a new definition

ok…this one comes to you a little later than i planned…it’s about last sunday’s sermon and a new(?) definition of eternal life…

“and this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (john 17:3)

so eternal life is knowing God…and believing that Jesus was the one whom God sent…and receiving Jesus as that one…

if that is true…we need to rethink our paradigms about eternal life. it is not fire insurance. it is not our free ticket to heaven. it is knowing and being known by the God who created us. and knowing and being known even now…not in some far off place in the future that we reach when we die…it is now.

why would anyone want to know God? why do i? (do i?) why do i want to participate in God? why be part of this life that lasts forever (beginning now)?

i think it’s because i believe that all of life is sacred…that life is holy…that we are all connected…that all of life is connected in God. because of the character/nature/economy of God…the love and nature of God…to love and live as Christ loved and lived…among all people…because i believe in that kind of love and that kind of living (though i don’t tend to do it myself as much as i would like).

and if the words Christ has spoken will be my judge, how, then, shall i live?

and another thing: if Jesus made everyone accessible to God, who are we to exclude anyone? who are we to deny anyone that access?

i don’t like the library

strange coming from a bibliophile…but.

i gave up buying books for lent. painful. like telling my husband he can’t have coffee for 40 days. so i’m relegated to the public library…which is not altogether a bad thing. they have all their stuff on-line and you can check out the catalog before going so you make a worthwhile trip rather than going for a book that’s not there. you can even renew books online…yay. so i went online and looked for several books in which i am interested in reading…most of them were not in or were on order. so i put my name in to hold them. which also can be done online. and then they email to say the books are in…great.

until…

you get a brand new book that’s 357 pages long and is really great (the bastard of istanbul…check it out…no pun intended) but at this point, it’s a 7 day loan. i have to return it tomorrow…and i’m only halfway through. of course…if it’s late in the day tomorrow, it will still be tomorrow…

can i do it? can i really finish this great book in less than 24 hours?

meaningless, meaningless…

i think i caught a glimpse of what the writer of ecclesiastes was feeling when he wrote that everything is meaningless. we are here for a moment and the moment is gone. so what’s the point of anything?

i don’t mean to sound nihilistic…because that’s not how i felt. i simply realized how short life is. we are all one breath away from death, not knowing when or how it will sneak up on us. even if i live a long, healthy life, it is merely a blink relative to eternity. so…why do we bother? why do we run around trying to achieve and earn the degrees to get the job to get the money to get the stuff? why do we live life at warp speed? there’s wanting to do a lot of stuff there’s that much you want to see, touch, learn, experience…and then there’s running around like the proverbial headless chicken because you feel like you have to. what’s the point of that part? why do we work ourselves into an early grave from the stress of living a life we weren’t intended to live?

yes, ladies and gentlemen, i am–and have been for off and on for some time–dealing with my own mortality here. the question worth asking (among the many) is: how do i want to use this time? what do i really want to get out of it? what do i really want to give it?

this whole how do i make the most of this time question unexpectedly burrowed its way into my being and is unwilling to leave…so…in an attempt to not try to outdistance that which is running inside me, i’m trying to work with it. i opened one of our many already packed boxes (more on the move another time) and pulled out wayne muller’s how then shall we live? it’s on loan from a dear friend…as are several other books in my stash. muller centers the book around “the questions that shape our lives”. even if you don’t read the book, they are good questions to ask…

  • who am i?
  • what do i love?
  • how shall i live knowing i will die?
  • what is my gift to the family of the earth?

i don’t really think everything is meaningless…i’m just looking for ways to find and make meaning while i have the opportunity to do so.

just don’t mess with free will

bruce almighty was on the other night and we watched it. it had been a while since i saw the movie and i have to say there’s some good theology in it. that was saturday night.

sunday morning, in sunday school, we talked about self-discipline and self-control and got on the issue of having some sort of regular prayer and/or regular bible study time. my heretical husband suggested that maybe the reason it’s so hard for us to establish a regular prayer/study time is that we don’t like to do it. he likened it to having to talk to his grandparents on the phone as a child vs. as an adolescent. as a child, you want to talk to your grandparents and tell them what you did that was so great. as an adolescent, it was a chore to talk to them; you did it because your parents made you and you were off the phone as soon as humanly possible–if not sooner. for many of us now, prayer feels like a chore. and it’s hard to have a conversation with someone who says very little, if anything at all. last time i checked, that was considered a monologue.

i have my own reasons for not wanting to sit down and pray, though i think that is changing and perhaps some motivation to do so is seeping in. i hope that is the case.

back to the movie: God (in the form of morgan freeman) tells bruce to pray. bruce offers up a sort of laundry list prayer–typical format for most of us when we try to have a regular prayer time. then God tells bruce to try it again. to say a real prayer this time. and bruce does. earnestly, honestly, vulnerably, transparently. “now that’s a prayer.” perhaps that is what God would rather have from us…not so much the daily laundry list and we’re done sort of prayer, but the earnest, vulnerable, honest, transparent prayer–whatever form that takes. and perhaps it doesn’ t have to happen everyday. perhaps it doesn’t have to happen for a prescribed length of time. perhaps we have been given the spiritual capacity to know when we need to actively pray and when we need to simply be present. perhaps we get to decide on our own when and how to pray.

the hard part, i think, for most people is that they “don’t know how.” everyone wants someone to tell them exactly what to do…how to pray, how to study scripture, when to do so, what’s the formula for getting it right? so much for wanting that ability to work it out on our own. i believe that’s part of that free will thing…

bruce was given all of God’s power to do what he deemed necessary. the only real instruction was “just don’t mess with free will.” free will is a funny thing. it, like the humans who possess it, is inherently good but capable of so much bad. free will is what lets us grab life by the horns and find our own way through it. it’s also what allows someone to make the decision that one person’s medical situation is just not that critical, leading to death.

we are free to live with God’s painfully limited intervention. some days i appreciate that freedom. others not so much. like so many of us humans, i want free will…but not really…but…

we are free to choose how we will live and how we will love and what we will do with whatever grain of hour glass sand is ours. we have the option of participating in God or not; to pray or not; to love or not; to honor all of life or not. bidden or not, free will is here to stay. what will we do with it?

maybe all of this sounds somewhat schizophrenic. i hope not. if it does, i hope you are able to sift through and find something worth chewing on.

a sense of entitlement

i went to the chiropractor’s office yesterday and when i walked in, there was a little girl sitting patiently in the waiting room all by herself. she couldn’t have been more than 4. in a few minutes, her grandmother came out, having finished her appointment, and had her granddaughter join her at the counter. everyone remarked about how well she sat by herself, and her grandmother commented that she would have to treat her granddaughter for behaving so well. at that point, this little voiced piped up: “hold me.”

in our consumerist society filled with children (and their parents) who have this overwhelming sense of entitlement, it was pretty cool to hear that child ask for nothing more than to be picked up and loved on for being so well-behaved. and aren’t we all entitled to being held just for being us.

embrace the suck

it’s interesting what you learn from npr. the title of this post is a phrase used by the military as part of their slang milspeak. other, perhaps more familiar, terms include FUBAR (f***ed up beyond all recognition), SNAFU (situation normal: all f***ed up), LPC (leather personnel characters…better known as boots), and more i can’t think of right now…the joys of growing up in a military town. on npr last thursday, there was an interview with a former reservist who was in iraq in 2004 and more recently published a pamphlet updating the milspeak. it’s entitled “embrace the suck” — essentially translated, “it’s tough, deal with it.” other personal favorites include:
“back to the taxpayers”: Navy slang for where a wrecked aircraft gets sent.
Groundhog Day: Every day of your tour in Iraq. Terms suggests the days never change—always long and hot, and the same events keep recurring. From the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. John Wayne Driving School: Banging up a Humvee in the process of teaching new soldiers to drive it.
Ranger candy: An 800-milligram Motrin (ibuprofen) pill.
sand box/sand pit: iraq.

and while i usually listen to npr in the mornings, i have been changing the dial between 10-12 to avoid the diane rehm show because she seems to talk about nothing besides iraq.

i’m reading state of denial and having a hard time staying with it even though it’s an incredible book and very well written.

i’ve said all this to say: i’m tired of hearing about iraq, iran, the war of terror, afghanistan, sunnis and shias, insurgents and the other noun that have made their way into our daily speech. however, while we simply hear about those things ad nauseam, we do not live it everyday. for that i am most grateful. i cannot imagine the atrocities being committed and witnessed by the men, women and children who find themselves trapped in a seemlessly neverending situation. it’s not fair for any of them. it’s not fair for the families of troops who stay here while they say their good-byes more regularly than they should at the revolving doors of most of our bases. again, i have to say i like the approach suggested in all quiet on the western front: let’s just put the national leaders in a ring and let them duke it out themselves. those affected by war are in the overwhelming majority while those who create it sit in their nicely furnished and well-insulated (and i’m not talking about the itchy, fuzzy pink stuff) palaces, houses, what have you. let them become more involved in the conflict they escalate.

of course, regardless of who each of us is in this mess, we need to learn how to embrace the suck. perhaps then we can actually figure a way out.