Time to……….?

What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know. If I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not. My soul is on fire to know this most intricate enigma.                                  St. Augustine of Hippo

After more than a full year of Big Projects layered onto Big Project, I woke the last two mornings with my head empty,

“I thought your head was always empty,” younger son said via phone which made it safe to say.

Addle-headed is not the same as empty-headed.

I had no trip to organize (we’d had three over the past year), no pressing detail work, no painting or fixing, no editing or marketing. No renovations. All of which required Big Projects over the past year, usually more than one at a time.

The last two Big Projects are in: final galley edits on the poetry book went in Friday with all the dots, tiddles, M-dashes, misspelled words and commas marked and corrected. On Monday, taxes followed the trail to the post office, complete with K Schedule and A Schedule and forms with various numbers – several beginning with 88-somethings, and a second packet with the Missouri taxes and its several pages.

Both projects filled themselves with a multitude of numbers and fine details and checking and rechecking which filled my head the first thing upon waking. Big Projects, of whatever kind, do that.

What’s a girl to do with no Big Projects? With time on her hands and an empty head?

I’ve never been a big television watcher. A farm childhood and years of international living and travel took care of that piece of American culture. I missed most of the 80s decade all together. Actually, I missed a lot of the 70s too. What I remember from the 1980s is living in New Orleans, New York, St. Lucia, Mexico, and Washington D.C. – where I owned a television for the first time in years. The same television now lives in our bedroom.

It’s too cold and rainy to walk although my body could certainly use a long walk. A recent bout with amnesia and high blood pressure (fancy that!) precludes work with weights above my head. Yoga requires too many head down poses to spend much time with that.

So I stare out the window at a muddy yard, remember last summer’s drought. The oak has stubbornly refused to leaf out. It obviously knew something the rest of us only guessed at. Its time is not the calendar’s time. Its time is its own.

As is mine.

Time, that most elusive and unknowable task-master, stretching.



Signs and Wonders

Several in our community asked Cliff to write up his homily from last Sunday.

Bishop Cliff Kroski’s Roman Catholic theology education is from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.

The Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Lent was John 3: 14-21. This passage contains the well-known sentence,  (3:16) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”

No doubt, you have seen people hold up a sign that reads, John 3:16 at various sporting events. This passage also lays the foundation for the central belief of many Christians: Salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone and those who do not accept Jesus are not saved. Little do the sign holders know that their sign contains a profound and complicated theology which is only found in John’s Gospel.

The Fourth Gospel contains theology and Christology (the theology of how Jesus is viewed) but is not found in the other three Gospels. In the earliest written Gospel of Mark, Jesus is seen as a limited human being, perhaps somewhat divine-like, and a “godly” person. In Mark, Jesus is called the “Son of Man.” Jesus is also a mystery to the people. In the Gospel of Matthew, said to be written second, Jesus is the promised Messiah and Matthew stresses Jesus’ relationship to God as “Son.” In Luke, Jesus is born of Mary, is human, but by God’s power, Jesus is raised to “the Christ” and has the title of ”Lord.”  In John’s Gospel, from the very first verse, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”  Jesus is God.  Jesus is both “with God” and is God.

John has the beginning of the Trinity developing in his Gospel. Why this progression of Christology?

John’s Gospel was the last gospel written out of the four in the official canon of scripture. Scholars place its origin from the late 90’s to perhaps even 100 AD. It’s been 60-70 years since Jesus died and the way the early Church viewed him increased significantly. By then, in the 2nd century AD, Jesus was not only the Son of God, Jesus was God. In John’s Gospel, Jesus does not speak in parables as in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Jesus gives long monologues in which he describes himself as “The way, the truth, the life and the light.” John’s Gospel also had something called “realized eschatology.” Eschatology is concerned with the “end time,” the end of the world as well as the judgment that comes at the end of the world. John’s judgment is not from God, with Jesus coming on the “clouds of heaven.”  John’s judgment comes when each person accepts or rejects Jesus. God has revealed the Light and humans respond to the Light by their belief or disbelief. In other words, realized eschatology means that we judge ourselves by our belief or unbelief in Jesus, the way, the truth and light. The end is happening now, (and every day) by the world’s response to Jesus. John’s Gospel is primarily a gospel of faith. When “doubting” Thomas sees the wounds of the risen Christ, who appears to the disciples, Thomas’ response is, “My Lord and my God.” It’s as simple as that in John’s Gospel.

John’s Gospel also carries Gnostic traditions. The words above of Logos, (Word) life, light, and words such as “true” and “know,” and the esoteric dualities of “light and darkness,”  spirit and flesh”  all have Hellenistic, Gnostic connotations. Also, the idea that gnosis, meaning  knowledge, has been made known to humans by a revealer—God—who has revealed his Son—Jesus, who has come to rescue humanity from its entrapment—sin, is also very gnostic. The fact that it is by  humanities inward, personal response to this revelation (knowledge) that we in essence, save ourselves, smacks of Gnosticism. In other words, the revelation has been presented and we respond (ourselves) to this self-revelation. We have been given the knowledge, now it is up to us to make the response in belief or disbelief.

So, the next time you see the sign John 3:16 being held aloft at a sporting event, the question to ponder is, “I wonder if the person holding the sign knows about  realized eschatology,  gnosis, and the Christology of the Gospel of John.”



Grace Offered

Monday of the Third Week of Lent

My head seems to be fixed onto my shoulders again today and my mind working.

For that I am grateful.

I’m also thankful for all your good wishes and prayers over this past week as I’ve stumbled into health again; and I’m very thankful for a friend who brought me yogurt yesterday, Cliff being busy with all the things that we usually do together and that he was doing alone.

Yogurt. A small thing and yet exactly what I needed to help with my healing after a week plus of medications of all sorts and varying toxicity. And not just any yogurt, mind you, rather she made a special trip to Trader Joe’s for Greek yogurt.

Today’s reading is about small things and special trips. Naaman, an army commander and greatly respected, was a leper. A slave girl suggests he present himself for healing to the prophet Elisha for healing. After some detours in the process (an interesting story in 2 Kings 5) Naaman finally reaches Elisha, arriving with horses and chariots and a complete contingent of servants The prophet doesn’t come outside but rather sends out a message for him to go bathe in the river seven times.

Of course, Naaman gets angry at the way he’s treated: I thought he would surely come out and stand there to invoke the Lord his God, and would move his hand over the spot, and thus cure the leprosy. Are not the rivers of  Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better….Could I not wash in them and be cleansed? But his servants prevail and say that if the prophet has asked him to do something extraordinary, he would have done it. So do the simple, they say. “Wash and be clean.” So he does and he is.

Most of us want to do great things. It’s the little things that are the hardest. The simple things. Like buying a friend yogurt; like saying hello and smiling; like holding a door open for another. We all forget those small things in the quest for the large.

Today, look for the small ways you can offer grace and healing to others. At the end of the day, list the small moments so you remember them. Maybe you can even practice them again tomorrow. And maybe your practice will help you notice when others offer grace to you.


In Sickness and Health

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

I’m on Day Four of the Great-Respiritory-Infection-Gunk-Thing

that seems to be going around our city. Perhaps yours too.

Day Four seems to be the day everything hurts. Great. But at least, with a husband and son having broken the path before me, I know what’s coming. And yes, I have meds; and yes, I’m taking care of myself; and no, I’m not going out. But thanks for your kind thoughts.

Matthew’s Gospel says, As Jesus was starting to go up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve aside on the road and said to them: “We are going up to Jerusalem now. 

We’re at that place in Lent when Jesus begins his walk to death. It always comes, each year, and each year it seems something drastic is going on in this world, too. This year is no different. I have heard from two friends this week who have lost family members to death; the people in the various tornadoes have lost family members and homes; I’m not the only one sick. I’m not going to die. And certainly not by crucifixion.

This walk to Jerusalem is the reason I avoid complaining as much as possible. And if I complain to Cliff, it’s in my three-year-old voice that says, I’m sick. I don’t feel good. And he says, I know.

Regardless of the fears or the sicknesses or the hurts or the accidents or even the deaths, we can look around and see someone suffering far more and in greater straites.

My life is pretty good, when you come right down to it. I have a bed.


The Folds of a Garment

Monday of the Second Week of Lent

Give and it shall be given to you.

Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will they pour into the fold of your garment.

For the measure you measure with will be measured back to you.

Today’s reading is one of my favorites in Lent. We say what goes around comes around, but the people in Jesus’ day were peasants and understood a grain metaphor. I come from peasant stock, Kansas farmer stock, and I can see the image of the good measure being pressed down, shaken together, running over, and the abundance in it.

But regardless of the way we say it, the philosophy is the same: what goes out, comes back.

Today, I want to offer the idea that Lent can mean receiving as well as giving up. We Americans, we’re not so good at receiving. When someone gives, more often than not the receiver says, thanks, but you don’t have to. Or words to that effect. We have mislaid the ability to receive fully and graciously.

When we give and receive in equal measure, we stay in balance.

Practice saying thank you today wherever you can. Just thank you. No add-ons. And when giving something, a piece of paper, a banana, a dollar to someone else, notice whether that person can simply receive with a thank you. Just observe.

Would saying thank you and receiving, giving and receiving thanks, be the good measure poured into the fold of our world?

Could we change the world one thank you at a time? One day at a time?