Archive for June, 2014

Chapter 7

Posted in Work in Progress on June 28, 2014 by timtrue

Chapter 7

Dad learned to play the carillon in Sewanee. I didn’t know what a carillon was until living there; maybe you don’t either. It’s a collection of bells in a bell tower, controlled mechanically by a series of rods and cables. On one end of these rods and cables is a clapper, a metal ball that strikes a bell. On the other end is a large wooden lever which the carillonneur (the person who plays the instrument) strikes in order to produce a sound from the bell. But what makes a carillon distinct from a mere bell is that there are many bells together, tuned to the western chromatic scale; and there is a console with many, many levers—in Sewanee’s case, forty-eight—to correspond to each bell, set up to look something like a cumbersome keyboard.

Dad took me up into Sewanee’s bell tower many times—which is really a part of the larger structure of All Saints’ Chapel. Near the top is the cabin where the carillonneur plays, something like a hundred twenty-six steps up. A parapet gives the best view anywhere on the Cumberland Plateau. One of the coolest things about it, at least for me, is that the chapel was built according to the purest Anglican tradition, meaning that the so-called east wall actually faces directly east; and so from the parapet of the bell tower you know exactly which direction you’re facing without the help of a compass.

But Dad couldn’t practice in the bell tower—not without everybody on the domain hearing him anyway. For this he’d go instead into the carillon studio, a room at the back corner of the building where all the printing jobs were done on campus. In this room stood a full-size console, just like the one in the bell tower except that it struck metal chimes, like those of a xylophone, instead of bells. “Great practice tool,” Dad would say, “except the action isn’t quite the same. But I can work around that.”

Anyway, he’d practice at night, after he’d closed his books for the day and finished up with whatever chores needing doing around the house. This usually meant he’d leave about nine o’clock and be home by eleven, walking the half-mile to and from the studio, home in time to catch the seven or so hours of sleep he desired.

That’s probably why he didn’t mind so much when I went to Elena’s house for a sleepover rather than the other way around, rather than if she were to come to our house. Dad felt like he had to stick around whenever a friend was visiting, like he was a self-appointed entertainment committee or something. But whenever I spent the night away, well, that meant more free time for him to do things like practice the carillon; or, later, especially during our third year, to tinker on a motorcycle project or pursue a paranormal rumor.

You might wonder why he didn’t spend much time with Mom on these Sewanee nights. I don’t mean to convey that they didn’t get along. They actually got along quite well. And they did lots of stuff together on the weekends. But Dad’s an active person. He always seems to have a surplus of energy no matter the situation. So when he’d arrive home at the end of his work day, a day spent sitting and studying or listening to lectures, the last thing he wanted to do was sit around some more. Add to this that he has no need or desire for television. So a typical night for him in our Sewanee years included dinner with me and Mom, cleanup, helping me with homework, taking a mile or so walk with Mom and the dog—I always stayed home to give them some uninterrupted time with each other—Mom and Dad I mean, not the dog—followed by one of those activities mentioned at the end of the last paragraph while Mom watched some TV.

One typical Wednesday night in the spring of our first year, after Dad had gone off to practice the carillon, I asked Mom, “Can I spend the night at Elena’s on Friday?” Wednesday, I’d learned, was just about the right day to ask about a sleepover. Sunday or Monday was too early; Thursday or, worse because it was the day of, Friday too late.

“Um, isn’t there something on the calendar?” she asked.

I was ready. “Yeah,” I answered; “you and Dad have some kind of dinner.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right. Well, I guess so then. You wouldn’t have to go to childcare this way. Let me call Elena’s mom tonight.”

“You don’t have to, Mom. I already asked and they’re good. You know I don’t like childcare anyway.”

Okay, then,” she answered; “it’s okay with me if it is with your father.” Which was enough to say yes.

Truth is I liked going to Elena’s more than inviting her over anyway. I knew that Dad would become too involved if she were to come over. But there was this too: her parents were very hands-off, meaning we could stay out late doing our own thing and sneak out even later if we liked without too much fear of being found out. Besides, I was an only child—boring!—and Elena had three older sisters and a little brother. Her house was always a hub of exciting activity.

A favorite Friday night activity is taking in a movie at the Sewanee Union Theater, affectionately called “the sut” by students, faculty, and residents of the domain. Movies shown are often between theater showings and DVD release, meaning they’re relatively new. But admission is only $3 with $1 popcorn and snacks—just perfect for seminary families on a tight budget. The theater itself sits right in the middle of campus, across University Ave. from All Saints’ Chapel. This was Elena’s and my plan, to walk to the sut and catch whatever was showing that night at 7pm.

And so Friday came.

“What’s the movie?” I asked as we walked home to Elena’s house from school.

“Something called Sunshine from a Spotless Brain I think,” she answered, “or something like that anyway. Jim Carrey’s in it; should be funny.”

“Yeah, I think I know the one you’re talking about. Mom and Dad saw it a while ago, I think. But isn’t it rated R?”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. My friends always let me in.”

And so it proved true. It was called Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, actually; and it was in fact rated R, the first rated R movie I ever saw; and Elena’s friends, a local Sewanee family, ran the theater and let her and me in, no questions about our age. And it was kind of weird, about a boyfriend and girlfriend who wanted to forget about each other after they broke up so they went through some sort of medical procedure that actually gave them slight brain damage in order to forget about each other. I don’t want to give too much away, so I won’t tell you how it ends. But it left me feeling weird. That’s the best I can describe it.

That, and I knew Mom would never have approved. I never did tell her, incidentally.

“Do you want to see college students make out?” Elena asked me after we’d left the theater and were sitting on a rock wall just outside the sut trying to decide what to do next.

“Um,” I hesitated, “aren’t we going back to your house now?”

“C’mon,” she persuaded, “it’ll be fun. It’s barely out of the way; it’ll only take a few minutes. Our parents will never know.”

“Is it near a frat house?” I asked.

If there’s one thing Mom seemed nervous about in Sewanee, it was the frat parties on Friday nights. “Don’t ever go near them,” she’d insist. “Promise me! You never know what drunk college kids will do.”

“No,” Elena answered. “That’s not a bad idea. But I was thinking of another place. C’mon! Let’s go!”

Elena took me across University Ave. towards All Saints’ Chapel but veered left across the quad to what looked like a tower you’d see at the corner of a castle. Lots of buildings in Sewanee looked like that, so it wasn’t anything surprising, not yet anyway. But then she led me inside this tower where I saw a spiral staircase leading upward. Of course I remembered Dad’s story of his boyhood home and Polyphemus’s lair.

“Ssh!” Elena turned and warned as we began to ascend the steps. “Don’t make any noise,” she whispered. “We’ll probably see some couples at the top.”

She was right, by the way. I spotted at least three couples “making out,” as she called it, when we exited the door at the top of the tower. I say “at least” because it was very dark, and it looked to me like a fourth couple was farther down the parapet but I wasn’t sure and I didn’t want to stare too hard too long. In fact what I could see for sure of the three couples was rather embarrassing. They were really into each other, like literally, face into face. I don’t think they would have noticed Elena and me if we had been laughing and talking loudly all the way up those stairs instead of acting all stealthy.

Seeing this live display of passion brought that same weird feeling from the movie back in a fresh way. Naturally then, feeling weird and embarrassed, I quickly turned my head. When I did, I saw something that instantly cleared my head of these and all other thoughts; and now I was glad we’d been stealthy.

For there, below, some fifty feet away in the light of a streetlamp, walking deliberately and with a pained look on her profiled face—maybe even crying, I couldn’t be sure—was my mom.

“Elena,” I nudged and pointed, whispering, “look!”

She did. Then she turned to me with a look somewhere between sympathy and sadness. And without another word we took leave of the college lovers and descended the stairs quietly to follow in the shadows.

<We follow her to the building where Dad practices the carillon, but the lights are off.

<Mom breaks out in sobs.>

Discipleship Digressions

Posted in Homilies with tags on June 22, 2014 by timtrue

Matthew 10:24-39

At its core, today’s Gospel is about discipleship. What does it means to be a disciple of Christ?

The word disciple comes from the Latin noun discipulus, which simply means student. When we say we are disciples of Christ, what we are actually saying is that we are students of Christ. At least in some sense.

But in what sense?

The word student is also a Latin word, literally translated, they are zealous; or, they are eager.

Now I don’t know about you, but I used to be a teacher—a Latin teacher, in fact—and I could never say this of all my students: that they were all zealous for Latin, or that they were all eager. Sure, some were eager. But others—usually many more—were not. Yet I didn’t make any sort of official distinction, like the eager ones were students while the non-eager ones were non-students. Oh, I might have wanted to make this distinction. For I might have seen it this way. But to the administration, parents, college admissions counselors, and so on, eager and non-eager alike are both called, simply enough, students.

So, is this what it means to be a disciple of Christ? To be a student of Christ? If so, is it okay if I’m not always so eager a Christian? What if some days I feel eager and other days I don’t? Does this mean I’m only a disciple of Christ sometimes; or that my faith is only lukewarm?

But I have made a digression.

Why don’t we look at the passage itself and see what it says about discipleship?

But when we do so, we find it difficult. It’s difficult to see what it means to be a disciple of Christ in this passage because of some rather hard words, some rather distracting words, some words we might even call digressions.

A first digression then, if you will: Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” What does Jesus mean by these words?

Jesus cannot mean a literal sword, can he? In fact, later in this very Gospel he rebukes a disciple for using a literal sword (cf. 26:51 ff.) to cut off another man’s ear! If he wanted to, he goes on to say, he could call twelve legions of angels to fight a war for him. But violence is not his way. Peace is.

But that’s just it! Jesus’s message of ultimate love and peace does not bring peace in the moment. Rather, his call to be a loving servant in the here and now turns the world upside down.

His message is about the hope of peace, one day; but for now this message is so radical that the immediate result will be upheaval, perhaps even to the point of violent opposition.

A second digression: Are we to fear or not to fear?

Jesus tells his disciples not to fear those who malign his name and those who threaten, even with death. For God the Father knows the number of hairs on your head and cares for even the tiny sparrow. Therefore do not fear those who can destroy only the body. But, on the other hand, do fear God, the one who can destroy both body and soul.

Is the text of two minds on this point? Do not fear; yet fear?

Not at all!

On the one hand, Jesus calls his disciples to be courageous, not to stand down on a decision made for his sake.

But, on the other hand, in the decisions we make for Christ, we must keep our positions in check, so to speak. God cares for each of us intimately; but God is no pushover!

Rather than being of two minds, there is instead something of a tension here. Disciples of Christ are called to make courageous decisions that nevertheless remain subject to change under God’s leading.

And a third digression: What are we to make of the family?

“For I have come to set a man against his father,” Jesus says; “and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”

Now I don’t know about you, but when I hear the phrase “family values,” this is not the passage of scripture that comes to mind. Still, here it is, right here in the Bible. What do we make of it?

Think for a moment about what the family represents. It’s bonds. Love; loyalty; fidelity. Remember the Hatfields and the McCoys? Huckleberry Finn runs into a similar feud: by this time the families don’t even remember what the original dispute was all about. Instead, now it’s all about family bonds. Blood is indeed thicker than water.

So what we’re to make of today’s passage—it seems to me anyway—is that Jesus is calling for prioritization. His disciples should possess love, loyalty, and fidelity for him that surpass even the bonds of family.

Anyway, as I’ve said already, today’s Gospel focuses on discipleship. But thanks to these digressions we haven’t even gotten there yet!

Or have we?

A lone beacon shines through the fog here: a profound truth about discipleship that enables us to navigate our way through these digression-filled waters. This “lone beacon,” this “profound truth,” is simply this:

Discipleship is about radical choices.

Following Christ in the ancient world was counter-cultural. It meant individuals being excommunicated from synagogues. It meant congregations assembling in catacombs, in secret because of their apparent subversiveness towards the established political structure. It meant imprisonment and death for many. It meant making and keeping radical choices in the face of persecution unlike anything we’ll ever know.

But it also meant hope and salvation for a desperate and enslaved world.

So it is today. Following Christ in our world today is counter-cultural. It means repenting of sinful habits and destructive worldviews in favor of loving others ahead of self. It means taking the higher road, maintaining impeccable integrity, doing the right thing even when no one is around to see it. It means having the courage to stand up against the injustices you see in the world around you, whether at home, at school, in the workplace, or beyond.

Christian discipleship is about radical choices.

This kind of discipleship—that makes and keeps radical choices—produces the family-dividing sword and the fearlessness to which Jesus refers.

But all this brings me back to my original digression—not the digressions I pointed out in the text, but the one I brought up at the beginning of my sermon, the one about a disciple being a student in some sense.

I get that being a disciple of Christ requires me to make choices, at times even radical choices, and stick to them. But what about my feelings?

Is it okay if I’m not always a fearless Christian? What if some days I feel eager and other days I don’t? Does this mean I’m only a disciple of Christ sometimes; or that my faith is only lukewarm?

Here’s the thing: these radical choices we are called to make as followers of Christ are nothing more than principles by which to live.

They’re principles that might lead to division instead of peace, yes, as Christ himself says. Yet principles by definition are based on reason, not emotion. We are able to stand upon our principles regardless of how we might feel on any given day.

But, of course, in order to formulate such principles to begin with, in order to establish Christ-honoring principles by which to live in the first place, we must spend long hours ahead of time, before the emotion of the moment overwhelms us. That way, when we don’t feel so eager, or when our faith feels only lukewarm, the principles we live by are already in place.

So what should we do during these long hours of this “before” time?

I think you know the answer already: pray; read; study; engage in spiritual direction; and so on.

These spiritual disciplines should be your routine. And if they are not, they should become your routine. For only in them do we clothe ourselves in Christ, as the apostle Paul exhorts. Only in them do we conform more and more to Christ’s image and worldview. Then, when the emotional storms of life hit—and they always will—we are nevertheless able to stand—even if we don’t feel like it; even if our faith feels lukewarm.

But we’ve come full circle, haven’t we? For these “before” activities—reading, praying, studying, etc.—aren’t these what students do?

May we all be faithful students of Christ!

Vacationing, Part 2: Purchasing Pluto

Posted in Family with tags , , , on June 16, 2014 by timtrue

(And what trip to California would be complete without a visit to the Getty Villa?)

I left off in “Vacationing, Part 1: Taking in the Tides” from Oregon.  We’re safely home now, having arrived last night after two long days on the road at 7pm.  But Oregon was more than a week ago.  What happened in the meantime?

First, we had another vomitous adventure.

Do you recall the last one?  I posted about it around the New Year; my son threw up in the middle of a Holiday Pops Concert at the Majestic Theater.  Yeah!  You heard correctly: a pops concert.  I’ll say!  Pop!  All over the person in front of him!

Needless to say, he has a sensitive stomach.

This time we decided to take a scenic route, a rather well-known windy road that hugs the California coast: Highway 1.

b4eff8c18069e8509d2d67f7b874f64f

Awesome scenery!  That is, until we round the third 10mph hairpin.  Then it’s not so awesome.  That’s because the boy starts moaning and saying things like, “I’m thirsty,” and, “My stomach hurts!” followed by those telltale burps.

So I pull over lickety-split, and illegally, and get the boy out of the car.  And there, standing hunched over, leaning over an embankment, just like that, he projectile-vomits everything from the morning.

And by “projectile,” I mean neat and clean.  He didn’t even need a tissue!  And, just like that, thirty seconds later we were back in the car and the boy was feeling bucketloads better.  Such efficiency!  I’m so proud.

Additional adventures included the Santa Barbara Zoo, a Country Club dinner, and a day divided.

santa-barbara-zoo-2

This zoo resident pretty much captures what I wanted to be doing on the day we went to the zoo.  Not that I didn’t enjoy it.  Rather, the SB Zoo is one of my favorite places on earth.  But the perfect combination of ocean breeze, sunshine, and lunch had its way with me.

imagesK1R1D81D

And, yep, this is the dining room in which we dined country-clubly–for which I had to make a run to Walmart in order to meet the dress code (I packed lightly).  Ironic?

By “day divided,” on Thursday, our last full day in southern California, two of us went to the Getty Villa

060807-002-GettyVilla001

while the rest of us (i. e., they) went to Disneyland (from which, due to my absence–this is my blog after all, meaning my perspective–I attach no photos).

A favorite exhibit at the Getty was “Byzantium: Heaven & Earth.”  It’s on display till August.  I highly recommend seeing this if you can.  Admission is free (but you need tickets, which you can get online); parking is $15.

So, check out this altar covering from about AD 1300.

343561EX1

Or check out this icon of St. George–you know, the knight who is supposed to have protected a town by slaying a dragon–probably written in the thirteenth century.

343416EX1

The Christian influence in Byzantium was large.  Much praiseworthy art, architecture, and music comes from this era indeed–an era that spans a thousand years, roughly from the fall of Rome in 431 to the fall of Constantinople in 1456.

However, there are also some things Christians did about which I am not happy.  This head of Aphrodite, probably from first-century Greece, has been vandalized by Christians.  Notice the cross etched into her forehead and the misshapen nose.  Her eyes have been gouged out also.  These defacings speak for themselves.

343463EX1

It seems that zealots appear in every age.

Today there are Christian churches that take issue with any image, including any image of Christ.  If you walk into one of these places of worship, you will find no stained glass, no icons, no crucifix, no paintings.  You may even be hard-pressed to find a cross.  It is a violation of the second commandment, they will say.  (“Do not make any graven images.”)  To which I say, “Yeah.  Whatever.”

With these thoughts in my mind, and as a gift to myself for Father’s Day, and to commemorate this vacation with a sort of souvenir, I purchased a figure of Pluto with his three-headed dog Cerberus from the Getty gift shop.  Notice the staff he’s holding.  It sort of looks like Neptune’s trident, but there are only two prongs, leading me to call it a bident.

It likewise leads me to wonder too, incidentally, if holding up your hand with only two fingers raised, the index and pinky, originated with this bident.  Some maintain that this is a sign of the devil.  But it’s not too far a stretch to go from the devil to hell to Hades, the Greek name of Pluto.  Any thoughts?

41D4tux0HUL__SS500_

At any rate, my mom met the two of us (me and a daughter) at the Getty.  If I’m not mistaken, she shuddered visibly when I purchased Pluto.  But, Mom, I assure you this is not a graven image in the sense of an idol–just a decoration to supplement the mythology on my bookshelf.

WWYD (What Would You Do–and Why)?

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , on June 15, 2014 by timtrue

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

I begin today with a story about a man named Joe; and his dog, named Reebok.*

Joe is a twenty-nine year-old, single real estate attorney.  He’s been working with the same firm now for almost four years, his first job since graduating from law school.

Reebok, Joe’s dog, is a five year-old yellow Lab.  Joe has owned Reebok since he was a puppy.  At first Joe got Reebok as a sort of trophy pet.  Joe had never had a dog growing up.  In fact, his dad told him that a pet dog would be a burden, despite however cute you may think he is as a puppy.  Nevertheless, Joe had wanted a dog since he was a small boy.  And now, just about to graduate from law school, Joe reasoned, it was high time to get a dog.

By “trophy pet” I mean that Joe viewed Reebok as a possession, something he owned and could treat however he wished.  This was his long-hoped for dog, emphasis on his.  He would show his dad just how responsible and capable he could be.  So he cared for Reebok, feeding him just the right amount of food at just the right times of the day, took him along on daily runs—which is why Joe named him Reebok, by the way—and spent long hours training him to obey and perform a few interesting tricks.

But in time, as often happens, Reebok became more of a friend to Joe than a trophy.  The runs continued.  So did the training and interesting tricks.  But the disciplined routine of feeding ended: Reebok ate his science diet, sure.  But an abundance of human scraps were added to this, not to mention the times of meals grew far less routine.  These two, man and best friend, became something like stereotypical bachelors.

That’s when Joe landed his job with the law firm.  New days with long hours meant running with Reebok and other social times suddenly became mostly a weekend affair.  Joe built a doggy door in his back door and fenced in a rather small backyard so that Reebok could at least have a modicum of liberty during the long hours of absence from his beloved master.

Add to this that Joe was sometimes required to travel overnight, to meet with a client in another state or whatever.  On these occasions Joe would simply leave three or four meals’ worth of food in a bowl for Reebok along with a full and rather large water bowl.

It seemed to be working; although, granted, this new routine was something of a compromise.  And always on these occasions Joe would hear a voice in his head, as if his father’s, saying things like, “I told you so: dog’s are too much responsibility”; and, “aren’t you a bit ashamed that you cannot care for your dog like you used to?”

So, on this particular morning, Joe is running five minutes late.  He set up an important meeting for 8am, a meeting with a high profile client at which two senior partners would be present.  But during the night his furnace stopped working.  Worried his pipes would freeze, he contacted an emergency repairman who arrived, at last, at 7:20.

That was fifteen minutes ago, the amount of time it took to explain the situation to the repairman.  Backing out of his driveway, he is more than a little nervous about leaving his house and things in the care of a stranger.  No matter.  His commute takes 30 minutes and he has only 25.

He races to work, hoping against hope to make it by 8:00.  Maybe, if he goes just five mph faster, and if he can just make a few more green lights than usual. . . .

Fifteen minutes later he has indeed made those green lights—or perhaps yellow, or even orange if you catch my meaning.  It’s looking more and more like he will make it on time after all.  He begins to breathe easy; he reaches over to his passenger seat to check his overnight bag.

Did I mention?  From the 8:00 meeting he will go to the airport, where he will to catch a 10:15 flight for another important meeting a time zone away.  This meeting is in fact more important than the 8:00 meeting, just as high profile but without a senior partner present to support him if necessary.

And right then it hits him.  Reebok!  He’s forgotten to feed his dog!

Hundreds of thoughts swarm in Joe’s mind all at once.  Can a Labrador go 36 hours without food and water?  Joe isn’t sure.  But he already feels somewhat guilty for neglecting his pet over these past several months.  Well, can he go to the 8:00 meeting and catch a later flight?  But this will most likely botch the later meeting, a possibility that will likely result in losing his job.  So, what about the 8:00 meeting?

Can you picture it?

What should Joe do?

What would you do?

Well, I’ll tell you what Joe did.  After agonizing for almost ten more minutes, and at only a hundred yards from the firm’s parking lot, he pulls over, calls his secretary, and informs her that he will not be in for the morning meeting, that the senior partners will have to conduct it without him.  That’s right.  He decides to return home and take care of Reebok before going to the airport for his second, more important meeting.

That’s what Joe did.

But this leads to a larger, higher question.  Why did Joe decide to do this?

Perhaps it was out of fear.

Perhaps Joe couldn’t stomach the thought of returning home from a business trip to a sick, dehydrated dog—or worse.

Perhaps Joe was afraid of what his friends and neighbors might say if they were to find out about his negligence.  What others think of us is a powerful motivator.

Or perhaps he was afraid of compromising his own honor.  He was not the type of person who would neglect or abuse animals, especially his own pet.

On the other hand, maybe Joe was motivated by love.

Maybe Joe cancelled his important meeting in order to demonstrate an outward, selfless love to Reebok.

Maybe Joe had allowed himself a healthy level of emotional attachment to Reebok, resulting in a tender and compassionate love that generated sympathy, even empathy, toward another creature.

What motivated Joe?  Fear, or love?

What motivates you?  What would you do in Joe’s shoes, and why?  Are you motivated to act out of fear, or love?

This reminds me of a certain parable Jesus taught us.  In this parable there is a wealthy man who must go away for a time.  He leaves three stewards in charge, entrusting each according to his ability.  To one steward, the wealthy man leaves ten talents of gold.  To another, he leaves five.  And to the third man he leaves one.

After some time the wealthy man returns.  The first steward comes forward and reports that he has used the ten talents of gold to gain ten more.  The wealthy man says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The second steward comes forward and says the same thing: with the five talents he has made five more.  And again the wealthy man says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

But the third steward—do you remember what happened here?  He was brought forward to make his report and he said to his master, “I know that you are a harsh taskmaster.  For that reason I buried your talent in the dirt.  Here it is.  Take it.”

A “harsh taskmaster”?

I wonder, how do you view God?  Is God a harsh taskmaster for you?  Do you seek to honor God out of some sense of fear, or guilt?  Or are you more motivated to serve God out of affection, emotional attachment, tenderness, compassion, love?

What motivates you?  Fear, or love?

So: why do I bring all this up on Trinity Sunday?  What does this “either fear or love” scenario have to do with the Trinity, one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

The Bible does not say God is fear.  Neither does it say God is guilt.  No!  Rather, the Bible says God is love.

God is not some harsh taskmaster, holding rules and regulations over your head to be obeyed lest you lose your salvation.  If you view God this way, it’s time to stop.

Instead, God has always existed in loving, tender, compassionate relationship.  Think about the ramifications here.  God has always existed—long before any of us existed, long before humanity existed, long before the universe existed.  And yet, even then God was Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—Trinity—a perfect relationship in perfect love with each other.

Always!  That means before Adam and Eve.  That means before sin entered the scene; before humanity fell, before any covenant was made between God and humans; before the ten commandments were written; before the rules and regulations of the Old Testament became norms for a chosen people; before Jesus came to earth as a baby; before the Church ever was established; before the Gospel spread from Jerusalem to Judea and all Samaria to the ends of the earth.

And God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will continue to love each other after Jesus’s return.  That means after all the rules and regulations of our world will be utterly obsolete.

Do you see?  Love wins!

Rather than allowing fear to be our motivator, love!  Love!  Love!

Do whatever you do out of God-honoring love.  Pray from a heart of love.  Give because you love Christ and his Church.  Serve out of your emotional attachment to God and God’s people.  Feed your dog because Christ’s love won’t allow you not to.

This is grace; this is love; this is communion.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

________________________________________________________________________

* I am grateful to Martha Stout for this story, which she tells in her book The Sociopath Next Door (MJF Books: New York, 2005).

Vacationing, Part 1: Taking in the Tides

Posted in Family with tags , , on June 6, 2014 by timtrue

In the spirit of this blog being a sort of web journal, for posterity if you will, I offer a vacation photo update.

We left San Antonio on a Friday afternoon, after Holly and I each put in half a day at work.  We packed the kids and our bags in the car and we drove.  And we drove.  And we drove some more.  600 miles in fact, all the way to Las Cruces, New Mexico.  And we checked into a hotel by 10pm.

The thing about west Texas is that for nearly a 500-mile stretch the speed limit is 80mph.  That means I can set the cruise control at about 85 and travel relatively stress-free and cross half the state in short order.

And my father in-law wondered if the van could handle it.

But this is a 2010 Volkswagen Routan!

We saw a picturesque sunset, behind a mountain range in Mexico.  But I was driving.  Fast.  And far.  So I took no pictures.

The first picture came the next day, as we drove along Route 188 in 103-degree Arizona.

DSCF2809

See that Saguaro cactus?  We simply had to stop.  The boy, by the way, was just told (not by me either) that there might be snakes on the ground.

We made it to Prescott by 5pm, in time for a swim in the hotel pool and a tasty non-Tex-Mex-but-Mexican-nonetheless dinner.

From there we drove to my dad’s in southern California.

Then it was on to Davis the next day for a visit with some old friends and a meeting with some new,

and, yes, on to Bandon, Oregon.

DSCF2813

Here is the A-frame we’re calling home for a week; we arrived just before 2am and more than 800 miles on the day.  The kids were troopers.  Not state troopers either, otherwise I’d have gotten a speeding ticket or two.

Now here we chill–literally, by the way: it’s 55 degrees and a stiff wind’s blowing–for a few days before we return to southern California and back home to Texas.

So what are we doing in Bandon?

DSCF2812

Eating meals together,

DSCF2817

playing in tide pools,

DSCF2820

playing bridge (my partner and I killed it tonight),

DSCF2819

getting close to harbor seals (look for several on the rocks in the background),

DSCF2814

and enjoying sunsets.

Of course, we’re doing more too–but not too much more.  It’s a relaxing vacation, just the sort of thing needed at the end of my first year of being a priest.

More soon.