People sometimes ask me – what is God? – where is God? – how can you have gone though so much shit and still believe in a loving and merciful God? And, “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” (that’s the big one.)

The first answer isn’t easy to understand without a bit of study and contemplation because the answer to that one is simply

“God is.”

Where is God and how could God lead me into awful times, and why doesn’t God listen to your prayers? That’s a much more simple answer, and much easier to understand in the first read:

God is more in my interruptions
than in my plans.

Keep the faith!
 - Amen



Saints and Sinners

The Christian Catechism basics are pretty much the same across any religion that uses them for confirmation (the rite of passage into the active life of the Church.) There’s a few bits and baubs that get changed, mostly due to politics in the church that have nothing to do with the communion of The Church.

Benedict VI added in a bit that homosexuality is “objectively disordered” and called a meeting of scientists at the Vatican to prove his point.

That Pope likely had the same math professor I had, who taught a university course in “how to lie with statistics.” We shall see how this changes under the Francis papacy, since he seems – at least semantically – to disagree.

It’s Church Politics, not The Church.
There’s some cool stuff about a church’s rubrics (the fine points of how to move and act during a service in order to bring one closer to God) that you don’t see as much in a text book as you do by being on the ground, seeing it for yourself. Bowing, genuflecting, and making the sign of the cross are the most visible examples.

In the Roman Catholic church, a new confirmand must take on the name of a Saint at the time they are being entered into the church by the confirming priest.  Episcopalians don’t do this, so it was an insight to watch. The back of my brain was wondering while this was going on in the service: how would a 12 year-old (more-or-less) decide which Saint was theirs? Would there be later-in-life irony or despair, or great elation on that name choice.

This isn’t like a monastery or convent where the person gives up their earthly name to take on the acquired name, but it’s the name you sort-of pick to go with you through life.

Of course at 12 years old I was a Southern Baptist, there was no such thing as Confirmation into the church, and Baptists don’t believe in (venerated) saints.

I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church “late in life” as a Sophomore in college after quite a bit of spiritual upheaval (we nicely call that discernment.) In our case, there’s the laying-on of hands (we use a Bishop for this rite) and pretty much, you’re in the club. I won’t go into the ecumenical meaning behind the confirmation here (that’s a whole other essay that’s more of theology geek than it is a spiritual resting spot.)
Sitting in the Catholic confirmation service I wondered what would it be like to take on the name of St. Lawrence (he was martyred by being roasted alive on a grid iron, and legend has it he kept asking his tormentors to turn up the heat because the room was too cold.) That could be taking on a little more of a karma load than your average tween should have to deal with.
I gave the saints thing some thought today in the car: which one would I have picked? Why them?  Driving around town is a good meditative practice for me because it’s one of the few times in my day when my mind is totally engaged and focused.
I came to like the idea of St. John of the Cross. 
Juan de la Cruz was a 16th Century Spanish mystic, poet, and theologian, and his work The Dark Night of the Soul (La noche oscura del alma) is considered to be one of the great masterpieces of Spanish poetry. His theological work mostly involved lengthy interpretations of his poetry, and The Dark Night of the Soul became a spiritual term describing our journey from “earthly matters” (as the 19th Century preachers called it) to our personal place with God.

As you can imagine that particular pathway can be a little crooked, mostly uphill, and lots of sharp rocks on the path that you stub your toe on and bruise your heel.

Generally it’s not a happy place to be.
I will be the first to admit that Christian life – like all of life – is not easy, and it’s not fair. And, like all of our life, we get out of it what we put into it. St. John of the Cross was the one who told us that the whole Christian process can be very difficult, and very depressing at times. The strong ones stick with it, the weak and lazy fall away. Religion and spirituality is not given to us, we must take what we need, pass that along, and leave the rest for the next person. If you have the means and the opportunity, read his poetry in the original Spanish. Spiritual counsel is semi-hidden in there, among some of the most beautiful Spanish lyrics you will ever read.
This is the guy who I thought I’d pick as my Saint name, if this was something I’d had to do at confirmation.
Driving in the car today, this whole thing came to mind with an old-ish (a couple of years old) song that came up on the play list in the car. The more I listened, the more I thought, “yeah!” Me and San Juan de la Cruz have got it going on!
This is a break-up song about two people who have to agree to break up, not be near each other any more, and the singer is pretty jaded on the idea (“the great lie”) of love. I looked at the official music video for this, and the song is set during a Civil War battle which I suppose makes sense in the context of the lyrics. The battle scene was too distracting so I looked for a version that spoke to the mood of the song, and focused tight on the writer’s concept of “some nights I don’t know what I stand for.”
Plus, if you get angry, need to go outside and stamp your feet hard on the ground, jump up and down and wag your fist in the air, this is the song you want to play! It’s not a gentle ride. No Moon River here.
This is what all the religion stuff is all about: if you can go 24/7/365 and never have any sort of doubt at all about the how’s and why’s of all this religion speak, maybe you’re walking in the shallows of the river and you need to wade out farther and take a deeper swim.
I think about these questions of “what do I stand for?” and I have no permanent answers. Religion in general and Christianity in particular is a constant quest. Most of the answers and truths that I found yesterday might be proved wrong (to my spiritual being) tomorrow.

This is the point in our lives – in our journeys – at which we both evolve and come closer to our concept of God. We must ask these simple questions occasionally, as times change, to make sure we are on track:

  • What do I believe?
  • Why do I believe it?
  • What am I going to do with it?

Keep the faith, and keep that questioning mind open!

 - Amen






A Commnunion of Great Diversity – a prayer

We are never alone when we are in a communion. Even the ones we think may have left us behind, or don’t see us standing at the door of the community, waiting to come inside.


God of all consolation,

You gather us into a communion
where there is room for
great diversity.

For you love each human being
like an only child.

And when we sing together,
in praise of you and not ourselves,
we are united in your name,

and your glory can now
shine out
over the earth.

 - Amen

Keep the faith!