10 February 2018

Wanting What We Do Not Have

I read through the service of Morning Prayer for Friday at Mission Clare and found that the part of the reading that caught my eye from from the Old Testament.

And the Lord stood beside him and said, I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.
~Genesis 28:13-14

There are multiple times in the Old testament where God promises to spread the offspring of the person God is talking to across the face of the earth.

Back when the stories of the bible were told instead of written and even when the Old and New Testaments were compiled in written form, rewritten, and edited the human population on earth was much lower than it is today.

Today, would being told to 'be fruitful and multiply' really be a blessing?

In year one of the common era the entire human population is estimated to be between 150 million to 300 million depending on the source used.

For reference, in 2017 the entire population of Russia was estimated at 144 million (almost the low end of the year one range) and the population of the United States was estimated at 324 million (the high end of the range for year one). The world population was 7.6 billion or 25.3 times the size of the larger estimate of the human population in year one.

That means that for every one person in year one there are 25+ people today. So the place Issac stood when he dreamed of the ladder would have 25 of his descendants roaming around.

From the frequency with which the idea of one's decedents covering the ear occurs in the Old Testament it is clear something that the men conventing with God desire greatly. None of them say to God, "perhaps covering the earth with humans is not such a great plan" or "what will we all eat if there are so many of us?" or "what happens when we do cover the earth, and the population keeps growing?"

More humans, and in particular more humans who are their direct descendants seems to be a good thing from their point of view.

I wonder why?

From my perspective the human impact on the earth and all of God's other creatures has not been good overall. We have driven creatures like the woolly mammoth to extinction by over hunting. We have destroyed other creatures by eliminating their habitat, killing them for their fur or feathers, or introducing invasive species into their habitat who either eat them or out-compete them.

What benefit did Abraham, Issac, and Jacob see to an expanding world population of humans? Was it just their own posterity? Was it that they saw more humans as creating a better life for everyone (more hands to make work easier)?

These thoughts make me think of two songs that are in my music library. The first is by Sinead O'Conner and the second by U2. Both have similarities to psalms. Ms O'Conner's song "I do not want what I have not got" reminds me of plain-sung psalms in church both in the plaintive melody and the repetition in the lyrics. The song by U2, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" starts with the idea of following an individual to find something and grows to thoughts of a more universal nature.

Ms O'Conner's song has a sad feeling to it, almost a sense of loss and longing that contradict the words that say she has what she needs. However, she does focus on the idea that what she currently has is good and has value.

U2's song has an upbeat melody, implying that even though they have not yet found what they are looking for, they might some day.

Both reference ideas from the bible in their lyrics.

It seems to me that wanting what we have not got is a part of the human condition. There is the old adage that "The grass is always greener on the other side..." However, once we get to the other side the way back might look better than it did when we left.

I wonder what Issac would think of the world if he could see it today. Would he still want his descendants to cover the earth like the dust does? Would he rejoice in our numbers? Or, would the world he grew up in seem like a treasure he had lost among the sea of humanity that live in modern times?

There is no way to know.

What we can do is acknowledge our human tenancy to want what we do not have and to not fully value what we do have. This can lead to greed and avarice as we see in the story of Exodus and throughout the bible. If we have God, why would we need idols of gold?

Instead of looking to the new and novel, and wishing we had that we can look at what we have now: our bread, our wine, each other, our faith and rejoice in them.


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Song: I do not want what I have not got by Sinead O'Conner (lyrics here) Song: I still haven't found what I'm looking for by U2.

All bible quotes are from either the NRSV text at Bible Gateway.

A pdf of the Book of Common Prayer which contains both the lessons for Sundays and the Daily Office can be found at: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/book_of_common_prayer.pdf

27 January 2018

Taste and See

Reading just the snippets of text provided by the Lectionary or the Daily Office gives me the chance to focus my attention on a small part of the bible. This frees up my mind to look closely at the text instead of skimming over entire sections.

However it can also be confusing or remove important context from my view. In the readings for Friday, 26 January about half of Genesis 17 is used for the reading.

The first part starts out clearly enough-- we see God telling Abraham about God's plan to give Sarah a son and Abraham's reaction (verses 15-22).

In the second half of the reading we have Abraham suddenly deciding to circumcise all the males in his household including his 13-year-old son Ishmael and all of the slaves in his house.

The reading as presented gives no context for Abraham's actions. The text says that God had said for him to do this, but that instruction is not included in this section so it seems to come out of the blue.

I ended up skipping back to the beginning of chapter 17 in order to find out what was going on.

This is not a bad side-effect of reading a small portion of the text. For me, the bible can be a bit mind-numbing to read. If I try to approach it like a modern book my eyes start to glaze over. Reading a small snippet and then expanding my reading to text on either side helps me engage with that text. I go in search of answers questions the original text has raised instead of passively absorbing the words as I go.

In the text for Friday reading just the text provided encouraged me to read further and to really think about what I was reading.

I ended up wondering about the choice the writer of this section of Genesis (and all the editors who came after) made to focus on the idea that the child-to-come would be first and foremost Sarah's child. Several times in this short passage the wording points out that the child that God will make a covenant with is the child that Sarah will bear, Abraham is almost an afterthought. If anything, Abraham spends his time in this passage pleading that Ishmael, his son by Hagar, not be forgotten.

And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight!”
~Genesis 17:18

Ishmael was Abraham and Sarah's idea and solution to the problem of their barrenness. God does not accept their solution. I find it interesting that the child God wants to make a covenant with must be the child of both Abraham and Sarah. Sarah must be included as far as God is concerned. God is willing to listen to Abraham's plea and to make a place of Ishmael but God's focus is on the coming child by Sarah.

I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’
~Genesis 17:16

If I had read through all of Genesis in one go, I might have skimmed over this passage. I would have missed the opportunity to think about the exact words used and to come up with my own interpretation.

A year or three from now, I might re-read this section of text and come up with a new interpretation, a new understanding of the words presented for that day's reading.

Like a rich dessert, I find it helpful to take the Old and New Testament in small bites.

The interest, the joy even, of reading a short passage and really thinking about my own thoughts and feelings about that passage and seeing how they change over time as I learn and grow.


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All bible quotes are from either the NRSV text at Bible Gateway.

A pdf of the Book of Common Prayer which contains both the lessons for Sundays and the Daily Office can be found at: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/book_of_common_prayer.pdf

06 January 2018

Hero of the Moment

In the readings for Friday's Daily Office three of the major figures of the bible are mentioned. First, in the Old Testament reading we have the introduction of Noah. Then, in the New Testament, we have a mention of Moses. Finally in the Gospel we have Jesus himself in doing his first official miracle-- changing water into wine.

All three of them share, not only mythic status, but a life of ups and downs in their relationships to their followers. They are heroes one moment and goats the next.

Noah listens to God, builds the ark and saves a selection of birds, animals, and humans. He demonstrates his faith. However, once the boat is empty and the vineyard is planted he drinks to excess and ends up at odds with his youngest son, who has seen him at his worst and gossiped about it with his brothers. He divides his own family into slaves (Ham's son Canaan), masters (Shem), and people to 'make space for' (Japheth). A fine dysfunctional ending to a story of a man who saved his family from a flood, only to wind up dividing them after giving into his own weakness.

In the New Testament reading Moses and the disobedient people who followed him are referenced. I was reminded that Moses, as a result of his own disobedience, was not allowed to enter the promised land. It was his successor Josuha who lead the people across the Jordan, leaving Moses buried in Moab.

Finally we have Jesus who initially refuses his mother's request that he help out, but who changes his mind. However, he uses the stone water jars that are intended to hold water for the Jewish rites of purification. I wonder what the owner of the jars though when he found them full of wine? Was he grateful for the wine or dismayed that the jars were used. Would they have to be cleaned after such a use? Would Jesus go from hero of the hour to someone who made a lot of work for other people? As he goes on in his ministry we see him struggle, like Moses, with recalcitrant disciples and women who call on him to be even more than he intended.

This past summer I saw the movie Dunkirkin the theater. One of the things I kept noticing throughout were moments of heroism that went unnoticed by those around the hero. It occurred to me that being a hero is not a permanent state, it is the action of a moment and after that moment has past the next decision needs to be made.

This is much like Moses and the people who followed him into the Exodus: one day they affirm their relationship to God and their determination to make it through the desert, the next they are dancing around a golden calf because they think they have been deserted by both God and Moses.

After seeing the 'Dunkirk', I stumbled upon the saying: Failure isn't fatal and success isn't final. Which seemed to encapsulate the feeling that the movie had evoked.

For some of Moses's followers failure to follow God was fatal. But in most cases in our lives failure isn't fatal, failure gives us a chance to change and make new decisions in the future.

The other half of the saying: 'success isn't final.' is a reminder that a moment of success is not permanent, we can fall just as easily as we rose. We see that in Noah-- he succeeded in bringing his family and the animals he was charged with saving safely through the flood-- only to experience disgrace and loss while rebuilding his world.

Jesus has several failures, both of his own faith in his ability to carry through his work and in his ability to communicate his vision of God's Kingdom to his own followers. However, he persists through those failures to redeem us all at the end through his sacrifice. He finds success and resurrection through his choice to persist and hold to God's plan for him.

All three of these figures had tough rows to hoe and none of them made it through their complicated relationships with God, their followers, and their own understanding of their lives without falling and failing. They had their moments of being the hero and doing the right thing at the right time. Then that moment passed and they had to make their next choice.

So it is with all of us. Hero or Failure is not a permanent status while we live. We will have moments when we rise to the occasion and moments when we fall on our face.

There may be times when we, like Jesus, are tempted to say that our hour has not yet come. It is work to take action, to find the jars and fill them with water. It would be easier to put things off to another day. Heroes become so by choosing to act, by making a choice to do. They may still fail but failing to act guarantees failure.

Noah, Moses, and Jesus, in their most heroic moments choose to act, to accept the job God had given them to do in the moment. They may have failed to be heroes in every moment but they got the bulk of their jobs done. Noah saved his family and the animals that God asked him to. Moses got his people out of Egypt and to the banks of the promised land. Jesus consented to death on the cross and brought God's grace to us all through his death and resurrection.

Our own role in God's creation is likely much less grand but no less important. Our own doubts and fears link us to these great ones who failed at times to be all they could be in the eyes of God. When we fall we can follow their example and try again to find our relationship with God and the right choice to make in the next moment.


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All bible quotes are from either the NRSV text at Bible Gateway.

A pdf of the Book of Common Prayer can be found at: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/book_of_common_prayer.pdf

30 December 2017

Power Failure

David said longingly, "O that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!"
~2 Samuel 23:15

This passage reminded me of "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" The quote attributed to Henry the II of England in reference to Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170 CE.

Imagine my surprise when I read to the end of the Mission Clare entry for Friday's daily office and found that December 29th is the day of commemoration for Thomas Becket.

I find it interesting that both David and Henry II call out wishfully for something difficult, impossible, or unwise and a select few of their followers take it upon themselves to act upon that wish.

It further reminds me of a quote attributed to Henry Kissinger,

Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac."
~NYT 1973
I think it is more than that. I think power can induce a state of euphoria and a feeling of being invincible, not only in the wielders of power, but in their circle of sycophants.

I saw the movie "Becket" (1964) when I was a young teen. I only retain two impressions of the film. One was the murder of Becket and the other was the idea that Henry II had wanted the death of Becket but was only able to hint about his desires due to his own sense of the constraints on his power.

In the Old Testament reading I see a warning of how the euphoric nature of being near to power could be abused, but how David tries to check such abuse in his response to the warrior's self-appointed quest.

Then the three warriors broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it; he poured it out to the Lord, for he said, "The Lord forbid that I should do this. Can I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?" Therefore he would not drink it. The three warriors did these things.
~2 Samuel 23:16-17

The warriors risked their lives to bring David the longed-for water and instead of drinking it himself he gives it as a sacrifice to God. To drink it himself would be to encourage other 'warriors' and people around him to take his every wish as a command in the future. This would force him to watch every word he spoke and would constrain him from asking for advice in the future. If every wish or question was turned into action by followers all would descend into chaos. At the same time by making the water a gift to the Lord, David acknowledged the sacrifice and risk the warriors had made.

Power wielded by humans is fraught with the the possibility for abuse both by the person in power and by people near to them who want to benefit from that power. In everything from money to sex, from power for its own sake, to a desire to control power and relationships to power can spiral out of control if those who would curry favor take action whose only purpose is to please those in power.

It is short-term thinking at it's worst and does not allow leaders to be fallible humans. Any time one person holds power over others, we need both sides to be accountable for their actions.

Those in power need to set a watch on themselves and be careful what they ask for and what favors they accept.

Those near to power need to be able to say 'no' to requests by those in power and society as a whole needs to be able to back them in their right to say no to people who are on the path to being corrupted by power

In our own society now we are finally seeing the damage the powerful can do. We have seen vulnerable populations abused by powerful (mostly) men. This abuse, while frequently sexual in nature, always had at it's heart power and control over others.

We will never know how many promising lives and careers were cut short by powerful abusers and their caretakers. How many people were damaged by contact with power that was out of control.

It is never just the one powerful person that does the damage. It is the people around them who feel they can't say 'no', is is the people who wish to be that powerful who find ways to say 'yes' to enable the abuse, and it is the person who doesn't believe 'their friend' could ever do this because 'their friend' never did it in front of them. All of these people conspire to silence victims and perpetuate the cycle of abuse and some of those people are us.

It is tempting when in proximity to power to become wrapped up in it, to see that power as the only way to achieve one's ends and to accept the idea that to have access to that power one must curry favor.

There will always be people who are willing to exploit this tunnel vision to gain power and control over others. The only way to stop it is to call it out when we see it-- especially when we see it manifesting in ourselves.

"My friend would never do that." "The organization will fail without him." "He is the only one who can get this done." "That person is a genius so we have to put up with them."

These are are warning signs that we are getting too close to power for our own good and too wrapped in in there being only one way forward (that includes sweeping abuse under the rug).

Power can corrupt absolutely but it can also corrupt slowly. Prayer and ritual can be a bulwark against the slow poison of power. The ritual of confession and communion can pull us back from the temptations of power if used mindfully. We can measure our own changes against the unchanging nature of God.

As one of Martin Luther's hymns goes:

A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.

Power and the abuse of it by both the powerful and those who would curry favor, is certainly a human failing. May God be our bulwark against it and may forever see our own true weakness and guard against it with God's grace.

16 December 2017

Roots of Faith

Friday's daily office readings are tough, with a great deal of woe and punishment in them. However in the gospel reading there is one sentence that resonates with me.

...and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’
~Matthew 23:30

It is an easy thing look back at moments in history and say 'I would never have done that.' I would never have: owned people as slaves, driven indigenous people from their land, paid unfair wages, watched as neighbors were loaded in to trains to death camps, bought land and possessions dirt cheap from people forced to sell because the government decided they were the enemy based on fear rather than evidence.

However, people did do that. Not just one person, entire generations have taken advantage of their neighbors in crisis. It is easy to look back on the horrors of history and presume that we would be one of the few who stood up for their neighbors, the few who were injured or killed trying to stop the tide of evil choices washing over them. However, I suspect it is difficult, in that moment, to see where one can take action.

When we are enmeshed in day-to-day survival how much energy or intention do we have to step back and see where things are going wrong?

This section of the Gospel of Matthew ends with:

For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’
~Matthew 23:39

This, then is the call to action in this reading. There is still hope that God will come among us if we make room in our lives for those who come from the Lord.

However, I think sometimes 'those who come from the Lord' needs to be us. We need to spend time in prayer finding our way forward in the world as followers of Jesus and then we need to take action in God's name.

Time in prayer can help us pull back from everyday world and help keep us from being swept into the cultural currents without thinking.

Time spent acting in the world can remind us of our power to resist that current. It is hard work and when we are tired, then it is time to return to prayer to find a way forward once more.

This may sound like prayer is a passive thing, but to me prayer is internal action and can be done in many ways from kneeling in church to walking in the woods, from reading books to cycling through the daily office. Whatever helps the individual tune into God (and not just their own thoughts) can be a form of prayer. Prayer is an action that changes the pray'er and helps prepare them to take action in the world.

If we are truly going to be the kind of people that resist going with the flow of evil deeds, if we are going to be the people that history will see as the ones willing to stand up for the weak and suffer the consequences or that action, then we need to be a people who take time out from our daily life to put down roots in our faith so the water can't sweep us away easily.


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This essay was originally published on 15 Dec 2017 at Speaking to the Soul: Roots of Faith

02 December 2017

The Suffering that is Life

When I read the New Testament for this Friday before Advent, this verse jumped out at me:

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil.
~1 Peter 3:17

I was stirred by the idea that there is quite a lot of suffering to go around, enough that I can choose to suffer for doing good, or for doing evil, but either way there was suffering to be had.

There has been a lot of suffering in my life lately. Most of it is what I would think of as neutral suffering: health issues of my own and those close to me, politically based fear and worry, and embedded social unfairness, and economic uncertainty. None of this is suffering I chose. None of it reflects active decisions of mine to embrace good or evil. It is just there, suffering and anxiety hanging about in the background and occasionally pushing through to take over.

When thinking about making a choice to suffer for good or evil, it boils down to whether or not I take an active or a passive role in my own life. If I accept suffering as my lot and take no action, that can easily become a passive acceptance of evil.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
~Edmund Burke

My own personal suffering can either lock me in a stasis of never-ending self-absorption or help me be more compassionate and to understand better the struggles of others.

My social and political suffering can either tempt me into accepting that nothing I can do is 'enough' — that I should just give up on the outside world or it can inspire me to be the drop of water that wears away the stone of injustice.

Jesus's example comes to me in the moments when I want to turn away from the world in hopes that my suffering will be lessened if I just give in. Jesus kept going in his ministry. He suffered from his own fear and doubt, he saw how his ministry on earth would end in pain and death. He even put up with foolish disciples who inflicted their doubts and fear, envy and anger, desire for status and power on Jesus as shown in the Gospel reading for Friday (Matthew 20:17-28)

I think that an on-going choice to confront suffering, to call it out and say that not all suffering is inevitable some is a product of our social structures is what is meant when 1 Peter talks about it being better to suffer for doing good.

Life has a lot of pain and suffering it in; however, life does not have to be all suffering. Suffering that is done for good can be transmuted from passive acceptance to active resistance of evil. It can be come something greater. It can be a living sacrifice to God, it can be our communion with the suffering of Christ on the Cross.

Suffering will always be thrust upon humans, the very nature of the universe means that entropy will eventually have it's way with us. However there is other suffering, suffering created by humans for humans and that we can do something about.

The prayer for the First Sunday in Advent calls us to action:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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All bible quotes are from either the NRSV or RSV text at Bible Gateway.

The Collect for the First Sunday in Advent is from the Book of Common Prayer, page 211.

24 October 2017

Shameless Self-Promotion

I have started a side-business where I finish craft projects for people who don't have either the time or skill (or both) to do it themselves.

The site is at Craft Project Rescue.

If you know of any one who has an unfinished craft project that they keep meaning to finish or wish someone would help them with, please send them my way.

21 October 2017

Perplexed

The daily office for Friday includes Matthew 11:1-6 most of which is a pretty straight-forward message from Jesus to John about the work Jesus is doing. This is in response to John asking: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

The part that I find perplexing is verse 6 where Jesus says: And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me. I understand, based on other New Testament stories that there were plenty of people taking offense at Jesus and his ministry. However, in the context of John's question-- is Jesus the one-- it seems an odd response.

I spent some time poking around on the Internet to see if there was more context to this verse and found several commentaries that mentioned that the word translated as offense (σκανδαλιζεσθαι), is more akin to hitting against or stumbling over a thing.

When I put the Greek word in Google translate for fun it gave me you're scandalizing as the suggested translation.* That translation intrigued me. Would that make the verse: And blessed is anyone who you're scandalizing.?

It is the 'Blessed is...takes no offense' structure of the verse that perplexes me. I am blessed if I take no offense in what Jesus says and does?

Thinking about it that way combined with the 'stumbling block' concept from other translations, gets me to the idea that if I do believe in who Jesus is and what Jesus does as a part of his ministry, then I am embracing Jesus and not finding him offensive or a block to my own faith.

In my experience, the phrase: don't be offended can be used as a way to shut down conversation about a topic or as a watered-down phrase that tells people how they should feel in a given situation. It doesn't seem to have the power or meaning that the verse seems to imply is there.

Or it could be me, sometimes I have to take the long way around to understand an idea.

In this case, if I believe in Jesus there is no offense to be taken, no block to stumble over, and no scandal created.

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*Note to actual scholars, I know it's not best practice to put words from ancient Greek texts into modern translation software but it gave me a different way to think about the root word without being a Greek or Biblical Scholar myself.

If any Bible or Greek scholars wish to comment on this and give me more information about the concepts and context of this verse, I would love to learn more.

All bible quotes are from either the NRSV or RSV text at Bible Gateway.

07 October 2017

Intentional Imperfection

I've written before about the importance of imperfection. Lately I've been thinking about it more and more.

Tonight I was watching a video on how to knit a fair-isle sweater by a woman who has been knitting longer than she could read, her mothers and grandmothers all knitted. It was how they earned money for the household, and how they could barter for goods, and how they kept their families warm.

By the time she made the video she was a grandmother herself and had returned to knitting for her own pleasure and to pass the knowledge on.

As the video progresses and she gets to one of the fiddly finishing bits, she offers these words of encouragement if your work is less than perfect:

My golden rule is will the man on galloping horse notice.

To me this was a reminder that even the most skilled among us don't require perfection at every stitch in their work.

I believe their is a paradox in the level of mastery that someone can attain in a skill. That paradox is that it is not the people who require perfection of themselves that become masters, it is the people who realize when and how rarely perfection actually matters.

If anything, the desire for perfection can prevent mastering a topic or a skill because people who give up after making a mistake or because their work is not perfect don't hang in there long enough to get more skilled.

Also, humans only have so much time in a day. To get better at something we have to spend time doing it. To even maintain a skill we have to keep putting time into it.

I know at times I can be hesitant to do something because I can't do it up to a standard that I think is important, mostly because I'm afraid of being judged and found wanting. However, my experience has been that when I step up and act (or knit, or sing, or suggest a political action) people around from friends to strangers on the Internet respond positively.

We were not created to be perfect beings, yet part of us seems to yearn to be perfect.

Again and again, my own experience is that there is no perfection this side of heaven (if there is a heaven & I don't actually count on that).

Waiting to do something until my skills are perfect or the moment is perfect or until I have found the perfect words, results in me missing opportunities to be active and present in this world.

And since I'm a little shaky on the existence of any other world after this one, I'd better not waste my limited time waiting around for something that can never come.

Just yesterday I was participating in a webinar with a yoga teacher and the phrase the came up over-and-over again was:

Something is always better than nothing.

One woman shared that her yoga practice when she was suffering from severe fatigue was to visualize herself doing the poses and to move one hand to link her visualization to her living body.

Another shared how she had slowly built up from using a chair to do yoga poses to being able to do the full pose.

Both of these women would have no yoga practice at all if they hadn't started where they were with what they had and not waited to be perfect to begin.

This is true of everything in life from flossing to comforting someone in grief and distress. There is no one right way to act, there is no one right way to be, there is no one right way to learn but failing to act while waiting for the perfect moment is always, to me, a sign of fear.

When fear disguises itself as a desire for perfection, I need to remember the grace that my faith gives me.

I see in the New Testament that none of Jesus's followers were perfect. None of them had a sense of the 'right time' for an action. They sometimes made terrible choices, they frequently didn't understand what was going on around them.

Still Jesus choose to be with them. From disciples to tax collectors, from the anointing woman to the hemorrhaging woman to the woman at the well all had something to learn and something to teach and Jesus opened himself up to everyone of them (sometimes with a little prodding). The thing they all had in common was in taking action either by responding to Jesus's call or by approaching Jesus on their own and asking for what they needed.

Jesus, incarnate, welcomed all of the imperfect, foolish people who came to him and encourage them to act more, not less. He might have gotten frustrated with them at times, but he carried on and loved them to the cross and beyond.

For me Jesus becoming incarnated in the world as a person is God's reminder that we were made in an image of God and that God joined us in that imperfection to spur us on as the prophet Micha said:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
~Micah 6:8

Can a man on a galloping horse see the imperfections in your work, your skill, your words, or your love?

If not, your work is good enough. Go out and do what you are called to do, imperfections and all.

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All bible quotes are from either the NRSV or RSV text at Bible Gateway.

23 September 2017

Logged Hypocrisy

A little over a week ago, Senator Ted Cruz's twitter account 'liked' a porn video. There were many reactions to the 'like' and subsequent denial on the part of the Senator that he was the one active on the account at the time.

The part of the story I found most interesting were claims that the reason this should be a big deal were not because 'porn is bad' but because Senator Cruz has been an outspoken critic of everything from gay marriage, the right of consenting adults to use sex toys, and generally acting as if he should have control over the sex lives of adults.

So he was being called out not because 'a staffer accidentally liked' a porn video on twitter, but because for years he had a log in his eye about human sexuality and how and when the state should have control over adult sexual expression.

For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?
~Matthew 7:2-4

One of the interpretations I used to put on this quote from Matthew was that when I have a log in my eye, I can't even pretend to see the speck in another person's eye. That is fine as far as it goes.

However, with Senator Cruz's story as an example I think that the log is more than just something that blinds me and makes it difficult to take action on another behalf. I don't see the log in my eye because, I only see it as a speck (or even the entire log) in the eye of the person I am looking at.

I project my log on to them.

When I do that, it is difficult to realize that it is my log that I am seeing. Every effort I make to pull it out fails because I am reaching beyond my own eye and waving my hands around uselessly (or worse, accidentally hitting bystanders).

Once I finally realize that all the splinters I am seeing are really my log it becomes easier (but not necessarily less painful) to pull it out and put it in it's place.

And like many mountains made of molehills, logs can turn into tiny splinters when they are removed and looked at in perspective.

All of this takes work and self-awareness and sometimes I need help figuring out that what I keep seeing is my own log. However, even with that help, I'm the only one who can remove the log and see more clearly from that point on.

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All bible quotes are from either the NRSV or RSV text at Bible Gateway.


This essay was originally published in September 2017 at The Episcopal Cafe: Speaking to the Soul