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what is mine to do

ὃ ἔσχεν ἐποίησεν.
ha es-kin eh-poy-ay-sen.

“What she had, she did.”

So said Christ of the woman scorned by the rest of the room, the woman who had wasted her dowry-sized investment in one extravagant moment of devotion. The men counted the zeroes on the deposit slip that would never be for something that was never theirs. Christ countered with his own calculation: What she had, she did.

It’s said that near the end of his life, Saint Francis said, “I have done what was mine to do; now you must go do what is yours to do.”

I must do what is mine to do.

Such wisdom, this. So crucial for us to know and do that which is ours to do.

Oskar Schindler couldn’t stop the trains, but he could get a firehose and water down the cars. He could turn his factory into a refuge for 1100 Jews. What were 1100 out of so many millions – as is so powerfully captured at the end of Schindler’s List:

Schindler: I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don’t know. If I’d just… I could have got more.

Stern:  Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.

Schindler: If I’d made more money… I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I’d just…

Stern:  There will be generations because of what you did.

Schindler: I didn’t do enough!

Stern: You did so much.

[Schindler looks at his car]

Schindler: This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car?
Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people.

[removing Nazi pin from lapel]

Schindler: This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern. For this.

[sobbing]

Schindler: I could have gotten one more person… and I didn’t! And I… I didn’t!

What he had, he did.

It’s my new prayer through each day:

I must do that which is mine to do.

And maybe, just maybe, at the end of my days, I’ll warrant the epitaph on my tomb:

ὃ ἔσχεν ἐποίησεν.

SchindlrWatr2

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2015 in haverings

 

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Fury Road and faith healing

The tiny silver crucifix she woreScreen Shot 2015-05-20 at 12.12.11 AM
enacted what it seemed we did to her.

She rested in the bed, not at peace yet,
she said, but trying to forgive. The dead

moved quietly around the room, unseen:
last week, a man with liver cancer keened

where she did now, before he passed; then
another woman whose lymphoma drenched

her in cold sweats, her lymph nodes thick and massed
wherever I had pressed. “Dear Lord,” I said,

attempting what I thought was prayer, “—Lord
forgive me for not healing them.” Unsaid,

the words of her forgiveness came to me
like kindness, like a sudden memory.

The tiny crucifix refused to bleed;
instead, it shone there like a misplaced need,

a way to understand the blameless night.
Adjusting my ophthalmoscope’s light,

I peered inside her, seeking what we may
of pain. I saw what she had tried to say:

the pulse of blood, the silence of my heart;
forgiveness, not impossible, but hard.

~ Rafael Campo from Alternative Medicine

Few poems have stopped me in my tracks.
Physically. Emotionally. Viscerally.
This one did. does.
What a fascinating juxtapose.
Campos and Rockatansky.
Fury Road and Faith Healing.
Max haunted by the faces of family he could not save
The haunting driving him to keep moving moving moving
to ultimately at least save
someone.
I know this.
I’ve never successfully left the room
still there
still seeing the serene face
of the Girl.
Lips now still that should be pursed in a taunt.
Now they just haunt.
You didn’t save me.
You didn’t say the words.
Could I have said them?
And he came and touched the bier
But I let it pass
The bag not yet sealed
But I let it pass
The body now dust on the shelf, waiting
But the face, it haunts, it tauntsmad-max-fury-road-trailer-343x215
You didn’t save me
The face driving me
keeping me moving moving moving
to ultimately save

someone.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2015 in haverings, Poetry

 

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fowl play

Two firsts for me today.

The first first…having a head on collision happen right in front of me.
I’ve always driven along soon or long after.
A vehicle tried to turn left in the path of another oncoming vehicle traveling at a full 30 mph. No evidence of applied brakes, just full, sudden, total, head-on, crunching, crashing contact.

The second first.
Dropping my daughter back at her apartment following her therapy, I felt a sudden, hard (((thump))) on my head. Yes, there was a cloudy sky overhead, but I knew that was no raindrop.
I had been visited.
I had been blessed.
With fowl play.
At least seagull sized, the dropping was, absorbed into my thickish hair into which it actually blended rather nicely.
And having been sham-pooed, naturally I took a few moments to rinse in my daughter’s apartment.

Now I sit back and contemplate these two firsts.

How thankful I am to be visited by the first rather than to experience the second.
How blessed we are when we can simply rinse fowl play out of our hair, and move on.
I hear in some cultures receiving a bird poop on the head is considered good luck.

I call it a blessing.

Though it’s one I’m certainly ready to pass on…

tumblr_lgsmvbKEqf1qhpn1io1_400

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

blind man walking

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.20.14 AM

imagesGround zero of all good theology is humility.
It is the recognition that I am blind.
Which simply means that we recognize our common ground with Paul – who saw more in the three days during which he was completely blind than he did in as many seeing decades sitting under the best theologians of his generation.

Richard Steele draws the parallel between our situation and that of the blind man healed by Jesus in Mark 8 – healed not all at once, but in stages. He sees nothing until that first saliva-smearing touch of Jesus on his eyes. Then his vision was distorted (perhaps a no-brainer considering it was a saliva-smearing touch!) as he now saw “men walking as trees” (aka “ents”).

Steele observes:51Xk9QlNK5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

The situation of the theologian is like that of the blind man during that strange moment between the first touch of Jesus and the second: more able to see than before, but only well enough to know that his sight is still blurry and out of focus. And like it or not, the theologian soon learns that he is permanently in that condition, at least on this side of heaven. The one thing he learns to see with absolute clarity is how badly he and everyone else needs the divine ophthalmology.

Good theologians remember they ever labor in the space between the two touches.

And when you realize your vision is distorted, if you are wise, there will be a certain tentativeness in your steps, particularly the farther ahead you attempt to look, the more sweeping the gaze. We can only be certain of the step immediately before us – unless we have attempted to memorize the path like Blythe “The Forger” in The Great Escape who tried to dupe his comrades into believing that he could see by memorizing his moves.

Bad theologians try to memorize their moves as they try to convince others (and themselves!) that they can see better than they really do.

Good theologians don’t memorize moves, nor do they try to kid anyone that they can ever do more than “see through a glass darkly.”

Nothing is more absurd than a theologian who pretends to be an “expert” or “authority” on God – as if God weren’t high and lifted up above all human knowing, as if God weren’t elusive, mysterious, transcendent, and incomprehensible. (Steele, again).

Or, as Augustine of Hippo observed, “Si comprehenderis non est Deus.”

If you can understand it, it’s not God.

Such a perspective continually reawakens a humble yieldedness in our arguments and conclusions in which we hold more with an open hand than closed – in fact, when walking with distorted vision between the two touches, wisdom would dictate primarily an open-handed approach as we move forward over uncertain terrain, ready to grapple with whatever reality we encounter along the way.

And moving with such yielding gait, it will not be a bold, assuming “I have this under control” YAWP that will be heard coming from our throats (theologians? control issues? naaaaaaah), but one that resembles more a continual appeal for assistance.

And, of course, before she does much audible “yawping” at all, she’ll be standing still in silence, listening first, always…

TOHIYAS (65)

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in haverings, theology

 

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Theology? YAWP!

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 8.20.14 AM My favorite definition of theology ever. 51Xk9QlNK5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_It’s from I’ve Been Wondering: Conversations with Young Theologians by Richard B. Steele, a book I stumbled upon years ago and was reminded of this past week (it was published in 2007 and is out of print now, but you can still find copies on Amazon for about $5). The author is Professor of Moral and Historical Theology and Associate Dean of the School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University in, well, Seattle, of course. The books focuses on the questions – and his posited answers – to the questions his undergrads are actually asking him. It’s a good read – largely if not entirely because of how he frames his answers with this definition of the game of theology.

Theology is a blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat that isn’t there – and finding it.

Yes.

Unpacking this definition, Steele highlights four characteristics of healthy theology:

  1. Yielding
  2. Attention
  3. Wariness
  4. Praise

Actually, he lists the first one as “humility,” but I’m totally taking the creative license to change it to “yielding” so that the resulting acrostic is YAWP, which, of course, makes a theologian one who yells his or her “barbaric YAWP over the rooftops of the world.”

Oh yes, there is something barbaros in all good theology.
Unrefined.
Uncultured.
Something foreign. Something rude. Something rough. Something harsh.

As foreign as the Beatitudes.
As rude as Christ eating with sinners.
As rough as Christ rubbing mud made with his own spit in a blind man’s eyes.
As harsh as Christ telling his followers, “You know not what spirit you are of!” when they wanted to incinerate unwelcoming Samaritans.

And, of course, such a barbaric theological YAWP has full prophetic support:

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 3.38.09 PM

Those are mimicking, babbling words, as Peterson in the Message so eloquently puts it, “Da, da, da, da; blah, blah, blah, blah.” Originally it was a mocking response to Isaiah’s preaching; then it became the language of judgment as foreign Babylonians with raised swords delivered “the Word” to hapless Judeans in 586 BC; then it became, via Pauline twist, the proclamation of Christ in “tongues” in the first century; and by further extension, I would wrap this babbling sheet over all healthy theology, just because, well, because this is my blog and I can.

We evangelicals tend to like our theology thick with erudite diction. But healthy theology is but a yawp, people. Or, to use another word, healthy theology is havering.

And havering begins with a yielding, unassuming, surrendering, humble heart that knows first and foremost one key truth:

I am blind

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in haverings, theology

 

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alternative medicine

Brought this in for a friend.alternative medicine
Can’t carry it in the bookstore.
Language issues, among other things,
the kind you hear in hospital corridors
and church parking lots
or wherever else
I find people leaking
pain.

Alternative Medicine by “celebrated physician-poet” Rafael Campo.
His sixth collection of poetry.
Examining the primal relationship between language, empathy
and healing;
the balm of song
the salve of imagination.

Good medicine. Hard medicine.
Who would have thought:
Poetry can hurt and heal at the same time.

Primary Care

the-book-thief-1

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Books, Poetry

 

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non-verbal God

My friend Jessie painted the cover of her Bible.
Epic. Cover.

Jessie's Tree It immediately took me to the story of Brother Lawrence…

Brother Lawrence was born Nicholas Herman in the Lorraine region of France in 1611. At age eighteen, he experienced a profound conversion, that is, a radical change of mind and heart, when he saw a bear tree in the middle of winter standing gaunt and leafless against the snow. Anticipating the miracle of this same tree burgeoning with new life the following spring, Nicholas was overwhelmed by “a high view of the providence and power of God,” which never left him and which kindled in him an intense love for God.
~ Mother Tessa Bielecki, in the Foreward to The Practice of the Presence of God

My mind immediately leapt to another text I encountered last year in Carl R. Trueman’s The Creedal Imperative (I enjoyed the read, as I recall). In fact, reading the one after the other gives me some significant mental whiplash:

Merely looking at a tattered and broken piece of humanity hanging on a piece of wood, or imagining such with the mind’s eye, is of no use whatsoever. It is the cross set within its context of the biblical story of humanity’s creation and fall that has significance; and this requires verbal communication. One might add that since there is no other way of communicating this message that can bypass the use of words. Neither painting nor mime nor dance is remotely adequate for the message. Only clear, verbal statement of the matter can bring the message home and frame the matter in such a way that the response can then be either those of faith or of unbelief.

I love this statement for the wonderful job security it gives me as a speaking and writing Pastor. And there is truth in it, to be sure. I’m sure Brother Lawrence had a context of homiletical verbal statements from many a mass. So, perhaps you’re right, Mr. Trueman. Merely looking at a tattered and broken piece of humanity hanging on a piece of wood is of no use whatsoever.

But evidently sometimes all it takes is the sight of a bare tree in winter.

Our verbal God is so wondrously non-verbal in his communication too.
Which is really good news for all us non-verbal learning types.

Non-Verbal-Communication-Chart-Transparent1

Hey. Pie charts don’t lie.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2015 in haverings, Quotes

 

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