Friday, February 27, 2009

Ash Wednesday and Lent

In a classroom, an older man rails against "this silly Catholic celebration of Ash Wednesday and Lent." Down the hall in the sanctuary, congregants receive ashes on their foreheads and hear their first Lenten message of the season.

The man will go home satisfied that "he told them" (anyone who heard him) what was truth and what was error. The sanctuary folks will go home penitently with serious thoughts about the crucifixion, but also thinking about as Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote,"...what we Christians, all these centuries since he was here, have been doing to him."

These two scenes depict what is happening in some segments of my fellowship. Some walk down the old paths; others are finding inspiration in the traditions of others. Do these paths ever converge somewhere in the middle? I doubt it.

Which path will survive? Some of the thousands who have left my fellowship over the past few years will say, "Not the old one."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Looking for God in all the Wrong Places

I once wrote a poem with the above title (which I can not find)--but you can get the gist of verses.

In these postmodern days, I think that is what a lot of people are doing. Those who have absolutely no idea what "postmodern" means are looking for God under stained-glass windows instead of under the I-65 bridge where the homeless hang out. They are looking for God in the comforting old hymns (which I love, by the way) instead of the more contemporary "God of this City". They are looking for God with "inherited maps"(Barbara Brown Taylor's designation)
instead of creating fresh, new paths. And they wonder where He went.

I have just started reading a new book by Barbara Brown Taylor called An Altar in the Word, A Geography of Faith. Focusing on spiritual practices, several of which are not listed in the common sources, the book opens with a chapter entitled The Practice of Waking Up to God. She contends in that chapter and throughout the book that " the last place most people look for God) is right under their feet, in the everyday activities, accidents and encounters of their lives."

She begins with the story of Jacob's "ladder" vision which ends with his saying "Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!" An aside: If you, dear reader, are ever near the Abilene Christian University campus, don't fail to find God at the Jack Maxwell sculpture of this vision.

So I have a new quest--to look for God in unexpected places in this altar of the world.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Baby blessing

We had the annual baby blessing last night at Otter. It was a happy occasion full of crying, talking, and gurgling babies dressed to the teeth (lots of long christening dresses) and their loving anxious parents just hoping to make it through the ceremony without a meltdown or a blowout.

I find it interesting that not much is said about rearing children in the Bible--outside of Deut. and Proverbs. Oh, of course, Jesus called children to himself as well. In our child-centered society, one would expect more.

I do know that children who begin their lives in a loving two-parent home, surrounded by a committed Christian community are bound to be blessed in so many ways that others are not.
Former "children" of Otter testified last night about how important it was to them to have that support--although I think that sometimes they thought we were the "All-Seeing Eye" watching them.

Religious education and spiritual support of children is one way I have seen the church grow in my lifetime . The religious education part should always be alive to new educational developments and fresh approaches--sometimes a weakness. Spiritual support can be enhanced by a spiritually alive youth director such as David Rubio at Otter. He has made it a part of the training of his group to introduce them to the spiritual disciplines in the last few years. They know more about the spiritual disciplines than most of the adult parents, I think.

If all churches were asked, as we were last night, to commit ourselves to the spiritual support of their children and took it seriously, things might begin to happen that we can't even imagine.

Baby Gracie Rae was so exhausted from her trip to Houston that she was just a lump last night--but she looked lovely in her checked dress and satin socks. Yes, God bless Gracie Rae, Maddie, Ella, Sam and all the other children who are newly learning about you. May they bring this world your light and rejuvenate our pale and flickering faith.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Pleasant Pastime

I went to the movies with Sheryl and the kids yesterday. We saw Hotel for Dogs. I was pleasantly surprised with the story. It had a few laughs, pictures of adorable dogs, and was all around entertaining. There was a little language and a slight kiss which accounts for the PG rating, I guess. The author of the book, Lois Duncan, was a fine writer of books for young adults several years ago. She has evidently broadened her audience.

Sam said it was "ha-wow-we-us", but he tired before it was over. The girls seem to have enjoyed it.

I also saw Doubt this week--glad I did--the acting was terrific, the award nominations well-deserved. The plot, however, fails at the end where Streep seems to change her mind and doubt much too quickly and without any explanation. The movie is not the sterotypical slam the Catholics and their looks the other way about their homosexual priests--it is a rather sympathetic look at a compassionate man who has failed and regrets the failure. Streep's character is a little over the top in some scenes in the schoolroom, but from what I have heard about Catholic schools of the mid-century, the depiction may be right.

Looking back at the movies I saw last year, I think my favorites were Marley and Me and Mamma Mia, neither of which garnered any award nominations.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Granny Tucker's House

My grandmother (Lizzie Belle Herndon Tucker) lived in a big old house in Anson, Texas when I was growing up. It was so big that she had a boarder in half of it during WWII. It had very high ceilings, drafty windows and doors and wooden floors.

I was remembering it this morning when I woke up and saw that the temp in my house was 58 degrees even though the pad was set on 68. The electricity ran all night. Of course, it was 15 degrees with 5 degree wind chill outside--cold winter! At Granny's we slept under many quilts which were so heavy, we could hardly turn over.
Heat was from a space heater (not run during the night) and the kitchen oven. Those wooden floors were icy until we got our shoes on.(Thanks for carpet now!) And we ran for the kitchen as soon as we got up for heat and to partake of the biscuits, bacon and eggs that my grandmother had already cooked. Her habit of getting up at 5:00 in the morning never deviated even though she lived in town and not on the farm.

Those were good innocent days and as a kid, I didn't notice the cold as much as I do now. Oh, how I wish I could have some of those biscuits and bacon today.