Sunday, January 21, 2007

Taking up space...

some more newsletter articles...I kind of liked these...
The general idea for me is that each week I choose a quotation I've run across somewhere, and use it sort of as a springboard for writing about whatever's going on in my head that day. I call them ponder-ous thoughts as a sort of pun on scripture: "and Mary pondered these things in her heart." I ponder these...

Ponder-ous Thoughts
"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Last week I heard someone talk about “penciling in” an appointment in their calendar. He explained that he used the pencil so that he could freely erase and change things without his calendar becoming messy with scratched-out names and dates. Sunday, I encouraged someone who wanted to spend a little time with me to write his name in my planner in ink, so that I could be sure that time was set aside for him and his concerns.
I don’t make appointments in pencil—I always use pen. When I set a time for a meeting or to spend some time with someone, that time is entirely theirs. Do I ever have to cancel or reschedule or make a mistake? Of course, I do. But I do the best I can each day to meet the plans I’ve set, and some days just do go better than others. When that happens, I remember how Scarlett O’Hara unwittingly paraphrased Emerson’s quote above: “Tomorrow is another day.”
Every day is a gift from God, and it’s up to us how we’ll live those days. Will we allow ourselves to be controlled by anxieties, fears, and worry, or will we see each day as a new opportunity to enjoy God’s gift? Will we coast through life or will we give each person and each opportunity our full attention? And if today’s not our best day, what do we do with tomorrow? Something to think about…

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/ Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:All mimsy were the borogoves,/ And the mome raths outgrabe.
--Lewis Carroll

Jabberwocky” conjures images of foreign lands and strange creatures, of knightly virtue and nightmares. As an adult, I’m amazed at how a life’s reading lets me put “Jabberwocky” in context; I don’t know what borogroves are or what mimsy resembles, and I’ve no clue what it means to outgrabe. But I do have a mental picture, right or wrong, of a boggy sort of forest scene with moss trailing down from trees and sneaky branches waiting to trip up an unsuspecting traveler.
A life’s living puts church in context, too. I grew up in church, summers when I was young and regularly since I was a young teenager, so I grew up with mysterious words: doxology, offertory, sacrament. Now I find these words evocative as well, because I can put them in context: song of thanksgiving, gift-giving, God’s grace in bread, wine and water.
What if I hadn’t had that raising? What if I had not grown up in church? These words might sound as foreign and even menacing as “Jabberwocky”. It’s up to us (that would be you and me, dear reader) to put these strange terms in context, to introduce others to the idea that God lives in and among us, that God’s grace can be touched in the hand of a friend or stranger, that a bit of bread and juice can change our hearts and lives.
As we come to communion this Sunday, I invite you to see our holy meal in context: as a remembrance of Christ’s last meal with the disciples, as a sharing in the great heavenly feast of the Lamb, as a part of the party when a lost child returns to God. We eat together to join us together: “Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one Body…”

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~ T.S. Eliot

I am not a fan of making New Year’s resolutions. I’m great at breaking them, but not so good at living up to them. Mark Twain had something to say about resolutions, good intentions, and the annual paving of the road to you-know-where. So this year I am making no declarations, no resolutions, no drastic changes to the status quo. Nope, no lists of good intentions for me…maybe that’s my resolution: I resolve not to make promises I can’t or won’t or don’t intend to keep.
Instead I’m thinking this year about grace, and faith, and finding God’s goodness even in my own failings. The great thing about a New Year’s Day is that it reminds us that we can have a new start…God’s grace is more than sufficient to give us that, and as often as we need it. There’s a book on my shelf which I will one day read in its entirety called, “How to Pray When You’ve Kicked the Dog.” I’m counting on that book to remind me that sometimes we do in fact have rotten days and do rotten stuff. Some days we run out of excuses…but we can run back to God’s arms for a new beginning.
Some days we just want to turn our backs on (sorry, English teachers and lovers of proper grammar, I’m letting that preposition dangle). Some days we want to put aside and never look back. Grace lets us come to God in repentance and leave those days behind, as a new person with a new day, a new year, a new life. And if we need to, to come back again and be renewed again. And again.
Thanks be to God,

“Go that way really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.”
--From the movie, “Better Off Dead”

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have a fairly significant crush on John Cusack. It’s nothing I can’t handle…and I’ve felt this way since I was in middle school. It’s something I’ve learned to live with, and laugh at, and fortunately my husband is very understanding. Of course, his crush is Paula Deen…and I can’t compete with her in the kitchen!
I call the quote above the “Skiing the K-12” philosophy. It has to do with a not-particularly-good movie in which Lane (John Cusack) is trying to show up the town bully by skiing the K-12, a slope that only the best can conquer. All his friends give him the same advice: “Go that way really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.” Of course, he fails repeatedly but in the end he conquers the mountain, shows up the bully, and gets the girl…all tied up in a nice, neat little happy ending.
I don’t know about the nice, neat little happy ending…I haven’t gotten there yet. But there is something to admire in Lane’s persistence and determination. Something in him tells him that he can do it, and so he tries until he succeeds. Sometimes our faith is the same way: something in us calls us to do or become something, and it’s up to us to persevere until we succeed. Kind of reminds me of Paul (the paraphrase is mine): every day I strive for the glory to which God calls me in Christ.

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