Friday, May 31, 2013

Lance Mannion in response to Rep. Luke Messer

Apparently, Rep. Luke Messer believes the interest rate for student loans should rise from 3.4% to 6.8% because "personal responsibility is pretty cool."

In response, Lance Mannion with a Twitter rant:

I thought that was pretty cool.

May I add, I do not understand how it is not personally responsible to pay back a loan at a lower interest rate as opposed to a high one. After all, the current 30-year mortgage rate is 3.81%. I don't even understand what the issue is, here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

You can't tell who's hungry by looking

On a discussion group I'm part of, one person raised the question of how to teach children at a Vacation Bible School about hunger. One day at VBS, they are having a visiting missionary from an African country who suggested that for snack that day, they offer the children half a glass of water and half a cracker, telling them that in the African country where this person worked, this was considered a good meal. Was this, the person asked, a good idea?

The more I consider this, the more disturbing it feels to me, and the more certain I am that the answer is, no. This is a terrible idea.

What I wrote to the group is that we do not know if the children coming to our VBS programs are, in fact, well-fed. It may be that parents are sending children to VBS to provide them with snacks and child care. I think it's dangerous to presume that "they" are hungry and "we" are well-fed. All I can truly say is that I am well-fed. That's all I can know for sure. To deprive children of food in the name of teaching them a lesson seems morally dubious to me.

Just a few days ago, the Pew Research Center came out with a report that stated
Despite being the richest country in the survey, nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) say they had trouble putting food on the table in the past 12 months. This is up from just 16% who reported such deprivation in 2007, the year before the Great Recession began.
Share our Strength reports that 16 million children in the US experience hunger.
Nearly one in five children in America lives in households that struggle to put food on the table. They may look no different than other children; child hunger in America is often invisible. They are hurting, just the same.
I think we're too used to picture of hunger that are actually pictures of starvation. But the truth is, you cannot tell who is hungry just by looking. Does the child in this photo look hungry? What does "hunger" look like?

All those very useful exercises that show the relative availability of food from one part of the world to another can only make the point if you yourself are not aware of what it is like not to have food. To tell people who struggle to put food on the table, "Feel sorry about those people very far away"...well, I don't think it's a good idea. And since we do not know who is hungry and who is not, I think it is best to feed everyone.

There's a second part of this that disturbs me: what message are we sending about African nations if the only thing people ever hear about them is "for people in this country, a half a cracker is a good meal"? First of all, I am quite certain that there is more than one person in this country that actually has more than half a cracker for lunch. It is just as incomplete a picture to say "Everyone there is starving" as it is to say "Everyone here has plenty."

Finally, is there anything else we can learn about Africa other than "it's full of needy people and we need to help them"? Are there no values there that people can teach us? Is there not a good children's story from this country that could teach something to us about sharing or hospitality or friendship or anything? Is the only thing to know about Africa is that we should help them? Is there no mutuality? Or is it all Radi-Aid for Norway?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What is a Gromit?

Since we got him a little over a year ago, the Infusion household has been pondering this question. What does it take to become a Gromit? I mean, besides poise, savoir faire, and someone's clerical collar. Clearly there was some dachshund involved, but what else?

Well, thanks to the Wisdom Panel (R) Dog DNA test (oh yes there is), we have either a) learned about Gromit's mysterious past or b) been sold an excellent story.

First of all, can I just say I cannot believe we got any DNA sample out of Gromit at all. According to the directions, we were supposed to swab the inside of his cheek with a little brush that looks like a mascara applicator for 15 second. If we got three seconds, I'm amazed.

But apparently, it was enough, because here's what they came up with:

Gromit is...(drumroll please)
a Standard Wirehaired Dachshund, American Staffordshire Terrier, English Springer Spaniel, Kerry Blue Terrier, Miniature Poodle Mix
Well, obviously.

Here's the official lineage, according to our results:

Call the AKC! Now that we know the magic formula, we can start churning out Gromits like crazy.

Or maybe we'll just enjoy the one and only Gromit that we have.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: Aunt Dimity's Death

I had a lovely Memorial Day weekend, and in part I have Aunt Dimity to thank for it. Actually, I have Nancy Atherton to thank for it because the first book in this series, Aunt Dimity's Death, was completely delightful.

There's a gentle mystery, and charming and eccentric characters, and a cottage with a beautiful garden, and a protagonist I root for, and a romance I could not wait to see happen, and it's all extremely well-written, but that's not what made this book delightful for me. 

There were two things: the first was the psychological authenticity of these people. Even though there was a great deal of sweetness, it was sweetness with a realistic amount of sorrow behind it. There is no brutal violence to give this book an edge, but there is an edge that keeps this from getting woolly: the edge that comes simply of being worn down with grief. Everybody in this book understood grief. And the grief had a ring of truth to it.

And the second thing that made this delightful was this: the resolution of the grief and sorrow did not come from vengeance or heroism, but from the patient and steady application of kindness over long periods of time. And that too struck me as authentic and true. Such a simple remedy. And so very hard to do.

Aunt Dimity's Death will not be what everyone is looking for in a mystery. But for me, for a quiet Memorial Day weekend, it was about as perfect as a book could get.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Trinity Sermon tidbits, but no sharks

Mom is going to be very disappointed.

I posted this picture on Facebook yesterday, which was Trinity Sunday, as you may know since I've been talking about it endlessly, it seems. This sweet young thing is displaying her Sunday School drawing which has pink sharks, hearts, and cherries. I noted on Facebook there were three of everything and said, "You should have heard the sermon!" But there were no sharks in the Trinity Sunday sermon. Maybe next year.

Instead, I reacted to a completely different piece of art in my sermon: the famous icon of the Holy Trinity by Rublev. Because I realized, as I thought about it, that it captured something I find troubling about -- not the Trinity, but the way we talk about the Trinity: as a completely enmeshed and encapsulated system, God looking only at God's own self.

Because the God I encountered in the Scripture for last Sunday is far more interested in people than in God's own self. "What is man that you should be mindful of him? The son of man that you should seek him out?" says the Psalmist. And in the Gospel, it isn't the "I and the Father are one" that I might have expected, but instead lots of talk about stuff being given to you, the "you" being the disciples.

And as I thought about it, what I saw was a Trinity not lost in contemplation of its own Godliness, but a Trinity that attempts through every avenue possible to reach us humans, and who doesn't really seem to care what form that takes. My sense is that God really doesn't care if we understand God, because God knows we won't be able to, but that the attempt to build that relationship is all that matters.

So I talked about that a bit. Something like that. It was probably heretical. I'm certain I have that icon all wrong. But there you go. Next year, I'm swimming with the sharks. It will probably be safer.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Various & Sundry: Mostly heartstring-tugging, and some celebrity gnomes

How's your week been? For me, it was one of those weeks when I couldn't quite tell what day it was. It's Saturday, right? I know it's Saturday because I'm working on a sermon. Trinity Sunday, don't you know.

Yeah, I'm not planning to explain anything. Let's focus on tugging some heartstrings, shall we?

We'll start with Queen Helen Mirren who continues to be fabulous, this time by meeting with a 10-year-old boy with terminal cancer.
When royal officials informed his family that Queen Elizabeth II would not be able to fulfill his wish by meeting with him, actress Helen Mirren decided to reprise her famous role. The Academy Award winning star of the 2006 film The Queen invited Oliver and his family to a play (in which she also portrays the queen), then took them backstage for tea and a special knighting ceremony for young Oliver. Mirren stayed in character the entire time.
There's a reason Tom and Lorenzo call her Queen Helen of Fuckinfantastica. And it's not just the fashion. It's also the celebrity gnomes.

Yes, celebrity-designed gnomes. To the shock and horror of many, the Chelsea Garden Show is *gasp* allowing garden gnomes in the displays -- just this once, on its 100th anniversary.
“It’s good to confront the received wisdom that all gnomes are nasty,” Mr. Llewelyn-Bowen said. Referring to his wife, he added: “Also, Jackie has had to overcome her poshness and confront her gnomophobia.”
Dame Helen's and other celebrity-designed gnomes are now available to buy on eBay. Three guesses which one of these was designed by Sir Elton John.

Meanwhile, at least two hankies are required for this story about the Marine who is reunited with the dog he worked with in Afghanistan. It is lovely. And I have to blow my nose again after reading it.

I was surprised to learn this week of the death of Henri Dutilleux. Surprised because I had no idea he was still alive, or had been alive all this time (as one is until one dies, I know).

I have for many, many years attempted to play his Sonatine for flute and piano (well, just the flute part), with limited success. But I found a recording of it to give you an idea of what it would sound like if I ever were able to play it well. It's such a reflective and--what's the right word?--I don't know. It's a no-nonsense piece of music. I can hear the intelligence behind it. I think that's what I like about it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

World in Prayer

It was my week to write the World In Prayer prayers. I hope I wasn't too preachy, here.

Holy Trinity, we understand so little
  about you
  about the world around us
  about our neighbors
  about ourselves.

We struggle to make sense of our experiences.
We do our best to make everything fit in the scheme of things,
to make you fit our understanding,
to make events follow some logic or plan.

Perhaps today we can offer to you our confusion as a gift,
the limits of our knowledge as our offering and our prayer.

All-knowing God, we lay before you the inexplicable sufferings of our world
in the hope that your love will give us comfort and the strength to comfort others.

We pray for Syria in its continued turmoil and conflict.

We pray for the victims of the tornado in Oklahoma, USA.

We pray for all refugees throughout the world, and for those who lose their homes through displacement, disaster, or loss.

We pray for Iran where the Guardian Council disqualified the presidential candidacy of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani ahead of Iran’s June elections.

We pray for those participating in the hunger strike on the base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and for those seeking a resolution to the issues that surround the prison there.

We pray for those who are sick, and for those suffering from diseases for which we have no cure or answer.

We pray for those working to contain the novel coronavirus, and for those affected by it in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and elsewhere.

We pray for the victims of random and unexpected violence.

We pray for Iraq where 70 people have been killed in bombings in recent days, and where 7 women and 5 men were shot dead in a brothel.

We pray for Mark Carson, shot in New York City, USA, by a man who shouted gay slurs at him.

We pray for a man killed in London, England, after being attacked by two men with machetes.

We pray for all those damaged by hatred. We pray for those who hate themselves or others.

We pray also that we may be aware of those moments of joy and grace that defy our understanding.

We pray that we may be alive to the wonder of your creation, and to the inspiration that it brings.

We thank you for the discovery of prehistoric cave paintings in Mexico.

We thank you for all those things that make us aware of the world and people around us.

In our struggle to understand, may we join with one another in love, remembering that you call us to faith, not certainty, and to compassion, not answers.

Holy Trinity, be our guide now and always. It is by you we pray.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Various & Sundry: The cats are unimpressed

I'm kind of tempted to start this week's collection of online tidbits with the Sad Cat Diary.

I hope you are not too depressed to read on.

But if you have made it this far, I hope you will read this terrific article about what we can learn from one of the worst charities in the world. I think it captures some of the key things we need to consider in aid and development work in a way that's really eye-opening. The gist is we need to look at the outcome (what does the charity actually accomplish) rather than focus on the process (how does it go about it -- assuming it is legal and ethical). Take a look and see what you think of the author's arguments.

Meanwhile, over at How Matters (because, yes, this is a both/and kind of a situation), Jennifer Lentfer writes about her recent visit to Haiti and the comments made to her by the recipients of various aid programs. Here's the one that particularly got me: "Is it a political strategy for Americans to come waste their money and weaken us?" Youch.

@pj_blue had a tweet that summed all of this up very neatly:
Amen to that.

So...will it do any good to sign this petition to make it easier for musicians to bring their instruments on airplanes? One can always try, and hope. Apparently,
When musicians are travelling by air in the United States, their instruments have no protections under current law. Each air carrier can decide their own rules on how to treat instrumentalists, and this results in arbitrary decisions made down the line.
Here's hoping we can make that a little less crazy.

Congratulations to 18-year-old Jennie Lamere who won a Boston Hackathon (a programming competition) with a code to stop television spoilers in your Twitter feed. Which, if you're a Twitter type, is actually really useful. What's more, she was the only female to present a project, and the only solo competitor. Go, Jennie. Another story on how she got into coding here.

On the other end of the life spectrum, this week I read the fascinating obituary of Marcella Pattyn, 92, who was the last of the Beguines. Yes, I did start humming a little Cole Porter, there, but little did I know that the Beguines were a lay order for women established in the late 12th century.
Beguines took no religious vows. They could leave and marry, if they chose. They could own property and took no alms. Women of all classes were welcomed, and wealthy Beguines often brought their servants with them. They carried on professions, often in the textile industry; they did good works, such as teaching or caring for the sick. They elected women — Grandes Dames — to lead their communities. Each Beguine was expected to support herself and make a contribution to the beguinage, through work or rent payments. They had no motherhouse, no common rule, no general of the order. Every community was run according to its own rules.
Fascinating stuff. Marcella herself, there, was the last surviving member of the order. Do we need something else like it? Or has it simply served its term?

Another who has served his term is Lt. Col. Will Adams, who had been deployed in Afghanistan for 2 years. I dare you to watch this without crying.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Dust on your Feet

Here's the post I wrote for today's edition of 50 Days of Fabulous. You get the special bonus content of "before" and "after" pictures of the shoes I wore in Uganda.

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”
Luke 10:8-11

Do you know how hard it is to get dust off your shoes? I learned this during the brief time I spent in Uganda, walking on dirt roads every day. And every day, Alex, the houseboy (and let’s talk about how uncomfortable that was), would take my shoes and try to scrub them clean, but the dirt never really came off. My shoes still have some of the red dirt from those roads.

In this passage from Luke, Jesus gives his disciples instructions before sending them out and is brutally realistic about the fact that some of these visits are going to be a total failure.

I’m trying to think of anyone who told me that sometimes my ministry is going to be a bust. I’m not coming up with anyone (though it’s possible I simply ignored them and believed it would never happen to me). But I’m here to tell you: sometimes what you work on is going to be a total bust.

Here are two mistakes I’ve made when it comes to failure. The first was to keep banging my head against a wall when something wasn’t working. I believed that any failure must be my fault; that if I spent a little more time, put in a little more effort, explained myself a little bit better, then everything would work. But Jesus is very clear: if something isn’t working, don’t pretend that it is. It’s not that you’re doing something wrong; it’s that you are not welcomed. Move on to someplace that’s going to welcome you and your work.

As of now--and I got back in 2008.
My other mistake was to believe it’s easy to brush it off when something fails. “Shake the dust off your feet,” I’ve heard many times, and thought it was supposed to be a simple thing. I didn’t realize that dust clings. I didn’t know that it would take effort and time to wipe it all off.

But here’s the third thing I see when I look at this reading today: Jesus calls us, not to succeed, but to bring the kingdom of God near. Success or failure was not the point. Actually, I now believe that success and failure don’t look like what we think they look like. If we have brought the kingdom of God near, we have succeeded by the only important measure.

Are you spending your time on a project you should leave behind? Take the first few steps on to the next town.

Are you still worried about the dust of failure clinging to you? If something you tried to do didn’t work, be sure to say “That failed,” not “I failed.”

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sermon -- Audio!

I preached at the Church of the Incarnation, Santa Rosa, yesterday, and my sermon was recorded and posted on their website. So if you want to hear me talking for 15 minutes almost exactly about the woman with a spirit of divination, well, here's your chance.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day Proclamation

This, my friends, was the original Mother’s Day proclamation, written by Julia Ward Howe in 1870, a few short years after the end of the Civil War. You may be familiar with another piece of her writing: The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

You may notice there’s no mention of brunch in there. There’s no mention of flowers. There is, in fact, very little mention of motherhood. In fact, Howe’s idea for mother’s day had nothing to do with people honoring their mothers. Instead, she tells women to “leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.” In other words, she tells them to dump their families, hit the road, and get together with other women to work for peace.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Various & Sundry: Mostly fabulous women, plus a castle

It's been another long week on deadline, but I can see the finish line. ALMOST THERE! In the meantime, can I just say, if you name your college group The Holy Club, as John Wesley did, you are just asking to be pantsed. I also kind of like the fact that the good people of the colony of Georgia hated him. HATED. Here's a fabulous quote from his journal from June 22, 1736:
Tuesday, 22.—Observing much coldness in M ----‘s behaviour, I asked him the reason of it. He answered, “I like nothing you do. All your sermons are satires upon particular persons, therefore I will never hear you more; and all the people are of my mind; for we won’t hear ourselves abused. 
“Besides, they say, they are Protestants. But as for you, they cannot tell what religion you are of. They never heard of such a religion before. They do not know what to make of it. And then your private behaviour: all the quarrels that have been here since you came, have been ‘long of you. Indeed there is neither man nor woman in the town who minds a word you say. And so you may preach long enough; but nobody will come to hear you.” 
He was too warm for hearing an answer. So I had nothing to do but to thank him for his openness and walk away.
Oh dear. Well, it got better for him.

Enough of that. What else have I got here?

We've got some fabulous women, that's what we've got. Let's start with Helen Mirren. "She's had some practice in issuing commands to her subjects as a queen, but it still came as a surprise to a group of drummers when Dame Helen Mirren yelled at them to be quiet while dressed in her full Queen Elizabeth II costume on Saturday night." Love it.

The fabulous Lena Horne died last Sunday, and the obituary ends with a spectacular quote.
Looking back at the age of 80, Ms. Horne said: “My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I’m free. I no longer have to be a ‘credit.’ I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”
You tell 'em.

The Bloggess offers some fabulous Rules for Life, my personal favorite being number 13 (which as you will see is labeled 12b):
12b. Embrace your flaws and foibles. If people make fun of you, kick them in the back and then blame it on a ghost.
I am totally doing that.

In the article, this photo has the caption,
"The castle is in need of significant renovation."
In case you were in doubt.
There's a castle for sale, by the way, in case you're in the market. Inchtower castle was owned by Count Robin de Lanne-Mirlees. Actually, that's just the shortened version. His full name was (ready?) Robin Ian Evelyn Milne Stuart le Comte de la Lanne-Mirrlees and he was an officer of the College of Arms, meaning he created heralds.

Among the many he created was the Bond family motto -- as in James Bond -- which is Orbis Non Sufficit: The World is Not Enough. Mirrlees and Ian Fleming were acquainted, and it is thought that Bond's cover identity, Sir Hilary Bray, Bt, is based on Mirrlees.

Oh, and if you buy Inchtower Castle, you become Baron or Baronness of Inchdrewer. So there's some incentive right there.

So last weekend Gabrielle Marcus married Brian Marcus. But when the announcement appeared in the Times, she still wasn't sure whether she was going to take his last name or not. Adorable photo, isn't it? Turns out her husband (and mother- and father-in-law) are photographers.

I thought this article on the unexpected antidote to procrastination had a good point. And it was, in fact, not what I expected. What was it? Feeling, and being willing to feel. As I said, not what I expected.

And with that, I am going to go on with the day. I've got a sermon to write.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

You don't have to smile

Back when I was living in the second floor apartment of the Parish House in Gambier, OH, every day I would pass a piece of graffiti on the landing by the phone. It said "Smile. Jesus loves you." It made me want to strangle the writer.

I remembered this today, reading Allie Brosh's epic post on Hyperbole and a Half: Depression Part Two. Here's the image that made me want to employ a semi-automatic weapon that most of the time I want to see banned:

Is it just me? Or does it make you want to kill someone too?

When are we going to understand that "Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep" means just what it says? We're told to bear one another's burdens, not cheer one another up. "Jesus loves you" comes with no strings attached, not even a smile.

I saw this rewrite of the Serenity Prayer the other day, and I think it's worth sharing:
God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.
The terrible truth is you can't make people feel better. But if you can sit with them where they are, maybe that will feel ok.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Garden Report: May Update

The plants are doing their jobs, but I've been really slow off the mark this year. My tomato seedlings are a disaster! But some things are blooming up a storm, with little help from me, so here you go.

Let's start with what I think is my great triumph: I didn't kill the Mock Orange! (Philadelphus, if you're interested.) Here it is back in February:

Very sad. 
But here it is today:

Happy, happy Mock Orange!

Also in this bed, the Geum (with the red blossoms) did well over the winter, and I did plant a number of dahlia bulbs that are gearing up for summer:

The Passion Vine I tended over the winter did not, alas, survive. But we planted a new one a couple of weeks ago, and it seems happy as a clam.

I did also plant a marmalade bush (Streptosolen jamesonii) in one of the as-yet empty backyard beds, and put lots of metal around it in hopes that it won't get dug up, Harper. So far, so good.

It's supposed to get to 6 ft. X 6 ft. with lots of orange and yellow blossoms. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Finally in the backyard, I'm loving the Nigella, aka Love-in-a-Mist, which has taken over the beds under the bedroom window, but they really need something more substantial in there. I need to work on that.

Moving to the front yard, the sweet peas are off to a slow start, but they're blooming.

The rock rose is magnificent.

I love how those flowers peek through the fence.

For some reason (and I can take no credit), there are a bunch of wonderful pink and red snapdragons that decided to re-seed in the front yard. I think they look fantastic. I'm sorry that what you see here is mostly my shadow. You can kind of see Harper sniffing them. Don't step on the snapdragons, Harper!

Our best looking/most completed bed is probably this one, with the flowering tobacco in the back. The light makes it look a little scraggly. It looks better in person.

And last but not least...

The hydrangea that I shall now call Wolverine for its regenerating powers. It's incredible.

I hope things are blooming where you are. Happy May.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Various & Sundry: Now with more random animal drama!

It's been a busy week work-wise as a deadline looooms for the ecumenical version (actually versions) of Confirm not Conform, which of course means I have more than the usual number of goofy links to share. I'm just going to go for the random, here. You sort out the themes.

My favorite grammar heresy, the Singular They, gets a thumbs up from the Grumpy Grammarian, asking, "are we really to heed [William Strunk's] aesthetic sensibilities over Shakespeare’s or Thackeray’s?" Let's just consider that a rhetorical question.

Here's a lead you don't read every day: "An English coroner is being asked to decide why a man was in the chimney of a law firm where he was found dead." Well, yes, that does raise some questions.

You also don't hear about pot-sniffing moose every time you turn around.

In other wild animal encounters, Nancy Kho describes How to Maximize the Drama Inherent in a Wild Turkey Encounter. That's a wild turkey as in an actual wild turkey, not Wild Turkey like glug-glug. Although Wild Turkey might indeed maximize the drama inherent in a wild turkey encounter. No mention of it, though.

OK, I do seem to be sensing a theme as we turn to glow in the dark sheep.
Scientists in Uruguay have announced the world's first genetically-modified phosphorescent sheep. 
Nine sheep were born in October of 2012 at Uruguay's Institute of Animal Reproduction, an experiment conducted in conjunction with the Institut Pasteur. 
The scientists used a gene from a jellyfish, allowing them to produce a green fluorescent protein.

The scientists say the sheep developed normally. They claim there are no differences to their non-modified peers.
Well. Good for them, then. But they are kind of creepy, aren't they?

On the more serious side, two pieces that made me go yay:

First, four teenagers in Wilcox County, Georgia, finally were able to offer the high school's first integrated prom. Yes, you read right. 2013. They had an integrated prom. So kudos to the four girls who finally broke through. It's still hard to wrap your brain around, though, isn't it?

Also kudos to the principal who fired security guards at his elementary school so that he could hire art teachers. He took a real risk, but it looks like it's paying huge dividends.

And for your own decision-making needs, take a look at the Disapproval Matrix, which is "one way to separate haterade from productive feedback." Very useful. Who are you listening to?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Who am I doing this for?

Cross-posted on the 50 Days of Fabulous site.

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
                                                -Psalm 119:33

I was just starting my first job out of seminary, setting up a college chaplaincy at Kenyon College, and I needed help and advice on what to do. So I went to Chicago and met (among others) the great Sam Portaro who was then chaplain at Brent House at the University of Chicago.

He had all sorts of fantastic advice on setting up mailing lists and creating calendars and the nitty-gritty of getting things done. I took notes furiously, overwhelmed at everything I would have to set up in the month I had before classes started. And at the end of our meeting, as I looked over everything on this huge list, I probably radiated anxiety. I certainly felt it anyway. And Sam looked at me and gave me this advice: “Just love those kids.” I didn’t write it down, but I’ve never forgotten it.

The section of Psalm 119 that’s in today’s lectionary has always struck me because of one word — and the word is “it.” At first I thought, shouldn’t it be “them”? After all, it’s about following God’s statutes, all 613 of them. But although “statutes” is plural, it’s not the statutes that the Psalmist is hoping to keep; it is the way of the statutes, the basic underlying premise. The Psalmist asks God to teach me that one way, the singular thing that keeps all of those statutes together in one place, and that is of course the way of love.

This way of love isn’t simply a mushy-gooey excuse for not planning. When I returned to Ohio, I got to work and dug into the nitty-gritty details. But knowing that the underlying premise of all my tasks was to “Just love those kids” gave me the assurance that even if I didn’t do things perfectly, I was still headed the right way.

Before you start work today, instead of focusing entirely on what you need to do, take a minute to think about who you are doing it for and say a prayer for them.