Illusions of Everything

Wholeness comes as we have everything, or so we are told.
When having less or next to nothing, grows a half-person to whole.

What makes a person whole or complete?  For my life to be whole must I fill it with everything possible?  Or is it just the opposite  – If my life is full of everything, I am less likely to be whole and may even be deficient?  I am beginning to think the later is the case.  Having everything impoverishes wholeness.

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Imagio Dei

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk or jew.
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.
-William Blake

The human forms I encounter along the way are creatures formed by God, to reflect his image.  No matter the extent to which that image has been rejected or marred, traces of it remain in every person I chance upon.  My task is not to assess how neglected or perverted God’s image is but acknowledge its presence and embrace it in each person.

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Rest, Resent, Resign

Demons!  They lurk in every corner of life, waiting to capture and possess mind, heart and soul.  Demons are legion, but I know a few of them by name – fear, conformity, anxiety, and deceit.  These enemies do not have power to make me say bad things or act in awful ways, but they are able to entice me to speak and act in ways that are deceitful and selfish.  They watch and wait for the opportunity to influence or turn me. Continue reading

People and Stuff

The key is to live fully with the people around you and the stuff that finds you
and not to worry about who or what could or should be.

With every turn, at each stage, new people and different stuff come our way.  Some of these are of our choosing, and others choose us.  One key to living fully is to love those in front of us and to lean into stuff dealt us.  Some people and stuff come to us by chance or via the natural course of life (transitions, aging, etc.)  In some cases, however, I believe God gives us colleagues at work, registers students in our classes, arranges conversations, and places us in conflict – for a larger, divine purpose.  I am unable to say to what extent and exactly how God is involved in the people and stuff of life, but I choose to believe he is.  This causes me to see my students, colleagues, the clerk at the store, my travel agent, and the dental assistance in a redemptive light and allows me to lean into sickness, disappointments, conflict, and difficult assignments with purpose and reason.

The sum of the matter is that ‘could be’ and ‘should be’ detract from people and stuff right in front of me.  Could and should become excuses for not being present with people and neglecting difficult situations.  While some may label such a view as passive resignation, I see it as active resistance against cynicism and resolute determination to find hope and love within every turn of life – whatever the stuff, whoever the person.

 

Righteous Deeds

Ancient wisdom from Jesus ben Sira:

Let us now sing praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations … Some of them have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise. But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them. But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten …
(Sir. 44:1, 8-10, cited by Thomas O’Loughlin, Discovering Patrick, p. 41)

Should you and I feel we have not been sufficiently recognized, have not made the media parade, or might soon be forgotten once we are gone, Jesus ben Sira reminds us that righteous deeds are never forgotten.  He would tell us that the reason for righteousness is not notoriety, our aim is not Twitter, and our reward is not praise.  There exists in the righteous deeds themselves ample reason, aim and reward.

A Chorus of Witnesses

One of the characteristics of modernity, according to Anthony Giddens (The Consequence of Modernity, p. 27), is the rise of “expert systems” of “technical accomplishments or professional expertise that organize large areas of material and social environments in which we live today.”  This phenomenon gives us systems and experts we can trust and benefit from without having intimate understanding of huge areas of knowledge.  So, whether the professional is a lawyer, doctor, or counselor, we trust the expert knowledge of that professional and their system.

It is obvious what this modern mindset has done to church life.  Along with areas such as medicine, law, and psychology, ministry and missions have been professionalized.  Christianity has developed special bodies of knowledge that only the initiated and professionally trained can access and utilize.  And thus, ministry and missions are entrusted to the professionals.  The laity, in turn, lives, works and plays in the world, at a distance from the church as experts in their jobs and specialties but not in ministry and missions.  This professionalization impacts the way in which the church interacts with the world in at least three ways. Continue reading

Living Privileged

What a privilege it is to age.
Fullness awaits us at each stage; hope on every page.
The key is to live, truly live and remain with heart and voice engaged.

Old age does not come to everyone.  Some die young, before their time.  These young ones live as if they have all the time in the world.  And yet, death, the unexpected and uninvited intruder, robs them of experiences and cancels their plans.  The more conscious ones among us will do everything we can to increase our chances against death – eat healthy, exercise daily, drive safely, lather sunscreen abundantly – and still we cannot beat the odds.  Sooner or later, death comes.  So, whether you and I live beyond our teens, into our 30s, or up to 80, it is as privilege, as pure grace that we grow older.  It is truly a privilege to age.

So, how dare I hold back or postpone living for another time?  It is exactly because life is a privilege that I am obliged to live fully in each stage and into every turn.  Others may not or cannot, but privilege tells me I must live with full heart and voice into life.  For certain, life is full of hard stuff that provides ample reason to pull back or disengage.  And yet, experience tells me that the key to navigating the good and the bad is to live in the awe of privilege.

As I live into my 60s and as my mind and body brace for the challenges of decay and feebleness, to live privileged means I stay engaged with people, take on new challenges, and give myself to big and worthwhile causes.  And while living privileged does not make me the exception to the rule or give me license to live a wasteful or foolish existence, it certainly gives me permission to live strong and deep into everything and everyone around me.

If you and I shrink from living privileged, age will surely curse us and ultimately consume our hope.  So, with gusto say with me – ‘What a privilege it is to age!’

Hacked

Well, it happens.  I have been hacked.

Some hacker, like an invading, worming demon, took possession of my blog and then with fiendish delight distributed malicious ads via my RSS feedburner.  For what reasons people do this, I do not have a clue – money, control, grins, or the challenge.  For you who were victims of his (or her) ploys, I apologize!  JaysonB, my maharishi for all things related to blogs (and a number of other matters), cleaned up the mess and gave mereHope a bolder and more readable look.  Thank you Jayson.

Now that I am safe and security, updated and improved, I intend to be a bit more regular with postings.  I hope you will stay connected and keep reading and commenting.  Let me know how you like the new look.  Mike