Planned Obsolescence and Radical Forgiveness – The Ethos of Repair and Replacement

The Ethos of Repair and Reconciliation – A Reflection on

Abba Mios was asked by a soldier: “Father, God then accepts the repentance of the sinner?” The Elder, after counselling him with many instructive words, suddenly asked him:

“Tell me, my beloved, when you tear your uniform, do you throw it away? “No,” the soldier answered, “I sew it and use it anew again.”

Then Abba Mios also thoughtfully told him:
“If you take pity on your clothing, will not God take pity on His own creation?”

The other night I offered a reflection on prayer, fasting and mercy at St. Edward’s Evening Prayer. While working on what I would say, it occurred to me that I thought that fasting was hard… I however had to refocus on the idea that mercy was much harder.

In case I needed any reminding of that, today’s Gospel from Luke is a clear message about what God wants.

God wants us.

In reading the short anecdote about our desert  father, Abba Mios, I really had to pause and think about how the ethos of repair in our culture works its way into the theme of reconciliation.

You may be thinking, “what is she on about now?” Well, here is what I think…

We live in a “throwaway” culture – a culture of planned obsolescence. There is a whole other series of reflections about just that and the mess that our economy and world are in, but I will save that for another day. There are numerous societal, cultural, ecological and economical aspects that can be explored!

In any case, we do inhabit a world in which things are meant to run out of usefulness and break more quickly than they should. That is so that we might get rid of them and go right out and get lots more new stuff that will need to be replaced sooner rather than later.  This goes from everything to clothes and shoes to appliances large and small, houses, cars…

And people?

Well, there is a lot that I could say about people, but I will focus on one aspect and that is forgiveness.

It is so hard to forgive and to be forgiven. What a burden it carries. There is something to be said about going out and just getting some new people. Well – not really, but it does seem that way, doesn’t it. And even if we don’t get some new people, we can certainly find numerous ways to sustain the energy that is required for keeping those that we are angry or hurt with out.

That’s why I think the Abba Mios story is so interesting… It may be harder to comprehend in an era in which our cloak does not get repaired, our sock does not get darned, our torn seam does not get re-sewn… We just get a new one.

However, there are other things that we might expend energy in trying to restore and keep, but either way the emphasis is on things.  Our things mean a lot to us, our stuff.

But what about people?

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, a story so well-known we see a story of truly radical reconciliation.  It is important to have some understanding of Jesus’ time – this kind of event did not happen lightly.

The father is clearly out there waiting for his son… He sees him in the distance! Typically, the scorned father would be waiting inside and might not be all that concerned. This father, who is Our God, is anxiously anticipating our return!

He throws his arms around his son… Another socially unimaginable moment from that time.  The son would, if anything, have to pay the father homage and then maybe get the father’s attention.

No – this father, Our God is elated to embrace us and welcome us back.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

We are not thrown away, we are never thrown away. There is no planned obsolescence for us.  Each of us is God’s unique and loving creation and God treasures each and every one of us.

So I would simply ask you to consider all the things – and people, that you might otherwise throw away. Especially with the people – this might mean:

  • a friend who has offended you so deeply that you will never speak to them again a spouse who has hurt you beyond imagining 
  • a son or daughter who has not quite lived up to your expectations for them
  • a relative who has brought, in your estimation, shame up on the family
  • anyone who disgusts or annoys you
  • yourself

Yes – yourself. We are all called into this radical reconciliation moment by our God who loves us and if we can’t give ourselves the forgiveness needed, if we can’t accept God’s outrageous attempts at such deep love and welcome, we may miss the moment on the road when our own prodigal person returns.

Especially since it might be yourself! We never really know who we will be called on to forgive… and we really can’t imagine how radical God’s forgiveness is. But we can try- and that might mean being merciful and forgiving to ourselves first.

So bear this in mind…  may have to recycle your old iPod, but don’t do it with your people. Or with yourself.

God is always waiting.

Prayer Knocks. Fasting Obtains. Mercy Receives. – Some thoughts on a sermon by Peter Chrysologus, Bishop

Each Tuesday in Lent we are have Taize Evening Prayer at our parish. It is mostly the plaintive music and chant in the Taize style along with a reading and a reflection on that reading.

I offered the reflection this past Tuesday. I publish some approximation of what I wanted to say. That is why it is all in caps – I was going to take it to the ambo with me, but in the end, I used short word notes so that I would speak and not read.  For some reason, Word won’t let me change the font and I don’t have time to fool around with it today.

In any case, this is close enough to what I said. I wasn’t going to publish it but many people (thank you all) have asked and I was also inspired by Jane’s post on Taize prayer in her community.

Jane has some lovely video links.  The videos at the top and bottom are two of the chants that we use in our service. If you are not familiar with Taize I can only say that the music has been truly transformational and life changing for me. I hope you like it.

I will also add that I have a pastor who invites others to share their thoughts. I will also add that I work for another pastor who encourages and helps me always in my writing and reflecting. They are amazing men and I am deeply grateful to have them in my life. 

Prayer Knocks. Fasting Obtains. Mercy Receives.
Some thoughts on a sermon by Peter Chrysologus, Bishop

IMAGINE THAT YOU WANT TO BAKE SOME COOKIES AND YOU HAVE A RECIPE THAT CALLS FOR 3 INGREDIENTS – PEANUT BUTTER, SUGAR AND EGG. YOU DECIDE TO ELIMINATE ONE, FOR WHATEVER REASON YOU. MAYBE YOU THINK YOU ARE BEING NOBLE BECAUSE THE EGGS WEREN’T FROM FREE RANGE CHICKENS OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

YOU BEGIN TO MIX THE PEANUT BUTTER AND SUGAR, BUT IT IS NOT HOLDING TOGETHER VERY WELL. YOU STRUGGLE WITH IT AS YOU ARE DEDICATED TO THIS PLAN, BUT THE COOKIES HAVE A REAL LACK OF INTEGRITY AND FALL APART. YOU POWER YOUR WAY THROUGH AND SOMEHOW GET SOMETHING ONTO YOUR COOKIE SHEET AND BAKE.

IT IS A DISASTER. THE SAME THING WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU LEFT OUT JUST THE PEANUT BUTTER OR JUST THE SUGAR. ALL POTENTIALLY NOBLE ELIMINATIONS  – BUT THE RECIPE WILL CONTINUE TO FAIL.

TODAY WE HEAR SOME WELL PLACED LENTEN… AND LIFE GUIDANCE FROM SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS WHICH HE SHARES WITH US TODAY IN HIS SERMON ENTITLED “PRAYER KNOCKS, FASTING OBTAINS, MERCY RECEIVES,” FROM TODAY’S OFFICE OF READINGS.

“PRAYER KNOCKS AT THE DOOR, FASTING OBTAINS, MERCY RECEIVES. PRAYER, MERCY AND FASTING: THESE THREE ARE ONE, AND THEY GIVE LIFE TO EACH OTHER.”

IT IS LIKE THE TRINITY – DYNAMIC, RELATIONAL. HOW OFTEN DO WE WANT ONE OR TWO OF THE ABOVE, BUT NOT ALL OF THE ABOVE? I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT I CERTAINLY CAN BE PICKY ABOUT HOW THIS WORKS IN MY LIFE AND THAT PICKINESS LEADS TO A REAL LACK OF INTEGRITY IN MY PRAYER AND SPIRIT. YET THE TRINITY DEMANDS ALL 3… DEMANDS ALL 3 –  WITH GREAT LOVE.

PRAYER KNOCKS – WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? IT MEANS THAT PRAYER IS OUR COMMUNICATION TO GOD, WITH GOD. TO PRAY IS TO BE UNITED WITH OUR LORD. NOW PRAYER CAN MEAN DIFFERENT THINGS 
– IT IS THE SILENT UTTERANCE FROM THE DEPTH OF OUR HEART,
-THE ROSARY SAID IN THE CAR, A NOVENA, A SIMPLE OUR FATHER. 
-YOUR PRAYER MAY SIMPLY BE THE DEEP BREATH AND STRETCH TAKEN IN AWE ON YOUR DECK AT DAWN AS YOU WATCH THE CARDINAL AT THE FEEDER. 
LITURGY IS PRAYER – EVENING PRAYER LIKE THIS AND OF COURSE MASS, EUCHARIST. TO TRY TO FIT PRAYER INTO A TINY BOX IS TO DIMINISH IT.

SO AT SOME LEVEL, IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW YOU PRAY… JUST THAT YOU PRAY. ALL PRAYERS ARE A DOORWAY TO GOD. A DOORWAY THAT IT WOULD APPEAR WE ALL WANT TO GO RUNNING THROUGH, EXCEPT… EXCEPT FOR THAT PESKY EGG. OR SUGAR. OR PEANUT BUTTER. OR WHATEVER WE CHOOSE TO LEAVE OUT. PRAYER, ALTHOUGH A PRIMARY INGREDIENT, DOES NOT STAND ALONE.

WE CAN’T WILLFULLY LEAVE ANY ONE INGREDIENT OUT. HOWEVER, I KNOW THAT I OFTEN – AND WILLFULLY SO – DO JUST THAT.

THIS DOESN’T MEAN NOT PRAYING – IT MAY HOWEVER MEAN NOT PRAYING WELL. IT MAY MEAN THE PRAYER EQUIVALENT OF THIS BAD HABIT… MY HUSBAND AND I START A CONVERSATION AND IN THE MIDST OF IT, ONE OF US WALKS TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE KITCHEN AND STARTS TO DO SOMETHING. I AM NOT FACING HIM, I MAY LEAVE THE ROOM, BUT I STILL EXPECT AND WANT HIM TO LISTEN TO ME, TO HEAR ME. I MEAN – WHAT AM I DOING?

DOES THIS EVER HAPPEN TO YOU?

SO WHAT THEN DO WE NEED IN ORDER TO PRAY?

FASTING. UGH, IF THERE IS ANY ONE SPIRITUAL PRACTICE THAT IS NOT MY PARTICULAR GIFT, IT IS FASTING.

HOWEVER, FASTING, WHILE ABOUT FOOD, IS ALSO ABOUT MANY OTHER THINGS AS WELL. FASTING ALSO MEANS TO REDUCE OR ELMINATE INTAKE – OF FOOD, OF DRINK, OF ACTIVITY, OF NOISE, OF THE TV OR THE COMPUTER.

FASTING MEANS TO PREPARE YOURSELF TO ENCOUNTER GOD MORE FULLY.

THE READING REMINDED US THAT: “WHEN YOU FAST, SEE THE FASTING OF OTHERS. IF YOU WANT GOD TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE HUNGRY, KNOW THAT ANOTHER IS HUNGRY.”


***LET GOD KNOW THAT YOU ARE HUNGRY BY KNOWING THAT ANOTHER IS HUNGRY.***

THAT IS PART OF THE RUB OF FASTING – NOT TO DO IT FOR MORTIFICATION’S SAKE ALONE. MORTIFICATION CAN MAKE IT BE ABOUT YOU – KNOWING ANOTHER’S HUNGER ALLOWS FOR SPACE, WHICH IS WHAT FASTING IS ABOUT.
AND HUNGER… IT TRANSFORMS INTO SOMETHING ABOUT UNITY WITH GOD AND WITH ONE ANOTHER. WITH GOD AND ONE ANOTHER.

AFTER ALL, HOW CAN WE LISTEN TO JESUS’ COMMAND TO FEED OTHERS IF WE DO NOT KNOW HUNGER?  AND HOW CAN WE LET GOD FEED US IF WE ARE NOT HUNGRY?


FASTING CREATES SPACE AND CLARITY, FASTING CREATES HUMILITY…

HOWEVER, WE LIVE IN A CULTURE THAT IS ABOUT AS ANTI-FASTING AS CAN BE.

FOOD IS LOVE, FAST FOOD, FOOD NETWORKS, COMFORT FOOD, SMART FOOD, FOOD FOOD FOOD AND MORE FOOD. WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT HUNGRY REALLY IS.


ADD TO THAT 
- 24 HOUR NEWS CYCLES, SO-CALLED “SMART PHONES” THAT KEEP US CONNECTED ALL DAY AND EVERY DAY
- TO-DO LISTS THAT STRETCH A MILE LONG AND A SOCIETY THAT REWARDS US FOR OUR NUMEROUS ACCOMPLISHMENTS 
- AND SHAMES US FOR ANY SEEMING LACK OF “DOING SOMETHING MEANINGFUL.” 
DON’T ALL FEEL SOME PRIDE ABOUT HAVING A ROOF OVER OUR HEAD AND FOOD TO EAT? 
DO WE NOT FEEL SHAME IF WE DON’T?

WHOSE HOUSE DO WE INHABIT? WHOSE FOOD DO WE EAT?

AND WHAT ABOUT MERCY? CHRYSOLOGUS TELLS US THIS…

“MERCY RECIEVES.”

I WAS TELLING SOMEONE ABOUT THIS THE OTHER DAY AND IN A REMINDER OF DISTRACTED PRAYER, THE PERSON ASKED ME, “WHAT DOES MERCY RECEIVES MEAN?” AND THEN PROMPTLY WALKED AWAY AS I WAS ABOUT TO ANSWER. BUSY. DISTRACTED. NOT RUDE, NOT UNKIND… JUST NORMAL FOR MOST OF WHEN STRESSSED.

IN ANY CASE… MERCY RECEIVES.

RECEIVES.

IT REALLY STRUCK ME WHEN I CONSIDERED THAT CHRYSOLOGUS WAS REMINDING US THAT WE SHOULD SHOW MERCY AS WE WOULD WANT TO HAVE MERCY SHOWN TO US.

DO WE REALLY WANT MERCY SHOWN TO US?

FASTING MAY APPEAR THE TOUGH INGREDIENT, BUT MAYBE IN THE END IT IS MERCY.

RECEIVING IS PASSIVE. MERCY IS FOR THOSE IN NEED.

AND I THOUGHT FASTING WAS A CHALLENGE?

PASSIVE? NEEDY? LORDY HELP ME NO! I AM CAPABLE! CAN’T YOU TELL THAT FROM MY PRAYER?

MERCY – LIKE FORGIVENESS, IS NOT A TRANSACTIONAL ITEM, BUT RATHER SOMETHING THAT WE BOTH GIVE.

AND RECEIVE.

EVERYTHING WAS FINE UNTIL THIS BECAME DYNAMIC RATHER THAN TRANSACTIONAL.

HOWEVER, WITHOUT MERCY – GIVEN AND RECEIVED, THE RECIPE LACKS INTEGRITY. WHATEVER WE MASH UP AND ROLL ONTO OUR COOKIE SHEET WILL NOT HOLD TOGETHER.

I AM THINKING OF TIMES WHEN I WANTED GOD TO HAVE MERCY ON ME FOR SOMETHING I SCREWED UP… AND YET I OFTEN FIND IT MORE THAN A LITTLE HARD TO SHOW MERCY TO OTHERS.

IF YOU READ OR HEARD TODAY’S GOSPEL YOU WILL KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT.

IT IS HARD, BUT IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT MERCY BE PART OF THE TRINITARIAN MIX.

PRAYER KNOCKS, FASTING OBTAINS, MERCY RECEIVES. 
DON’T LEAVE ONE OUT.


Prayers of Remembrance and A Few Thoughts on Blogging, Faith and Community

This morning I read a blogpost from Alcibiades at Caliban’s Dream. The post was in remembrance of Catherine Peters, who died in a tragic accident one year ago. From all accounts, Catherine was truly remarkable. She was the daughter of the inimitable priest and blogger, Bosco Peters and his wife Helen Peters. (If you pray, please hold this family in your prayers; their on-going vibrant lives and joy are apparent, but one can only imagine their sorrow.)

Blogging and faith have worked strangely in my own life and they have worked very powerfully.

So much of who I am and what I do are ground into the foundation of blogging – something that did not even exist before 1997. It is strange, isn’t it? We all know each other and write and talk and pray and fight and discuss and debate. We inform, we debunk, we decry, deny, demand.

When I think about my own blogging one this is clear… Community.

The concept of community is at the heart of blogging.

For me, this is inexorably connected to faith, even when I am in community with people who are not of faith.

Today I am sharply reminded us of this as I have an on-going conversation with my beloved Grandmere’ Mimi, about one topic that we do not share the same opinion about. I love Mimi and hold her in the highest esteem; we agree on so many, many things. And sometimes we do not. Do we walk away in a huff?

No. We are in community and we continue to exchange our thoughts and ideas. When it is not fruitful to do so, I suspect that we will continue to exchange our thoughts and ideas, even if we lay off what we have not agreed upon. Agreement is not the criteria for love and respect. If it is – then love and respect are not at the heart of what is happening.

I am also acutely aware that it has been one year since the passing of Catherine Peters, daughter of the inimitable Fr. Bosco Peters and Helen Peters. In my experience of the blogosphere (is that word very 5 minutes ago or is it me?) I have experienced other deaths, the most recent being Jon Swift, who was not at all a faith blogger. (May he rest in peace. If you go to this link and read the comments, you will learn that Jon/Al, in writing of another’s loss, has himself passed away.)

I remember how Grendel’s the misanthropic dog’s death impacted us and also Lee’s. Of course, I don’t have a link for Lee – I did not really know him, but he was part of a community that I was part of and it affected us all.

However, few deaths shot around the world of bloggers like Catherine’s did. We all wrote and prayed and held the Peters family in our collective prayers. It astounded me then and it astounds me still. And I continue to hold the Peters’ in the heart of my prayer even though I have never met them in person and am unlikely to do soon. (Alcibiades at Caliban’s Dream has a lovely remembrance of Catherine up and some reflections upon his time spent with Bosco and Helen when he was in New Zealand.)

The whole business is very strange and wonderful to me – which is how my faith is to me as well. It is a strange and wonderful thing which makes my heart break more and yet binds each wound with tremendous love.

This love extends to all – I am many things, but an ideologue is not among them. Walk your own path. Hopefully you know the value of community, you have an open mind and heart but you know what you believe.

And may community always open our hearts and minds… Not to necessarily change our minds and/or hearts (but possibly) and also to continue to enrich them both.

(There are so many other things that I could say and links to add, but time is short. I am going to hit publish, but share your stories of community and blogging in the comments if you wish.)

His Gal Friday, Part I – Another Entry in the Unlikely Series

Way back in August, when I began this blog, I started to write about my life and was using the word unlikely in the posts and as a tag. 

For various reasons, I have drifted away from the memoir, but I am back for a moment as I consider my current employment as a secretary. It is most unlikely for numerous reasons.  The title of this post comes from the euphemism that was quite popular into the 70’s in which you would call your secretary or assistant your gal Friday.”

When I got out of college in May of 1979, I was pretty lost as to what I wanted to do. Well – I was just lost, period!  I knew that I wanted to work in the media business. Secretly I wanted to be a journalist – in print or broadcast (thank you Mary Tyler Moore!), but I had zero self-confidence, so I was afraid to express that to a single living soul.  When I graduated I had a good, albeit general knowledge of the business, but was not trained to be a journalist.

My earliest jobs fell into the category of “glorified secretary.” Being a “real” secretary meant going to Katherine Gibbs, knowing steno and typing quickly and having excellent organizational skills. I was none of the above. Plus I went to college! I was smart and going to be important, right?!  And I was a woman! Hear me roar! I wasn’t some dumb-girl-secretary! Yeah- whatever. Ugh.

Add to that my own vast inner emptiness and unhealed, supperating wounds – which meant that I was not capable of the service that secretarial work required. I did not know at the time that all real work requires deep service, but we will get to that at some other time.

So me being a secretary was unlikely. Me being a glorified secretary meant starting out, so I tried to deal with it.

I had zero capacity for this work. I could not type well, although who did not love the IBM Selectric with its fabulous tiny, shiny balls of different fonts! (hey watch it, not those kind of balls!) And I was horribly disorganized, with no ability to actually file or keep things in order.

When my wounds were not oozing, some tiny inner refraction of light revealed that I actually was good with people, so that got me pretty far along the road, but the road was often crumbling with my bad attitude.

And I would *not* make coffee – even when my job required it. My friend Richard, a man about 10 or so years older than I would always try to do that when it was called for, so that I did not have to. God bless this man, he was a savior to me in many ways. (And I still know him!)

Here I am today… After having found my way through the glittery and sparkly pathways of the media world, having made it to the not-quite-corner-but-big-office, I am in the most unlikely of jobs. Not only am I a secretary, but I am a church secretary.

Typing is not as vital today and I have gotten better at it after years at the computer keyboard. My organizational skills still leave something to be desired. I am happy to make all the coffee that anyone wants. (Especially since we have one of these at the office.)

And not only do I serve as a secretary, but I serve as a secretary to a man, a Catholic priest no less, in a Catholic Church.

And I love my job with every fiber of my being.

Unlikely. Most unlikely.

To be continued…

Desert Days of Lent

I have not been blogging much. And I have not published anything in the local Catholic paper lately either. Just no time and so little inspiration. Oh – I have started so many posts and essays… but I have finished nothing.  I guess I have done a few posts for my church blog, but that’s it.

Part of it is that I am really in my Lent -I am in the desert.  And my mind is very much on the journey to Jerusalem that is coming. (That would be the metaphorical one – although if someone said I could go to Jerusalem, I would be on the next plane, without a moment’s hesitation.)

Anyway, as Lent goes, I am in the desert. That’s fine – it is where I need to be. I am reminded of Hosea 2:16 – “But look, I am going to seduce her and lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.” That of course brings to mind, Jeremiah 20:7, “You seduced me Lord, and I let myself be seduced…”

All this seduction, the desert, the silence… Such are the ways of Lent. I carry on, so far, I do not hear the speaking to my heart. I have no doubt however, it will come.