Thursday, December 23


So, I was reading a friend's blog wherin he expostulates at some length about matters liturgical and how that, despite the greatest of efforts and best of intents, it appears that the mystery of the Divine has little relation to the liturgical orders and can, in fact, slip into the service not unlike the proverbial thief in the night and catch all those who are attentive unawares. 

How, the attentive unawares? 

Quite so, my dear friends and colleagues for those who are attentive are at least aware of the existence of the Divine within the sacraments as a matter of fact and proof, not theological debate.  Unawares, I say, for there is rarely (if ever any) harbinger for such a mystical visitation.  For those who are not attentive, the entire spectacle occurs in front of them just the same, whether or not the proceedings are recognized by those in the gallery.  In any event, analysis regarding such matters appear to indicate that they occur in nearly direct inverse correlation to the levels of  rigidity of liturgical purposes.

To put in terms so simple and blunt that even the most coarsely educated could divine, the more fluid the universe, the more opportunities the Divine will show Herself to those who are paying attention.  In worship, His presence will be felt more often the more often we give Her room to be felt.

Working against this is that we, individually and collectively, have been steeped so strongly in a culture which demands instant gratification, uniformity and rationalistic predictability.  We tend to crave order and structure and are quite commonly creatures of habit.   Further, we seem to forget that all of those things are unnatural.  The natural world is filled with things that are unpredictable, irrational, different and slow to fruition.  Human beings come to mind relatively instantly.

If we leave a bit more room in our lives for chaos, if we observe a ritual of life which is flexible and robust, being able and even willing to change as needed, it has been my experience that the Divine is made manifest more often, more strongly and more permanently. 

If that doesn't really make all that much sense, talk to the Boss.  I just work here.  :)

Happy Christmas to all and may the unexpected joy visit you this holiday time.

Tuesday, December 21


I am.

So very grateful.

A single act of unexpected kindness.

Bless, the Lord, my soul and bless God's Holy name.

Thanks be to God.

Wheel a mile in my chair, then we'll talk

One of the blogs I read is from a biomedical engineer who has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism.  Her blog has been a very interesting read for some time, as she sees the world differently than most folk do and that difference is quite helpful to me better understanding our society.

In her most recent post, she talks about how experiencing disability is vital to helping develop coping mechanisms.  If you want to truly understand wheelchair accessibility, you need to sit in that chair for a few days.  No amount of degrees or fancy book-learnin will replace the reality check that you can't take a wheelchair up that incline, despite what the textbook says.

Apply this thought to pastoral care.   Tell me, Father Smith.....
  • When your wife of 20 years died, how did you cope with the loneliness?
  • How did you muddle through your teenaged son's addiction to drugs? 
  • When your boyfriend dumped you for a girl half your age, how did you deal with the rejection? 
  • When you got pregnant at 15, how did you choose between your own future and the future of the baby?
  • How did you handle coming out to your parents? To your friends? To your church?

Reading about fishing doesn't make you a fisherman.  Studying parenting or marriages doesn't make you a parent (or married).  Christ ate with the outcasts, walked with the infirm and touched the unclean.  This gave him perspective, a near instinctual understanding of what these people needed and wanted beyond the obvious.  Our society today is different than 50 years ago, let alone 2 millenia ago.  To be able to minister, we need to understand.

If we're going to going to make the world a better place, we need to wheel a mile in another persons' chair.

Monday, December 20

Pulp Fiction and prayer. I explain.

Welcome inside Tim's brain.  Mind the gap.

How often have you been in church and heard the prayer go something like this...."oh gracious and merciful Lord, all-knowing and ever-loving creator....."  and then it drones on, reminding said deity of his proper place, the nature of salvation and so on.  Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be on the other end of that conversation?  This particular screed was triggered by the part in the Eucharist where we all, as a group, say "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.  Only say the word and I shall be healed."

And this is when one of my favourite scenes from Pulp Fiction comes in.  This would be from the 'Bonnie situation'...which I would rename 'the Bennie Situation'.  I shall paraphrase the exact exchange.

Benedict XVI: Mmmm! Mercy, Lord! This is some serious healinz! Usually, me and Georgie would be happy with some Manischewitz right, but he springs this serious gourmet salvation on us! You are truly incredible, did you know this?

God: Knock it off, Bennie.

Benedict XVI: [pause] What?

God: I don't need you to tell me how good I am, okay? I'm the one who is Omniscient. I know how good I am.  Even the devils bow down to me and acknowledge how good I am.  But you know what's on my mind right now? It AIN'T the salvation in this cup, it's the hypocrite in my Church.

Benedict XVI: Oh, God, don't even worry about that...

God: [interupting] No, No, No, No, let me ask you a question. When you came into communion with me, did you notice a sign out in front of My Church that said "Old Hypocrite Protection"?

Benedict XVI: Lord, you know I ain't seen no...

God: [cutting him off again; getting wrathful] Did you notice a sign out in front of My House that said "Old Hypocrite Protection"?

Benedict XVI: [pause] No. I didn't.

God: You know WHY you didn't see that sign?

Benedict XVI: Why?

God: 'Cause it ain't there, 'cause protectin' hypocrites ain't my business, that's why!

At this point, Jehovah goes all Old Testament on their a$$ and such.  At least, that's how it works out in my head. point is that we tend to pray as if God is some dottering old man who needs to be reminded at every turn how good, powerful and merciful he is and that we're not jews, but under that 'new contract' which doesn't require blood sacrifices or circumcision. 

"Oh Riiiiiiight.  NEW Testament God now...less with the smiting and more with the salvation.  I recall sending the boy out for something, that must have been it.  Probably important, that is.  I should write that down somewhere.  Now where's me spectacles...."

Yes, yes....I realise that this is all silly and the point is not to remind God, but rather to remind the laity about the nature of God, etc. etc. but please....

"Knock it off, my dear cleric. I don't need you to tell me how awesome my God is, okay?  I'm the one who's received salvation from Him (not you).  I know how awesome my God is. "

That's why we're there in the first place.  Don't treat God like a some senile deity and don't treat the Body of Christ like we're all little children.

Just sayin.

Advent..Lent...homophones, at the least.

A common thread in the last few weeks has been that Advent is about pausing, reflecting and preparation.  Specifically, it's about slowing down, consideration and making ready for the birth of Yeshua bin Yosef, scion of David and of Jesse.

The preparation part is something I recall from childhood, but this reflecting and slowing down thing...that's Lenten-tide stuff.  And yet, they both have similar roots.  Both are times 'out of ordinary' spent in preparation for 'the big thing'.  Both are opportunities to become more deeply engaged and find a closer union with the Divine.

Winter, particularly this part of winter, is about quiet reflection and planning.  The chores of harvest are done and the groundwork for next spring is 1-2 months away (mayhap further, depending on where you live).  There's mending and husbandry work to be done (because something is ALWAYS needing mending and the animals need tending to every day), but there is a lot more time to reflect on what's happened this past year and years previous...and look ahead towards the future.

On a personal level, I know that something's brewing.  Like a big storm, I can feel it coming.  I have no clue as to what that storm will bring or what things will be like afterwords, but my hunch is that nothing will be the same.

"Bless the Lord, my soul; and bless God's holy name.
Bless the Lord, my soul; who leads me into life."

Friday, December 17


I would ask for prayers and kind thoughts this season.
Pray for those in leadership (both mundane and religious), and know that most are trying to do what they think is best, given the limited information and perspective that they have.

Pray for the Body of Christ, that they may hold onto their faith, do the good work and not conflate the finger (the Church) for the moon (the Message).

Pray for us all, that we may always be grateful for what we have and never be resentful for what others may have.

Last and least, I would ask for prayers for myself, dealing with a number of personal issues simultaneously (as such things are prone to do), the upshot of which is fighting off the Darkness of depression.  I know the Light is there, I just can't see my way out of this box I'm in right now and help would be appreciated.

Kyrie Eleison
Christe Eleison
Kyrie Eleison

Tuesday, December 14

Lessons from the saints - Saint Lucy

Saint Lucy is part of the cycle of early virgin-martyrs, girls who had converted to Christianity and preferred to be tortured/martyred in some pretty spectacular ways than go follow societal convention and have an arranged marriage to some heathen.

In Lucy's case, she denounced her 'pagan' bridegroom, who then ratted her out as a Christian to the authorities.  She was sentenced to forced prostitution, but was unmovable (even with a team of oxen).  At that point, she was tortured, including her eyes being gouged out and was martyred twice (attempted burning, which failed, and beheaded).

Associated with her is the legend that she worked with christians in the roman catacombs, wearing a wreath of candles so she could use both hands to help others.  Every year, the feast of St. Lucy is celebrated by scandanavian countries (as well as other, mostly european nations) on what used to be the solstice, as the humble lady of light (Lucy = Lucia = Lux = light) would defeat the darkness.

As neat as all that is, here is the crux of the matter.  We are in the midst of advent, awaiting the Christ, in the darkest time of the year.  For so many, there is financial uncertainty, personal angst and general gloom surrounding us (Seasonal Affective Disorder, anyone?) and it appears that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, only forever night.  Lucia serves as a harbinger of Christ's birth and reminds us that one candle is enough to keep the darkness at bay and when we cannot see the way ourselves, do not abandon hope and trust in God.

Saint Lucy, show us the way to Christmas.  Remind us that Christ is the light of the world and that the Holy Spirit will guide us through the labyrinth that is our world, seeing what we cannot, if we but ask for His light and Her guidance.  Santa Lucia, bring us light in those dark places. 

PS: I feel a fool.  Saint Lucy is one of my more favorite female saints and I have been so out of sorts that I TOTALLY missed her feast day, which was yesterday.  It is rather apt that I ask for her help as I have been in my own dark places as of late, fumbling about with so little success.

Monday, December 13

Novel concepts

There is an article in the BBC news today about a chap who is donating 1/3 of his income to charity.  What makes this of interest and worth talking about here is that he is not a multi-gazillionare like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates.  Toby Ord is a married academician who makes about $30,000/year.  He calculates that he will have given over $1.5million to charity over his lifetime.

He recognizes that his contribution share is more than most folks would be willing to do at the beginning.  So, he recommends, try a small amount, say 10% of your takehome.  By doing that, you will help others without a substantive impact to your overall ledger.

There are two things which make this work.  The first is figuring out how much it actually costs you to functionally live.  Moving out of your 4br home to a luxurious cardboard box is no more functionally living than having a 4br home for you and the missus. 

Just as important, he says, is to not buy things.  I realise that may sound horridly simplistic, but it's the truth of it.  Every time you see something in the shops, ask yourself "Do I need this more than a boy in Kenya needs a malaria net/girl in Brazil needs a TB shot/homeless person needs a hot meal tonight."  For the non-catholics among us who wish a less guilt-ridden approach, try this on for size. "Let me do without this for a week.  If I still must have it then, then I'll get it then."

Now, why on earth am I speaking about munnahz here on this blog?  Because he's suggesting a set of horridly radical notions.  To recognize one's means, be content to live within them and to freely give to others who are less fortunate than you asking nothing in return.  He's suggesting that people tithe, giving the funds directly to charitable organizations.

"There is no greater curse than wanting more than enough. There is no greater sin than greed. He who knows when enough is enough always has enough." - Tao Te Ching, 46

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, in their eagerness to get rich, have wandered away from the faith and caused themselves a lot of pain." I Tim. 6:10

In short, what Mr. Ord is recommending is a practical application of the spiritual which we have been raised to believe but, all to frequently, we fail in practice.

Friday, December 10

Baby-steps of faith

This morning's OT reading is from Isaiah:

"I, the LORD, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go.

If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea;

Your descendants would be like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, Their name never cut off or blotted out from my presence.  "(Is. 48:17-19)

My translation...If you would just listen to me, it'll all go smooth. I've got ya covered.  Trust me.

Some days, that trust is hard.  Some days, it's hard to hear that voice and harder still to follow where you can't see your steps. It's never a question of intention, to be sure.  He is good and She is love and The Plan does work in the best interests of all (and that includes me and you).  But that leap into the darkness is still hard, especially some days.

 But that's the point of it, yes?

Wednesday, December 8

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Lessons from the saints - the Immaculate Conception of the blessed virgin Mary

This is the next installment in my ongoing series known as "why Tim is a heretic".  This post very well may honk you off.  You've been warned.

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrating the infallible dogma that Christ followed in his mother's footsteps and was born free from the taint of Original Sin. Well, sorta.  You see, the idea that Christ was born without sin is not, in fact,  infallible doctrine via the Roman Church. The idea that Mary was born without sin is.

In any event, discussion the state of the Blessed Virgin's soul becomes a topic of some discussion in the 8th century, primarily in the Eastern Catholic faiths, and the feast of the Immaculate Conception is first celebrated in the Roman Catholic church in the 11th century (after the Roman Catholics split with the Eastern Catholics).  The growth of Mariology in the middle ages increased the prominence of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception until Pius IX declared the dogma to be infallible on December 8, 1854 (only one of two times the infallible card has been used).

I would note that there is no Scriptural basis for above mentioned dogma, though there is substantive Tradition which supports the idea that Mary was bathed in some form of Grace (the exact nature of which is debated) which caused her to be free from the taint of sin.

and.....this is where I get off the bus.  It is not that I disbelieve in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.  In fact, it is really just the opposite.  I will explain.

You see, as I have stated much earlier in this blog, I do not hold the concept of Original Sin as being valid.     We are all made in Her image and carry within us the spark of the Divine.  We are the ones who walk away from God, not He from us.

If all mortal children are born without the taint of Original Sin, then the disposition of Mary's soul (and the soul of her firstborn son) at the moment of her conception and/or birth has not changed.  What has changed is underlying assumption that Mary (or the child) was born differently than you or I.  For Christ to be born without sin and yet be 'fully human', it would follow that we must also be born without sin. 

What happens after that is, fundamentally, our responsibility.

P.S. - These are things which I believe, but I am but me, a mortal man who can but barely see things physical in the here and now.  If you have reasons to believe differently, then express them.



Tuesday, December 7

Getting back to things

This weekend's gospel reading was from Mat. 3, wherein John the Baptist has some words for the priests.

"You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." (Mat. 3:7b-10)

There's a rant or three in there for the current hierarchy of most every christian denomination.  A tougher nut to crack is what our pastor mentioned on Saturday, which is a more general exhortation which is important for us all.  Nice thoughts don't feed bellies and the best of intentions won't keep someone warm at night.  This is the core of James' faith/works argument.  This is what Christ is going on about in Mat. 7 when he talks about building a house on sand or on bedrock.  If you hear and don't do, then the house is built on sand.  If you hear and do, then the house will stand.

Don't pontificate platitudes or dictate dogma about what should or should not be done, how people should or shouldn't act or any of that. 

Produce the good fruit or meet the axe. 

It's that simple.


Wednesday, December 1

An unexpected turn

I was going to say something today about the feast of St. Eligius, which honours the merovingian goldsmith and artisan whose skill in metal was only excelled by his devotion to the poor and love of God. 

Well I was.

Then I got linked to the video below and cried like a soppy sheila.

It's the first week of advent.

Great and wondrous things are coming.