Friday, November 20, 2009

Answer to a young friend

A few weeks ago you asked me why your parents wouldn't simply let you make your own mistakes. You were angry and anguished. I didn't answer you then: I knew you needed a loving heart and an open ear more than a quick brain. Here is what I might have said if you'd asked me and hoped for an answer.

Imagine that you've just gotten your driver's license. You found an old motorcycle on Craigslist and mechanically minded friend helped you rehab it. The bike has no sweetness, but it runs. Finally you have some freedom.

You read on the internet that running muriatic acid through your tank will flush out all the old built-up gunk. You don't read the whole article (especially not the part that says to remove the tank from the bike first, wear goggles, etc), and so you snag a big bottle of pool cleaner.

I see you standing there with the bike propped up and running and the pool cleaner in hand. Should I let you pour it in?

Suppose I did exactly the same thing when I had my bike, to disastrous results. How about then? Should I let you pour it in, knowing you really value both your bike and your life?

And if I love you very much, and know what it took for me to get past the whole muriatic-acid incident, and never ever want you to have to go through that...

And if I know that the cost is just too high, that the lesson you would learn simply isn't worth it...

My dear young friend:

I can't speak for your parents, but I know that I want you to make your own mistakes. I want you to learn from actually living. And, I want you to never, ever go through some of the things I've been through. Ever. Because the lessons learned just aren't worth it.

Because I love you, I will do everything I can to help you skip those particular lessons. Not because I don't trust you, or don't want you to learn, or think I always know better, but because I love you enough and have survived by the grace of God long enough to want you to not destroy yourself, or someone else.

Hope that helps. I'm praying for you, and my ears and heart are always open.

Pastor Elane

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Recently I FB'd* about being convicted but in denial. "Convicted", in evangelical-speak**, means "to feel guilty about something. You feel an uneasiness or restlessness in your heart.... It is your conscience,speaking to you, in the unsaved. It is the Holy Spirit speaking to you, in the saved." (Robyn, on ChristiaNet, 10-29-08) Well said, Robyn, whoever you are: uneasiness or restlessness in the heart. Spiritual dis-ease, a symptom of the Holy Spirit having slapped you upside the head of your soul. The lingering ache of a Simpsonian "d'oh".

I wax digression.

Remember when Wonderful Husband decided the economic world as we knew it was coming to an end and we should have a garden and chickens? I blogged at the time that he had unwittingly opened the Pandora's Box of my simple-living Scott-and-Helen-Nearing romantic fantasy of Right Living. Since then,
  • I've been accumulating books and blogs like Marion Nestle's What to Eat, and Walter Brueggemann's Prayers for a Privileged People, and Mother Earth News/Grit, and Colin Beavan's No Impact Man. Joel Salatin's You Can Farm came this week. They should all come in plain brown paper wrappers, unmarked, silently hand-delivered by someone wearing a hat and mask.
  • I got the church hooked up with a bulk food distributing company specializing in natural and organic stuff; that catalog is sitting on my church desk, sheathed in its Priority Mail envelope.
  • On Craigslist I found a guy a mile or so from me who keeps bees and produces honey; I've bookmarked the listing but have not transcribed his number onto paper or into my phone.
  • This week our church received a CIPL "oscar" for greening, and I signed us up to screen the movie No Impact Man during the Copenhagen climate change talks.
  • Canning this weekend (Note to family: you now know what you're getting for Xmas).
  • A friend is coming for drinks today and I'm trying to figure out where to get locally made vodka and olives.
I feel like a spy in the house of Wendell Berry, deep in the Small Is Beautiful closet, hanging on the hook of Luke 18:22-23. Sartre was wrong: hell isn't other people. Hell is living in denial of the Holy Spirit's head-smack.

*To FB is to write on your Facebook status update. When did we decide a website could become an acronymic verb? I guess when "google" entered the OED.
**Liberal Christians don't talk this way.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Soulation Exercise

In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, consolation is "every increase of faith, hope and love, and all interior joy that invites and attracts to what is heavenly and to the salvation of one's soul, by filling it with peace and quiet in its Creator and Lord." Desolation is "that state of interior disturbance which is caused by the devil: 'darkness of soul; turmoil of spirit; urgings to what is low and earthly; restlessness rising from many disturbances and temptations, which lead to want of faith, want of hope, want of love."

Sat in the sun trying to identify the moments of consolation and desolation in my week. Individual instances were hard to picture: the ebb & flow seems almost constant.

We don't remember breathing, the intake and expulsion of breath unless we gasp for air and fear we may not get it.

Yogic breathing and singing both teach you to expel breath fully. You discover that if you do this, the air immediately flows in to fill the void. You may have to pay attention to get all that you can, or train to get all you can consistently, but when your body is empty it takes in air.

So it is with consolation and desolation. Consolation is the ensouled body filling with the Spirit and her fruits. Desolation is the expulsion of the Spirit and the experience of that emptiness.

In normal breathing, desolation and consolation ebb and flow according to their natures. We take notice only when we find ourselves gasping for air, or so full we float.

Our spiritual practice, then, is to expand our lungs, and to expel fully with the certain knowledge that we will breathe in when we are finally empty.