Susan B and Me

Social media has been circulating a quote attributed (correctly, I hope) to Susan B Anthony: “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires”.Basically, I agree. My own thought process, as a Presbyterian minister, has always been that the only person more dangerous than the one who knows that s/he is always right is the one who knows s/he’s right because God told him/her so.
The absolute certainty, that what we are doing is right, makes almost everybody else, to one degree or another, wrong. And though in these times, the general tendency is to use these quotes to castigate fundamentalists, and the far right, we have to also acknowledge that the far left, uber-liberals can be equally convinced of their own Godly directives. I’ve read plenty of posts and tweets that are supercilious,sanctimonious, patronising and ultimately hateful from those who are convinced that they are open minded, inclusive, and God’s truly chosen people.
The result: if we are in any way religious, we hurl Scripture verses at each other like weapons. We cavalierly disregard context, translation issues, or the effects of “authoritative interpretation”over the course of centuries. ( I’ve often thought that if we could time-transport any given Biblical figure here, they’d say “Hey, that’s not what we meant!”)
One thing appears obvious to me–the constant political “sound bites”, “quote bites” “cartoon bites” “short rants” from either side aren’t changing anyone’s mind. They’re just ramping up the level of hostility between people who see themselves, their world, and God in different ways.
The question is, can enough of us rein ourselves in, drift to the middle (I know, the Middle, how boring, how unsophisticated, how wishy-washy) long enough to speak to each other with civility. And then to LISTEN. To each other.
That “each other” is an important piece. As a minister, I’ve heard the “spiritual but not religious” line, and the “I find God in nature/the golf course/solitude” lines often. And I can understand the antipathy to religious instutions–they’ve screwed up pretty badly, and there are a lot that are propogating the “God told me I’m the good guy” theology. And yet, it seems to me that if it’s only you and God talking, God can start to sound a lot like you”.
So I guess I’m asking us all to participate in shutting up and listening, testing our thoughts against other people’s, and thinking about context.
Oh yeah–one other thing. Can we do something about the dumbing down of America? That would eliminate a lot of this crap.


I said I’d blog on this but it isn’t worth it. So everyone was scared by the constant barrage of “expect major delays” and everyone stayed home and that was a good thing. But wait til the do the next side of the bridge; everyone will ignore the warnings, and there WILL be gridlock. That’s human nature– just ask God. ( remember that golden calf thing?)

A Little Night Music

Florence, city of art. And of churches. Many, many churches, built by groups long since dissolved, or unable to maintain them, or just no longeral terraced. Some of them have been deconsecrated and some are used now just as special venues for concerts or other performances. One night, as we walked out in search of our usual piazzaorlasagnaorspaghettibolognasedinner, we heard music drifting into the night and as we were taking what we thought was a shortcut (not) we came to the small church from which it emanated. The door was open, allowing the music to escape intp the night. A young Asian woman was playing a solo piano concert. The advertising posters, which we’d seen as we walked, were displayed at the door, and a stack of programs lay on a small table. The woman played with fluidity, passion and skill, pouring out her heart and talent to an entirely empty building. There was no one sitting in the pews; no one, no friends, no family, no music lovers, not a single soul. ( in the interests of accuracy there was a man hovering outside–a teacher perhaps, or a manager?) We paused and listened for a few moments, but had to press on since we had a teenage boy with us, and as we all know, nothing, particularly piano concertos, stands between boy and food.
The kids were sorry for her “because she must have practiced a lot and nobody came to see her”. Yet I wonder– like the proverbial tree in the forest was the music less because it was only heard in passing? The world is full of beauty and blessings constantly being played; perhaps we are seldom fully in the audience, but shouldn’t we stop occasionally,and listen, and be grateful for that creative force that keeps on playing, creating beauty, regardless of how many are in the audience.

Pray? Multitasking for sure

So we’ve joined with three other families to visit the “big three” (Venice, Florence, Rome) all in one week with experienced guides–you could say we were outsourcing all the research and background reading necessary for even a basic understanding of what we were seeing. And the guide took his job seriously. In Venice–Doge’s Palace (good), gondola ride (fun) St Mark’s Cathedral (interesting), then Florence –the great art, (an awful lot in a short amount of time), the Duomo, the church of Santa Croce (all beautiful, all inspiring) but did I feel any spiritual connection? No, and I wanted to. But all I felt was the interest of a tourist. And then we took a side trip to Pisa for the kids, who wanted to climb the tower.
We walked by the cathedral. There was a service going on. We could only stand at the back, briefly, to see the interior. Then on to the Tower, the souvenirs, lunch. All that time I kept feeling that I should return to the cathedral. I’d seen a side entrance for “people who want to pray”, so, while others had dessert and coffee I excused myself and went back. I sat in a pew, and found myself in a moment of wordless prayer–you know, not the kind where you are asking God for something, or praising. Just a moment when in silence you feel a connection. It was a moment of peace, of comfort. It didn’t last long, for sure, and so I left, and returned to absorbing information, seeing the “sights”, remembering to buy gifts, watching out for the children, checking travel arrangements, all those individual things that make up a trip like this one. Multitasking.
Yet in the middle of all my activities, God had given me a moment. I don’t remember the name of the church (Cathedral of Pisa?) or any of the information about who designed it or when it was built. What I remember is that moment, when, in the midst of activity God gave me a nod, and a nudge, and a gift of a moment of prayer.
I think, in our busy everyday lives, perhaps we need more often to let God have a moment of our time.

The Eating is going well . . .

As is the love part. We love these children with all our hearts. They are a part of us, family. Just  as their mother is a completely different person than either my husband or me, yet raised in our home, these two are even more different. That’s why these trips alone are so essential to us; so that we can get to know them as who and what they are, not as what we think they are, or what their parents say they are. And, at 11 and 13, a good part of what they are–eating machines. As my husband has remarked several times already this trip–this army travels on its stomach, for sure, and when they are hungry, the nearest pizzaria had best watch out.  Fortunately, in Italy, there are, as my mother would say, a “gracious plenty” of pizza available.  Trying to upgrade their culinary tastes, we have introduced them to lasagna.  And tonight, in Assisi, another breakthrough. Eating at a restaurant recommended by Ricardo–story below–they at least tasted some of the spectacular pasta dishes on offer.

Ricardo–the proprietor of a shop we stopped in. Ricardo turned out to have spent his student years in Santa Monica and at UCLA, spends four months of the year on business in Santa Monica, and knows a few of the restaurant owners we know. Ricardo was genuinely pleased to meet people from his US  ‘hood. It was as if we were fast friends already, and immediately got us a table at a restaurant that was completely booked.   Now we all know that true friendships, true bonds, don’t come about instantly; and yet, his attitude was contagious. Perhaps, I wonder, if this is what Christian fellowship should be about–meeting other people who have one thing in common, a love of Christ, and then being willing and open to share that joy, regardless of the many differences in how we express it through our own cultures.

If we try, in our multitasking days, to allow one person that openness and grace, we might get a really good meal out of it.

And the End of Days Is. . . .

Walk with me . . .and contemplate the End of Days.

I kept seeing these billboards promising me the End of the World on May 21. . .Not, as you might think, in the city of Los Angeles, where I live, and seems often to be thought of as a place full of sinful and godless people, but on state highways and rural roads in the South

This leads me to wonder of the Bible Belt is full of heathen? After all, the sponsors of these billboards claim that they put them up to give people one last chance to be saved before the Rapture. I don’t know how many it worked for, because the Rapture does not seem to have come,  unless of course no one of my family, my acquaintance, my Facebook friends, or my city was among those chosen. Which is possible.

Actually, the “preacher” responsible for this now claims that it was a spiritual judgment day; on May 21, God made the decision about who was, and who was not to be saved, and the world will actually cease to exist on October 21. This gives us all a five month pass, right? If we have been chosen, what we do now doesn’t matter. If we have not, what we do between now and October 21 doesn’t matter either.

The same man predicted the end of the world in 1994. Didn’t happen, but only due to a mathematical mistake that he made. So, 2011. Didn’t happen again. Awkward!  This got me to thinking that maybe he was confusing the end of the world with the cycle of the 17 year locusts, and that sparked a Facebook discussion of End Times prophecies, missed deadlines, and the life cycles of locusts.

So I thought we’d try to  move the discussion over here.  Jo Todd remembers the “Convergence of the planets” as one failed prediction. Nancy Cook thinks there was one when we were in high school, but is unclear on the details.  Anyone else remember other End of Days that didn’t happen?  Will it happen?  Should we prepare? If so, how? I can tell you I’m not giving everything away in expectation of date certain. That could create some awkward situations–like, “I’m going to be  Raptured but you’re not. . .”  Or was the predicting church the best place to hold assets? (just wondering?)

Anyway, share your thoughts . . .just remember, be respectful of God, of each other, and we already know Matthew 24:36.






Day of Rapture: Celestial Perpetual Party

This is it, according to the billboards I’ve been seeing. Judgement Day. The apocalypse.

The beginning of the end times. Most of all, the Day of Rapture when the chosen, or the saved, or God’s favorites get to go to a great celestial perpetual party while the rest of us go to hell, starting of course with he’ll on earth. So, look around you. Who goes? Who stays? Who is God voting off the  island?  Make your best guesses and  let’s all check in on Post Rapture Monday.  Maybe then we can let all this silliness go, and we remnant Christians can think about living as God’s people and God’s kingdom in the here and now.