Archive for May, 2012

Caught between Worlds

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

We live in a world of unintended consequences. Education in the US focused on ensuring that computer access for all children. The result? “Despite the educational potential of computers, the reality is that their use for education or meaningful content creation is minuscule compared to their use for pure entertainment,” said Vicky Rideout, author of the decade-long Kaiser study. “Instead of closing the achievement gap, they’re widening the time-wasting gap.”

Such information is sobering. And we could apply those same words to many areas of our lives outside of the education arena.    We eschew “meaningful creation” for “pure entertainment” over and over again.  I wonder if even the presence of the dichotomy is apparent to many.  I know for myself, presented with “pure entertainment” or “meaningful creation” I will chose pure entertainment more times than not.  There is little choice or decision making as it were.

And that is why, in a rather old fashioned sounding way, church remains an important cultural counterweight for families.  Churches must work more diligently at the craft, work at nurturing environments of “meaningful creation.”   And the communities that shape churches/ synagogues/ mosques must forward the impetus, the energy, the agenda behind and within that endeavor.  There is no “Church” and “Community.”  Theres is the “Church Community.”

We are caught in the world between “creation” and “entertainment.”  ”Entertainment” is not a ‘sweaty toothed madman.’ Its danger lies in it very appeal.  We slide into it unconsciously and with all pleasure centers on high alert.  The result?  A deadly, numbing sleep.

So do we want to get on with creation or not?  There is room for creativity.  There is room for old and new.  There is room for meaning.  There is room for us to raise our hands. I believe a lot of us are tired of the time wasting gap.

A Weekend with Sgt. Matthew Pennington

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

When I picked up Sgt. Matthew Pennington and Nick Brennan, the producer of “A Marine’s Guide to Fishing”, I dressed in jeans and a button up shirt. Aware that Matt lost a leg in combat during a deployment to Iraq, I dressed in long jeans despite the muggy day thinking the last thing Matt would want to see was me, with both legs obviously, in shorts.  Well, there he was.  In shorts.

There were many moments worthy of recounting.  There are a few, which several days latter, continue to ring in my head.

The Sunday service itself was what I anticipated frankly – moving, compelling, inspirational. A friend texted from Canada, “I wept through the service having lived with a father who was a Vietnam Vet and never quite adjusted to civilian life.”

After church, a group met to discuss PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  We shared stories, expressed gratitude, listened.  Words are just too small to capture it of course.  Such is God’s way.

The evening dinner was every bit as powerful.  Watching Nick and Lach talk across the table – new friends, different eras, same passion – a blessing.  The “skinny white NYU liberal” and the Vietnam vet/ grandfather sharing.

And beside me Matthew and Roger.  Two soldiers.  Roger finally feels good about wearing his baseball cap tagging his experience as a combat medic in Vietnam.  Matt feels good about an email from the Chief Council to the White House who saw the film and wanted to drop a line to follow up – wondering who else has been in touch with him about PTSD from the White House.  Matt’s 28.

The next day I spoke to a local community on the meaning of Memorial Day.  Before speaking, making my way between the outposts of picnickers, a woman who attended the service said she did not know Matt had lost a leg.   He had never mentioned it.  Backstage – unable to hear much – I assumed he had.  I also assumed he spoke to the accident.  He had not but had only shared it in conversation.

See the accident – Matt saw three artillery shells ‘tented’ together.  The sole working headlight on the Humvee located on the driver side only went low beam – little time to think. When he saw the IED, he sped up and hit the brakes to fishtail the truck toward the impending explosion, placing the motor between the shells and the crew. The motor took the brunt of the eruption.  It cost him a leg but cost no one their lives.  And courage gained a new meaning in Matt’s soft spoken, matter-of-fact way.

And the story went unmentioned, publicly by Matthew because there is a bigger story.  There is a reality here of 11 of a day.  11 suicides a day among Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans.   And maybe there is hope.  And maybe somehow this weekend in some small, almost inconsequential way, spoke to it – maybe even touched that hope?

Thank you Matt.

How Inspirational Is That!

Friday, May 25th, 2012

This weekend marks the third anniversary of the launch of NewChurch LIVE.  And what a 3 years it has been. We launched with the all the energy and emotion that so often accompanies a new endeavor.  Since then, as is true for all of life, there have been bright days and dark.   And words fails to describe the blessedness of it all.

At times, God’s works is subtle.  Other times not so much.  The fact that we mark our third anniversary with a service honoring vets with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) seems like God at His not-so-subtle best.  When we launched NewChurch LIVE, this kind of service in some unarticulated way was where we were being led.

Several months ago, in planning our Memorial Day program,  we began the conversation with our guest speaker, Sgt. Matthew Pennington. He was pointed about the need to have support present for vets and their families as part of Memorial Day weekend if he was to speak.  In other words, the Sunday service could not just be a “speech.”  There had to be support and follow up.  Church had to be a Monday morning church.  It was wonderful fielding his questions knowing that that is exactly what you – members of this congregation – are all about.

I say this in the spirit of gratitude.  I likewise offer with a sense of imperative.  Admittedly I am more a pastor than a theologian, more drawn to counseling than academia.   However, I want to share the direction Christian New Church theology clearly points because it the direction we will continue to go.  So putting on a theologian’s hat for a minute …..

Christian New Church theology, centered on the Bible with supporting canon penned by Emanuel Swedenborg, clearly warns about worship/ church divorcing itself from the soul of service.  Such an endeavor becomes a “shell” as it were of what faith could be.  And that “hollowing out” is dangerous, not benign.  The descriptors used by Swedenborg to capture the quality of those kinds of endeavors are stark.  He writes of their lack of simple human kindness and their penchant to “examine and … judge everyone and [they] crave nothing more than to find evil, constantly bent as they are on condemning and punishing … others.”  (Secrets of Heaven, 1079)

That is one stark warning.  And it is NOT a warning about atheism but about misguided religion.  It is a warning to churches about churches who divorce faith from charity, and therefore in terms of religious “practice” focus on the external forms of worship with no thought of deeper realities or activities.

But we get to choose something different.  We get to choose to build a church with a soul – where the external forms are married to a soul of service.  From that place, a place of radical inclusion and hospitality grows, a place “guided by kindness.”  Such a church fills with souls who “hardly even notice the evil in another but pay attention instead to everything good and true in the person.  When [others] do anything bad or false they put a good interpretation on it.  This characterizes angels – a characteristic they acquire from the Lord, who bends everything bad to good.”  How inspirational is that!  It is a place from which to offer the simple call – Lets continue getting a church like that born.

 

How does church become something “different?”

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Christ both was and was not a “fighter.”

He was a fighter in terms of living an unwavering model of how to take a stand.  Through all four Gospels, the consistency of character described in each – despite the different accounts – is remarkable.

And in other ways He was not a fighter.  Never wielding a sword and only rarely using a pointed word, his favorite reaction to the gathering storms was quiet withdrawal.

How do we pull these two concepts together?  As one author noted, Christ lived a life of simplicity and non-violence that was definitively outside the cultural systems of  power, avarice, and control.  He did not then fight the system directly but in a rather unpretentious and yet threatening way opted out; that was the fight.  He simply ignored it and built an alternative world view based on an alternative set of loyalties with an alternative band of allies.

So how does church become something different?  I think it starts from understanding that it is never about building a church per se. It is about building an alternative way of life.  And that alternative should be “sticky!”  Religion is not a numbers game but should emobdy the key spiritual questions of the time – questions that get pressed upon culture not as a “fight” but as an alternative.

In these shifting times, who do I find most compelling to follow?  Men and women who carry forward that settled, unanxious presence that speaks to direct action.  Those people are not necessarily without fear but they carry it all with a resolve far more grounded in the reality of a loving God than the anxieties of the human condition.   From that place, they simply act and in so doing create a radical alternative – life beyond self absorption.

“But, my friend, abstain from evil, do what is good, and believe in the Lord with your whole heart and your whole soul; and the Lord will love you and give you love for what you do and faith in what you believe. Then you will do what is good because of love and you will believe because you have faith, which is confidence. And if you persevere like this, a reciprocal partnership with the Lord will develop and become permanent. This is salvation ifself and eternal life.” (True Christianity, 484)

Chocolate Covered Turds

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

In the fall, Rob Bell’s workshop “Death by 1,000 Paper Cuts” struck home.  He spoke laughingly of how in the preaching professional it is often not the big stuff that gets to us but the relentless little stuff – the 1,000 paper cuts – that if left unattended accrue to the point of actually being life threatening.  He went on to speak of the frequency of comments sent his way in which the glossy coating of language appeared kind and supporting but on the inside – well – on  the inside was something less than positive.  His phrase -”A chocolate covered turd.”

We no doubt all receive those kinds of comments.  In the preaching profession they are couched in language often starting with the salutation “I loved your sermon but I was wondering …..”  From there the blank gets filled.  ”I was wondering …. why you wore jeans, why you wore those shoes, why you said “God” instead of “Lord”, why you prayed standing, why you were so ‘over the top.’   A friend deeply committed to equal voices in church for men and women wrote of a similar experience to the above when she was told by an individual concerned with the possibility of female pastorships that women’s gifts are far more “subtle” than a males.

The point here is not those comments are “wrong” per se.  They aren’t and hopefully by being spoken they lead to valuable conversations as assumptions are surfaced and challenged.  That being said, they do take their toll over time.

The worse toll may be a loss of focus – a lack of focus all around.

See Church is the best of all human inventions and the worse.  What other group calls us to put down our differences and celebrate a oneness, a connectedness, a centeredness and to do so with love and service in the forefront?  What other group calls us as well to picayune and petty critique?  Faith is God’s purview and yet when held in human hands it takes on human characteristics both blessed and broken.

The liberal heresy in the face of this fact is to often “pack up and go home” – to reject institutional religion out of hand.  In so doing, there is an assumption among some that while connection to God may well be positive, human institutions are fatally broken and best discarded and therefor undeserving of one’s time, talent, or treasure.  It is best then to only do “my own thing.”  On the other hand, the conservative herasy is the belief that the institutions are the be-all-and-end-all.  Therefore one owes an outsized commitment to their health and wellbeing as carriers of the Divine.  It is best then to only do “our own thing.”

The above frankly is one of the reasons why Jesus’ message is so disturbing.  It confronts both the liberal and conservative heresies.

No institution  - the liberal heresy?  That doesn’t appear to hold.  Christ’s call was clear in terms of gathering, preaching, teaching, and healing – of drawing communities together in the belief that in the gathering of community, of a church as it were, we find the best reflection of the Divine.

All institution – the conservative heresy?  That doesn’t appear to hold either.  Christ’s call was clear – especially to the Pharisees – make it all about the “law” and the institution and you will loose the spirit of God’s Word.

I loved the words one pastor offered on faith and the institutions that endeavor to promote it.  He said they represent a holiness that lies “just beyond our reach but that we feel we must remain inside” – making us “alien wanderers yet at home” who stand thrilled by the ideal and dismayed at the silliness.

So the closing thought is this – there is a better way and it ours to discover, together.  As a Pastor, I can field plenty of “chocolate covered turds” without gagging!  But what saddens is the observation of a wide spread inability to get off the dime, roll up our sleeves, and get at it.  Into that void pastors are called to offer disquieting speech.  There is something bigger, more important than our own opinionated hurts – mine or yours.  See there is a hard core – a heart – that we will never penetrate fully which is the heart of the Divine – something always just out of reach.  But that does not excuse us from the work.

Martin Luther King: “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”  That is MLK’s way of reminding us of Jesus’ call to, as best we can, to be all in, each individually a church and each forming with others a church that is far more about the substance than the form.  Both liberals and conservatives – and myself – are at times apparently well practiced at “lukewarm acceptance” of that deepest call.

Guard or Gardener?

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

I remember one of THOSE guards.  With gladitorial authority, he spoke in graphic detail about what a German Shepherd guard dog could do to human flesh.  He demonstrated by shouting a command to his dog parked in the company’s van.  The dog erupted with a ferocity that left me feeling, “This guy is nuts” and thankful I was on the other side of the van’s windows.  What was he protecting?  Gold at a Pocono flea market.

Faith often draws the same type of individuals.  They are guards and guard dogs.  Charged with careful protection of a seemingly delicate and ancient artifact, they remain ever vigilant about threats to it, and I believe uncomfortably comfortable in the hope that one of the these days they will actually get to use that dog.

It would be great to excuse it away with the oft repeated aphorism that “They are just that way because they love the church so much.”  That could work except for one uncomfortable fact – that orientation kills.  From the famous SNL skit on the “Church Ladies” on down the perspective of “faith-as-guard-and-guard dog” hurts and wounds far more than it builds and heals.  It appears to be a defense of a God who needs human defending which is not the God one finds the Bible.  We can only find that endangered God in our own fears and anxieties.  Build a god out of the ego’s fears and anxieties?  Not the best of blueprints.

Faith far more calls for gardeners than guards.  Such an orientation requires us to move from the pulpit to the ground.  ”The life that leads to heaven is not one of withdrawal from the world but a life in the world. A life of piety apart from a life of charity does not lead to heaven at all.” (Heaven and Hell, 535)   Maybe in some way that explains why Christ, when first seen by Mary, was mistaken for the gardner.   For in a sense there is nothing to “protect” but there is a great deal to plant, a great deal to care for, a great deal to love.    In moving to that orientation, God surprises us doesn’t He.

Taking A Different Train

Friday, May 18th, 2012

The bads news ….

Cain slays Abel.  Within the first few chapters of the Bible, our penchant for violence is captured in the story of one brother slaying another.

From a New Church perspective, this murder captures a spiritual penchant as well, the penchant for “truth” divorced from love to kill.  The math is simple – divorce truth from a kind and loving heart, and it becomes a weapon and salvation becomes a matter of faith alone – only of the head, not of the head and heart.  Anger, hatred – the very bases of the homicidal urge – then grow.  It is why, as one pastor noted, “only love can be entrusted with the truth.”

… and the good news 

The good news is that we are placed within a life that calls us out of our heads into the exercise of faith.  Against a homicidal tendency a yearning for community and connection stands as a strong force.

Emanuel Swedenborg wrote of picturing heaven as picturing a choir – a community in miniature..

In a choir, people allow themselves “to be led mutually by each other, therefore each one individually and collectively by the Lord.  All the good people who come into the other life are brought into this harmony… distinctly and perfectly…..” (Secrets of Heaven 3352)  So in allowing ourselves to be led by others, by the whole – as occurs in a choir – we mirror God’s leadership.  Community is a form a leadership in much the same way a choir “surrenders” to the music.

So those are our choices.  And it is why inviting in a such a wide variety of voices to one’s life is critical – not only critical but incredibly fun!

 

Memorial Address for Joanna Cole Wade

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Memorial Address
Joanna Cole Wade
May 15, 2012

Welcome dear friends and family, here and online, to Joanna Cole Wade’s memorial service. Joanna told her daughter laughingly “You’ll be shocked to see how many people you will see at my funeral.” So on behalf of her family, thank you for joining us in memorializing a life a lived well.

Joanna was born July 4th, 1941 to David and Serena Cole. The rest of her life she enjoyed the simple fact that her birthday was celebrated annually with fireworks. Raised in Glenview Illinois with her two siblings Michael and Andrea, she went on to attend the Academy of the New Church and then spent two years at the Bryn Athyn College.

Following college, she married Marvin Wade. And three very significant loves joined her life – Forrest Cole Wade, Jennifer Ann Wade, and Matthew McFarlan Wade. Making a home in Alabama, she worked hard as a mother and as Advertising editor for Southern Living and Progressive Farmer.

Over those years she lived a life marked by Independence and Connection.

First, how did independence show up in her life?

No doubt one of her life’s hardest moments was the collapse of her marriage. In ways, not asked for, it was both heartbreaking and formative. And one can see that streak of independence – maybe growing from a life that had not unfolded to plan, in many areas of her life.

There were hobbies she lovingly pursed over the years – from wood burning, to painting, to drawing, to poetry (Valentine’s Day Cards), to Antiques.

There were even private hobbies her children were unaware of. She showed love of language that went unnoted. Her house held reference books on languages such as Portuguese.

And one story seems to get to that core of independence. She was aghast when presented with a bid for yard work to clear out brush when the bid came in at $800.00. Informing her son that for a with 140 years of combined experience, two  women could do this.  So she called her friend Cindy and they had at it, 2 seventy years olds clearing brush, and incidentally saving $800.00.

And that independence was not all sweetness and light. The children all noted how their mother’s Achilles heel was driving. She was a backseat, side seat, every seat driver, offering a running commentary on their driving acumen as well as that of others on the road, including language from the adjective “Niny” on up to words that do not belong in a sermon!

While independence was important maybe connection was even more so. That connection started with her deep ties to her children. Continually reinforcing these ties through phone calls and phone messages, she always wanted them to know how much she loved them.

She likewise saw value in placing them within connection. In recent years, she often pulled out pieces of Forrest’s, Jennifer’s, or Matthew’s youth to give to them – a little league cap, Hot wheels, Y-Indian Guide headband, drawings. And in that same light, she was forever reminding them of so-and-so relation to so-and-so who was “your first cousins third child.“ As Jennifer noted, speaking of family lineage with her ran closely parallel to the “begats” of Genesis.

And those connections grew. She loved sharing funny movies with them including such notables as “The Pink Panther” and “Waiting for Guffman.’ And there were the Swedish Meatballs and Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Given that love of connection, it is little wonder that she loved this church and its choir.

Did you notice the beauty of that line from AC? It read: But they allowed themselves to be led mutually by each other, thus each one individually and collectively by the Lord. Church like choir is about independence and connection. About each independent one being led in turn by everyone – by connection – and thus led by the Lord. That is God given grace indeed!

It appears one of those “God winks” – one of those moments of intentional grace – that while she faced death alone, her last gathering in this life was with the choir. I would imagine the last act of singing in a choir will be her first act as she wakes to life anew in God’s creation.

None of that of course immediately mitigates the pain and at what is an untimely passing.

One can think of that grief in light of the New Testament story of the Road to Emmaus. One can so easily paint the picture of what the two individuals in the story are facing. They have just lost a person they loved, a person they followed, a person they had given their very lives too. That person was Christ. Picture how they would have been walking that path – a path filled with pain.

And yet even though that pain blinds them to God’s presence, God’s presence is still there, literally walking with them as they navigate their way home. His presence is finally revealed in a most startling way – Christ breaks bread and give thanks.

Breaks bread and give thanks. Breaking bread – such a powerful metaphor for life – a life in which we break ourselves open, as we love others just as Jo did. A life in which we give and share just as Jo did. A life in which we laugh just as Jo did. And a physical life that ultimately breaks just as Jo’s did. But there is thanks. There is thanks! There is gratitude that even in that all breaking, God is there to. Gentle eyes, gentle hands, breaking bread, giving thanks, welcoming us home.

That is why the speaker talks of “heart burning” within them. That is the call. To allows our hearts to burn with the presence of God. For many like Jo that was a quiet, steadfast, deeply committed burning. That is beautiful legacy.

So let us close with a celebration of that legacy in the midst even of this painful loss of a beloved friend, sister, and mother. Her physical life is now silent. And maybe Rumi’s words are then are most appropriate to close with, “When I am silent I to go to a place where all is music.”

Amen

Drunk on Facts?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Humanity is deeply prone to “figuring it out.”  We live, in a sense, within a world of hyper-rationalism.  ”Just the facts mam.”  That is not to disparage “facts.”   It is however important to simply sound a gentle warning that we can become drunk on “facts.”

Reading through the news recently, two countervailing stories sat side by side on the front page.  One was on the strains within the current economic paradigm of Communist China. The other story wrote of JP Morgan’s posting of a $2 billion loss in its banking business.

In regards to China, the article read, “With the recent political upheavals, and a growing number of influential voices demanding a resurrection of freer economic policies, it appears that the sense of triumphalism was, at best, premature, and perhaps seriously misguided. Chinese leaders are grappling with a range of uncertainties, from the once-a-decade leadership transition this year that has been marred by a seismic political scandal, to a slowdown of growth in an economy in which deeply entrenched state-owned enterprises and their political patrons have hobbled market forces and private entrepreneurship.”

That same sense of triumphalism apparently fueled the catastrophic losses at JP Morgan recently announced as well, even though the economic model is far different.  This was a nearly universally lauded bank that had charted the tortuous waters of the 2008 economic implosion and come out the other side the largest bank in the country.  The story now appears to be of triumphalism misguided.  The Chief Executive of JP Morgan stated that the losses stemmed from “Huge moves in the marketplace but we made these positions more complex and they were badly monitored.”

So both economic models – the Chinese and American – arguably failed within a certain context.  Triumphalism … misguided.  That is not to debate freedom or open markets or the plusses and minuses of capitalism – concepts that have alleviated a great deal of human suffering.  It is however to say there is an unquestioned assumption underlying both systems that human minds can “figure it out”, that somehow there IS a perfect economic system and that if we create it all other ills of society will somehow dissipate.   And we believe we have “figured it out” – triumphalism reigns.  Utopia.

Triumphalism inevitably however is misguided any time we become drunk on the “facts.”  For both systems.  There is little doubt that those responsible for the challenges in China and the challenges at JP Morgan are incredibly intelligent – maybe be even brilliant.  There is little doubt that they had and have at their disposal an almost unimaginable access to “facts.”    Pass the bottle please.

That is why faith for me is becoming increasingly uncomfortable   That discomfort is not from a spiritual crisis of faith but from from an aching alarm that “facts” – economic, religious or otherwise -are creating a numbing drunkenness.  Do Churches ever function under an assumption of “triumphalism” in ways that are every bit as costly as the JP Morgan debacle?  Yes.  Do those who have rejected church/ faith likewise at times function under an assumption of “triumphalism” that they have now “figured it out?”  Yes.

See there is a bigger picture here.    Of course, our proclivity is to fill in the disquieting “blank” with pious certainties – either economic, spiritual or rational.  However, I don’t that is the call here.  I think the call is again and again to return to the concept that truth is a form of love and as such those who are loving are the one’s able to most hold the truth.  But we would rather have “facts” unencumbered by any wider picture.   It may just be what we are dying of.   And it maybe where the God of surprises will work one spectacular miracle of rediscovery.

A Mother’s Day Sermon

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Attentive Love
Preached at Pittsburgh New Church
May 13, 2012
Rev. Chuck Blair

Here we sit on Mother’s Day. For some it stirs found memories of a mother – attentive and devoted. To others there is a void – a missing voice. Yet despite those differences we can celebrate on this day the positive experience of motherhood done well. Celebrating motherhood is celebrating attentive love.

Attentive love is largely self-defining. It is a focused love. A present love. My experience of a father’s love is more observational. In a division that is admittedly simplistic, fathers watch and care over the big picture. Mother’s are often times more attentive – more aware of details and daily needs.

At its best it is attentive and just that. “Attentive” with no “so that.” It is just attentive, accepting a child where they are as they are.

And that is where we can see how that attentive love is so reflective of God’s love. “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Isaiah 66. As such this love gives rise to possibility and permission.

Possibility means an attentive love that in its unconditional grounding speaks to the object of that love the sense that life is wide open, that the promise is great. And not only is life wide open, but that we have permission to explore that horizon. Possibility and permission.

And that kind of love is not Pollyannaish. Note – our text from Isaiah speaks to comforting, comforting that occurs when life inevitably fails. And how is that we hold that “comforting” to have it most reflect God’s love?

It starts with the simple trust, trust that they have an Intelligence – God given that will lead them. That includes an Intelligence – God given – that will lead through times when their life falls apart and possibility and permission apparently “fail.”

And as our agenda for our children falls apart maybe, just maybe God is opening “possibility and permission” for us as parents or caregivers. There is no way to “save” others from the difficulty of life. They have their own journey, everyone blessed with their own relationship to God. In that vein, parenting or caregiving is important but we can never make ourselves THAT important. None of you, in a sense, frankly are all that great as parents or caregivers! We all fall short. We all are less than what our loved ones need or deserve.

There is no way to really know what we are doing. Ego driven “Control” wants to arrive in the guise of being a “good parent.” And with that desire, comes our individual work of regeneration – a candid conviction of lives balanced on feet of clay. And maybe, within that acknowledged imperfection lays the perfect parent!

So the comforting of God has two things – the comforting of simple trust. And it likewise has the simple acknowledgement of surrender, of letting go.

So we learn over years to trust, surrender, and love. These three allow us to be attentive to our children or those in our care without needing “it” to be any particular way. That does not mean life without boundaries, which is the inevitable retort of false duality. There are boundaries. But those boundaries are shaped and cemented by love. Those boundaries and part and parcel of “The Pact.”

[The] pact is the Lord’s close connection with us through love or to put in another way, [it] is the presence of the Lord with us in love and charity. The Word calls the pact itself a pact of peace. This is because peace symbolizes the Lord’s kingdom, and the Lord’s kingdom consists of mutual love that is the only thing that affords peace.

For in the end, God created YOU to be the mother, father, sister, brother, uncle or aunt to THAT child. So fill the moments you do have with attentive love, knowing the imperfections add to the sweetness of the journey. It is the journey of the “good enough” – the “good enough” mother, father, sister, brother, uncle or aunt to THAT child. If you find yourself called to do more, of course do more. That may well be God’s call. But do it with selfless attentiveness, as an imperfect offering, trusting and surrendering at the same time.

God’s call in this life and the next is to “abide in His love.” The call is not to be perfect, to be right, to be in control. It is to live into that Love, that greatest of Loves. “When you see this your heart will rejoice.” (Isaiah 66:14) Possibility and Permission ABOUND in that place.

You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself or inform curiosity
Or carry report.
You are here to kneel . . . .
TS Elliot