...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, November 20, 2014

Advent: Not the Time to Ignore History

Why skip history?
Being told to wait doesn't seem to help me with impatience. We may be uneasy with the chaos of history or the pain of our personal biographies, but that's not a very good reason to ignore a most intriguing and educational piece of the biblical story. The oft- forgotten history takes us up to a few short decades within the actual century of of Jesus Christ.  
In the story of the Maccabees in the Protestant Apocrypha (actually in the Roman Catholic Bible), we discover that the people of God did not, in fact, "wait." They rebelled against tyrants and persecutors.

They fought- and won- a gruesome guerrilla war against the Seleucid kings of Syria who were ruling Palestine. A new, independent Judah was born in 150 BCE. The first king was Simon, the third son Mattathias, a priest and initiator of the original revolt. 

The Hasmoneans ruled Judah from 142- 63 BCE and provided a significant period of peace and freedom, between the supremacy of the Greeks and Romans. Skipping history means that we miss the story of the Rededication of the Temple, Hanuka. We also overlook what could be considered the zenith of the Sadducees and Pharisees as key players in a sovereign nation state (Judah). By the time they are mentioned in the New Testament, they are no longer rulers but vassals of Rome, their power weakened and segregated to the religious realm. 

The end of this short but important dynasty introduces us to one of worst villains in the New Testament story, Herod.  But he was a murderer long before the Slaughter of the Innocents that Matthew describes. Wouldn't we like to ignore the treachery of this Idumean, Herod the Great? Herod became a Roman puppet, and conquered Judah with Roman armies. And in an attempt to protect his power, he murdered everyone in his family with any Hasmonean lineage, including his wife and children.

Have you ever heard that the people of Israel had 400 years of "waiting," between the last book of the Protestant Old Testament, Malachi, and the "next" book in the Christian Scriptures, Matthew? The years between the two books may be roughly accurate. But people did anything but wait. As illustrated from the psalms below, the line of connection is intimate and living through Maccabees- not Malachi:

Lord, Lord God, creator of all,
you are fearsome, mighty,
just, and merciful.
You are the only king
and only generous one.
You are the only provider,
the only just, almighty, and eternal one.
You save Israel from all evil.
You chose the patriarchs
and made them holy.
Receive this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel. 
Guard your portion and make it holy. 
Gather together our scattered people, 
free the ones enslaved among the nations, 
watch over those who are despised and loathed, 
and let the nations know that you are our God. 
Punish the oppressors and those who commit arrogant acts of violence. 
Plant your people in your holy place, just as Moses said.

2 Maccabees 1: 24 ff.

Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors him as God.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
remembering his mercy,
just as he promised to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”

Luke 1:46 ff.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Trusting our own best self

Camp Miniwanca,  Lake Michigan
To thine own self be true. William Shakespeare

On this day, I will nurture my true self by no longer living in fear and by not worrying about things that are none of my business. Daily Affirmations

It came as a laser beam of light and energy: my own self, at my very best,all of the time. It happened on the glorious shores of Lake Michigan and I was 17. It changed my life then and has blessed my spirit ever since. 

But this isn't about creating a false self, apart from God. It is about trusting our God-given and created self. If I never learn to trust anyone, how will I trust God?  One of the tasks of human development is to learn to trust. The play between trust and distrust is emblematic of any phase of our lives, from infancy to old old adulthood. 

Of course, we are not our own best selves all of the time. We may try to improve on being created in God's image and likeness.  We may have learned to distrust. Maybe we were hurt be someone who claimed to be religious, who used the name of Christ to judge us instead of to accept us. Perhaps we were told that the abuse we suffered as children was for our own good - or it was supposed to protect us when in reality, the opposite was true. We lost trust- in ourselves, in others, in God.- to keep us safe.

Recovering the image of God in us means we can trust ourselves as God created us and loved us to be. Accepting our powerlessness over the actions and words of others is a start. Better to move toward self- acceptance, the good from which trusting God and other people is possible.

It is God's gift to give.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hate Sin, Love Sinner- not about love

I got ,got, got, got no time 
There so much NOT in the Bible. But that doesn't stop us from using certain phrases as if they were.   

I'm flushing another one: "love the sinner, hate the sin." Although I've seen this saying referenced by a good many biblical texts, not one can be cited with any proximity to those words. 

Where does it come from? My best answer is St. Augustine: "With love for mankind and hatred of sins." But the words "hate the sin, etc" is also attributed to Ghandi.  St. Augustine's words are more about loving humanity but hating our brokenness.

Our saying is more akin to hating what we don't like in others, even if we use "love" to make it sound better. But I don't remember this actually working to better any relationship in my life.

When it comes to using this apocryphal saying as a guide for love, we get to judge where our love stops. We love because God first loved us, and that love includes all of us if it is for any part of us. As far as we know, Jesus, never said to love a sinner but hate their sin. Nor did he ask us to decide for ourselves when to judge and when to love:
Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye. Matthew 7: 1-5
Is hating the sin while claiming to love a mental construct, a fantasy of our minds? Attempting it, we may realize how blind we really are. Another gimmick is trying to make God's limitless love more palatable. The love Jesus told us to exercise isn't about setting limits:
As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. John 15: 9-12  Italics added
How do you separate your love for a person from your judgement of the person? You divide and dissect them, extracting their behavior from themselves.You choose what you hate most in them and judge them for it, calling it "sin."  But "love" here is not the love that Jesus commands, nor the all encompassing, life-giving love the Father has for the Son, nor is it anything like Christ's love for us. 

As often is the case, when we reduce God's love to something we can better handle, it becomes something else. But don't call it love.     

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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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