4.09.2017

the prodigal

We had a good retreat this past week, and Ian had a great time with the guests. Here's part of the story Heather wrote for it, a meditation on the story of the prodigal son, from the older brother's perspective:

Well, the awful thing played itself out, as I could have predicted. The bad friends, the drinking. The women. I won't speak of that. Until the day he came to my father and demanded his portion—to his face—and my father let him take his bites out of our farm, out of his heart. I thought at first he might want what I wanted—to be rid of him, even at so steep a price—until he told me he hoped for him back. And then I was afraid.

Because I knew what Levi was. I saw how he ate, and did not plant. He would run through the money; it was plain as day. He would run through the money, and then he would look to his chances, and realize where his best chance lay.

He's home now. Came in rags. I'd like to search that little pack he's got, see if he hid his real clothes in it. Father's put the best robe on him, and killed the fattest calf. He's got half the village out in the courtyard now while it roasts, and he's giving them the good wine. I can hear them laughing, I hear women singing. I can't stand it. There's nothing I can say to Father that he'll listen to. There's no way I can stop him from letting Levi eat the rest of his heart.

He sent for me. Father did. He sent Judah, his senior servant, with a message. I expected “Come right now” but it wasn't that. It was “Do you not want to see your brother?”

The whole story is available here: "Prodigal". Also on Heather's new blog: Gravity & Grace

3.14.2017

3.06.2017

the truth we don't want to hear

I’ve read a lot recently about how fractured our modern society is becoming. How the internet and modern media have allowed people to isolate themselves more and more, surrounding themselves with like-minded people and only the “news” they want to hear. And how more and more people have lost faith in the institutions that held our society together in the past: government, churches, scientists, news organizations, etc. The apparent result of this is that people are more easily duped by “fake news.” Because they are increasingly isolated from mainstream views and trustworthy institutions, they seem less able to discern the truth.

There seems to be obvious evidence of this trend. But then I wonder whether the institutions that people trusted in the past were really all that good at delivering the truth. Maybe that’s a big reason why they have lost people’s trust?

And is “the truth” really what people are most interested in now?

Or ever?

It seems to me that the development of new technologies has simply allowed people to find easier, more direct ways to affirm the particular “truths” they want to hear. Before, they had to rely on political institutions that would tell people what thy wanted to hear (because that’s how those institutions survived). But now people don’t need those so much. Now they can just find a group online to agree together, and so give almost anything a feeling of truth. As Simone Weil put it, “The power of the social element. Agreement between several people brings with it a feeling of reality.”

It may be that isolated people are easily duped. But people in big united groups are also easily duped (sometimes even more easily). History has demonstrated that. What is necessary to maintain contact with the truth is not a connection with large groups of people or their institutions. What’s necessary is a connection with God, who is the Truth.

And that requires the humility to submit and listen to what God is saying, in the myriad ways God speaks, rather than only listening to what we want to hear.

2.28.2017

1.30.2017

the welcome table

This morning the boy and I were dancing to Dan Zanes & friends' version of this old spiritual:


12.24.2016

In front of this child
she sees that soldier, one day,
casting himself down.


(previous years' haikus start here)

12.18.2016

creadora de luz

Lalo Garcia

12.05.2016

I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have taken heed of my adversities,
and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.

O how abundant is your goodness
that you have laid up for those who fear you,
and accomplished for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of everyone!
In the shelter of your presence you hide them from human plots;
you hold them safe under your shelter from contentious tongues.

Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was beset as a city under siege.

Love the Lord, all you his saints.
The Lord preserves the faithful,
but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.

Be strong,
and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.

Ps 31

11.19.2016

11.11.2016

a backlash

The result of the recent presidential election was a shock to many people here and around the world. It seems like a pretty destructive (and self-destructive) choice. And it’s very sad, because it looks like many of the most vulnerable people in our society and around the world will suffer the most because of it.

It seems clear, though, that this choice of president was a backlash. The result of an overwhelmingly strong uprising of people who are angry and hurting and scared and resentful. And where did that come from? Some of it, certainly was a result of changes in our society and the world that no one will be able to stop or undo. But a lot of it was a result of changes being forced on people by their leaders. That seemed to be the main focus of the anger and resentment: the lawmakers in Washington. Of both parties. Lots and lots of people have been growing more and more upset by what has been forced on them by government. And the new president is their angry response.

But of course it’s not just the lawmakers that have produced this anger. Those people were put in place and given their powers by a great number of other people. All of these people have worked together to forcibly gather people’s money and enact laws that other people also have to follow (whether they agree or not). That kind of thing pretty much always produces some level of anger and resentment. Looking back over the last decade or so, there’s been lots of signs that a response like this might be coming.

Most people think it’s okay (even necessary) to force others to do the “right” thing. (“Right” being determined by those in power, “the majority” in our case.) But Jesus didn’t do that. And he didn’t teach his followers to do that; quite the opposite. Jesus insisted that people do good only by their own free choice.

But we (in our “Christian nation”) instead imitate every other nation and, whenever we can, we force our neighbors to do what we think is best.

And they grind their teeth and scheme for their opportunity to do the same favor for us.