For all of my life in church I have noticed that one of Jesus’ basic formulas for the parables was to begin with, “A certain man had two sons . . . ” and, almost inevitably, the story had to do with how the brothers responded differently, and, on occasion, how they responded to each other. I am the older of two brothers.
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It’s Super Tuesday. Lots of people are voting today. And if I had to put money on it, I’d bet a large number of people aren’t voting for someone they love, but someone who best reflects their greatest fears back to them.
There's a saying that's come to have popular acceptance in American faith discourse: my faith is between me and God. We've been hearing a bunch of that lately, particularly from those seeking power, who bristle at the idea that anyone has a right to call their assertions of faith into question.
While I waited for my hair appointment, I chatted with two women over the magazines. They mentioned they were sisters, so I said, “How nice to make your hair a family affair.” “It is nice, but it’s not for a nice reason. Our mother died the other day.”
In Luke 13, Jesus tells a parable about a barren fig tree. The tree is planted in a vineyard, which sounds weird, but fig trees were often used as trellises in vineyards. The owner is unhappy because the tree is not bearing fruit. “Cut it down,” he says. But the vintner says, “I’ll dig around it, fertilize it. Let’s give it one more year.” And the vast majority of the commentaries and reflections I’ve read about this story say something to the effect of, “See, God is willing to give us sinners one more chance.”
The two girls I carry below my heart. The three boys who run circles around me all day long. I want them to be mine. I refer to them as such, of course.
To err is human, Alexander Pope famously said in his Essay on Criticism. Yes, it certainly is. And the more experience I have with this being human business, the more evidence I am afforded of this unpleasant truth. The season of Lent is about self-examination and repentance, so I decided to grit my teeth and take a bit of an erring inventory.
For the last six weeks I wore an orthotic boot on my left foot. I fractured a small bone in my ankle while walking my dog one sunny morning in January. I wasn't doing anything exciting or high-risk. I just stumbled and rolled the foot enough to get a fracture instead of a sprain. I have never broken a foot, ankle, or leg before, so I was unaccustomed to the extra weight of the boot.
Didn't know him. Not at all. Never met him probably, although he might have been in a classroom sometime long ago when I visited his high school. I didn't know his wife or his family either, nor had I ever met them that I know of. But he was just a kid, too young to die. His obit is so lovingly written that I could only hope to do it that well myself.
Many years ago I became an advanced open water diver. If you’ve never been scuba diving, it is the most peaceful, beautiful experience. It’s just you, the sound of your breathing, and all the wonders the ocean has to offer. Two of the reasons I chose to learn to dive are that I am claustrophobic and I am afraid of sharks. You’d think that a person with both these things would avoid diving, right? Yes, except that I cannot tolerate my choices being ruled by fear.