Thursday, October 16, 2008

Reef Dwelling, Decisions, Five Minutes of Prayer

I subscribe to the feed of Choralgirl who writes the blog "Choral Reef: music under the surface". Now, Choralgirl is a musician and choir director at her church. She writes a splendid blog and I read each feed as I get it. Well, that is what you are supposed to do when you subscribe to a blog's feed: read. Feed and read...catchy.

Today's feed from the Reef is particularly moving and rang the gong deep in my soul. It only rang once but then that is all it had to do as it resonated in my spirit and nudged me to think more deeply about who I am and what is my purpose in this life. Here's part of what she said:

"I was reading at Search the Sea yesterday, and amid the stark riches there, I found three nuggets that capture the thinking of three very wise guys (thanks, Gannet Girl, for your honesty; peace to you!). They became the basis last night’s choir devotion.

Know yourself.

Be yourself.

Give yourself.

The life of a person of faith demands that we try to live into all those ideas, and each is a pilgrimage of its own.

The first, the way of self-knowledge, is the beginning. It happens in the context of community and in the presence of God. It requires as much honesty as we can bear; in learning to truly know ourselves, we have to get quiet. We have to be strong enough to strip away all that is not real or true, like peeling away a bitter orange rind to get to the sweet fruit underneath. The context of loving community keeps us honest; the presence of God grants perspective; both are a comfort and a continual challenge, pushing us on to the second path: self-actualization.

If we think about that in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy, it’s about getting our basic needs met so that we can to move on to greater things. I think that’s certainly a piece of the puzzle, but if we are to get to the third path, there needs to be one more element included. We become fully ourselves in large part by striving and failing and learning and striving again. It makes me think of one more chunk of wisdom from Wise Guy #4:

It's not that easy, being green.
Kermit the Frog

New growth is tender and vulnerable and fresh. It takes courage to keep on becoming the people we are. But the risk in that process also means brings us to the understanding that we have something to offer…and perhaps also the courage to do so, which is what Jesus asks..."

Go to Choral Reef: music under the surface to feast on the rest of her post. It will be worth the dive and swim.

On October 16th, Barbi Click, another blogger extraordinaire, reflected on the lesson of Micah and how it can and does relate to this election season.

Ok, some of you are going to ask: What has this piece to do with the previous piece on knowing oneself spiritually? Plenty. If you know or are getting to know yourself spiritually, that nugget of wisdom helps you think with clarity, and when we think with clarity, we think more logically and metaphysically at the same time [at least I do...]. So, in my view this clarity leads to a knowing degree of rightness and wrongness. Being able to distinguish one from the other leads us to making decisions. Voting in this election is an important decision with ramifications for this entire country and indeed for the world [yes, we are a superpower and people do, despite rumors to the contrary, watch America].

Now here is some of Barbi's explication of Micah in the context of The Now:

"In a Day of False Prophets [originally written October 9th]

What is a politician but a prophet? He or she stands there before the crowds, shouting out oracles of doom and gloom if the people continue on in their wicked ways but glorifying his/her own natural abilities to lead the people into a shining new future. Each one claims to offer the “right” way. Too often, both are false prophets.

The lectionary’s reading today from Micah 3:1-8 speaks to that very thing. In this particular instance, he is calling the religious leaders of Israel false prophets. Micah calls them to justice and compares them to cannibals, for by the very fact that these leaders live off the hopes and need of the people of Israel, they consume the people as they lead them astray. Their time is coming, Micah says, when the leaders will realize how wrong they are and finally turn to God but it will be too late. The sins that they have committed are those of injustice and greed. Micah has no compassion for those who plunder and pillage that which the Lord has declared Holy.

I love these violent, gory scriptures. It is a heck of a way to get a reader’s attention. Rather than be turned off by the images of skin being torn “off my people, and the flesh off their bones” and those who would “eat the flesh of my people, flay their skin off them, break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a cauldron,” I feel a great need to get past the violence and into the message that Micah was attempting to convey. It seems that the more gruesome and violent the image, the bigger the message.

We have to say that Micah was passionate if nothing else. His major concern was justice. He saw these religious leaders, these people who held great influence over the people of Israel and he knew that these same leaders were feeding off of the need of the people. The people were oppressed and the leaders justified it through the “Law”.

We have much the same thing going on today. Sarah Palin makes wild and outrageous insinuations that Barack Obama is a terrorist, enough so that one of the spectators in the crowd yells out, “Kill him!” John McCain asks “Who is the real Barack Obama?” and a member of the audience loudly answers, “A terrorist!” Neither of these candidates shush either person. McCain at least has the grace to grimace. Regardless, both are inciting people to react with mob mentality. Both are feeding off the ignorance, fear and bigotry of their audiences..."

Go to Feathers and Faith, Barbi's blog, to read the rest of her piece on this modern take of the Micah passage.

{My aside: The behavior of the Palin crowd reminded me of the point in the Gospel where the rabble are wanting Barabas spared and are urging Pilate to crucify Him, the Christ. And no, I am not comparing Barack Obama with Jesus, but if the sandal fits...}

Lastly I leave you with this quote...

"Life may be brimming over with experiences, but somewhere, deep inside, all of us carry a vast and fruitful loneliness wherever we go. And sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inward in prayer for five short minutes."

- Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life, p.93 -

Fodder for rumination.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Call it what you will

I could blame the economy, high fuel prices, high everything prices; I could blame global warming, the upcoming election tension, the debates, the edgy words in all of their cleverness...I could blame God, my sense of spiritual stasis. I could blame what Kathleen Norris calls acedia a spiritual numbness or ennui for how I sense that I am.

I could blame some latent anger or irritation, I could blame people, churched and unchurched, I could blame the so-called orthodox as well as I could blame the progressives, of which I am one. What to call it, how to define it. I haven't a clue. I will simply blame myself, for whatever the inadequacy that is causing these images and thoughts within me.

What I do know is this. I am not sure that this blog should go on. My passion for the Church has faded. Don't get me wrong. I love the Body of Christ with all of its frailties. I just don't have that sense of mission, that sense of energy I once did about the issues. I suppose the only real issue I should care about is the Gospel and its true meaning, as Christ intended...not Paul and his biased views. And this means my sense of duty to my fellow believer and nonbeliever to show mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

My thoughts and prayers are, at best, wayward. Focusing is a difficult thing anymore. With all the things I could be doing to enrich my life and possibly that of others, I cannot be but restless and unaccomplished in all I attempt. Even those things that would improve my quality of life are difficult at best to even try to do. Achieving anything meaningful is daunting.

I must be missing some crucial element, some part or thing--tangible or intangible--to bring all the pieces of me together. Wholeness. Perhaps that is what I am seeking. How is it supposed to happen? I am finding that I am the sort of person who has not always needed but somehow now requires help along the way. Does getting older do that to us? Sometimes we need a companion along all or part of the way to help motivate us, to give us a reason for doing and accomplishing, to help us see the value of ourselves, when we cannot see it at all. I am not speaking of the animal variety necessarily though there are those who's requirement is fulfilled by a creature that is other than human. I was one of those for a time. But finding our footing in human relationships is not a simple thing, especially if you have strong sensitivities to the world.

And so, I return to the possibility that I may leave this blog for a while. There is absolutely nothing at the moment that stirs my passion to write on any particular subject. So perhaps walking away, leaving the door ajar, is the best option at this time.

Thoughts on the matter...