7.13.2014

dreams and reality

I think it’s pretty common for new parents to go through something of a “mid-life crisis” as they come to grips with their new daily reality. It can be a very joyful time, but also one of boring routines, in which the parents’ hopes and dreams are no longer center stage (unless maybe it’s the dream of having a baby). The question “Is this what my life is going to be?” can hit pretty hard.

In many ways, this is a critical part of maturing, realizing that the hopes and dreams of our early adulthood aren’t the ultimate goals they seemed to be then. Learning that, to a large extent, they were indeed dreams. And accepting that this child’s care is more important than trying to make the world fit the grand image we had in our heads, or make others believe that we are the heroes we eagerly imagined ourselves to be. This real child helps us set aside the unreal imaginings of our youth.

Too often, though, I think people try to replace those fading hopes and dreams with new ones, based on their new relationship to their child. “I can’t save the world, but I can save this child.” Which is perhaps a little more realistic, but ultimately just another hopeful figment of the imagination. Isn’t it? The child may indeed be saved, but in the end, if we’re honest with ourselves, we won’t be the ones who can take much credit for it.

The best result of this (or any) mid-life crisis is if it turns us away from dreams to reality, especially the reality of finding ourselves in relationship—but in relationship to God. Our adolescent desires aren’t very trustworthy guides. But God’s desires are. And we can’t rely on our resources and abilities to provide and protect and guide our child, but we can trust God to do so, just as we trust him to provide and protect and guide us. The truest longing to save the child is good, as long as we recognize that what we’re feeling doesn’t originate with us. And the purest of our early desires are good also, as long as we realize that those also didn’t originate with us. These are good and real and trustworthy because they are God’s desires for us.

And we open ourselves to God’s desires when we “turn and become like a child,” desperately clinging to God like this baby now clinging to us.

6.30.2014

eustace the dragon


Enjoyed an outdoor concert here the other night, with the fireflies rising and little bats dancing overhead. Eustace the Dragon, who are friends of some of our friends. Really good, a unique folksy sound, soulful lyrics, and a joyful surprise to have them show up in our front yard.

And they've made their music available for free here. Here's two good ones they did for us:

"Other Appearances"
"Peter Patron Saint"


6.22.2014

6.16.2014

the quiet life

During prayer a few days ago, while chanting a psalm, I was reminded of the monastic influences in my past. My temperament fit well with the quiet monastic life. Years ago I even hoped to join a Cistercian monastery in England. But eventually I moved back to a more in-the-world lifestyle. It seemed to me that while separation from many of the tempting influences of society could certainly be helpful in the Christian life (and sometimes necessary), it was more valuable to others if I could be in more direct contact with society. And I saw Jesus doing this himself, during his ministry.

But now I find myself withdrawing more and more from “society” here, from political structures and community events, and it reminds me of my monastic leanings. I didn’t get to this point by trying to avoid temptations, though. It happened as a result of my experiences of being very much involved in the political and religious activity of the community for years. What seemed to be happening was more and more open conflict, the more involved I became. Until eventually I thought that it would be better for everyone if I stepped away from direct involvement in those activities.

I hope the source of the conflict was something close to what caused Jesus to be in almost continual conflict with the religious leaders of his community. But if so, then how can I step back? Jesus didn’t.

I’m familiar with Christian activists who point to Jesus’ clashes with the authorities of his day as a justification for their political actions, and a model for their lives. Keep pushing, keep fighting! But Jesus actually didn’t fight for long. Only a few years, and then he was crucified. He let them crucify him, too, he didn’t keep pushing and fighting. That’s where I see the activist parallel breaking down. They don’t get crucified, they get interviews and book deals, and keep pushing until they burn themselves out.

And they seem to forget that Jesus’ open conflict with society was only a small part of his life. Just a few years, not a model for a whole life. What about the thirty years before that, in which nothing notable seemed to happen? Was Jesus hiding? Shy?

I do believe we will be called at times to speak out and stand firm and (in love) let ourselves be broken or exiled or crucified. But that’s not every day. Most of our lives following Jesus will look more like Nazareth, I think. Unnoticed and humble, doing the small tasks our Father has given us this day, and grateful that we are spared the lash and the nails for now.

6.15.2014

for father's day

I prayed these words (of Charles de Foucauld) this morning:

Father, I abandon myself into your hands;
Do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you—
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me
And in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my spirit.

I offer it to you
With all the love of my heart.
For I love you Lord,
And so need to give myself—
To surrender myself into your hands
Without reserve,
And with boundless confidence
For you are my Father.

5.24.2014

peace to you

Two friends who have been a part of our prayer group this past year are moving away. So we sent them off with the blessing I usually use at the end of our communion time. I got it from a blessing offered to David in 1 Chronicles 12.18 ("Peace" here is the Hebrew word Shalom):

Peace, peace to you
And peace to those who help you
For your God helps you

5.12.2014


Sent this to my mother yesterday for Mother's Day...

5.06.2014

hoo













Heather spotted this little guy starting to explore on his own in the woods right behind our place.

5.05.2014

a thomas

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God”

Two weeks after Heather suffered a miscarriage, devastating us both, I wrote about something I had learned through the experience. About how God doesn’t promise to always provide ways to avoid such loss and suffering, but promises to provide what we need to continue to love and do good in the midst of such hard situations. During the two years since then, though, I’ve come to realize I need more of a promise than that.

Maybe it’s just that I find it hard to want to “love and do good” unless I see that’s what God is actually doing. And in moments of loss and pain, that’s hard to see. It may be a long time before we see the good that might come through experiences of suffering, so long that we stop even looking for it. I’ve encountered lots of skepticism from Christians about how much influence God even has over painful experiences and situations in our lives. And maybe I’ve thought at times that it’s “holier” to keep doing good regardless of whether God seems to be caring for us (and those we love) very well. But it seems I’m just not that holy. I need to see some evidence that God is in control and that he is doing good for us, that “all things work together for good for those who love God,” or I’m not going to be able to love and do good myself.

Not that I have to see it immediately. I think I can hold out hope and believe for a while. But I have to see something before too long. It’s been a long two years, with lots of pain and fears and disappointments, but now that I’m starting to see and be convinced that this may have been a path to something good (even something “better”) I’m realizing how much I needed that.

Maybe that makes me a Thomas. I guess what I’d like to be is a “believing Thomas.” I want to have faith even when I don’t see it, but eventually I want to see it. I need to.

I’m grateful that Jesus came back to show himself to Thomas. I’m grateful he showed himself at all. It seems to me that the main message of Easter is that God let us see. That God showed us that the excruciating pain and “why have you forsaken me” darkness was not the conclusion, but part of the hard path to Easter morning, when Jesus was not just restored but glorified. That it was not just good but “better,” and not just for the rest of us, but for Jesus as well.

4.18.2014

"the change never came"

From the dramatic reading Heather wrote six years ago, when we led the Easter service soon after moving here (this is the end of it, before dawn Easter morning, John speaking):

I can't, I can't, I can't believe it. No. I still can't. God! What has God done!

I knew. There was no question. I knew him. We broke bread together every day, how could I not know him? I watched him break the bread on the hillside, how his eyes were alight in the doing of it, how the bread never ended, his hands giving and giving. His hands. I saw his hands weary with touching cripple after cripple, I saw them go away dancing. But it was more than that. More. I saw him on the mountain, standing between Moses and Elijah, shining with an everlasting light. I knew.

He was the one.

[To God, low and angry] So what have You done?

You were testing him. I knew, I saw, I know what You do! You test Your people beyond endurance, you rule them with a rod of iron, you put them through the green heart of the fire—and then you snatch them out and they're purest gold. You send them to prison, you drive them into the wilderness, you throw them in cisterns where they sink in mud up to their necks. You made Abraham put a knife to his son's throat before you called out to him to stop. I was willing. I know it's your way, for me, for him, for all of us, I know it's the only way—he was willing and I knew he was. I sat on the ground in the garden and watched him sweating and crying, his face to the earth, a few paces away, and I saw that he was willing. He could have stood up and walked away. Anytime, he could have. But he was willing. He loves You... loved You. And where is he now?

I was with him. I heard him scream. I stood there under his twisted body shaking, waiting every moment for the change. For the veil to be torn away, for him to be revealed in the glory of his Father—oh, if they saw, if he had ever showed all that was in him. And I waited, and waited, and listened to him try to breathe. And he pulled himself up and I saw what it cost him, the pain, the breath, and he gasped to me to care for his mother. To care for his mother. When he was gone.

And the change never came.

I never thought. In my wildest and most terrible dreams, I never thought of this. That You could let your servant pass into the fire, and never snatch him out. That I would hear him scream why have you abandoned me and look up into the darkening sky and hear the silence. Only silence. I never thought You were a God like that. I knew You weren't. I knew. He knew. He trusted You.

Was he wrong then? Answer me. Was he wrong?





[then Mary, pounding and calling in a loud voice:]

Peter, John, let me in! You won't believe what I've seen!