Author Archives: watchingthespaces

About watchingthespaces

I like to watch the spaces between the things that other people see, the overflowing gaps and the chock-full emptiness.

Control

Stuff happens…we all say that, and we wish we didn’t have to, but it’s true. We lay out plans and work to make them happen. We pump ourselves up with all kinds of encouraging rhetoric about being masters of our fate. We think of all the permutations and implications and address each one. And then something happens, someone else makes a choice, and it all slips through our fingers like sand. Yelling and screaming often helps, as long as we get past it and don’t slip into the blame game trap. (How can you really blame people for using their God-given, precious, sacred capacity for free will?)

We talk about God having a plan for our lives, and we are most happy when we find it and walk in it. We imagine that God has done what we do, and carefully crafted our future, except that now we imagine that have the Almighty doing it for us—and who can mess that up, right? Another trap.

I think the Almighty has one single plan, and it applies equally to every human being, in fact, every living and (supposedly) non-living thing: To become fully who we are. For us humans, it’s to become fully human. “Fully human” means to use that God-given, precious, sacred capacity for free will in loving, self-giving service to the rest of creation, like what we Christians see in Jesus. “Inhuman” is to use that gift for selfish, ego-driven, others-controlling ends. In other words, in a funny sort of way, becoming who we are means letting go of who we thought we were. Control only comes through giving up control. Jesus said, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”1

So, do we just drift through life, swimming aimlessly through the soup of wills, colliding, impacting and changing one another, with no real view of any end that is desirable in any way? Another trap! We do live in such a soup, but there is an end in sight. We must learn to surrender, to work toward becoming who we really are, to work toward making society a place where people are as free as possible to become who they really are, and to stand up to those who would use their free will to limit the emergence of who we all really are. We Christians call this the Kingdom of God.

1 (Matthew 16:25 NRSV, the saying is also found in Mark and Luke)

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Reinventing the Wheel

Sometimes the wheel needs reinventing. Prince Harry’s engagement to American actress, Meghan Markle, would have been unthinkable 50 years ago, but Harry’s mother and father each in their ways have challenged the profile of what it means to be a Royal in Britain. I remember several years ago when there were comments in England about not needing the Royal Family anymore. Diana’s two boys, I believe, have re-galvanized the British people’s love affair with their ancient traditions, reinventing the royal wheel.

Society is reinventing the wheel. In this day it seems everything is up for grabs. Perhaps things go badly when people do grab, but when people sit down and think and talk with one another and work out new formulas and ways of understanding that honor people widely then the reinventing comes up with another kind of wheel, one that might roll into the future better than the old models.

Organized religion of all stripes is no exception. Those forms that cling to past ways as if they were the only way to stay true to the ancient traditions are finding themselves either marginalized or distracted by short-term fixes. On the one hand, there are mainline denominational congregations whose median age is well over mandatory retirement, who want young people to come—as long as they act like they do. On the other hand, some congregations draw gargantuan attendance on Sundays to sell soft-shell faith in a lot of navel-gazing narcissism that passes for spirituality. The first will die its natural death. The second soon becomes victim of passing fads. Real spirituality must be worked out in trusting and trusted community in honest, open dialog about what is true and what is real.

Reinventing the wheel is hard work, but it is the difference between a bleak and a bright future.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Family

Yesterday the bishop visited us. He confirmed and received 11 new people into the church. He rode on our Good Shepherd float in the lighted Christmas Parade the night before. The music in the service was glorious. There was a big cake. We had a blast.

Every time the bishop comes to visit I get a sense of family. We gather as a congregational family and lay out our finest. We celebrate new members. We talk about who we are and what we’re doing as a family. The bishop’s presence also reminds us that we are members of the larger family of the diocese, and through his representative role, with the whole Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Communion worldwide.

Family, I need not say, is extremely important. Some of the saddest people I know are those who do not believe they have any family. They are profoundly alone, and being alone means not knowing who you are. If you don’t know who you are you don’t know what to do. There is no way to be human when you don’t have a community. So, it is in family that we know who we are. It is in family that we tell our story. It is in family that we learn to get along—after all, you don’t choose your siblings or your parents. It is in family that we are who we are.

How poignant, then, is the family of God, in which bloodlines are overcome by self-giving love!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Boots

If I had attended grade school 20 years later than I did I would have probably been diagnosed with some sort of “speeded-up life” diagnosis. I find that my stride is usually faster than others. My mind races from crazy conclusion to obscure connection that often leaves others bewildered and lost. I have a tendency to overbook myself, and I drive the speed limit (or a teensy-weensy bit over it) most of the time.

Then I moved to New Mexico and began wearing cowboy boots. Boots are heavier than shoes. They take more energy to swing through a stride. Now I step out more slowly, and I find that it paces more than just my stride. It has a way of reminding me to pace my thoughts and my responses, and even my gas pedal. I take longer with each thought before I dash off to the next, and I find my thoughts are more considered and complete before I give them voice. I find the pace of quiet in the morning has become essential to my being. With boots, each stride is longer, because that is a more efficient way of walking with boots on. I find myself looking further down the road, and striding out my life in longer pieces. Plans are more complete, more “doable.”

Thank God for boots!

(Now, if I can only pace my deserts over the next two days…)

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Accents

Is it “AY-men,” or AH-men”? Is it “HARR-ass-ment,” or “ha-RASS-ment?” However you say it, it’s all over the news. Powerful men have been called on the carpet for their behavior with powerful women. I’m sure that for some of them it comes as something of a surprise—why now, after all these years? For others, they probably knew better and just didn’t do better. But as Paul Harvey suggests, there’s always more to the story.

First, let’s not get anachronistic. We would never dream of allowing one of our soldiers to forcefully bring home a cute young thing from Afghanistan, yet check out Deuteronomy 21:10-14. In the day, this was responsible behavior, written into the Torah as God’s will for God’s people. To expect that what constitutes sexual harassment today crosses the lines of yesterday is not fair to history. Times change. Did these men cross ethical lines? It seems highly likely, but don’t blame the past for the present. It’s not a very good moral argument. We need to judge today in terms of today.

Second, Leann Tweeden has teeth in her head, doesn’t she? There are powerful steps each woman can take (and ought to) to fend off behavior that is offensive. Going public is certainly one of them. It is vitally important to uncover retaliatory efforts and to bring the topic to the table of public discourse in pursuit of justice. (For example, special treasury funds to settle conflicts like this are a total misuse of taxpayer money!) In addition, the confident refusal, or, when forced, the use of options to fight back must be used as well. Training is important for ALL parties in this scandal.

Third, I wonder where the women harrassers are? There is the specter in every thinking man’s mind that the woman he finds attractive and that is acting seductively might turn out to be a Delilah. It’s doubly deceptive when just enough women truly try to seduce powerful men simply because they find powerful men attractive. Women have always had more power than what many women give themselves credit for. I’m waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Finally, as our social synthesis changes and the accents that make sense in our acceptable patterns of sexual behavior are renegotiated, let’s be really, really careful about scapegoating anyone. Scapegoating blames the innocent for the sins of the many, and then often turns and idolizes the victim in an effort at redemption. Neither is healthy, neither is truthful, and none of it is helpful. Nobody is entirely evil, nobody is entirely good. We need to see each person for who they are and let the accents that they bring to the table be seen in the full light of day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Best

My dissertation is with the readers and they have three weeks to comment and get back to my advisor. I don’t expect to hear anything until mid-December. On the way to church yesterday there was a beautiful immature Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a power pole. I could have come back and trapped her in a heart beat and been back into my favorite hobby—falconry. BUT…I have a permit to trap a Goshawk up in the Gila Forest. It’s a lot harder to find a Goshawk to trap, and harder to get them in hand, but I’ve never trained a Goshawk before, and I’m itching to do so. Besides, I spent $7 on the permit, and to trap a Red-Tailed Hawk would waste that money. I let the local bird sit on her pole contentedly in the morning chill. I may not even catch a Goshawk, but I intend to try.

The best is always a risk. It requires reaching beyond the sure. There are no guarantees, only the knife-edge between failure and glory. Of course, it is not always a 50/50 chance. There is that which tips the balance one way or the other, not the least is the relative magnitude of the glory vs. the failure risked. In my case the chances of actually trapping a Goshawk are not very high, really, but then the stakes are not all that high, either. If I go a season without a hawk—well, I’ve done that before and I survived. No biggie.

There are other risks, however. The risk for the best can be a knife-edge between life and death, survival and disaster, or deceptively seen as tough vs. excluded. At its truest, however it is the risk between the beauty of a soul that has found it’s place vs. the tragedy of emptiness and bitterness.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Chances

I just noticed a bunch of raffle tickets I purchased to benefit Cerebral Palsy research sold by the Elks Club back in the late summer. The drawing was September 30th—six weeks ago. Obviously, I took a chance and I did not win. I didn’t buy them to win, because I never do. I never go to Las Vegas, either, because it would be a total waste of money, because I never win those kinds of things. I bought them to benefit a worthy cause. So, I did win in the end, didn’t I?

Chances are not what they appear to be. When we take a chance, we think we know the possible results, but in the end, we never really do. There are always alternative options for outcomes that we haven’t anticipated. There is always what happened, and then there is what happened next. And as Aslan told the kids in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we’re never told what might have happened. We live and move and have our being in a complicated, multi-stream braid of causes and effects. We play the game of chance whenever we get in the car to go somewhere, choose to eat at a certain restaurant, or put on certain cloths in the morning. There’s no escaping the matrix, even if you can see it. So, what do we do? Do we just blast or coast through life, never looking either back or forward very far, taking it on the chin or on the shoulder, whatever chance sends our way? Or do we strive our very best to grab as many lines of control as possible, and try to manipulate the system? Do we fight or fly?

I say that we do neither. The choice to buy the raffle tickets does more than benefit a worthy cause; it does something inside the buyer. Our choices either move us toward Goodness or away from it. Here, at least, we have control—in fact, in the end this is the ONLY control we really have. All else is merely influence, and influence is at least partly a function of the control we have in our own inner being. If there is chaos within we will probably have chaotic influence. If there is order and goodness within we will most likely influence the world for order and goodness. How others respond is out of our control, but not theirs.

So, you makes your choice and you takes your chances…and you reaps the consequences of the character of your choices, and then you makes your choice again…. Herein is the color and fascination of living!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized