dual personalities

Tag: spirituality

Yea, amen! let all adore thee*

It was a busy week. Daughter #2 came home and between going to work, trips to the NICU at the hospital and an ice storm, we managed to trim the big tree

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and watch Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and Edward Scissorhands (1990). We even made several fires in the fireplace without the aid of our Eagle Scout who did come and help us wrangle the tree into the tree stand. Merci beaucoup.

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Daughter #2 graded 29 papers and the OM gassed up the cars.

We went to church yesterday, the fourth Sunday in Advent, and sang the rest of the advent hymns. The rector gave us all high fives for showing up. In fact, a lot of churches were closed because of the weather and very cold temperatures. This is a new thing. On Saturday night you see the names of church closings scrolling on the bottom of your television screen, just like school closings during the week. [Insert eye roll here.] Please.

Today we will go back to work for a few days and visit the hospital and get ready for daughter #1’s arrival on Friday. And we will “rejoice! rejoice!” because, you know, “Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”

Have a good week and stay calm.

*Hymn 57, Charles Wesley

Better to wear out than to rust out

No, that isn’t a saying originated by Neil Young (“it’s better to burn out than to fade away”). Indeed, this aphorism is attributed to quite a few people, but one of those people who firmly believed it was George Whitefield (1714–1770), an 18th century Anglican clergyman who was one of the founders of Methodism and the evangelical movement, “The Great Awakening.”

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It is said that Whitefield preached at least 18,000 times to perhaps 10 million listeners in Great Britain and the American colonies.  Impressive.

He is honored today, together with Francis Asbury, with a (lesser) feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church.

Francis Asbury (1745 – 1816) was one of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. In 1784 John Wesley named Asbury and Thomas Coke as co-superintendents of the work in America. This marks the beginning of the “Methodist Episcopal Church of the USA.”

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For the next thirty-two years, Asbury led all the Methodists in America. Like Wesley, Asbury preached in all sorts of places: courthouses, public houses, tobacco houses, fields, public squares, wherever a crowd assembled to hear him. For the remainder of his life he rode an average of 6,000 miles each year, preaching virtually every day and conducting meetings and conferences. Under his direction, the church grew from 1,200 to 214,000 members and 700 ordained preachers.

Holy God, who didst so inspire Francis Asbury and George Whitefield with evangelical zeal that their faithful proclamation of the Gospel caused a Great Awakening among those who heard them: Inspire us, we pray, by thy Holy Spirit, that, like them, we may be eager to share thy Good News and lead many to Jesus Christ, in whom is eternal life and peace; and who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Boy oh boy, both the Episcopal Church and the Methodist Church could really use these two today.

Let the people say Amen

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Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
–Psalm 27:14

Variations on a theme

Photo courtesy of the Missouri Dept. of Conservation

Photo courtesy of the Missouri Dept. of Conservation

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

We’ve quoted Bonhoeffer before on the subject of thankfulness, but can we ever say it often enough? Probably not. It is so central to our well-being.

November is a good month to take a look at the things for which we are thankful, so I plan to do that.

Meanwhile, here’s a poem by W.S. Merwin:

Thank you my life long afternoon
late in this spring that has no age
my window above the river
for the woman you led me to
when it was time at last the words
coming to me out of mid-air
that carried me through the clear day
and come even now to find me
for old friends and echoes of them
those mistakes only I could make
homesickness that guides the plovers
from somewhere they had loved before
they knew they loved it to somewhere
they had loved before they saw it
thank you good body hand and eye
and the places and moments known
only to me revisiting
once more complete just as they are
and the morning stars I have seen

And I am thankful for the flyover view.

“Grumbling and gratitude are, for the child of God, in conflict. Be grateful and you won’t grumble. Grumble and you won’t be grateful.”
―Billy Graham

Rescued from oblivion

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Even the most cursory of diaries can be of incalculable value. What the weather was doing. Who we ran into on the street. The movie we saw. The small boy at the dentist’s office. The dream.

Just a handful of the barest facts can be enough to rescue an entire day from oblivion — not just what happened in it, but who we were when it happened. Who the others were. What it felt like back then to be us.

“Our years come to an end like a sigh . . . ” says Psalm 90, “so teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (w. 9,12).

It is a mark of wisdom to realize how precious our days are, even the most uneventful of them. If we can keep them alive by only a line or so about each, at least we will know what we’re sighing about when the last of them comes.

~ Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words

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The illustration of parked cars on a residential street is from This is New York by Miroslav Sasek.

Alive and well somewhere

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“What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”

― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself 

I went to a memorial service yesterday at the Unitarian Church on “Holy Corners” in the Central West End.

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You can see the Christian Scientist and Methodist churches in the background, built in better days around the turn of the 20th century.

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The Unitarian Church was built on a more humble scale and added to accordingly. It turns out it was the church of William Greenleaf  Eliot, the founder of my flyover university and also of the girls’ school I attended. Not that he would recognize this congregation.

Anyway, I had never been to a Unitarian memorial service before. The music was pretty bad and there was only one scripture reading–a terrible translation of Psalm 39–and one prayer. (We never even said the Lord’s Prayer.) The minister gave a long homily about the mystery of life and how everything dies, and a  long eulogy about the deceased, and the husband of the deceased gave a long eulogy. Like her parents, she was a lifelong member of the church and a serious Unitarian and social justice warrior. She and her husband were also big supporters of their partner church in Transylvania–yes, there are Unitarians in Transylvania! They are the second largest group of Unitarians in the world!  It is amazing what one doesn’t know about people.

Well, it all got me thinking about old Walt Whitman’s lines about death in Song of Myself, which seem very Unitarian in spirit to me but are more meaningful than anything I heard in the service. I like to think that my friend is alive and well somewhere, although I guess that’s not what she expected.

*The painting is “Moonlight” by Fausto Zonaro (1854 – 1929)

On the way to knowing

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I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things. Love a friend, a wife, something–whatever you like–you will be on the way to knowing more about Him; that is what I say to myself. But one must love with a lofty and serious intimate sympathy, with strength, with intelligence; and one must always try to know deeper, better, and more. That leads to God, that leads to unwavering faith.

–Vincent Van Gogh

To be a fool

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Today is the birthday of the great Quaker John Woolman (1720–1782).

I find that to be a fool as to worldly wisdom, and commit my cause to God, not fearing to offend men, who take offence at the simplicity of truth, is the only way to remain immoved by the sentiments of others. The fear of man brings a snare; by halting in our duty, and going back in the time of trial, our hands grow weaker, our spirits get mingled with the people, our ears grow dull as to hearing the language of the True Shepherd; that when we look at the way of the righteous, it seems as though it was not for us to follow them.

There is a love clothes my mind, while I write, which is superior to all expressions; and I find my heart open to encourage a holy emulation, to advance forward in Christian firmness. Deep humility is a strong bulwark; and as we enter into it, we find safety. The foolishness of God is wiser than  man, and the weakness of God is stronger than man. Being unclothed of our own wisdom and knowing the abasement of the creature, therein we find that power to arise which gives health and vigor to us.

–Journal, 1774

Celebrate accordingly.

Just as I am*

Before we went home a little early on Friday in deference to the pre-debate ballyhoo/media circus at our flyover university, we had a long convo with our old friend the campus exterminator. (He really is one of the nicest guys we know–and the cutest. Picture Nathan Fillion if you will.)

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He said there were no vermin in the traps he had set the week before. It seems that the rodent we spied last Friday was an errant vole who must have found his way out of the building. Before he left, our exterminator regaled us with tales of our building before the renovation 15 years ago when large rats held sway on the loading dock. We rolled our eyes appreciatively and assured him he was our hero. Unfortunately he could not linger because he had to take the traps over to some dorm where there was a mouse infestation. It seems the boys who live there had taken matters into their own hands and were killing the poor things themselves. Our soft-hearted exterminator was upset about this, so time was a-wasting. He reminded us to call him anytime and we assured him, oh, we will. He left with cupcakes.

So my weekend was relatively uneventful. I did go to the Vintage Market Days, “an upscale vintage-inspired outdoor market featuring original art, antiques, clothing, jewelry, handmade treasures, home décor, outdoor furnishings, consumable yummies, seasonal plantings and a little more” with my friend and her two sisters. It took several hours to work our way through the hordes of shoppers that were there and we were pretty exhausted when we finally made our way back to the car. A trip to Steak ‘N Shake afterwards revived us, however.

I spent the rest of the weekend puttering around my house, getting ready for a visit next weekend from daughters # 1 and 2–that is, if the weather allows for travel.

I started watching The Vicar of Dibley–a British sitcom that ran from 1994–2007–on Netflix.

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The premise of this show is that a female Anglican priest is called to an old-fashioned congregation and hilarity ensues. As you can imagine, it is right up my alley.

And my question for you this week is: What did we amuse ourselves with before text-messaging?

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Enjoy your Monday!

*Just as I am, though tossed about

with many a conflict,  many a doubt;

fightings and fears within, without,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

–Charlotte Elliott (1989-1971)

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”*

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It is that time of year when the Monarch Butterflies appear in flyover country. These pictures are from a friend’s blog. Cool, right?

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“Marvelous!” he repeated, looking up at me. “Look! The beauty–but that is nothing–look at the accuracy, the harmony. And so fragile! And so strong! And so exact! This is Nature–the balance of colossal forces. Every star is so–and every blade of grass stands so–and the mighty Kosmos perfect equilibrium produces–this. This wonder; this masterpiece of Nature–the great artist.”

―Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim 

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Photos by Don Sessions

*Psalm 19:1 (KJV)