Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hold On While I Throw This Pulpit Into Reverse

The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark, the 9th Chapter

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Hold on for just a second… I need to shift this pulpit into reverse and the clutch on this church sticks a little…  Alright, now we can back this thing into the Gospel lesson!  

Sometimes figuring out how to get to the heart of a story takes backing into it, rather than looking at it from top to bottom.  Looking at this week’s story from the bottom up, you see Jesus telling the disciples that when they welcome “one such child” they welcome both Jesus and the One who sent him.  In Jesus’s day, children had no status.  They were property at best.  They could be bought, sold and traded… and were.  But here, in this lesson, Jesus wasn’t pointing only to people below the age of adulthood… Jesus was pointing to anyone who was thought of, or treated by those in power as less than legal, less than important, less than human.  

Backing into this lesson challenges us to ask ourselves, WHO… who, in our day, is considered as, or treated as less than legal, as if their life didn’t matter, as if they were less than human?  Who are the weak, vulnerable and desperate being demonized, terrorized and brutalized by those in power?  We know who they are.  They’re in graphic pictures on the news.  They’re the easy scapegoats of fear filled campaign and policy speeches, they’re the ones who cling to rubber rafts… or fail to… and the ones who, right here in Augusta, get told to go back to where they came from.  Jesus said to the disciples… Jesus says to US… “Whoever welcomes one of THESE in my name, welcomes me.”  In them, we will see Jesus.

Now, if you keep backing up, you back into WHAT.  Jesus asked the disciples, “WHAT were you arguing about on the way?”  Jesus asked like he didn’t know… Jesus knew.  Jesus asked in the same way my mom always asked, “whose shoes are these in the middle of the floor”… Mom knew… and Jesus knew too.  Jesus KNEW they were arguing about who was first and who was last… who was a winner and who was a looser.  Jesus KNEW and THAT’S why he lifted that child up to make this point.  Welcoming the least, the lost and the last… THAT is welcoming Christ.  

But WHY were they arguing!?  Keep backing up into that question and you’ll back right into the heart of this lesson… They were arguing because they were afraid.  When people puff themselves up and argue about who is greater and who is not, you can bet THAT is a person living deeply in fear.  Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen but they didn’t understand… the couldn’t understand because they were AFRAID!

Afraid they were loosing control.  Afraid they'd been wrong about Jesus, that he wouldn’t raise an army, kick out the Romans and become their king…They were afraid that with every step toward Jerusalem they were becoming more like that child… more like someone who wasn’t in control, wasn’t on top and more like one whose life just didn’t matter.  They were afraid that what Jesus was saying was true!  That being transformed by God meant not living on top of the world in a gold plated palace… but that being transformed by God meant living from the bottom… being transformed by a cross.  

What Jesus was saying was true… it still is true… the path to a fulfilling, purpose filled life comes through nailing our preferences, privileges and priorities to the cross and letting them die.  When we insist on holding on tight to what we have, we’re never able to open our hands enough to receive the gift of life God is giving us.  The one prerequisite for resurrection is death.  Easter only happens after Good Friday.  It means loosening our grip, our need to control, our need to hold on to what is known and what’s safe… It means letting go of everything the world tells us is important… allowing all that we have, all that we know, all that we are, to fall more and more and more deeply into the arms of God and completely allow ourselves to be molded, reshaped and changed by God into the new creation God is calling us to be.  

THAT is how it works… but I’ll tell you a secret.  I’m not very good at doing it.  I’m good at thinking about it.  Up here, in my noodle, I understand it… In fact, up here in my noodle I LOVE it for it’s beauty, grace, simplicity, and particularly for it’s irony… but DOING it is hard… I like talking about it too (obviously)… but to let go of my need to be in control… particularly when it comes to the parts of my life around holding onto resources and money so that I… I… can provide for my family.  I find that part very hard to release.  But you know, I think that too is part of what Jesus was trying to teach us with that child.  

There’s a TED talk by Amy Cuddy who advises not to “fake it till you make it” but “Fake it till you BECOME it.”  This is the other reason Jesus pulled that child onto his lap.  Children don’t think about walking until they can do it perfectly… they fake it until they become a walker.  Children don’t contemplate the theory of playing an instrument until they are perfect from the beginning… they fake being a musician until they become one!  They begin with nothing and are transformed into walkers and musicians in the same way Christians like you and me start with nothing and are lifted up and transformed into the radically welcoming, compassionate, loving and generous people God is calling us to be.    

So, just as Jesus walked the disciples one step at a time toward Jerusalem… and one step at a time God transformed them into Saints, we too are called to take one step at a time toward trusting God to mold us into what God is calling us to become as well.  And it’s time to take a step.  Just one small step, away from yourself and toward the other… toward the one the world has demonized, brutalized and forgotten.  ONE, concrete, physical step… not just in our heads… but with our hands and feet, with our actions and advocacy.  

It’s time to take a step.  Just one small step toward being as generous with what we have, as God has first been generous with each of us.  Not just in our heads or with our prayers, but with our money, time and gifts as well.  Just one small step toward a deeper, more regular, continual practice of giving and generosity.  

It’s time for us to take one shaky, stumbling baby step toward God, who like a parent calls each of us, every moment of every day to take one tentative step toward God’s loving outstretched arms, reaching out to us with the biggest possible smile, inviting us to fake it until we become everything God has created us to be.   Amen.  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Mountain Paths and New Life

The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark, the 8th Chapter

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Way, way back when people first started following Jesus, they weren’t called Episcopalians… they weren’t even called Lutherans!  The first thing people who followed Jesus were called, were followers of “The Way” and that’s in large part because Jesus was always on the road… WALKIN’.  But in addition to describing Jesus’s mode of transportation, “The Way” was also a particular “Way” of living and being that Jesus knew had the power to transform individual people, communities and literally all of creation, from what they were into what God intended them to be… always bigger and more wonderful than any of us could imagine.    

When I think of walking a path like that, I think of Glen.  I met Glen on internship.  Lutherans, for seminary, do two years of classroom work, then go out and serve a church under the guidance of a seasoned pastor for a year and then return for one last year of classes.  Glen was a member of my internship congregation in Libby, Montana.  He was a retired forest service guy and toward the end of my time in Montana he invited me to go hiking with him.  He told me that he loved hiking but these days he only had “low gear.”  Personally, I thought “low gear” was perfect!  I also thought that for a guy who was 83, “low gear” was pretty dang impressive!  

So, off we went… up, up, up a one-person-wide path, up switch backs all the way up, and as we kept walking I noticed there was only room for one of us to lead.  If I had tried to pass Glen and take over the lead, I would have fallen off the edge of the mountain.  Only one could lead and that’s what was happening with Peter and Jesus in today’s Gospel.  Jesus was leading the Disciples on “The Way”… a narrow path, not up a mountain, but down into Jerusalem… to his death and resurrection and Peter tried to take the lead.  He wanted them to go the way he had always been taught things would go with the Messiah…. they’d raise an army, throw the Romans out and crown Jesus King!  But Peter’s way wasn’t God’s way… it wasn’t the Divine way… it wasn't “The Way or the Truth and it would never lead to Life”… like the Devil had done before, Peter was tempting Jesus in the wilderness and Jesus called him on it, “GET BEHIND ME SATAN!”  

To make things clear to Peter and the disciples back then and to us disciples now, Jesus turned and says, “If you want to follow me then you’ll need to allow all YOUR plans to be crucified… allow YOUR agendas to be killed… your own notions murdered… your own egos sacrificed and THEN follow me down this one, difficult, frightening, narrow, painful and dangerous path, THROUGH death and on to resurrection.”

That was a hard, hard thing for Peter to hear and it’s a hard, hard thing for us to hear too.  After all, following Jesus would be so much less difficult if we could just follow Jesus OUR WAY, wouldn’t it?  Even better, if we could just follow Jesus MY WAY then it wouldn’t be hard at all!  It would feel good, comfortable, predictable and completely under control.  Unfortunately there’s just one problem… when I insist on following Jesus MY WAY then I’m no longer FOLLOWING Jesus, on THE WAY.  

If you and I are going to be disciples… if we are going to be FOLLOWERS of Jesus, we’re going to have to let Jesus lead, even (and especially) when Jesus leads us to places we REALLY wish he wouldn’t!  If we’re going to be followers of Jesus we’re going to have to follow him into the uncomfortable and even the downright frightening, because the thing about Jesus is that while he ALWAYS leads us to NEW LIFE…  he always leads us to that NEW LIFE by way of death.  The “new life” part sounds GREAT!  But the reality is that new life ALWAYS and ONLY comes by way of the cross, and that reality just isn’t easy to swallow.  For you and me, it means taking our own ideas of how to be a Christian… our own ideas about how to “do church” and nailing them to the cross and letting them die.  It means taking what we’ve grown comfortable with over generations and generations… taking what we’ve grown familiar with over a lifetime and walking to the place where those things get speared in the side.  

Jesus is leading all of us, and all of creation to become transformed into the creation God intended us to be from the beginning.  But the hard part… the uncomfortable reality Peter hated to face… is that all transformation… for creation, for our churches and for ourselves, is that real transformation only happens through the process of death and resurrection… and the death part is HARD!

Jesus’s call for us to take up our cross and follow, is not a call to suffer quietly through the individual hardships that we all encounter in this life.  Jesus’s call to take up our cross and follow is a call to allow God to change us completely from what we are today, into the creation God is calling us to be.  It’s frightening, because what we are today is KNOWN… it’s familiar… it’s comfortable… while the thing God is calling us to become is a complete mystery, and to make it all worse, we know the path to that new creation doesn’t just LOOK like death… it IS the death of everything that was!  

BUT!  HERE is the promise of following Jesus… HERE is the promise of following THE WAY:  Light ALWAYS shines in the darkness and darkness can NEVER overcome it!  Captives are ALWAYS set free!  Storms and chaos are ALWAYS calmed!  Easter ALWAYS follows Good Friday and a NEW and ABUNDANT LIFE, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS blooms out of what, to all the world, looks like the bitter end.  

I am simply in awe of what you are doing here at St. Barnabas and St. Matthews.  You have decided to follow Jesus on the WAY.  To walk the narrow path and let Jesus lead.  You’ve decided to allow the church that has fed you, cared for you and comforted you for generations to fall even more deeply into the hands of God, to be re-shaped and molded into something new that none of us can yet even begin to fully imagine.  So in the next few weeks and months, as you let go of what was… hold on to the promise of new life!  Hold on to the light and life, even while walking in shadow times and in the darkness of loss and grief.  Hold on to the promise... New Life is coming... Together we are becoming God's new creation!  Amen.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Temple Talk About Creation

I've been invited by Rabbi Erica Asch to sit on a panel at the Jewish Temple in Augusta with a scientist and an artist, talking about our different views about  Creation as they prepare for the High Holy Days.  This is the text of that talk.  

Thank you for asking me to be a part of this panel.  To start, I’d like to make a couple of disclaimers.  I will not be attempting to represent the sum total of Christian thought on Creation.  There are some very much louder, angrier voices in Christianity that see Creation and the whole of Christianity very, VERY differently than I do.  I won’t try to explain how they think, because frankly, I can’t begin to figure out how they think.  What I can attempt to do tonight is give you a little snapshot of how I approach the texts and share one little tidbit I see God trying to tell me through it.  My methods are not unique in Christianity but it isn’t as loud or angry and therefore doesn’t often make the news.  My second disclaimer is that I started my professional life in the sciences and I still think of myself as a scientist.  My Bachelor’s is in Biochemistry and my Master’s is in Food Science and I have NEVER had a moment of conflict between my faith and science.  So, if you were looking for a Scientist vs. Christian vs. Artist Battle Royal over Creation, well, then you asked the wrong Christian!  

So, with that said, you get what you get, so here we go… I want to start by reading you a poem.  

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

When Robert Frost wrote this poem he wrote something that communicated deep truths.  He wrote something that had pattern, meter and rhythm.  He wrote something that connects with people deeply, powerfully and even spiritually.  What he didn’t write were literal directions to be followed when walking in a wood, yellow, or otherwise.  He wasn’t trying to be Google Maps and he wasn’t trying to define human body mechanics around walking at the molecular level, the muscular/skeletal level or any other level.  If we were able to get Robert Frost to sit here today and say to him, “OH, Mr. Frost, thank you for giving me the directions to find my way home through the woods from Temple tonight.”  I imagine he might look at us with quite a puzzled face.  

HOWEVER.  Just because Frost’s poem makes for TERRIBLE directions to your house and does an AWEFUL job of explaining the biomechanics of human motion over a slightly improved path through a wooded environment, that doesn’t make it without value.  It doesn’t make his poem un-true.  This poem has deep, deep truths in it.  It doesn’t make it less powerful, transformative or insightful either.  In a similar way, when I come to the Biblical texts the first question I ask is what were the authors trying to do with these texts?  So when I look at Genesis, Chapter one, I see a text I understand was written by priests during the exile in Babylon.  I see patterns, rhythms and meter that suggests that this was likely liturgical… it was worship material.  It was the sort of thing the people might have said over and over and over again, every time they gathered.  

So, the next question I ask, is what were they trying to accomplish with this liturgy back then?  Were they trying to do astrophysics, geology or paleontology?  I don't think so, and not just because those ancient people didn't get that stuff either.  When I look at the historical setting in which they were written and the context, to me it seems that the people of Israel were in a bad spot.  They had been defeated and marched out of Israel and now were stuck in Babylon.  According to the wisdom of the day, back then, if your army beat my army that means that your god is stronger, bigger, badder and more powerful than my god.  So when I look at this text, I don’t see the author's goals as trying to define some scientific process.  What I see is a situation where the Babylonians were likely telling the people of Israel over and over again, day after day that they were weak and beaten and so was their God!  So, this liturgy was written, I believe in part as pastoral care.  This was written to be the Jewish community’s reply to the Babylonians… The people of Israel are standing up and shouting over and over and over again back at the Babylonians and proclaiming the timeless, powerful, wonderful truth which is… “NUH UH!”  NUH UH!  Your Babylonian gods are NOT as powerful as our God!  NUH UH!  Our God has NOT left us alone, abandoned in a foreign land.  NUH UH!  We will not forget our faith!  NUH UH!!!

Now, the reason it had to be written as liturgy and the reason it had to be repeated week after week, Sabbath after Sabbath is that frankly, if they were honest, the actual situation out the window looked very much like what the Babylonians were saying was true.  They were in captivity.  They had been defeated in battle.  There didn’t look like there was any hope.   The kids were even going off and starting a life with people outside of the faith!  So to push back against what looked for all the world to be their reality, they had to speak the deeper truth over and over and over again, until that time when what was spoken became what was real, so every week they said, “Let there be!  And there was!  And it was Good!  Let there be!  And there was!  And it was Good!  Let there be!  And there was!  And it was Good!” until what they said for all those years FINALLY and ACTUALLY came into being, just like it had when God first spoke those words at the beginning of all things. 

For me this points to an additional tragedy for the people who insist that this is a scientific text.  They don’t just miss the point of the truth the authors were really trying to teach back THEN, but they also cut off the possibility that the deep, powerful truth of this text from way back then CONTINUES to be a deep and powerful truth for us today.  Because if you bind up this text with literalism, it can’t be anything for you except a terrible description of an ancient event.  BUT, if you see this text as it was intended… as a poem, a liturgy, a powerful, transformational truth for a people in need of a powerful word from Adoni Elohim, then it is FREE to be the same for us today.  

Now, you and I might not be captive in Babylon, but the truth here transcends time, situation and geography.  We all have times where we feel hopelessly bound…  by cancer, addiction, a crummy boss, a racist system, economic injustice or anything else.  This liturgy calls us together as a community to proclaim together at the top of our lungs, NUH UH!  NOT, NEVER, NO WAY are we ever HOPELESSLY bound, because we have a life giving, over flowing WORD of abundant creation and new life from the God of all Creation!!

NEVER stuck, NEVER in short supply, NEVER without hope… EVER!  Because remember, this is the God who creates with such abundance, that the seventh day can be a day off!  HOPE is always in stock!  Wait, there's ALWAYS more!  SO, even when all the world around you is telling you, showing you and taunting you, saying that you are impossibly stuck, and there is no hope…there is THIS DEEPER truth that says… NUH UH!  

I hope that was OK.  It’s obviously not all there is to be said about Creation but I hope it helped as you prepare for the High Holy Days.  Rabbi Erica, all of you… you are a real gift to me and I continually give thanks for our relationship.  Shalom!   

Drawing Circles

The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark, the 7th Chapter

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Thanks this week to Liz Burgess for sharing her Praying in Color meditation for the picture!

He drew a circle to that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.

This short passage by Edwin Markham shares a truth that is also found in our lessons for today.  Both the lesson from James and the Gospel confront us about how we both consciously and unconsciously ALL draw circles.  In many ways, known and unknown, we draw circles that include some and also exclude others.  Male circles and female circles.  Black circles and white circles.  Rich circles and poor circles.  Educated circles and uneducated circles.  Lutheran circles and Episcopal circles.  We all draw circles.  Some we draw knowingly and others we draw unconsciously but we all draw circles.   

Drawing circles is apparently nothing new.  In the lesson from James, those who were well dressed, wore gold rings and designer labels got a personal escort to the good seats, the private boxes, the executive level.  But those who were poorly dressed and looking shabby got hustled out to the cheap seats on the lawn.  I want to believe that those who were the ushers in James’ world really didn’t think about what they were doing.  I’d like to believe that the people THOUGHT they were welcoming to everyone and the circles they drew were not deliberate but “just the way it’s always been done”, but to be honest, I’m not really sure which is worse.  Is it worse to KNOW what you’re doing... to CONSCIOUSLY be including some and CONSCIOUSLY excluding others?  OR is it worse that your prejudice is so deeply seated in your culture, history, family and story that you THINK you’re being welcoming all the time and treating everyone the same when you bring THOSE people out to their separate but equal seats?  Either consciously or unconsciously the message is clear.  YOU are welcome, but YOU are not!  

In the gospel lesson Jesus faces a similar situation.  Who should be the recipient of God’s grace?  Who is worthy of healing?  Who deserves the power of Christ to work in their lives and who should just go without?  Who’s “in” and who’s “out”?  When this GENTILE... WOMAN... from AWAY... asked for help with her DAUGHTER... well, how far OUT of how many circles can one person be?  In that part of the world at that time, she had a QUADRUPLE wammy!  She was a Gentile... OUT!  WOMAN...OUT OUT!  From AWAY...OUT OUT OUT!  And asking about a child?... OUT OUT OUT OUTTIDY OUT!!!!  

Now the great theological debate here for some theologians much smarter than me is whether Jesus SAW her coming, KNEW what was happening, played into the people’s prejudices and stereotypes, fears and hatreds ON PURPOSE in order to draw in the people watching and then spring the lesson on them about the wideness of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness and grace.... OR did God work through this Gentile Woman from Away to enlighten JESUS HIMSELF, as well as all of those disciples who were looking on, that God’s love, healing, mercy, forgiveness, power and salvation has no barriers.  

Now, we could sit here and debate the two natures of Christ and how the completely human or completely divine natures reacted in this situation, but to be honest... IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!!!  Either way, the take home lesson is the same!  God’s love had the wit to win!  God drew a circle and took her in!  God’s grace, love, healing, and salvation is simply boundless.  God’s love is big enough; God draws a big enough circle to include a desperate Gentile woman with a demon possessed daughter... But wait, there’s more!!!  To make sure we get it, we get the lesson a second time, but now it’s a man... an outcast, a deaf and speechless man... probably possessed and at least cursed... what else would leave you deaf and speechless back then?  And once again, God draws a circle big enough for the likes of HIM... and here's the thing... if God can draw a circle to include the likes of HER and HIM, perhaps God could even draw a circle large enough to include the likes of you... or maybe even... the likes of me.  

We all draw circles and every circle includes some and excludes others.  Female and male, white and black, gay and straight.  We draw circles of immigrants, residents, natives and people from away.  We draw circles labeled legal and illegal… Episcopalians and Lutherans... St. Mark’s, St. Matt’s, St. Barnabas, Prince of Peace... Decaf and Regular!  Either consciously or unconsciously we all draw circles, but when Jesus said “Be Opened” he was opening WAY more than just a deaf man’s ears!  When Jesus said “Be Opened!” the circles that had been drawn around that man, labeling him as possessed, cursed, outcast, disabled, broken and unwelcome… all of those circles that had excluded him before were now ripped wide open and all the love, grace, healing, compassion, community and life that had been kept out came flooding in!

But wait there’s even MORE!  On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished!” and the curtain in the Temple ripped from top to bottom and in that moment Jesus stuck his fingers in the ears of all creation, spit at death and the devil, ripped open every circle that had ever been drawn and to this day keeps ripping circles open even faster than we can draw them!  Our challenge, as ones who have been freed from the circles drawn around our lives by Christ, is to live God’s truth and keep drawing the circles we draw wider and wider and wider each day so that we begin to draw our circles like God draws circles… big enough to include every single one of us and all of creation!

He drew a circle to that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in.  Amen.