…paltry little definitions

A quote:

“I don’t fear the questions any more. I know that they are all part of the process of coming to union with God and refusing to make an idol of anything less. The point is that during that difficult time I didn’t try to force anything. I simply lived in the desert believing that whatever life I found there was life enough for me. I believed that God was in the darkness. It is all part of the purification process and should be revered. It takes away from us our paltry little definitions of God and brings us face-to-face with the Transcendent. It is not to be feared. It is simply to be experienced. Then, God begins to live in us without benefit of recipes and rituals, laws, and “answers”—of which there are, in the final analysis, none at all.”

(Sister Joan Chittister, Benedictine nun, from “In My Own Words”)
Found it at: The Daily Dish under “Sheer Christianity”
I no longer fear the questions, either, although a bit of worry does creep in periodically. As no one intends on becoming addicted to anything, so does no one intend on losing one’s faith by dwelling too long on questions. There is a balance, as for all things. Moderation in all things. “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. All things are permissible, lest one be mastered by anything.” – Paul

The Paths We Take

Thoughts from reading, quoting:

“I wish I’d had your head at my age; I would have spared myself many mistaken turns,” said my father.
“You, mistaken turns, Pro? Frankly, I can’t picture you ever imagining a mistaken turn.” [said Oliver]
“That’s because you see me as a figure, not a human being. Worse yet: as an old figure. But there were. Mistaken turns, that is. Everyone goes through a period of traviamento – when we take, say, a different turn in life, the other via. Dante himself did. Some recover, some pretend to recover, some never come back, some chicken out before even starting, and some, for fear of taking any turns, find themselves leading the wrong life all life long.” (call me by your name, by Andre Aciman, p. 99)

I fear for those I know that never come back or that lead wrong lives all life long. My heart aches for some… I know. Then, I wonder about myself – what turns, wrong turns, unrecognized beacons, misplaced enchiridion. What might have been, and what will be. One only knows…
Then, how many parishioners and general people view those in Holy Orders as… figures, not human beings? Sets up a dynamic that when reality encroaches, disappointment and disillusionment set in. It doesn’t make life easy for the cleric, either. It can be a lonely life.

Computer/Internet Worm

I usually don’t do this because I hate it when I receive three hundred e-mails from concerned friends and family members about some sort of Internet computer virus that is 10 years old, but the warnings refuse to die.
So anyway, this one is current and real and the New York Times report link here and posted in total below.
Be vigilant, anyone who might come across this blog.
Worm Infects Millions of Computers Worldwide – New York Times

Continue reading

Strange Words.

This seems to be going around e-mail of late. I saw it for the first time a few days a go from my sister-in-law.
Can you read this easily?

fi yuo cna
raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too
Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe
out of 100 can.
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht
I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch
at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod
are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit
pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed i t whotuit a pboerlm.
Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the
wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!
if you can raed tihs forwrad it

I had no problem.

A New Time. A New President. A new beginning?

Here we are, the first full day of a new presidency, a history making new presidency. There are all kinds of thoughts that have and continue to run through my mind about this event. I watched a good part of the festivities and formalities on my computer, yesterday – CNN/Facebook, MSNBC, and C-SPAN. There were plenty of places in the proceedings where I got goose bumps. President Obama (that sounds so strange and good), President Obama’s inaugural speech was amazing. To the point, realistic in its laying out our problems, purposeful in its calling to us to our better selves and to the hard work ahead, and rousing.
Such hope, such expectation. I hope that there is not laid upon this single man a national expectation that is unrealistic and beyond the abilities of any single person, no matter how charismatic, intelligent, or well intentioned. He certainly needs our prayers, as have all presidents.
The world waits in eager anticipation to see whether America returns to that place that inspires the best in humanity, the best aspirations of the human soul for freedom and respect, or whether we continue the downward slide into a form of despotism, unilateralism, and the inevitable result of a declining empire. The question looms large: “What will we become?”
My sense or take on Pastor Rick Warren’s prayer is what it is. As a Christian priest, I have no problem whatsoever in a Christian praying a Christian prayer. I do not feel that it is disrespectful or exclusionary concerning those who disagree. If a Muslim prayed, I would expect a prayer that exemplifies the integrity of Muslim prayer. The same for Jewish, or Hindu, or Buddhist prayer. Why is it expected that a Christian prayer should not be prayed in the name of the very one Christians follow? It is a hypocritical demand that we do not. I don’t think any faithful Muslim, Jew, or anyone else would expect a faithful Christian to pray in a way that was not authentically Christian. Yet, there are certainly ways to pray that contribute to division and that contribute to respectful difference in our diverse culture.
Should Rick Warren have been chosen to prayer this prayer? Should Bishop Gene Robinson have been chosen to pray a prayer? I think those are more apt questions than whether a prayer should be offered in the name of Jesus or not. Each man prayed according to his conscience, and while I may or may not agree with either of them in the way they prayed, I certainly do respect their abiding by their own consciences.
There is an interesting analysis of Rich Warren’s prayer by the Editor-in-Chief of Beliefnet, Steve Waldman, entitled, “Rick Warren’s Deft Invocation.” It is worth a read.

A good foundation

This morning, I attempted to read through a biblical commentary covering John, chapter 17, for our Home Group meeting, tonight. I came across a piece of paper with names and phone messages written on the outside – from my time as an undergraduate at Bowling Green State University. Inside, the sheet of paper was a bible-study outline neatly printed by one of my roommates who lead a small-group for our campus ministry at BGSU – Active Christians Today (ACT). ACT is a ministry of the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ fellowship/denomination, one of the historic results of the Campbellite movement.
So, as ease as it is to become distracted from one’s original intent when the Web is involved, I searched for “Cambellite” on google and came up with a website that dealt with a poster’s question of whether the Cambellite churches are cults or not. The person asked the question because Cambellite churches believe in a form of baptismal regeneration (as well as taking communion every week).
Then, an advert appeared at the top of the page: “Because a modest woman is a beautiful women.” It is an ad for “Modest Apparel” for women. I suspect a man could dress immodestly and get away with it??? Can we become any more distracted???
Anyway, back to the bible-study notes from college I discovered. A couple posts ago, “What the heck,” I woefully attempted to put into words thoughts about strong beliefs, about what Anglicanism or Christianity is not with regard to the prevailing culture (liberal or conservative) and all that. A train wreck, but I “process out loud” and it was yet another attempt to get at what I believe as I figure out what I believe.
On this bible-study outline was a verse from I Corn. 3:11:

“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Perhaps, all the stuff from “What the heck…” dealt with the question of foundations. What is our foundation upon which we build our organizations and our own faith?
It is easy to say, of course, “Jesus Christ.” Yet, I sense that for too many people in certain segments of The Episcopal Church and within parts of Anglicanism (and Christianity all together), we are attempting to lay a new and different foundation in reality. Subtly similiar, yet profoundly askew. On the ground, when most of what we hear comes along the lines of a Christianity or a Jesus that aligns with either, 1. materialism/consumerism, nationalism, and hyper-individuality or 2. the “inclusiveness” or “diversity” mantras born out of political-correctness and identity-politics, then it seems a new foundation is being constructed. These new foundations, at least with regard to living out the Kingdom of God as Jesus described bringing us “life to the full,” will, well… fail. And, they are failing. We see the results all around us as we attempt to justify our culturally subordinate religious opinions about what is and isn’t “Christian.” We see the results particularly at present as more and more people find nothing worthwhile in our organized religion.
When our modus operandi is to point accusing fingers at anyone other than our group and our determination to rebel and our demand for self, I don’t blame people for wanting to stay away. If we lived as Christians, in whatever knowable sense God might intend for those claiming his Son, I would guess that far more people might see something far more compelling in this thing called the Christian life than they do now. Those who do claim Christ just might find themselves living a far less deficient life in the Spirit, also.
What is our foundation? The more I think about it, really, the more I come back to the simple, yet profoundly befuddling, two commands of Jesus. Frankly, this is one of my favorite parts of Rite I and I am glad I get to say it so often,

“Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

So simple, yet so profoundly difficult that we chose to build other foundations so to attempt to justify our religion and our dogmatism. What shall come of the cause of Christ? What shall become of us?

Proud to be an American…

Some people are proud to be an American because of our military might and economic prowess. Some people are proud to be an American because of the character of its citizens. Of course, generally it is a combination of the a number of things and a different combination for most. Some are not proud to be an American for any reason.
It is hard to be proud when we are not living up to the ideals we as Americans like to think we possess. I would rather be proud of the nation because of the character of its people. This is a tougher thing, because we like to believe that we are often better than we really are, that our goals or reasons for doing are for the best reasons. Our reasons for doing or being are becoming less honorable as the years go by, I think.
It is interesting to me to hear people say, “I’m proud to be an American.” Some say that with regard to our outgoing president. Some say such a thing at the prospect of our incoming president. I wonder how things will change with this new president – will we be proud because of what we accomplish and less because of the character of citizens or the other way around?

What the heck

So here’s the deal, where the heck are we as a Church (TEC), as a Communion, as a body within the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, as simple Christians living in a hurting world full of chaos and confusion?
I don’t know. I have all kinds of thoughts as certain segments of The Episcopal Church in the United States (TEC-USA) leave and attempt to take the assets with them, as the California Supreme Court rules that the departing parishes in the Diocese of Los Angeles still belong to the diocese, as other parts of TEC-USA depart to form a new Continuing Anglican denomination in North America that they believe will overwhelm TEC-USA, as Israelis and Palestinians are being killed and as people are starving to death with no hope. All that.
Churches and denominations in the U.S. and many other parts of the world have fallen so far from the call of God to be a people living out the Way of Christ. We are so caught up in socio-politics/theo-politics and our own insecurities that we demand “fact” when no such fact exists, only faith in a determined belief. We depend on this world’s way of understanding and dealing with things rather than on God.
What do we do? Our focus has moved from that which is the beginning point from which all other stuff flows. Too many people who truly want to be engaged in their faith and seeking God have simply left organized religion, because organized religion is too preoccupied with things other than engagement of the person with the Spirit of God. If we were institutionally serious about engagement with God, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in. That is the truth, as much as too many of us don’t want to face that truth. Instead of “personal relationship” (loving God with all our hearts, minds, and souls) and maturing in such a relationship (being transformed into the image of Christ), we put our faith in precepts and lists to check off and stereotypes.
Here is the way I see it at the moment: There are things going on around us that right now we have no idea whether we are acting/thinking/believing correctly or not – according to the better will of God. Only in hindsight will we know. If we want to know Truth we have to admit, and I mean really admit, that we can be absolutely wrong and be willing to listen and change. Otherwise, we are only seeking confirmation of what we have already determined to believe, whether honestly true or not. Only in hindsight will we know for sure – and perhaps not know for sure until the next generation. We have to get out of the business of asserting our “rights” and get back into the business of giving up everything. The focus can be to love God with all that we are and have and focusing on the betterment of our neighbors as we love them not as a political campaign or a social project but as people made in the very image of God as we attempt to love ourselves beyond our own insecurity and self-doubt. This isn’t possible without engagement with the Spirit of God. This isn’t possible without God’s help. It has nothing to do with politics or social policy of a particular kind or theory.
Loving God and neighbor is not about political-correctness or identity-politics or personal rights. Loving God is about finding ourselves by giving up ourselves.
An example – the spirit or ethos of Anglicanism (and this is only my thinking at the moment): Anglicanism is not at all about whether everyone is invited to sit at the table or not. Anglicanism isn’t about whether anyone has the right to receive communion or not. Anglicanism isn’t about whether we are mulit-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-generational,multi-sexual, or multi-anything. Anglicanism isn’t at all about whether we are relevant or not. Anglicanism isn’t at all about whether women have the right to Holy Orders or not. Anglicanism isn’t about whether gays are included or not. Anglicanism isn’t about whether war in Iraq is legitimate or not or whether Americans are baby-killers or defenders of liberty and freedom. Anglicanism has nothing to do with the advocacy of Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, democracy, monarchies, civil rights, food distribution policy, foreign debt relief, or the Millennium Development Goals. The ideas of all these things have often supplanted what the essence of being a Christian or an Anglican is about.
Anglicanism is not about whether people feel welcome, feel affirmed, feel slighted or abused, or feel that singing in the choir is the best thing since sliced bread. Anglicanism isn’t about whether some people prefer Reformed form of Church or Catholic form of Church. Christianity is not about any of those things either, despite what much of the institutional Church and organized religious keep groping for.
Anglicanism is distinguished within greater Christianity by its willingness to make room for the arguments revolving around all those things and the strong beliefs regarding each, yet we all still come around to come together for common prayer and common fellowship despite our differences. Within Anglicanism, the freedom of wrestling with the questions and doubts in all their forms and difficulties is not stymied or even discouraged, but allowed. Does this Church believe anything? Of course! But, this Church is hesitant to demand capitulation to any one theological or pietistic preference or confession, no matter how convinced certain groups or individuals are regarding God’s view of such things.
We know in part; we understand the things of God no better than we clearly see the landscape through a glass darkly. Too many of us are unwilling to accept such limits in our understanding or vision. Some of us must assert without qualification or question or doubt that this one perspective is Absolute – is God’s very way of thinking. Some of us in order to feel special or good about ourselves (rather than loving ourselves) must then condemn all those others who do not align with our perspective, our theory, our belief or position that we cannot perceive as being anything other than God’s determined “fact.”
I have strong beliefs. I’m opinionated. I think at this point that I’m correct, in my very limited knowledge and understanding. Yet, I am also willing to admit in my limited state that I can be completely wrong. I am but a worm. What I hold most dear can be completely wrong, but if I want to honestly know Truth, I cannot cling to anything other than perhaps my belief in the source of all Truth. I am a worm that perhaps can be made to be wise. By the grace of God.
For what it’s worth…