Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The God of Melted Faces (and a little fruit salad)

Yesterday morning, I went to hear Frank Barker give an overview of Eschatology. He touched on many ideas during a short period of time. I left a little frightened and convinced that Tim LaHaye knows even less about theology than he does about sex. (And if you've read his book about sex, you know that is very little indeed.)

I'm left with an image of a schizophrenic God who seeks to save, but permits horrible things to happen to his people. I come to realize that I have a very small and pitiful faith. We have to have the faith that God does work things together for our good. This is difficult. We start from the place of wanting to have that faith.

Now for the salad.

David and I watched the gubernatorial debates on Monday night to see what the gubers had to say about the future of Alabama should they be elected. (Sorry, had to go there.) Bob Riley caught my attention by saying that the reason people in Montgomery keep making fun of Lucy and saying that she doesn't understand things is because she doesn't. After that, Lucy reminded me of a little wet chicken running around bawking loudly but saying little. I expected one of her handlers to come out and grab an egg from under her skirt. The debate gave me a new insight into sexism. Lucy really can't play with the Big Boy Gubers. She just didn't bring her big-girl game.

Next up was the debate of the candidates for lieutenant guber. I think that Luther Strange is, and I like the way that Little Jim Folsom taw-uk-s. There's something about him that I like even though he is probably as crooked as his little old grandma. I think he wears lipgloss.

Lucy Baxley for Gubernor!

Friday, October 27, 2006

An End to All Symbols

I spent the better part of this week in hospital waiting rooms doing all kinds of nothing with my mother and my sister. There is no day or night in a hospital. There is no way to gauge the hours as they pass. You count off Starbuck's lattes and churchy white-shirt visitors, but you can't remember what day it is or what you would have been doing if you were not here. Towards the end of the week, I could barely even remember who I am. I remember my identity by bowing to the icons of the life I've made. This comes as a frightening surprise.

It's a normal part of human development to wear identities like sweaters, periodically discarding and leaving them wadded on the floor of your mind's closet. You're selling a notion of yourself and people buy it. It's a firm deal and difficult to undo even after life leaves you naked to figure out who you are and who you were. And in this situation, as in so many others, the last comes first.

In the beginning, God was. The Light was with Him and the Light was Him. I think I might have been there, too. I knew something of God before I ever went to church. I think this Created Self is a mask for the self that was made by God somewhere before it got this body and this name. I have a feeling this Soul called "Susan" and this Soul called "David" met each other somewhere back in the darkness of a newly created world. I realize I am who He made me to be. The Bread of Life puts an end to all symbols. I realize I don't need an icon. I don't need an image. His atonement brings me the actual Christ with actual outstretched arms and I am an actual Soul in need of Him.

So, who would I be without my hair, without my clothes, without my friends, without my house, without my car, without my church, without my nationality, without my history? A Soul in His arms. And that's all I ever needed to be.

Something weird happened in the publishing of this entry, and I hope it didn't mess up your RSS feeds. If it did, I'm sorry. :-(

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Panis Angelicus--Or The Song My Nephew Sang at Our Wedding (Significance to be Explained Later)

St. Thomas Aquinas

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis caelicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
manducat Dominum
Pauper, servus, et humilis.
Te trina Deitas
unaque poscimus:
Sic nos tu visita,
sicut te colimus;
Per tuas semitas
duc nos quo tendimus,
Ad lucem quam inhabitas.

Bread of Angels,
made the bread of men;
The Bread of heaven
puts an end to all symbols:
A thing wonderful!
The Lord becomes our food:
poor, a servant, and humble.
We beseech Thee,
Godhead One in Three
That Thou wilt visit us,
as we worship Thee,
lead us through Thy ways,
We who wish to reach the light
in which Thou dwellest.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Grief, Hope & their little girl, Tenacity

I got to try on a new hat this week. I got to be the Poster Child of the Opposition.

It's a role I'm not familiar with. I'm a soul steeped in compliance and broiled in reticence. "I'm sorry for being here," I say. "I'm sorry for taking up so much of your time to voice an opinion of mine ," I say. Once, I even went to see a counselor and apologized the entire time for talking so much about myself. (Which really indicated to both of us how much I needed to be there.)

This week, it occurred to me that I've rarely voiced an opinion that hasn't been preceded by an apology of some sort or another. Never. At least not that I can think of. And what I've learned is that is when you say something apologetically, people automatically find a reason to take offense. So, I quit. Suddenly and cold-turkey without the methadone of reflection. I said something cogent and true and honest without apology. And then, I cried. Later, I had a lot of "I hope you felt heard" comments from a few different people. And I wholeheartedly appreciated that, but I don't really know if I felt heard or not. It wasn't the point. (Since when is "being heard" any kind of comfort? I don't know that I want to "be heard" anymore. I just want to be taken seriously.)

The O. Henry ending to this story is that I ended up feeling alright about it. It didn't come without a fair measure of grief, though, and I learned that sometimes we grieve over the right decisions. And that's not a bad thing. Grief isn't a Harbinger of Doom. Grief isn't an enemy to avoid. Grief is a friend in a black coat. It's the tunnel we travel from the gloom of the locker room to the sunshine of the field. Stretch that metaphor a little. It rings true.

There's been something else to grieve about this week, but I'm coming to the end of my scheduled blog time, so I'll stop. Suffice it to say that this week, I've learned something about the relationship between grief and hope. Grief might be the watchman of the night, but hope comes in the morning. I'm surprised by my capacity to hope. It's directly proportional to the depth of my grief. And that, somehow, makes it hard to be afraid of anything.

And you would think now hope would be tired, but it's alright.
You would think now hope would be tired but it's alright
You would think tired, ragged and oil-brown
but it's alright...Karen Peris

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Very Very Mad World

Have you ever looked into someone's life and wondered why God forgot about you?
I have.
Why do people in bad marriages find it so easy to make babies? Why do people who don't work hard make so much money? How do mean people get so many others to listen to them?

I used to get depressed about it and I would comfort myself by thinking you never know what's going on behind the curtains! I would feel a little bit better, but I didn't really believe it. Until I actually looked behind the curtain and saw for myself.

You know what? It wasn't a comfort. I wasn't pleased. I saw that shame and I was shamed. I saw that poverty and I was poor. I had seen the fall of Colossus and the camelback transport to Syria. There's no comfort in the proof of those old maxims.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Communion of the Saints

Lately, I've been wondering about the Communion of the Saints. I've been saying "I believe in the Communion of the Saints" as a part of the Apostles Creed since I was a child, but this is the first time I've ever been curious about the meaning of these words. (This is a two-fold shame. First, that I never wondered and second, that I was never told.)

What I found was an overwhelmingly pleasant surprise. I haven't been lying all these years. I really do believe in the Communion of Saints.

Communion of the Saints doesn't mean, as the Catholic Church says, that the Glorified Saints (those who are already dead) are able to pray for us and interceed to Christ on our behalf. No, the Communion of the Saints means something better. It means that Christians are bound together by love and have full participation in each other's gifts and graces. It means that we're in it together. It means we recognize our obligation to be a family to each other. It means we work together for our common good.

My soul is tied to yours. My gifts are there for you to use. My grace is shared with you and it's my responsibility to care for you and bring good to your life. And it's your responsibility to do the same for me.

I believe that the members of Red Mountain Church could benefit from a second-- or first-- look at the Communion of the Saints. I think it's one of our underpinning values. In fact, the Communion of the Saints and the belief that the Gospel changes everything might be the values we hold most dear. I desire to move toward a greater understanding of the Communion of the Saints and allow Jesus to weave that understanding in to the fabric of my life. It's beautiful. It's noble. It's true. I shall think about it.

All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by His Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with Him in His grace, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other's gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.

Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offers opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

This communion which the saints have with Christ, does not make them in any wise partakers of the substance of His Godhead; or to be equal with Christ in any respect: either of which to affirm is impious and blasphemous. Nor does their communion one with another, as saints, take away, or infringe the title or propriety which each man has in his goods and possessions.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006