Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gratitude, Part 4

Here we are, Thanksgiving Day. I'm thankful for nothing today.

That's right - I'm thankful for nothing.

If it weren't for nothing, we'd have no sense of the something we do have. If it weren't for nothing, something wouldn't mean anything.

Of course, I'm playing with words here. The nothing that I'm speaking of, for sure, is the frame around the somethings that we really are thankful for today. When we think we have nothing, we really don't have nothing. We're just not thinking of the somethings that have been given to us. We need to reflect on absolute nothing to realize that we have been blessed.

In summary, then, I really am thankful for everything we have. This country is a greater blessing than many of us realize, something not to be taken for granted. Our families, with all the goofiness that they display sometimes, are blessings in ways that we often don't understand. Our jobs, our homes, all the things we are surrounded with, they're all blessings that we too easily overlook.

Thank God for the blessings we enjoy, and for this day when we can properly acknowledge the Source of all those gifts.

And that's what I'm thankful for today.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gratitude, Part 3

I'm thankful for gay people.

And illegal immigrants.

And super patriots.

And the poor and marginalized.

And others unnamed.

I say this because each of these groups of people force me to confront the sad reality of my Christian faith. That reality is this - given half a chance, I could go through life on autopilot, checking off various action items on my "Righteousness" checklist. Given half a chance, I'd never have to really deal with the people that aren't part of my Christian world. I could associate with the rest of the shiny, happy Christians, and never worry about the poor of the world, the dispossessed, the other.

Instead, each of these cohorts force me to realize that this a very big world, created by a loving God, who has made a multiplicity of people who don't fit into neat, well-adjusted boxes. The people in this world are a messy lot, filled with desires and ambitions, many of which are at odds with the Creator's goals. As a professed Jesus-person, I am commanded to have loving relationships with all these "others." I have to treat each of these groups as people, instead of faceless entities that I can conveniently ignore. So, my gratitude list is composed of the people who force me to keep my faith living and perhaps even a little raw, always ready to be surprised or maybe even shocked. No easy way out is available to me.

And that's what I'm thankful for today.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gratitude, Part 2

And here's the next thing I'm thankful for...

I'm thankful for the 50% divorce rate. Yep, I'm thankful that there are 50% of married couples - Christians and non-Christians alike - who decide that despite huge odds against a successful life together, they're sticking it out as a couple.

I suspect that this 50% endurance rate is going to be found to be pretty constant among straight couples as well as gay, for what it's worth.

There are a million different things that can undermine and damage a marriage to the point where the partners just don't want to continue the relationship. For that half of all married people who do endure though, I give thanks. You have inspired me to try to do what you've done. Thanks for all that inspiration over the years.

And that's what I'm thankful for today.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gratitude, Part 1

Since it's that time of year, and the holiday is rapidly approaching, it's time to be thankful for a few things.

I'm grateful, first, for the election that we had in this country earlier this month. Despite the outcome - some people liked it a lot, some people really were let down - we had an election that went ahead with very few problems. Compared to other parts of the world, our election went like a well-oiled machine. There was no civil unrest - that I'm aware of. There were no voters killed - that I know of. All candidates are accounted for - so far as I know.

Our ancestors gave us a system, modified from time to time over the years, that has worked fairly well. I'm grateful for their foresight, and for the dedication to perfecting our system that's occupied so much of our attention in all the years we've lived here.

And that's what I'm thankful for today.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I have found the secret to happiness.

I was talking to a co-worker the other day, and the conversation finally turned to the subject of what gave us pleasure. We had already decided that talking politics was a surefire way to lose whatever happiness or peace of mind we might have had. Talking religion, even though we didn't directly speak about that, is the same kind of subject - you are almost certain to be more agitated after the conversation than before it, and not in a good way.

Since we're both grandparents, we both agreed that playing with the grandchildren is a good way to get a smile plastered back on our faces. More than that, it will probably be a crooked, goofy-looking smile, if our experience is any guide.

So - what is this secret of happiness, and how does it relate to playing with your grandchildren? And what if you're too young to have grandchildren; what's the secret for you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Body Image Redux

Let's re-examine my last post, shall we?

Last time, I posited that perhaps the mob scene that is today's Christianity may be the way that it's supposed to be, with all the bickering about women's ordination, gay marriage, eternal security, papal infallibility, the gospel of prosperity, and so forth and so on. "The way it's supposed to be" is shorthand for a scenario that is moving according to God's plan for his church.

Well, once I had had a chance to talk to some friends about this idea, I was told by several of them that this whole concept was wrong, that God couldn't have intended for things to come to this pass of disunity and dissension.

I'm not convinced. Here are some further thoughts on what I originally proposed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Body Image

We may need to recalibrate our viewpoint.

I was driving to work yesterday, after having taken part in our weekly Lectio Divina service, and I was struck by a strange thought. What if the body is much larger than we had realized?

I'm referring to the "body of Christ" that Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 12. He says that just as a body has many parts, all interdependent, so too does the body of Christ, the church. It's made up of many individuals, many parts, all working together under the direction of the head.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Somewhere In Between

Somewhere in between is where we find ourselves.

This morning, like most Wednesday mornings, I took part in a weekly exercise at our church. We meet at 6:30 to practice Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading.

If you're not familiar with this practice, it's centuries old. It's been practiced by monastics and non-monastics alike for all this time, as a way of drawing closer to the mind of God in prayer and meditation.

Lectio, as we do it, involves reading a short passage of Scripture repeatedly in a group, slowly and deliberately. We chew over the words and listen to each reading until a word or phrase seizes our attention. When the reading has been completed, we take that word or phrase and journal about it, a writing prayer, slowing our minds to let the Spirit guide our thoughts. We may share the results of our journaling, or we may pass - it's an individual choice. We don't interrupt the speaker as he or she shares what focus they had; we don't try to evaluate, interpret, or "fix" the speaker. We share our prayers. All this takes place in the context of an abbreviated liturgy that begins and ends our time together.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


"Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing."

This sentence was in the Readings for the Office of Readings for Tuesday, November 2, 2010, All Souls Day. It's from a book by St. Ambrose on the death of his brother Satyrus.

I don't want to paraphrase what St. Ambrose wrote about. Instead, I want to share some thoughts I had as I've been meditating on that one sentence. For some reason, it's been sticking with me since I read it a few days ago, triggering associations and thoughts about just how necessary grace is.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


It's finally over.

The elections have been held, and the results, for the most part, have been announced. All that's left, really, for the winners, is to do what the voters want done.

I'm taking a break, short as it is, from my self-imposed exile from political commentary to advocate for what I hope is a universally adopted practice.

I want to see all of us, liberal, conservative, Tea Party, libertarian, whatever allegiance you claim, do what we need to do to make this representative democracy work. We need to let our elected officials know what we want. All of us!