Month: October 2006

Jackrabbits leading the way …

Last week Bill Moyer’s hosted, "Is God Green?" Some folks announced it would be on at the Emergent Gathering and Micah sent me a text that he and Kristen were watching and it was good. I found it on the Internet and watched it today. It dovetails with another portion of Marilynne Robinson’s, Gilead.

The narrator is telling his son how he met his wife, his son’s mother. As the story unfolds one discovers this widower pastor falls for a young woman who visited the congregation. During her discovery of church and the instruction that followed some ladies interjected their views.

    Two or three of the ladies had pronounced views on points of doctrine, particularly sin and damnation, which they never learned from me. I blame the radio for sowing a good deal of confusion where theology is concerned. And television is worse. You can spend forty years teaching people to be awake to the fact of mystery and then some fellow with no more theological sense than a jackrabbit gets himself a radio ministry and all your work is forgotten. I do wonder where it will end.
    But even that was for the best, because one of the ladies, Veda Dyer, got herself into a considerable excitement talking about flames, that is, perdition, so I felt obliged to take down the Institutes and read them the passage on the lot of the reprobate, about how their torments are "figuratively expressed to us by physical things," unquenchable fire and so on, to express, "how wretched it is to be cut off from all fellowship with God." I have the passage in front of me. It is alarming, certainly, but it isn’t ridiculous. I told them, If you want to inform yourselves as to the nature of hell, don’t hold your hand in a candle flame, just ponder the meanest, most desolate place in your soul. (Robinson, Gilead,p.208)

Listening to some who want to deny the effects of the way in which we have lived into the "dominion and rule" of creation seems a bit obtuse and I wonder just where it is they find the theological moxie to pack into the Creation Mandate affirmation to rape the earth. One of the "experts" who wanted to rule all talk of global warming as left wing mumbo jumbo finds some sordid way in which God judges the earth via the irresponsibility of human beings. He notes the curse that fell on the earth as a result of the "fall." It seems the sacred text unfolds that curse as to the manner in which an agrarian culture would find crop development hindered by weeds, thorns and thistles; how work that would be edifying would bring misery. To suggest God authored toxins to be poured into our water supplies as the same as thorns and thistles seems something akin to a very difficult olympic sized gymnastic exercise. That same creation is given voice by the Apostle Paul and that voice longs for redemption from the curse and it is not an end to the earth but liberation!

Speaking about things scientific may be a bit beyond my expertise. But, the very idea the way in which we pollute the earth to be the manner in which a deterministic God exercises judgment on the planet for the sin of the human makes me want to trap the jackrabbits. Who gave them their voice?

I absolutely love Robinson’s passage quoted above that it may well have been stooping to connect her wonderful description to such rubbish. Yet, I sense that we empower some to our own peril.

It seems my cousin used to tell stories of rabbit hunting at night …

Collapsing our notion of grace … it is indeed all around us …

Finished! One of the pitfalls of a bibliophile (at least this bibliophile) is the tendency to read multiple books at a time. Micah and Kristen recommended Gilead some time ago. Patty finished reading it just after we purchased the book. I on the other hand had it in my queue and began reading it several months ago. This would come across to some as a less than a, "ringing endorsement" of a "Pulitzer Prize" winning novel. Do not be fooled by my misdeed. Read this novel and read it carefully. I have a couple of posts in mind from this one and in fact am certain I posted something just after I began, whenever that was. My embarrassment did not let me do a search of my blog to find the exact date. Dear reader if you feel so inclined be my guest. I can handle the ridicule. It is my consequence.

Grace. My friend Spencer Burke asks questions about grace for which he was excoriated by some. I plan to review, A Heretics Guide to Eternity, and will have further thoughts in the future. One of the compelling things about Marilynne Robinson’s novel, and yes I am aware of conflating two books here and am attempting to recover my first line of thought, is her sprinkling of images of grace in the ordinary. I have a sense that our dualistic divide between the sacred and the secular keeps us from seeing grace in the normal affairs of life.

I recall a time in junior high when I talked smack to my parents while at Braum’s. My father came to discipline. You should interpret that as my understanding that life as I knew it would be altered and maybe for a good deal longer than I would hope. I recall my dad coming toward me and in my fear I simply urged, "Dad, don’t hit me." Now you should know that "hitting" us three boys was not common and should not in any way be read to imply abuse of any sort. In fact, what I did deserve was a good thrashing for my utter disrespect. I will never forget my Dad stopping, turning and walking back into the Braum’s resuming his conversation with other folks from the church.

I often recall that moment as an awareness of grace. What I acknowledged before my Dad was my deplorable and embarrassing behavior. He helped me see that recognition signaled something of a change in understanding of my relationship to my parents. You ask, "Did you talk smack again?" If I did, and I am sure I did, I thought longer about the consequences. My awareness of grace came in the throws of what should have indeed came to me. Some would suggest I received mercy and so it was merciful. But, I don’t even recall being grounded or even harshly spoken to so I prefer to name it "grace."

In Gilead there is a scene where the narrator describes himself as waking from a nap to discover his wife on the porch swing. She moves to make room for him and he lies with his head in her lap covered with a quilt. A conversation ensues with something of a mystical character. He was known but there were some things not known about him that left many wondering if not disturbed by his presence. He feigns sleep during an exchange between this person and his wife. Here is a brief excerpt,

    I believe I may have found a way out of the cave of this tedious preoccupation, however. It’s worth a try. So:
    When I was sitting there on the porch last night more or less feigning sleep and your mother took my hand and held it in her hands, that was a great happiness to me. I see I did indicate this – "her two warm hands" – and I noted that at the same time she spoke of me much more kindly than I deserve. Only thinking back on it did I realize that she was speaking as if from that settled life she said she had always wanted and as if it could not be lost to her, though in every practical, material sense she knows it will be. That pleased me, too. Remembering when they said what they did about looking in windows and wondering about other people’s lives made me feel companionable with them. I could have said that’s the three of us, because, as the Lord knows, for many years I did exactly the same thing. But in that moment, the way she spoke, it seemed that all the wondering about life had been answered for her, once and for all, and if that is true, it is wonderful. The notion is a source of peace for me. (Robinson,Gilead,p.202)

"Her two warm hands." Now there is an expression of grace. Too often we hold hands with little reference to the person whose hands we hold. It has become so commonplace, too familiar. But, when you think of those whose lives have been wrecked by abandonment and abuse, "warm hands" become welcome hands of grace.

Thoughts shared in conversation pointing to the affirmation of a reality longed for and found express grace. "it seemed that all the wondering about life had been answered for her, once and for all, and if that is true, it is wonderful." Oh the thought of hope fulfilled – that is grace. Ordinary. Real. Grace.

What would we see in our world if we could once and for all collapse the two-tiered universe of the "sacred and secular"? Could we imagine such a place where the grace of God becomes more apparent than receiving what we don’t deserve in the extraordinary circumstances of life?

Oh the thoughts of grace … leave a note of what you see … if indeed you are able …

Organic Conference …

Conferences always offer an agenda. Speakers, times and locations for folks to sit and listen come in full color brochures. I grew up in the day of the "Un-Cola." The idea behind the marketing campaign for 7up intended to say this is not your "Father’s Cola." The Emergent Gathering is something of an "un-conference." Meals are shared. Responsibilities shared. The "breakout sessions" are posted by those who want to lead, have something to offer, looking for others to think about a topic, or tease out a book idea. I am out with my brother, Mark and Spencer among others at the Gathering at Glorieta, New Mexico.

May post more later.

Touting Education … Speaking Loudly in Absense …

Last evening our family attended, "The Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame Banquet" at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. We attended to honor Dr. Robert P. Todd who would be inducted posthumously. My parents, and so our famlies, have been long time friends. My mother offered us the invitation to go and we could not miss the opportunity to show our honor for a friend.

Kimberly attended Oklahoma City Community College in the fall a few years ago after she graduated from high school. Bob was the President at the time and he was gracious in pointing us to the right people and places to make the transition an easier one. We are both grateful and indebted for his kindness.

Marge and Cindy recieved the honor for Bob. It was apparent from their words Bob valued education. He really did want everyone to have an opportunity to attend college.

The evening began with "Introductions." Dr. Parrish offered an opportunity to recognize our state legislators and government officials. No one stood. Our current Governor offers ads that tout his support of education. Our Legislature wants everyone to think they are "pro-education." Surely they knew of this event. Certainly they could have attended – at least one of them.

I believe it was P.T. Barnum who said, "There’s a sucker born every minute." I for one am disappointed in the lip service officials would give to supporting education when given the opportunity to show up and illustrate such commitment. So, if you believe our Legislature and State Government really supports education, Mr. Barnum may have had you in mind.