...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Completely incompatible?

In the church's earliest centuries, government officials who wanted to be baptized first had to relinquish their offices...As counterintuitive as all of this might seem, there are serious Christian thinkers (not just Anabaptists) who argue that it is impossible for a Christian to be at one and the same a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ and a responsible president of the United States, for example.* This is not a question of arguing about whether or not Jimmy Carter or George W. Bush were sincere in their claims of being born again; it is the simple assertion that there are inherent irreconcilable contradictions between honoring the Sermon on the Mount and being the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military in all of history.
* Clarence Jordan considered being president completely incompatible with being a Christian. 

Arthur Paul Boers, Servants and Fools, pp.143-144

Monday, January 4, 2016

Gaining Christ

Fallen idols: letting go what is most false in us and our world
There was a Birth, certainly, we had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, but had thought they were different; this Birth was hard and bitter agony for us, like death, our death. We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, but no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, with an alien people clutching their gods.  from T.S. Eliot, Journey of the Magi 

I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ-- Philippians 3: 8 CEB
 
The Coptic Church gives us a remarkable account of the Holy Family's escape into Egypt, which is referenced in Matthew 2: 13-15. It's the falling of cultural idols.
 
"A prophecy in Isaiah says that idols of Egypt will totter (or shake) at His presence. This happened in many places that the Holy Family visited. Whenever they came near the Ancient Egyptian holy places with their idols, many idols would fall over and crash.
 
One of these places was in the region of Hermopolis, near the modern village of Ashmunein. The Holy Family could not find any place to rest so they went into this temple. There were 365 idols in this temple. The people would worship one each day of the year. When they entered the temple, all the idols fell on their faces and broke into pieces.
The governor of the city heard the news, and many people expected that he would punish the Holy Family. Instead when he saw the idols fallen, he actually worshipped our Lord and said, “Unless this were the God of our gods, our gods would not have fallen on their faces before Him.” Therefore, all the people believed. You can still see the ruins of the temples of Hermopolis outside village of Ashmunein."
Having 365 idols seems like a lot, but in reality, it shows how inventive we can be in attempting to fill our demands. So if one thing doesn't work, on to whatever gets our attention as quick as possible. You can never have enough of what is not working. 

Continuous news networks often promise to follow a particular "trending" story, "with live, up to the minute updates throughout the day." Overnight, the "story" that was penultimate the previous day is just about forgotten. Our brains are not made for multitasking, but operate by refocusing- or starting over- with each different task. The cultural idol of multitasking prevents us from focusing on any one thing, be it another person or God, who is One.
The invitation to journey with Three Kings to Bethlehem or with the Holy Family to Egypt is also a chance to let go of what is most false within us and in our world. We can resign of being CEO of the universe. We don't have to have an opinion of everything or everyone- nor post it on social media.  
Because the battle is spiritual and has to do with the crumbling of the idols within- our own judgmental attitudes and self-righteousness, we can choose to forego the voices that tell us we are not free to be different, that we must conform to whatever our peers happen to choose. 

When the cultural belief of peace and salvation through more anger and violence -embodied in all the Herod-s of the earth- shops for an agreeable place to land, we don't have to welcome the false idol of redemptive violence. We can resist hate, neglect and indifference. In the words of Paul, we can let the "sewer trash" values go where they belong- down the toilet.

 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Try Hard to Come Before Winter

Action is better than guilt or shame
Say hello to Prisca and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus in Miletus because of his illness. Try hard to come to me before winter. Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brothers and sisters say hello. II Timothy 4: 19-21 CEB


You will never look back and regret that you were too present to a frail and failing parent, grandparent, or friend. You will never wish you hadn't attended your daughter's recital or your son's little league game. You will never wish you hadn't served the Sacrament to a senior friend in hospice.



The plea from St. Paul to his younger friend and partner in ministry, Timothy, is one that echoes down the centuries to counter our lack of urgency and timeliness: "Come to me before winter." Paul was staring at his impending end, and a last visit with Timothy could not be put off until better traveling weather permitted.
  

There are some things we can choose. We learn to do what is in our power to do. Harold Kushner writes, "Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you."


God is not especially honored by our guilt nor shame. "Father, I am not worthy to be called... treat me as one of your slaves." Luke 15: 19. Who in your life needs you to "come before winter?" They don't need guilt or apologies. They need you.




 


 
 
 
 

 


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Clergy are frequently present for others, but no one can offer what we don't have.. That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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If you want a formula for making the best of the less-than-perfect and making the most of what you have been given, then begin to compare your lot to what you were before you were born, and it will empower you with wonder every time. John Claypool

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