, indeed, and a privilege to be with others, He in our midst. We, it seems to me, make our own walls. He passes through them……

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Prayer.........................."

"I don't like when precious things slip through people's fingers - especially things that seem defenseless or under-celebrated, but also unheralded people who may have said sensible things at a certain time in history, but who were completely drowned out by other people. Or minor poets whose lives were instructive. Sometimes I'm astounded by the absence of sentimentality in other people. How can you not become attached to the poignant scraps that flow through life?" - Nicholson Baker (borrowed from Whiskey River.com)

Whenever they show us the inside of one of those health spas, be it a commercial or a sitcom, it is always inhabited by well-endowed specimens of both genders pumping iron or burning rubber on a treadmill. The walking track around the soccer field at the local park, however, especially early in the morning, is not the same scenario. Mostly, what one finds there is the older generation, those who have, obviously, just lately came to the opinion that exercise might be good for you. (Try to imagine Tim Conway’s unforgettable portrayal of that elder gentlemen so along in years that his gait almost has him going backwards, moving along side by side with Dom DeLuise who is coping with all his rotundness, and the two of them trying to keep pace with each other) Nobody is in a hurry. Few are taking it seriously. It’s just some fresh air, sunshine, and another day. Me? I count myself blessed. My 73rd orbit of the calendar ends in a couple of weeks and any health issues are undefined at the moment, my choice to let nature run its course, tomorrow left in God’s hands, in His wisdom. No medicine. No doctors other than a bi-yearly checkup where I’ve managed, thus far, to balance my cholesterol and blood pressure with a planned reduction in whatever weight has accumulated along the way. I recently mentioned “Prevagen”, a newly advertised product said to be able to help one’s grey matter function somewhat better, to a friend who immediately searched it out on the computer, but gave it a “thumbs-down” upon learning its consistency comes from the brains of jellyfish. She made me laugh, her disdain taking me mentally to Patrick and SpongeBob, a duo whose intelligence is probably not all that superior to mine as it presently exists. What’s life without some laughter? Whether you’re looking forwards or backwards, the next step needs a bit of humor, some forgiveness, and purpose, even if the latter amounts to nothing more than making a statement that you haven’t yet abandoned the journey. "Bravo!" therefore to all those who tread the path, last minute decision or not. It's a great place to think, to realize you're still breathing fresh air, to enjoy the warmth of the sun rising in the east, and to let your thoughts intertwine with His. There's more to life than just "me", a lot of other people out there, wounded, hurting, bound. How can we occupy it with no tug on our heart concerning the wounded, the hurting, the bound, the enigma of it all, the wonder of it all; and not thirst to see it through His eyes......

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Schematics.................."

Beth and I had dinner last night with a couple of friends, good people, both involved down through the years with missionary work in Mexico, but currently hindered in their return to such area, too much drug cartel danger presenting a threat. The wife is the preacher and several times during the hour or so together tried convincing me to participate in an upcoming inner-city outreach. Heroin here in northern Kentucky is a major problem and this coming week a huge outdoor meeting has been scheduled, a huge number of churches taking the Gospel outside the sanctuary to the streets. No “inner Voice” thus far tugging on my heart. If I do go, persuasion will come from that source. In reading Rolheiser’s new book “Sacred Fire”, his thoughts sent me investigating three different ways that people are convinced by others to accept, to act, to adopt the other’s reasoning. “Ethos” is a term defined as the author’s “character” or “credibility”. We listen to those who impress us in some “intelligent” way, their reputation preceding them and providing some foundation for faith. “Pathos” has more of an emotional meaning, the speaker’s message invoking sympathy, drawing pity, or invoking anger from those before him. “Logos”, then, simply implies logic, utilizing facts and statistics that speak for themselves. My own preference, be it listening to the other guy or in me attempting to minister, to the kids at the Center or the men at the mission, is a balance of it all that hopefully comes forth in a manifestation of His reality. In witnessing, what I try to do is just, not get “self” out of the whole scenario, that’s almost impossible; but one can surrender “self” unto His anointing and achieve a place where He connects with hearts, He supplies the text. The third element, though, remains with the fellow in the flesh. Ethos is a matter of me being faithful in my commitment, honest in my humanity, and sincere in my compassion, giving God the glory while allowing Him to use the moment. The ground, at Calvary is always level and, likewise, the old man is always “under construction” with another lesson to be learned…….

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Lily Pads......................."

Worship with my bunch Sunday, both services, was vibrant, but failed to ignite this old man for the most part. The pastor’s morning sermon had me disagreeing with him in so far as several key points he made about faith and an unexplainable weariness drained me of all enthusiasm. I sat there feeling “guilty” and “grumpy”. It was much the same that evening, it seeming to me like the first twenty minutes of his message doing little more than reciting Old Testament history to us and most of it having nothing to do with his proclaimed subject of the prophet Amos being a “burden bearer”. Suddenly, though, it all got personal, the Holy Host providing an anointing that spilled over into the congregation, His presence filling the sanctuary, not to a complete immersion, but deep enough to make all there one in Him, final altar call a sea of people praying with each other. Indeed, nothing else mattered. When Christianity reduces Christ to anything less than a resurrected reality reconnected within us, it becomes nothing more than another religion, a list of “thou-shalt-nots”, an agenda whereby we “save” ourselves. When Christianity exaggerates the indwelling to the point of usurping its identity rather than surrendering itself unto His flow, it becomes a charade wherein, sooner or later, our inability to “call things that are not as though they are” has to face the fact that He, not we, are in control. In many ways, it is amazing to me, not just that God gives us grace in the beginning, but that His patience with us endures us in this stumble down the road. It’s the “funny” thing about “church” to me. In spite of all our humanity, sometimes the inner valve on our connection with Him permits an inner flow of His presence so strong that one has to either step into the water or flee the sanctuary to escape it. Faulty theology, yours or mine, doesn’t matter. Messed up in some way, still struggling even “in” Christ? He takes you “through the veil”, if only momentarily, an “osmosis” of sorts wherein all that matters is that He knows you and is with you in the next step. Judgment Day will sort out all the rest, each of us facing the facts as they apply to both sides of the pulpit. In the meantime, what we have is whether or not we will allow His Spirit to minister in our midst. In such waters, even an old bullfrog loses his croak…….

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Lunacy.............................."

Shopping with my wife at Kroger’s yesterday, I wandered a few aisles over to search for something on my own list and bumped into my cousin doing much the same. That’s about the extent of our knowing each other in any sort of relationship, living within no more than a couple of miles apart, but basically in two different worlds in spite of such proximity. I like this guy, nonetheless, aware of at least a smidgeon of his history; and encounters are always enjoyed. His wife’s family were church people; he and she attended for several years; neither go anywhere anymore. In response to my inquiry, his excuse was “too many bad experiences incurred along the way, too much turmoil that he didn’t need in his life.” I can empathize. Yet, when he as much as reduced the Gospel, for him at least, to harmonizing the lyrics of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” with some of his buddies, a closing “hymn” regularly sung at the end of a weekly get-together held in his garage, it hit me as somewhat of a shame that we, the body of Christ, fail one another so often in so many ways. In erecting doctrinal totem poles without providing any real depth as to the meaning of the Word, we leave people clinging to illusions, nonsense, and the “Bible says it and I believe it; but don’t look at me expecting an explanation.” Before service this morning, a woman spoke to me of how much she liked to hear this certain preacher well known for his sermons on eschatology. When I shared with her my own lack of enthusiasm concerning him due to his delivery being so fast that everything merely went in one ear and out the other, my brain unable to capture anything at such speed, she strangely agreed, admitting to having the same problem with him! Then a short video was shown us during the service depicting Jewish soldiers, linked together arm in arm and chanting “There is no god like Jehovah! There is no god like Jehovah!” Listening as the phrase was repeated over and over, the congregation began to applaud and give praise; yet, if polled, it’s safe to assume that all there would be quick to condemn them to hell for possessing no belief in a risen Christ! To me, it all gets silly sometimes. Judgment Day will, no doubt, sort it all out; and what holds me here, what cannot be denied, is an anchor-line connection maintained in a prayer closet. In the midst of it all, He speaks peace……..