Monthly Archives: February 2008

Spider Bite Update

Got back from the doctor; the news is not good.

After almost three weeks afterward—and two weeks out of the hospital—my foot is still swollen and in pain. The doctor explained the results of yesterday’s MRI to us; the infection has moved into the bones of my feet.

He’s going to explore surgical options with a friend who’s an orthopedic, but is of the opinion that another two weeks of daily visits (and co-pays…) for IV antibiotics ought to do it.

So–more IVs, more hours out of M’s day when she has to drive me out to the doctor, and lots more co-pays. Please keep us in your prayers…

Mission and the Mainlines

There’s been some interesting talk recently that I’ve only half been able to follow: Christopher had something on the Daily Office as the core of a new way of doing Church, and on what mission could look like in his area which was a riff on what LutherPunk was talking about here in a look at the practical issues of growing a community.

Add into the mix Andrew Gern’s piece yesterday at the Cafe on the Mainlines and the recent Pew Report

It’s clear we’ve got a problem. And by “we” I mean people in churches, people who call themselves Christians, people who care about encountering God and helping others find the same God.

I like the notion in Gerns’s piece that we have to have a sense of who we are and that we have to be open at the same time. I certainly have a vision for what that should look like—and I doubt it will be a surprise to anyone. I also get a liitle nervous when we start using marketing language because of its connotations of manipulation. Our marketing vision has to match with what others see when they encounter us; if the marketing vision doesn’t have integrity and authenticity, it will be obvious and all the work in the world won’t fix the credibility gap.

Who do I see the Episcopal Church being? I see us as a community that understands the search for God as pre-eminently rooted in the corporate liturgical cycles of Mass and Office and in the theologies of those texts.

Furthermore, I see us not just holding those boundaries but encouraging play within them. That is, we are a people who accept the scientific study of Scripture as well as the scientific study of the universe in all its splendor. We firmly believe that we need not be afraid of the answers and new questions we find, knowing that faith seeking understanding is a better path than either understanding seeking faith or faith hiding from understanding.

In many ways I think we fail on both counts. We don’t do full justice to our heritage of worshiping God in the beauty of holiness nor—as was taken up after the rant yesterday—are our clergy and people as rooted in the traditions, liturgies, and Scriptures of our church as I would wish them to be. These are the groundings that making the second part possible and fruitful. Faith must be our starting place—only then does the understanding have a framework within which to fit. Recognizing the proper place of understanding is one of our current problems–personified by Spong and his approach which is to say if there is any potential conflict between a scientific worldview and a traditional Christian worldview, the scientific wins. That’s not right either.

There’s a lot to be said for recognizing that all of our worldviews are just that—models that we use to function constructively on a day-by-day basis. What some seem to find so hard to understand is that a scientific worldview is not scientific fact, rather it is a construct based on a host of facts, theories, and assumptions that proceed from a scientific understanding of the universe. As such, I suggest we wear our models lightly and recognize that we live in the midst of several, and not require that we force resolution between them.

(I might add that when we talk about worldviews, Scripture itself contains not one but several, some that are compatible with one another and some that conflict more or less violently. Ditto for Christianity throughout the centuries…)

So that’s my vision for us. We need to be the church that worships God in the beauty of holiness and that encourages dialogue between the worlds of faith, science, and technology. To get there we need to work on our beauty, and our holiness, and our groundedness.

Spirituality Rant

The place I attend has an interest in talking about “spirituality”. It’s got an outdoor labyrinth and time set aside for an indoor one and hosts a Taize service once a month (that is hosted in other local places in other weeks).

I like Taize stuff and it formed an important part of assuring that I remained engaged and interested in Christianity when I was in college because I found through it a contemplative side of Christian worship I hadn’t experienced before. (I’ve since found it in many other kinds of Christian worship, both personal and public.)

Even labyrinths aren’t bad things when properly understood. When we understand that it grows out of the pilgrimage concept and recognize it as an imageless form of the stations of the cross/journey to the cradle/etc., then it plays a useful if occasional role in cultivating Christian spirituality. Too often to my mind, however, it becomes overly focused on the “personal journey” and the place of God as both companion and telos is lost, robbing it of its potential for specifically Christian formation.

I’m no opposed to these kinds of things–but neither should we mistake them for the heart of Christian spirituality!! From where I sit, I often see churches promoting spiritual practices of this order (throw in “Celtic” spirituality et al.) it seems to me we’re majoring in the minors and leaving the center by the wayside.

What is the center of Christian Spirituality? I’d argue it’s exactly the same as a correct definition of liturgy: the ordered and bounded encounter with the entirety of Scripture and the God described therein.

As such, the central practice of Christian spirituality is grounded in the public liturgies of the Church: the Mass and Office. They serve as an inexhaustable sources of spiritual richness because of their interpretive methods and mechanisms. That is, the liturgy functions through the simple principle of juxtapostion; the liturgical cycles put different texts together, then the liturgical compositions for the day/season use a decidedly underdetermined approach to relate them. That is, the colleects, hymns, propers, never come right out and explain the connections, rather they simply hint at them or draw attention to one aspect of them. The power of the liturgy lies in this underdetermined interpretation–the liturgy never tries to fully explain itself or its ways, leaving us always capable of finding new and more connections between and throughout the texts brought together.

This is what we need to teach. This is what we need to promote.

Sure, the other stuff is good too—in its place. And its place is the recognition that even all the ancillary forms of Christian spirituality can not and should not be seen apart from the center. To tease this out a bit, embracing—say, medieval spiritualities like the Rhinelanders or the anchorites—is all well and good, but we misinterpret it if we don’t see it arising from the established public forms of spirituality.

The center is the key. The ordered and bounded encounter with Scripture and the God who animates, breathes, and speaks through it is what we fundamentally need to be about.


When Spiders Attack…

Or at least we think it was probably a spider…

In any case, on the morning of Lent 1 my foot hurt. By the afternoon it was swollen and had a little black mark on the side. I thought it might be a bruise or that I’d kicked something the night before.

Sunday night I tried to get up in the middle of the night and it wouldn’t support my weight.

The next morning, M took a look at my foot. Not only was it swollen and hot to the touch but there was a rash all over it that was heading up my leg.

By the time we were seen at the Urgent Care Clinic the rash was up both legs; by the time I left in an ambulance for the nearest hospital it had spread to my chest and back.

They tell me my body was in a state of septic shock when I arrived at the Emergency Room but that something they did there gave it the chance to overcome the sepsis (If you ask me, it was putting in the catheter; I’ve learned that “you may feel a little pressure now” is medical jargon for “we’ve developed this fascinating new way of infliting pain and want to give it a try on you…”)

After that I spent three days in the ICU and another four on one of the regular medical floors before being discharged. The central problem throught was a strep infection that entered my body in my foot and moved into the bloodstream. The ambulance crew id’d it as a brown recluse spider bite right off. My infectious disease specialist says that’s likely, but it could have been a strep bacteria on the foot already that made its way in through some kind of puncture.

In any case, that’s why I haven’t been around recently. M has been doing a tremendous job taking care of me and tending to the girls while in the midst of dealing with a pretty nasty sinus infection herself. Having her in the hospital with me was wonderful; Despite the pain, the inconvenience, the IV meds and everything, I think this Valentine’s Day was the best we’ve ever had because I got to spend the whole day there with her–and I knew (and know) just how lucky I was to get to spend the time with her.

Although I’ve been out of the hospital for five days, the foot is mending slowly at best. It’s still swollen (though not as much as it was), and there still some infection lurking in there. We’re trying to knock it out with IV anibiotics. The doctor’s hopeful that I’ll be able to walk and drive on the foot by the end of next week, but he’s continuing to monitor it.

Thanks for to LP and Anastasia for helping with food and children and bls, the Lutheran Zephyr, Fr. Chris, Christopher and other for your thoughts and prayers. We’re better, but not out of the woods yet, so we’d appreciate y’all keeping our family in your prayers.

Lenten Preparation from M

I thought I’d posted this before but couldn’t find it—here’s a bit from one of M’s sermons that I think captures the proper perspective on Lent:

The season of Lent is often associated with deprivation or giving something up. Our Prayer Book reminds us that Lent in the Early Church was about fasting and penitence and invites us today into a period of prayer, fasting, repentance, and self-denial. But Lent can also be a time to add things to our lives, especially holy habits. The Prayer Book also invites us into a period of self-examination, reading and meditating on God’s Word. If you’re like me, though, the idea of
adding just one more thing to your life is almost unbearable. I mean—life is hard enough as it is with juggling children, jobs, and relationships. How can you hope to fit in more spiritual things?

The word Lent comes from an old word meaning springtime. One way to think about Lent without stressing yourself out is to think about it like an early springtime garden. In the early spring last year’s beautiful garden can look like quite a mess. Heaps of leaves from the fall lay around, dead plants from the previous year poke up, and maybe some industrious weeds have already gotten a head start on you. If you want a beautiful garden again this year, then it’s time to begin again. You have to start by getting rid of the stuff that’s there—maybe even stuff that once was living, vibrant, and beautiful but isn’t anymore. So you start raking…what activities in your life seem to just exist to fill space—and don’t really add anything to your life? And you start pulling up last year’s dead plants…what are those intentions that you always wanted to do but never got around to and
now feel guilty about? Or those things that you use to do because they gave you joy and peace, but now don’t? Finally you go after those little weeds…what new little things are poking up in your life that you’re not terribly proud of?

Once all of the clutter has been cleared away, it’s time to put in some new plants. Now some people may just put in fully-grown plants right away but most start with new plants, with young plants that require care and nurturing or else they will die right a way. They have to be tended for a while until they can live on their own without constant watering and care. This is the helpful way to think about adding things to your life—not piling yet another thing onto an already full schedule. If you’re going to give something up, give away something that sucks up your time and energy, and plant something beautiful and life-giving in its place. Like taking a few minutes to read the Bible with your morning cup of coffee or reading one or more of the daily devotions in the Prayer Book with your kids, spouse, or a friend.

So instead of thinking just about giving things up or piling things on, think of Lent as your early springtime garden that needs cleaning up the old overgrowth and putting in some new things. These are the holy habits. Holy habits are the things that we are called to nurture and, like young plants, habits really do have to be nurtured before they become natural. These are the holy habits that discipleship demands and that today’s Gospel tells us to take up during

Discipleship, taking up our cross, is a life-long process, not just something we do during Lent. It is a daily task that requires discipline, strength, prayer, and assistance from God. We as Christians are called to be disciples each day whether things in our lives are going well or not. Discipleship is not something to be taken lightly, done only when we feel like it, when it’s popular, or when it’s convenient. It is living out holy habits, something we do each day of our lives until we die. The hymn we just sang illustrates this well
when it says in verse 5: “Take up your cross, then follow Christ, nor think till death to lay it down; for only those who bear the cross may hope to wear the glorious crown.”

Lent can be a great time to begin this process, to begin growing the holy habits that will last a lifetime—and beyond. Jesus calls us to discipleship. Jesus calls us to take up our cross. Not to be popular or to follow an easy road but follow him wherever he leads.