April 05, 2003

I have the most wonderful sister in the world!

Here's proof.

February 12, 2003

In the spirit of starting to post more frequently, here's something I actually wrote for another purpose -- a sort of home-made book of meditations. I volunteered to write something on I Corinthians 1:18-25.

"…since…the world was unable to recognize God through wisdom, it was God's own pleasure to save believers through the folly of the gospel… [through] a Christ who is both the power of God and the wisdom of God. God's folly is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength."

Wisdom and foolishness are resonant words here… we are invited into the foolishness of God, the foolishness of the incarnation.

How often in your life have you been told, "Don't be a fool"… ?

But maybe that's exactly what we're called to be. The incarnation, after all, is the best joke ever played - that God - the God who embraces the worlds, who lit the first star, whose breath is the pulse of the universe - that that God should be made flesh, hungering, thirsting, sweating, laughing, crying, weary, human - what unimaginable folly. What unutterable grace.

…The world we live in encourages us in habits of economy, with our hearts as well as our wallets; habits of reason and caution and careful judgment. But here Paul tells us that these virtues are not what God is encouraging in us - that God calls us to imitate the folly that chooses the weak over the strong, the fool over the wise, the base over the upright. The God Paul talks about here is not looking for pre-certified Saints, but for ragged-edge people who are foolish enough to throw their lives away on God.

And all the wisdom of the world in me tells me how very foolish that would be.


I pray for the courage to pray for such folly.
My profoundest apologies to the 1.7 people who were reading this regularly -- a job with an unusually long commute (ok, so I don't actually get to come home at night) has thrown me for a loop, and coupled with the holidays and subsequent personal problems, not only haven't I been posting my musings, I haven't even been musing in the first place.

I'm hoping to do a bit better -- I think I'm going to be able to rearrange my schedule in a way that allows for sleep, at least -- and maybe post at least more frequently, if not as frequently as I'd like to!

November 17, 2002

I wouldn't say I'm paranoid...

... but this just won't do.

There are links below for contacting your senators and representatives, and if you're uncomfortable trying to find phrasing, a friend of mine has given me permission to post his letter as a sample.

write your representative

write your senator

Sample letter:

Dear XXXXXX,

I am deeply concerned about the privacy implications of the Homeland Security Act. As presently constituted, this bill would effectively eradicate individual privacy by placing almost all personal electronic information (bank accounts, non-cash purchases, electronic mail, academic and medical records, etc.) under the purview of John Poindexter's "Information Awareness Office."

While recognizing the need for increased vigilance and an improved security apparatus in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 2001, I am concerned that this bill represents a stampede toward totalitarianism. It has been rightly observed that knowledge is power, and this bill would place enormous power in the hands of a single unelected office. We must not allow fear to make George Orwell into a prophet. As one of your constituents, I ask that you not allow this to happen.

Respectfully,
Your Name

November 06, 2002

Many thanks

...To the person who pointed out Barbara Holland's book, Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences to me. The book is an indulgence in itself, and a lesson in the value of moderate sloth seasoned with a dash of riotous living. If Holland has not conquered her Inner Calvinist, she is putting up an inspiring fight.

November 05, 2002

Sleep

Life has lately conspired to make it more difficult than usual for me to manage the basics: regular sleep, food, housework, and so forth. And that’s left me thinking about what we value (as a culture) and the way we prioritize things.

The thing is, I find myself feeling like a slacker because I need to sleep. Now, that sounds really stupid, I expect -- but I’m choosing sleep over making sure the kitchen is clean or my papers are filed. And I’m discovering that there’s some part of me -- and I’d really rather blame the culture for this than my own natural lunacy -- that thinks it’s wrong to indulge my bodily need for sleep when there’s work left to do.

Where do ideas like that come from? Why is it so hard to value a simple physical pleasure like sleep?

I guess it’s traditional to blame the Greeks, who are generally credited with giving us the idea of body/mind (or body/spirit) dualism. But it’s the Greeks who also gave us the Olympics, certainly a celebration of the abilities of the body. Perhaps the root of the separation lies with them, but they seem to have honored both body and spirit, from what I know of their history.

The next culprit is usually religion -- usually Christianity, around here. Anyone from the Stylites through the Cathars to the Puritans can be used to explain how we’ve come to think of our bodies as burdens or as prisons, to be cared for as little as possible short of (usually) suicide. And that attitude can certainly be found in some religious writing. Many Christians -- from Tertullian onward -- seem to have lost their root in the tradition that understood that God called every part of creation good.

But how strongly are people still influenced by Heraclitus or Tertullian?

Today we have the New Age to encourage us toward body/spirit dualism, and toward valuing spirit over body every time. And even that Real Old Time Religion -- Paganism and its various branches - - tends to fall prey to a culture that tells us that doing is more important than being.

But I think the biggest root of it is a secularized version of the idea that the elect -- the truly virtuous -- can be recognized by what they do or have... in the secular version, their cell phones, DVDs, laptops, and whatever the current choice of car is. And if you have all those things, you have to demonstrate that you deserve them by working 18-hour days; and if you don't have them, you have to demonstrate that you should have them by working 20-hour days.

It's awfully hard to ignore the advertising, and it's hard to remember what you really want. I can live a long time without a fresh-from-the-factory car, or an olympic pool, or -- really -- the newest, fastest, sleekest laptop. (I might waver more on that last one, I admit...) I do want a house, one big enough to hold all the people I love; I want a job I enjoy and look forward to doing; I want a big garden. But more than the things, I want what I imagine that they'll help me enjoy -- my family, my friends, shared food, rest, and a peaceful life.

So for now, while my life is so chaotic and so many things seem to slide through the cracks, I think I'll just have to let a few things go and not worry about it. The rest of the world can go haring off after the latest glow in the dark tennis shoes or black light tattoos...

Me, I’m off to take a nap.

October 27, 2002

A Side Note

I'm really enjoying this. I have no idea if anyone who doesn't live with me is reading it, but I'm having a good time...!

Oddly enough, the less time I have to spend on it the more interesting it seems to me. So now I'm thinking about things it'd be interesting to write about: the nature of quality; the appeal of the landscape; what our - my! - responsibility is in response to things like this; the struggle to balance work, self, and family; the delights of a twelve-month (almost!) garden; our basic needs and our attitudes toward them... if anyone has any other ideas, please feel free to suggest them. I'm having a good time with this, even if weekends look to be my best shot at updating for a while here.

October 26, 2002

A little theology

Soteriology is such an abstruse word... it's hard to think of it as having anything much to do with how people live. But I've been thinking about it, in part, because of Fred Phelps.

Mr. Phelps and his congregation are of the opinion that people who don't follow the rules he thinks God has given us are all damned, and has taken on the responsibility for pointing this out in particular to people who are mourning for someone Mr. Phelps believes may have violated those rules.

That, in my opinion, is indescribably offensive -- to the families in mourning, to me, and I believe to God.

But it seems to me that there's a core difference of opinion here that goes beyond the issue of whether or not sexual orientation is one of the things God really gets in a swivet about. The question is, what is salvation about? And that's the question that -- in Christianity -- is addressed in soteriology.

The classic answer is that Christians are saved by the death -- or the death and resurrection -- of Jesus... that in Jesus' death and resurrection our relationship to God is restored. All we need to do is accept that we have been redeemed.

There are a lot of cultural assumptions in that model -- the whole thing with "redemptive" language assumes that we've been, in a sense, hocked. --That we are in debt through sin, and God needs to buy us back somehow. That's never made a lot of sense to me, but I think it must have been a more evocative model during the early years of the church, because it's certainly a common one.

There are a couple other models that are more or less common, though, and those are the ones I think Mr. Phelps and I would be butting heads over.

Mr. Phelps seems to be profoundly concerned about sin, which he defines as breaking the rules he believes have been set by God. Although I'm sure he'd claim that we are saved by grace and not by works, it seems pretty clear that he believes we are condemned by works -- that it's in following his rules that we demonstrate salvation. This makes God's work in the world primarily that of referee -- the great Record Keeper In The Sky. If you break the rules -- if you sin -- you will be punished; if you die before you repent, you will be punished forever.

What a grim picture of the Divine this paints -- a God who is more concerned with our sanitary habits (cf the rules in Leviticus) than with our willingness to love each other as God's body in the world.

I believe that God's love need not break through my sin. All God's love needs to break through, wear down, wear away, overwhelm, is my own deep conviction that I am not in my entirety loveable.

That's why God died. Not to make up for my sin -- not to pay off a bad debt -- but so that God could from the cross say to those crucifying him, 'I love you. There is nothing you can do or say or be that can stop my love for you, all of you. You are perfect in my eyes.'

The Christianity that Christ taught was not a Christianity of rules and morals, do and do not -- Christ taught love... love not as a 'gotta,' as something we owe, but as a prescription for our own joy. It is in loving that I am freed -- from fear, from the imagined self I believe I have to be to please God, to please others. It is the explosive power of love to break down -- burst open -- all those images.

Christ does not call us to love others as Christ loves us for their sake -- but for our own. To find in that relationship the transforming power that Christ found and showed forth in his life.