Sunday, June 30, 2013

Every Day a Lucky Day

Riding in the car with a little boy who has just turned 6 can be lots of fun.  Little boys see things we grown-ups don’t.  They entertain themselves while locked in to their car seats in ways that bring smiles.  They sing songs they’ve made up.  They make observations about the world and their place in it that make you think or make you laugh.  In general, they enjoy life.

So without further ado, a song and a witticism from my own favorite 6-year-old boy as we drove home.

Lucky day
lucky day
2 quarters and a lollipop
lucky day
every day
lucky day
my birthday
happy day
lucky day


I like country people
but I sure don’t like their songs.


Friday, June 28, 2013

It's Time to Tell Me Happy Birthday

Remember turning 6?

Remember waking up with a smile?

Remember summer days when you could roll back over and go back to sleep?

Remember drawing pictures just for fun?  And giving them to your mom or dad with the delighted proclamation: I made this for you!

Remember how glad you were to go visit your Gran?  And how very glad you were to get home?

It’s summer time and the boyo turned 6 and awoke with a smile and went back to sleep and got up calling my name to remind me it was time to say happy birthday to him.

And it is a good day.

And I remember and smile back over my shoulder at the generations all smiling behind me.

And yes, it is a very good day.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Treasure Mapping

I had promised the grandson a treasure hunt and he reminded me last night.  And so I quickly drew out his map.

“Don’t forget,” he said, “my prize at the end.”

“I won’t forget,” I promised.

Too lethargic to move from my spot, I am inspired out of sheer laziness: his prize will be a hug.  We’ve been at odds today, the wee one and I.  So I convince myself (even knowing it for the laziness it is) this is a good thing.

Around the yard he goes, map in hand . . . 9 blocks forward on the sidewalk . . . right turn and 12 giant steps forward then 3 back (his legs are longer than I thought, so we readjust the way you can with a small boy who will not hold it against you that you got it wrong) . . . pick a flower and then 9 giant steps right again to the tree to ring the chimes . . . then right again and a few more giant steps to where I sit and somehow, he actually reads what’s there and gives me a giant hug bigger than his giant steps.

Turns out the treasure was mine.

Redemption in the tiny arms of a tiny boy whose legs are longer than the world.

All is well.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Better Fireflies

Rowen and I won’t tell Wes, but we are agreed: he has the better fireflies (lightening bugs to us).  Last night we drove over at dark to Wes’ place on invitation to come and see the best fireflies.  Wes is right – it is an amazing sight.

Stand in front of the house and stare at the fields all around and it’s like the tall grass is filled with dancing light.  Turn around and see the treed hill with more of the same.

And another thing – the fireflies at Wes’ place are way faster than here in “town” (what folks living out call McDowell, a village of maybe 30 people).  Whatever we did, we just couldn’t catch them – they were just too fast.  So another, unexpected difference develops: country fireflies are faster fliers than their town cousins.  Who knew?

It was a magical night, or as Rowen said, it was more magical.

Running through the grass to starlight, dancing and turning in circles with a soon-to-be 6-year-old, I watch as this beloved of my heart jumps and shrieks his enthusiasm which his little body just cannot contain.

And all is well.

Heading back home, we get the tent out and our night of joy is complete, for this is the first night Rowen will manage to sleep the night in the tent with me.

And the stars smiled.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Social Experiment

He’s here – my grandson is here!  And boy are we having fun.  One of my favorite things he does, he did this evening.

Taking his brand-new boy-sized folding chair out to the end of the sidewalk, he sat down and watched traffic pass by, waving at each vehicle – sometimes from his seated perch, and sometimes with the standing enthusiasm of a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.

Sometimes folk responded.

Sometimes they didn’t.

Each lack of return wave solicited disappointment and sadness and a report back to Gran on the porch: they didn’t wave.

As I watch this wee boyo, I am struck that there is a social experiment happening right before my very eyes: who waves and who doesn’t?

Rowen draws no conclusions about the character of the non-wavers.  This is not a social experiment to him.  This is part of the magic and charm of country life, that he might expect a wave.

His sheer delight in the wavers is something the non-wavers might want to ponder.

I know I do.

And then I wonder: who would wittingly disappoint the heart of an almost-6-year-old boy?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Moon Looms Large

Walking round
and round the
asphalt cancer
path that is the
relay for life
circle – in the
nighttime –
the moon looms
large and I walk
beside two brothers
and we are definitely
not in the spirit of the
thing as we ponder
whether we would
or would not – not
is our answer – fly
to Mars without a
return ticket – the
luminary bags with
written remembrances
our backdrop to the
pondering of the things
that a night sky covered
in moonlight brings out

I feel no guilt – no sadness
either – even as I note in
the passing the names I
have planted there –
Mom still here 20+ years
after her own battle, Dad
and Bonnie and Stu gone –
I do not carry them like
luggage – they are not heavy
in my heart – rather they are
the whispers that accompany
a life, any life – of those who
came and went as I will too –
one half of my own journey
done – and their whispers speak
of things like trips to Mars and
wonder at a moon looming large

Friday, June 21, 2013


Human drama happens        
the tides roll
in and out
the sun rises
and sets
the sands
ebb and flow
with the waters

oceans are evening-out
places, ever reminding
with their movement
and stillness that
life changes are both
much bigger and
much smaller
than we imagine

Thursday, June 20, 2013

SermonCliffNote: Stewarding God's Shalom

SCRIPTURE: Proverbs 3.5-12; Romans 12.1-2; and Romans 14.7-8

Stewardship is the idea of taking care of something that belongs to someone else.  It may sound odd to name our own health as ‘belonging’ to someone else, but the fact is that even our health, our own very well-being, not only resides in God, but belongs to God.  This is as true of our health, our wholeness, as a congregation as it is of our health, our wholeness, as individuals.

Stewarding our congregational health must be intentional.  We’ve got to think about it.  We’ve got to act out of knowledge, not ignorance.  We’ve got to study the problem and understand it or our efforts at solutions are not just a waste of time; we’ll actually end up doing the opposite of what’s needed and be worse off than we were when we started.  We’ve got to be intentional; we’ve got to do the work of study.

Secondly, we must understand that memory is just memory. Memory is not sacred.  Only God is sacred.
We owe no duty of stewardship to the past.  We cannot betray the past – it isn’t possible, for the past is just that – past, gone.

We can learn from the past; but the past has no need of our homage, our honor.  When Jesus said to a would-be follower, let the dead bury the dead, he wasn’t being metaphorical.  He was speaking a literal word of advice to the young man: the time to follow me is now, not later.  You have to let go of the old ways if you’re going to follow where I’m going.  And what you’re delaying for isn’t bad; it’s just unnecessary.  And it’s getting in the way of following me.  And every chance doesn’t come around again.  Being a good steward of our health means knowing when to let go of the past; when to accept and even embrace change – not for its own sake, but because it’s time . . . because to do otherwise is to live a lie – the lie that the past is still present.  A good steward knows when to let go.

Finally, being entrusted with something means we actually have to take care of it in the present – all the time.
To ignore my own duty to be intentional in thinking about the problem; to stay stuck in my memories; to fail to take good care of what I have: all of these mistakes mean that I become a bad steward of that which was entrusted to me, even if it was something for my own use or benefit.  It means that I hurt myself and others.
But when I do the reverse: take the time to understand the true problem; not hold myself captive to my memories; take care of even the broken thing that I have, wonder upon wonder, life unfolds and I enter into the sacred space of being a co-worker with God.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hope for the Future

It's easy to be optimistic about the future when sitting poolside on a summer's day in a land of peace and plenty.  It is easy then, or at least easier.  But maybe, just maybe, easy isn't always wrong.  Or Pollyanna.  Or simplistic.  Or naive. 

So I offer the wisdom and hope gathered pool side on a summer's day. . .

The changes wrought by technology (and they are many) combined with a new generation bring about the possibility of the elimination of the nation state as we know it and the birth of something entirely new, not before possible -- not globalization -- at least as we now use the term -- but something I don't even know how to name -- a sort of shifting tribalism.

I observe that folks my children's age move easily (at least more easily than I have and do) from group to group -- they're still tribal, these children of mine, but their tribes are not fixed constants -- rather, their tribes are fluid things that they leave and come back to and their contemporaries with them -- so that each time of return realizes a different tribe -- and that works for them.

Things are held more loosely.

Ideas are exchanged more freely.

Possibilities are envisioned differently.

Time is not wasted on what never was nor cannot be.

Authorities are shared based on competencies and vision.

Nothing is taken for granted.

If the world is to be changed, they believe that it is up to them to do it -- and they do it -- one person, one group, one tribe, at a time.

Children matter -- other people's children, as well as their own.

Families are made as well as born.

Needs are met simply because there are needs to be met.

Life continues.

I am hopeful for the future when I behold these people. 

I hope I live long enough to see them come into the fulness of their marvelous potential, for every generation has its place, its time and this, in all its nascent wonder, is theirs.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

What's Not Trending?

People being mean to each other . . .
Crabby-patty-pants – ever . . .
Listening in to anyone’s conversation uninvited being cool – ever – are you listening NSA?  Not Cool!  E-v-e-r
Socks and sandals – Jesus was and is the king of cool and you don’t see him with socks, do you?  No.  You do not.
My hair today.  You just have to be here.
Sending weapons to people we do not know to kill people they do not know.
Cake.  Everyone loves pie way more than cake.  At least everyone I listen to.  That’s everyone, right?  Right?
Sunshine.  You heard me.  The sunshine is not trending just now – it’s
rain and floods and gardens and crops crying for just a little sun
. . . please?
Peace – she’s just not that into you.  Get over it, humans.  After all, where were you when she called
crying in the night?  Where were you when she needed you to stand up for her?  Yeah – busy
doing other things, like hanging out with that bad boy you call fighting – well, your gal
Peace has moved on.  Like I said, she’s just not that into you – she was.
But that was then.  And where were you?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Stewarding My Stuff

I’m thinking about a sermon I’m to give in a couple of weeks on stewarding our stuff (a way of thinking about how we are to care for, share, and render up all the material things we’ve been given) and I read of a woman’s on-going efforts to downsize her own accumulation of the stuff in her life and end up  pondering my own stuff journey.

In the early days of my adult existence, I received any and all stuff anyone wanted to give, share or cast off.  I figured I needed it (or might) since I didn’t have much stuff.  It was really as simple as that.  What I didn’t do was make any calculation about whether my need had any independent existence of its own separate from my lack of stuff – did I only need the stuff because I didn’t have stuff, or did I actually need that particular stuff?  It was a question I never thought of, let alone asked, when I was young.

Thus I ended up with quite a bit of stuff.

Then I moved to a bigger house and . . . you guessed it – even more stuff.

It was a fixer-upper of a turn-of-the-century home that had seen grander days and family, especially, rejoiced in helping me fill it with cool stuff – I became the repository for our antiques and would-be antiques – I was a co-conspirator in the acquisition of even more stuff (here’s a secret: a 17-room house fills up faster than you’d think).

Then I left my big old house and moved to a tiny apartment hundreds of miles away from home.

I went through a stuff de-acquisition phase of epic proportions.  “Everything must go” became my motto and much did.  Some was given to family, some to the annual church yard sale, some to anyone I thought might like or enjoy the stuff, some for my kids to have, some for them to borrow and some (the boxes in the basement) got thrown away.  And still I had more stuff than the apartment could hold – some went to my mother for safekeeping and some to storage.

And then I moved into a 9 (or 11 if you count bathrooms) room manse and somehow, I had plenty of stuff to fill it.  And I’ve accumulated a bit more since then too – but not much.

And as I approach a certain age, I begin to wonder when one notices, actually notices, that one is old.  Is it when you stop rearranging the furniture so your house begins to resemble a museum?  Is it when you don’t want anymore stuff for birthdays and Christmases?  Maybe it’s when you start thinking about who you’ll give this stuff to when you’re gone or just don’t want it anymore?

I love this house in which I live.  But I could do with a whole lot less stuff.

I wish I could say that makes me godly.

What I think it makes me is old.

But most days, that’s okay.  I’ve already had pretty good practice at letting go of the stuff.  I travel light and, it turns out, I travel well.  Wonder how much of the stuff will go with me next time?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

God, You Are When

God, You are
     when the wind blows
     through my life,
     through this land

God, You are
     when the greening comes

God, You are
     when I stand in Your calm
     in the center of the chaos –
     let it be now, let it be so

God, You are
     when the birdsong is
     more real than lawn
     mowers and passing cars

God, You are
     when standing in a circle
     of love and friendship new
     or old as the one tells the
     all what cancer and dying
     and kindness are like
     amidst the setting of the
     sun and the honking waves
     of the passers by the circle
     expanded to include their
     speeding sent love – or not

God, You are
     when tears fall and shaking
     broken bodies are held

God, You are
     when . . . ever

*Taken from the book Traditions by Sara Shendelman and Dr. Avram Davis

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"My" Sacristy

Clergy robes are useful things, I think, but I wear mine in a perpetual state of hotness.  Thus when I begin my ‘duties’ as a minister on Sunday mornings in Headwaters, I delay putting on my robe until I get out of the car.

There, on the side of the road, most times I throw on the robe and scurry across Rt. 250 and head into the chapel.

This Sunday, I took a pause.  As Joe and Cynthia exited their cars at the same time, Joe observed, “nice sacristy”, as we all took in the beauty and wonder surrounding us in these highland mountains.

I’m with Joe: it is indeed a very nice sacristy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pie Are Round

So I’m watching a series on Hulu just for relaxation, when one of the characters removes what she calls a
Here's a beauty found at Cocina Para Emancipados
quiche from the oven . . . and it’s a rectangle.  And unbidden, my mind thinks, “that’s not a quiche – it’s a rectangle.  A quiche has to be a circle.  It’s a pie, dammit!  And pie are not square (or rectangular), pie are round.”

It’s a bit of silliness (well, okay, a whole lot of silliness), I know, but I can’t shake this feeling that when quiche are not round, there’s something wrong at work in the universe.

If I had more energy, I would research why pies are round and why quiches in particular are.  I would learn the history of the quiche.  I would know its variations of wonderfulness.  And I might even take the time and learn how to make my quiche square, if not rectangular (there must be some standards, after all!).

But it is way too early in the morning to be spending so much time online investigating just to know the difference, the implications, of the square, rectangle and circle-shaped quiche.

I think I’ll go back to bed.

Because I am that geekie, I just did a quick scan of google images of quiches and although I didn't look at them all, I only found 5 non-circular shaped dishes out of roughly 1,000 images of the glorious quiche - and I suspect that those 5 may not be quiches at all, but rather a strada or some other egg dish.  Just sayin.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

SermonCliffNote: Stewards of God's Call

God calls whom God will when God will how God will.  The Bible is replete with the call stories of God’s people, including Moses, perhaps the most unwilling of all.

When God came calling in the form of a burning bush, Moses repeatedly protests his own unsuitability, asking who am I to do this thing and who are you to ask me?  My own favorite is when he pleads with God: O Lord, please send someone else!

To all of Moses’ protests, God responds with providing.

Many, if not all, call stories have protest as the response to God’s invitation. . . Amos protests he is just a farmer . . . Jeremiah that he is just a boy . . . Isaiah that he is not worthy . . . Jonah that God’s message is not worthy . . . Esther that she’ll be killed . . .

Yet God persists with all of them.  God provides for all of them.  And God fulfills God’s purposes through all of them.  Even so, not every call story in the Bible is a success: Saul almost brings a nation to ruin that God gave him to take care of . . . Judas was as much a disciple, as much called as Peter and Andrew and James and the rest . . .

Preacher G. Lloyd Rediger speaks of the duty we Christians have to be “responsible stewards” of God’s call to us.  God has given us a heart, a passion, a desire, to do something and that something is God’s call to us.

Yet God’s call is not an invitation received without conflict – often there is doubt . . . and fear . . . confusion . . . and even lack of desire . . . because the call of God is a very big deal . . . and too often we humans live in a perpetual state of smallness, forgetting who and what we were created to be and to do, settling for far too little and calling it good or good enough.

When we believe we are too few . . . too weak . . . too old . . . or too young . . . too tired to act, to move, to help, we make ourselves too small . . .

When we buy in to the lies of our culture that only big money and big business and big churches can do anything of real import, we make ourselves too small . . .

And few though we may be in number, we were not made for small –

In the words of poet Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Our imagining is a big part of our stewarding of God’s call . . . for if we cannot or dare not imagine what God has in store, we will not see it come to life.

For God’s call to bear fruit, we must first imagine that it can.

For change to happen in ourselves and in our world, we must first believe, imagine its happening.

The call is always an invitation into the movement of the divine dance of coming and going:  come . . . with me . . . go . . . and do . . .

The question is . . . will we?  Dare we?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Mirrors on Quiet Waters

A friend sends some pictures via e-mail: mirrors on quiet waters.  Don’t you love that effect when the water is so still that it perfectly mirrors the scene above creating a double beauty?

My own favorite is at Christmas time coming home on Rt. 250 into Fairmont – just around the curve and down the short straight stretch in the nighttime at Wood’s Boat Docks, there, out in the water, sits the metal Christmas-tree shape all lit up and when it’s really dark, all you see is it above and reflected down into the waters of the river where we used to swim when we were kids.

In the daytime, it looks like just what it is – a metal frame with lights on it.  But in the nighttime – oh, in the nighttime, it’s magic – that moment when the best bits of your past twine into your present and all is well with the world – twice.

Today may your mirrors be many and the beauty they reflect bring you joy.

Friday, June 7, 2013

When Peonies Attack

My first spring here in the Highlands, I was delighted one beautiful day to notice that there were asparagus shoots coming up alongside the garage.  Asparagus can be, I am told, difficult to grow and I had been discovering the largesse of those who came before me daily with various flowers and plants arriving in all their splendor unbidden (by me, at least).

I watched the asparagus grow for days until one day I noticed a bud on the top and when I inspected closer, realized that this was not asparagus, but shoots of peonies.

I know peonies – my grandma had a plethora of pinies, as she called them.  And from her, my mother had planted some in her yard garden.

Imagine my laughter as I realized my faux pas – who mistakes peonies for asparagus?  Well, apparently I do.

More springs and summers have passed and ever faithful, the peonies return.

A couple of springs ago, I cut a bunch for an arrangement.  In a hurry, I merely shook them off without doing a good spray with the hose.  For my lack of effort, I was rewarded with an infestation of ants the likes of which would put Sherman marching through Georgia to shame.

Turns out ants are pretty good at telling other ants there’s food here!  Come on in!  And come on in they did.  And here’s another thing: they seem to get bigger in a Darwinian way when in a safe haven.  With a little effort, these ants could have carried me away to their nest and had a life-long feast.  Thankfully, their queen decided to spare me.


Flash forward to now.  The ants are gone.  I will not confess to you how that happened.  But they are gone.  And I have just realized that ever since their taking up residence with me, I have not cut any peonies.

This year the whites are more spectacularly beautiful than usual, which is saying something.  To behold them
is to fall into a Georgia O’Keefe painting, it is to become lost in beauty.

And I am again yearning to have some in the house.

Dare I?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

12 Things to Know When You Turn Six

My grandson will soon turn six and there are some things (I think) he needs to know.  In the imagined conversation in my head, my shared wisdom goes something like this:

You’ll be six soon, Rowen.  I am so excited for you.  You’ll have so many adventures in first grade.  But you’ll have hard times too.  So here are some helpful rules:

1. Someone might make fun of your hair.  If they do, blame your mom – when it comes to hair, it’s always the mom’s fault (at least that’s what the kids on the playground think, so you can get away with blaming her).  But if it gets too tough, just call me and I’ll send you that picture of your dad – you know the one – with no teeth and the laser lights coming out of his head and the hair – sigh – he loved that hair (but we know better, don’t we?).  And when we laugh at how silly that was, we’ll feel better.

2. Sometimes the teacher will get mad at you.  Remember that that’s her job.  Tell her you’re sorry even if you aren’t – teachers like that – and who knows, maybe you really will be sorry.  They also like it when you do what they say.  They like that a lot!  But never, ever, ever, do something that’s wrong just because a big person tells you to.  That is not right and it is not okay.  And I will back you up 100%.

3. Sometimes you’ll be bored.  Learn to make a face that looks like it’s interested and let your mind travel wherever it wants.  Just remember #2 when you get caught (and you will sometimes get caught – and teachers really hate daydreaming).

4. When things get tough, just remember you’ll be 7 soon.  7 has it’s own problems, but it’s something to help you get through being 6 – trust me when I tell you this.

5. You may have to learn to fight, but it’s way better to learn how to laugh.  If you can get folks laughing with you, you’ll make friends out of enemies.  But don’t make fun of them – nobody likes that.

6. Cafeteria food will always be cafeteria food – it’s one of the punishments of being smaller than everyone else that you have to eat it.  But you’ll survive, so don’t sweat it.  And remember – everyone else has to eat the same food too.  And be nice to the people who make you the food – it’s not their fault the food is so bad.  And even if it is, everyone deserves to have someone be nice to them.

7. Always keep sharp pencils.  They’re so much more satisfying to write with.

8. Learn from everybody.  Everybody has something to teach you, even if it’s what not to do.  So when a classmate gets in trouble, pay attention.  And don’t do what he did.  Sometimes it’s really that simple.

9. Have fun learning.  You are smart and the world has much to teach you.  If you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask.  Most times, nobody else understands either.  They’re just too shy to ask.

10. Always remember to send Gran a copy of your report card and papers.  Gran loves to get mail and lots of times, there’s money in it for you.  That’s how Grans show grandsons how much they love them when they’re far away.

11. No secrets.  You’re too young to have secrets and anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t being good, so don’t you listen to them.

12. Finally, make friends with someone who doesn’t have any friends.  Maybe they’re too shy.  Maybe they’re not very nice.  Maybe they don’t smell so good.  Maybe they just need a friend.  If you want to have friends, you have to be a friend.  And remember to take up for kids who can’t take up for themselves, the ones who get picked on or yelled at, because they need friends more than anyone.  And you are a great friend for anyone to have.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sermon Cliff Note: Stewards of the Gospel -- It’s Love, Dammit!

Preaching Galatians 1.1-12

We human beings are stewards, caretakers, of many things during our time on this earth, for God has given us the duty, privilege and challenge of taking care.
Paul has established churches in Galatia with the gospel of The Risen One.  It is a simple gospel.  All one need do to accept Christ is . . . accept Christ.
Some other folks taught that  accepting Christ means accepting a whole host of old rules.  Paul proclaims that a gospel that adds more rules is no gospel at all, for the only gospel is Jesus . . . the only law is love.
The central message of the gospel is found in Paul’s opening words of greeting in Galatians: grace and peace.  As receivers of this divine grace and peace, we are become stewards, caretakers, of it.  It matters that we get it right.
Here is the center of the conflict: what is the authentic good news about the Jesus event?  Is the purpose as far as the Gentiles are concerned that they be able to become Jewish?  So some teach.
But relationship with God, Paul reminds, is not to be found by a shower-room inspection of body parts.  Besides how silly it is, to reduce all that Jesus has done to this, to make the gospel about not what God has done but about what we must do is to defame God and make an idol of our idea of God.
So whose approval are we to seek?  As Paul says, if I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.  We can hear Paul today two ways: (1) to please God through Christ is and will ever be displeasing to other people and (2) to please, to serve, Christ, is to be unmindful of the good opinion of others.
Both are true: when we serve Christ, there will be people who are offended and not all of them are outside the church.  And when we are in servanthood mode in our relationship with Christ, our own personal reputation won’t mean much to us.
Some say that the claim of grace, grace, nothing but grace is a cheap and easy religion.  My only answer to that is to try it.  There’s nothing easy about it.  But it’s not about easy.  It never was.  It’s about faithfulness.  It’s about joy.  It’s about love.
When we stop holding back, when we quit worrying about how others judge us, when we focus our sights on God and God alone, service to God and others may not be easier, but it is clearer.
The question for the early church was who are we and why are we here.  It’s the same for us today.  Who we are is God’s.  And why we are here flows from knowing whose we are.
Thus might we begin by understanding ourselves as stewards of the gospel, as called out by God to take care of the divine message and proclaim it truthfully, faithfully, with our own lives.  The only way we might even come close in doing that is to fling ourselves into the divine grace which Jesus calls love, claiming and reclaiming ourselves, all ourselves, as the beloved of God.
The second step, which flows always and only from the first, is to allow our hearts to be opened like the petals on a spring flower in bloom – opened to all that God has to provide, to give, to open ourselves to receive that which will change us beyond our wildest imaginings, change us into the very gospel we proclaim.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to Know You’re Religious: Hobby Lobby, Corporations, Personhood and Religious Liberty

So claims Hobby Lobby in its law suit against the obligations of what’s been nicknamed Obamacare: that the corporation is, under the laws of the United States, a ‘person’ and as a ‘person’, it is a religious ‘person’ with particular ‘religious’ belief which preclude it (he?  she?) from providing certain types of birth control insurance coverage to its employees.

So the question now seems to become whether a corporation, a legal ‘person’, can be ‘religious’.

Well, there actually are ways to know whether an actual (as opposed to a legal) person is religious:

1. To what religion does the person adhere?  When a person is religious, it’s actually an easy question to answer.

2. What church/synagogue/mosque/meeting house does the person attend?  Ditto #1.

3. What are the tenets of the religion to which the person adheres?  Ditto.  Whether they’re sensible to others isn’t actually the question.  But what the tenets actually are is.

4. What are the religious texts applicable to the person’s beliefs?  Ditto.

These are fairly straightforward questions for a genuine person.  But what does a corporation read?  Nothing.  It cannot read for it has no eyes.  What worship house does a corporation attend?  None.  It has no legs and a wheel chair will not help it get there.  Where does a corporation tithe?  (Trust me when I tell you that if this corporation were an evangelical ‘person’, it would be a person required to tithe.)  To what religious authority does the corporation submit for discipline?  A person’s behavior can and does come under the discipline of its religious authority.  But there is no body to discipline, for a corporation is an idea put to paper.  Ideas may be condemned, but they are notoriously difficult to discipline.  To what church/synagogue/ mosque does the corporation belong?  None.  It can’t.

Think this is silly?  Then let’s ask when the corporation was baptized.  To belong to any evangelical Christian church with which I am aware, one must be baptized.  It’s a non-negotiable.  I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to imagine what a corporation’s baptism would look like.

And there immediately arises a very practical differentiation that must need occur: this ‘exception’ that Hobby Lobby seeks, could always and only apply to privately-held corporations.  There are many such entities, but it is impossible (at least under currently existing laws as I understand them) for there to be anything approaching religious unanimity of the stockholders of a publicly-traded entity: in order for that to be so, save the extremely random element of chance, the entity would have to discriminate against those seeking to acquire publicly-traded stock on the basis of their religion.

And it wouldn’t be enough that the stockholders even be all Christian, for example: they would all have to be Christians of the particular view that birth control is wrong/sinful/immoral.

Public activities overseen by the government cannot discriminate against persons on the basis of their religion/religious beliefs.  That’s the very point of the law suit brought by Hobby Lobby.

And here’s the practical problem with even a privately-owned entity: how does one know that the claims of religiosity are universally held by the private shareholders?  Hobby Lobby says that in its trust documents, all trustees must be ‘Christians’.  It does not say that they must all be evangelical Christians who are against certain forms of birth control.  And I’m willing to bet (although I could be wrong) that there are at least a few women among the family that set this business up in the first place who actually have used the IUD (one of the forms of birth control that would be problematic according to their ‘theology’ – assuming women are given any voice in the company).

What the folks filing this law suit are actually trying to say is that some or all of the people who are stockholders (or in this case trustees) of the legal entity we call a ‘corporation’ themselves hold certain religious view which conflict with the obligations of Obamacare when it comes to providing contraceptive care insurance coverage.

I feel their pain.

When it came time to ‘sign up’ as a minister, I wanted to opt out of Social Security because I did not want to provide any monies to my federal government, directly or indirectly, that would be utilized for our war efforts.  Plain and simple, that violates each and every tenet of my faith as I understand it.

But then I read the rules of opting out.  What they said was that I had to be able to state (remember the part of Christianity that says your yes is to be yes and your no, no) that my religion prohibits participation in Social Security.  The fact is that my religion does not prohibit participation in Social Security.  Nowhere close.  So I had to participate.  Or I had to (at least be willing to) go to jail by simply refusing to comply.  I thought about that.  I still do, every tax day.  Thus far, I’ve not been willing to make that sacrifice.  That may make me a coward (trust me when I tell you that I feel that condemnation deep in my soul).  But it also makes it my choice.

I am a person.  Not a theoretical person.  An actual person.  And I am free to choose when, where and how to take my ethical stands.

If a corporation is a person, it too can make such decisions.  It can ‘decide’ to make a moral stand and face the consequences.  That, actually, and contrary to what Hobby Lobby asserts, is a choice.

Jesus never promised us good choices and neither did the United States Constitution.

So, Hobby Lobby, if you are a person and this really does violate your moral conscience, woman up and make the choice and face the consequences.

Religious people have been doing that for a very long time now.  You’ll be in good company.

But it’s a problem for you, isn’t it?  Because you’re not a person; you’re a legal fiction and your particular legal fiction sets your ultimate reason for existing the serving (financially) of your owners/stockholders/ trustees in a way that does nothing to hurt the financial standing of your shareholders (trustees).  It actually has a name, this concept:  fiduciary duty.

It would be immoral for you to violate that duty according to your own construct, your own reason for being.

What a conundrum that must be for you.

Monday, June 3, 2013

It's Been Too Long

It’s been too long
since I played
in the mud
danced in the rain
or on the ballroom
floor for that matter

It’s been too long
since I’ve been to
a slumber party
jumped on the bed
giggled my way
through the night

It’s been too long
since I woke up
laughing, giddy
with the promise
of a new day

It’s been too long
since I hugged
a tree and felt
it hugging me

I think I hear the
rain – time to get
out my dancing shoes