Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Five: Summer Reading

Songbird has brought up a good Friday Five this week. She says:

“Back in the day, before I went to seminary, I worked in the Children's Room at the Public Library, and every year we geared up for Summer Reading. Children would come in and record the books read over the summer, and the season included numerous special and celebratory events. As a lifelong book lover and enthusiastic summer reader, I find I still accumulate a pile of books for the summer.”

This week, then, a Summer Reading Friday Five.

1) Do you think of summer as a particularly good season for reading? Why or why not?

Summer is a wonderful time to read—but of course, almost any time is a good time to read. I always have two or three books going at once. I never have time on my hands—I always have a book handy. But we have a wonderful second floor screened-in porch at our apartment. We can sit there in the cool breeze and feel like we are in a tree house. We can sit there well into the night because the light is pretty good there and listen to all the birds, squirrels, tree frogs or even the buzzing of the bugs. I would do my blogging there except that it is often too bright for the screen.

Also my idea of the great summer vacation is to go to a cabin in the woods and read. A cool drink, a book and chaise chair is all I need to make me happy. So yes, summer is a time when I can catch up on my reading. It is also a time when I don’t feel guilty about reading novels and for-fun books. I think that feeling of “wasting time” while reading comes from my mother who never read much and therefore thought that I was wasting time reading. It was only after college that I really began to enjoy reading for the mental exercise it gives.

It doesn’t matter what kind of reading it is—professional, non-fiction, fiction, magazines. It all feeds the mind with stuff that sermons are made of, teaching is made of, general conversation is made of. My vocabulary grows; my awareness of the world grows. I become more of a person as I read.

2) Have you ever fallen asleep reading on the beach?

I cannot afford to. I really don’t like the beach and I burn VERY easily. Also the bright light, even with sunglasses on make it very hard to read. I will sit on a deck and look at a lake or river while reading. And I have been known to fall asleep there on a chaise enjoying the out of doors but usually in the shade.

3) Can you recall a favorite childhood book read in the summertime?

My favorite book growing up was Misty of Chincoteague. I would read it over and over. I longed to be one of the Beebe children so I could have a pony like Misty. In my fifties I finally visited Chincoteague and Assateague islands and saw the ponies who still wander at will through the park. It brought all those stories back.

4) Do you have a favorite genre for light or relaxing reading?

I am a glutton for mysteries. I haunt Barnes and Noble for new authors all the time. My favorite mystery writer besides the classics Josephine Tey and Dorothy Sayers, is Laurie King. Her husband was a member of my parish when I was in CA. She writes the most complex and gripping stories without them being gory.

5) What is the next book on your reading list?

I am presently reading one of Alexander McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies Detective series: The Good Husband of Zebra Drive. I love the way he can write believable books about women’s intuition. I am also reading Diana Butler Bass’ Christianity for the Rest of Us. Because I read so slowly, it takes me a long time to get through a single book, but I am also reading several books at a time. So it takes even longer for me to wade through books.

I think I want to read Bass’ The Practicing Church? I am not sure that is the name of it but it is something like that. I will look for some more mysteries—especially a Sister Fidelma mystery to take on vacation with me in August.

Commentators, do you have any suggestions for summer books?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Eye Upon the Sparrow

Proper 7A
June 21, 2008

In the reading from Jeremiah today is a passage that many preachers identify with. The translation as it was read this morning is a bit more elegant that the Hebrew actually intends. The word enticed really has a more earthy sense to it. It would be better translated seduced. Jeremiah feels that he has been seduced into being a prophet by God. He has had to proclaim the doom that God will bring down on Judah to the scorn of those who laugh at him. Jeremiah in this passage laments his lot. He complains that he has to cry out to the people that the Babylonians will come and take Judah captive, but he cannot do otherwise. He tries to keep silent, but the truth burns in him until it must come out.

I understand Jeremiah’s lament. I know what it means to be seduced by God’s truth and love and to almost naively point out flaws or lack of integrity. Folks do not really like whistle blowers. The majority of folks do not appreciate those who find the chinks in the constructs of their businesses, political systems, organizations or churches. We like our world to be comfortable. And even though it doesn’t work quite the way that we want, we are willing to put up with the chinks if we don’t have to look at them too hard.

When I was a child living in Jim Crow South, there were two different colored water fountains in stores—one for white folks and one for “colored people”. For most white folks in Ft. Worth, those 2 drinking fountains were just part of the construction of society. For me, even when I was young, those 2 drinking fountains were signs that there was something radically wrong with society. Even as an 8 year old, I would drink from the “colored” fountain much to my mother’s embarrassment. As I grew older, that construct of society became more and more a sign of what was wrong about my society rather than something that I could ignore. I got kicked out of a high school history class because I was not outraged that white women didn’t get to vote before black men did. My radically southern and bigoted world history teacher was horrified that I might believe that black folk should be equal. After all she was a good Christian woman who went to church every Sunday! Something burned in me—it was not just orneriness. It wasn’t just a matter of being different. Something inside of me claimed a priority of Truth with a capital T.

Truth is a mysterious thing. We sometimes think that we know the truth of something because we recognize the facts about something. But the kind of Truth that Jeremiah had to deal with—the kind of proclamation that he had to make was not something that he could explain. It was something that burned inside of him. It allowed him to speak the truth that no one wanted to hear—that the leaders of his country were selling his nation down the primrose path. He had to proclaim like Jonah that if the people of Judah continued in the path that it would be to their destruction. He could not be silent even when he wanted to be.

One of the major criticisms of mainline Protestantism these days by the younger generations is that we don’t practice what we preach. We preach love and kindness, but often time our churches quarrel viciously. We say we are welcoming and big happy family, but we tend to include only those who look or act like us. I am not talking of St. Luke’s or even the Lutheran Church. But I am quoting what I am hearing from surveys of the 40 and younger crowd by various organizations about mainline churches throughout the country.

Part of the problem is that we are not familiarizing young people with what Truth is. We are not teaching people of all ages that what is honest is part of their own relationship with God. When we are baptized we enter into God’s understanding, God’s holiness and we will forever struggle with what is Truth, what is Holy, what is Right.

In today’s Gospel reading we hear those words that give us all pause:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's foes will be members of one's own household.
Jesus understood the call to integrity. He knew the call to be a whistle blower in the name of God. Jesus knew his disciples when they went out to spread the Gospel would not have to know exactly what to say or how to preach. But he did know that if they could be true to the voice inside them—be true to what was honest and true, that they would serve God as did he, as had Jeremiah, as had Moses or whatever saint that had preceded them.
We have all been seduced into believing that we can walk the Christian path simply by being good. But that is not what Jesus teaches us in this passage. Sometimes we have to color outside the lines. Sometimes we have to step outside of what is acceptable behavior to follow the Lord of Life. We must demand of ourselves a willingness to pay attention to the holiness that God has opened up within us. We have to be willing to not accept a lesser form of living than the integrity that Christ holds out to us.
For those of us who have embraced Christianity we must be willing to practice what we preach—we must be willing to look at how we respond to the Truth we find within us and how we live it out in out lives. The cost of discipleship can be severe. It may mean rejection by those we love the most. Peer pressure is not just a phenomenon of the young, you know. Peer pressure is “keeping up with the Jones”, “being part of the team”, “fitting in”, “go along to get along” or “just being one of the guys.” It is as much a problem for adults as it is for kids.
Paul reminds us in Romans that in our baptism we have died to all that is not of God. We have been renewed by God’s love in baptism. We have opened that space so that we can know what Truth is and we can live in the promise of that baptism here and now. Yes, it may cost us, but the reality of God’s promise is much greater.
I serve here at St. Luke’s because I spoke the Truth to my bishop. He did not like the Truth that I spoke and has forbidden me work in my own church. The cost of that truth telling almost broke my heart. And the loss of access to my beloved denominational home is painful to me still.
At the same time, God has called me here. God has opened new truths to me in a way that I could not have imagined 10 months ago. God has promised that his eye is on the sparrow. We need not fear what comes from being a disciple. The Gospel is the promise of new life every day—it may not be the life you were planning, but it is the life of living with integrity the life that God has given us in baptism.
I would charge you to look at the places in your lives where you are just “fitting in”. I would invite you to challenge yourselves to live the lives that God has opened for you in your baptism—lives that are drawn to the Truth that resonates within you. And I would invite you to live those lives with integrity, boldness and love. Our world needs to hear that Truth —the truth of our beings, the truth of our baptism, the truth of the Gospel. AMEN

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Five Summer in the City

Singing Owl at Revgals has devised a Friday Five that dwells on word associations. It is obvious that she has got some song on her mind:

I am feeling like playing hooky, and I'm putting off sermon prep till tomorrow. It is a beautiful, sunny day at my place. So come on outside and let's play a summer Friday Five!

This post is loosely based on previous "wordy" Friday Fives from Reverend Mother and Songbird. I liked the results, and so we are doing another word association . Theirs were based on words from a lectionary text. Mine comes from the Lovin' Spoonful song, "Summer in the City."

Think summer......are you there? Below you will find five words or phrases. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem, a memory, a recipe, or a story. You get the idea:

1. rooftop
2. gritty
3. hot town (yeah, I know, it's two words)
4. night
5. dance

1. Rooftop: I live in a small city. I have lived in bigger ones so many of the words that work for large cities don't work here. Rooftop is not some place to go in the summertime. It is merely the top of the house that usually has asphalt tile that has to be repaired every 20 years or so.

2. Gritty: That is the way I feel after I have been to the beach (cf. last week's friday five)

3. hot town: NOT the town I live in! This would mean that there was something going on. There is more going on in the village I work in than the city I live in. Need to go down to NYC if I want to find a "hot town." But I really don't enjoy a "hot town" either. I like the moderately idle place where I live. The only thing about my city in the summer is that all the construction that has to be put off during the winter is frantically done during June, July and August. It is wonderful to have the doors open during the summer months, but the sound of power tools is a liability.

4. Night: Summer evenings sitting on the screened in porch are what I live for. Now that we have a good light there, it is a wonderful place to read and listen to the birds settle down for the night. Then there are the sounds of the insects and frogs that begin their songs at night.

5. Dance: Since I don't, it is enjoyable to watch the animals or insects dance during the summer. As a fly fisher, I am quite attuned to the kinds of bugs there are. Living close to the river, we get the same kinds of bugs that the fish love to eat scattered on our screens. It is mayfly season right now and so each morning I look to see what kinds of bugs have danced onto our porch. Usually Isoconychias, sulfters, pale morning duns, and the various caddis flies. Even though my knees won't let me get on streams anymore, I enjoy thinking of the kinds of flies I might tie to fool one more fish to come to my line. It is a summer dance that fly fishers do.

Bonus: I know that I am older than Singing Owl! Tee Hee! I was already teaching when the Monkeys or whatever that longhaired group was playing this song. Besides, I was a symphonic musician and NEVER listened to THAT kind of music. La dee da! I was such a prude when it came to music then!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

This week in Neverland

I have spent the past week at two rather bracing events. One was the ELCA Upstate Synod Assembly. If there is anyone that Episcopalian dioceses could learn from, it is this Synod’s efforts of what a gathering of Church can mean for the faithful. I was impressed in how it went about electing a new bishop. It was done with such respect and grace that my breath was taken away. Granted, the Lutherans elect their bishops for a six-year term. A sitting bishop must then run again if s/he wishes to continue as bishop. In this case, Bishop Marie Jerge was re-elected. But it is a process that perhaps we Episcopalians could entertain in the future. It would mean that there would never be situations such has happened in the dioceses of San Joachin, Ft. Worth, Pittsburgh where “bully bishops” have besmirched the Church by trying to lead their churches out of the community of the faithful.

The theme for the Upstate Synod’s annual meeting was “We are called.” Throughout the three days of meeting we heard people from all over the synod and beyond about their understanding of call. They were pastors, and lay folk, young and old, who understood their baptism to be their ordination to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. I was especially thrilled with the young people: high-school and young adults (post-high school to 35) who spoke of their faith with a unique humility and situated in the reality of their lives. The hope that they communicated enriched my own faith.

The liturgy was truly “the work of the people.” And while I have always been proud of Episcopal liturgy, the Lutheran ethos of music enfolded the liturgies in four-part sound that filled up the whole convention center and wafted to heaven. An African-American United Methodist bishop preached a sermon that moved people to applause and cheers. I came away from this meeting of NY Christians renewed and enthused—what I believe that church-wide gatherings are supposed to do.

Friday and Saturday I spent at a workshop by the Rev. Dr. Diana Butler Bass. Dr. Bass spoke about her recent book Christianity for the Rest of Us. An Episcopal priest who teaches at Virginia Theological School in Alexandria, VA, Bass writes from a moderate position about the directions of the future of the Church. She is fundamentally a church historian who because of a Lilly Grant reached into mainline Protestant churches to see what congregations were growing and why. She earmarked Ten Signposts of Renewal in churches of thriving mainline congregations. She focused on the practice of faith rather than on belief or denominational tenets. She found that churches that practiced hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, testimony, diversity, justice, worship, reflection and beauty with intentionality were congregations that were thriving. They were not caught up with the conservative-progressive dichotomy that is destroying many churches. They had a diversity of young and older congregants and they served their communities.

During her talks, Dr. Bass talked about the coming generation—not the Gen Xers, not even the Millennials. She talked about the sea change that is going on in the world—in science, commerce, communications. The same kind of sea change that was going on in which Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to discuss, or that Jesus addressed to the Jewish establishment and the Roman Empire. She says that in the light of this “New Reformation” we will see the gradual changes in denominationalism—not the end of denominationalism but broader boundaries given for those of us from the reformed traditions.

In the light of the move from Established churches to Emergent churches she says that the polarity of conservative and liberal will fall away. Doctrinal authority for the coming generations is not going to be about a single truth—but truth as it is encapsulated in culture.

A master story teller, Bass shared a story in which Phyllis Tickle was caught up in a Q & A session in a diocese in which there was much Conservative/Progressive dissention. Someone asked her if she believed in the Virgin Birth. Before she had a chance to even respond to the question, someone shouted, “that’s Spong’s question—he should be put out of the Church, he is a heretic”. Someone else jumped in at that point from an equally liberal position and the fight was on. She watched as a teen-age boy tried to ask a question. Finally when the boy asked his question, he said, “I don’t know what the adults are arguing about. I believe in the Virgin Birth. It is so beautiful; it is bound to be true, even if it didn’t happen that way.”

The movement from my modernist upbringing in which one truth was sought after to an era in which truth is something that is viewed from its context and truth is more likely to be multiple is a difficult jump to make. And yet it is the kind of understanding of faith that I have always tried to teach. But if anything can get us out of the push-pull dialectic that we have been in for the past 10 years, then perhaps centering on post-modernism may be the salvation of the Church.

Bass likened the next 100 years to a river out of its banks. We do not know what Church is going to be in the future. She says that denominations will doubtlessly change radically in the next 50 years but not go away totally. But it will be the practice of Christianity that will remain. So it is important that we practice what we say that we are. Younger people are critical of those who cannot be who they say they are and I must admit so am I.

We may not know what church is going to look like in the future. But I do think that we are going to know what the Church is going to be like in the future. It will be a community of people who take regard for others because of their love of Christ Jesus. We may not have bunches of denominations to confuse us. We may not have large buildings that are too big for us. But if we are faithful to the Gospel—to the promise of Jesus, we will be groups of people who practice reflection, share our faith with others, champion justice as a spiritual practice rather than a political stance, worship a God of love and welcome those who are different than ourselves because it teaches of the diversity of God’s creation.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Revgals’ Mother Laura is off to the beach with her family. She has a long list of what is “groovin’” for her on the beach and she says:

So in honor of summer, please share your own beachy memories, plans, and dreams with a "Beach Trip" Friday Five.

1. Ocean rocks, lake limps? Vice versa? Or "it's all beautiful in its own way"?
I don’t like the beach! I am far too Celtic of skin tone to like sun with or without SF factors to be comfortable. I am not too keen on sand either. If I want to go to water on vacation it is a nice mountain stream or tree-lined lake. I am not crazy about the heat either so shady with a nice breeze fits my bill. Why else would I live in upstate NY?
2. Year round beach living: Heaven...or the Other Place?
When we lived in CA I can count on one hand the times we went to the beach. I love to fish, but surf fishing is quite dangerous, and since I like to fish alone, it wasn’t safe to do. I don’t like living in CA where the earth moves under your feet. I have lived on the Gulf Coast and liked that. I liked being able to look at the water at all times of the day, but never to sit on the beach.

3. Any beach plans for this summer?

We are going to Vancouver and Seattle this year. The beaches there will be to look at but not sit upon.

4. Best beach memory ever? When I lived on Galveston in my youth I lived only a block from the shore. One year there was what was called a “blue tide.” It was when phosphorescent plankton was near the shore. Each wave lit up as it came to the beach. At night it was the most pronounced. One night (a school night, no less) I stayed up until 3am watching each wave as it glowed neon as it dashed against the seawall. Awesome!

5. Fantasy beach trip? I would love to see New Zealand and perhaps live on a boat for a few days. I wouldn’t mind fishing either.

Bonus: Share a piece of music/poetry/film/book that expresses something about what the beach means to you.
Debussy’s La Mer, Mendlesonn’s Fingal's Cave

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Mercy not sacrifice

In two places in our readings today we hear God speaking to the people about sacrifice. We have to remember that Judaism up until the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD was a religion of sacrifice. By taking animals or grains (first fruits) to the temple and offering them to the priests who would offer the sacrifice to God by burning them or laying them in the temple, people’s sins were then cleansed. It was through these sacrifices that those who were ill were healed, wrongs were righted, and the harmony or peace, shalom that I spoke about last week was restored. The Mosaic Law was built on these sacrifices.
The word sacrifice means to make holy—or to set apart for the sacred. What happened to the meat or grain that was not burned in its entirety (a holocaust) was sold to support the temple and its priests. There were special ways that the animals could be slaughtered, there were certain ways that the grains were to be offered and those rules have come down to us as Kosher. To follow Kosher in a Jewish household—and not all Jews do requires a life- style change. My conservative rabbi friend and his family observe the rules of kosher. We meet occasionally at a vegetarian restaurant where he knows that he can eat and keep the laws of kosher. He does not feel constrained; he feels privileged to be able to observe the laws of his ancient faith. Mercy is a part of his life –the observance of the rules is not sacrifice but the embracing of a life of mercy and generosity.
But like many people who see religion as a series of laws to obey, or a group of ideas to give assent to, or some sequence of actions that one must complete so that salvation can be attained, sacrifice becomes the be all and end all of religion. In our own Christianity with much of our understanding of Jesus’ life seen in his death and sacrifice on the cross, it is easy to see how we see the efficacy of sacrifice rather than seeing what sacrifice is supposed to do—bring us to an understanding of gratitude and mercy. Jesus’ sacrifice of his life was an act of mercy—he could have brought down war—a cosmic war that would have removed Herod Antipas from the throne of Judah and removed Pontius Pilate as governor of Palestine. But that was not his purpose—his purpose was to teach the people about the reign of God. It was a life of balance and shalom. It was a life of generosity and hospitality.
In the reading from Hosea, the prophet is telling the people that their sacrifices will do nothing if they don’t change their hearts about God. The government and the populace of Israel have and their minor tribes of Ephraim and Judah have been setting up alliances with other nations. They have placated those nations by allowing the worship of the gods of those nations to be worshipped in Israel. It has cause widespread confusion about their devotion to Yahweh—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But because they have been faithful about the sacrifices, the people of Israel think that they are safe from God’s wrath.
The Jews by the time of Jesus knew that Hosea had been right. And eventually the people of Judah were taken off to Babylon in slavery because they had failed to do justice, to be people of God, to be merciful with one another.
By Jesus’ day, religion had devolved into keeping the law. Religious leaders, as religious leaders are often tempted to be, were leading the people away from the matters of the heart and into observance of rules rather than developing a right relationship with God. All too often faith ends up being a shallow following of rules rather than the call to transformation of lives. It is for this reason that Jesus says “Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."
In the rest of the passage we have from Matthew we have instances in which the actions of Jesus are ones that are not in keeping with the rules of religion but they do demand the mercy that God’s love teaches.
Jesus calls the tax collector—a detested profession in Jesus’ day. A tax collector was considered a quisling, a betrayer of his race, and agent of the imperial overlords. He had dinner with those who were not followers of the Law. He was called to the bedside of the daughter of an important Pharisee—an important follower of the law and on his way there he was made unrighteous by the touch of an unclean woman. Yet he brought about miraculous cures. Mercy is what God wants. Caring is at the center of who we are as people of faith.
What does it mean for us to be people of mercy today? What do these passages evoke for us? They call us to look hard at how we observe our faith. If we say we are Christians but do not have mercy—what do people think of our faith?
The younger generations—those who are in their twenties and thirties—are not attending church the way even their baby boomer parents did. They call themselves “spiritual, but not religious”. They claim to have faith but find organized religion hypocritical and rigid. And instead of finding mercy—they find legalism rather than faith in Church.
Now, those of us in the church know that faith is in the heart and we take exception with the critique of the young. But in truth, we know that we have not been good about teaching that faith is a heart matter. We have fallen back on regulations rather than sharing what it means to be humbled by God. We tell people what the Church says rather than speak of our own conversion and testifying to the change that God has called us. We find it easier to say what the pastor says, rather than own up to the doubts and fears we have had in the face of God’s grace. And we get angry when we have our short-comings of faith are revealed to us in the eyes of those who are young.
But that is what the younger folks are calling us to is to get honest about. They are saying “If faith is so important, why don’t you live it?” “If Church is so important, put your money where your mouth is?” If the community of the faithful is the Body of Christ, where is joy in our lives?
Brothers and Sisters, we need to be sharing our faith. Now, many of us grew up at a time when it wasn’t polite to share faith—that was something that you did in your closet. We were not taught to pray out loud-- “the pastor will do all the out loud praying we need to do.” But that time is gone.
We need to be able to speak to our family and friends how God has changed out lives. We need to be able to continue to allow God to change our lives—allowing the transformation of God’s love to be seen by others.
It is not sacrifice that God wants; it is a manifestation of what God’s love means. Mercy is that gift that God gives that allows us to go beyond the law; that allows us to enter into the lives of other so that we know that we are connected at a level other than the superficiality of acquaintance.
Good works are mere sacrifices if they do not connect us one to another. Our casseroles mean nothing if the heart is not broken by the loss of a family member of the recipient. Taking another to cancer treatments is a mere cab ride if it does not include the concern for the well-being of patient. We are not a faith of sacrifice—even Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is a desire to be with us so that we can know the Father. Mercy breaks down the coldness of our hearts. It forces us to understand the incredible connectedness that God would have us know. It prepares us for the overwhelming hospitality that God holds out to us so that we know that peace, that shalom, that wholeness and balanced life to which we are all called in Jesus.
I would invite you this week to look at the places in your lives where mercy is needed. Not only the mercy that you need—but the mercy you need to express. I would caution you that mercy is difficult. We often have to be merciful when we don’t want to be. And I would suggest you take that to God in prayer. I would ask you to be careful to dole out mercy if it costs you too much and to look at that in prayer. God gives us the ability to be merciful. We need to be willing to ask for that grace. We should not grant mercy if we have not made peace with it, however. If we are not at peace, or do not want to give it, we need to recognize that we are sinners at the same time as we are sinners. God has mercy for us in the meantime until we can offer that mercy in our hearts. Let yourselves make peace within yourselves no matter where you are in the process to be merciful. But when you can give mercy, you are ready to receive it yourselves.
May God be with you in you efforts and shalom be in your hearts. AMEN

Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday Five: Big Picture

Sally at Revgals put this up on our Friday Five:

This week I took some time out to stop and walk and take in the view; my son Chris is studying in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, too often we simply drive up there, turn around and come home! This time Tim and I took time out to take in the view. It occurs to me that we need to do that more in life....

With that in mind I offer you this weeks Friday Five:

1. How important is the "big picture" to you, do you need a glimpse of the possibilities or are you a details person?

I always think I like to look at the big picture. I am NOT a detail person, but I have always had detail persons in the congregations or I have hired a detail person as secretary to do things like that. I am thankful I have several detail persons in my present parish. And they seem to like to have a big picture folk in their midst. Now, the real problem is that I have no detail person in my private life. I can solve the problems of global hunger but get the bathrooms cleaned????

2. If the big picture is important to you how do you hold onto it in the nitty gritty details of life?
The Big Picture is always changing as I have to deal with the nitty gritty. Because the Big Picture is never something that I can accomplish, it always has to be massaged into some approximation of reality. Since I am a P on Myers-Briggs, this is possible. While I can bring things to some conclusion, it is never the conclusion that I idealize when I start out. I used to be a perfectionist and could never get anything done. I got over that in college and learned to get things done as best I could.

The whole Aristotelian notion that there is perfection in this life has always been a bugaboo. After I studied this philosophy I decided to jettison it for a more realistic way of living. I am more able to recognize that perfection is not only unattainable, but not something worthy of imitation. Give me good ole existentialism!

3. Name a book, poem, psalm, piece of music that transports to to another dimension ( one....what am I thinking....)

Music is what transports me. I am not a good concert goer, however, as I get enthused by performance and disturb those around me. Mahler, Mozart, Beethoven, Vaughn-Williams, Richard Strauss, even Palestrina all make my heart go pitty-pat. I love to sing in a good choir too and performing great works of music transports me to God.

4.Thinking of physical views, is there somewhere that inspires you, somewhere that you breathe more easily?

There are several places that are ‘thin places’ for me. The Plain of Salisbury is one. It surprised me that it had such an effect on me. Stonehendge is a Big Picture place--where faith all began for my Wiltshire forebearers. The recent excavations there show it as a massive cemetary--my roots.

The Grand Canyon is another.

The whole of the islands of Iona and Lindesfarne captivated me. But there are a few places on my drive to the parish I serve now that are beautiful and take my breath away. A couple of friends have a cottage on a lake which if I sit there, “all becomes well” as St. Julian of Norwich says.

5. A picture opportunity... post one if you can ( or a link to one!)