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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

In Between

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."
~ John Lennon

Last night at the baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees the game ended on a dramatic bottom of the tenth inning home run that hit the foul pole by Nationals' home town favorite Ryan Zimmerman.  The Nats won 8-6.

On the way home I commented that the Nats had taken a 2 run lead in the first inning  on two homers and then eventually won by 2, so why all the fuss in between?  The obvious answer, quickly supplied by my wife Peg, "But we would have missed all the fun and excitement."

We would have missed what has become one of Nats pitcher Gio Gonzalez's all too predictable melt-downs in the 4th inning when the Yankees when ahead 4-2.  We would have missed a 2 run homer by the Yanks' first baseman Mark Teixeira.  We would have missed the Nats scratching back with 3 runs in the fifth inning and "Wilson!'s" towering homer in the sixth to tie the game.  We would have missed two bullpens battling it out for three innings and a spectacular (and possibly game-saving) catch by Denard Span in center field in the top of the 10th to keep the score tied.  We would have missed hero-of-late Bryce Harper's strike out to give way to Zimmerman who showed us why he is still, "Mr. Walk-off!"

So, again, baseball reflects life.  How much of our lives do we miss by rushing from one event to another without paying attention to the in between?   Do we remember our past from mile post to mile post, or do we also remember the paths in between?  How about all of those little decisions and actions that lead us to the big ones?

The truth is we are each born and we will all eventually die, so why all the fuss in between?  You got it - because we would miss all the fun and excitement!"   We would miss the fullness of life with all of it sorrow, all of its joy, and all that's in between.  

The "in between" is where our lives happen and make a difference - savor it!  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Just Imagination?

“If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”
~William Arthur Ward
Come with me on an adventure into imagination.  
Wherever you are right now take a moment to look around at your immediate environment, noticing the people and things around you.  Stop reading now and observe.  
Now, take one person or one object you have observed and imagine.  
If an object, ask these questions: What is it made of? Metal? Wood? Plastic? Imagine the material(s) of the object all the way back through its process of becoming.  Where did the materials come from?  How were they obtained, shaped, formed, manufactured, bought, sold, delivered?
If a person, ask similar questions:  Who is this person?  How were the cells, substances, and systems of their body formed and developed? Where are they from?  Who are their parents, siblings, ancestors?  What are they thinking?  What are their hope, dreams, fears, failures, successes?  
Eventually,whether object or person, if we imagine long enough, it all goes back into the earth, and the earth goes back into cosmic dust, the dust of imagination. 
Now, reverse the process and bring your object or person back into present existence.  Notice along the way how often thought and imagination are the catalysts of their coming into being.  There would be nothing around you nor would you "be" were it not for imagination. Whatever or whoever you can see, feel, touch, taste, smell or sense in any way was once imagined. 
Imagination infuses everything.  The world we see today is the one that has been imagined.  The world of tomorrow is the one we imagine now. 
And we say,  "It's just imagination."
Imagine that. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Eunuchs, Foreigners, and Angels

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
~ Acts 8:26ff

The Ethiopian eunuch in this story has two strikes against him.  His sexuality has been altered, and he is a foreigner, both of which make him unclean and unworthy in the cultic worship of Jerusalem of his time. But as he reads the prophet Isaiah, in what we now know as chapters 53 through 56, he finds these words:

For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths…
I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name
   better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord…
  will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

The Ethiopian eunuch’s response is a simple question:  “What is to prevent me from being baptized?”

Sometimes messengers, or angels as they are called in the Bible, come into our lives and lead us to wilderness places, to people outside the church or the cultural power structure, challenging our prejudice and privilege, and pointing us to our own scriptures which proclaim peace, mercy, equality, and justice.

Biblical angels come in numerous forms and fashions. Perhaps the angels of our day are in the streets, marching, chanting, and even throwing stones in order to get our attention, shouting, “What is to prevent us from being baptized, from participating in the full goodness of God’s creation?”

Often times the affluent and comfortable middle and upper classes of the world experience this dynamic  in shelters, soup kitchens, and service centers across the country, when as the volunteer we are the ones who walk away with “good news” by having had our narrow worlds stretched, strained, and expanded.

Perhaps all of this is what Jesus means when he says the Kingdom of God is already among us – if we are willing and vulnerable enough to open our eyes, ears, hearts, and hands to the angels around us.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cornerstones

The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. 
~ Psalm 118:22

Last week I did some continuing education at my seminary alma mater, Columbia Theological Seminary.  It was their annual Colloquium and the guest lecturers were four of my professors, Walter Brueggemann, Erskine Clark, Catherine Gonzales and Justo Gonzales.  These four people were instrumental in literally changing my life years ago as they opend up to me vistas of imagination and knowldege that transformed my religious certitude into faith of possibility and potential.  Their lectures, ensuing discussion, and company were inspiring. They may all carry the title "emeritus" but they are all still amazingly brilliant and relevant and remain wellsprings in the evolution of my faith journey.

After this, I spent a couple of days visiting my brother and two sisters who all live in the town where I grew up.  When I'm there, my brother and I usually take a few hours and ride around the county and visit old family sites, especially the cemeteries where our parents, grandparents, and other ancestors are buried.

This time my attention was drawn more to the two country churches from which the cemeteries that hold my grandparents get their names, and where they worshiped and participated in communities of faith - Sweetwater Baptist Church and Cold Springs (Primitive Baptist) Church.  While walking around these two buildings that stand at opposites ends of the county where my early life was shaped, I had something akin to epiphany, realizing I stood at other wellsprings of my faith.  

It was in these little country churches that my grandparents sang, prayed, and experienced their own faith, that was passed to my parents, and then to me. Even though I may no longer adhere to some of the theology and doctrine of these places, they still remain a primal sources of my spiritual DNA and are cornerstones of who I am, what I believe, and how I experience the world around me. It also occured to me that they both evoke the image of water, an image I have come to appreciate more and more as my faith ebbs and flows along life's journey.   




Whether we realize it or not, we all have cornerstones in our lives; people, places, and events which reside in the inner recesses of who we are, what we believe, and how we perceive and experience the world around us.  Who, what, and where are some of your cornerstones?