Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Lenten Lenses

It's incredibly humbling to hear from people who are reading my reflections this Lent, whether it is someone I see every day or from people I have never met.  It's a privileged glimpse.

So...I'm not reading my own daily reflections this Lent (I would be distracted by all the commas whose loss I am still mourning), but went in search of something a bit different.  I'm reading Walter Brueggemann's A Way Other Than Our Own, which is a daily devotional for the Lenten season, and Born from the Gaze of God by Christophe Lebreton, the lightly edited journal of one of the martyred monks of Tibhirine.  The latter was a last minute pick, it's not a Lenten book per se.

Brueggeman's book begins with a challenge - to rethink who we are in the light of the Gospel, asking hard questions:  have we turned away from faith and our baptismal call to sink into a vague identity that is equal parts affluence, patriotism, consumerism and violence? Why are we working for what does not satisfy?  What, he asks us to consider, is tugging at the edge of our awareness?

I had no idea what I was getting into with Born from the Gaze of God, only to open it to find a mix of the poetic and the pragmatic.  He riffs on writing as an opening to God, as an opening for God, as God writing in him.  There are quotes from the Koran interspersed with comments on coffee so bitter, you want to turn the page on it.  Sometimes I read four lines and need to stop, other times I'm pulled into the daily life of the monastery, day folding onto day.  Br. Christophe's journal ends just a week before the monks were kidnapped. This, too, is a privileged glimpse.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Gates of hell on Chestnut Street

I was driving down Chestnut Street in Philly to 30th Street Station, worried that I cut it a bit close to make my train down to DC.  I needed to get almost 30 city blocks, park, and walk the last block to the station in 30 minutes.  This sort of time pressure usually results in my pouring my anxiety into the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  Who couldn’t use a little mercy in those moments?  Or really, in any moment?

But one by one, as I approached the lights, they flashed to green. Four minutes after I had turned onto Chestnut, I was at 52nd, only another 20 blocks to go.  Suddenly Jesus’ remark to Peter flashed through my mind: “…and the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.”  (Mt 16:17-19)  I laughed aloud.

Prayers, you might conclude, were answered in that moment.  True, I would say, but not the prayer that I get there on time, or the prayer that I be less anxious or even the prayers offered for those with real worries, real difficulties. But the promise made at the end of Matthew, “I will be with you until the end of time.” (Mt 28:20)

It was the sense of presence, rich with humor and delight, that felt like the answer.  Dashing to the station, too late for the train or just in time, green lights or red — I am with you, finding the humor in unlikely coincidence.  Joy, the surest sign of the presence of God. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Pause. Rant.

Both my work and home emails now have "pause" buttons.  Sadly, the pause doesn't have an autoreply, but if it did, it might say this:

Dear email correspondent, 
Michelle is not responding to this email because her task queue is overfull of items due RIGHT NOW. Or in some cases LAST WEEK!   
If you have a task that is not due RIGHT NOW or LAST WEEK, please do not try to insert it into Michelle's queue. The queue manager (or Michelle) could collapse without warning. 
If you are trying to offload a task you'd rather not do, but in fact have the bandwidth to undertake, this message will be sent to the Purgatory folder.  Michelle promises to pray for the tasks in there, but because time runs differently in purgatory, I can't say that she will get to anything in there any time soon.   
If this is actually a request to Google's servers for information in an email wrapper, please be advised that you can now undertake your own search at  Bonus, you will get to see the Google doodle of the day. 
If you are Michelle, and looking for a time before 2 pm to eat lunch or to go to the bathroom, good luck with that.  Next time, get it on your calendar early in the week. 
With best regards,
Michelle's email queue and calendaring app

And the trouble with the pause button, of course, is that when you release it, you get a flood.