Sunday, 12 January 2014
Here I sit once again tap tap tapping on this keyboard. I've weighed the advantages and disadvantages of tackling this conversation once again. January for me is a time of weighing the options for the year. Some may call this goal setting, but the term goal frightens me away. If it's a goal, then I'm determined to not let it get a hold of me, and to prove this I stop short. So instead, I weigh out the options for the new year, and then proceed with a strategic plan... It's complicated figuring out how to work within the limitations established by ourselves, sort of like understanding the operating system of your own soul. But here I sit, and I'm willing to tackle this writing conversation once again for 2014.
Far From Right
Monday, 13 January 2014
For the most part, I steer clear of the far right, or as I call it, the far from right. But for some reason this is the loudest contingent of Christianity . . . this reflects poorly on the rest of us who sit in the much more peaceful state of moderate. If you're sure you're right, then beware! The righteousness of right is a dangerous neighborhood for your heart: it reeks of pride and intolerance.
I'm here to say that moderate Christians exist. We are not all an intolerant, bellyaching, self-righteous crowd. And, I'm a woman . . . which means I've got a solid reason for defending the rights of women. Please do not oppress women, in the name of God. We've come a long way in this country with women's rights: back peddling now makes no sense. Religious righteousness makes me cringe. It makes me flee. The rightness of religion is not guided by love for others. This is its true test: Love for God resonates with love for others....
Let's get realSunday, 26 January 2014
My fifth grade teacher had one line she used often. She may have had more than one line she used over and over with us thirty or so active students in her class, but this one line stuck in my mind with such force that it won't let go even now. I know it's not her own line, but one that she borrowed from someone else, and it must have stuck with her too. The lines adults use with kids most often are also the lines that kids don't understand at all. Thus the reason that now decades later this line is more relevant than it was for me as a fifth grader, who didn't care much at all for anything happening in the classroom other than goofing around. And now, as I sit here, with a few clicks around the internet I learned that my fifth grade teacher borrowed the line from Benjamin Franklin:"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
But as I remember it, my fifth grade teacher must have modified the quote for us, her squirmy students: "There are only two things you have to do for certain: pay taxes and die." I suspect my familiarity with this quote may have something to do with my need for certainty about whether or not failing to complete the task came with a specific consequence.Her answer always puzzled me, and I remember pondering the wisdom of asking her to explain what she meant, because at the time I was not worried at all about either death or taxes. And today, my teenagers can predict when I'll fling this line out to them with a smile and an acknowledgment to Mrs. Jacobs, my fifth grade teacher. Because Mrs. Jacobs, Ben Franklin, and countless other wise souls know what we all love to forget. . . .
"As of all foods bread is the most essential, so the thought of death is the most necessary of all works. The remembrance of death amongst those in the midst of society gives birth to distress and frivolity, and even more—to despondency. But amongst those who are free from noise it produces the putting aside of cares, and constant prayer and guarding of the mind. But these same virtues both produce the remembrance of death and are also produced by it."
(St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 6.)
Lemon TreeTuesday, 28 January 2014
I lust after my neighbor's lemon tree. It's almost always laden with fruit, which she unfortunately doesn't share. So, I look over the fence at her lemon tree with lust, watching the fruit fall to the ground and rot. She used to hurl lemons into our yard, since she knows I love lemons, but she doesn't do this anymore. Somehow throwing the lemons over the fence and seeing them bounce across our lawn suited her more than bringing lemons to our front door. Either way, I was just happy she shared her lemons with me. On our side of the fence, I patiently nurse along a slow growing, occasional fruit bearing lemon tree. Her tree is prolific, and mine is barren.
Some wise soul (don't know who) once said:
If life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
But someone much wiser said this:
"The natural property of the lemon tree is such that it lifts its branches upwards when it has no fruit,
but the more the branches bend down the more fruit they bear.
Those who have the mind to understand will grasp the meaning of this."
(St. John Cllimacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 25)
Just keep swimming...Thursday, 30 January 2014
The lessening of evil breeds abstinence from evil;
and abstinence from evil is the beginning of repentance;
and the beginning of repentance is the beginning of salvation;
and the beginning of salvation is a good intention;
and a good intention is the mother of labors.
And the beginning of labors is the virtues;
the beginning of the virtues is a flowering,
and the flowering of virtue is the beginning of activity.
And the offspring of virtue is perseverance;
and the fruit and offspring of persevering practice is habit,
and the child of habit is character.
Good character is the mother of fear;
and fear gives birth to the keeping of commandments,
in which I include both heavenly and earthly.
The keeping of the commandments is a sign of love;
and the beginning of love is an abundance of humility;
and an abundance of humility is the daughter of dispassion;
and the acquisition of the latter is the fullness of love,
that is to say,
the perfect indwelling of God in those who through dispassion
are pure in heart.
For they shall see God.
And to Him the glory for all eternity.
(St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 26 )
Religious BulliesFriday, 7 February 2014
God isn't a bully. A bully "uses superior strength or influence to intimidate, typically to get him or her to do what one wants." Religious bullies are everywhere, throwing their weight around in unwanted ways. For most of my life I didn't experience religious bullying, other than aggressive evangelists which I always felt sorry for. Today I see religious bullying taking many forms all around; the problem is often not recognized as bullying. If the intimidating behavior is packaged in the form of religion, then it's not viewed as bullying. But what better way to package a bully, than to wrap them up in a twisted misrepresentation of God's love?
The power tool of the religious bully is Guilt. Love is not served with a lavish side dish of Guilt. Love is on a simple platter by itself . . . it's the whole meal and does not require a high calorie side dish. If I launch into an explanation of the disguises worn by religious bullies, then the negative images will clutter my mind; I feel certain you can conjure up your own impressions of a religious bully. Do not be deceived by their outer garment. Those external garments are easily manipulated to the advantage of the religious bully. It's the interior wardrobe that you must peer closely at, and this is much more difficult to see clearly. The religious bully is an expert at deception.
You will know them by their fruit. The religious bully leaves you without the warm, cozy feelings of Love and Joy. You're left with a lump of coal in your pocket, that you don't remove before you put your clothes in the washer. The coal dissolves in the washer, runs through the dryer, and clings to your whole load of wash. It can stain your clothes and ruin them, if you're not careful. With vigorous work, removing this dark residue is possible. Look closely and see if you receive fruit or coal; I'm certain you know the difference.
PrayerFriday, 31 January 2014
Do not be over-sophisticated
in the words
you use when praying,
because the simple and unadorned
lisping of children
has often won the heart
of their heavenly Father.
(St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 28 )
On the many forms of VaingloryFriday, 4 April 2014
The sun shines on all alike,
and vainglory beams on all activities.
I am vainglorious when I fast,
and when I relax the fast in order to be unnoticed
I am again vainglorious over my
I am quite overcome by vainglory,
and when I put on
I am vainglorious again.
When I talk
I am defeated,
and when I am silent
I am again defeated
However I throw this
a spike stands
(St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 22 )