Saturday, March 26, 2016

Abundance


At the time, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved by things that aren’t gods by nature. But now, after knowing God (or rather, being known by God), how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless world system? Do you want to be slaves to it again? You observe religious days and months and seasons and years. Galatians 4:8-10 CEB

I’m taking a day off. Well, sort of. So far I’ve washed yesterday’s dishes, fed the cats, set up some kombucha to ferment, cooked and eaten breakfast, helped Kay with her taxes and now I’m writing this. Later, I’ll work on some liturgy for April. But after the last few days, this is still a break. Holy Week’s a busy time at the church, and consequently for pastors and church staff. I don’t know how much energy I have for something new or creative...

Last time I mentioned my “Life Abundant” list. I’ll go that direction and see what happens.

Our Women’s Thursday Noon study group has been working our way through Galatians. It’s been interesting, and sometimes fun (although a couple women less interested in deep study may’ve been practicing some P/A behaviors through absenting themselves).

A couple weeks ago we were looking at the text above. I wrote “days, months, seasons, years” on the board. We briefly described sacred (things connected with the holy) and secular (strictly worldly things). Then I invited everyone to brainstorm about the important days in our lives – calling them out – while someone added them to a growing list on the board. 

The question came up, “Is Thanksgiving sacred or secular?” Our answer: “Yes.” 

Gradually the list included major holy days as well as the birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays important to anyone with family or friends. 

And the question surfaced about that boundary between sacred and secular. We flipped to John 10:10b and read: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (NRSV). 

What does this mean in light of that Galatians passage?

Even today, most faithful people still tend to separate our days into the sacred and secular, but if Jesus came so that we might have life abundant, isn’t that an invitation to live all moments of all our days as if they are sacred (touched by the holy)?

Certainly puts a different face on what some of us do with our free time! (No more writing or looking at foul things online!) 

Scrubbing toilets, sacred? Defragging the laptop? Working on taxes?

Thank you (again), Brian 
Anyway, at the end of class, we each accepted the mission of working on a “Life Abundant” list of things that we can celebrate. The one stipulation was that it’s NOT to include the sort of things we appreciate because of our social location. It’s to be the sort of stuff that a person with barely a roof over their head might notice and value.

Weekends at the cabin? No. Abundance of grocery or shopping opportunities? No. Spring’s first dandelion. Yes. Humming? Yes. Legs that move under us? Yes…

Care to join us?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Life as a pilgrim


Yesterday was my sabbath, the day I practice doing as much nothing as I possibly can, so as to rest in God’s presentness and to “test the premise that I am worth more than what I can produce—that even if I spent one whole day being good for nothing I would still be precious in God’s sight.[1]

I say practice both because it’s a discipline, an exercise one does regularly – like wrestling, singing or meditation – for the purpose of growing in “skill” (hence the lower-case “s”), and because I’m not especially good at either doing nothing or making time for doing it.

One thing I did was to work on my “Life Abundant” list (more on this another time). Then, I turned to the next page in the black and white composition book and started a Bucket List. I'd made one of these a few years ago, and I thought it might be interesting to make another and compare the two. Yet after writing four goals, I couldn’t think of another. I wondered what that means about me.

On sabbath days, I’m often at loose-ends, so at this point, I pulled out a book that’s been on my shelf about five years. I bought it on a particularly blustery day when Kay and I were camping near Bayfield. We went to the Apostle Islands Booksellers where I bought a pair of books. I liked the cover art for The Art of Pilgrimage, and its topic intrigued me, but until yesterday, I’d never made it past the Introduction. 

I’m sabbathing (and at loose-ends), and I’m preparing for a trip that self-identifies as a pilgrimage (more on that one another day, too) and this book is on the reading list. It seemed like a thing to do.

Skip ahead about an hour. The Introduction is behind me. Among other things, I’ve read that pilgrimage is a transformative journey to a sacred center.[2] I've begun to learn things about the nature of travel, about the search for the sacred all around us, and about myself.

I now see that my flight to Navajoland after graduating from college was at least somewhat a pilgrimage. Backpacking the high country of Yosemite was also pilgrimage, thought I recognized neither by this name at the time. Also pilgrimage was standing in awe and trembling in front of a pair of Gutenberg bibles in Mainz, and in that stairwell in Florence gazing at that other Pieta (The Deposition).

When you're someone who is eagerly curious, you will seldom, if ever, be bored. Yesterday, the topic was pilgrimage. What will it be tomorrow?

–––– 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Slothful

Thank you, Marissa Strniste
Slothful. Isn’t that a great word? Can’t you just imagine one of those South American animals hanging from a branch, moving in oh-such-slow motion. (Or maybe you think of Flash from Zootopia.) Can you feel your muscles relaxing as you reflect on the seemingly easy lifestyle of these wonderful creatures?

I’ve been feeling lazy these last few weeks. I haven’t felt like doing certain things I usually enjoy – like practicing the violin, writing blog entries, or preparing foods to eat. But I'm not worried. I know the cause.

My current slothfulness is because … ready for this? … I’m tired, plain and simple. I’m depleted as one might be after running a long race or at the conclusion of finals week. My ordination interviews last month were the culmination of years of effort, the last five months of which involved intensive preparation. At long last, I have time to do the things I let slide while I was busy writing papers, and praying, and mentally preparing myself. It’s taken me by surprise how worn out I feel even three weeks later.

Are you tired? Have you been beyond busy for about as long as you can remember? Can you recall the last time you got 8 hours sleep? I’ve been getting good sleep – granted, it’s easier when one doesn’t have a social life – but I’m also very good at keeping too busy. And I suspect that some of you might be as well. 

We could each come up with a list of reasons and excuses, and we all well know there are things we can’t leave undone. But no matter how long the list, the question I encourage us to ask is, “How well am I handling all of this?”  

We need to ask is, “What am I doing to take care of myself?” Or to put it in more theological language, “How well am I taking care of the person God created me to be, so that I can be about whatever it is God has in store for me?” Then, we need to look at the underlying questions ...
  • What’s on my list that doesn’t really need to be there? 
  • What can I delegate? 
  • What won’t be missed if it doesn’t happen?
  • What doesn’t matter to anyone but me?
    Is it worth it? (If so, keep it. If not, maybe you could get rid of it.)
  • What do I need to change in order to take care of me more fully? 
  • What am I willing to drop from my expectations so I can make time for myself?
Wherever we are in our life’s journey, I just want to remind each of us – in all love – that we’re better for the ones in our lives – at home, at play, and at work - when we take care of ourselves. 

Bless your life, so you can be a blessing to others.