Monthly Archives: October 2012

Jesus, the Kindergarten God

Prejudices can be peculiarly transitory.

I remember a rather adversarial conversation in my early thirties with an elderly priest of the fire and brimstone persuasion. He finally said angrily, “I’ve been doing this for over forty years.”  And I thought to myself, “Exactly. That’s the problem.”

Now that I’m a senior citizen, I tend to distrust the opinions of anyone under fifty.  It made me nervous that our new insurance agent was about our grandchildren’s age, so I took to calling him the Kindergarten Kid.

One morning while reading the scriptures, I told my husband that if Jesus came back as thirty-something, I’d have a hard time taking him seriously.

My husband quipped, “You mean kind of  like a kindergarten God?”

Christians, Beware of Christian Idols!

Fundamentalist Christians have to struggle not to make an idol of scripture.  Jesus is the Word of God.  Scripture is vitally important, because scripture introduces us to Jesus.  Jesus speaks to where individuals are and calls us to growth now, just as He did the people in the scriptures. He wasn’t adding more rules. The Jews had plenty of them. Our call is to an ongoing, deepening relationship with a living Savior that continues to change us. Though scriptures may be like letters from God about Jesus, they are not God, and He is not limited to them .

Catholics have to struggle to not make an idol of the structure of the church.  Again, Jesus is the Word of God to each of us.  The spirit of God grows in us through a personal relationship with Jesus.  The church can be a safe place of nurture with its rich tradition of spirituality, but ultimately we are  personally accountable for growing in our relationship to God through Jesus.  The Church may be our mother, but it is not God, and God is not limited to it.

Liberal Protestants tend to idolize ideals for our physical world and being. Which once again,  are good things, and part of our call to stewardship, but are not God or our ultimate reason for being, because physical life is not all there is, either now or forever.  Humbling though it may be, it is not about our intellectual ideals for this life.  It’s about recognizing our incompleteness and accepting the call to a growing relationship with God through the human expression of both His love and the spirituality that He is calling us to, Jesus.

The Scriptures and the commandments; the church and its traditions of spirituality; caring for the physical well being of others and our world, are all good and absolutely vital parts of Christianity, but none of them is God.  None of them are a substitute for a personal relationship with God, which for Christians is given life and nurtured by our relationship with Jesus.

Out of that relationship can flow a love for scripture, a love for the spirituality of the church, a love for all creation and all humanity and a valuing of all of these and appreciation for those whom God calls to ministry in each area.  It is not one or the other.  There is one God, but many gifts and ministries.

When we only value one aspect of the kingdom of God, we have turned a good thing into an idol.

Jesus, Himself, was sent to lead us to God, not just to Himself. Then, He was taken away, so that we too would be filled with and led by God’s Spirit. And God’s Spirit is love, love for all His creation and all His creatures.  And the world will know that we are His by our growth in love.  

Anything else is an idol.

A Tidbit of Truth

At twenty we are very concerned about what people think of us.

By forty we care very little about what anyone thinks of us.

And at sixty we discover that no one is thinking about us anyway.

By eighty we realize that God’s opinion is the only one that matters.

Amateurs at Being Human

In the first stage of spirituality, many of us run from God.

In the second stage of spirituality we seek God,  but often in unlikely places.

In the third stage of spirituality, we discover God.

In the fourth we discover, develop and use our gifts mostly or at least partly for the glory of God. (No one has absolutely pure motives.)

In the fifth stage we gradually move into empowering others, at least partly for their sake and the glory of God.

And in the sixth stage, we are called to let go and become open to the Spirit working through others.

Jesus tells his disciples in John 16:7, ” Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” Jesus accepts His dying, so others may live and grow.”

And in Philippians Paul says it this way,  “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

The paradox is that if we don’t recognize and value our gifts, we cannot die to them. But even those of us, who are late bloomers, will find it very difficult to let go, once we discover our gifts.

But,  just as Jesus had to die to His power to heal, teach, feed, and spread the Good News, we too are called to follow Him through the cross of dying to self,  dying to that which we value most about ourselves, so that “we no longer live, but Christ lives in us.”

Some of the concrete challenges different ones of us may face:

As a physical action oriented person, finding purpose in life from a wheel chair or a hospital bed.

If  our gifts are intellectual, accepting  the exhaustion and drudgery of being a full time caregiver.

If we are a change agent by personality, sitting helplessly day after day at the foot of the cross of a loved one dying by inches with Alzheimer’s.

In his later years the intellectually gifted spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, chose to live in a community of the mentally handicapped, learning to hear and experience the love of God through them.

The humility, that comes from being emptied of our very selves, frees us to hear God through the simple, the uneducated, the young, the old, the failures, the handicapped, the foreigner, the stranger, the ill, the poor.

Until we recognize that we are all amateurs at becoming fully human, we will miss the voice of God all around us.

The I Am I.

1.   A question.

2.  A becoming.

3.   A beloved.

4.   A  lover.

5.   A unique expression of Spirit.

6.   A partner in Creation.

7.  An inseparable part of the whole.

8.  A woman.

9.   A  friend.

10.  A nurturer.

One Thousand Days Without Sex

Got a “like” from a blogger titled “Onethousandsingledays,” so I checked out her site.

Her blog is about her decision to do without sex, kissing, or dating for one thousand days.  (Though going out dancing is allowed.)  She has some pretty interesting reasons for this.

Turns out she started blogging about the same time I did, three months ago. She now has 4,044 followers and has had 90,794 views. I have 32 followers and 1,067 views. Hmmm.

She seems to think things like twitter helped. Somehow I don’t think twitter will help me as much.

At 75 I don’t think many people will care about my next thousand days without sex or for that matter,  my past one thousand days.  However, I might could save her a lot of time.

Edges and Borders: Where You Stop and I Begin

Follow Your Own Weirdness

The title quote is from Ray Waddle, a writer.

Poets are prophets. They can speak things they don’t know yet.  From  a talk by Shelley Warren.

Altered states are easy, altered traits are difficult. From Rabbi Rami Shapiro.

And to keep a perspective…. two passed on by my son Steve:

Shhhh!  is the sound of no one caring what you think.

and

No matter how great your sorrow or how great your pain, one billion, three hundred million Chinese don’t give a _______.

And a memory of a moment of truth from my youngest son, Tommy.  When he wasn’t quite three yet, I tried to get him to speak  for a tape recording to send to my mother, who lived in another state.  He stared silently at the recorder, so I  encouraged him to say who he was.  He not only remained mute, he became obviously upset.  Finally he burst out in an anguished voice, “I’m somebody!  I’m somebody!”

A universal cry, I believe.

My Sister-in-Law Was a Human Cannonball or Where Do You Park Your Elephants?

Duina Preparing for Flight

Many years ago, my husband’s father was Potentate of the Almenah Shrine Temple in Nashville, Tennessee. At some point, over sixty years ago, he initiated bringing a Shrine Circus to Nashville.  Little did he know that it was also bringing a future daughter-in-law.

A high-light of the circus were the  Flying Zacchinis.  The Zacchinis were a circus family from Italy.  They performed on the trapeze, the trampoline, and their own invention, the Flying Cannonball.  Two beautiful young sisters were propelled from a giant cannon across the arena into a net.  This was done with much suspense and fanfare and a loud explosive sound, as they literally came flying out. (Except once, when the sound effects failed and there was just a ‘ f-f-f-f-t‘ as they were shot out.)  Sometimes they were in double cannons and shot simultaneously.  One of the sisters, Duina, was a petite blue eyed blond. She flew gracefully on the trapeze with her brothers,  did acrobatics with them on the trampoline, and was one of the star ‘cannonballs.’

My husband’s oldest brother was just back from serving his country and getting ready to start college.  He was hired on to help set up all the equipment.  One look at this lovely young star, who had performed all over the world, including to full houses in Madison Square Garden, and he fell, hook, line, and sinker.  They married, he got a law degree, Duina took time out to have three daughters,  and then for years played the larger cities in Europe and America for just two months each year.

When I started dating my husband at college in Texas, he mentioned that he had a sister-in-law that was a human cannonball.  I wasn’t sure I believed him, but after I mentioned it to my mom, she began to refer to him as ‘that nice cannonball boy.’  On my first trip to Nashville to meet his family, lo and behold, there in his brother’s back yard was a full size practice trapeze.

Duina, was a sparkly, fun person.  She was also very down to earth, at least when she wasn’t flying through the air.  My brother-in-law took up sky diving.  I guess, when your wife is a human cannonball, you might feel a need to do something out of the ordinary.

When our children were growing up, we always tried to take them to the Shrine Circus when it came to town.  One Sunday after the closing matinee, Duina asked us to lead the elephant owners and their trailer full of of elephants down to our family’s country place in the next county.  It seems that though some motels take pets, they draw the line at Elephants.  I had never thought about where you would park your elephants between show dates.

This turned into more of an adventure than we had anticipated.  There were two grown elephants and one small one, so the truck was quite large.  We discovered belatedly, that one of the overpasses wasn’t quite high enough to get the truck through, and it took quite a bit of maneuvering to get it backed up and turned around with traffic and gawkers collecting rapidly.  Then, they needed to stop for gas.  Pulling into a gas station with a truck full of elephants was another challenge  and I’m sure  it was an experience the station attendants never forgot.

We finally got the elephants happily staked out in a field near the creek and their owner’s RV hooked up to electricity and water at a near-by empty house on our family’s land.  Mission ‘Where to Park Your Elephants,’  was safely completed.

But,the dirt road, past where the elephants were staked out, happened to be the road out to the highway from the local golf club.  About dusk, as tired, but mellow golfers began to drive by the field with the elephants in it, a wispy light fog rolled off the creek.  The first car slowed down, then stopped, near where we were getting into our car.  The two men stared intently through the mist at the hulking grey shapes.  We heard one man say to the other,  “I won’t tell my wife, if you don’t tell yours!”

A Crawdad Named Speedy

The suspense is building as Josh and Nanu stand poised, cups ready.

It’s becoming a magical shell game in the clear rock bottomed creek.

“Where are you, crawdad?” calls Josh, as he pokes at a rock with his tennis shoe.

In a blink, the hunt turns into a race, as a crawdad dashes from under the rock.

Splashing ankle deep, Nanu yells, “There he goes! There he goes! Get him, Josh.”

But he disappears as quickly as he came. And Nanu thinks she hears him snicker.

An hour later, soaking wet, Nanu barely croaks, “Look, there he goes again.”

But, finally, Josh has placed his cup just right, as the crawdad slips out of hiding.

“Hooray!” cheers Nanu. “Now that we’ve got our bait, we’re ready to go fishing.”

But, Josh is peering fondly at the crawdad, suggesting that they give it a name.

“Oh noooo!” wails Nanu. “That’s a bad idea.” Too late. Josh is calling him Speedy.

Nanu admits it’s the perfect name and sighing agrees, “Yes, Speedy should be freed.”

As they say good-bye to Speedy, Josh cheerfully suggests that the fish will wait,

until they can buy some anonymous bait. But, Nanu is muttering under her breath,

“Just you watch out next year, Speedy.”