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Beware: Political Quicksand Ahead

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Slip sliding away....

Slip sliding away….

Quicksand is a colloid hydrogel consisting of fine granular material, clay, and water. Quicksand forms in saturated loose sand when the sand is suddenly agitated.

In other words, wow, did I walk into it this time.

I’m not particularly vocal about my political beliefs, though if I find a kindred, like-minded human I can wax on with the best of them. But I do go by the maxim that most individuals have their own take on politics and policies and I’m not likely to move them one way or the other.

With sorrow I report that not everyone adheres to that discipline.

I normally teach 4th to 6th grade students at our Lutheran church on Sundays between services, but Sunday the kids were at a weekend church retreat out-of-state, so I had an early out, so to speak, and was able to socialize with adults in the building next door during a ministry fair. I thought it a nice change after weeks in the classroom. I said hello to several friends and after a while drifted to the side of the room while waiting for my husband who was catching up with some of the guys. A gentleman struck up a conversation with me, beginning his discourse with his passion for fixing things and how he volunteers frequently at church for building maintenance.

As he spoke, I was congratulating myself for meeting someone new, taking an interest in his interests, and practicing my listening skills.

“He seems lonely,” thought I.

He continued to tell me how he has tinkered with the doors to make them safer, rescued stuck keys from unlikely places, changed lightbulbs in precarious positions.

“Really knows his stuff and glad he’s stepped up to take charge of these issues,” I mused.

Now retired, he ran through the path of his career and enlightened me about the intricate internal machinations of mounted cameras in his field of work.

“Well,” I reckoned, “no wonder he has this attention to detail. He’s a lifelong tinkerer.”

While I pandered to myself, I suddenly realized he’d jumped the shark. Now he was talking politics. My incessant nodding became less robust.

I became the civics teacher: “The President doesn’t hold the purse strings on that, Congress has the fiscal responsibility Our Congressman and Senator …”

Oh, he was familiar, by Jove. No, but he’d have none of that. In fact he began lecturing me. Giving me a treatise on how this country was spiraling down.

I’ve been taught to be kind to others; I’ve also been taught to be assertive. I was polite, but not to the point of agreeing.

Then came the quicksand. The discourse devolved as the saturated loose sand was suddenly agitated. “John” gave me all the talking points about why all guns should be legal and how We all should be packing and if We would all just do that We’d all be safe. He was including me in his we.

What I said was, “You and I don’t agree.”

He continued with his best persuasive speeches and I said, “Listen, my mother’s classmate died in that parking lot that Gabby Gifford was shot in last year.”

“Well, that will happen,” he said, “Nothing we could have done could have prevented it.”

“Really? If he — the shooter — had had a lesser caliber gun and had to reload, she would have lived, I think.”

He disagreed and told me about all the public officials who pack guns, basically implying “Then, why shouldn’t I?”

All I could think was, “Just why is he patting his hip right now? Didn’t anyone notice that I was a shade of light green right now with nausea?”

I said there was an armed guard at Columbine, and that didn’t prevent those horrors.

“Well,” he said, “It’s not a perfect system.”

I said, “I have taught for years” — Sunday School, not that he knew it — “And I would lay down my life for the kids, but is that really what we want from our teachers?”

Oh yes, he thinks that’s just how it should be.

He had made up his mind.

So have I.

It's harder than killing.

It’s better and hurts less..

Why didn’t I just say it?  Jesus just doesn’t want us to kill each other. He just doesn’t.

Now it’s back to the classroom and the students for me where I can teach love and not fear.

The State of the Higher Union

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My Guest Blogger today is ProgressivePapa

It’s a heartfelt message of love on Valentine’s Day and on our Journey of Lent.

The State of the Higher Union.

I encourage you to follow this gifted writer at http://www.progressivepapa.wordpress.com

Not All Who Wander Are Lost*

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I bound from book to book, leap frogging my bibliophile life to what strikes my mood or need. Sometimes this has a soothing effect on my psyche – other times more jarring to my mindset.

This week took me to what on the surface may seem dis-similar genres. I finished Jesus A New Vision by Marcus Borg and then immediately picked up The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

McCarthy, pretty sincerely, meant for his book to be a post-apocalyptic stark study of human beings that makes a case for desolate view of the indifference of the universe to the plight of man, a cosmic condition that he takes to be the “absolute truth of the world.”

Borg’s book is a portrayal of the historical man Jesus – a charismatic healer, sage, cultural leader, who lived in and within the divine Spirit bringing a new philosophy to the Jewish people. Borg states that Jesus did not come to create a new religion, but to re-shape faith.

Is it wise to make comparisons or connect the themes of these two books?

I’m not suggesting a debate between this historical Jesus with the fictional father and son in the Road – or between Borg and McCarthy, for that matter. It’s just that because I read them in such quick succession my mind wanted to build some parallels or bear down to the essential meanings.

For one – Jesus was straddling the old and new worlds, as are the main characters, father and son in The Road. When the father considers attempting to make the old world real to his son by telling stories about what used to be, he realized that the story is too difficult and sad to tell, the whole story is one that ends in loss. Yet he again and again is compassionate toward the boy modeling patient and loving behavior on The Road. While Jesus, in rebuilding the world of Judaism by deconstructing the cultural morays of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, also straddles an old and new world. Jesus seeks to show others that life should not be filled with rigid, authoritarian law, but instead pattern a new road that maintains the love of God while throwing off the man-made encumbrances that restrain the culture from treating one another with mercy.

For another – the business of being human characterizes each book. Father teaches the son not just to survive but what it means to be human. In The Road, the babe was born just after the apocalypse occurs and he has little notion of how to “be.” Throughout their travels, the father assures his son that “We are the Good Guys,” and “This is how the Good Guys do it.” Borg states that this is what Jesus is doing as well in countering the cultural leaps that the various Jewish leaders are taking the faithful down their roads. As the Roman Empire had conquered the land of Israel and Palestine and were intent on either changing the culture or crushing it, the Jewish leaders dictated a dogmatic adherence to Old Testament laws. Jesus showed disciples and followers how to be merciful, humane, compassionate. Each, in their way, have stepped out to tame the savageness of man and create a new world.

Yet there are contrasts: in The Road, the characters are making their journey through unchartered times and the Father must make some decisions that the boy questions, “Are we still the Good Guys?” the child asks after the father kills a gangster and later leaves another to starve.  By contract, Jesus challenges the Roman Empire with his non-violent resistance stance and thus martyrs himself to change the culture. Father and son face danger with a defensive stance in order to stay alive, while Jesus sacrifices his life. In the end the son and the Christian disciples are left – one to carry the fire and the others to follow it.

(Headline of Blog from JRR Tolkein)

The Gathering: Citizens with the Saints

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It’s actually here – The Gathering. That thing on the calendar that felt like it would never get here for Madeleine, our 15-year-old. Her dream of soaking up New Orleans in the cradle of jazz (at least to her mind) in the company of friends filled her with anticipation.

At the same time that corresponding trip for us has been a series of meetings, emails, fundraisers, a bit of anxiety – for me, it came up fast. Like life itself the young sense that time is dragging while the old(er) feel time accelerating.

Still, at the appointed time, the day came and now the adventure. Exactly what is this Gathering? The ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) Youth  Gathering  for 2012 is appropriately themed “Citizens with the Saints,” blending  the rich faith history, diverse cultures and arts of New Orleans with the convention’s mission to service the city’s public education system, shrinking wetlands and housing. Right now 35,000 Lutheran teens have converged on Louisiana’s Big Easy to collaborate with nearly 50 different organizations during its outreach efforts, including the New Orleans Recreation Department, New Orleans Community and Schools Organization, United Saints, St. Bernard Project, UNITY New Orleans, Beacon of Hope, Second Harvest Food Bank and Common Ground Relief to use their hands to embody the three core practices the youth will be exposed to: Discipleship, Peacemaking and Justice.

We saw off Madeleine, seven other church youth and two chaperones two days ago. Already we have word that they have been working on rehabilitating a home in one of the Katrina-affected parishes (still damaged and rotting after seven years) followed by a come-together gathering at the Superdome with all the attendees with community music and prayer.

The view from inside the Superdome.

What else will they encounter as individuals, a small group and as a sea of youth? Possibly life-changing, certainly memorable, Madeleine will have tales to tell and much to process. Will she experience the dream she had in her head, or not? We pray that it will it exceed her expectations or change her in positive ways.  Armed with still camera and video camera, she hoped to come home with a visual record of the five-day trip.

Improvising with skill, like the jazz city playing host, the adolescents will be sharing a multitude of viewpoints of faith, God, belief, spiritualism, and their own journeys and then blend that with their own internal faith. The hope is that the sharing of faith and working together in community will enable each participant to acquire those skills and use them to broaden their own stories as caring Christians for decades to come. And as Donald Miller says in his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I learned While Editing My Life:

“And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”

In Ephesians Chapter 2 we read: “Jesus is our peace. In his life and death on the cross, Jesus broke down the dividing walls so that we are no longer strangers and outsiders, but we are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. The foundation of God’s house was built of apostles and prophets, and Jesus, the cornerstone, holds it all together.”

My fervent hope is that we all get that – that Madeleine receive it now at The Gathering and/or through other experiences and many other times in her life. But more expansively, that we all use our life as a positive story that has meaning, glee, playfulness, justice, peace, connectedness and LOVE in Christ.