Thursday, December 02, 2010


No longer can I avoid it. The time has come to write.

I keep a journal, sometimes, sort of. I write a weekly sermon. Far too occasionally I blog here. I used to write newsletter articles but don't anymore, at least not often. Email less and less. No missives to church leadership in years.  I do write texts (up to 300 per month, to avoid overages). Facebook too often.

I am, simply, out of the habit.  Changing one's life emerges from changing one's habits, and I am interested in my life continuing to change, through my efforts and God's grace.

Last time I saw DW, he advised me to write daily.  I don't think he meant Facebook.

Between now and January 15, I have two reflective papers to write, my Sabbath routine, and my Rule of Life. None of this should be hard, except that writing requires reflecting. And, of course, actually writing.

I am not good at barfing on the page (see "lack of journaling" above) even though I strongly advise it to writing students and the blocked. It's not evident from the product, but I am composing these sentences as I go. The idea of sitting down and writing these papers - and a Rule and a Routine! -- is enough to make me give away my computer, almost. 

This may be the issue: the things I have to write are not head-things (unpacking scripture, academic research). They are "reaching toward my bowels, pulling up reality, and committing to it publicly" things. (see also "why I avoid therapy").

Perhaps both reality and habit can be developed, with God's direction and help.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Fall-Winter 2010-2011 Homework List
Class Type Description Time Due Date Done
Institute Reading Scougal Chapter 00 : 00 07-Nov-10 Yes
Institute Reading Wilberforce 00 : 30 07-Nov-10
Institute Reading A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life 02 : 00 14-Nov-10
DMS-817 Reading Merton: Wisdom of the Desert 04 : 00 19-Nov-10
Institute Project Get a spiritual director! 00 : 30 21-Nov-10
DMS-817 Reading Chryssavgis: In the Heart of the Desert 04 : 00 24-Nov-10
DMS-817 Project Establish Sabbath routine 00 : 30 28-Nov-10
DMS-817 Study Memorize Ps 130 & 131 04 : 00 29-Nov-10
DMS-817 Assignment Personal Retreat Day 08 : 00 30-Nov-10
Institute Reading Letters By a Modern Mystic 03 : 00 05-Dec-10
Institute Reading Bernard of Clairvaux 00 : 30 05-Dec-10
DMS-817 Assignment Pilgrimage to Criminal Court and reflection paper 10 : 00 07-Dec-10
Institute Reading Brothers Karamazov 02 : 00 12-Dec-10
DMS-817 Reading Laird: Into the Silent Land 05 : 00 17-Dec-10
DMS-817 Reading Barton: invitation to silence 05 : 00 22-Dec-10
DMS-817 Reading Hougen: Transformed Into Fire 05 : 00 29-Dec-10
DMS-817 Reading Peterson: Under the Predictable Plant 06 : 00 01-Jan-11
DMS-817 Reading Guelich: The Critical Journey 05 : 00 01-Jan-11
Institute Assignment Theological reflection paper 04 : 00 02-Jan-11
Institute Assignment Practices Reflection Paper 04 : 00 02-Jan-11
Institute Assignment Rule of Life 02 : 00 02-Jan-11
DMS-817 Assignment Reflection Paper on Sabbath 02 : 00 03-Jan-11
DMS-817 Assignment Reflective paper on Life Journey or Vocation 04 : 15 07-Jan-11

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chas. Phoenix invents the Cherpumple

The holiday season is upon us. If you're trying to figure out what to take to all those potlucks and dessert events and office ho-ho-hos, do watch this video. It will get you right into the season, and make you glad you're an American to boot.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Utmost for today

After sanctification it is difficult to state what your aim in life is, because God has taken you up into His purpose by the Holy Ghost; He is using you now for His purposes throughout the world as He used His Son for the purpose of our salvation. If you seek great things for yourself - God has called me for this and that; you are putting a barrier to God's use of you. As long as you have a personal interest in your own character, or any set ambition, you cannot get through into identification with God's interests. You can only get there by losing for ever any idea of yourself and by letting God take you right out into His purpose for the world, and because your goings are of the Lord, you can never understand your ways.

MY UTMOST - UPDATED GRADUATE EDITIONI have to learn that the aim in life is God's, not mine. God is using me from His great personal standpoint, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him, and never say - Lord, this gives me such heart-ache. To talk in that way makes me a clog. When I stop telling God what I want, He can catch me up for what He wants without let or hindrance. He can crumple me up or exalt me, He can do anything He chooses. He simply asks me to have implicit faith in Himself and in His goodness. Self pity is of the devil, if I go off on that line I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world. I have "a world within the world" in which I live, and God will never be able to get me outside it because I am afraid of being frost-bitten.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

My Utmost for today

"If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments." John 14:15 (R.V.)

Our Lord never insists upon obedience; He tells us very emphatically what we ought to do, but He never takes means to make us do it. We have to obey Him out of a oneness of spirit. That is why whenever Our Lord talked about discipleship, He prefaced it with an IF - you do not need to unless you like. "If any man will be My disciple, let him deny himself," let him give up his right to himself to Me. Our Lord is not talking of eternal positions, but of being of value to Himself in this order of things, that is why He sounds so stern (cf. Luke 14:26). Never interpret these words apart from the One Who uttered them.

The Lord does not give me rules, He makes His standard very clear, and if my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says without any hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love some one else in competition with Him, viz., myself. Jesus Christ will not help me to obey Him, I must obey Him; and when I do obey Him, I fulfil my spiritual destiny. My personal life may be crowded with small petty incidents, altogether unnoticeable and mean; but if I obey Jesus Christ in the haphazard circumstances, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God, and when I stand face to face with God I will discover that through my obedience thousands were blessed. When once God's Redemption comes to the point of obedience in a human soul, it always creates. If I obey Jesus Christ, the Redemption of God will rush through me to other lives, because behind the deed of obedience is the Reality of Almighty God.

Michael Franti & Spearhead - Say Hey (I Love You) - Giants Version

World Series Champs 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So what's the bad news?

I just found out that I have been accepted into Denver Seminary's Doctor of Ministry program.

First thought: Whew.
Second thought: $$
Next thought: Wow, that was fast....wonder what's wrong with them....

I clearly have a way to go on this self-esteem thing. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

The song in my mind

Give thanks to the Lord, our God and King, his love endures forever! 
Sing praise! Forever God is faithful, forever God is strong!
Forever God is with us, forever and ever.

God is so faithful that he even woke up when I did this morning.  That's even better than my dog.
Thank you, Lord.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Saying goodbye to Dallas Willard is always hard, and I miss him immediately.  The consolation is knowing that I will live with him forever and ever in God's kingdom.

And, with God's grace, will see him in March.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Renovare Institute, evening one

It's 7:30 at home and just 8:30 here (outside Colorado Springs, CO) and I'm beat.  Sleepy, dry-weather congested, but mostly just awed and humbled by the graciousness of God and the majesty of individuals' stories.

It is easy for me to forget that everyone's story has tragedy, comedy, dark, light, and searing boredom.  But tonight we laid our altar for the week. Each person brought an object that symbolized his or her current relationship with God.  They didn't all actually symbolize that but that was okay. We each rose, gave our name and city, and told why we had brought what we'd brought.

The tenderness and determination flowed:
the woman with stage-4 cancer whose body will die soon but who describes herself as fully recovered;
the man whose wife's death forced him to choose a soul-strengthening viewpoint;
the woman whose daughter fought a terrible blood disease (which bankrupt them), only to be killed in an auto accident;
the man who has decided to stop being hard, dark and broody and become a teddy bear.

the young woman trying to get published;
the young lawyer learning truth isn't found in books;
the man learning delight from his kid;
the woman whose garden this summer swarmed with Monarch butterflies.

After the hour talking with the young man on the plane about life, relationships, and God, it was quite a lot.  But awe-some. I couldn't help but pray after almost every one, thanking God for hope in the kingdom and for the glory of lives worth saving.

To bed at 7:42 pm. It might be a awe-full day tomorrow too.  DW, after all.

I brought a bungee cord, because after all these years I'm finally really accepting that no matter how stretched my relationship with God gets, if I let it it bounces right back where it should be.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

for all the broken souls yearning for God

Self-denial is self-centred; denial of self is Christ-centred.

Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of GodGeorge Eldon Ladd,  Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 104

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Utmost for today

From Oswald Chambers, especially for Debra:

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake." Colossians 1:24
We make calls out of our own spiritual consecration, but when we get right with God He brushes all these aside, and rivets us with a pain that is terrific to one thing we never dreamed of, and for one radiant flashing moment we see what He is after, and we say - "Here am I, send me."

This call has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine. God can never make us wine if we object to the fingers He uses to crush us with. If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way! But when He uses someone whom we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, and makes those the crushers, we object. We must never choose the scene of our own martyrdom. If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.

I wonder what kind of finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you, and you have been like a marble and escaped? You are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you, the wine would have been remarkably bitter. To be a sacramental personality means that the elements of the natural life are presenced by God as they are broken providentially in His service. We have to be adjusted into God before we can be broken bread in His hands. Keep right with God and let Him do what He likes, and you will find that He is producing the kind of bread and wine that will benefit His other children.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Christianity for Grownups

I once heard a priest say that it was only when he went to seminary that he realized that his Christian education had ended in fifth grade, and only when he was assigned to a parish that he realized everyone else’s ended in fifth grade too. It makes sense, since after fifth grade parents often stop urging their kids to be part of their church, and churches tend to forget about teaching teens and young adults.

The priest’s point wasn’t to argue for compulsory religious education. Rather, he had realized just how immature Christians’ religious beliefs can be.  With secular topics, such as math and baseball and logic, we all know that a fifth grader simply cannot have the education and experience of an adult versed in the topic. But when it comes to studying God, we often limit our learning to whatever in popular culture seeps into the cracks of our understanding.  All too often, what we wind up with is an understanding of God that is part Christmas angel, part strict (and perhaps abusive) father, part distant star, and just a smidgeon of Real. 

No wonder very few of us actually nurture our relationship with God, much less make it primary in our lives!

What do you believe? Not “think”, but believe: we think thoughts but we act on beliefs. We may think “God is love” but be afraid of His punishment. We may think “Jesus is wise” but not invite him into our daily deliberations.  If you really dug into your beliefs, what kind of God would you find there?

God is a person. We get to know people by getting to know them, as well as talking about them.
The easiest way to know God (who is immaterial) is to study God-made-flesh: Jesus. To study Jesus is to observe him constantly, closely, regularly, and to spend time in conversation with him and about him, and to do what he does, especially in his relationship with his father God. We have easy resources: four first-generation accounts of his life and teachings, plus 2,000 years of letters, dreams, dialogues, and prayers, plus the lives of those close to him, in our own time as well as in his.  We have at least 14 spiritual practices that have stood the test of time and have drawn millions of people into intimacy with God through his son.  

It can help to hear why our more simplistic fifth-grade views just don’t cut it.  “Christianity for Grownups” is our fall series, and it is designed to uncover a few of those childish beliefs we may not even realize we hold.  Christianity for Grownups is for everyone whose faith is blocked or stifled, including people who don’t even believe Jesus matters at all. Come alone or invite a friend. I guarantee you’ll have something to talk about when you leave, and it may even actually be God.

I’m glad to be back with my church and am praying to see you soon.

Pastor Elane

Friday, September 24, 2010

No Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free

Lately I've been learning about my own beliefs: whether I really believe God is trustworthy, what worship is for.  Yesterday I had a brief but enlightening conversation with a new worship environment volunteer, who was preparing to create her first prayer spaces in our Sanctuary.

She wanted to use a picture of Mary, but someone said that would be "too Catholic". She also asked me about why we don't have rainbow flags or other symbols to represent our welcome to gay and lesbian people. I've never had to think about those two questions at the same time before, so I answered them separately. ("Wasn't me -- feel free." and "We don't have any representations of any particular group of people inside the Sanctuary -- notice there's no flag, either.")

Together they raise bigger questions: What does it mean to welcome and actively invite everyone while keeping our focus on God? What do I believe about inclusivity, whether of theology or background or sexuality or class?

1. One's own Christian tradition should be cherished and learned from, and to maintain it as a tradition may require some favoritism toward it. No tradition has a monopoly on truth, however, and none is particularly destructive to one's own. If we refuse a detail of worship or theology just because it's "not ours" or is too "theirs", we risk losing the opportunity to know God better and differently, as well as a piece of truth.
2. That said, not all details of worship or theology are either good or useful. My forcing glossolalia as a practice of our church would be more alienating than illuminating. Teaching that sanctification and beatification are functions of the church meant for particular heroes of the faith (especially martyrs and virgins), would, I believe, undermine everything we understand about the universality of sin, the abundance of grace, and the attainability of Christlikeness.
3. Once you enter the Sanctuary, there should be no Jew nor Greek, nor slave nor free. All of the liturgy -- the work of the people -- should point toward God, glorify God, clarify God. If the chancel is the place of focus for all that -- if it is the visible "location" of the kingdom of God -- then placing a flag of any kind makes the people represented (Americans, gays, Greens, Scouts) equal in importance to the kingdom of God. Anywhere else in the Sanctuary and it singles that group out as especially worthy and welcome.
4. That said, if we truly believe in equality in the Spirit, then we must acknowledge that some groups have been historically and systematically rejected by the body of Christ, and that it is our task to extend the invitation and prepare a heavenly welcome.  So we regularly use non-white-straight-able-middleclass-Americans in our examples, as well as the non-hyphenates.  We may and should designate particular efforts of attraction and affection toward those who would otherwise assume (for good reason) they weren't welcome.  Youth, for example, as well as gays. Working class, as well as white collar. Extraverted, as well as introverted. But that is not the point of worship itself, nor of the meeting of the body of Christ.
5. And, because of 1 and 2, we may decide not only to welcome the stranger, but to celebrate the family: to recognize where we lose sight of the "majority" and to recall them into both liturgy and activity.  So, if we've been talking about "partnerships" we need to work on "marriages". If we've set our sight on the homeless, we need to be sure we're considering the real spiritual needs of the wealthy, and not merely scorning them in our "inclusivity".

We are all broken. We are all sinful. We are all enslaved until we are not. We are all about Christ.

I have seen the enemy

Those of us with eating disorders take a perfectly good plowshare and use it as a sword.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Application done

Now into the mail and back to the work at hand. Whew.

Monday, September 20, 2010

3600 words

I now have 3600 words in my autobiographical essay for Denver Seminary. Whew. Now I can start cutting!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

5 years

Just realized my first blog posts were in Feb 2005. And I still believe most of them.

Why do lists make me feel better?

Sabbatical over.  Household projects not done. Pain a l'ancienne not perfected. Same weight and cardio health. Not up to level on sleep. So what the heck did I do for 13 weeks?

Well, I "be"d, and I read/heard:
2 "You" books (didn't do anything about them but did read them)
The Great Omission
The Divine Conspiracy
Mudhouse Sabbath
Living the Sabbath
The Sabbath
The Sabbath World
The Gospel of the Kingdom
A Testament of Devotion
Acedia and Me (in progress but nearly done)
3 academic articles
CS Lewis sermon
8+ hours of lecture
not nearly enough Scripture
random magazines and parts of books on healthy and intentional homemaking
couple of other books in there from the library and stacks but darned if I can remember what they were
And, sadly, not the rest of The Clinton Tapes, which was just too boring, even for me.

Now, if I can just get the other 2000 words of my DMin application done...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy Feast of St. John Chrysostom

A misused and misunderstood father of the church, brilliant liturgist, foundational homilist. Want an Easter sermon? Try this one on for size:

I'm the one in the back

It's September 13, and off to work I go.

Today's Utmost

The whole of the life after surrender is an aspiration for unbroken communion with God.

Oswald Chambers

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Transcripts, or Homeland Security Has Nothing On SFSU

So, I'm applying for doctoral programs, all of which require copies of all transcripts. That's 4, not including high school and one excruciating year trying to work two jobs, go to school, and put my then-husband through school.  Three are relatively easy to get: go online, give basic facts, request; or print out form, sign, mail.

And then there is San Francisco State University, where I rec'd my MA in Women Studies [sic]. That process, all online:
1. Login to their portal using your student ID and password. As if I remember my ID after 16 years.
2. Look up my ID using my social security number and birthdate. Which seems like enough to order transcripts, all by itself.
3. Return to login and try again, using ID.  Fail.
4. Request password reset by email. Wait a few days.
5. Receive email requiring a fax (not email, not in person) with all that information, plus a copy of my photo ID.
6. Find place to copy ID and fax letter.
7. Receive reset code.
Now this is where it gets interesting.
8. Return to portal and look up ID again.
9. Enter reset code.
10. Choose 6 (yes, six) security questions and provide answers. Choices include such things as "city where your parents met", "your favorite dessert as a child" (Who are they kidding? I was never a child.), "your first TOEFL score", and "your shoe size plus the last digit of your birthdate".
11. Create password, 8-16 characters, with the first 8 including one upper or lower case letter (which is just a letter) and a number or a special character. I admit that various foully witty remarks were considered as passwords.
12. Logout.
13. Find out that password resets can take as long as 30 minutes. Maybe.
14. Login and request transcript?
Did I mention you can't do it in person, apparently?

I'll let you know if I get through. Meanwhile, I need to go talk to the Homeland Security agent outside my door, wanting to know if I really meant to use that password with those six answers.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The challenge of returning

I've been at Mercy Center for 26 hours now, reading, reflecting, resting, walking, waiting. All good; in fact, a taste of what I thought these thirteen weeks would be like 24/7.

Notice I wrote "thirteen" as if it were over.  Ah, there's the rub, to quote a text often confused with the Bible, for with more than a week left I am already distracted by the details of my job. Logos and signage. Sermon titles. Possible class offerings. Who might need a call. Staff meetings.   How easy it is for me to get distracted from my vocation (following Jesus) by my profession (leading a church).  It's an old struggle, but at least today I recognize it for the foolishness it is, and know, deeply, what it is to value the vocation over the profession.

The challenge of the next days is to keep my mind and heart here and now: reading, reflecting, resting, walking, waiting. Playing with Beautiful Daughter. Supporting and loving Wonderful Husband. Re-membering.

The challenge of returning to the church is keeping the vocation in front of the profession. Wish me grace and memory.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sunset on Shabbatical

Yesterday I finished the last of the books on Sabbath (Norman Wirzba's Living the Sabbath).  Last evening I met with three church leaders to prepare for my return on September 19. In between, ol' Satan laid snares of fear and failure in my path.

I came into this summer convinced I had failed in my work, and that "this little light of mine" was very little indeed. Wonderful Husband said those feelings were groundless, unreasonable. Unreasonable? Sure, maybe, but reason is no guarantee of reality.  The Pharisees and high priests were reasonable men.

Anyway, I went into all this time really needing rest and really craving that sabbath delight that Wirzba emphasizes is more important than rest. Good thing: I can't say I've gotten a lot of rest.

The HS has been guiding me through reading and listening and meditating on all that reading and listening. Through those books I feel a bunch of stuff coming together -- theolog(ies) and practice(s) and trajectory -- along with a growing sense of the simple reality of Jesus and the possibility of becoming like him in this life. This study has been nothing less than a delight -- a joyful experience of the work and truth of the Spirit -- leading to a conviction that sabbath is critical to Christlikeness. It's not like anything I'm doing has changed, really, and I haven't put together that Plan and Rule for living I intended to do, but all that understanding has been slowly knitting together into whole cloth.  You know how sometimes you study and learn something and are just Ready for the test? It's not like that at all. Rather it's like I'm starting to see life from the perspective of my Teacher: the beginnings of the classic paradigm shift. The Holy Spirit as the catalyst for paradigm shifts: now there's a good theological definition for you!

Unfortunately, the Tempter has slithered right along behind Her. Right at Her heels, the Tempter has been luring me into the Slough of Despond: a sense of failure in my work, a lack of language to express what I'm learning, exile and isolation from my church, the sure and secure knowledge that I am not enough for God to really use me as S/He intends. These are the ancient siren voices sweetly cooing bitter and poisonous doubt and shame. They are some mighty powerful voices, I'll tell you, as Peter the Rock surely knew, and they have sent me to my knees more than once this summer.

So yesterday morning I finished the last of the Spirit's books. In the evening I met with the church leaders. In between? Let's just say that Satan's snares covered a whole lot of the path, and I have pretty big feet.

As you have probably guessed by now, the church leaders didn't confirm my fears and failures. I still have a job and am wanted back. The HS has a whole stack of books waiting, including one that is Life.

And as I have guessed and am working hard to believe, there's enough of me for God to work goodness, even miracles. My light may be just enough to help someone else walk her own feet around those ancient lures and snares and right into the Kingdom. 

As the sun of this sabbatical sets, and I prepare to rejoin His work already in progress, may Jesus' name be praised. Whatever else comes from this time, may He use my life and stumbling faith to witness to his beauty, brilliance, and unreasonable trust in me, and in every one of us.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Two weeks and counting

In two weeks plus days I return to my church. I suspect it is a different church and that I am a different person. Please, God, let me not be the only one terrified, and however many of us there are, help us to trust wholly in your mercy and providence.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do you hear Cole Porter?

Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight (The Christian Practice of Everyday Life)I actually have a lot to blog about: Ray VanderLaan's incredible teaching on the Dust of the Rabbi, a new sabbath book I'm reading that may actually be useful, my first attempt at a DMin application, the sheer terror of returning to church.

Too Darn HotBut it's too darn hot, and I'm getting out of here.
(Here's a less Velvet Frog version of the song, featuring a young and generous Misha and a lithe and playful Liza. And a personal favorite (not the video), by Erasure)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dust of the Rabbi -- recorded teaching

On campus at Campbell UCC, Fireside Room, Tuesday, 7:30 pm and Friday 9:30 am.: an amazing teaching by Ray VanderLaan.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Passing thought

In most moments we have just one choice to make: to make the world better or to make it worse. Every act we take, every thought we allow, every word we speak -- all affect the world; to deny this is merely cowardice or pride.

To live faithfully and wholly is to choose: will I in this moment make the world more gentle, beautiful, and hopeful; or will... I contribute to its cynicism, brutality, and bitter desperation?

Ugly but final

Notes on The Divine Conspiracy are here. They need reformatting, but the paged content is all there.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Further Notes on Divine Conspiracy

Chapters 1 - 8 and part of chapter 9 (A Curriculum for Christlikeness) are posted. I have not edited for formatting.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Divine Conspiracy, Chapters 1-8

Notes from chapters 1-8 are now online. Not proofed, but online here.

And now we return you to your regularly scheduled program.

From The Divine Conspiracy:

Nondiscipleship is the elephant in the church. The fundamental negative reality among Christian believers now is their failure to be constantly learning how to live their lives in The Kingdom Among Us. And it is an accepted reality. The division of professing Christians into those for whom it is a matter of whole-life devotion to God and those who maintain a consumer, or client, relationship to the church has now been an accepted reality for over 1500 years. (If, in our church, to live as a disciple, intentionally and deliberately, whole-lifely, is to be a “great” Christian or a candidate for seminary, we have lost the whole point.) (301)

Suppose [instead of smoothing over hurt feelings and anger] we devoted our [church-life] time to inspiring and enabling Christians to be people who are not offendable and not angry and who are forgiving as a matter of course? But really to intend this is no trivial matter. It means a huge change of direction. Indeed the entire Christian culture stands against any such intention.

To explicitly intend to make apprentices to Jesus could be quite upsetting to congregational life. Won’t those who are mere members or converts find themselves in an embarrassing position? Second-class citizenship? ... the implicit understanding that nondisciple Christians have with their leaders and congregations will have to be brought to light and dealt with in some appropriate way. But we say immediately that the last thing the disciple or disciple maker will do is assume superiority over anyone...we are called to form a community of prayerful love. (It is about where the focus and the effort of the church is: in attraction or conversion or fellowship or music or whatever, or in making disciples.)

We are not talking about eliminating nondisciple, consumer Christiantiy. We are talking about making it secondary, as far as our intentions are concerned. We would intend to make disciples and let converts “happen,” rather than intending to make converts and letting disciples “happen.” (Fill in any other desired outcome in the place of “converts.”)

This is why, once again, it is absolutely necessary that those who exercise leadership must be close and faithful students of Jesus himself. He must be the one who shows the way.

In short, you lead people to become disciples of Jesus by ravishing them with a vision of life in the kingdom of the heavens in the fellowship of Jesus.(302-5)

To my daughter's teachers

Dear friends, teachers, neighbors, family, family-in-Christ, clerks, child-care workers, parents and caretakers at playgrounds, bus drivers and flight attendants, children's songwriters, Pixar animators, and anyone else who comes into contact with my daughter:

You are her teachers, every one of you.  Every one of you, every one of us who is in contact with her for even the fleetingest moment teaches her what it means to be human. We show her through our example what it means to be valuable, and who and what she should value.

I know I fail at this frequently, and aim with all my heart and effort and prayer to do better. I beseech you to examine your life, the tone of your voice, the little encounters you have with all the little ones of the world, and ask yourself:
>>With my life, am I teaching that all people are valuable and precious? Or am I limiting my respect and my decency to some subset or another -- the ones who drive like I do or look like I want to; the ones who play sports for a living or can retire at 30?
>>What I am teaching the little ones around me? Am I teaching them to be fearful or trusting? Cynical or loving?
>>What will I do to live the message I want them to learn?

If, by remote chance, you intended to teach my daughter that, in fact, one race is better than another, one more trustworthy than another, one more likely to betray than another, one more really human than another: your day will come.  You won a little bit of her mind yesterday, but you will not win her heart and her soul.  You will not turn her against a part of herself, nor will you succeed at turning her against her human brethren.  Jesus has already claimed her, and his love and respect for every single one of us, even you, will win the day and the end of days.

In the meantime, don't you ever let me hear you talking that way in front of my kid.

What and why be a disciple?

From The Divine Conspiracy, chapter 8

It is now generally acknowledged that one can be a professing Christian and a church member in good standing without being a disciple. There is, apparently, no real connection between being a Christian and being a disciple of Jesus. And this is bound to be rather confusing to a person who would like to be a disciple. For what exactly would one do who didn’t intend to go into “full-time Christian service” (or, as we call it in the liberal church, “the ministry” or “ordained ministry”) but still wanted to be a disciple? (291)

What is the state of soul that would bring us to choose [the condition of being a disciple]? What would be the thinking, the convictions about reality, that would lead someone to choose discipleship to him? (291)  One would feel great admiration and love, would really believe that Jesus is the most magnificent person who has ever lived. One would be quite sure that to belong to him, to be taken into what he is doing throughout this world so that what he is doing becomes your life, is the greatest opportunity one will ever have. (292)

Monday, August 09, 2010

Divine Conspiracy, Chapters 5-7

Notes through chapter 7 are now posted. Working on 8, then I'll be "caught up". Not in my reading, of course, but in posting notes. Happily I'm ahead on Shabbatical reading!

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Sabbath World Read

Yes, I expected a different book, which made reading this book less satisfying. 

Yes, I found some things irksome ("volunteer simplicity" instead of "voluntary simplicity" twice, but correct later; the Kierkegaard thing I mentioned June 17th; blithely referring to the Asidoi as a "suicide cult", which makes light of the tragedies of both; some unfortunate misreading of Christian theology, esp regarding the immanence of God; an unexamined claim that the Trinity isn't referred to in the Bible....).

No, Shulevitz's book didn't advance my understanding of Sabbath, or help me discern practice. But, for less than the price of four hours I did get a nice historical review of the social/political adherence to sabbath and why it looked like it did when it did. 

The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time might better have been called The World and Sabbath: Using Time to Order Difference.  What she has written is a secularist's view of a particularly peculiar political (in the broadest sense) institution, interspersed with memoirs of youthful longing. It seems as though Shulevitz has sought to satisfy her longings by indulging her intellect (substantial) and her heritage (Jewish). 

The problem is this: because she does not recognize the object of the longings as God, but instead interprets them as tradition/ritual/community, she winds up approaching a distinctly God-centered practice as an outsider. She knows this, comparing herself to Kierkegaard (an unfortunate if revealing comparison, given her anti-Semitic accusations), who falsely described himself as an observer of faith, and claiming his spectator's seat.

Since Sabbath, at least since Heschel, defines a cosmic world of its own, the "world" of sabbath Shulevitz describes is merely a parallel universe, more familiar than the cosmic one.  That parallel universe is the one we all see: the universe of ritual, battles, politics, exclusion, inclusion, as well as Derrida and de Mans.  That parallel universe is the world of "the flesh" -- precisely the world that the Sabbath both illuminates and escapes.  It would be as if someone described deep longlasting mature love to you by referring to heart-shaped candy boxes and Dorothy Parker throwaway lines.  You'd know what love might look like, but still have not a clue what it was or how to find it yourself. Much like her God.

All in all, a pleasant and interesting read, but I'm glad I waited for the library copy to arrive.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Sabbath World

The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of TimeI rec'd Shulevitz' book from the library yesterday, so will restart Shabbatical reading with it today.  More soon!

The Disciple's Prayer

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In GodGreat! explanation of the "Lord's Prayer" (and prayer, generally) in Divine Conspiracy, and how one can use it properly to shape and strengthen life in God by dwelling in it over and over again.  Here's the highly abbreviated version, extracted from pp. 253-69.

The basis of prayer is not conversation, but request.

Structure of this prayer: address, requests 1-5 (& added doxology).

Address:  "Our Father, the one in the heavens...this is the configuration of reality from within which we place [ourselves] within this configuration and receive it by grace."
1.  Use lectio divina on great passages, eg. Gen 1, Gen 15, Ex 19, 1Kings 8; 2 Chron 16 & 19; Neh 9, etc. and Luke 11, Romans 8, Phil 4.
2. Adopt a posture that effectively enlivens and directs us toward God.
3. Take time to fix our minds upon God and orient our world around him.

Request 1: "Hallowed be Thy name .. asks that the name of God should be held in high regard."
1. Perhaps better phrased "let your name be sanctified", since sanctification places the person(s) referred to in a "separate and very special kind of reality" and may apply to human persons too.
2. "it is also the natural request of a child who loves its "Abba" (Daddy)... we want to sense its longing that "Abba" should be recognized as [the greatest]... We want to dwell on this meditatively and perhaps weep for sadness that God is not so understood."

Request 2: "Thy kingdom in the heavens" follows from the first request, for the loved child wants the "reign" of its Abba to be everywhere.
1. "on earth as in the heavens" merely clarifies the first phrase. "Come" does not mean "come into being", but that the "kingdoms" of the earth may be displaced or brought under God's rule.
2. "Kingdoms" are "the places we spend our lives"... and "our activities more than those of other people...we are therefore asking that we be assisted to act within the flow of God's actions."
3. We also pray "for our Father to break up the higher-level patterns of evil", ie the structural and institutional evils that prey and rule upon the earth.

Request 3: "Give daily bread daily" asks for whatever we really need to live in a functional manner today.
1. "The emphasis is on provision today of whatever we need for today...Today I have God, and he has the provisions. Tomorrow it will be the same."
2. "What hinders or shuts down kingdom living is not the having of such provisions, but rather the trusting in them for future security."

Request 4: "Don't punish us for things we do wrong and forgive us..." -- Forgiveness means to release our right to revenge.
1. Only pity or mercy (not "justice" in the sense of parity) makes life possible.
2. Once we step into this kingdom and trust it, pity becomes the atmosphere in which we live... We are praying for help to forgive others, for we know we cannot do it without
3. To honor our parents, we will usually have to have pity on them, forgiving them...."People who are merciless, unable to pity others and receive pity, simply have a hard life full of unsolvable problems." (Some former members of our church spring to mind.)
4. Regarding those who cannot forgive themselves: "More often that not, these are people who refuse to live on the basis of pity. Their problem is not that they are hard on themselves, but that they are proud...They do not want to accept that they can only live on the basis of pity from others, that the good that comes to them is rarely "deserved"."

Request 5: "Don't put us to the test/bring us into temptation" is not just for "evasion of pain and of things we don't like"
1. "It expresses the understanding that we can't stand up under very much pressure... it is a vote of 'no confidence' in our own abilities."
2. "As the series of requests begins with the glorification of God, it ends with acknowledgement of the feebleness of human beings."
3. "As we attentively make this prayer a part of our constant bearing in life, we will see how God indeed does keep us from trials and delivers us from evil."  God's provision is not an elimination of trials and suffering, but a gift of totally unbroken care.
4. This request "is a revelation of a God who loves to spare his children and who will always do it upon request unless he has something better in mind, which he rarely does."

"This prayer is a foundation of the praying life, an enduring framework for all praying...a powerful lens through which one constantly sees the world as God himself sees it."

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Experiencing the Conspiracy

Sunday night I was so angry with Wonderful Husband that I couldn't speak, other than to be cordial and single-syllabicly responsive.  I went to bed angry and awoke angry.

In the early darkness of Monday I went to my office (Peet's Coffee Willow Glen), only to discover the doors wide open but with neither seats nor fixtures inside.  Remodeling.  (Did I recognize this punny divine clue? No.)  So I went to the next closest Peet's (on the Alameda) and ordered iced coffee.  I never drink iced coffee but I was hot and thirsty and wanted something cool and sweet. (Again with the puns, Lord? Do you think I'm that awake at 5 am, if ever?)

Sat down, opened Willard's "The Divine Conspiracy" and resumed reading.  In chapters 4 and 5, Willard uses Matthew 5-7 (aka the sermon on the mount) to illustrate Christ's Way of right living, ie kingdom living now.  He also completely demolishes common understandings of the purpose and meaning of these chapters -- that Jesus is giving laws or nice rules to go by, etc.  This is really a stunning pair of chapters, esp. 5. If you read nothing else of DC, read this.

I finish chapter 4 and remain angry. By now my anger has turned to fear, and the fear to speculation about proper and final responses.

Chapter 5 says, and I quote: Anger and contempt are the twin scourges of the earth. Mingled with greed and sexual lust, these bitter emotions form the poisonous brew in which human existence stands suspended.(150)

Convicted again.  But over the course of my reading, through Willard's firm and loving teaching of The Teacher's greatest speech, my heart opens and my guts unwind. Slowly light suffuses the world, inside Peet's, on The Alameda, in my view.  I love again, and return to sanity, hope, humor, and home.

It is a divine conspiracy, and Dallas Willard is in on it.

My notes and quotes are updated on Google Docs, within 60 pages of how far I've actually read.


It is a very good thing that thinking about the future of my church and discovering nifty tools and resources isn't a sabbatical sin.  How in the world can anyone not do that? My church is my home and one of my great passions.  Which is, I suppose, the point.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Revising expectations, or Wasn't This Supposed To Be Relaxing?

When I set my crazy Shabbatical reading schedule I had no clue I'd be adding in the Renovare Institute reading as well. August should be okay, but being a fulltime mom this month is making that level of reading and notetaking more trouble than I want right now.  So I'm taking out the books that were wonderful tangents and keeping just the Sabbath-focused books.  Here's the new schedule, with Renovare books listed after Shabbatical books. 
7/11/2010--Catch-up and travel
Divine Conspiracy, ch 6-7

7/18/2010--Mudhouse Sabbath, Lauren Winner
Divine Conspiracy, ch 8-10

7/25/2010--Catch-up and projects

8/1/2010--Catch-up and projects
Testament of Devotion, ch 1-2

8/8/2010--The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time, Judith Shulevitz
Testament of Devotion, ch 3-5

8/15/2010--Catch-up and projects
The Great Omission, ch 1-11

8/22/2010--Catch-up and projects
The Great Omission, ch 12-20

8/29/2010--Living the Sabbath, Norman Wirzba and Wendell Berry-- 

9/5/2010--Catch-up and projects
Gospel of the Kingdom 

9/12/2010--Start work on new preaching series: Christianity for Grownups
Gospel of the Kingdom

Friday, July 09, 2010

Divine Conspiracy, Chapter 3

If I can get my youth to read and absorb this chapter, I will feel my ministry time has been worthwhile. In it, Willard describes a world saturated with God, and a Jesus who is, in fact, intelligent and wise. Think you already believe that? Try these on.
  • The universe is an "all-encompassing, all-penetrating world, interactive at every point with our lives, where we can always be totally at home and safe regardless of what happens in the visible dimension of the universe."
  • Space is to God as skin and flesh are to us: physical homes for spiritual beings. Empty space isn't.
  • God is neither the old man in the sky nor is God in your heart.
  • Self-care is not about health care or self-actualization: it is about living with the present reality that you will never stop living. (Great Mickey Mantle example, btw.)
  • Jesus was and is the smartest man in the universe. No, I did not write "wisest" or "gentlest" or "most honorable": smartest. Someone who perfectly understands human relationships and God and molecular structures.  Jesus has "cognitive and practical mastery of every phase of reality: physical, moral, and spiritual....He always has the best information on everything and certainly also on the things that matter most in human life."  He is, therefore, the only one who certainly lives in "the real world" -- that is, ours.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Divine Conspiracy, Chapters 2-4, sort of

I've written up my notes on chapter 2 here, and am working on 3-4. Chapter 2 is the argument set against the 2 main streams of western modern Xn theology. I'm pretty familiar with it, so didn't take a lot of notes, but the gist is there for you.

But I haven't started my notes on 3 and 4, and here's why.

  • Last night Wonderful Husband gets home about 10 pm to find me sitting with DC open in my lap, reading light on, book darts on the table, 2 pens in one hand, cup in the other, teary-eyed. We exchange pleasantries; he gestures toward my soggy voice. I wave DC at him, whereupon he responds, "ah", and goes upstairs to get settled.
  • This morning at 5:15 I was at Peet's with DC and darts, highlighting and notetaking furiously, sometimes laughing out loud, sometimes staring into the ether.
I am constantly awed at the depth and smarts of this book, and continually astonished at how Dallas Willard captures firefly inklings in words.  You know those moments of insight and clarity that shine and slip away (or go poof)? He articulates them, each page so dense with these little lights that my highlight winds up more like daylight than flashlight.

So in my constant care and concern for you, I have resisted simply copying chs. 3-4 and posting them. Notes will come. Soon.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

For your amusement: me in a filbert shell.

This is the self-introduction I just sent off to the Renovare Institute. I hate writing these things so do them as quickly and offhandedly as possible.

I am a disciple, pastor, wife, friend, and mother -- a happy combination I never expected and no one would have predicted. (Okay, maybe the friend part. But really: none of the rest of it.)  I have been a pastor 12 years, a wife 12 years, a mother 2.5 years. For 9 years I was a philosophy teacher; for 3 an editor of legal texts and 3 more a specialized paralegal; for 3 a nonprofit PD and ED.  I hold 3 master's degrees and no PhD, which probably makes me either a dilettante or impatient. Those are some of the resume highlights, if you want to call them that.  I also had multiple tattoos and piercings before they were hip; have raised goats and now have chickens; and waitressed the graveyard shift in a diner in the Castro (San Francisco). That's some of the local color.

Here's the real stuff:  the question that has powered every major decision of my life, every educational focus, every political action, every search and research has been, simply, How should one live?  No other question has ever really mattered. I would have done that PhD by now if that were a "legitimate" research area.  But "how should one live?" isn't about research, but about choices, discipline, circumstance, and trajectory. In my particular case, it's also about the Object of my gaze and the teachers God puts in my path whether I'm ready or not.

Which is why I'll see you all in October.

Schedule update

The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of TimeI was going to start reading Judith Shulevitz' The Sabbath World today, but it's due back at the library in two days and someone is waiting for it.  I'll reschedule it for later this summer, and we'll continue with Heschel's The Sabbath for a couple more days.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Meeting the Sabbath

The SabbathAttached to my computer monitor are two small reproductions of icons. They happen to be Mother of God Directress and Christ the Lifegiver, but nearly any traditional icon would have done.*  Icons are intended to be windows; both their production (known as "writing") and their contemplation give us sight beyond sight, a glimpse of the eternal reality.  On my monitor they remind me of (Orthodox) liturgy, which intends to duplicate that of the angels in the heavens, instantiating their worship on earth, binding the heavens and the earth in one glorious song. To be present to the icon or to the liturgy is to stand in a hyperthin place, on the very boundary between the material and the eternal, basking in and reflecting the heavens' golden glow.  When I take notice of the Mother of God and of the Lifegiver, for a moment I step out of today's technological duty into the real Presence of God.

There is in Heschel's Sabbath a same beauty that glimmers, pervading and perfuming the universe.  Heschel's prose is redolent of Sabbath itself, pointing as it does beyond description and into Reality.

As I consider what keeping sabbath might mean for me and my family, two themes assert themselves: rather than being a cessation from certain activities, sabbath is a presence to be met, and like any beloved guest, welcomed and cherished; and sabbath is a "sanctuary in time" -- reminding me that time is a most precious commodity.

If I do nothing but consider these two themes and live them out, our sabbaths will become icons as powerful as the ones on my monitor, and with God's grace, our lives come to resemble a divine liturgy -- the work of the people of the Heavens.

My in-progress notes on the book are here.

*Yes, I am excluding the lovely contemporary icons at St. Gregory of Nyssa and the Cathedral at Los Angeles, as well as many of those produced by Bridge Building Images, among others.  Their purpose is enshrinement, rather than revelation.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Divine Conspiracy, chapter 1

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In GodThe first book in the stack for the Renovare Institute is The Divine Conspiracy ["DC"] by Dallas Willard.  If you are a regular reader of this blog, or have reviewed my Facebook fan pages, or have spent much time in my sermonizing, you know my deep respect for Dr. Willard.  He has pierced a thick veil of greyness that suffocates modern understanding of Jesus, revealing the ease and depth of the life within the Kingdom of the Heavens.
Re-reading DC chapter 1, I am again astonished by all I have forgotten about my Lord and about God's plan for each one of us (which is the universal plan, lived out uniquely). Willard describes how truthiness has replaced truth, how the din of clever quippery drowns out the simplest of facts. Then, he states the simple fact: we are petty rulers of the kingdom of our selves invited through Jesus to be powerful participants in the Kingdom of God.   Here is a gist, in a few quotish paraphrases:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


= beloved friends + surgery + long recovery + long distance

God is going to have to handle this one  -- but I'll be waiting by the phone just in case.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Sabbath

Even though I read this just a couple of months ago, I had already forgotten just how edible Heschel's prose is.  He makes me want to linger on every sentence, savoring like the first asparagus or truly fresh black truffles.  Simply amazing: no wonder I have always felt kinship with Hasidism, if Heschel and Potok are to be believed.

The SabbathThe Chosen (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

2nd Amendment

Three things about our Constitution I do not understand:
1) The arguments that the 2nd Amendment is meant personally rather than collectively, given that it starts with that "well-regulated militia" clause (which individuals, by definition, cannot be)
2) Why the Five aren't considered "activist" when they've consistently overwritten decades of precedent;
3) How in the world you can call yourself a "strict" constitutionalist, given #2.

I mean this honestly: I do not understand it at all.

Monday, June 28, 2010

For the doubters

There has been scoffing, so I present to you my clean desk, one week later. And yes, I have used it since I blogged.  Note particularly the lack of stacks of books and papers on the shelves. 

I pray that this may also offer some crumb of hope to those who have not seen their desks since Barry Manilow ruled the airwaves.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

... the teacher will come.

Early this morning I added my Renovare Institute reading schedule to my shabbatical reading schedule, noting the splendid overlap of purpose and desired outcomes.  That was okay. Then I reviewed the syllabus, and looked at the seriousness of the practice, and the educational expectations.  And heard Beautiful Daughter rousing and the chickens clucking and the laundry cycling.  Not to mention the scores of apricots dropping from the tree and the job I'm not currently doing but at least vaguely expect to return to.

They say that when the student is ready the teacher will come.  I'm a little afraid the teacher may come whether the student is ready or not.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Desk is still clean

It's been 24 hours. I'm on a roll.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Renovare Institute begins

This morning I received a letter, schedule, syllabus, and FAQ for the 2-year Institute that begins July 1.  I am beyond excited, and am relieved that so far the reading looks manageable.  Doesn't hurt that I've read nearly all the books for the first semester already.

Now I can concentrate on those DMin apps.

You: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your WarrantyThe Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the PresidentOn the summer reading front:  I simply cannot get through The Clinton Tapes. How could anyone take 8 years of conversation with former President Clinton and make it boring, you might ask?  I asked myself that through about 1/4 of it; today it gets donated to the library. Truly disappointing: I ordered it pre-release and saved it for this summer.   On to the next non-shabbatical books:  two of the You series.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Today we begin

Last night Wonderful Husband and I had a difficult conversation about just exactly what my instituting Sabbath was supposed to do for him and our family, and exactly what I expected of everyone else.  Of course, I couldn't answer: I am not in the habit of talking about what I'm reading, thinking, feeling. Sometimes I expect him to be psychic, but most times it's just my hating when I am not able to make myself clear and understood. I prefer to present a coherent set of reasoned thoughts, and to discuss those, rather than to pour out whatever murky muck of thinking and feeling happens to be -- like primordial chaos -- knowing that with God's help it will change and morph and evolve. 

So today we begin, not Sabbath planning, but my learning to speak sooner, knowing that what I say will be misunderstood and will change, probably as I am saying it. That may be enough work for today.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

1st Sunday of Sabbatical

9:24 am

Wonderful Husband sleeping.
Beautiful Daughter watching 101 Dalmatians.
Clearly we're going to need a plan for Sundays.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of TimeOne of the books on the shabbatical list is The Sabbath World by Judith Shulevitz. Our local library set it aside for me and I picked it up today, reading only the first couple of chapters.  Why the restraint?  Because the stack for the summer is very high, and I've got 3 books going right now without even touching the "official" pile. Or the piles of laundry and stacks of to-do lists.

But reading even a few minutes' worth I recall why I'm doing this: Sabbath is necessary and challenging both theologically and practically. When I resume reading this one in a couple of weeks, I'll be looking for the notes supporting her (anti-Jewish) interpretation of Kierkegaard's use of the tax collector. In the meantime, it's back to the short stack and the piles.

Friday, June 11, 2010

First day

First day of sabbatical:

Slept in until 6:30.
Two rooms in house now clean.
2 more half clean (if you don't look inside anything.)

What a whirlwind!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Transitional thoughts 5 am

Today I become a Christian for 3 months.  Not a pastor, but a Christian; not a leader, but a follower. What, besides sermons and budgets, is the difference? Some initial transition thoughts:
  • If they play a music video in a worship service I attend, I won't cringe at its being way too soft. (Nickelback last Sunday. Excellent video. But seriously, AV guys: it's rock!)
  • If the officiant knocks over the communion juice, I won't be sticky.
  • I won't know the opening crew at Peets.
  • No longer can I tell myself "I'm too busy." Especially when someone is in need. Including me.
  • Random screeching by strangers probably won't be directed at me, and my phone number won't be in circulation among certain segments of the mentally ill population.
  • No teenagers.
  • No office away from home.
  • Public identity gone.
  • When people ask me what I do on all the other days, they'll understand my answer.
More will present itself. But for now I just have to submit my reimbursables and empty out my office for the new guy. Who may very well turn out to be Jesus.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

How many things wrong can you identify?

Scene: Getting 2.5 year old Daughter into carseat.

She:  I'm not white.
Me (waiting): Okay.
She: I'm black.
Me: Actually, you're white and black and Indian, but okay...?
She: So you don't like me.

Other conversation ensues. The rest of the day passes. Wonderful Husband consults a biracial colleague then leaves work to be with us and figure out next moves. There is ice cream and talk about how many colors of skin and hair and eyes are in our family and at the ice cream store, and how much we adore (and like) her.  He leaves. She goes on as usual. I avoid lethal injection by not physically ripping the hearts out of anyone who might have said anything like any of this to her, or who ever will, ever.

But the hole ripped in my own heart gapes. Fear and sorrow enter, and I pray that God is entering too.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

My Utmost for today, excerpted

Examine where you have become sluggish, where you began losing interest spiritually, and you will find that it goes back to a point where you did not do something you knew you should do. You did not do it because there seemed to be no immediate call to do it. But now you have no insight or discernment, and at a time of crisis you are spiritually distracted instead of spiritually self-controlled. It is a dangerous thing to refuse to continue learning and knowing more.

My Utmost for His Highest (OSWALD CHAMBERS LIBRARY)The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind in which you create your own opportunities to sacrifice yourself, and your zeal and enthusiasm are mistaken for discernment. It is easier to sacrifice yourself than to fulfill your spiritual destiny, which is stated in Romans 12:1-2. It is much better to fulfill the purpose of God in your life by discerning His will than it is to perform great acts of self-sacrifice.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Homeland security

The effects of this oil spill are the greatest threat to homeland security we have ever seen. How about sending our best minds to work on that?

Space and time

I've actually had two other sabbaticals.

The first was in 1990 or 91 or 92.  Having been a college philosophy teacher for a number of years, I took all my money out of CalPers retirement and moved to San Francisco. There were two purposes to this, one of which was to learn how to not work 80 hour weeks.  The days stretched out in front of me like the Pacific Ocean out my window. I was so anxious I wanted to peel the paint off the wall.

Sabbath -- spaciousness -- is a blessing, partly because the pain inside has room to move, and then to heal. That doesn't seem like a blessing when it's happening, so most of us do everything we can to avoid it.  Gerald May writes, "True space is encountered only with the willingness and courage to experience things as they are....When people tell me they have trouble taking time for prayer or meditation, I often ask them what unpleasant things they might be wanting to avoid."

Sabbath is a blessing, also, because one's soul has space to yearn, to stretch, and to rest in the presence of God or peace or hope.

My second sabbatical was a few years back, when my oldest friends invited their friends to spend a week in a villa in Tuscany.  A week may not seem like a sabbatical, and certainly we kept busy (even without traveling, you put twelve people in a house there will be cooking and cleaning to do) but if sabbatical is purposed break in normal activity to rest in the arms of God, this was sabbatical.  Every morning my friend Jeff and I awoke early by nature, with neither alarm nor agreement. One of us made coffee. Then we would sit outside, drinking coffee, and reading. This was not intentional; it just was. Sometimes we talked, mostly we didn't. The Italian hills stretched out before me like those minutes of internal spaciousness.  The quiet companionship, the uncluttered time, the softness of morning, and the joy of reading remains for me the image of the jewel that is Sabbath.

In sabbatical, we wait in space and time for healing and rest, and after the pain begins to heal and the clutter blows away, it finds us waiting, with room to spare.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Undisciplining a gift

In 8 days I will be on sabbatical. Other than knowing I already miss our youth I really don't know what to expect. I have plans, but suspect God giggles at them and angels cover their faces with an "uh-oh". My to-do list gets longer by the day, and now includes activities like painting the two walls we missed 7 years ago, and cleaning out my laptop (including bookmarks. What evil genius invented bookmarks?). Suddenly 13 weeks of relative freedom seems like nothing. In fact, in some ways I'm feeling more constrained than usual.

That's how the devil works, isn't it? God gives us a gift grounded in freedom, and we (at least I) immediately unwrap it, take it apart, and nail it to the ground. Then wonder why I can't pick up this great gift and use it with abandon. Whether it's the gift of words (I am not spending enough time wordsmithing my sermons; I am not blogging enough; my Home Depot lists lack panache.) or the gift of freedom in Christ, our/my temptation is to render them a burden.

When gifts become a burden, it's time to rearrange, rethink, and recharge. Sometimes the only discipline needed is enjoyment. Which gets us right back to "in 8 days". Angels, uncover your eyes: I'm going to need your help.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Shabbatical Reading List

Would you read with me this summer? During my sabbatical I will be reading and blogging, and would love to have others to talk with.  Here's my approximate schedule by week; I'll announce any changes here.  I begin the 2-year Renovare Institute in July; I'm hoping that reading list will augment rather than replace this one.
6/11/2010 Rest and clean my house
6/14/2010 Play and continue to clean my house
6/21/2010 Other reading and projects
6/28/2010     Sabbath, Abraham Heschel
7/5/2010     The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time, Judith Shulevitz
7/12/2010     Mudhouse Sabbath, Lauren Winner
7/19/2010 Visiting Oxford, MS and Asheville, NC
7/26/2010 Catch-up and projects
8/2/2010     Acedia and Me, Kathleen Norris
8/9/2010     Streams of Living Water, Richard Foster
8/16/2010 Catch-up and projects
8/23/2010     The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser
8/30/2010     Living the Sabbath, Norman Wirzba and Wendell Berry
9/6/2010 Catch-up and projects