Crowded Place

I have been in some very large crowds. I’ve been to Disney and the Harry Potter theme park and those were very crowded locations. I have been to a college football “bowl game.” Granted, it was the “Continental Tire Bowl” but still, it was a very large crowd. I’ve been to JFK airport…now that was a crowd. It seemed especially crowded when my visit there fell at the same moment my nine month old daughter, Leslie decided it was time to learn to walk. My  toddler. Busy people. Not a good mix.

Perhaps the most crowded place I ever visit, though, is my own mind.

I can’t even begin to list all the people that are there and the noise that takes place in that venue of my life.

There are, of course, the voices of people long gone. My grandparents all reside there in some shape or form and they pop up when I least expect. Sometimes Uncle Joe, Uncle Gene, Uncle Rodger or Marsa show up with them. They are not ghosts. They are more than just voices. They are something of the crowd that makes up the world inside my mind.

There are plenty of living people there too. My entire family takes up a good deal of space. Sometimes they are arguing. Sometimes they are encouraging. Sometimes – I think these are my favorite times – they are just there. They are just there bearing witness to what else is going on in my life. Absent in body, but always a filter for all that I experience in some way.

There are of course good friends there. I can’t leave them out. Some are not very present in my life but they are always present in my thoughts. Dan? Haven’t seen him in years and years, but I think we could strike up a conversation in about three seconds flat. Stephanie, Brad, Johnna, Mark and Amy…well, they are always there too. I see them more often but their presence lingers as it should.

Of course, there are some who reside in my mind that at times I would love to evict. But I can’t. And I probably wouldn’t if I had the ability. These are the ones who taught and teach me difficult lessons in life. Some of them are people I have hurt terribly. Some of them are people who have hurt me. Some are both. I long to be in contact with many of them…but, well, I know I can’t or won’t or something.

And there are bunches of people from my “neighborhood.” Some of those voices are friendly and some are not so friendly. Sometimes I have trouble telling the difference. I know some get angry with me at times, but that is normal. I am a leader after all. I can’t even please the shadows that reside in my mind, let alone those who are real and outside of me. One in particular is cropping up a lot lately. Sigh. I wish we could agree to love Christ together despite our difference.

I can’t forget all the unreal people there too. People I have picked up as I have read some novel or watched some television show. Their voices entertain and inform me. Tyrion, Harry, Lilly, Frodo, Eragon, Deitrich, Albus, Morgan and Mother Abigail…that list is almost endless. Joining them are these new folks I am meeting from my own brush with writing fiction. Most of those folks I don’t know well although some of them I trust and some of them scare the crap out of me.

I heard today that Jesus cleared the temple so that it could be the space that was supposed to be holy. I was asked to do the same with my mind so that it could just be me and Jesus.

Don’t think that is going to happen in this lifetime. It’s a crowded space, my mind. It’s crowded because my heart opens to just about everyone I meet and my imagination is fueled by meeting them. Then, when I seek my own inner introvert, there they are, ready to energize me anew!

Perhaps instead of throwing them out of this temple, I will just start introducing them around. “Jesus, this is Tyrion. Tyrion, Jesus.” This could be quite amusing!!

However, I am blessed and thankful for each and every voice that has become a part of mine. Thank you. I pray that you enjoy your visit.

Living Stone – The Incarnation

1 Peter 2:4-9

You sat there throughout eternity –
You never “were not”;
You always “have been”;
You forever “will be”.
And to eyes shaped by the ever changing seasons of Creation and living
You seemed to me to be that which always held fast,
stayed firm,
never moved.
This image of You gave me something solid upon which to place
my fleeting thoughts and ever changing life.

chiselAnd the earth moved.
Or the heavens shook the earth.
(I cannot know which…)
And the Eternal chose to inhabit a shell destined for decay.
You – You walked upon the earth –
a living stone among dying people.

And the earth shook.
Or the heavens moved.
(I can know this – the Stone Lived.)

I cannot know how or why but I can know this:
The immortal took on life
To give to the dying ones like me
Hope of life that does not end – the life of living stone.

My prayer is this:
Let me be changing, beating, breaking, grieving, moving, laughing, Living.
Let me have the hope of the unmoved, unchanged, eternal, forever, Stone.

 

On Capital Punishment

During the “Pray-As-You-Go” exercise for Good Friday, I was challenged to imagine myself as one of the people in Jesus’ group o041314_1740_ACrossBetwe1.jpgf family and friends who were witness to the execution of Jesus on the cross. I found this very difficult. It wasn’t that I couldn’t imagine the scene – I have seen so many depictions of it in art and movie that my imagination didn’t have to work very hard – it was that I found that I could not remain among the group of people who were there with Jesus. My mind kept slipping over to view this scene from the perspective of the family members of the others who were being executed by Jesus. (If you want to read what became of this imaginative exercise, you can click here.)

Granted, the fact that Jesus was killed between two thieves has been something that has captured my theological imagination for quite some time. What does it mean that “a completely innocent man” was killed in the name of the state between two people who were also “convicted” of capital crimes?

Part of me imagines that Jesus would have chosen to be killed in exactly this way. He spent his life hanging around those who had reputations that were less than stellar. I think that it is only fitting that the man who gave up heaven to walk the earth spent his last few breathes on public display with exactly the type of people he loved the most – those who were always on the outside of any faith based on legalism. What were the crimes of these convicted felons? I know we have certain standards in our world today for executions, but what are those standards really based upon? And this says nothing of the “figurative” way that people are killed in the name of a group of people in power. I think of all the people who are ostracized by “the Church” in the name of legal interpretations of our Book as well. What about these people? Is Jesus still handing on a cross beside them and waiting for us to notice? It even happens in our communities. Not very long ago, a man in our community took his own life after being investigated for child pornography issues. Yesterday a man in South Korea took his own life rather than face the relatives of the children killed in a tragic ferry accident. What do these things say about us as a people? I know that this is not “capital punishment” but what does it say about our ability to stand with those who commit crimes or even those facing the tragic circumstances of which they played some part? Those who follow Jesus should be able to offer some hope, some joy, for even the worst among us. Jesus managed to do it on the cross.

Another part of me wonders about the justice issues that we as Christians cannot deny exist when we look at the cross. An innocent man was killed “by the state” for crimes he was convicted of by the judicial system of that day. Even an attempt at some sort of pardon by the state failed. It stands to reason, at least for me, that those who were hanging on the left and right of Jesus of Nazareth could have just as easily been every bit as innocent as Jesus. (Granted, one of those two confesses his crimes on the cross, but still, I have to wonder about any system that finds justified killing in the name of the people of a state somewhat suspect.) I know the stance of my church on this issue:

The Death Penalty

We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings. The United Methodist Church is deeply concerned about crime throughout the world and the value of any life taken by a murder or homicide. We believe all human life is sacred and created by God and therefore, we must see all human life as significant and valuable. When governments implement the death penalty (capital punishment), then the life of the convicted person is devalued and all possibility of change in that person’s life ends. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the possibility of reconciliation with Christ comes through repentance. This gift of reconciliation is offered to all individuals without exception and gives all life new dignity and sacredness. For this reason, we oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes.

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

Is it possible that even one innocent person is killed today? I can’t imagine that we are that much better than those who led in Jesus’ day. Things do happen. People do let their eyes be blinded by certain preconceived notions of what is happening. I know I do.

And yet, at the same time, I hear so little about it…especially as it relates to the way we sometimes “kill the spirit” of those who are convicted of other crimes in the Church. Both are serious problems that our society and church face today.

Sunrise over Princeton, WV

Sunrise!

I know…pretty serious thought for the Saturday before we celebrate the Joy of Easter. However, I had to get this off my mind. As I go through this day and even tomorrow, I hope I find myself praying for all those who are on “death row” these days, in our prisons, in our communities, and in our churches. I know that Jesus is with them still. I know Jesus would offer hope. I know that since “joy is the serious business of heaven” (C. S. Lewis) then that same joy should be our serious business as well – “on earth as it is in heaven” and all.

May the Joy and Hope of Easter be with us all!

Served Two Ways

I can see righteousness…

in those who claim to do no wrong…

who hold the commandments

for all to see.

Who work without ceasing to have them posted

on walls

in courts

on public ground.

Who stand beside the written word of God

And silence the voices

Of women…of those perceived as created unequal…

Who silence the voices of the very ones who listen to the Word

but choose to bow to the Author, not the reader.

 

And I see righteousness…

    In those who stand beside:

the one about to die for crimes…

the couple whose love is shunned…

the homeless one whose whole buggy-bound world

    cannot be found in this world at all…

the one who is dying while holding the hand of her

    crying, angry child…

their husband of sixty-five years

    and steal a kiss in public…

no one in particular, but who stand:

    in love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness

    and self-control.

 

I see righteousness served two ways:

    From the hubris that is potently human;

    And from the very Spirit of Jesus

        that lives within.

 

 

For more please see Romans 6:8-11