A Pox on You, My Former Prairie Home Companion

The Writer’s Almanac offered a
really nice poem each day.
It would greet me without delay
in my e-mail inbox.
Now, on Garrison I’ll place a pox.
The Almanac has been cancelled
along with the poems that
were mostly top shelf.
because, apparently, Mr. Keillor
couldn’t keep his hands to himself.

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Fear of Mistaken Intentions

At lunch the other day with wife and friend,
the waitress reached in front of me to pick
up my coffee cup for a refill at the same time
asking me if I wanted more coffee. My mouth
was full. I almost tapped her arm as it passed
in front of me to draw attention to my grunt and
nod of affirmation. And then I recoiled my hand
in horror and fear just in a nick of time as I
thought of accusations galore galloping across
the country and so I nodded, swallowed hard and
choked out, “Sure, mam,” glad I didn’t have to
jump on my trusty steed and head out-of-town
fast.

Congenial Fellowship

Barbara Brown Taylor pretty well sums up where I am these days
regarding my faith. I might add that I find more honest, congenial
fellowship at the local micro-brew than I do most of the time
in church:

I have learned to prize holy ignorance more highly than religious certainty
and to seek companions who have arrived at the same place. We are a motley
crew, distinguished not only by our inability to explain ourselves to those
who are more certain of their beliefs than we are but in many cases by our
distance from the centers of our faith communities as well. Like campers
who have bonded over cook fires far from home, we remain grateful for the
provisions that we have brought with us from those cupboards, but we also
find them more delicious when we share them with one another under the stars.

— Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith (HarperOne: 2012), 224.

Staring at the Rubber Band

He removed the rubber band from the
package of coffee beans and it twisted
and turned and moved back and forth
on the counter like the harmless garter
snakes he encountered as a youngster
in the fields of the suburbs of Chicago
and the long, beautiful, Diamondback
rattlesnake he encountered three years
ago in the Arizona desert and he stood
at the counter staring at the rubber
band afraid.

And Then…?

The author described in glorious detail
the passive nature of nature on the
Galapagos Islands. She wrote that the
boat off the islands left without her.
Well, it must have come back. Then the
reader wondered what it would be like
to be on an island where, like Galapagos,
the animals were not afraid of humans
but welcomed them and embraced them
and then he, having missed the boat for
ever and having to live on the island
and survive, wondered how long it would
be before he would have to kill a bird
perched on his shoulder or a sea-lion
napping in his lap to survive and after
that how long it would take for the
iguana to flee in fear and the giant
turtle to recoil in horror when the
man put his hand on the turtle’s
neck which humans used to pet. And
then…?

All In Time

All in time divine:
Here is where I am.
This is what is home.
Now is the moment.
The past is over.
I remember it.
Future is not yet.
I anticipate.
Past, present, future:
all are here right now.
Here is where I am,
here in what is home,
now in the moment.
All curves back in time.
All curves back to me.
All curves back to all.
I curve back to Thee.
We curve back to Thee —
all in time divine.

Sunday Morning Note to a Friend

I came across these paragraphs this morning in a meditation by Richard Rohr. I think they summarize much of what we have spoken of in our discussions on the church as an institution:

As Phyllis Tickle (1934-2015) reflected, in the process of building necessary structure in institutions, we eventually “elaborate, encrust, and finally embalm them with the accretion of both our fervor and our silliness. At that point there is no hope for either religion or society, save only to knock the whole carapace off ourselves and start over again.”

With each reformation, we don’t need to start from scratch but return to the foundations of our Tradition. We don’t throw out the baby with the bath water, but reclaim the essential truths. And remember that truth anywhere is truth everywhere. With each rebirth, Christianity becomes more inclusive and universal, as it was always meant to be.

My perspective is, of course, as one who, now, sits on the sidelines, outside the church as an institution looking in. I know first hand what it means to “keep the institution going and growing” and at the same time struggle to move it closer to “following Jesus.” Those two things often are incompatible and at odds. Unfortunately, I see “keeping the institution going” as winning the contest and clergy just going along to get along. And that’s in the mainline (even progressive) Protestant churches and denominations.

What about evangelical, fundamentalist congregations and denominations? As for “following Jesus,” in America this often is interpreted through the eyes of evangelicalism’s “individual salvation in Jesus Christ,” where following Jesus is understood as securing one’s heavenly reward and obeying petty moralisms while ignoring the gospel and the “weightier matters of the law,” that is God’s universal love and the call to live the Realm of God now in justice, mercy, peace and divine, inclusive love of creation and humanity.

This “ evangelical” understanding, seen most prevalently in white congregations and denominations, then reinforces Christian tribalism allowing for and reinforcing fear of those who aren’t “like us.” The evils of xenophobia, bigotry, racism, misogyny (ironically embraced even by evangelical white women regarding control over their own bodies), nationalism and jingoism thrive. Individuals within the group are encouraged and urged to hit the sawdust trail to salvation as the ultimate initiation rite into the tribe, while the tribe sticks together in cultural fear and animosity toward others.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts this Sunday morning. Maybe a poem a little later on.

Bob

There’s Never Enough Time

Days chill and nights freeze
but, darling, I’m with you
sharing common needs,
thoughts and deeds which
warm my heart with love for you.
Soon we will journey together
heading west for the winter
and finding new adventure
for three months or perhaps only two.
It’s our first trip without the lab
to keep us company and make us laugh
and for some of the way we will be sad.
He proved us wrong about the math.
He was older than we thought.
We thought we had three more
years or perhaps only two,
but two would have been fine
except when he started to run out of time.
Then we would want three more years
or maybe just two.
Even two would do
until we started to run out of time.

Dancing Into Eternity

The Pulitzer Prize winning author,
in wonderful words and images,
describes the meaninglessness

of life — people, planet, solar
system spinning out of control
with no apparent purpose and

who knows the destination? How
could existential nihilism sound
so good? She dressed up the

existentialists and sent them to
the ball. He thought her eloquent
essay made the best case ever for

Jesus joining the party — the-
flesh-and-blood-dressed-up-myth-
ologized-his-words-and-a-few-

others-thrown-in-for-good-measure-
Jesus-for-whom Saint-Paul-put-the-
carnation-in-incarnation’s-lapel-and-

the-Cosmic-Christ-waltzed-into-the-
ballroom-and-meaningful-purposeful-
loving-life-danced-into-eternity.

We Were Given Time

Some months after disaster,
he, feeling guilty for not
having been a better husband,

said to his grieving daughter,
in a vain plea for expiation,
“I never cheated on your mother.”

Her response, “And that’s some-
how to your credit? Doesn’t it
just go with the territory?” She

was angry and he was there offer-
ing himself on up on a self-
sacrificial platter. Now, years

later he thought about all the
sexual harassment, predation
and exploitation in the news

and he said to himself, in an
act of self-forgiveness, “Well,
in hindsight, it was kind of a

big deal, but your mother made
it easy. I stand with Jimmy
Carter.” Somewhere around half-

way between then and now, his
daughter sent him a note telling
him he was her hero.