Friday, December 18, 2009

Beautiful people

The other day I stood in line with one of the world's most beautiful people. As far as I know, he's never been on the cover of People magazine, and now that he's 84, he probably won't make it. But public accolade aside, he is a spectacularly beautiful person.
I was stuck in one of those long check-out lanes, debating whether to make a phone call to "use the time well", when we struck up a conversation. He was waiting for his wife (of 60 years) so they could finish up their purchases and head on to their next stop; they were Christmas shopping for the 24 kids and grandkids that are coming home next week. Yep, all 24 of them come home, every year, to celebrate the holidays together. They schedule the days between Christmas and New Years, so that everyone can spend Christmas with "the other families", and then be together--in the home where they all grew up--for 4 days each year. As he told me about these times together, joy poured out of him...deep, deep gratitude for the riches of his life. Turns out he's been a minister his whole life, and now serves simply as a deacon in a church he planted years and years ago. He told me, with deep conviction and a broad smile, "Following the Lord makes every day a new adventure." He really, truly meant it. I've seldom seen such deep-seated contentment, and it transformed a short, elderly man into a vision of beauty.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Che, part 2

This just in, to underscore my earlier blog about Che and the commodification of revolution (and, obviously, of this image)...
Yes, leave it to the Onion to highlight the irony. And yes, leave it to my teen-ager to say he has to have it. And yes, I wouldn't mind wearing this shirt myself. I still think Che's cool.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Be reconciled to God???

My approach to Bible reading has varied widely over the years--aggressive & goal-oriented, study-driven, non-existent, get the picture. Of late, I've taken a new tack--I read a short section, basically just till I come across something that "sticks". Then I spend some time in stillness, sometimes reciting the words, sometimes thinking about them, sometimes just being quiet. I've found that this approach, more than any other, tends to let the words and ideas really filter down and begin to change me. This method, if you could call it that, is a really good fit, reflecting my deep interest in Scripture as related to transformation, of both my self and my world.
At this rate, I typically work my way through a chapter or two in a week. Except now. A couple weeks back I stumbled onto 2 Corinthians 5, where the writer "implores" the reader: "Be reconciled to God." Huh? What, exactly, does he mean? Reconciliation, in our world, is most often used in the context of two opposing parties--say, a perpetrator and a victim--finding a way into forgiveness and relationship. Or two ethnic groups agreeing to set aside past differences and move forward together. Two-way street sorts of contexts. Give-and-take sorts of relationships. Reconciliation with God seems a little more, oh, one-dimensional? Isn't God supposed to be doing the forgiving? Me, the accepting? What, exactly, does reconciliation look like with God?
I've thought about these words, been quiet with these words, prayed about these words for several weeks. They were playing as a sort of background noise when I started reading "The Covenanted Self", by Walter Bruggeman. And then they jumped to the foreground with a startling clarity.
In describing what Moltmann has labeled "the dialectic of reconciliation", Bruggeman writes, "I have argued that lament concerns the full assertion of self over against God and praise concerns the full abandonment of self to God. This drama of assertion and abandonment is indispensable for life with this God...Moving back and forth between lament and praise means always shifting positions, getting up out of our seat and changing roles...Live communion with an initiating and responsive Thou requires precisely such vitality, energy, freedom, and courage."
So, according to Bruggeman, reconciliation with God is not a static "position". It's not something I simply receive. It is an ongoing process, daily, of determining how to relate to an active, moving God. In Spanish, there are two forms of the verb "to be". One is ser, which means to always be. The other is estar, which means to be right now. It seems that reconciliation with God is probably more of an "estar" sort of activity. Each day, each moment, in the context of relating to a God who is suprisingly different than I expect, I find how to be reconciled.
This, I believe, is a compelling way to view reconciliation. It invites me into an active, dynamic sort of interaction, one which allows for the flux of real life and relationship.
One, in fact, that frees me up to move on to the next verse.

(Sculpture is "Reconciliation" by Josefina de Vansconcellos, at Coventry Cathedral.  Image: Creative Commons)