Step by step

IMG_3679.jpgStep by step the start of the our Camino de Santiago comes closer and closer. This is where we are at today, Monday, September 5, 2016.

And yes, I am terrified. However, I am also feeling deep faith and peace at the same time, confident that God will lead us, step by step.

My other feeling is the extreme gratitude of so many people, so many, many people, who have supported me both materially and through abundant prayers. Thank you everyone, thank you God.

 

Ready or not

am-i-ready-to-face-fears-of-starting-my-own-b-L-f3xoBw24 days, but who’s counting?  Hah. I am. How do I feel? In a word? Terrified. In a phrase, suddenly completely vulnerable and totally unprepared.

Yet, the day is coming, and on that day, we will be going.

If you have not seen the movie The Way, I recommend it. From what I am told it fluctuates starting with wildly inaccurate –  things like who walks on impulse, using someone else’s pack, and wearing jeans? And why don’t people have blisters? Then it becomes apparently quite believable – the walking and walking, the Camino families that form, the daily grind of walking, and the incredible grace and gift of doing just that.

Either way, at this point I am awash in self-doubt, terror, fear, and imagining all sorts of ways that I will be unprepared. This seems to be a most necessary step and invitation of being a peregrina on The Way.

(Note: before I wrote this, I had a terrible week for walking. A multitude of reasons had me less than active. Interestingly enough I got in 4 miles this morning, all before 6:30am. And I feel *slightly* less terrified!)

Keep on walking

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Yes, that is my foot, yes that is my hiking boot.

Hi! Worst blogger ever has returned for a brief moment. Time is not on my side when it comes to writing right now. In fact, I should be outside right now, but here I am in the non-walking position, and that means I am writing!

Five weeks from today I will – well, God willing as we say around here – will head north to Montreal. From there, Sue and I will get on a plane and fly to Paris. Camino Santiago, here we come! Yet, five weeks seems both an incredibly long time, and an incredibly short time. Long in the sense that I have a lot of training in front of me, and short in the sense that I have so much to do before I leave. Every day I am faced with the need to walk the walk. Talk is cheap, walk – not so much. I simply have to keep on walking.

There are many things I would love to write about, like the mass readings. In today’s Gospel we hear for the zillionth time that we need to be forgiving. Talk really is cheap, isn’t it? Last night I dreamed of an old friend, a person that I find it nearly impossible to forgive. Old childhood wounds and disappointments remain tender, more recent challenges burn white hot at times, erupting and taking me by surprise. Last night she crossed my mind as I was cleaning up after dinner, and she turns up in my dream. Wow God you are persistent, aren’t you?

In the dream we were both tentative and amicable, until Hillary Clinton showed up. Was she with us? Or on TV or a device? Oh wispy dreams, I cannot grasp your tendrils and remember. Anyway, there she was and before anything could erupt, my old friend said that we could not discuss politics. I felt total relief, instead of my typical urge to pick at the wound of disagreement. Then I awakened! Poof, dream over. Five minutes later I am drowsy and reading the Gospel about forgiveness. Talk is so cheap, ridiculously so and yest even at that price I can’t even talk theoretical forgiveness with this friend. What about walking? Can I walk forgiveness? It seems hardly possible.

Jesus tells us we must forgive in this way:

“I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”

And I can barely keep count of reps when I exercise, or even laps around my neighborhood – how do I do this?

How many miles must I Continue reading

Chuck has Q, I have A

It looks like fellow TU blogger and friend Roger Green posted one of these and tagged another TU blogger, Chuck Miller. Guess what? YES! Chuck tagged me. I am in general pretty poor at these things, but who could say no to Chuck’s invitation? And by the way, I do not always play by the rules, but that should not come as a surprise!

So without further adieu, here we go:

keep-calm-you-got-this-511 – What was the first moment when you said, “Wow, I can really do this”?

Really do what? Blog? I will guess that is what Chuck meant! My first baby steps into blogging began in 2007, when I waded into the waters of (hear this now) far left political blogging with a side order of faith. I was very afraid at first, but nine years later, here I am. I really found my groove in late 2007 and 2008, and I have been blogging ever since – with relative confidence! Honestly, it was through blogging that I truly found my voice, and that I worked on becoming a writer. That’s when I said, in a manner of speaking, and “Wow, I can really do this!”

2 – Which teacher, professor or educator inspired you through your formative years?

best_teacher_ever_poster-rca7c3042a46b48ceb9053665bdcbd922_wvz_8byvr_324Great question – and difficult to answer. I would have to name two teachers that left particular marks on my soul and spirit. One would be Mrs. Ross, my 9th grade social studies teacher at Eastview Junior High in White Plains, NY. She was fierce, an intense woman in a compact frame with a towering intellect. She really got on us to be curious, to know the world, to understand history, to ask questions, and to learn to think critically. She was Jewish and very proud, and of an age (I’m guessing in her 50’s at the time) to make sure we all knew about the Holocaust and its impact. If she is alive, I am sure she is furious with the direction of our nation in some corners.

The other would be my 8th grade English teacher at that same school, Mrs. Hepburn. She was the most dignified person that I met up until that point in life. She, like Mrs. Ross, was fierce. She was an actress who ended up not acting. Her diction was perfect and her knowledge of books and the English language was vast. She was African-American and extremely no nonsense, a woman who did not suffer fools (or laziness or indifference) gladly.

Both of these women gave me a sense of their challenges and how to overcome challenges through question, curiosity, and learning. And then to share those gifts!

3 – Where did you travel to on your most exciting vacation?

Petra, Siq

Petra Jordan, The Siq at night

God has blessed me richly through travel. I have been to numerous countries around the world, and I have loved various things about each one of them. Once again, I can’t name one, so I will pick four! (I cheat!) Seriously, I am about to reveal the embarrassment of riches of my travel experiences, how did I deserve such things?

First – when I made my first trip to Asia, visiting Hong Kong in 1989. It was such a magical experience from the first moment that I got on the plane.

Second – when I Continue reading

Soy un perdedor

soy-un-perdedor-im-a-loser-baby-so-y-dont-u-kill-meChrist was crucified, a death that the Roman occupiers saved for the very worst of the worst. It was truly a scandal. On either side of him, hung a criminal. He was the ultimate loser.

220px-The_Crucifixion_Christ_on_the_Cross_between_two_thieves_(f._80)_CroppedJesus came in peace, tending to the ones at the margins. His focus was on the wounded and the weak, the poor and the powerless, any who were rejected. Power was available to him, the worldly kind of power that puts one in charge with a very strong sense of authority. A certain less savory one tried to tempt him with this; it did not work. Offered all the worldly power and he rejects it? What kind of loser?

BlochJesusTemptedChrist washed the feet of the disciples, something they originally protested. He was pretty clear about what he was doing and why, so the washing ensued. Creepy – he bends down to wash his followers feet? Weird. Loser.Jesus-washing-feet-03

We are called to lives of humility and service. The power given to us in Christ is the power of servant leadership. We are not called to go backward in time, to restore what we might believe was good or great. The pilgrim path of Jesus invites us ever forward, ultimately from life into death. Who would do that? Loser.

Jesus could have smashed everyone and everything in his path to make his point as he lived his public ministry. Yet, he never went that way, did he? Yeah- he turned the tables over in the temple, and he seemed pretty ticked off. Um, it was the money lenders (read: moneymakers) that he lost it with. He did not side with the money people. He must be some kind of loser.

I have been accused, out loud and certainly silently, of being very preachy. Guilty as charged. I’m just a person with a blog, typing out a few words, and expressing what Christ is as far as I am concerned. Yeah – I am a loser.

I know, I am sounding all preachy again. For the record, I am largely speaking directly to myself. My own Christian life is a series of lather, rinse, repeat moments because I don’t have it quite right. Yeah yeah yeah – and I’m still doing it wrong, like a real… loser.

So here we go, step by step, forward on the road to Calvary. It will suck, be assured of that, but it is the only way, and what follows? Who would walk to their certain death, giving it all away? A loser I guess.

Below you will find one of my favorite songs, expressed in video with lyrics. You may not think one can find God in there, but I do – Christ in all things. You may not see it, but what can I tell you? I’m a loser, soy un perdador.

Exceptional

Over on Facebook, a theologian friend posted a question asking (I paraphrase) if others thought that American exceptionalism was a sin. Lots of interesting answers followed, many in agreement, clarifying why they thought it might be a sin, with more leaning towards yes. If reading these words sets you off – in either direction – hold on, that is part of the point.

One of the commenters pointed towards it being a sin because it is a lie. That makes sense to me, at least in the way that I see and understand American exceptionalism, because at its root the sin of pride is poised to leap in and co-opt, thus leading us further astray. Someone else pointed out American exceptionalism in the light nationalism, mentioning Gaudium et Spes. They also noted that St. John Paul II warned us about excessive nationalism; he certainly saw the fruit of evil that came from such a position.

NationalismThis all has me thinking because excessive nationalism, which is not to be confused with patriotism. I am worried about what grows out of such exceptionalism,  and it seems like a runaway train to me today. My biggest problem with American nationalism is that is seemed rooted – as I mentioned earlier – in excessive pride. Also, maybe it is just me, but it seems inherently disordered through the lens of faith because God has loved each and every one of us into being, so how could one country be full of people who are superior?  However, while our way of life offers us many gifts, I do not think that this is it and that everything else is flawed in some way. How arrogant is that?

As God’s people I do think that we need to keep asking ourselves questions like this, so that we are engaged with the dynamism of our lives in Christ. If we can’t see – or even be willing to see – that a position infused with the exceptionalism sort of mindset is one that risks our humanity, then I fear we are lost. The idea that we are unlike any other and without equal implies a hierarchy that is not true. It is not a big leap from this point of view to great sins such as racism, sexism, and prejudice.

Another challenge of the position is that we reduce humans, denying them of their dignity, to a “group” that we oppose. Whether it is someone denigrating all “conservatives” or putting down “liberals” as if their was but one group-hive mind among them all is ridiculous at best, and sinful at worst. That’s bad enough, but the nationalism loads up all kinds of generalizations that are simply not true – and those are lies. And we know who the purveyor of all lies is, right? Some big contemporary lies might be that all Mexicans are flooding our borders to take advantage of our way of life is a lie,  all Muslims belong to a death cult intent on destroying our way of life, all Black citizens in addition to being lazy welfare users also want to kill our police.  We could all go on and on with examples, each one uglier than the next.

Are there truths in some situations? Yes, but no all can be all anything and it is a challenge of sin to think this way. Similarly absurd would be the notion that all Americans are the best people in the world and our way of life is completely without fault. That is the exceptionalism we see so much of on parade lately, and that is dangerous territory.

This gets me back to my last post, about what we might choose. As people of God, in particular for those of us who are Roman Catholic, we are asked to live in ways so that all may be one in Christ. Instead of slicing and dicing, choosing either or, we are invited to live holistically and in service to the other. That is not so easy to do if you are inclined to pigeonhole the worth and the unworthy, the good and the bad and so forth. For about the 804,482th time I refer to Anne Lamott’s great line, illustrated in the image below.

quote-you-can-safely-assume-that-you-ve-created-god-in-your-own-image-when-it-turns-out-that-anne-lamott-16-72-26So tell me readers, what do you think? Is American exceptionalism a sin? If so – why? If so – why not? In the end, I’m left thinking that sin easily springs forth from this mindset. for the reasons I mentioned and more. I’m curious in these days of so much talk of our nation’s greatness and failure how things look to you.