Friday, September 28, 2007

Three Little Birds

I got into the office early this morning. The sun was still not up but light radiated over the landscape, the moon was shining over Lake Minnewaska (I've got a GREAT office!) and the coots were all rafted up on the bay. The resident flock of wild turkeys was cruising through the yard scarfing up any acorns they may have missed in previous outings. Over the lake, an adult and a juvenile bald eagle were circling the raft of coots, looking for stragglers, ummm .. coot breakfast. It should be a grand morning. But I'm anxious. Seems like things are starting to pile up and when I think about it all it gets a tad stressful.

I flicked on the computer and had forgotten to take out the CD I was listening to yesterday. When I got back from making coffee I heard ...

"Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', "This is my message to you-ou-ou"

Singin': "Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry (don't worry) 'bout a thing, 'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

Hmmm .... smiled with the risin' sun, three little birds - coots, eagles and turkeys (ok eagles and turkeys aren't exactly little ... but still).

So, Bob Marley spoke to me this morning. Well, at least it was Bob's music. And I feel much better, really I do. Weird eh? I'm really not so stressed out about my first exam, about getting ready for Adult Sunday School and movie night at church, writing a sermon on mysticism, the mission trip party on Wednesday, getting the leaves picked up, the two journal publications sitting on my desk, taking the dog for a walk ....

Don't worry, 'bout a thing, 'Cause every little thing gonna be all right.

I realized that in the grand scheme of things, these ARE little things, important, but little - AND everything IS gonna be all right.

fading ... 'cause every little thing, gonna be all right ....


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I found this today ..... and thought I'd toss it up here for all my clergy friends.

A Disappointing B+

Argh. I got my first essay back and was really disappointed with my B+. I wasn't disappointed with the grade assigned by Fr. Ruff, I did pretty much nail the topic and would have probably received an A had it not been for a number of stupid, stupid grammatical errors. Actually, I would have given myself a C. What is disappointing, and rather embarrassing, is that I regularly write, and edit, and review papers for journals. There was absolutely no reason for those mistakes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Land Ethic and Sunday School

I've been teaching, or rather leading a discussion about land, food and associated ethics and how they relate to Christian life. There are about 10 folks in the class and the discussion has been good. The first book we're reading is A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. Specifically, we're concentrating on two essays, Good Oak and A Land Ethic. It was interesting the hear the different views on Good Oak; which I thought was a rather benign essay about cutting down an oak tree that had been hit by lightening. Leopold starts the essay by saying "There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the assuming that food comes from the grocery and heat from the furnace." The idea that one looses that connection to the land as they become urbanized. I think it is among my favorite quotes of all time and rings very true, probably moreso today than when it was written 70 years ago. There were a few folks in the discussion group that thought his writing was condescending. That still puzzles me a bit and I've reread this essay again and I'm just not seeing it.
As we moved to the esssay A Land Ethic, we started by discussing what constitutes an "ethic". It was a very good discussion and really set a good foundation for our future discussions. We talked about being part of the land community - functioning with it instead of controlling it and how that affects our personal freedoms. Leopold does tend to "stick it" to the farmers in this essay and we started to discuss whether or not that was fair. We'll pick up on that issue at our next meeting. I've also assigned an essay by Paul Gruchow, a wonderful Minnesota writer that I miss dearly. As we move from the land to food in our next book I wanted the group to think about the impact our food system has not only on the land but on the people that live in rural communities. Gruchow's essay, in my opinion, is excellent in that regard. Finally, we'll be reading "Food for Life: The Spirituality and Ethics of Eating" by Shannon Jung. I'll keep you posted on our discussions.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A few more thoughts on doubt ....

I was pleasantly surprised with my class this past weekend. The course, entitled "Rural Social Issues" meets monthly with a focus on the social justice implications of food and food production and distribution, the environment, immigration and multiple parishes. The dialogue was excellent and it actually feels like a class with application. Not that the other two I'm taking don't, but this has "immediate" feel to it.

My doubt subsided a little this morning when I got my first paper back from my Christian Tradition class. It went well and I was pleased with my effort and the result.

In Christian Mysticism, we spent some time talking about what happens to people that have that direct contact with God, many of whom become mystics. During the course of the conversation is became very evident that what Mother Theresa experienced isn't out of the ordinary. Dutch mystic Jan van Ruusbroec summarized the experiences of many mystics and others that had experienced that contact with God; finding it similar to a concrete wall that is broken down revealing the presence and full grace of God. The catch, if you will, is that the person consequently never had that time with God again. In fact the concrete wall became one of steel. Many who experienced this while living a monastic life left the monestaries and abbeys, they found no consolation in prayer, contemplation or community life. Sounds very similar to what Mother Teresa spoke about! Several UMC Clergy have written on this subject and their words are thoughtful and elequent - check out Michelle Hargrave, David Bard, Jeff Ozane, and Rory Swenson .

Off to do some homework ..... Arius vs. Athanasius anyone?


Thursday, September 6, 2007


After my first day of classes, I felt very overwhelmed with the assignments (mostly reading). I spent most of the labor day weekend pouring over my texts, running to the computer to look up theologic vocabularly, and generally wondering if I was going to be able to do this for the next three months. Yesterday was the second day of classes and I was feeling a little better about having completed all the readings, figuring out what most things meant and such. There was a little anxiety about being able to contribute to class discussion; I was trying to get my notes down, listen and try to get in a point or two but it just didn't happen. I'm not one for spontaneous conversation at that level to begin with, preferring to form my thoughts well before spewing forth what I have to say. It's a characteristic that doesn't fit well in classroom discussions but I usually manage to make do. I'm still having doubts that this is going to work. I'm not even overly busy at work and am worried what's going to happen when things pick up around here. I was thinking about the revelation of Mother Theresa's doubt and was comforted by the fact that even she questioned her faith from time to time (actually very frequently as I understand, I have yet to read the article in Time). I think we all have doubts and it's good to reaffirm them, admit them, and ask for help from God to overcome them. I know I'll be doing a lot of asking in the next few months!