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

Job Chapter 7:

“Do not human beings have a hard service on earth, and are not their days like the days of a laborer? 2Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like laborers who look for their wages, 3so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. 4When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I rise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing until dawn. 5My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out again. 6My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope.

7“Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good. 8The eye that beholds me will see me no more; while your eyes are upon me, I shall be gone. 9As the cloud fades and vanishes, so those who go down to Sheol do not come up; 10they return no more to their houses, nor do their places know them any more. 11“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. 12Am I the Sea, or the Dragon, that you set a guard over me? 13When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ 14then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, 15so that I would choose strangling and death rather than this body. 16I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are a breath.

17What are human beings, that you make so much of them, that you set your mind on them, 18visit them every morning, test them every moment? 19Will you not look away from me for a while, let me alone until I swallow my spittle? 20If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of humanity? Why have you made me your target? Why have I become a burden to you? 21Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be."

Everyone--EVERYONE has had the "Job Moment" at least once in his or her life. Me, I've had several. But I'm sure you know this moment when I describe it--those moments in our lives where something has made us so miserable that our heart hurts, our hair hurts, our spleen even hurts from having vented it over several days! Those moments where either we've felt we've committed an unpardonable wrong, or have been victimized in a cruel, unforgivable sort of way, or our life situation is so seemingly un-livable at this point we don't even want to get up in the morning and face the day. We lie awake in our beds and we are even afraid to dream, because all we dream are gruesome nightmares. We begin to feel our whole reason to exist in the universe is to be someone's personal ass-kicking target--maybe even, it seems that God is using us for ass-kicking practice.

Sometimes, we lie in our beds and feel utterly clueless--we think, "What did I do to deserve this?" Sometimes it's aimed at how someone has wronged us and we think, "Why does so-and-so despise me so much she/he would do this to me?" Other times we put the blame squarely on ourselves and yearn for a do-over: "If only I had/hadn't (fill in the blank)! Why can't I just (fill in the blank) and make everything right again?" Sometimes it's all of the above!

We, like Job, feel ourselves living in the middle of a holding place of equal parts sorrow and anger. Some of this anger is directed at God, and oddly enough, half of is is because God seems to be absent, and the other half is He is "too present" and won't leave us alone!

Yet--here's the catch 22. I realize, in my case, when these "Job moments" come into my life, where the anguish actually comes from. It comes from the fact I realize that I cannot exist for any long period of time in a stagnant place of equal parts sorrow and anger--in fact, that I WILL not, for any long period of time--it is simply not possible. I realize God is going to move me to the next place--a place I call "Ignatian indifference"--and I am not ready to leave either the "sorrow place" or the "anger place." I am kind of wanting to still be angry, to still be anguished, and in my usual "terrier with a rat" fashion, I am not totally willing to drop the dead rat.

You might be wondering what I mean by "The place of Ignatian indifference." One of the things we learn if we study the life and teachings of St. Ignatius is that, when we read his Principles, we discover that the first Principle is to accept what God's desire for us, and in essence, become "indifferent" to all created things. Now that doesn't mean to be apathetic or to withdraw. It simply means that we give up our preferences and delusions of control of our world. For instance, if, in my prayer time, if I were fretting about "the higher paying job" vs. "the lower paying job", and God's desire for my happiness seems to be leading to the job with less pay, then that is the one I choose, because I don't care about the money--I care about being an instrument of God's will.

I realize in retrospect, that when I moved to Kirksville, I followed the path of Ignatian indifference at a time I didn't even know what it was. It seemed like a stupid career move at the time, and my colleagues were more than happy to tell me about it--even my closest colleague M. He told me "I can't go home again. I don't get it. You are SO smart, and THIS is the absolute dumbest thing you have ever done." Some told me I was "throwing my life away." I had many, MANY "Job moments" as my decision grew closer to "the day it would happen." I was miserable. I spent the first year here hypervigilant and bound and determined that maybe I HAD ruined my life. More Job moments. Then, one day, I just sort of stopped worrying about it, and looked around and thought, "Huh. You know, this is pretty good."

Part of what makes our "Job moments" painful, when we are people who truly WANT to hear God's wills and desires, is the realization that God is changing these things anyway, and it doesn't matter "what we want." You've all felt them sometimes. Maybe after the end of an intimate relationship with someone, we realize we simply are becoming indifferent to the things that used to hurt us like red-hot pokers. Maybe in the midst of a job crisis, we realize we WILL be doing something else for a living whether we want to or not. Maybe in a family estrangement, we recognize that we are going to have to exist in a different way in the family dynamic. Maybe in a situation whether substance abuse has been involved, or there is a legal ramification to the dynamic, it is the true knowing that there is a reckoning, and a proper response to that reckoning that is going to be a lot of work and hassle and life-long commitment to change. Change will happen and much of it, we will not be in the driver's seat.

In this chapter, Job is doing the only thing we humans can ever do and survive it--simply live it and feel all the emotions that go with it. Simply live it out. It's all any of us can do in our own Job moments and survive. The miracle is that more often than not, we do better than survive. Eventually, we thrive.

Counterlight had a recent post that gave me pause. One of the earliest depictions of crucifixion is not a sculpture, not a fresco, not a work of religious art, but a piece of schoolboy graffiti. From Counter's post:

It dates anywhere from the 1st to 3rd centuries. It was discovered in 1857 on the Palatine hill in Rome in the remains of a boarding school for imperial page boys built by the Emperor Caligula. It reads in crude misspelled Latin, "Alexamenos worships his god," and shows a figure on the left looking at a crucified figure with a donkey's head seen from behind. It could well be that Alexamenos was a Christian and this other anonymous boy was mocking him for his beliefs. It could be that Alexamenos may not have been Christian at all, and that showing him praying to a crucified donkey headed god was just another way of insulting him. Alexamenos worships something so low as a crucified donkey man, associating him with foreigners, slaves, criminals, and work animals; the timeless stuff of adolescent insults. I think this bit of vandalism sometimes gets over-interpreted (some scholars go so far as to try to identify it with certain mystery or gnostic sects). What I think it usefully reveals for our purposes is the powerful sense of shame attached to crucifixion in ancient times.

Now, for me, one of the most important windows (and the one that makes me smile) to ancient culture is through "the things that folks weren't necessarily proud to leave behind." When my former associate and his wife returned from Pompeii on their European vacation, I was absolutely captivated by their tour of some great "graffiti sites" that were uncovered in the city. Some examples are here. (WARNING--NC-17 rating for a lot of this stuff!)

But what these things have made me realize is that graffiti may be one of the most powerful forms of human expression going. We still insult people over the same things we insulted them over thousands of years ago--religion, sexual behavior, bodily functions, looks.

I have thought about all the news flap in both religious and non-religious circles about folks like Richard Dawkins. How is a single thing he's said, any different than the ancient person who taunted poor Alexamenos with his "crucified donkey god?" Not much, really. So what's the big deal? How is all the stuff we see on Faux News about the "defense of marriage," or "family values" any different than the graffiti on the walls of Pompeii? Again, not much.

This old world keeps a-changin', but the graffiti pretty much remains the same.

Parshat Noah from

More Torah cartoons at

My lesson last week in EFM was "Noah and the Flood in Genesis." I had worked on my very nicely prepared learning objectives, including expounding on how Noah was a "righteous" man, and even talked a little about how the Hebrew word for "righteous" as it refers to Noah, tsadiq, "one who adheres to the whole of the law." Best as I can tell, it is derived from the Hebrew letter tsade; in the ancient pictograph style of Hebrew, the letter looks a bit like a trail, which makes sense, as another way of interpreting the word tsadiq is "one who walks the correct path."

All my totally "righteous" thoughts about Noah went out the window when I watched this video that was shown during class. Suddenly I went, "Hey...come to think of it, if Noah was so righteous, how come he didn't convince his friends and neighbors to build their OWN ark? Or, at the very least, stuff a few of his friends in there? He followed the law and letter of what God asked him, but maybe he should have gone one step beyond the law and the letter. How righteous is a guy who let his friends drown, when he had first=hand knowledge of what was going to happen?"

Suddenly my perfectly crafted "righteous" Noah didn't seem so terribly righteous. In fact, a part of me kind of saw him as a pious schmuck. He was so concerned with the law, but he didn't bother to go one inch beyond it. He didn't bother to look behind it, either. The story in Genesis tells us that God had told him to do these things because the world was becoming more evil. But did Noah do a thing to try to make it "less evil?"

So it is with good and evil, saints and sinners. Sometimes the motives that eventually lead to "good" were rooted because of an evil act. In the core of "evil" is often "misguided good." Sometimes we discover the "saints" in our lives have pockets of their psyche entrapped in the dark. Those we cometimes see as "sinners," in the right circumstance, are capable of incredible good, and provide healing moments to others. Nothing in this world is "pure."

When I postulate things like my own salvation, there is no doubt "my sins are ever before me." I realize some of the things I've done to other people, both inadvertently or on purpose, I realize to those people I am an incredible sinner, maybe even an agent of evil. Yet to others, I'm a saint because I did that one right thing for them at the time they most needed it. Those who wrong me or hurt me deeply, can become targets of my anger and disgust.

It's just too simplistic for me to dump it all in the "all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God" trashcan. It doesn't comfort me a bit for my sins to be diluted out into the trash bag of corporate imperfection. It doesn't make the pain others have caused me any less painful. I can't always put those things behind me. Yet I have come to realize that, to become a more "righteous" person, I have to at least attempt seeking a balance in those things in which I must do more than take carpentry discussions on arks and assume animal husbandry duties; for my salvation, I must look "behind the rules" and figure out what additionally has to be done to live a life "behind the rules," not "smack dab in the middle of every dotted "I" and every crossed "T".

My blogfriend Elizabeth tells a story of a man who looked behind the rules in order to show God's love to another in a situation when the rules don't tell the whole story. Yet his life was cut down prematurely by someone, who, at the time, probably felt in his own mind, this good man wasn't so good.

Good. Evil. Saints. Sinners. They are all one and the same.

I have been reading a little this week on the concept of "praying using fantasy." The examples given used images such as a lump of clay, or "falling into the sun." In the exercise, you start by imagining you as the object in the fantasy, imagine something being done to it, what happens, how it feels, etc. Then you switch gears and imagine yourself in the presence of the Son of God.

Well, gee whiz, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what I would use as my fantasy object--a stick of wood in my chiminea! (DUH. That was easy.)

So I sat, as I made a fire in my chiminea today, and started to just let what was happening in real life drive the fantasy. The wood was a little damp, and the fire needed "tending" to really get it going--lots of smaller twigs and sticks to get a nice base of coals before I could put the "big stuff" in. I tended my fire and imagined.

I am a stick of wood. I have splintered spots, knots, and rough places. I am a little damp from being rained upon for three days and have only gotten to dry out a little in the sun. The fire seems so inviting. I want to be put in the fire right now, but I know I cannot enter just yet--it is not hot enough and not ready for me. I wait. I'm impatient. The fire is getting warmer outside the chiminea, and it's almost torture not to go in.

Finally, I am picked up and placed on the fire. I begin to smoke and sputter. My bark catches fire. I am so different from the coals below me. I want to be white hot like they are, but part of me is ablaze and part of me is warm. Water bubbles out of me and hisses. Sometimes there's a big pop.

As the flame begins to burn within my core, I can feel myself transforming. All the rough spots, all the impurities begin to dissolve from me and go up in the smoke to be carried away. As the non-essential parts of me burn off, I get smaller, but hotter. Hotter and hotter, smaller and smaller, until I am red hot glowing coals. I am one with all the glowing coals in the pile. We are one white hot glowing pile of energy...and then the next stick of wood is added, and it will become part of all of us, just as I became part of this cluster of pure heat and warmth.

Now...switching gears like the exercise says...

I am awaiting being in the presence of the Son of God. I have splintered spots, knots, and rough places. My sins are ever before me. I feel His warmth and see His light, but I realize that all the cares of the world, and all the tribulations and scars of my life have made me feel that I am capable of becoming part of him, but I am separate somehow. His light seems so inviting. I want to run up and be next to Him right now, but I know I cannot enter His presence just yet--it is not my turn, and I have to consider all these scars and dings and defects in me. I wait. I'm impatient. I feel myself desiring so much to have these flaws transformed, and it's almost torture not to go in.

Finally, I am led to him and allowed to bask in His radiance. I see others are there with Him, those who have been led to Him before me. I feel the surface of me begin to warm to His presence, but I still am aware I am so different from the substance of the others near Him. I want to be white hot like they are. I want to be one with everything that is His substance and light. I start to feel those flaws slowly melt away.

As the Light of Christ begins to burn within my core, I can feel myself transforming. All the rough spots, all the impurities begin to dissolve from me and seem to be carried away, far away from His heat and light. As the non-essential parts of me burn off, I get smaller, but hotter. Hotter and hotter, smaller and smaller, until I am red hot glowing light and truth. I am one with all the glowing smaller lights in His presence. We are one white hot glowing pile of light and eternity and Truth...and then the next person is brought to Him, and will become part of all of us, just as I became part of this cluster of pure heat and warmth. All there is that is left of "me" is the desire to be part of Light and Truth. In us are all the prayers that He hears of those on earth, all the good deeds of those still living, all the love and kindness that humans try to emulate to "be like Christ."

All of us together, are "the energy of prayer." We are the core that makes prayers answered on earth, we are the tears of the lonely calling to God, we are the smiles in the eyes of children...and feels SO good.

You know, this is not a bad eternal "job description!"

This showed up on my Facebook page today (thanks, Rex!) and it was too good to pass up...


Genesis 3:17-24:

And to the man he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

20The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

21And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.

22Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

Here are two images we discussed in EFM this week on the topic of "The fall and the banishment from Eden." They both gave me great pause. I thought back to things in my life where I discovered what seemed idyllic and perfect were not, and I had to deal with the reality of what these things were, that I now had knowledge of good AND evil, not just good.

In the first image, it appears the "big bad angel" is the cause of running Adam and Eve out of Eden--sort of a "get out of Dodge before sunset" image. You can't see any part of the garden in the picture--what "was" is now all cloudy. They are wearing the outfits made of skins that God had made for them before they left. Adam and Eve are expressing both halves of grief--the sadness and the determination to move forward.

In the second image, Adam and Eve are still naked. You can still see the garden--but it is what lies ahead that is dark and cloudy and unknown. They are carrying a large supply of fruit (fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil?) with them. Adam and Eve seem very "juvenile"--Eve has bows in her hair like a little girl, and she is pulling a wagon. They embrace--all they seem to have is each other now. God seems absent in the darkness ahead.

I thought about how in those times we discover our own Edens "aren't perfect." Somewhere along the line, we gained knowledge of evil along with the good. It messed up our notions of the beautiful garden. At first, we often want to blame others for gaining this knowledge. We wish they had never given it to us. The perfect garden "disappears" and we suddenly feel "banished" from the world we once knew. We don't want to accept its loss. We can no longer see the beauty that was there--somehow we feel the new, more troubling knowledge "took it from us."

Then, at some point, we must step out into the unknown, realizing we need more of the same fruit that shook our world, for the journey. In order to be more mature about what lies ahead, we weill need MORE knowledge of good and evil--not less of it. By this time, we might even begin to see a little again of the garden we can no longer inhabit. We become sad to leave it, because what lies ahead seems so uncertain. But ultimately, we all have each other.

I thought about this concept a lot during class. I used to think this story in Genesis was one of rejection and abandonment. But it is not, in many ways. God clothed Adam and Eve in warm, sturdy clothing made of skins. He cared for Adam and Eve, even when he could no longer let them stay in Eden. He allowed them to take a last look at the garden, perhaps in the hope there is another garden like it out there in that dark unknown. He let them take food for the journey. But he made it very clear that they could never go back--only forward.

So it is with the times we are forced to leave Eden in our own lives. But we have each other, and we have the ability to mature and develop fuller understandings of these exiles in the hope we find new gardens, and food for the trip. We have His care, also, even though at the time it may not seem like it. I think about things like when parents have had to let their adult children find their own way, make their own mistakes, when family difficulties arise. They can no longer be enablers. They still love, but it's "tough love." They can never go back to their family life "the way it was."

The Edens we leave in our lives are not prison sentences, even though we may feel that way. they are simply a means in which we recognize we must go forward and never go back.

Matthew 6:25-33:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Now that fall is well underway, it's nice to reminisce about the summer, and one of the things I'm going to miss for a few months are the wonderful orange day lilies in my yard, and a few "volunteers" along the roadside. So let's "consider the lilies" a little bit.

1. Lilies don't have much of a choice where they grow. As far as I know, we don't get any votes on where we are born, who are parents are, who all grew up in our house, and what kind of people they are. We have no control of what century in which we come into being, the affluence of our family of origin, or what color our skin is. We have no ability to change the culture of the towns in our childhood lives or the attitudes of a community at that time in history.

We are planted, whether those seeds or bulbs are on fertile ground or rocky ground. One of the things I admire so much about the orange day lilies that dot the countryside around here, is that you see them thriving everywhere--whether they are in my yard, or in the yard of a house much more palatial than mine, or in what was left of what is now an old dilapidated farm house, or even growing feral by the roadside. They seem to grow--and sometimes even thrive--in the oddest and seemingly most inhospitable places.

2. Lilies don't have any control of what grows next door to them. Those lilies, as they sprout and grow, don't know if they are going to be growing in the sun or the shade. They have no control of someone cutting down a tree next to them. They can't make an executive decision on whether to be next to a protected grove of brush or brutally out in the open. If a dog walks by and pees on them, they are just going to have to stand there and take it.

We don't get to choose who lives next door to us. We don't have any say-so in the number or types of people who walk past us or walk into our lives, or exit our lives. We have no control of death. We have no control of what people want to think of us--and if they decide to hike their leg and pee on us for their own reasons while we're just standing there minding our own business--well...we can't really control that either. We like to think we can...but the actual control we have over that is miniscule.

After all, it is what THEY see in a lily that makes them stop and admire it--or ignore it.

3. Lilies don't have much to say about the weather. Lilies do not get to vote on the amount of rainfall that falls on them each year. They do not determine the paths of hurricanes or tornadoes. They do not control the hours of light or dark in the day. They don't know what day the first frost is coming, nor can they predict one of those "March Missouri snowstorms that dumps 6 inches of snow on plants that are starting to bud."

We have very little to say about the "paths of storms" in our lives. We do not know what the sum total of the length of our days will be. Six inches of snow and freeze could befall us at our most vulnerable moments. We could be up to our waist in the rains that can drown us, or be parched from the lack of water for our psyches. We don't determine the light or dark forces in our lives--all we can do is strain to face the light and try to get the sun in our face.

4. A lot of the "health" of healthy lilies has to do with the influence of outside forces. I think about those "feral" lilies I see by the roadsides here in July and August. They look so "independent," so "ruggedly individualistic." But really, they're not. They came somewhere from someone's flower bed, even if it was generations ago, and those seeds were carried by the wind, or birds, or flowing water and they took root in a remote place. They had to come from SOMEWHERE. They are still dependent on the elements to grow and thrive. They need bees and other bugs and hummingbirds to move their pollen from place to place in order to be an established bed of lilies year after year. In essence, they're WAY more "dependent" than they appear.

Our American culture feeds the delusion of "Ruggedly independent" like no other. We admire it. We worship it. The funny part about what those of us who consider ourselves "independent people" and fully "get it," have come to learn that "independence" is really a myth--that it depends on things and people outside of our control, and what we are really doing when we are content in our "independence" is actually saying we gave up the delusion of control of our environment. We have come to an understanding that we will accept the "ambiguous unknown."

In other words, we accept "mystery."

This, of course, doesn't mean we accept mystery every moment of our life, in every psychodynamic in the human spectrum of emotions, but we, through our trials and tribulations, eventually make peace with it. However, this "making peace" can be an incredibly painful process, and frequently exposes two constantly nagging sins--pride and covetousness. Ow.

5. Lilies were born lilies. They can't be irises or tulips, no matter how hard they try. Lilies may well morph over millions of years of evolution, but today, tomorrow, and the next day, they are still going to be a lily. Even after all that "evolving", a million years from now, that lily won't be a tulip. It will be something new.

If someone likes tulips, and thinks a lily is a disgusting trash flower, there is nothing that lily can do to make it be liked better. It can't change its color or its appearance--it can only grow into its full "lily-ness." That person who doesn't like lilies is the one who has to do the changing.

We all are born with so many psychological intangibles. We all know that some babies sleep through the night right off, and others are colicky all night. We might be naturally good at math, but not so great in diagramming sentences. We prefer one color over another, one season over another, one sex over another--we simply have a LOT of innate preferences. We know where we are on that spectrum of "solitude vs. companionship." We know innately what fulfills us and what is toxic to us. Yet sometimes we spend a lot of time either trying to be irises when we are lilies, or trying to make lilies into irises and being frustrated that they "don't change." All of us would be better served if we'd all just try to appreciate the flowers of humanity for what they are--even the ones that make us uncomfortable or even shrink back.

Toujoursdan posted something on his Facebook status today from St. Benedict that says all of this more succinctly than I ever could:

"Live this life and do what ever is done in a spirit of Thanksgiving. Abandon attempts to achieve security, they are futile. Give up the search for wealth, it is demeaning. Quit the search for salvation, it is selfish. And come to comfortable re
st in the certainty that those who participate in this life with an attitude of Thanksgiving will receive its full promise."

Ultimately, how much of our life is God's doing, and how much really is "ours?" I am finding that, for me, so many things I thought were "mine," were never mine to begin with, and am spending more time giving them back to their rightful owner--God. I just haven't learned quite yet how to give them up without a fight!

Job 6:1-13:

Then Job answered: 2“O that my vexation were weighed, and all my calamity laid in the balances! 3For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea; therefore my words have been rash. 4For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me. 5Does the wild ass bray over its grass, or the ox low over its fodder? 6Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt, or is there any flavor in the juice of mallows? 7My appetite refuses to touch them; they are like food that is loathsome to me.

“O that I might have my request, and that God would grant my desire; 9that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off! 10This would be my consolation; I would even exult in unrelenting pain; for I have not denied the words of the Holy One. 11What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should be patient? 12Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? 13In truth I have no help in me, and any resource is driven from me.

I told you a while back I am now working my way through the book of Job. Well, so far, Job has been picked on quite a bit. His children all die in a freak accident. He became covered with sores (in a time when there were no steroids or Benadryl, no less!) His friends are showing up and trying to be helpful, but basically they're giving him shit advice. ("God's trying to tell you something.")

PUH-leeze. God can tell me something without covering me with sores and killing off my family.

But you know how it is. Your friends MEAN well. But they are not great at "grieving." We often try to be too "helpful" when people are grieving--we distract them, we try to cheer them up a little too much, we try to solely put the blame on someone else as the source of their troubles. They mean well but it just never quite works. In those last few verses, we see what Job really wants--he WANTS to let out his misery and just be with it.

But it is so hard, when you are a friend, to let this happen.

I always think of the story my grandmother told me about "me as a toddler." If I fell, I did NOT want to be picked up. I wanted to sit there and wail a little bit. Then eventually, I would pick myself up and actively go to someone to be consoled. To interrupt the process just made me more upset, and actively go, "NO! NO!" and push people away.

What is it we can do, when our friends and loved ones really, truly, want to grieve, and grieve in a hard and loud and gut-wrenching way?

1. WE LET THEM. Maybe we go in the other room and leave them be. Maybe we just stay in the room and say nothing, hard as it is.
2. We let them tell their story if that is what they need. Be an active listener. Let them tell their story with very little interjection from you--be an active listener. (This is always personally hard for me, because they often tell me something that seems to be an opening to interject, and I really have to fight myself to say nothing or save it till a little later. I don't trust my memory to get back to it under stress. So I don't always do that one right, myself. But I do keep trying to get better at it.)
3. We prepare ourselves for that moment they want to get up and be consoled. Sometimes that can feel a little weird or embarrassing. It's not always easy to deal with "raw." We are never quite sure what to do when that person comes to you and does something like bury their head in your chest and sobs, or takes your hand and put it in theirs, or needs that BIG hug, when you are just feeling kind of "shellshocked and blank" about the whole thing. But I have always found the best thing is just roll with it, and "love 'em back."
4. We pray for them. Sometimes it feels good to just get the opportunity to pray together with them. I have found I can do some of my most earnest praying this way. Sometimes, it feels more appropriate to tell them that you will pray for them, and do it on your own time, and they in theirs. But I think I just go with my gut on that. But pray. Hard. For everyone, even the people you are angry with. Even if that prayer for the person you are angry with is simply, "Bless so-and-so, change me."
5. We spend quiet time about it. Sometimes, when someone else is hurting, I just go sit in the yard, or light a few candles and turn down the lights, and sit still and see where my thoughts go. Sometimes I think about what it must feel like to be them, at that moment. Sometimes my imagination takes me to images of that hurting person doing something that puts them within the grasp of God--seeing a hawk in the sky, or feeling the wind, or taking a walk in the woods with Jesus and imagining the conversation they are having. But quiet time when you are alone is a very important part of that, too, for thoughts that turn to them, and thoughts that turn to how you "fit in" with all of the stuff involved.

Job is our reminder that grief is not easy, but it is meant to be experienced just as much as joy or contentment.

This is the picture we used for reflection in EFM tonight. It's the first I ever saw of a set of artistic renditions known as Jesus Mafa--African-themed depictions of the life of Jesus. The link in the previous sentence will take you to a wonderful collection of these pictures. This particular one is of the resurrected Jesus sending the people out to their various forms of mission.

Now, I have to confess, when I first saw the red-robed figure, my gut impression was somone holding out his hands in confusion, as in "Hey, don't ask ME for directions, I'm not from around here, either! But after a while, we recognized that the red-robed figure was Jesus. As we started initially talking about the picture, what gnawed on me was that for a bunch of folks being told personally by Jesus to go out and "mission", they seemed to be a little confused as they start out on their journey, and not terribly sure of themselves. My expectation, I suppose, as a person who has to deal with Jesus in a little more indirect fashion, was that they should seem more "confident" and "directed" getting the straight skinny from him. A little part of me was thinking, "They ought to be a little more sure-looking about this--they've got Jesus right there, and they can ask for clarification for what he wants of them."

After all, it's a luxury I don't normally have, being that Jesus and the rest of us now have to work from a couple of different planes of existence.

One of the people in our group was paraphrasing Jesus, saying something along the lines of, "He's saying stuff like 'Thomas, you go to India'." Well, that got me to thinking. What if, two years later, Thomas says, "India? I thought you wanted me to go to INDIANA. So here I am in Indiana. NOW what do I do?"

Would Thomas had starting packing for India that very day if he discovered the mistake? Or remain in Indiana as he found that he was needed in that place at that moment? It's hard to say, isn't it?

It made me realize that we can "misinterpret Jesus" even if he were standing in front of you and speaking to you directly. It dawned on me that we could even REALLY, REALLY misinterpret, but could still wind up, in the end, coming out perfectly okay with ourselves, the world, and our brothers and sisters. Tha'ts a very confusing and circular concept. You think you understand what your prayer life is telling you. Turns out it is not really what you were being told. You follow what you THINK you were being told. You end up in "the wrong place at the wrong time." Yet you do the best you can with what you've got to work with, right where you are, and other peoples lives are positively touched and changed, as well as your own. In the end, you lived your life in that period in a way that honored Christ.

What a concept! We could get it "all wrong", and still end up "doin' it right."

So in that sense, maybe it's okay that the people look a little confused in the picture as they go off on their mission. Maybe back in Jesus' time, it could have been just as confusing to "do what Jesus asks of you" as it is now. Oddly enough, there is a certain amount of comfort in that--that people 2000 years ago might have been just as bewildered and confused and baffled as I am when I am discerning "God's will" in my life.

It got me to thinking about the importance of having people in our lives who are also seeking God's will in their lives just as earnestly. We are all on different journeys but stopping at the well to "compare notes" is important. I have thought about times where, to really understand an event, or a happening, it took four or five people, all traveling in the same direction, to really REALLY piece things together--to share stories, to borrow from each others' perspectives, to hear messages for you in THEIR stories from different places on the journey.

It's also why church is important. It's an even bigger collection of people on a journey. Maybe not as intimate an experience as a small group or a prayer partner, but just as important. As with all get-togethers, a shared meal becomes important, and simply "the gathering itself" adds to the power of the Eucharist.

So, in the end, we go off on those confusing "missions" of ours. We probably don't exactly get it right. But, somehow, bits and pieces of what's good about God's reign still happen. Amazing, isn't it?

I have been thinking a lot about "the rules" lately. Perhaps it is the last few weeks in the Lectionary, where in Mark, Jesus is imparting a lot of wisdom about rules.

I have come to the conclusion that everything I have learned about The Great Commandment (To love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and to love my neighbor as myself), as well as the rules and canons of the Episcopal Church, well...I hate to admit it, but I learned it all from an old Jewish guy on the golf course.

I've told you before about my friend M. with dementia. Back in the day, before his dementia robbed him of his cognition, we were golf buddies. We spent a lot of time in my formative years as a golfer with him teaching me The Rules of Golf.

M. was very adamant, early in my golfing career, and especially when I started playing in the club tournaments, to know The Rules of Golf inside out. I was not crazy about this exercise. I would rather have spent my time on the driving range or on the practice putting green. But M. constantly quizzed me about not just "the rules", but about the DECISION BOOK on the rules. The decision book has ever more hypothetical problems. It's kind of the equivalent of not just studying the Torah, but the Talmud and the Midrash.

We had amazing conversations, like "What's the status of a snake on the golf course?" I learned very quickly to answer, "A live snake is an outside agency. A dead snake is a loose impediment." That sounds sort of stupid, but it's not. If an outside agency moves your ball or steals it, you are supposed to replace the ball where it was. If a loose impediment is next to your ball, you are allowed to move the loose impediment if it is obstructing your shot.

I realized just how important the rules of golf were to M. when he was full bore into his dementia. We were watching a movie about when Francis Ouimet, a local nobody, won the U.S. Open as an amateur in 1913 against the legendary professional golfer Harry Vardon. In the movie, Ouimet hit his ball in a bunker in which there was water in the bunker. Now remember, by this time, M.'s dementia had robbed him of the ability to find his way from my office to the hospital cafeteria.

I said, "Hey, why's he hitting the ball in the water? He can take a drop in the bunker b/c he's in the standing water in the bunker!"

M. calmly looked at me and said, "They didn't change that rule until the late 1950's. In 1913, he would have had to hit it out of the water."

I think about all those hours, drinking beer in the clubhouse and rehearsing hypothetical golfing situtations to how the rules would deal with them. We talked about all the reasons why knowing the rules could help other golfers play a fair game and how there were no "referees" out there on the golf course, so it was important to be able to "do what's right."

The more I think about those conversations, I realize these talks carried over into my sense of my own Christian duty, my own sense of right and wrong, and what I am coming to learn and understand about the rules and canons of the Episcopal Church.

Here's what I learned, and it holds so true for my church and my faith as well. Not just "The Rules of Golf," but "The Rules of Jesus:"

  1. Recognize the rules are not about you, but about “the integrity of the game.”
  2. When you learn the rules, use them consistently, fairly, and evenly. Even if it means calling a penalty on yourself.
  3. Use the rules to help other players get what’s fair and allowed, not just to call penalties on them.
  4. The “decision book” on the rules is three times as thick as the rule book itself.
  5. The most important rule book in the Rules of Golf is the one that says, “When there are no rules, rule in equity.” The most important rule in the Bible is the Great Commandment.
I'd say those are mighty important things to know!

Pssst. C'mere. I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. I've always had a theory about Mary Magdalene that isn't exactly orthodox. Now, we're not talking Da Vinci Code stuff, here, and we're not talking the view that arose from the medieval Church that she was a loose woman, or any of that stuff. My theory is totally different. That's why I used a very "plain" representation of her in my post.

My theory is based on a quote by one of my all-time heroines, Katharine Hepburn:

"Plain women know more about men than beautiful ones do. But beautiful women don't need to know about men."

I've always wondered if maybe, JUST MAYBE, Mary Magdalene wasn't a very ordinary, understated, "plain" woman--maybe even a little "butch" looking by the standards of the day--who always enjoyed "hanging out with the guys" more than she did "hanging out with the gals." I say that because women in that category seem to be able to generate a special sort of loyalty and empathy for their male friends that is unique. I say that because all my years of working in a "man's world" and spending countless hours of my life on golf courses with guys for 4.5 hours at a pop has taught me a lot about that.

I mean, think about it. The culture of the day would not have handled a woman like that very well. Women were pretty segregated beings in society in New Testament days. There was an awful lot to do to keep a household running. Women and men really didn't get to know or understand each other much, unless by sheer personality match, a couple really learned to bond. The life expectancy of the day didn't leave nearly as many years to do that.

It would have been very easy to dump a woman like Mary Magdalene into the urban legend that the Church pinned on her, as a "fallen woman" because maybe, back in those days, the bulk of women who really got a chance to understand men, in that "working in a man's world way", WERE women in the sex trade. It wouldn't have been conceivable for a woman to psychologically "get it" any other way in the minds of most people.

So, for years, in my mind's eye, I have often thought about Mary Magdalene. I don't think there was anyone more loyal to Jesus--or to the rest of the disciples, for that matter. She had to be tough, to endure "life on the road." I doubt she got much "special treatment." It always seemed to me in the Gospels that the "boys in the band" kind of gave her hell now and then, but they certainly weren't chasing her away, either. I sort of envision there were aspects of how guys treat their sister in that relationship--getting her goat now and then, but sticking up for her when the chips are down.

She is really such an enigma in history--so much so, we've spent a lot of time and killed a lot of trees to figure her out. But what always stuck out for me is her presence seems a lot like how my former associate in the office and I were, or how I am with my golf buddies--a special bond that is hard to explain, because to even start to explain it, one has to admit a tiny sliver of low-level sexual tension, but with the understanding that the only function the sexual tension has is to set the boundaries. Those moments where guys and gals who are good friends in the workplace look at each other askance, and for that brief few seconds think, "What if?" "D'ya think?", then quickly go, "Nah. I wouldn't want to mess this up. It's too good as it is."

But there is a real love that comes out of those relationships that is hard to explain, and did not fit in the boxes of "relationships" in New Testament times, any more than it fits in the boxes of our notions of "relationships" today. We don't give much credit to that kind of love. We almost pretend it doesn't exist.

In that sense, Mary Magdalene has been an iconic figure for me.

When I went to bed last night, I had gotten an e-mail from a friend of mine who has been my friend for over 30 years, although we seldom get a chance to catch up to each other. His daughter describes me as "One of my dad's favorite people in the whole world." He and I were buddies at a time he needed a "soulmate but not a girlfriend." There was tension when he did find the love of his life, and I don't deny having felt some serious loss about that. It meant I had to give up some of my psychological intimacy to someone else. But I could tell this was the "real deal" for him, when he found her, so in the end I had no choice but to cheer him on. As it turned out, it opened a door for his wife and me. She found she could share with me things she might not have shared with other women, and get validation for it. She knew I would always want what was best for both of them.

I think about all those people in our lives, where we'll never "make their obituary." We're not blood kin. We're not "significant others." But we have love for those people that is very real. Sometimes that love lives on the edge of tension, depending what sex one is, what sex they are, and what the sexual orientation of both people are. That love may at times make us look askance at our own motives, or even our own sexual orientation, but in healthy forms of these relationships, we always seem to go, "Nah. We're good. It's good as is."

One of the biggest blessings of my life "as is", is that I have had no shortage of these people--men AND women. It's not that their love--and mine--hasen't given me sleepless moments. That love has made me question a lot of things, staring at the ceiling at 1 a.m. But in the end, I realize they have all taught me the meaning of "Agape"--that business of seeing something beautiful and holy inside of them.

For me, that is who Mary Magdalene represents. She is an icon for me of what the power and the value of "agape" is in our lives with others. I like to think maybe she got the last laugh in this. Maybe that is why I like to think, that in real life, she was this very plain, understated woman, because over the course of history, artist after artist made her physically beautiful. In doing that, perhaps they have rendered the beauty in my own very plain, understated self. Perhaps these artists are rendering the thing I most desire others to see in me. So if she got the last laugh on this, I am definitely laughing alongside of her!

Well, I have to make one very large confession about this movie. I have loved it since I first saw it at age 12. Something early on told me, "I'm a little like this guy." He's a lot why I choose to live alone in the country, a lot of how "the solitary me" operates, a lot of my need to "step back from the world" on occasion.

Jeremiah Johnson is a war-weary man who leaves the Mexican War behind to live the life of a mountain man. (Never mind we have a big "movie anachronism" here--by the time the Mexican War came about, the fur boom was pretty much over, having mostly gone belly up in 1840.) But mostly, this war-weary man wants to be left alone. Unfortunately, he accidentally bespoils a Crow burial ground and the entire Crow nation in the area comes after him. He constantly has to fight battles he doesn't want to have to fight. The movie is also constantly filled with the sense of foreboding that the life he lives will no longer be possible, as the fur is playing out, and the world not far from him is becoming far more "civilized."

I see some parallels in this Jeremiah with the prophet Jeremiah, also, in the sense of "anger over what he's being asked to do."

I imagine I quickly identifed with his "war-weariness", growing up in a family where alcoholism constantly fueled battles I didn't want to fight, either, and often finding myself "just wanting to be left alone." I still identify with that sense that "the world is changing and I really just want to step away from some of it and do without it."

This movie has been haunting me a little since my EFM class Sunday night, when we had to talk about "community." It also seems to be driven home in another way, as my vacation in Alaska has made me aware that there are a LOT of people in Alaska that pretty much enjoy not being part of the "lower 48" and have a real sense of not wanting the bright lights and big city.

My EFM course Sunday night really challenged me to admit my discomfort with a lot of aspects of "community", even something as theoretically loving as a church community. I find myself a lot like the old "mountain men." Just as they relished living alone, well, they had to come to town sometime for the rendezvous, and they certainly went all out when they did that--sometimes a little TOO all out.

I realize that I am a little like that, too. When I "come to town", I go all out. Maybe TOO all out. It can seem "oppressive" to folks now and then. Staying in town too long causes trouble. I find it harder to "get along," and am sometimes at my worst when I "hit the wall" with my sociability. I am learning that "when it's time for me to go back to the mountains," I need to go back to the mountains--NOW. Other people don't always get this. Sometimes they think they did something "wrong." It can cause friction. But my closest friends realize, "Just leave me be, it will be fine in a few days."

I have also come to realize when I "come to town," not only can it create problems where I might "overdo" (over-giving, over-helping, etc. to the point where it can become a matter of me exerting "accidental over-control,") it also sets me up for being "over-manipulated." It's very close to how the mountain men would lose their money on trinkets, cheap booze, and women. Someone sidled up to them in a friendly way, and they more or less trustingly went along with it, because it looked pretty good at the time. My desire to "come to town and go all out" also carries a little of that same sort of naivete. Next thing you know, something has been psychologically been stolen from me. Then it becomes a dance between "fighting it out" vs. "going back to the mountains, angry and bitter."

Finally, as I continue to hear that inner mystic that lives inside of me, I realize there are parts of the world that I just don't care to enter anymore. It is very much like the "creeping in" of civilization in the Old West. It can just play out and leave me out of it. The increasing shallowness and materialism and need for "more" leaves me cold.

I think about how I use new technology to be more "old school"--how social networking like Facebook and Twitter, I tend to use for deepening and broadening relationships vs. more narcissistic forms of social networking. I think of how I have been taking my friends in Facebook Nation "on vacation" with me. I find I have a deepening love for some of them, and a desire to "take them with me," even though much of this vacation involves "being alone." It's a need to share in a way I'm not accustomed to sharing. I recognize it is another version of my continuing dance between "sociability" and "alone-ness."

What a dance! As my desires to be more and more part of God's reign and not the world's become stronger, I also sense my need to pop "in and out of community" must also grow. My need to be healthy, in those "popping ins," needs to be cultivated. I can hide, but I can't hide. But part of the growth is becoming stronger in my understanding of the times I must exit and go back to the mountains, recognize that this IS a healthy understanding that makes me BETTER "in community" when I'm in it, and not fear my temporary "needs to exit." Otherwise, I will be fighting battles I've accidentally created for myself, and succumb to war-weariness.

Learning to be content in my solitude in order to be healthier in community--what a concept!

Psalm 139: 14-18

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

15My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.

17How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

18I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you.

Today I visited the Exit Glacier near Seward, AK. It gets its name from the fact that the early explorers of the Harding Ice Field, nestled in the Kenai Mountains, used this glacier as an exit from the ice field. The Harding Ice field, the source of the glacial ice, gets 400-800 inches of snow a year, and it takes 40-50 years for this ice to compress to the density of glacial ice. It takes about 100 years for the ice at the top of many of Alaska's glaciers to reach the bottom.

It's hard to think of a glacier as a "living thing" at first. At first glance, it looks like an immobile dirty lump of ice that just sits there and does nothing but wear down what's below it from pressure. But as you get closer, you realize this glacier really does move. You see the evidence of its motion in the little moraines nearby--pebble-ized bits of rock ranging in size all the way from boulders to pea gravel. You hear it creak and groan. You feel the catabatic rush of cool air wafted on the air currents, like the feeling of ten thousand ice chests being opened in your face. It is only then you realize that it lives and breathes.

Glacial ice is so dense, so compressed, so thick, that parts of it appear blue. Its density absorbs all the longer light wavelengths so it reflects an almost neon blue.

One of the advantages of visiting the glacier "after the tourist season is over" is that I got to spend a fair bit of time, literally, alone with the glacier. For a half hour or more it was just "me and the glacier." I sat there a long time and just watched and listened.

I thought about the weight of that glacier, the weightiness of some of my own thoughts, and the weightiness of God's thoughts. Thought about how time and pressure transforms them. I imagined my own weighty thoughts as snowflakes on the top of that glacier. In the beginning, they blow around and spread themselves everywhere. Just basically running around in chaos. Over time some freezing and thawing occurs, and they condense. More snow comes in on top of it.

Those weighty thoughts become denser and more transformed; they burrow deeper into the glacier and become incorporated in with all the other weighty thoughts in God's reign. In other words, at some point they no longer become "your" thoughts. They're God's--and they absorb all the longer, distracting parts of the spectrum of light, and glow blue. They become part of a holy, transformed thing that no longer belongs to "you."

Even if you tried to chip "your" thoughts out with an ice pick and take them back, you no longer have in your hands either "what it is" or "what it was." They only glow blue if you leave them alone, incorporated in all those other weighty thoughts. Remove them and they are simply a hunk of ice with only minimally more "staying power" than an ordinary ice cube. Neither are they the easily blown around chaotic thoughts they used to be. They were better off being left in the glacier, glowing blue and being mixed in with the rest of the weighty thoughts.

The glowing blue ice in the Exit Glacier reminds me that placing our weighty thoughts on the altar is not just a "giving up" but a "gain."

(Photo from Alaskan Things Photos)

Some of you may know I am presently up in Seward, AK visiting my blogfriend Robert this week. This has already been an exciting first 24 hours, simply because I can now say I have visited all 50 states before my 50th birthday!

I forgot my data cord so am not able to download a picture of the mountains myself yet, but I found this picture to give you an idea of what the mountains look like this time of year in Seward.

Let's just say that this flatlander, who spends many evenings looking out at an ocean of pasture, is absolutely captivated.

These mountains are so different than any I've seen. The tree line is "short" on them, and the snow line is getting "longer" by the day this time of year. As we drove from Anchorage to Seward on the Seward Highway, we are right at the time of the year the birch trees have become golden, so we drove through acres and acres of yellow-gold paths. But when we wind through the mountains, their starkness is what grabs me. I feel almost like I've been dropped off in the Himalayas, not the United States.

In short, I look out at these mountains and I see the stark beauty of truth. When we all examine ourselves--REALLY examine ourselves, in that way St. Benedict and many of the other great teachers and saints ask of us, we see the starkness and inhospitable arid-ness of our faults. We accept "nothing can grow in these places." They are the experiences of our lives and our innate faults that contribute to the sum total of our brokenness.

If we did nothing except stare at these rocks, or if we contintued to vainly try to make something grow on them, continue to keep trying to stick all our psychological "square pegs" into "round holes", we'd die in the aridness of our own broken souls. I have seen this in myself, and I have watched it play out in others--some so close to my heart that to watch them do it and despite any of my best efforts to get them to see differently, it wounds me in the process, because it is a scenario that is out of my control. I suppose "controlling other people's realizations of themselves" is one of my arid places, too.

But if we merely BACK UP and look, these inhospitable mountains become a thing of gentle beauty. Just in my mere driving around town this first day in Seward, I marvel at how these mountains frame the inlets and bays along the coast--places of tranquility. I look at how the colorful houses of this little town rest in the protection of these mountains and bring warmth and color. It's the time of the year all the tourist stuff is mostly closed, and the townies are settling in for the winter in the company of each other, and the hope of another productive tourist season next year. At the foot of all these things we cannot change and will die trying to, is life and hope and love.

I have thinking a lot about "the winding down of year B" in the Revised Common Lectionary. Year "B" is the Mark year. Mark is my favorite Gospel, and I think why I like Mark is...well...its starkness and brokenness. The disciples fuss and argue. They are afraid. They are impetuous. Time and time again, Jesus is telling them point blank about things, and they just "don't get it." As we say around home, "They're dumber than a box of rocks." Mark doesn't even end like any decent kind of a movie. It ends like one of those movies where you want to know "Well...what happened after that?" It leaves you unfulfilled. But I have to remember it was written at a time that history did not KNOW what mark this man Jesus was to leave on humanity, and his "fully divine" nature was not really thought out so much yet.

Yet Mark remains my favorite Gospel simply BECAUSE "so much is left up to us to put together." The humanness of the Disciples (and especially my buddy Peter, who I am absolutely convinced shares a few extra DNA base pairs with me) reminds me of just how much good came out of these difficult, broken people in the next generation of the Church, and how Jesus was able to love them--I mean REALLY love them--and see God within them. He didn't blame them for his own human shortcomings. He didn't say his time on earth would have been more productive if not for them. He didn't wish for more "perfect" disciples. He took what he had, and he saw the beauty in it, and changed the world with this strange crowd of guys ranging from rough fishermen to prissy tax collectors.

The things we cannot change about ourselves, the heart of our brokenness, is not to be feared and covered up and lied about--they are there to frame the parts of us that love fully, and in Technicolor. The existence of these things are there to force us to reach out to each other in spite of our broken blank parts that cannot be fixed. The things we cannot change about others, are not things that we have a right TO fix. They are there to fill in the blank spots of our own brokenness, to add color and life to the sum total of God's reign.

We only "get it" when we step back and see the big picture, and see the grand beauty that can be created from puzzle pieces of brokenness, mixed with the light and color and uniqueness of every human soul that touches our own through the waters of our own Baptism and the covenant we make every year to honor it. What a Church Universal we would have if we only "took what we got" and made the most of it!



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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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