Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Purity Of The Heart

images-3“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”   Matthew 5:8

An unexpected snow fell last night.  Not much.  Just about an inch.  It turned frigid again too.  Temperatures in the low teens made the snow light and fluffy.  Picture perfect, like a department store display.

After I walked the dogs, I went back out to shovel.  Before the snow got packed down.  Mine were still the only foot prints on the sidewalk.  The only marks in the thin white blanket that fell across boundaries and fences and property lines and stitched a single tapestry of our neighborhood.

It’s easy to see God in this iconic image of purity.  The driven snow.  Blinding in its purity before it is toned down by life.  The cars of people on their way to work.  More footsteps from dog walkers and kids on their way to school after the 2 hour delay today.  The sun rising higher in the sky, reducing this white blanket bit by bit.

That’s the trouble with purity.  It doesn’t hold up well.  Our images of God can be as fragile and fleeting.  Ruined by something as innocent and necessary as a man walking his dogs early as the pink sun breaks over the trees.

The snow is easy to clear.  It’s not the heavy snow we usually get here in Northern Virginia, that pushes back belligerently against the shovel and feels like a load of cement when you try to lift it.  This snow is agreeable.  Co-operative.  It yields happily to the shovel and I am able to clear the walks quickly. Except for the white footprints, where I stepped this morning, left on the cleared sidewalk like a very boring Arthur Murray dance step routine.

At the edge of the property, I look back over my work and see the traces of my steps from when the world was clean and unspoiled.  But it’s not despoiled landscape.  A different purity has emerged.  The purity of cleared sidewalks, and straight lines, waiting to receive more walkers, more footsteps to join mine, that mine may disappear into something larger.

I see the purity that Jesus means. Not the purity of the pristine.  I see the purity of labor.  The purity of care.  The purity that allows the passing footsteps of God to be clearly seen.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

In Praise Of Serpents And Sheep

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”   (Matthew 10:16)

Jesus defines two things for his followers; their reality (sheep among wolves), and the proper response to reality (wise as serpents and innocent as doves).   

The reality description goes without say for most of us.  Goodness seems overmatched and on the run just about everywhere.  The stream of daily news offers ample proof of that every night.  I don’t need to rehash that here.

It’s the response that Jesus lays out that I find most important.  Wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  First the fact that Jesus pairs these things and then goes on to give the serpent top billing.   Bet you didn’t see that coming. 

The wise serpents I’ve known have been anything but innocent and the doves have been anything but wise.   Rarely do you find these two things together.   

In fact, in the church especially, there is almost an implicit expectation that doves will disown their inner serpent.   In the world, vice versa.  We like things neat and clean.  More than anything else, the expectation that things be neat and clean has done more damage than all the serpents and all the wolves combined.

Jesus was always bringing opposing concepts together.  Sheep and wolves, serpents and doves.  The mark of faithful discipleship (authentic living) is found in the interplay between opposing realities.  Not in how well one reality dominates the other. 

The truth is not in the sheep, nor is it in the wolf.  Not in the dove, nor the serpent.   Sheep, wolf, dove, serpent; all are blessed.  The truth is in how well these opposing realities coexist and find a home in us.   How well we integrate and incorporate them into our lives. 

Could it be that Jesus is saying that this is the mark of faithful discipleship?  That this is what Jesus expects from us?  

Or in other words, in these polarized times when orthodoxies everywhere have run amok, faithful people, by the standards Jesus lays out, are marked not by how much they reject, but by how much and how many they can manage to bring together.   

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Lost Afternoon

Yesterday was a lost day.  No, I didn’t come down with amnesia.  I wasn’t wandering the "Alice in Wonderland" streets of DC.

seda-cars-peopleI spent the day at the Nissan dealership buying out the lease on our car.

You’d think that would be a pretty straightforward process.  Sign a few things, shake a few hands, and on your way.  Ha.

No, our car had to be inspected first. I was told I needed new tires to pass inspection.  I pointed out that if Nissan didn’t put such crappy tires on their cars in the first place, I wouldn’t need tires after 25,000 miles, but thank you, I knew that and would be stopping for new tires on my way home.

“Oh, we can do that here,” they said.

“Oh, how nice,” I said.

My Odyssey had now begun.

I spent the rest of the afternoon shuttling from person to person.  I saw the service manager, the salesman, the lease specialist, the appraiser, the business manager, back to sales, back to service.  I learned their first names.  I met the cleaning people.

Now it worked out OK.  In fact, everyone was very polite and courteous.  They all apologized continually about the process and thanked profusely me for my patience at every opportunity.

I was given a loaner because they kept our car overnight to do the tires and alignment.  Which could be considered pretty devious once I'd already decided to keep the old car.  But that's another story.

The bottom line is that despite spending a lost day, and now a follow up later today to get the car back, the end result was good.  Took a while to get there, but here we are.

It was like having the flu for a day.  At least you get to choose which day.  And on the bright side, nothing can make you quite as grateful for an ordinary gray Wednesday afternoon in January, as driving away from a car dealership with a fat envelope of carbon copies and a complimentary pen.  This must be what a caught and released bass feels like!

I couldn’t help but wonder though, while I was wading through this process, if this kind of paper work, background checking, DMV statements, papers signed to verify that I signed other papers, is what you go through to get a gun?

And, if not, why not?