Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Where I am going, you can not come



St. Philips, Laurel, DE.

What happens after we die?

It’s a question that has been asked by human beings, probably since the first human sat with a loved one who died. It has probably followed the questions, “Where do we come from?” And, “Why am I here?” And, “Why do we die?” It’s a question little children ask after they see a dead bird or after the death of a family pet. 

What happens after we die? 

In today’s Gospel lesson from St. John, we are returned to the scene in that Upper Room. Judas has just betrayed Jesus and has left the room in a huff. Jesus turns to his disciples – “little children,” he calls them – and tells them that he is not going to be with them for much longer. And then, he says, “Where I am going, you cannot come.”  John 13:31-35 
 
I suspect Jesus was not saying to them that they can’t go to heaven. I think Jesus was telling them that he has to make this final piece of the journey by himself. 

He’s talking about the betrayal and the trial, the scourging and the mocking, the crucifixion and the death. I suspect that the writers of John’s Gospel are saying that Jesus had to do these things first before they could have life eternal with him and join him in heaven. 

Jesus has to make that journey of redemption first before we can follow.

The image from the second reading from Revelations gives us a glimmer of that place which Jesus has made possible for us to enter. We hear the words that have comforted so many centuries of people during funeral services, that God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away."

Chinese symbol for Eternal Life
In the first reading, from the Book of Acts – the chronicle of the earliest, developmental forms of the church – we see one manifestation of the declaration and prophecy of The Revelation “See, I am making all things new.” 

All the old Levitical Purity Codes about what and who is clean no longer define what it is to be a member of this new Christian community.

And those who heard Peter’s vision of this new Way of Jesus were radically changed and transformed and were never again the same. They praised God, saying a most radical thing: "Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life."

Whoa! That is pretty revolutionary stuff! Even the Gentiles have been given the path to new life! That was as radical a statement at that time and in that place as the abolition of slavery was in that day, or suffrage for women, or marriage equality in our time.

It is fulfillment of the commandment Jesus gave his disciples – and so, to us – that “you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Lovely, right? Of course, right. Easier said than done, right? Absolutely right.

We have been hearing lots of political rhetoric this election cycle from people who call themselves Christians which sounds anything but lovely. It certainly doesn’t praise God, much less represent any teaching of Jesus I ever read or studied. I don’t know about you, but I am sooOOoo over this political election season! I have rolled my eyes so often at things that have been said that I’m sure I’m going to need eye surgery by November.

Here’s the thing: I think we would all be better Christians if we stopped worrying so much about where we – or “they” – are going to go after we die and concentrate on living the best of this amazing life we’ve been given, the world would be a better place.

I mean, that’s the real crux of the matter, isn’t it? All this anxiety about what’s going to happen after we leave this earth, our island home? All this stuff about Judgment Day? 

It's all about "saving" ourselves from "them". Or saving them from themselves. Thing of it is that Jesus already saved us. Even from ourselves. 

Except we spend so much time deflecting our anxiety by judging other people in this life that we forget that it is we, ourselves, who will be judged in the next. 

Not anyone else’s opinions about us. Just how the One who Created us, the One who has walked with us in this life, and the One who calls us home will understand all of what we’ve done within the context of our whole lives.

And, here’s my best hunch: God will be a lot more forgiving to us than we are to ourselves. Or, each other. God will love us beyond anything we are able to imagine, no matter what we’ve done – or left undone.

I had a Hospice patient a few years back whose death taught me a great deal about this. I had been seeing him and his wife for a few months. His decline was slow but at the point of inevitability. Even so, the end came so swiftly both his wife and I were totally unprepared when it came.

They were a lovely couple. Kind. Generous. Loving. A good, solid marriage.

She had led me into the bedroom to talk with her husband and then asked if there was anything she could get for us. Her husband asked if she might fix us all a cup of tea. She was happy to oblige. I later figured out why he did that. He wanted some time to talk with me alone.

“Listen,” he said, as his wife rattled around in the kitchen, putting the kettle on and getting out a try of teacups and saucers. “I have to ask you to promise me something.”

“Well,” I said, “I never make a promise I don’t know I can’t keep.”

“This is very important,” he said, “I want you to promise me, after I die, that you tell my wife that I’m so very sorry for that affair I had with that woman 30 years ago.”

“And does your wife know about this affair?” I asked.

“No,” he said, “I’ve never told her. But, you must tell her that I never meant for it to happen. That, I knew it was wrong. That I cut it off because I didn’t want to hurt her and never told her because I never wanted to hurt her. You have to promise me that you’ll tell her that.”

I sighed and said, “The only way I could possibly make that promise would be after YOU tell her about the affair. And then, I’ll reinforce what you’ve said to me. About your love for her and how you didn’t want to hurt her. That, I can do. But first, YOU have to tell her yourself.”

He sighed deeply and shook his head sadly. Just at that point, I could hear his wife in the kitchen. She seemed to be having difficulty carrying the tray so I left the bedside and went in to help her. 

As I was leaving the room, I turned back to see my patient. He smiled wryly and put his thumb up, as if to say that it was okay – that it would all, somehow, be okay.

When his wife and I returned to the bedroom a few minutes later, we found him lying very still, his eyes closed, his chest not moving. His wife gasped. 

I put the tray down and went to his bedside. I could not find a pulse. I could not hear a breath. It was pretty clear that, while we were in the kitchen, he had passed away.

I got up, went to his wife and held her in my arms as she cried and then, she gathered herself up and went to his bedside and sat next to him. She kissed him lightly on the forehead and then said, “Damn fool! You left before I had the chance to say I have forgiven you for that stupid affair you had 30 years ago. I know you loved me. I hope you know how much I loved you.”

It was my turn to gasp quietly. In that moment, and many moments since, I’ve wondered how much time – how much precious time – both of them had wasted worrying about this moment. How many hours had he wasted in guilt and she in anger? How many times had he rehearsed what she might say to her? How much time had she spent wrestling with forgiveness? How much of the contours and content of their lives had been shaped by silent regret?

No one knows what happens after we die – much less at the moment of death, when it will come and what will happen. No one knows where we go when we die. We do have this promise of life eternal from Jesus. And, we do have this commandment to love one another as he loved us.

The two are intimately intertwined – following his commandment and claiming his promise. The promise of life eternal is ours, even if we don’t live our lives perfectly. Even if our loving one another is deeply flawed. I believe in God’s two precious gifts of free will and grace, one making the other a richer experience. I believe that God does, indeed, make all things new.

I suspect our life and our love would be vastly improved if we stopped worrying so much about what was going to happen after we die and put more energy into living the life we’ve been given.

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that if you haven't experienced love and loved in return, if you haven't messed up and hurt someone you love or been hurt by someone you love, if you haven't forgiven or experienced someone's forgiveness, then you really haven't lived the fullness of the life that God has given you. 

Jesus said to his disciples during their Passover meal, “Where I am going, you can not come.” They didn’t know it at the time, but he was their Pascal Lamb. He became the blood on the lintels of the doorway to our hearts, which allows the deadly plagues of life to pass over and lead us into life abundant, life eternal. No one could have made that first journey but Him.

Henri Nouwen wrote: We seldom realise fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks. We act as if we have to choose how, where, and with whom to live. We act as if we were simply plopped down in creation and have to decide how to entertain ourselves until we die. But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was. Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do.”

Each one of us is here for a purpose. Each one of is here to accomplish something no one else can achieve. 

Sometimes, that simply means loving one another and forgive one another when we fail. Practicing that unconditional love that we will experience one day. Not judging ourselves or others.

No matter how old or young, each one of us is here to make this world a better place to live – for ourselves and for each other.  Let’s get on with it. Amen.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Hot Fat Blue Crab Spirituality

Yesterday was my birthday. As part of the birthday celebration, I had lunch at one of my favorite seafood restaurants - Crab Alley in West Ocean City, MD. It's about an hour from home. THE BEST crab cakes. Anywhere. Bar none. Ever. In the history of crab cakes.

Seriously.

Then again, just about anything on the menu is amazing.  I mean, you really can't mess up when you start with "right out of the ocean". As long as you don't over cook it or over season it, you're golden.

They are. Golden.

The prediction has been that there will be such a bountiful crop of Blue Crabs this year that, where they usually, "catch and release" the females, they are  hauling in the females and males. If they don't, we may have 'overpopulation' next year. And, really, how awful would that be? (/sarcasm)

Ever since I heard about a week or so ago that the Blue Crabs are running, I've been hankering for a half dozen of them, steamed in Old Bay. With a crisp, cold class of Chardonnay. Or, two. And, lots of ice water with lemon.

There's just nothing in the world like poundin' and pickin' and suckin' on a half dozen or so of hot, fat Blue Crabs steamed in Old Bay that have been unceremoniously dumped on your  covered-with-thick-brown paper table and given a wooden mallet a paring knife and a fork and butter knife as your only utensils.

I know this is going to sound like an exaggeration but it really is a "thin-place" moment - a time when you so lose yourself in the ecstasy of a primal sensory experience that you feel this - THIS! - must be a glimpse into heaven.

So, I got to thinking about the spirituality of hot, fat, Blue Crabs. I'm not sure anyone has ever put this into words but I have absolutely no doubt that those of you who know what I'm talking about will . . . well . . .  know exactly what I'm talking about.

Like spirituality, eating hot, fat Blue Crabs is a holistic experience, involving your body, mind and spirit. And, it is messy.  No joke.  The crabs come to your table steaming hot and covered with Old Bay seasoning piled high on a plastic tray - often similar to the ones some of us will remember from high school cafeteria - and then dumped, unceremoniously but usually with a huge silly grin on the face of your server - onto the table which was previously spread with heavy brown paper.

There are rituals in life that must be observed. This is one of them.

The second is like unto it: The only utensils allowed are a wooden mallet, a paring knife, a butter knife and a fork. The butter knife and fork are not for the crabs. They are for "The Sides". Two, usually. Like baked potato and coleslaw. Or, French fries and side salad. Which you won't be able to finish. Not unless you are ravenous.

Sometimes, applesauce will be offered as a "side". I have no idea what that's all about.

The central ritual is the actual Eating of the Crabs. Some people start with the two side claws. Others dive right into the belly of the crab. Other people will start with the legs.

The side claws can often be broken off at the joint and, sometimes, the meat will slide right out with it. Other times, you have to take your wooden mallet and crack it open and scoop out the meat with your finger or pairing knife. If the meat comes out with the joint, it can be dragged through some melted butter. Or, more Old Bay. Or, both.

Some folk here do like Old Bay with their Old Bay.  But, that's real hard core Eastern Shore.

The belly of the crab is where the "lump" meat is. It's the richest, sweetest meat. Which means, of course, you have to work hardest for it.

You have to "flip the top" and then crack into it. The meat is deep in the crevices of the cartilage.

Depending on how "fat" the crab is, you may be able to simply "pop" it out with your thumb or fingers. In any event, you'll want to make sue to explore every single crevice.

Mmm, mmm, mmm. That's some good eatin' right there.

And, yes, I eat the "stuff" in the shell. I don't care what it is or the way it looks. The taste is pretty amazing.

The legs are best broken off at the joint and then put up to your mouth where the meat can be sucked out.

Yes, that's right. You break it off at the joint and then suck. Don't worry if you make noise. Everyone does. It's part of the deal. No getting around it.

This is one of those times when to "suck" is a good thing.

Or, you can take out your trusty wooden mallet and crack it open. Then, take your pairing knife or thumb and scoop the meat out from the shell.

It's just as messy but not as noisy as the "sucking" method.

After you finish one crab, you start on the next one. Toward the end of the pile, you may sigh or allow a burp to escape before starting on your next crab. You may even have to get up and walk around.

Don't worry. You'll look at that pile and you'll think to yourself, "Good Lord, I can't eat all of that!" You'll be surprised how much you can eat. 

That's part of the joy of eating crabs.

You just take your time. Well, it takes a lot of time to eat a single steamed crab. Some people don't think the amount of time and work is worth it. Obviously, I disagree.

Take your time. Talk. Laugh. Take a drink. Burp. Get up, walk around. Start in again.

Be warned, however, that if you have a small paper cut or if one of the pointy ends on the claw or shell nicks one of your fingers and some of that Old Bay gets in there, it can sting like a son-of-a-gun. No joke.

So, don't go licking your fingers.

Most crab houses provide you with a plastic bucket for the "carnage" and a whole roll of paper towels.

Don't hesitate to use them. As many as you need.  As often as you need them.

Oh, and BTW, most crab houses count 13 as a dozen and 7 as a half dozen.

My kinda math.

So, I can hear your question: What has this got to do with spirituality?

Spirituality is not a spectator sport. It takes more than mere "active participation". It takes diving into the hot, steaming pile that life occasionally dumps on your plate and poundin' and pickin' and suckin' your way through it.

You have to have confidence and courage to be absolutely shameless about diving in. Shamelessness is a requirement. You dive in, naked and unafraid because you know people have been doing this the beginning of time and that this amazing feast is a gift directly from the bounty of God's creation. 

You'll find your own rituals to help you get through. You'll find that you pray what you believe and those rituals will further shape and form what you believe.

There's no right way or wrong way to do your rituals. Just your way. 

At some point, you'll think to yourself, "Dear God, there's no way I'm going to be able to get through this." But, you will.

You'll take your time, going through the pile, one by one. You'll talk to other folks. Laugh with them. Get up, walk around. Take a drink. Burp. Start in again.

Sometimes, some of the very things that make life tastier and interesting will get under your skin and sting.

Not hurt, really. Just an annoying, sharp sting that then throbs a bit before it suddenly disappears. You learn to move through that, too.

And you learn that the sweetest rewards are often buried deep in crevices and just around corners. Right there, hiding in plane site.  It takes some effort to get to them but, once you do, you know how to do it, the journey become part of the reward itself.

And, throughout the whole process, you've lost sight of yourself - where you begin and where you end - and yet, never been more fully aware of who you are and where you are.

You can learn a lot about your interior, spiritual life by paying attention to the common, every day things in life. 

I happen to think that our five senses - sight, sound, touch, taste, smell - are pathways into the "sixth sense" - that intuitive ability to have awareness about things that evade "normal" perception.

Nothing can activate all five senses like sitting down to a meal. I think that's exactly why Jesus chose a meal with his friends as the one way he wanted to be remembered.

Indeed, our spirituality is a "table spirituality" where we gather 'round to tell the stories of Jesus and the way his teaching continues to shape and form our lives - spiritual and individual and corporate.

And, I have to tell you, there ain't nothing like a tray of hot, fat Blue Crabs to awaken all of your senses and move you to a place of deeper gratitude for the gifts of God's creation.

Hot Fat Blue Crab spirituality.  I recommend it highly to be experienced often.

Don't wait for a special event like your birthday or for the crabs to start running.

You may think it's too much work and effort for what you get out of it, but I recommend you dive in right now and lose yourself in a primal "thin place moment". 

It just may change your life.  I wouldn't be too surprised to learn that it just might extend it.

Monday, April 18, 2016

One person. One vote. Seriously.


The calendar says that Spring arrived weeks ago but you couldn't tell by the cool temperatures. Here in the Mid-Atlantic we had snow flurries on Palm Sunday and frost warnings just the other night.

The calendar also says that the election of the next President won't take place until November - seven months away - but you couldn't tell that by the temperature of the political climate.

The narrative being pressed by liberal and conservative media alike is that the American people are angry. What we're supposedly angry about differs, of course, based on the view from the Left or the Right or the Middle.

Or, male or female. Or, Caucasian, Black, Latino/a, Asian. Or, Christian - Evangelical or Roman Catholic - or Jewish, and maybe - maybe - a few Muslims. Or, of course, a member of either the GI, Silent, Boomer, Gen-X or the current media darling, the Millennial generation.

The media outlets - who are the most direct beneficiaries of SuperPac money as well as private donations - are spinning 24/7, offering "analysis" of various aspects of American anger and how it will affect their support of various candidates, and inadvertently justifying - and feeding - the anger. Well, I hope it's inadvertent. I won't speculate on intention. That would make me too angry.

This anger, they say, is why we have extreme candidates on both sides of the political spectrum. Trump on one side and Sanders on the other.

I think that's a simplistic, stick-figure picture of reality.

The other Republican candidates are pretty "extreme" for me and, in fact, for many Republicans. While Sanders talks a lot about "revolution", most of his ideas are far from "extreme".  Indeed, he has pushed Clinton and the Democratic platform more to the Left.  For which I am grateful.

I'm not going to offer a counter-analysis about why "everyone" in America is so angry.

And, I'm not going to talk about the pro's and con's of each candidate - especially the Democrats. 

I simply want to talk about one very angry response I've been hearing with alarming frequency.

More and more, I'm hearing supporters of Bernie Sanders say that, if Bernie doesn't get the nomination, they aren't going to vote. For anyone. Period.

And, I'm hearing - not that I have heard it myself but I'm hearing that it's being said - that Hillary supporters are responding that, if Hillary doesn't get the nomination, they aren't going to vote. For anyone. Period. 

Now, that makes me angry. Very angry.

That's the thing about anger. It has the potential to destroy brain cells. Suddenly, mature, seasoned, responsible adults begin to sound like petulant, pouty four year olds. 

Look, I don't care if you don't like Hillary. You don't have to. And, I really don't particularly care if you don't like Bernie.

This is not a popularity contest. It's an election process for the President of the United States of America.

And, the stakes are very, very high. Pick an issue, any issue. Now, think of one of the three candidates from the GOP as President of the United States.

If you can recover from that image, stop and ask yourself:

Do I really want to throw my vote away?

Because, that's what you'll be doing if you stay home on election day and don't cast your ballot.

Every vote that isn't cast for the Democratic nominee strengthens the vote for the batshit crazy "conservative" candidate who may become the GOP nominee.

When I hear - or hear of - someone huffing that if their candidate doesn't get the nomination, they are not going to vote, I want to sit them down and tell them the story of the battle women had to wage in order to get the right to vote.

Take four minutes and give yourself the gift of enlightening yourself on the Suffragist Movement. 



If you've got a bit more time, watch the movie Iron-Jawed Angels. 

In case you didn't know, the 19th Amendment to The Constitution giving women the right to vote was ratified on August 18, 1920.  Yes, women have only been allowed to vote for less than 100 years. Yes, it took an amendment to The Constitution in order to achieve it.

And, it didn't happen easily. Watch the movie. Seriously.  You can watch Iron Jawed Angels on YouTube in its entirety here,

Just a warning, it's not easy to watch.  You'll see how women were beaten and jailed and placed in psychiatric hospitals and force-fed (strapped down and a tube put down their throats) because they were possessed of this radical idea that the Constitution of the United States of America provided them with the right to vote. Which they were being denied. And, they wanted that changed.

And then, we'll talk about the voter registration efforts that were part of the Civil Rights Movement, and I'll tell you the story of Episcopalian Jonathan Daniels who was jailed and then shot to death for helping people of color register to vote.

And then, we'll talk about the 1965 Voter Rights Act and how voter registration efforts continue today in places where there is an ongoing effort to erode voter rights.

And then, we'll talk about how the Supreme Court, by a unanimous vote, recently rejected a challenge to the fundamental democratic principle of one person, one vote.

And then, hopefully, you'll have a better understanding of just how important your vote is.

Yes, I know. Hillary has her faults.

So does Bernie.

See also: Not a popularity contest.

See also: The stakes are very high.

Yes, I know, the system is corrupt. I know the system needs to be changed.  I know, I know, we need a revolution.

"You say you want a revolution /Well you know /We all want to change the world." So sang revolutionary John Lennon.

And, everybody knows Les Miz: "Do you hear the people sing, singing the songs of angry men?"

It's hardly a new concept.

You think it's bad now? You should have seen it when the previous generation handed it over to us.  Or the one before that handed it over to them. Or the one before that . . . well, you get the idea.

So, now it's this generation's turn. And, unless you skipped Civics Class in the sixth grade, you know that the way stuff gets changed in a democracy is . . . wait for it . . . yes, you guess it . . . Vote.

You vote to elect people who think like you to re-present you in the highest levels of government.

And, if you don't vote, you not only don't use your civil right, you lose the right to complain.

I know. You're angry. Pissed.  I get it. I can't tell you how pissed I was when "hanging chads" resulted in Gore's loss to Bush. I can't even begin to explain my rage when the SCOTUS got involved and handed the election to The Shrub.

You get over it. You work harder for what it is you believe in.

And, you learn that while the pendulum swings both ways over time and that MLK was right that the arc of history bends toward justice, you also learn that you can help to push it there.

And, that the force that helps to change things in a democracy is your vote. Not political rhetoric, no matter how passionate. Not platitudes. Not anger. Not even a  'revolution' - not without a plan that includes the voice of the people through the democratic process of voting.

There is a lot of merit in the old saying: "Don't get mad, get organized!" 

So, here's my plea: Get angry. Don't get angry.

Your choice.

Your anger, in an of itself, isn't the point.

Here's what is: Don't get apathetic.

Please vote.

Hold your nose, if you have to, but vote.

One person. One vote.  That's how it works.

Because, no matter what the calendar says, the elements of the climate of this country - including the poor, and women, and people of color, and children, and immigrants and the environment and the economy and education and gun control and war and who gets elected to the SCOTUS - are depending on you and your vote.

If you think the weather is unseasonable now, things could get worse. Much, much worse.

My name is Elizabeth Kaeton and I approve this message.

NB: Please do take note that I did not say anything, one way or the other, about either HRC or BS. Those of you who simply can not help yourself and want to bash either candidate will find that your comment will be deleted.

Never confuse a blog with a democracy. You don't get a vote here.

See how that works?

You're welcome. 

Thursday, April 07, 2016

What my heart knows about life and death



Recently, a friend of mine wrote to tell me of the death of one of her adult children. She included a copy of the homily she was going to give at his service so that I might know more about him.

One of the things she said in that homily is that she was struck by something he had said to a doctor during one of his struggles. "My imagination quit," he said. And, this mother wondered how it is that one "fixes" a sense of the loss of imagination.

In looking for ways to write some words of comfort to my friend, I found myself writing about my own imagination about death and new life.

In the past, I have said these words softly to grieving people - mostly parents - and only when I thought they could tolerate these imaginative ideas in the the way in which they were intended: for comfort and solace and not as religious nonsensical mumbo-jumbo or simple platitudes that don't make any sense like*:

"God never gives you more than you can bear." (from I Corinthians 10:13)

Or, "She was such a good person, God wanted her home with Him."

Or, "He did what he came here to do and it was his time to go."

Or, my least favorite: "This was just part of God's plan (or God's will)".

I don't think it's so much the words or even the thought - in and of itself - that are necessarily harmful.

It's that simple statements like these are made without any other pastoral thought or theological container.

As if the simple sentence, tossed out naked and alone, is the answer to the complicated and complex realities of life and the mystery of death as well as a balm to the enormous pain of grief.

Nonsensical religious mumbo-jumbo and platitudes, in my experience, can cause more harm than the good that was originally intended.

They speak more about the inadequacies experienced by the pastor than they do about the reality of grieving. Better to keep your mouth shut, I've learned, and hold a hand, nod your head silently, give a warm hug even shed a quiet tear than say something "well intentioned".

And, most of the time, that's exactly what I do.

All that said, I felt strangely moved in this particular instance and with this particular person to write down my thoughts to her. I know to some, they will sound well-intentioned but still nonsensical.

To the delight of my heart, she wrote back to say that she felt moved to share them as part of the program with family and friends who gathered to celebrate his life.

I am emboldened, now, to share them with you. Please hear that I am not claiming this to be an "original thought". You will see the influence of Celtic spirituality on my thinking, but I have no doubt that many of these thoughts are fairly universal.

A variety of ancient religions and cultures have considered various aspects of my particular thoughts on life and death.

Perhaps Jung is right. Perhaps his imaginative idea of the "collective unconscious" is more of a reality than we know.

In any event, I have come to understand that the concept of "original thought" is a little trick arrogance plays on the mind.

The expression of these thoughts and their synthesis, however, are mine, gleaned from a lifetime of ministry with others as well as my own attempts to come to terms with the losses in my own life.

So, here's part of what I wrote:
What an amazing lifeforce that was in him! When that sort of power leaves this world, I imagine that it leaves a pretty big tear in the veil - the thin place - between this world and the next. The one redeeming quality about that, near as I can figure, is that it allows some of the souls in the next life to reenter this world.

In my imagination, those worlds work like this:

We know from medical research that a fetus, floating around in the placental waters of its mothers womb at about 25-28 weeks, can hear muted voices and sounds and detect changes in the light and temperature outside the womb. It can not connect the voices to people - or yet understand the concept of another person much less its own personhood - or connect sounds to things or comprehend what IS much less what is changing.

As soon as it is born, however, the newborn turns to the voice of its mother because the baby recognizes the sound of her voice which she has vaguely heard through layers of tissue and water. Reality suddenly rushes in and that which was a mystery is now something to be entered into and be held by and loved deeply.

In my imagination, that's what happens at death.

This earth is our womb. This is part of why we call it "Mother Earth".

At the moment of death, we are "born into new life" and that which was vague is now clear and lightness and darkness will be the same and we will recognize and understand and comprehend and live into all that has been Mystery and become more deeply an interconnected part of Mystery and love more fully, more mysteriously, in return.

I believe your son is in that new reality. He is living in the fullness of that Mystery. He is held in Love and is able to love more fully in return. And, mysteriously, his wildest imagination is set free to live and thrive beyond anything he could have imagined while he was here.

I can't prove it with a shred of credible evidence, but I know it in my heart to be true. 
I suspect it is a death of sorts to feel that one's imagination has "quit". I know the quality of my life would be seriously compromised not to be able to imagine something more, something beyond, something greater than what is here and now and who I am in this time and place.

If that doesn't work for you, that's fine by me. Use whatever works for you.

The thing about grieving is that there is no right way or wrong way. There's just your way.

No one can do it for you. You've got to "walk that lonesome valley, you've got to walk it by yourself. Nobody else can walk it for you. You've got to walk it by yourself." The words to Woody Guthrie's song not only apply to death, but they apply to the process of grieving, as well.

Family and friends and professionals can help guide you and assist you and comfort you along the way.

In your dying, there's hospice. In your grieving there's hospice bereavement as well as grief counseling and support groups.

But, no one can do your dying or your grieving for you.

It is also a true saying and worthy to be received: "The only cure for grief is grieving."

I offer the words and thoughts of my imagination to stimulate your own, that, if you are grieving a loss of any kind, you may find a source of comfort and solace and peace for yourself.

As Michelangelo is quoted as saying, "I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free."

My imagination helps me to carve out the angels I have set in the tomb of my ideas of death.

Setting them free allows me to soar with them.

I can't prove any of that with a shred of credible evidence, but I know it in my heart to be true.



*PS: If you'd like a good, concise summary of things to say and things NOT to say to someone who is grieving, check out "Ten Best and Worst Things To Say" 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Judas Effect

A Homily for Maundy Thursday
All Saint's Episcopal Church, Rehoboth Beach, DE
(the Rev'd Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton

Our thoughts this night turn mostly to the liturgy of washing feet and the humility it requires.

Well, some will admit to "humility". Others will simply say, "YUCK! No way!"

I want to submit to you that we can not really understand the power of this act of foot washing without understanding the actions of Judas. 

As loathed as many of us are to have our feet washed - I served one church where they insisted that they only have their hands washed, not their feet - I suspect there is no one in this room who wants to be associated in any way with Judas Iscariot. 

No, not one. Wash my feet 10 times, you'll say, just don't let me be a Judas. Or, even more specifically, don't let me be betrayed by a Judas.

I have no doubt many of us have felt betrayed. Probably many times in our lives. The stories spill out without too much prompting. 

Betrayal.

It is, perhaps, the worst of human violations. 

And yet . . . And, yet.  . . . ..

The question has been asked by many an earnest scholar over the centuries: Could the plan of salvation have been carried out without the betrayal of Judas? 

Of course, first you have to believe that there as a "plan of salvation" that included an "atonement" - the sacrifice of a life as recompense for the "sin" of the quest for knowledge of one man - one mythical man. Who was supposedly seduced by his wife. Who was betrayed by a talking snake.

I suppose if you believe in a story that hinges on a talking snake, the theory of the atonement makes a great deal of sense. 

But, for tonight, let's take a closer look at the so-called betrayal of Judas. Let's consider, for a moment, that this betrayal is integral to the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. 

However you understand the crucifixion event, one thing is clear: The resurrection would not have happened without the death of Jesus. And, the death on the cross of Jesus would not have happened without the betrayal of Judas. 

John's Gospel states, "The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot to betray him."

Really? The devil made him do it? Like the talking snake made Adam do it? 

How are we to understand role of "the Devil" in this story? 

The literal translation of the word “the devil” in that sentence is “the slanderer.” That is, one who distorts the truth to hurt someone else. 

It is understood as the power of evil, a demon—maybe the demon of all demons.

But we should remember that evil is not something that existed before the world. 

Evil is not an equal power competing with God. 

Evil is not something that was created by God. 

Evil is something that people do. 

It is important to remember - and never forget - that evil is a human potential. We all possess it.

We are all capable of doing enormous good. And, we are all capable of doing evil. Even when, like Judas, we have the best of intentions.

Because, we get scared. 

And, when we get scared, we sometimes make wrong choices. 

And, sometimes, when we make wrong choices, people get hurt.

Sometimes, when we make the wrong choice because we're scared, people die.

Like Judas did and Jesus died.

Like they did in Brussels. Or, in Paris. Or, in San Diego. Or, New York. Or, Syria. Or Turkey. Or Greece. Or Iran. Or Afghanistan. Or Jerusalem. Or Palestine.

Mystic healer Carolyn Myss calls this "The Judas Effect". 

The Judas Effect, she says, happens whenever we put our trust in the institution rather than the divine. 

Listen to that again: The Judas Effect - betrayal - happens whenever we put our trust in the institution rather than the divine.

To put an even finer point on it, betrayal happens when we put our trust in the power of people - even our own power - over the power of God. 

That's precisely what Judas did - because he was scared - and it drove him insane. 

Just consider that thought for a minute or two. Consider a time when someone you know has chosen their own power - or the power of the institution (the business, the corporation, yes, the church) - over trusting the power of God? 

Consider a time when YOU have chosen to trust your own power - or the power of the institution (the business, the corporation, yes, the church) - over trusting the power of God?

Think about that for a minute. 

Can good come out of evil? 

Apparently. 

That is one of the lessons one can learn from the story of The Passion of The Christ. 

As simplistic as it sounds, it is often difficult to remember that resurrection can not happen without death. We talk a good line about resurrection but we don't want to go through the messiness and the sacrifice and the pain and the death.

And, death - or, at least pain and suffering - can be  the result of betrayal.

And, death isn't always the end of the story.

I want to submit for your consideration this night that it's very hard to betray someone after you have humbled yourself to the power of God working through you. After you wash someone's feet.

You may want to say, as Peter said to Jesus, "Oh, no! You will NOT wash my feet."

And, Jesus will say to you, as He said to Peter, "Well, okay, but if you don't let me wash your feet, you can't have any part of me."

It's even more powerful to be humbled by having someone else wash your feet.

This is why Max and Eunice and Susan and I will not wash everyone's feet tonight.

It's why you must wash each other's feet and have YOUR feet washed by others - not just Max or Eunice or Susan or me. 

In that act of humility - washing and being washed - the mystery of community is deepened.

In that act of humility in community, fear is removed and love is placed in our hearts. A new commandment of loving one another as Jesus loves us begins.

And, when love deepens in our hearts - into the heart of community - I submit to you that there is little or no room for betrayal. 

Jesus said: 
"So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them."
Let us listen deeply, this night, to what the Spirit is saying to the church.

Because, if you know these  things, you are blessed if you do them. 

Amen.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Yee-haw: Be true to your own dance.

 
A Homily for the Rev’d Lauren A. Gough
Thursday, March 17, 2016
St. Martin in the Fields, Keller, TX
The Rev’d Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton

Let us pray: 
Through the written word,
and the spoken word,
may we know your Living Word
Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen. 
The last time I was here at St. Martin's was my very first visit here. That was Sunday, February 21st. Less than a month ago. 

At the end of that service, Lauren said from her wheelchair, "This will be my last time here." And then she added, hastily, "Well, for awhile. And, hopefully not in quite the same way." 

Her words were then, as so often was the case, prophetic. Here we are, back again. And, none of us - no, not one - is quite the same way as we were just a few short weeks ago.

The first time I met Lauren was in the spring of 1982. It was visiting days for prospective students at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. 

I was a young woman who had just turned the corner on thirty years of age. My bishop had originally voted against the ordination of women. I was only the fourth woman to whom he had conferred postulancy. 

And, he had stated to me – clearly and unequivocally – that he did not want me to go to Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA.

And yet, there I was. At The Episcopal Divinity School In Cambridge, MA. As a prospective student. 

Looking back 30+ years, I have come to understand why I made my bishop so nervous. You know, sometimes, when I was in his presence, he rather looked like he had a bad case of indigestion. I always wondered why . . . . .. .

Truth be told, I had just reached the point in my discernment process where I was thinking I did not belong in The Episcopal Church. At. All. 

In those days, everyone seemed to be part of the group of affluent people my immigrant, factory working, union-labor-organizing grandparents, parents and family called “Limousine Liberal”. 

All the Episcopal men seemed to be dressed in khaki pants and tweed jackets with patched elbows. And, the Episcopal women all seemed to be wearing plaid skirts or jumpers or tan pants and button down shirts. 

And, everyone seemed to be wearing penny loafers. Clergy wore black penny loafers. Seriously. 

Either that, or they looked like a lost tribe of Bohemians, complete with Birkenstock sandals and crunchy granola clothing. There didn't seem to be any in-between.  

It's very different there now, of course, but it was the 80s and that was the memory of a then very young, very anxious woman.

Dean Harvey Gutherie had just said to me, just five seconds after pleasant introductions. "We have a lot to discuss. You have important questions to ask me about how this seminary will prepare you for ministry. I have important questions to ask you about how your bishop and diocese will support you while you're here. So, let's get on with it. The world is too dark and too broken a place for us to play polite games with each other."

Well, I was in! Hooked! But then, I looked around at the students who were there and I thought, Good Lord, if I don’t belong here at EDS, I mustn’t belong anywhere in TEC.

And then, it happened. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, suddenly I found myself in Reed Hall where there was a reception for visiting potential students. 

There was a large table of alcoholic beverages (it was the 80s) and another with hot appetizers served on bone china plates with the EDS symbol on them. Viennese waltzes were playing. Seriously.

A young man – of rather small stature, as I recall – approached the woman I would come to know as Lauren. Lauren, as you may remember, had a fairly imposing stature and countenance. 

And, as I recall, Lauren was wearing neither penny loafers nor Birkenstocks. Nosireebob. Lauren was wearing cowboygirl boots. Black. Pointy toe. Looked like she could do some damage with them, if she had a mind to.

I remember the man had a handlebar mustache and – did I mention he was of small stature? – he bowed deeply at the waist and looked up …. Up . ..  UP to Lauren and said, with great flourish, “Might I have the next waltz?”

And, Lauren, bless her heart, looked down at this nattily dressed little Limousine Liberal man, threw her head back and hooted out LOUD and right into the very proper, rarefied air that swirled delicately with the sound of music from another century in another world, far, far away. (I might mention here that I had never before heard a proper Texas hoot. It obviously left quite an impression.)

And then Lauren said what I came to understand was her line in life. She said, “Shoot! If it ain’t got a ‘yee-haw’ in the middle of it, I ain’t dancin’’ to it.”

And, right there and then, I knew that I loved Lauren, hopelessly, totally, completely, undeniably and forever. I figured, if there was room enough in The Episcopal Church in general and EDS in particular for someone like Lauren Gough, there was room enough for me.

Turns out. There was. Well, mostly. Theoretically, at least. Turns out, thirty plus years later, some days, I still scratch my head and wonder if there’s a place for me – and many other women – in this church of ours. And, as many of you know, Lauren paid a high price for staying true to who she was and the dance that was her own.

That high price is something those who follow Jesus are bound to pay. In truth, there’s really no getting around it. The cost of discipleship is high. It just is. Certainly, this entire diocese has paid – and is paying dearly, and still may pay even more dearly – for staying true to its own dance.

In the Gospel appointed for today, Jesus boldly proclaims to the religious leaders of his day, “Very truly I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.”

That, of course, put him right into the midst of one of the raging controversies of his time: Resurrection was a huge debate between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. And, here was Jesus, telling them that, if they believed him – believed his words – they were believing in the God who was and is and is to come and they would never have to look death in the face – not see it, not taste it, not feel it – because the gift of eternal life which had been temporarily lost but had always been theirs was now being redeemed for them.

And, for telling his truth, for staying true to his own dance, the religious leaders thought him insane, and picked up stones to throw at him. But, Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Those of us who choose to speak our truth and stay true to our own dance often annoy and anger those who are institutional leaders - or, at least give them a bad case of indigestion – so much so that, occasionally, we have to leave for a while and hide ourselves in ministries that are not directly related to the institutional church. 

Some of us are hiding in plain site, worshiping as church in storefronts and shopping malls and office buildings as well as in traditional church buildings, but with a liturgical style and dance step that would be anathema to some of its previous occupants.

It can get pretty scary out here – out from underneath the protective apron of Mother Church. It can be both a little heady and exciting and yet very frightening and anxious to be connected to Her by just the barest threads of Her apron strings.

Sometimes, in that fear, in that anxiety, in that feeling like we don’t fit in, we can fall into the old ways of the oppressor. It happened in the days of Moses when the people were brought out of bondage in Egypt only to worship false idols. It happened in the days of Abraham when he forgot the promises God made to him, and Sarah laughed. 

We can also get pretty rigid, clinging to our own brand of Levitial codes and purity laws, hoping against hope that if we're good little boys and girls and keep all the rules and behave, God will smile upon us and we will be rewarded with prosperity and success.

It happens in the church with alarming frequency. We see it in many ways, but especially when we do not provide equal opportunity AND equal compensation for men and women who are called to the same work of ministry within the institutional church.

Lauren saw this and it grieved her heart. She spoke up about it and annoyed a few people. Scared a few others.  Ticked off a bunch more. She said, out loud, that she didn't want "busy work". She wanted gospel work. For herself and for her sisters. 

Equal opportunity. Equal Work. Equal compensation. That's what she said. Often. And, loudly.

As outspoken as she was about that, she also saw a vision of the future that was even more compelling than any of the institutional faults or flaws which were immediately before her.

She saw a diocese returning from what Martin Smith calls “the crucifyingly obscure boundaries of our faith”. Listen to that again- "the crucifyingly obscure boundaries of our faith." Isn't that where you have been. Isn't that, sometimes, where you still find yourself?

Isn't that where grief sometimes drives us?

She saw this diocese rising from the ashes and cinders of conflict and struggle to be resurrected into something more authentic, more real, into what she said was a “Christianity (that) may speak more of what Jesus called us to do”.

She wrote those words in her last blog post, just one month ago, almost to the day, along with this sentence: “But, more importantly, it is a Christianity that calls us out of what we have always done, in order to love others, even the ones who find fault with us.”

That resonates deeply with the vision of another Episcopalian from Texas. Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning – born in Corpus Christi, in fact – famously said, “In this church of ours, there will be no outcasts.” 

It’s a simple sentence that has thrown this church smack dab into some difficult gospel truths: 

That, in order to achieve that vision of Jesus, love has to replace fear. Courage is not the opposite of fear. Love is the opposite of fear. Love is what gives us the courage to walk through our fears.

That, in order for there to be no outcasts, justice has to replace poverty. Wealth isn't the opposite of poverty. Justice is the opposite of poverty.

And, in order for us to be more authentically the Body of Christ, peace has to replace the war within our own hearts to be better than others rather than serving and sacrificing so others can do better.

Love, not fear. Justice, not poverty. Peace, not war. A life of service to and sacrifice for others. THAT, my friends, was at the very heart of Lauren Gough. It's what gave passion to her life.

Love. Justice. Service and Sacrifice were the four steps in the dance of ministry that animated her life. Her partner was Jesus, whom she loved, and they danced together to the music of the gospel.

And, you better believe it had an 'yee-haw' in the middle of it.

If you missed that about Lauren because she annoyed you or intimidated your or scared you or, like divine sandpaper, she just plain rubbed you the wrong way, well, you missed out on a manifestation of the love of God. You missed an opportunity to let her divine sandpaper bring out your own more authentic grain, and to shine with your own inner beauty and truth.

Lauren knew, all the days of her life but especially at the end of her life, that Jesus loved her. She knew that because she saw a reflection of the love of Jesus in the eyes of Judy, her partner in life.

That love of her dance partner Jesus and her life partner Judy gave her the courage to be all of who she was, without apology. And, that love compelled her to work for the full inclusion of all God’s people. No outcasts. Not on her watch. Not in her church. No matter who that angered or annoyed. No matter what it cost her, personally.

Lauren’s heart was always deep in the heart of Texas. Indeed, it was her love of Texas Blue Bonnets that literally brought her to tears with homesickness. She said when the longing to return to her Texas roots became overwhelming, the memory of the hills and open field covered in Blue Bonnets would restore her spirit and revive her soul.  

Katie Sherrod reminded me of that conversation with Lauren. “Blue Bonnets,” she said,  “like Texas women, are survivors.” Because the climate in Texas can be so harsh, Blue Bonnets have developed ways to survive. Each mother plant produces hundreds of seeds. 

These seeds literally explode into the air when the seedpod pops. This scatters them in a wide range around the mother. Some of these seeds are genetically programmed to germinate in a year, some in three years, some in five years, some in ten years. 

This way, no matter how much rain or wind or drought you have, some of the seeds will survive and grow, and produce more seeds to start the cycle again.

And that, said Lauren, was proof positive that the Resurrection was real. Not just survival! Resurrection! For Lauren, Blue Bonnets are a sign that there IS life eternal after this mortal life. 

She said that the pods of the Blue Bonnets were a metaphor for what happens to us when we enter life eternal and burst into new life with God. And, once there, with God, we will gather ‘round the heavenly banquet table with all of our friends who have gone on before, plotting about how to bring the realm of God closer to earth.

And, for Lauren, of course, the heavenly banquet table would be piled high with Texas BBQ.

You know, come to think of it, the image of pods of Blue Bonnets bursting open and dancing in the Texas wind is as good an image of the resurrection of this diocese as anyone can imagine. 

Resurrection happens right in our midst - is happening right in our midst - reminding us that we do not have to look death in the face without seeing the love in the face of Jesus - the love of God incarnate - the love of God in Christ Jesus in the midst of our pain and sorrow, calling us to new life. 

For Lauren - and now, for us - the Blue Bonnets are a sign of that resurrection. In this diocese. In our own lives of faith. And, as we grieve, that faith will be our consolation.

I hope you’ll remember it when times get tough. And, they will, no doubt.

I hope you remember it when you are tempted to fall into the old habits of spiritual drought. Let us pray that we will learn to trust that new growth will come again despite the harsh winds of anxiety and desert dryness of our grief to move us from the irrational fears of scarcity into the inexplicable joys of abundance.

And, I hope you call up the image of the Blue Bonnets when you remember Lauren, and how she took risks for us and how her heart burst with love for us.

Finally, I hope you’ll remember the words of our sister, now gone from our sight but dwelling in light eternal, and take them to your heart as words of holy advice. 

Always remember and never forget the words of Blessed Lauren Ann Gough, now numbered among the saints, who once said, “If it ain’t got an ‘yee-haw’ in the middle of it, I ain’t dancin’ to it.” 

Go, thou, and do likewise and be true to your own dance.    

And, when you do that, do it in memory of her. 

Amen.

NB:  A video of this sermon along with pictures and the service bulletin, can be found here on the St. Martin in the Fields web site.  

Sunday, February 14, 2016

I Love Lent

Ash Wednesday - Carl Spitzweg

I've never been one to "follow the crowd". On anything. Ever.

So, probably those who have read this blog are not at all surprised to read that I love Lent. Other than Advent, it's really my favorite liturgical season of year.

One of the best things about Lent is that you don't have to belong to a church to observe Lent. In fact, I'm going to be so bold as to say that sometimes, it's better if you don't.

The image the church holds out of Lent is, for me, captured in that Carl Spitzweg portrait above.

Entitled "Ash Wednesday." It depicts a jester - the symbol of frivolity and foolishness - sitting in what may well be a prison cell. He's utterly alone, seemingly lost in deep contemplation - accompanied only by a shaft of light with a pitcher of water nearby.

The symbolism of light and water are inescapable as an antidote to his miserable condition.

To be honest, I really think that misses the point of Lent. It's really not about doom and gloom, sin and confession, suffering and sacrifice. 

It's about taking time - a most precious commodity in life - to contemplate not about things "high and holy" but about what it means to be mortal - a human being. About how one might be a better human being. About how that human might make the world a better place.

That's a very counter-cultural thing to do. To take time - to be intentional about it - to think about being human. Our culture, our society, does not encourage this. Indeed, in many ways our culture offers lots of ways to anesthetize and isolate oneself.

Neither does the church, in fact, do so good a job of Lent - even though it created it.  The Church means well. But, the Church often encourages us to strive to be saints. Which, of course, doesn't happen until after you die.

Lent is about setting apart a time certain - 40 days and 40 nights - to do as Jesus did, right after his baptism: to think about what it means to be human and what God was calling him to do with the divine gift of this human life.

In the Gospel lesson for the First Sunday in Lent, Jesus goes into "the wilderness" where he is tempted by Satan in the three circumstances when humans are most sorely tempted.

Hunger.

Power.

Glory.

These three are conditions of body, mind and spirit.

Because we are human, we experience physical and emotional and spiritual hunger or gluttony, power or impotence, and human conditions of humility and arrogance.

Lent is about taking the time to be intentional about what feeds us and what depletes us.

It's about exploring the boundaries of excess and deprival.

Lent is also about taking the time to be intentional about sources and systems of power and authority. It's about discovering our unique gifts and resources and how we use them - or don't, or abuse them - and why.

Finally, Lent is about taking the time to be intentional about you. Your identity. Who you are. Whose you are. What you value. What you are willing to die for. What makes life worth living. What you are called to do with your life. What your relationship is to other people, the world, and the One who gave you life.

It's about exploring the limits of your life and taking the time to learn how to make the most of the time you have to be the best you can be and make the world a better place.

You don't have to be part of a church to observe Lent. In fact, the church can get in the way of a good, albeit "holy" observance of Lent, concentrating more on sin and sacrifice and penitence than the wholeness - and holiness - of human life.

Fasting and sacrifice and practicing piety and humility are all good - if practicing those things help you be intentional on the hunger of your body, mind and spirit. If it makes you a better person. If it helps you, throughout the rest of the year, work to make the world a better place.

But, if it tries to make you someone you don't even remotely recognize - if it's not authentic and has no integrity - well, what's the point? You are just going through the motions. 

As Leo Buscaglia once said, "If you are a banana, don't put your energies into trying to be an apple. Be the best banana you can possibly be, blemishes and all."

Indeed, I don't believe you have to be Christian to observe Lent. However, my experience is that following Jesus as your teacher and guide can make that journey more meaningful. Not necessarily easier but more deeply transformative. Well, that's my experience, anyway.

At his best, Jesus can teach you about 'metanoia' - about stopping what you're doing - right dead in your tracks - so that you may turn around and find another way - another path - that will lead you to wholeness and holiness of life.

Lent only happens once a year - well, on the church calendar - but I'm of the opinion that it ought to happen at least periodically throughout all of the days of our lives.

Indeed, I've come to believe that Lent is a wonderful way of life - to strive to make the necessary sacrifices so you can discover or uncover or recover the truth about hunger and power and glory - our own and that of our neighbors and the world.

Sound too esoteric? Too exotic?

Like you'd have to travel to a foreign country and pay lots of money to a Spiritual Guide and walk a hundred miles on your knees, chanting a spiritual mantra in exactly the right way?

Well, one day when you've got some time - or are of a mind to take some time - take a peak at the 12-Steps of Recovery.

You don't have to be an alcoholic or addicted to some substance to find that those steps will place you on a path to living an effective and deeply spiritual model of living Lent every day of your life. 

Living a Lenten Life will put us in direct conflict with the world - and parts of the church - that beckon us to anesthetize and isolate ourselves, but as Socrates famously said at his trial for "impiety and corrupting youth " for which he was subsequently sentenced to death,

"The unexamined life is not worth living. "

May this Lent be for you so w/holy, so meaning-full, so in-tentional, that you will be inspired throughout the year to make several journeys into the wildernesses of your own humanity, that you may be tempted to discover there the boundaries of your needs and excesses, your human frailty as well as your strengths - what makes life so worth living that you are willing to die for it - as well as your relationship with yourself, your neighbor, the world and God.

I hope you will come to love, Lent, too.