Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Ok, I basically consider Tarot cards hokum but it is still kind of a fun quiz, just like when you go to the French Quarter you have to get your fortune read "just 'cuz"....

You are Strength

Courage, strength, fortitude. Power not arrested in the act of judgement, but passing on to further action, sometimes obstinacy.

This is a card of courage and energy. It represents both the Lion's hot, roaring energy, and the Maiden's steadfast will. The innocent Maiden is unafraid, undaunted, and indomitable. In some cards she opens the lion's mouth, in others she shuts it. Either way, she proves that inner strength is more powerful than raw physical strength. That forces can be controlled and used to score a victory is very close to the message of the Chariot, which might be why, in some decks, it is Justice that is card 8 instead of Strength. With strength you can control not only the situation, but yourself. It is a card about anger and impulse management, about creative answers, leadership and maintaining one's personal honor. It can also stand for a steadfast friend.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Hey, how come I never find a Cheeto shaped like a crucifix in MY bag? MadPriest had posted this (along with some other interesting apparitions) today.

Indexed also has a great analysis of the phenomenon...

I just have two questions:

1. Will it ward off vampires?
2. Do you bite the head off first, like you do a chocolate bunny? Or are you in trouble for doing it that way?

I just saw on MadPriest's blog that Elizabeth Kaeton's mom Lydia has passed away. Elizabeth, as you know, is the author of the blogosphere's Telling Secrets. Her mom has been in ill health for some time, so it is not totally unexpected, but as you know, these things are never quite "expected," either.

Please take a moment to pray for Elizabeth, Lydia, and family. Elizabeth is one of my heroines of the blogosphere and "damn good clergy" from what I can tell from a distance! She could use your prayers.

I woke up this morning with, for some reason, a hankering to write my own version of the Eucharistic Prayer. Not sure why, just decided to "just 'cuz" I guess...Maybe it was I had one of those unexpected "choked up" moments last Sunday. I got a little unexpectedly choked up on the Sanctus. Again, not sure why...just did. Sometimes one or two lines of a familiar prayer just choke me up or make me tearful. It's weird. That never used to happen to me.

Anyway, here's my version of the Eucharistic Prayer!

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give God thanks and praise.

Lord God, author of the universe, you are the architect and engineer of all things in Heaven and on earth. You are the source of our light and our being. By your hand all things came to be.

You are worthy of glory and praise, O Lord.

You are present as Eloheim in the stars of the night sky, Lord God. Ruach, your spirit, dwells in the wind, the zephyr, the storm. Shekinah, your presence in holy objects, dwells in your temple and on your table.

Your many forms, O Lord, remind us of your hand in all creation.

You presented this world and all its glories to us to have dominion over it. But we have not lived up to this task, and we fell short time and time again, squandering your creation and falling to human lusts and greed, turning ourselves against one another.

Forgive us, O Lord. Our iniquities betray ourselves, We are not worthy to inherit your kingdom.

Over millennia you have tried to communicate your love for us--through the law, through the prophets, and through your word. But most importantly, you sent us your son, fully human and fully divine, to bring the true meaning of "Shalom" to the world, to fulfill the law and the Prophets.

We reconcile ourselves to God through the blood of Christ.
We find healing and peace through Christ's wounds.

We praise you, O Lord. We reach out and join hands with the martyrs, apostles, prophets, and every generation who has put their trust in you, and offer this hymn of our unending gratitude:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

In the fullness of new life through Jesus Christ, we are redeemed, O Lord. In the waters of baptism and by the wind of the Holy Spirit we are renewed, and bring these gifts to your table. Sanctify them through the body and blood of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

On the night Christ was betrayed, he took bread in his hands, blessed it, broke it, and, giving it to his friends, said, "Take, eat: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me."

After supper he took the cup of wine, gave thanks, and said, "Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed or you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me."

In this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, we celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Lord. We recall Christ's death, burial, resurrection, and ascension through the offering of these gifts.

You are the risen Lord, O Christ.
Unite us through this sacrifice to your presence.

Eternal God of our fathers and mothers, sanctify these gifts through your Holy Spirit to be the Body and Blood of your son Jesus Christ. Sanctify us through your power and mercy that we may see your hands in the work of all creation, that our hands may continue these works, that our hearts may be attuned to your will and filled with the strength and renewal of your eternal mercy and grace.

Be known to us, O Lord, in the sharing of these gifts with one another at your holy table.

We ask these things through your son Jesus Christ, in the true spirit of the unity and constancy of your holy Trinity. Bring us to the fullness of your glory with all your saints and angels in your heavenly country. Amen.

And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,
(Cut to Our Father, etc.)

We made the Weather Channel. Kirksville got 13.4 inches of rain in 24 hours. Welcome to the monsoon season.

Our old girl was not totally immune to this mess but she came out ok. Wallace e-mailed me last night that there was water in the church undercroft. I went down there about 6:30 p.m. last night (Friday) and there was standing water on the tile and at worst, about 3/4 of an inch of water in the lowest spot in the kitchen. Krista and Tim and Debby and I shop-vac'ed till 11:30 p.m. We pulled up the carpet in the nursery and shop vac'ed it and put it up on chairs to try to dry it. We'll see how it goes.

I was thinking, as I was falling asleep, board stiff from exhaustion, "our congregation is small, our resources are limited, but damn, we sure have a fair number of people who love our old girl Trinity Church." Nice feeling to fall asleep to, and it made a little of the stiffness abate!

Ok, I confess. I've been smarting over this statement for three days and it wasn't even aimed at me. It's the bomb Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul dropped when he called for Bishop Gene Robinson's resignation, when he said, "Gene Robinson has to be away from the Anglican world and be a normal Christian,” then basically states that a so-called "normal Christian", if he were a gay bishop, would resign for the good of the Church.

Why am I so inflamed by this statement? Hey, I'm straight. He's not talkin' to me. I don't even KNOW Bishop Gene (Ok, but I admit I'd like to b/c he is my newest hero....). Well, two reasons...

1. When he disses Bishop Gene, he disses every GLBT person I have had the pleasure to know and call my friend. I was sitting around thinking about my "circle of friends" the other day on my one day self-designed retreat, and I realized about 10-15% of my friends are either gay or lesbian...well DUH...just like the demographics in society. All of the people in my "inner circle" bring the light of God to my life in their own unique, indisputable way. Does this mean that Archbishop Deng is discounting my experience of God's light and love shining through 10-15% of "my posse?"

2. When we start defining "normal" vs. "abnormal" or "deviant" Christians, who's next????? Chicks in stoles, passing out blessed wafers? Acolytes with liturgical color-correct cowboy boots? Communicants with big tattoos? People who wear shorts and t-shirts and flip-flops to the rail? Folks who dye their hair purple? That is huge dangerous slippery slope there, and it runs the risk of us becoming the Pharasees that we loathe in the Gospel stories. It runs the risk of us becoming biblio-idolaters. It runs the risk that, in the name of Jesus, we become what Jesus railed against.

I have just one thing to say to Archbishop Deng, and I now call it the "Doxy test" in honor of Doxy of Wormwood's Doxy. "Archbishop, would you take communinon if Gene Robinson and I were kneeling at the same rail with you?"

If your answer is "yes," well, then, I will trust in God to sort out the details, and I hope you will too.

If your answer is "no," well, then, shake the dust from your feet, buddy and move on. You are, in my book, a GOOMCR ("Get off of my communion rail"...a play on GOMER (get outa my emergency room) from the novel "House of God".)

I was thinking about this in the words of Eucharistic Prayer A...

"We celebrate the memorial of our redemption."

Now, take a listen to those words...emphasis on the concept that God has already redeemed us. There is nothing we have to do to make things happen in this regard. We don’t have to crawl down the aisle blubbering and asking to be “saved.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite!

Take, for instance, the fact that writing my version of my “12 aspects of praise” in Psalm 118, at times, as I wrote it, make a lump come to my throat, and caused me to fight back tears. That tearfulness was not because I had to come to God with my head hanging, all browbeaten, but because of the sheer JOY that God has saved me without my asking or having to jump through hoops! We should not be dragging our asses up the aisle blubbering tears of remorse for our sins because we are disobedient children in the eyes of hard-assed "Daddy God", we should be standing in the sunshine with the wind in our faces, crying tears of joy for our redemption that has already occurred. If we are doing that, our sins will come to light in their own way and will be sorted out between us and God.

I believe in the memorial of my redemption. Does Archbishop Deng?

If you get a chance, pop over and take a gander at Louie Crew's new blog, "Queer Eye for the Lectionary" a person who likes to read next week's texts in advance, I find this a very useful site, indeed!

Louie brings his fun and pithy humor to the texts, and it is fun reading!

Don't laugh...when I think of the ultimate "kick back and enjoy life" song, hands down CCR's "Lookin' out my Back Door" is on the top ten list.

So I decided to rework Psalm 118 to that tune!

Psalm 118 as sung to the Tune of “Lookin’ out my Back Door”
(With apologies to the psalmist and to Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Called to God in my distress, said my life’s a friggin’ mess
Got to kick back, let his mercies reach round.
The truth of this has set in, and pretty soon Im singin…

Doo, doo, doo, he has set me so free.

There’s a vandal at the gate, paranoid delusion that’s first rate.
Look at all the crazy critters dancing in my head.
But God’s into ascension, his mercy’s never endin’.

Doo, doo, doo, he has set me so free.

The Lord, oh he is at my side and therefore I won’t fear;
What can anyone really do to me?
Doo, doo doo.
In the rivers of God’s mercy, I drink when I am thirsty,

Doo, doo, doo, he has set me so free.

The Lord, oh he is at my side and therefore I won’t fear;
What can anyone really do to me?
Doo, doo doo.
My fears can come tomorrow, today, I won’t have sorrow.

Doo, doo, doo, he has set me so free.

Called to God in my distress, when my delusions are a mess
Look at all the crazy critters dancing in my head.
My fears can come tomorrow, today, I won’t have sorrow.

Doo, doo, doo, he has set me so free.

I got to thinking about this when I was at the doctor's office for an extended period of time. I was dealing with someone who was worrying about me a bit, and kept calling while I was there for tests (and more tests, and more tests, and some radiologic studies)...all to be told, "Well, I don't see anything worth worrying about, but come back in six months." I agreed to text message out during the long wait each hour.

There is a trick to text messaging in that you have to try to say what needs to be said, but you don’t have all day to push the little buttons on the keypad! So I got to thinking, “Can I re-write this Psalm in text message language and convey its meaning “accurately enough” so the person getting the message would “get it????”

Tks 2 god 4 hez gud;
Hez r peeps 4evuh.

Israel sez hez r peeps 4evuh.

Aaronz house sez hez r peeps 4evuh.

We say god rulz and hez r peeps 4evuh.

I txted god and sed srsly, WTF?
He txted back and sed is ok kid u b ok.

Godz in my contact list.
No 1 can cut off my srvice 2 his cellfone.

Godz in my cellphone pocket.
I own the bad peeps.

Sbetr 2 trust god than peeps.

Sbetr 2 trust god than cellfone co.

Bad peeps all around. God sez shoo goway.

Bad peeps close me in. God sez shoo goway.

Dey are like bees n sting. God sez shoo goway.

I got squoze hard but god was there 4me.

Godz got my back. Is my mp3. Backs up HD 4 me.

Hiz peeps in dere tents say u rule, god u rock!

God rulz!
God rocks!
God rules!

I dnt die. I live. I live n say godz cool.

God beat my ass at times but dnt do me in.

Open godz gates 4 me. I will go in say o hai god kthnx.

Dis godz gate his peeps can go in.

I say kthnx god u txt me back n u save me.

Rock dat was dissed now holds up hole bldg. Paybax a muddah.

God did it d00d n it rocks.

2day god did it we say oktnx n u rock.

Woo hoo god! Now we wnt 2 b wnnrz.

Blest is doze who go n godz name n we bless u frm godz crib.

Godz boss n he shines on us. U have parade. Wid sticks. Go up to altar.

U R mine god kthnx! U R my god n I say u rulz.

Tks 2 god 4 hez gud;
Hez r peeps 4evuh.

Psalm 118 is one of the “Hallel” psalms—“Hallel” meaning “praise” (Here’s the big “duh”—“Hallelujah” = “Praise Yah”—as in Yah the short version of YHWH—i.e. “Praise God.”) The Hallel Psalms are recited at several Jewish holidays but particularly at Passover, Shauvot, and Sukkot.

Ok, so what are the “messages of praise” in Psalm 118?????

1. Give thanks simply because he’s good. (v1 and v29)
2. All of Israel praises him. (v2)
3. Priests praise him (the “Aaronic lineage”). (v3)
4. Those who acknowledge his power praise him (v4)
5. I will praise the fact that God is simply at my side. (v6)
6. I will praise God for being my strength, my song, and for saving me (v14)
7. I will praise God for my life and God’s power over death, as well as for all of God’s works. (v17)
8. I will praise God for opening the gates to his holy kingdom for me. (v19)
9. I will thank God for answering prayer. (v21)
10. I will thank God for his ability to take what the world rejects and make it a lynchpin of his works. (v22-24)
11. I will thank God for those who come in his name that bring us a better understanding of who God is. (v26)
12. I will thank God simply because my God “belongs to me” in a way unlike how God belongs to anyone else.

Next task:

Take these 12 elements of praise and thank God in my own words for them.

I thank you, God.

I thank you simply “for bein’ you.” Lots of people thank you, in their own way, but their ways are not my ways. My ways are pretty straightforward and simple. I can make them flowery when I need to, but there’s no need at the moment because it’s just you and me talking.

I recognize you are the seat of all the power in the universe (although at times I try to claim a little of that for my own.) I’m glad you put up with that sort of foolishness on my part. Truthfully, I’m glad it’s in your job description, not mine.

You don’t know how grateful I am that you are alongside of me in my darkest moments and on my toughest days, but not just then—I’m also grateful you and I can enjoy the sunshine together. I’m glad you and I can play in the sun, and feel the breeze on our faces, and see the ocean in my pasture together. I’m glad we can connect with the stars in my yard at night.

You didn’t have to save all of humankind. You didn’t have to give us your son Jesus. You didn’t have to save me. But you did. I can never repay a debt like that and you know it. You are a strong arm carrying me along, you are a shoulder to lean on, and yeah, you are a boot in my backside now and then too—but I’ll take it all. You show me “your songs”, not necessarily with music, but in the movement and rhythm of the sky, the wind, the trees, and the seasons.

I am not as afraid of death as I could be. Yeah, I’m scared now and then, but not as bad as it could be. That’s because you show me a world beyond death—a world where death is only a teeny-tiny part of the whole picture. You do amazing things—not just in my life but in others, and you’re truly awesome in that regard!

I have to admit I find it a little incredulous that you swing the gates of your heavenly kingdom wide open for me and invite me in with no background check, no ID, no price of admission…but you do. You would let me in “as is”. But “as is” is how you made me, right? So I guess you knew what you were doing.

Thank you, God, for listening to me. Thanks for listening to me even when I’m not sure what I want. Thanks for listening to me when I’m too messed up to even put the words together and you have to read my thoughts and my intent through my sobs and tears. Thank you for not just taking what I tell you and treating it like a list for Santa. Sometimes I think I know what I want but you know better, and you don’t give me what I want, but what I need. I’m glad you love me enough to be tough on me like that.

Thank you, God, for reminding me that being “different” is ok. Better than ok, in fact. Some days are harder on me than others in terms of “rejection”. Some of it is that I’ve been so well trained to find fault in myself, to “reject myself” as “not good enough” or “not as good as the others.” But you have reminded us through the life of Jesus that what the world rejected is sometimes “too good for the world,” as we say around here. So good that the world couldn’t possibly know how good it was till the story played out. When I feel different, I’m in good company—Jesus, Ghandi, Mother Teresa—so I should not feel so bad about it.

God, not only am I thankful to you for what you do for me, I’m thankful for all the people you have crossed my life’s path with that have led me to a better understanding of you. There are many. They know who they are, and I think they will feel my love for them, but if I name names, I will inadvertently leave one out. These people have, in their own way, and when they weren’t even trying, brought me closer to you. They have made Jesus more real for me than Jesus himself, in some ways. It is hard for me to feel directly connected with someone who lived 2000 years ago. But it is easier to “get it” when I can see Jesus’ love in one of my friends.

But finally, God, thank you for interacting with me in a way that you cannot possibly interact with anyone else. I realize with all the billions of humans on the planet that seems near-impossible, but I also see through the snowflakes you bring in winter that there are infinite combinations to how you work with these crazy humans of yours. What I sense is when you and I are connected, that is a special bond meant for none other than you and me. I am very, very protective of that bond, just like I am very protective of the bonds I share with the special people in my life! But that is because you protect me in the shadow of your wings and I really am the apple of your eye. I would say, “You’ll never know how much that means to me,” but duh, obviously, you do!!!!! So all I can say is just “Thanks” and trust you get it!

Here is one of the little blurbs I wrote during my exploration of Psalm 118:

“His mercy endures for ever.”

In Psalm 118, this phrase is used four times at the beginning and repeated once more at the end (just in case you didn’t “get it”!) What is this word “mercy?”

I think for a lot of us the word “mercy” implies an act similar to pardoning a criminal, or to end the life of a tortured criminal in a swift and dignified fashion. But I suspect our “criminalization” of this word has also clouded its true meaning to us.

The Hebrew word for “mercy” is “checed.” It is used 240 times in the Old Testament and frequently in the psalms. It is interesting that the New Revised Standard Version translates it to “steadfast love”. The King James Version usually uses “mercy” but in some phrases “loving-kindness” and “favor” are used. The New International Version simply uses “love.” But these words detract from the enduring quality of this love.

I am watching the sun rise in the corner of my yard. Although it comes up in a slightly different “exact spot” in the east as the year rolls by, without fail, it comes up in the east. I can count on it coming up in that side of my yard. In other words, there is an enduring quality to the sunrise, a steadfastness, a dependability.

Now, I have not watched the sun actually rise for weeks. But never, not once, did I think in the middle of the day, “Uh, did the sun come up today? I forgot to look.” I just knew it did. So it is with God’s mercy. He does what he does, he does it every day, and it happens whether we “check up on it or not.” Just as the sun shines on us every day whether we notice it or not, God’s mercy shines upon us every day whether we notice it or not…even when we are pretending to hide from it in our dark painful places, or when we delude ourselves into thinking we can ignore it or refuse it. The light of God’s mercy shines on us anyway, whether we want it or not, and sometimes I think the “chafing” of it is that we don’t want it at the moment, but get it anyway.

But in those moments that ARE noticed, what happens?

I think it’s like sitting in the sun as opposed to the shade. The light is there either way but, for me, I feel the warmth of it. I feel its touch upon my skin, its touch upon my inner core, I feel the resonance of my own “good parts” respond by glowing outward. When I really want to accept where the light of God shines from within myself, it is in this quality of “steadfastness”. I am not a “gooshy love” kind of person. But I think those close to me feel an intensity, a warmth, a steadfastness, and a loyalty to my love that can be incredibly “scary strong” at times. Sometimes I think it is at a level people are not used to expecting, and the intensity of it can spook them a little at times. Then again, I am sometimes amazed at the intensity of which others can respond to it.

I think this quality in me comes from the fact that my life is not rooted in a partner and children. I think these forms of love tend to be used on one’s immediate family, and generally there is not a lot left for spare for the use of others. I have it to spare, so I use it.

I like to believe that when I am the one who sits with someone at the emergency room, or the one who shows up with the tire jack, or the one who is “right there” in a time of personal turmoil saying nothing but holding someone’s hand or just listening to them, that it is in those moments that others can feel what the steadfast love of God—God’s mercy—feels like—and they can feel its enduring quality through me. Perhaps it is a gift that God gave me through my own sometimes seemingly broken, solitary life. It’s not a judgment or a condemnation, it’s not a situation where you have to “humble” yourself to God, it’s just “there” and it is to be used and all that is required is to be thankful for it.

As the sun bathes me in the early morning chill, I am thinking about those times I have grabbed the hands of hurting friends and looked them square in the eye and squeezed their hand as hard as I could. I almost always say to them something like, “I won’t let go.” “I am right here.” “I won’t abandon you.” “When you are feeling like letting go, you remember I have a-hold of you so tight, you will not fall.” Now, I don’t know HOW I’m going to accomplish that sometime, but I know I will. It’s the affirmation that occurs frequently in the Book of Common Prayer when re-emphasizing parts of our Baptismal Covenant—“I will, with God’s help.”

Well, my "roll your own retreat" wasn't so bad. It was a relaxing day, but I will tell you it was a mentally taxing day all the same. I managed to write 11 reflections...some good, some bad. I'm going to upload a few of the better ones.

Here are the "wrap up" questions I wrote myself...

1. What have I learned from this experience?

I learned that there is actually plenty I can be thankful about and in that thankfulness, there is rejoicing…even if my rejoicing is being flip and funny at times. That IS part of my joy. That is how God made me.

I learned that doing this all day is like learning to be a trained athlete. I am not “in shape” for the amount of focus that a day long retreat takes. I need to train for this, I think…maybe have some half day experiences on days off, holidays, weekends, etc. then see if I can stretch my focus a little further. In a way, I feel like I ran my first 5k run, spiritually…could go the distance but could feel myself lagging at the end. Some of this is that I am a little attention-deficit disorder anyway.

I learned that I would not be afraid of another experience.

2. What was the BEST thing that happened today?

I liked just spending the day “hanging with God.” I have never done that in exactly this way. It was like we took a vacation or a road trip together. Sure I think ABOUT God on road trips or vacations, but not like I am trying to stay connected with him ALL the time.

3. What was the HARDEST thing about today?

Keeping focused later in the day. I found that I had to take more frequent breaks. I used my breaks in a variety of prayer…repetitive prayer, silent prayer, sometimes just sitting in the lawn chair and letting God n’ me “just be.” But I also discovered that was not just “down time”, that was also “recharging time.” There was actually a comfort and a pleasure in the recharging!

4. What do I know about the “joy” and “delight” of God’s kingdom that I didn’t know before?

I think mostly that, although I realize it is a little more elusive for me, it IS there. Some of it is a little disguised in my goofy brand of humor, but it is there. It is there in serious forms also. When I was writing the blurb where I thanked God in my own words for the 12 elements of praise in the psalm, I could feel tears welling up at times. It was a very real expression of my gratitude. It is a little like how I treat my better friends. I gig them. I tease them. I push their buttons sometimes just to watch them holler. Sometimes I even grump at them. But every once in a while, I look them in the eye with a very serious look and try to remind them how much they are truly loved by me (but I would hardly ever use the word “love.”) Those are the times my friends are a little amazed at the depth of who they are to me, because I did not seem “that serious.” I got to do that for God today. It was nice.

I think I have to learn to cultivate this part of me a little more. It does not grow well wild. This needs a little “tending” and “feeding” for it to do well.

I am still not sure exactly how and where and totally what I'm going to do, but I know this much...I'm doing it tomorrow, and I'm doing it with Psalm 118.

My self-imposed, quasi vicar-guided assignment is to rework, rewrite, re-tool Psalm 118 as many ways as I can. I imagine I will share some of the "better" (Ok, so "better" is a relative term) ones here. Not sure how I'll check in with you all--maybe at the end of the day--with how it went.

So....I ask your prayers tomorrow, especially for "lack of distractions"...and I'm accepting any last minute advice! I am pretty sure I need to see the sun rise tomorrow so that is how I'm starting off. But the rest is a bit of a black box...

I was incredibly morose yesterday after reading this post from Bishop Gene Robinson's blog. I wanted so much to be able to reach across the web and hug the dude!

Gene, if I could sit across the table from you, I would grab both your hands in mine with a big squeeze, stare you smack dab in the face with what my friends call my "serious as a crutch" look, and this is what I'd say...

"Hell, not only will I pray for you, I will not abandon you. I will sit right there in your "hurting place", maybe off in the corner a little, because I don't really know you (I'd leave room closer to you for those who you need closer.) But I will sit there as long as you need me to sit. I know the "hurting place". Sure, the things that make me hurt in it are different than yours, but I know the place. I've bought the souvenir T-shirt from that place.

"I hate that place. It hurts like hell to be in that place, because even if I sit there for someone else, I feel the resonance of my own pain in it. But I will sit there with you in it so you will not be alone. With God's help you will rise above it. Me too--but we'll save my stuff for later. Today is about your stuff, and I will bear your burden on my own dislocated shoulders for as long as you need me. God be with you, my friend I've never met."

Last Sunday's Gospel had a lot of "disconnects" in it.

This is one time when the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible lets me down and the KJV seems to underscore things better. It doesn't happen often, but this is one of those times. The NRSV in the Matthew 13 parable, talks of wheat mixing with "weeds" sewn by an enemy. This is the story that in the KJV, the weeds are called "tares."

Now never mind that as a kid, "tares" never made sense to me. I thought "tare" was what you did to a scale to set it to zero. But "weed" is so nondescript and "tare" is very precise...I'm kind of surprised the NRSV backed down to "weeds." "Weeds" could be chicory, sunflowers, whatever. "Tares" refers to a particular plant that has been called "false wheat" that strongly resembles wheat. That makes more sense to me when you think about the parable.

Ok, but let’s play with the word here...what’s a tare? The greek word is “zizania”, thought to be a plant called the darnel, a type of cockle. Here is what Wikipedia says about this plant...

“It usually grows in the same production zones as wheat and is considered a weed. The similarity between these two plants is so extensive that in some regions cockle is referred to as "false wheat." It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears. The ears on the real wheat are so heavy that it makes the entire plant droop downward, but the "false wheat", which ears are light, stands straight.” I found another reference that said that tares have black seeds which also can help distinguish them from wheat...but more near the end of the growing season, when you could send people in to "harvest" the tares first before the wheat.

It was interesting to think about this at the time I was hearing Wallace's sermon yesterday. He was talking about how the "wheat" and the "weeds" in our lives become very admixed and intertwined. We have had several conversations in the past about how our best features and our worst faults often come from the same roots. Well, like the wheat and the tares, you can’t tell what’s “good” and what’s “bad” until it grows to a certain place in the growing season. Even then it may not be apparent from a distance. Maybe you have to be up close to really see it.

Well, and really, what’s the difference between the wheat seeds and the tare seeds? One’s nourishing; one isn’t. The "holiness" of us is nourishing, the "humanness" of us..ehhhh...sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Do we radically change our tune about our bad behaviors in an abrupt 180? No, we sort of deal with them over time. But they, like our good points, are “us” and as much “us” as our good stuff. We have to accept these two sides of us intermingle. It’s what I have come to appreciate in the Hebrew concept of the Yetzer ha-tov (the good inclination in us) and the yetzer ha-ra (the evil inclination in us.) That’s what the weeds and the wheat mixed together represent to me. This would have been a concept easily understood by Jesus, being reared a good Jewish boy and all. It would make sense that he would see "wheat" and "false wheat" and going together in a story.

Now, in Wallace's sermon yesterday, he mentioned more disconnects. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus calls the parable, "The parable of the sower." Later, the disciples ask to explain "the parable of the weeds in the field." Oops, there's a disconnect. Then Matthew himself might well have a disconnect. Matthew has Jesus quoted as to what the parable means, but when you read the parable, is that exactly what you get when you try to take home a message? Is this really a parable about "retribution"? Or is it one more of "tolerance" of our human flaws?

Think about this. The tares/weeds coexist until harvest time. Is "harvest" a retribution, a consignment to Hell for all of our human nature? Or is this "burning" at harvest a purification?

This is what I think the “burning” is all about. I think it’s hard to see our "wheat" sometimes b/c of our "tares". But at “harvest time” (when we die) all that “flawed human stuff”..."the tares"...will be collected and burned off, and leave exposed the brightness and holiness of “our wheat.” We will FINALLY SEE WHO WE ARE AND WHO WE WERE MEANT TO BE! It’s not “burn like burn in Hell,” It’s burn like “purify, burn off the bad stuff to show the good.” No more human flaws, just our holy selves! What a concept!

It's just too easy to peg this parable as "retributive"when perhaps the deeper meaning is we can undergo purification and least I'd like to think that!

Ok, hat tip to Ruth at Ruth's Visions and Revisions for this one. For her 100th post, she listed 100 things about herself. Well, I'm way past 100 posts, so I guess I'll do 100 things about me in honor of HER 100th post!!!!!

1. As illustrated by my "election poster" above for the 1968 presidential election, I was taught at an early age by my grandmother to dislike Richard Nixon. My grandmother used to tell me, "That SOB Richard Nixon is so crooked, when he dies, they'll have to screw him into the ground."

2. I am left handed.

3. I have longer ring fingers than index fingers. This means I may have gotten more testosterone in utero.

4. I have never voted for a Republican for President, or for the governor of Missouri, or for U.S. Senator.

5. I have been baptized three times, confirmed twice, and in a moment of childhood desperation, even did the "wordless book" in the secrecy of the toolshed. Someone was handing out tracts at the state fair and they scared me about Hell. I was only 8 or 9 at the time. I stopped being afraid of Hell about age 13. I stopped believing there was a Hell outside of my own ears at about age 14.

6. I am an only child (although many people guess that I had several older brothers.) I made sure I would be an only child by giving my stepdad the mumps. He got mumps orchitis and became sterile.

7. I have lived along a 90 mile stretch of U.S. Hwy. 63 for 46.5 of my 48 years.

8. When I die, I will be the 5th and last generation to be buried in the family plot in Macon, MO.

9. As a small child, I had an imaginary friend named Piedmont Peemine.

10. My childhood dog was a little fat rat terrier named Peetee. (ok, it's becoming obvious I liked the letter P as a child, isn't it?)

11. I had a 3.79 GPA in college....just missed Summa Cum Laude.

12. I taught myself to read at age 3 1/2. No one believed it until my grandmother goaded me into reading the sports page of the Macon Chronicle-Herald.

13. I got my first gray hair at age 25. I have never once had the desire to color my hair, although I am now more salt than pepper.

14. In 1978, I was named an "Outstanding High School Writer in America" by the National Council of Teachers of English. Of all the Missouri winners, I was from the smallest town. Almost everyone else was from Hickman or Rock Bridge in Columbia.

15. I was a John J. Pershing Scholar at Truman State University here in Kirksville.

16. I once won $100 on a lottery ticket on a day I was going to buy a $99 microwave. The microwave lasted almost 15 years. I got my $1 worth!

17. I never owned a dishwasher until I was 40 years old.

18. I never owned a stick of furniture that was not either a hand-me-down from relatives, or from a dead old lady's estate sale, until I was 36. I bought a recliner. I still have the same recliner. Ok, so I don't buy a lot of furniture.

19. All the women in my family historically avoid buying women's jeans. There is a mindset that they are built flimsier than men's jeans, and therefore are not as good a bargain. I don't think any female relative in my family has bought a pair of women's jeans in 30 years. Also, big calves run in my family and most women's jeans are too small in the thighs/calves. Levi's 569's and 550's are popular in my family. The men and women steal each other's jeans a lot.

20. I am a character in three novels, all published in the 1990's. It's fun to have a friend who is a novelist!

21. My grandmother says that the first time they took me to the shoe store, around age two, to buy my first pair of shoes other than those ugly-assed white high top baby shoes, I waddled over, grabbed a pair of cowboy boots, and said "WANT DAT!" I now own 17 pairs, last time I counted.

22. Another telling two year old grandmother says when I fell and cried, and someone would come over to pick me up, I would push them away and yell, "NOOOOOOOOO!" One could argue I'm still that way.

23. I served on a university board of trustees for six years. That was very interesting!

24. Other than when I lived in a college dorm, I don't think I've ever been without a dog. Even when I did live in the dorm, my dog was at home.

25. I saw a tornado knock down the radio tower at the Mo. Highway Patrol headquarters in Macon--I think it was like 1968 or 1969. Rather than becoming afraid of tornadoes, I have been fascinated by their power ever since.

26. The biggest fish I have ever caught is a 43 lb. catfish.

27. I bat left handed but golf right handed. I can shoot a pistol with roughly equal skill with either hand. I am left eye dominant but my golf pro says I use my right eye as dominant when I do things right handed.

28. I once put 360,000 miles on a single pickup truck. Yeah, it was two engines and 3 transmissions later, but I still sold it for $350 when I got rid of it.

29. I can put a pencil in each hand and write forward with the right hand and backwards with the left hand. I can also write upside down this way too.

30. I can still put my foot behind my head at age 48. You would think this would have benefit for potential sexual encounters but it doesn't.

31. I have fixed things with epoxy and duct tape that should never have been fixed with either...things like c-pap face masks and microscopes.

32. My grandmother believed in worming children who play in the pasture barefoot, but she never used "people wormer". She used horse paste wormer from Orscheln's. I can remember her making a proportion to figure out how much to give 50 lb. me compared to an 800 lb. horse. She would smear it on two Ritz crackers and tell me to eat it. It tasted like apple flavored school glue.

33. If I could be given 5 minutes doing something that no longer exists, I would spend my 5 minutes sniffing freshly mimeographed school papers.

34. When I got my front tooth crowned, I told my dentist to "beat it up so it looks real." He cut a tiny chip in the bottom edge and angled it down with the drill, like he'd fix a real chipped tooth and I thought it was perfect. He thought I was crazy. I told him, "My teeth are perfectly imperfect, why ruin a good thing?"

35. There were so many divorces and re-marriages in my family that at one time, I had five sets of grandparents. Now I only have one left.

36. I am pretty adventurous about food, especially hot and spicy food. I like sushi and refer to it as "bait."

37. My favorite comfort food is pickled eggs. My dad used to tend bar when he was laid off in the winter from bricklaying, and I really liked "bar food."

38. I cannot stand mustard and mayonnaise. I can smell and taste them down to the parts per billion.

39. I have continually owned Ford F-series pickup trucks for 27 years. I am on Truck #4. The first one was the one that lasted 360,000 miles.

40. The architect of the church I presently attend was the architect of the church I attended in childhood, but they were diferent denominations.

41. I am a distant relative of the first U.S. Senator from Missouri, David Barton.

42. I graduated 4th in a high school class of 113. My high school counselor, however, said I "did not have the temperament for college" and encouraged me to either go into the military or to technical school. I ignored her advice.

43. I can send and receive Morse code at 20 words per minute. When I was younger, I was a ham radio operator. I still have a license but have not been on the air in years. The internet superceded it!

44. At age 9 I had a poem published in "Wee Wisdom Magazine".

45. My secret skill is writing funny lyrics for songs, and writing "Baxter Black-style cowboy poetry" for birthday parties and 25th/50th wedding anniversaries.

46. I am an excellent cook, but people tend to think since I live alone I must be incapable of cooking. When I bring something to a church carry-in, people act shocked that I made it myself. This pisses me off.

47. Four times in my life, friends and relatives have sent me into a house first where someone has died and didn't show up among the living for several days. I guess, even though my world revolves around little jars/bags/buckets of formalin containing surgical specimens and biopsies, they think b/c I had to do autopsies as part of my training, that it makes me immune to the smell of rotting human flesh.

48. The secret related to #47--dead bodies (simply as their state of being dead) sort of annoy me, in the sense that you always "have to do something with them." If you encounter one, you have to stop what you're doing and call the law. If you work in a hospital, moving them is not easy--they are literally "dead weight" and you have to do things like use the "gurney with the secret hidden compartment" so it looks like you are pushing an empty gurney down the hall instead of a dead person. (You'll probably never look at anyone pushing an empty gurney in a hospital quite the same ever again, now!)

In my days of working around a busier hospital morgue, arranging funeral home pickups were not always easy. Sometimes you could not even hardly get rid of them, if they were homeless. It could take weeks to get the county to assume disposition of them.

I have to be very careful about this annoyance in front of other people. They can mistakenly see it as a callousness for human life. Quite the opposite. In my mind, Elvis has left the building--the humanity is gone--and I would be sort of stuck with the disposition of a large piece of meat. I don't find it incongruous at all to grieve the loss of a human being while at the same time being annoyed about the disposition of the carcass in which it used to be housed. But other people can't always understand that so I have to be careful.

49. I seriously don't know which I like better, sunrises or sunsets.

50. When I am truly sad, angry, or distressed, I can't stand for people to rush in and comfort me. I have to sit with my own pain alone for some unspecified period of time before I'll let anyone in.

51. Although I am certainly capable of being intensely happy, I don't like to be that way for long. My German-American background has taught me to never "tempt the fates" and in that weird, Teutonic way, being happy invites the spirits of calamity to your doorstep.

52. Puppy smell is one of the finest smells I know.

53. Horse sweat smell is almost as good.

54. My "normal" mood is "minimally disgruntled but pleasantly flip and funny at the same time."

55. I have secretly desired most of my adult life to learn to play a musical instrument, but have never acted on that desire b/c 1) I'm afraid I can't devote the time to it; 2) I can't decide on just one instrument and fear I could not be "serious" about just one; and 3) I don't think I could stand to play in front of others.

56. However, in light of #55, I did sort of teach myself to play the harmonica by ear...but I won't play in front of others with very rare exceptions.

57. There are lots of days I'd rather spend with dogs than with people.

58. I hold most people at arms length except for a very very few--and those very very few are sometimes amazed at the depth of my loyalty to them.

59. I intensely dislike the word "love" as it is used in the English language because it is so overused and trite. How can a word based on infinite combinations of "eros", "philos" and "agape" possibly be used to describe a flavor of ice cream?

60. I have never understood the purpose of makeup, moisturizer, painted nails, hair coloring products, hair restoration products, clothing that is uncomfortable for the sake of "attractiveness" or cosmetic surgery. Why would anyone want to be anything other than who they are? Why would people want others to be attracted to who you think you'd like to be other than who you are? I have heard people explain their reasons for this in many ways, but ultimately, I am just incapable of "getting it." It simply bewilders me b/c it doesn't register on my radar. Period.

61. I have always been grateful that after I first visited Trinity, no one followed up my visit with one of those dorky "church hospitality/check out your spirituality" visits. If they had, I would have run like hell, screaming, in the opposite direction. This is why discussion about "following up on our visitors" at the Bishop's Committee meeting makes my stomach churn.

62. My favorite way to eat oatmeal is with garlic, salt, and hot sauce.

63. I secretly like to eat Gerber Meat Sticks now and then. I pretend I'm buying them for the dogs. Vienna sausages don't taste the same.

64. I accidentally ate three dog cookies once before someone told me they were dog cookies. I thought they were some kind of granola cookie.

65. I accidentally drank potpourri on my aunt's stove once. I thought it was hot tea until a pinecone popped up to the top of my mug. Even then, I had not made the total connection. I looked at her and said, "Hey, what kind of tea is this? It has pinecones and shit in it!"

66. I like sour cream on my french fries. Or vinegar. I prefer either to ketchup.

67. I have always owned male dogs.

68. I really like sauerkraut. Not just with polish sausages, corned beef, etc. but I make this really kick ass dish made of italian sausage, kraut, beef broth, golden raisins, garlic, and McCormack's Caribbean Jerk seasoning. People think it sounds really weird till they eat it!

69. I have been a St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan as long as I can remember being aware of baseball. Again, you have my grandmother to thank for that. We buried her in the jacket and hat she wore when she would go to St. Louis to the ballgames. When the Cards were in the 2006 World Series, I took red and white flowers to my grandmother's grave every day (my buddy Dave and I were joking we were asking for intercession from St. Frances of Macon.)

70. My first computer was a Commodore 64.

71. I remember when my dad's boss had the first microwave I ever saw. It was 1972. His kids and I entertained ourselves by exploding hot dogs in it.

72. 1972 was also the first year we had air conditioning. Missouri summers were just as sweltering back then as they are now, with air conditioning.

73. Remembering "life without A/C" became very important in the summer of 1998. I remodeled my house and ended up being without A/C all summer. My co-workers thought I was psychotic for "roughing it out." I think there were only 4 days I was miserable. The rest of the time, I knew enough tricks to make it "tolerable."

74. My first bicycle was a Western Auto Western Flyer.

75. For the first ten years of my life, I had a different last name. Like Bill Clinton, I saved my money (deposit bottles, mostly) and paid for my own name change so I would be the same as my mom and my stepdad.

76. I never saw much of the relatives with my original last name throughout my childhood. When I was 17, I went looking for them. My favorite cousin, J., is from that side of the family. He had just been born when I discovered that side of the family. I'm glad I went looking for them all--I can't imagine what my life would be like without J.

77. I've worn glasses since I was 17. People think I'm weird that I don't want to either have Lasik surgery or wear contacts. Yes, I handle people pieces in formalin all day long, but I think it's gross to touch your eyeballs!

78. One of the pluses about having once been a schoolteacher is you know the names of esoteric that stuff they sprinkle on puke at school (VoBan) and the stuff you spray to make graffiti go away (VandalAway and GoofOff are the two I remember....)

79. I once impressed the hell out of my vicar by making graffiti on the sidewalk (painted hand prints) disappear with GoofOff. He thinks I know how to fix everything and often asks me to fix very obscure items. I like having one person in my life who thinks I can fix everything, even if it isn't true.

80. The book of Isaiah is my favorite book in the Bible.

81. Mark is my favorite Gospel.

82. I think the person in the Bible who probably is most like me is Simon Peter. He and I kind of rush headalong into things but we're good hearted. I can imagine myself cutting off someone's ear and saying something like "oh, shit" afterwards.

83. I have always identifed more with Harry Truman than any other president b/c we both have the speech of "real" rural north Missourians. I have a copy of his memorial service at the National Cathedral and his burial in Independence (Harry was Baptist but Bess was Episcopalian, so he got a BCP 1928 funeral). When I die, I want the same Bible readings read, and the prayer called "A Prayer for Missouri" that was used at his National Cathedral service read.

84. My uncle died at age 11 in a hunting accident, when I was eight months old. As a child, I used to imagine what my life would have been like having an uncle that was more like an older brother.

85. There probably isn't a week go by that I don't have a short moment of missing my grandparents who lived across the road from me--even though my grandpa died in 1990 and my granny died in 2002.

86. I was the physician who officially pronounced my grandmother dead and signed my grandmother's death certificate as the physician certifying her death. She died at 2 a.m. on a cold February morning and I could not see the sense of calling in her doc to pronounce her dead. She was a fairly private person and I think she would kind have liked it that way.

87. My family bought my first dog (a rat terrier named Peetee) before I was born, with the intent that he would be "my dog."

88. I have had two dreams in my life where I really felt God appeared, and both times he looked like George Burns.

89. I once saw a "burning bush" in which the bush was not consumed (sort of)...there is a phenomena where the sunrise further east is reflected in the clouds and sort of "projected" in the sky. That phenomenon was right behind a shrubby tree on the horizon. It made the tree look like it was on fire and not being burned. I stood and looked at it for several minutes, just because it was so cool. What a neat natural phenomenon!

90. I really dig eclipses, both solar and lunar. I like to scare little children in making them think I made the moon disappear or the sun disappear. I made my favorite cousin J. cry by doing that many years ago.

91. I also used to tell J. he was adopted and that any hefty woman wearing a halter top that happened by was his mother. He never believed me after a while, imagine that!

92. Now J. is the person who has the right to pull the plug on me in my living will...he now has the ultimate ability to get even!

93. As a child, if you had given me a blank sheet of paper and asked me to draw anything, I would either have drawn a fireworks stand or a farm with fences and long-eared equines behind the fences.

94. I used to think my grandfather had the ability to fix everything. That's probably why I like that role now and then.

95. I have never been too worked up about not having heirs. I have a feeling that the DNA in my family is really screwed up and it's not going to hurt for some of it to dead-end.

96. When I lived in Columbia, I used to take vacations in Kirksville. People found that really really strange. I still usually "stay home" on vacation weeks and maybe take a "real vacation trip" once a year.

97. Christmas is my least favorite holiday; 4th of July and Halloween are my favorites.

98. I get tired of my birthday (March 27th) often falling on Holy Week. It sucks to have your birthday on Good Friday.

99. I would never change a single thing about me or avoid a single thing that has happened in my life if I could go back in time. I just would not choose to live some things twice!

...and finally....

100. When I die, I believe I will see all my dogs first before I see other people.

But enough about me, I hope some of my blogfriends will follow on Ruth's lead like I did!

Yep, you heard it here first. Next week, when I have some time off, I'm taking one of those days off to create a retreat for myself.

I visited with Wallace a little bit today about my "agenda" for it, and he gave me some ideas. Since I have been kind of goofing around in the Psalms a little, his suggestion was to spend the whole day revising, revamping and retooling a single psalm--in as many ways and forms as I like.

He told me, "You can use any psalm you want--as long as it is a joyful one of praise."

I immediately gave him the "You have got to be shittin' me" look, and he said, "Hey, hear me out, now. You're very good at taking apart the mournful, lamenting kinds of psalms. Part of being a disciplined student of your faith is working your "weak side"--and experiencing the joy and delight of your faith is definitely your weak side."

I chose Psalm 118. I have not chosen the day for this adventure, but will keep you all posted!

I just finished a wonderful recent read from Real Live Preacher. I found it useful because I have, as of late, been supportive of a good friend who is starting to live with and enjoy the fact that he is a person who simply is cut from different cloth. As a person myself who has spent a fair time alone and without a long term "significant other" in my life, I am a little further on the learning curve than my friend in this dept. although chronologically he is older than me.

I refer to this as being a "beyond 2SD person." These people are all interesting people and the typical profile is that they are straight, are certainly capable of loving/significant other-type relationships, and have a normal level of sex drive, but there is this little loner gene inside of them that makes constant relationship pairings more painful than not. It's not that they don't want the company of the opposite sex, just not CONSTANTLY. They are full of their own doubts and scars, and are probably traumatized in some hidden way, but otherwise they are very typical people in every other sense of the word. On occasion they get mislabeled as closet gays, but not always.

I am one of these people. I have always wondered if the apostle Paul was one of these people. (He gets a rep for being a closet homosexual, but I'm never sure he just wasn't "one of us".) My friend is finally coming to grips that he may well be one of these kind of people. It is a hard road for him, as he vacillates between joy in his newfound experience, and despair over the years he wasted in trying to patch together romantic alignments that never would work...because the women in his life wanted to be "married, kids, constant devotion to one another" and he wanted to be "a loner with occasional forays into companionship."

So what does this have to do with RLP's post? This guy's married, has a relatively ordinary family life. It's the line he repeats over and over that struck me....

"Whatever that says about me is true."

That's the ticket. Our choices, how we live, how we react, how we interact--say more about the truths within ourselves than who we hope to be, who we want to be, how we hope others see us, and yes, how we want God to work within us.

God made us the way we are--yes, even us "2SD people"--because there was something about the way we are that He felt that He could best use to show Himself in the world. Instead of wishing we were someone else, we need to remember that the "true us" has beauty and strength all its own.

Yeah, we're imperfect. Imperfect as Hell, in fact. Pains in the ass at times. And sometimes, we "2SD folks" chafe under the weight of our own differences in a sea of "ordinary." We say, "Why me?" or worse yet, "What's wrong with me?" We fall in the trap of letting others define us. We can be a morose little race of humans because of it. But we can also be purity and truth if we only step into our own shoes.

This week's Gospel text is from Matthew 9; "the parable of the seeds;"

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.

Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Let anyone with ears listen!” 10Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

13The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 14With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 15For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’ 16But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

18“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.

As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Well, I'll tell you where my mind started going when I read this one...I was thinking about how people have found seeds in pyramids entombed with mummies as a grain offering, and how these seeds that are thousands of years old can still germinate and grow today. That always seems amazing to me!

Ok, so Jesus mentions the seeds that fall out in the open and get devoured by the birds, the seeds that germinate on the thin worthless soil, the seeds that get choked out by the thorns, and the seeds that were sewn on the good soil. But, I was thinking, “What about the seeds that just get hidden and don’t germinate for a spell...maybe even for years or decades?”

Well, in describing God as this indiscriminate seed-flinging dude, maybe because I’ve been hung up in seeing “temporal” lately, I thought, “yeah, and maybe he doesn’t care if they germinate tomorrow, either, maybe years from now is ok by if we know we have this un-germinated seed of something put in our heart by the Holy Spirit, well, we should be ok that it will germinate in its own time.”

Maybe a seed put in my heart today is not MEANT to germinate today...maybe it is supposed to take root later. I mean, think about those things that are still “black boxes” at the time they are happening. If that seed germinated right then, it’s worthless. But later, when the time and conditions are right, well it germinates.

I thought about the pine forests at Yellowstone. Those seeds in the pinecones, in order to germinate, need to be burned by fire so they will crack open. The park service people discovered that the forest management was not about “preventing all fires” but that nature expects the pine forests to be damaged by fire, in fact it is what is needed for new life to begin. So they learned to create and manage fires (that big fire in the 90's being the exception, of course). But there’s another concept; for germination to occur, sometimes fire has to scorch our life to break open the hardest and toughest of those seeds.

The other thing that crossed my mind is that some of the seeds that fall our way are meant for sharing. Or maybe we share and don’t realize it till afterwards. Take one of my blogfriends, who goes by the moniker FranIAm; you've seen her comments on this blog. She has suddenly found herself without a job for the first time since she was 14 years old. Turns out she has been reading my blogposts with some regularity and says that I have been helping her through her pain. Yet I am only feeling limited self-help in terms of my own pain.

But my mind goes back to a realization I had about a year ago--that the most real parts of me are the parts of me that give bits of myself away with no thought to “what that means” or "at what cost". I just do it. I am a little like Peter when Jesus said "follow me" and he went, "Well...uh...ok".

Although I am not yet feeling much yet in the way of answers for myself, my ruminations seem to be of some help to FranIAm (well, and Episcogranny too, if you've been following her blog)—and somehow that still reaches me. In this case, I am giving away my “seeds” and releasing any chance of control as to how they will be used. I expected no return on those seeds, yet I have an excellent return. Go figure!

Here is what I am starting to surmise in my middle age about stress. It's different than the stress of your youth. When you were younger, each life stressor was new and different and it was hard to sort their importance in the grand scheme of things. Think about it--once upon a time, not having a date for the Homecoming dance was a major "my life is over" thing. Now? Pfffft.

Middle age stress is different. It's more often "new permutations of the same-o, same-o that constantly invades our lives." In some ways, I feel as strong and fit to handle stress as I ever will be. I've lived it. I know it. But the stressful part is that the stakes seem to get bigger, and the upping of the ante is what scares you. Financial stress at age 28, when you did not have the proverbial pot to piss in nor window to throw it out of, was not that big a deal, except for the newness. You had very little to lose then. Financial stress in middle age is a much bigger deal, because you find yourself already thinking about your retirement. Family stress in middle age involves more family members and often more in a "dependent" role. But you get the drift.

I have a feeling old age stress will be even different. It will be tempered with the realization your body is failing, you don't have forever to fix things, and some things will have the grim reaper hanging over your shoulder like never before. I see that in my mom a little. I get frustrated that she, at 70 and in poor health, can no longer handle what she handled well at 60. But it is the poor health that causes this, not "her" per se. It is hard to remember that at times.

But I spent some serious time today in Psalm 88...I've decided to add my interjections between the verses in bolded italics (see below)

Psalm 88

1 O LORD, my God, my Savior, * by day and night I cry to you.

2 Let my prayer enter into your presence; *
incline your ear to my lamentation.

3 For I am full of trouble; * my life is at the brink of the grave.

Oh, tell me about it! I can write a book! Much of my life has been "poised on the brink of failure." Much of my life was staring at a house of cards and being handed a deck and being told, "Here, put these on and don't screw up." But in recent years, I am starting to realize an odd fact: I am still dealing with the house of cards, but I just recently noticed I'm doing this in a temple. What does that mean? I'm not sure. Does it protect the house of cards from falling down? Probably not. But I sense some level of protection I never saw before. I just, at this point, am not sure what it means.

4 I am counted among those who go down to the Pit; * I have become like one who has no strength;

5 Lost among the dead, *
like the slain who lie in the grave,

6 Whom you remember no more, * for they are cut off from your hand.

This is a very typical feeling when I am down in my "sinkhole of pain." I want to get out but I cannot muster the strength; there is this sense of true separation from myself and from God. No light. No voices. Just pain. Then over time the pain seems to give way to strength and I can move again. But it is like when they put people on the ventilator in the hospital on pancuronium to get them to stop "bucking the vent." I feel like I've been drugged specifically to stop fighting and have to just lie there till it wears off.

7 You have laid me in the depths of the Pit, *
in dark places, and in the abyss.

8 Your anger weighs upon me heavily, *
and all your great waves overwhelm me.

This is very close to something Wallace and I talked about once regarding my penchant for strange things triggering my anger. He once told me that there is a quality of my anger that is not just "the thing I'm mad at", but also a quality of "feeling the pain of a broken world." I wonder if this is not what "the wrath of God" really is...not some imperious asshole God running around smiting folks, but a God so pained by His broken creation it just has a bit of a short-circuiting effect on the universe. Misguided energy. But of course, that brings up the possibility that God makes mistakes...that should send the fundies running!

9 You have put my friends far from me;
you have made me to be abhorred by them; * I am in prison and cannot get free.

Oh, that's simple. No one likes me when I'm in a snit. I've been told by one of my best friends, "When you are in one of your moods, interacting with you is like asking to have a scab picked at we just leave you alone till it's over." Good plan! The good news is although my bad moods are intense, they are not long lasting.

10 My sight has failed me because of trouble; *
LORD, I have called upon you daily; I have stretched out my hands to you.

11 Do you work wonders for the dead? *
will those who have died stand up and give you thanks?

12 Will your loving-kindness be declared in the grave? *
your faithfulness in the land of destruction?

13 Will your wonders be known in the dark? *
or your righteousness in the country where all is forgotten?

Wow, I get some powerful imagery here. How many times do we fuss or fret that what we do doesn't matter? That no one will notice? Or that in the darkness of our own pain that we ourselves forget the good we are capable of doing?

14 But as for me, O LORD, I cry to you for help; *
in the morning my prayer comes before you.

15 LORD, why have you rejected me? *
why have you hidden your face from me?

There's no doubt; when we feel separate from "God's herd" it feels like He's the one who bailed on us. The standard line we hear, of course is that "we have abandoned God; not the other way around." I'm not sure that's totally accurate. It's a little simplistic and self-flagellating to just lie on the floor and wail it is all my fault.

Maybe it's a little bit more like a Venn diagram:
(Click on it to expand it)...

The "rub" in all this might be an issue with moving the circles closer together. The important point to ponder is this...the ability exists for either of us to move closer to each other. Maybe when I am the one doing the moving, it is "me practicing the disciplines of my faith." When God is the one doing the moving, it's "grace." But it is important to remember that if God is moving towards me, moving backwards of my own accord is not a great idea!

16 Ever since my youth, I have been wretched and at the
point of death; * I have borne your terrors with a troubled mind.

Oh, yeah. I used to think about stuff like this when I was "too young to be thinking about things like this." My grandparents used to call me out on it. They'd say, "You're just a little kid, you should not be all worried about this stuff. Where do you come up with this stuff? Sometimes I think space aliens came in the middle of the night and infected your brain with something that makes you think of stuff no one thinks about."

17 Your blazing anger has swept over me; *
your terrors have destroyed me;

18 They surround me all day long like a flood; *
they encompass me on every side.

19 My friend and my neighbor you have put away from me, *
and darkness is my only companion.

That's the other thing when we feel acute pain. We are inconsolable. Our friends try to cheer us up, it doesn't work, they get sort of temporarily fed up with us. We are fed up with them b/c "cheering up" is a distraction and we really don't WANT to be distracted from our pain. We want to break through it. We innately sense that being distracted from it prevents progress. Yet we don't want to have pain be "painful" either; it's a hell of a catch-22.


Ok, back to my real world for a moment. What I am discovering is that in middle age, and only if you are bold enough, you can uncover healing in the middle of pain. It's like unroofing a blister and letting the fluid drain from it, or lancing a pus-pocket. In the beginning, it might be all you feel is the lack of the pressure of the fluid or pus, but in time you can feel the healing energy of the exercise. I have found that one of the disciplines of my faith that seems to help me in this regard is taking chunks of the Bible apart and "re-formatting it" to make more sense on a personal level. I may not still quite know what to do with what I uncover, but I can at least see a bigger picture and a grander scheme to it all!

Thanks to the "Who Links to Me" app I added on my page, I discovered a few more people in the blogosphere who have me on their blogroll, so I am returning the courtesy and blogrolling them...all very interesting and thoughtful bloggers.

Check out In a Godward Direction, Episcogranny, and Tradition, Faith, and Reason when you get a chance!

Episcogranny is my first "small world of the blogosphere" experience. She and I linked Facebook pages and she told me who her college roommate was...who just happens to also be one of my best friends for 25 years! I think we just missed crossing paths at Truman State University b/c she transferred to Warrensburg before I came to college, but a 25 year old bread crumb trail that can still be found is nothing short of amazing!

This week's text was Matthew 11:16-30, and Wallace's sermon focused particularly on vv. 28-30: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Now, I don’t know much about yokes, but I do know something about harnesses and horse collars! He mentioned in his sermon, “This yoke is easy, because it fits our nature.” The very first thing I thought about was the importance of having a collar that fits in a horse harness. If you don’t choose a collar that fits, the entire hitch is unbalanced; the horse is not distributing the weight of the load correctly, and it will chafe and rub the horse’s shoulders. When we broke my mule to drive, it was a bear to find the right collar for him. Mule shoulders are built differently, they’re narrower, and most standard sized horse collars don’t fit. If you don’t start with the right collar, he will resist in his learning, simply because it HURTS! It does not fit him. He does not have the balance he needs in the rigging to properly pull the load of the wagon. He cannot do the work he was meant to do because it hurts him.

How much of our lives do we try to live wearing a horse collar that wasn’t “ours”? In contrast, think of those moments that are filled with wonderment and delight where we are feeling the full force of God’s love. Nothing is rubbing or chafing—because we are wearing “our” horse collars. They fit perfectly. We work in harness and pull our load willingly because it fits us.

I thought about my week this past week. I had a lot on my plate, all of it seeming to be needed to be taken care of yesterday. I spent all week trying to pull loads with someone else’s horse collar on. I was worried about what I was NOT. That’s easy to do when you are wearing a horse collar that doesn’t fit. You can see the gaps or the places where it’s too tight. Instead of simply saying, “That’s not my collar,” I said, “I don’t fit.” I let the poorly fitting horse collar define me. So by Friday, I’m going, “This is stupid. I need to put my own horse collar back on, but my shoulders are still pretty sore.”

I could tell, though, that the week wore me down. I was not ready to pull my full burden. So I spent my 4th of July “decompressing.” That was very unusual for me. 4th of July is my favorite holiday; I love the picnics and the fireworks and just the complete lack of expectation for the holiday. But I simply did not feel up to being "large group social." So I stayed home, lay around the house, farted around on the internet, and read and reflected. Very very unusual. A lot of people would have said I let my holiday go to waste. But it was nothing close to waste.

When I get worn down, I have a real need to crawl into my den and lick my wounds. I can stay there for a while to the degree that it makes those close to me a little nervous. I am generally a very animated, active and quick-witted person...but I become very "subdued" when in my den. It can make people think I am depressed. But I don't tend to stay there long and usually crawl out in a day or two. However, when I crawl out, I don't leap out, I kind of come out in increments. I call it "decompression" because it is like a deep sea diver coming to the surface. Come out too fast and I get the "bends". So I surface a little, stay and have to dive back down a little--just not so far--then go up a little again--repeat the process till I'm at the surface.

But back to this "horse collar" business. I was ready to put my own horse collar back on by the afternoon of July 4; but I wasn't ready to jump in harness and just go to pulling. The problem is, when we put our own horse collars back on, at first it doesn’t feel right. It’s kind of like when you’ve been driving someone else’s car and when you get back in yours, even though no one’s moved the seat in your car, it feels funny. It’s like you forgot what your own car seat felt like a little.

So on Friday afternoon I gave Wallace a call and found out he had no big plans for the afternoon and felt like taking a long walk, asked me if I wanted to go walk with him. That sounded like a good idea--although I was not ready for "group social," I figured a "walk and chat" with the vicar was do-able. Our walks are generally good. We have a tendency to bounce all kinds of things off each other in an easy friendly way. It comes off more like a conversation between friends than it does priest-parishioner, although I'm no fool; he's secretly sneaking in the priest-parishioner interaction. The trade-off for him, I think, is that I am talking to him like he's an "ordinary mortal", and he probably doesn't get enough of that in life sometimes. So our walks usually come out to be mutually beneficial experiences.

I could have gotten used to my own horse collar again on my own, but I recognized I would re-adjust faster if there was someone else there to remind me that, yes, this is “my” horse collar and it fits, and maybe let that person pick the burrs out from under it and adjust the harness a little. So I, to borrow a phrase from his Sunday sermon again, “surrendered to a friend’s gentle concern and firm support.”

I felt a lot more "decompressed" after the walk. He already knew a lot of the details about my week. My end of the conversation was more about just feeling the need to come out from under the details a little. His end of the conversation was more about validating that my suspicions were correct, I was uncomfortable all week because I was trying to labor under the expectations of others vs. what I was capable of doing, which, at times is a form of self-betrayal. This self-betrayal can get in our way of feeling our connection to the Almighty. He was basically saying in a different way, “This is your horse collar, and it fits you perfectly...and my God, look at the amazing loads you can pull with it! Why pull like a dilapidated old plow horse in some other horse collar when you are a grand champion puller in your own?”

God picked out very special “off the rack” horse collars for all of us, I think. Some of us might well be running around in very strange horse collars, but they fit us, none the less, and we should feel free to labor in them and be assured they fit, and be satisfied with that. But we betray ourselves at times by thinking we ought to be wearing a horse collar that looks like everyone else’s...and guess what...they don’t fit, and they don’t fit every time we’ve been dumb enough to try them on again, and we have rub spots from all the times we have tried them on before, and they chafe us faster every time. So we run around in ill-fitting collars, thinking it's "us" that is the problem, rather than the fact we're not wearing "our horse collar." Go figure. But if we take on "Jesus' yoke" we need to be reminded that it is a yoke that fits us. He would never put us in a collar that doesn't fit and we need to trust that!

Padre Mickey posted a link to a recent NYT article that discusses the discovery of a stone tablet that may refer to a "dead three days and then a resurrection" story written decades before the birth of Jesus, but the object of the story is a fellow named Simon, who is mentioned in Josephus' history. It infers that "die/sit around dead three days/be resurrected" is more a creation of Jewish tradition than literal fact, if we are talking about Christ's resurrection.

Ok, this is coming from a person of deep Christian faith (me), who, on first glance, might seem a little rattled, but my response is, "Big Deal; so what." Yeah, maybe a little bit of a shocking response...but here's why.

Unlike the fundies, whose every tenet of their faith hinges on the unlikely chance that every "i" is dotted and every "t" is crossed in the Bible, and even the tiniest misprint risks throwing the whole concept out the window, it doesn't rattle my faith in the slightest.

After all, the Bible is a book of several books considered "holy" put together by multiple committees. It's a compromise, some got left in that maybe shouldn't have (cough, sputter, Revelationhackhack) and others got booted that maybe shouldn't. I have worked in academia long enough to know "all committees are compromised."

I have a feeling that stories about being resurrected after three days, may not be singular in antiquity to Jesus. Three is a very powerful number in the kabbalah. The number three--binah--is symbolic of "understanding"--it is linked to the womb and symbolizes growth and formation.

So we are back to my usual take, which is, "I am not interested in whether or not the stories in the Bible are literally true to the nth detail." But I do care about what they were meant to mean at the time they were crafted, and "What do they mean to me?"

There are plenty of other posts on this blog where I have struggled with the "literal-ness" of words like "resurrection" and "transfiguration." I have expressed my doubts about the "literal-ness" of these Gospel events. Yet I can still stand in church every Sunday and say the Nicene Creed and mean every word of it.

"How can that be?" some might say. Easy. Because I know something happened. I cannot explain that something, any more than my dogs can explain to me what two-day old mole scent smells like. That "something" changed the world. That "something" taught mortals to look beyond the law to please God and to connect to God through love; and that somebody who showed us that "something" was Jesus. He was connected to God in a way no one had been connected before, to gather enough attention to be seen. That in itself is divine. The factual details do not matter because the outcome speaks for itself.

It's like if you had your appendix taken out. It doesn't matter if the surgeon put six stitches in or eight, as long as you are healed of your appendicitis. If the surgeon remembers putting in eight, and in a fatigued moment dictated "six" in the operative record, who in their right mind is going to argue if there were six or eight if the operation was a success?

In the Anglican tradition, "I take the Bible seriously but not literally." These are the things I ask myself:

"How do these words connect me more closely to God, the author of the universe?"

"What, in my life, helps me believe the concept of a loving God and a place beyond death that is the seat of all that is good and right and true?"

"How can the words attributed to Jesus help me see this pure love of God that shone through his life, death, and whatever makes up his resurrection?"

"How do these words change my life to make 'the Kirkepiscatoid planet' better for the little circle of people my life touches, and the big circle beyond my little planet of people?"

All the newly discovered ancient tablets in the world cannot shake this quest. Period.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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