Monday, July 29, 2019

Reflections on Praying: Luke 11

We have three pots of inpatients at the front door, one large and two small, that are third year cuttings off the original. I know from previous years each cutting seems to increase the blooms. i liken this to the way I study the Scripture from the daily office. The last five years i have been reflecting on verb forms and adjectives in the daily Gospel cuttings. Especially after the crossing over/other side, translation of the word peran, where Jesus and the disciples encounter the storm on Lake Galilee. This account, told differently sometimes, is in all four Gospels. All of us encounter various storms in life. Some bigger than others. They are part of our growing up, our maturation, our transformation, just as the crossing over/other side became part of the disciples transformation. They actually write from the other side, retelling the story before the Resurrection cross over. We too are the same after a significant crossing over.  The afterwards may even change what we remember and resurrect stories long forgotten.

The Collect for today ( Pentecost VII ) connects with these transition experiences, that “we may pass through things temperate that we lose not the things eternal.” 

After beginning a grief recovery group in 1976 where listening to the story was an important part of the healing, I remembered my first grade teacher who listened to my story after I was told my dog Topsy had been run over. (1935) I ran back to the country school to tell Miss Spencer. She is the only grade school teacher whose name I remember, she made a significant difference. She continues to be my earliest source of who makes a difference in a loss. 

This is how all of us add to the Christian story in our own time. I recently read the Alexandrian mystics in the 4th century were very much aware of updating the Christian experience in their own time. We do the same today in the telling of our Faith stories. We update the Christian story.

Turning to the cutting from Chapter 11 in Luke’s Gospel we have an opportunity to update our experiences with Prayer. Prayer life includes our pre existing conditions and a pre existing environment already in process. Luke’s account starts when Jesus receives a request. “Teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.” Quest is part of request. Literally quest again and again. A great title for this Gospel reading. Journey again and again in prayer continuously. I want to amplify and explain and then you can come to your own conclusions. Hopefully, you already Quest again and again in prayer continuously. As each cutting in our Scripture experience blooms we add understanding and insight again and again.. 

Jesus begins teaching with the Lord’s Prayer. In the Lord’s Prayer we have several revealing Greek verb forms. English verb forms are more time oriented. Greek are more action oriented. The Greek present imperative involves continuous action. Give us this day, Give is in the continuous action. Hallowed, forgive, deliver are in the aorist imperative form with a focus on the now.

After the prayer we have a parable. My guess is the story brought a smile to those who first heard it. Jesus reveals himself as a serious clown in the way he tells the story.  What is this? Going at midnight. That gets your attention. And the request for three leaves of bread for a guest. Someone is a big eater. And someone was completely unprepared. We usually pray when we are in a situation where we are unprepared. Vulnerable. The intruding doesn’t get a response from friendship. Rather the The point of the story, Persistence wins out. Aorist imperative, persist in the now. 

This is the first lesson.

Now for the how,  ask, seek (search), and knock. All these verbs are present imperatives meaning continuously. the More conscious I become of this language I visualize my prayers continuing after I say the words. Prayer is a flowing stream that we enter by asking, seeking, knocking, persisting. Like the air we breath, prayer is a continuous environment. Most of the time we are not conscious of our breathing until we take a deep breath or have shortness of breath. Prayer is a deep breath of consciousness and our awareness of need.

Ask, seek, knock, are orientation metaphors. And add persist for your orientation in the now.  This isn’t a smart phone selfie approach to prayer. This is an orientation for continuous questing and reaching out. Our picture is one of the Other with a capital O. This is an orientation for continuous questing and reach out out.

The action orientation of the Greek verbs are very clear about how we orient ourselves for expected outcomes in receive, find, and open. Notice the outcomes are very general. They lack specifics. 

This is the second lesson.

Now Prayer becomes a unitive, at one with the one Being addressed. initiating and outcomes go together, a both and, A being and becoming experience. We exercise our being as we ask, seek, knock, and persist for  the outcomes are part of our becoming, always coming into being continuously.

Luke continues and closes with an essential story amplifying becoming and the unitive. His conclusion is not found in the other Gospels, Prayer is in the context of love. For asking we are not given a serpent or  a scorpion rather the Father will give much more for our asking, The Holy Spirit, our advocate, the one alongside who leads us into truth. 

Prayer is now a radical relationship between ourselves and the Other, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  

This is the third lesson.

On a practical level, Our Book of Common Prayer provides a continuous outcome as a place to ask, seek, knock and persist in the present. The dynamic of the Holy Spirit is present in the daily office along with a host of liturgical and sacramental resources, liturgies for the significant times in our life  Then we have the Christian Year,, the Book of Psalm, special prayers. They all help us connect the dots in our stories continuously, connecting by looking back and adding meaning. Forward is where we ask, seek, knock and as the dots connect we receive, find, and live in a open way. Such is the dynamic of a loving father through the Holy Spirit. Amen

Friday, July 5, 2019

Sports Metaphor: A Cup of Tea

Sports Metaphor: A Cup of Tea


Context is always a part of the story and this metaphor would be out of place with another team and country. But with England tea has a historic context and sipping tea is very English. Since Americans celebrate the Boston Tea Party as pat of our win over England we now have another win with another tea metaphor reminder.

The Sports writer maintains the metaphor all through the article. I won’t send the whole article. We can say he gives us an example of the extended metaphor. 

Des Bieler on July 2 in the Washington Post gave his article this title: Alex Morgan’s goal celebration was certainly not some England’s fans cup of tea.

“Alex Morgan’s goal Tuesday against England accomplished a lot. It gave the United States the decisive margin for a 2-1 win that propelled the team to the Women’s World Cup final, it provided quite the icing on Morgan’s 30th birthday cake and, for those inclined to see the game in the context of impending Independence Day celebrations, her jersey number of 13 neatly matched the number of colonies that banded together in the Revolutionary War.

The goal also made it extremely difficult for some England fans to maintain a stiff upper lip. That’s because Morgan celebrated the tally by doing this:

That’s right, Morgan followed up a goal that ultimately led to England suffering a painful defeat by pretending to sip from a cup of tea. Jolly good troll job!”

Join me in Enjoying Sports Metaphors,
Marlin Whitmer

Thursday, July 4, 2019

A Funeral Homily on Paddy's Journey

Homily for Paddy Blackman: An honor to be asked and a challenge to deliver.

"On my retirement page Patty quoted one of my favorite lines, “To be continued.” I now continue as she requested.

There are many facets to Patty’s life. She is a special person, a Wise woman, committed to family and community, adventurous in running and hiking, deeply relational and Faith oriented in her writing and friendships.  

Running Home: An Across Iowa Journal, a book she and Jennifer Figge wrote when they made their run across Iowa provides us with some insights. 

On the first day, the introduction to her inward journey, she wrote, “Immediately I felt and began thinking about the whole idea of journey, a pilgrimage. The story of the journey is part of every cultures mythology and the journey seemed like life itself.” She joins Abraham in the Book of Genesis, who left Ur, leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar, traveling in stages in the Negev. She and Jennifer, going across Iowa from Council Bluffs to Muscatine, journaling as they went, traveling in stages.

Earlier in the 1980’s Patty made another kind of journey when she took the Befriender training in story listening. She served as a Befriender for ten years, visiting one morning a week beginning with the chapel service,. All were required to debrief before leaving the hospital. During a debriefing after a long visit with a dying patient Paddy said she wished she had known where to refer her. I said I am glad you didn’t know. You would have interrupted her story. Not knowing as knowing is a paradox. She said but my mother stressed knowing. I said today you left home. You let her complete her story and that was good. We will refer to Social Service. 

Knowing was important to Paddy. “I need to know” and “I needed to know” appear twice in the short reflection on the first day of paddy’s Journal within. Then she knows, Journaling is a way of knowing. 

Paddy was part of a writer’s group for many years and in 2012 I needed her to edit some of my writings. After retiring I facilitated a distance learning seminar for the Wayne Oates Institute on the Healing Power of Story Listening.  

I wanted to make a video of my seminar. As an English major she understood our focus on the way metaphors function in story listening. She read my papers previously prepared for the distance learning seminar. At our next meeting she said, “you can’t use these.” That was Patty. Straight forward. “You have footnotes, and you are the footnote. Start with your best stories and use a creative writing style.” That was like starting from the beginning, it was my run across Iowa. Five months later the Healing Power of Story Listening workshop was videotaped in April of 2013. Patty knew what I needed to do.

We all have our stories of knowing Paddy, Those in the family. Those in the community, Review and share your stories more than once. They are part of connecting the dots for a better understanding and a continuing celebration of her life. 

Connecting the dots was Patty’s preferred term for connecting with Scripture stories, the stories of others, and our own stories. She appreciated the insights of the Greek words in the New Testament, parakaleo, a called one alongside, a listening presence. She resonated with the endings of the Greek word for Listen which guide us in how we listen.

Another insight comes from her Journal writing leading to an Aha! Discoveries at the end of our writing are not always anticipated in the beginning. The embedded pattern of a Socratic dialogue can be experienced, helping us to know what we already know but don’t know we know.

I will illustrate with two readings from Patty’s journals.

The one more recent, June 20, and the other comes as the closing lines in her Journaling during the Run Across Iowa.

“Not such a great sleep but back spasms have abated. Gut problems have not. The reality of Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. New time of life—Ah!, precious time and precious life—no time for waning courage or joy—both needed more than ever. Much joy last night at Isabella’s 20th birthday party. Boyfriend Anders—there’s a terrific young man and a total delight. So good to see. Add invited JD which is/was kindness in the flesh and Lois & JD came together. Great evening with all there. I am starting to grieve leaving them all. I love them all so much—such treasures, so unique, so full of life and enthusiasm. I hate to make them sad—I have always hated disappointing people I love. God, how I want them to be happy—as if I have anything to do with it! Well, I still believe I do have something to do with it—Love! And if I am capable, for brief moments, unconditional love which has such power. I want to make it to my 50th wedding anniversary—and not as an invalid, but that might not be in the cards! God’s will. I am starting to feel a force to fight to live—to accept that or try to determine God’s will for me. So many decisions— efforts—to please others and myself—at what cost? Keep pushing or relinquish? Anne MacBurney talked so much about relinquishment in the last years of her life—one by one or maybe in clumps we give up all that we love. It was running and energy and self-image and ability— will I relinquish enthusiasm? But surely I do not have to relinquish love.”

From Paddy’s Across Iowa Journal.
“Our summits appear on individual horizons, in different seasons and at varying altitudes. Whatever my summit may be, whenever it may be, running home seemed but preparation and practice for a bigger run.” 

Paddy has made the bigger run to Eternity. The Lord Bless Her in her Timeless journey." 

Marlin Whitmer, Ret. Hospital Chaplain and founder of the Befrienders.

Special Topics for Changing Times

Listserv to discuss special topics for changing 

This article appeared In the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa Journal for July

The Rev. Cn Marlin Whitmer began a listserv in the Diocese of Iowa in the late 1990s called The Scripture Ministry in Daily Life and it eventually became Ministry Formation Online. The list continued until the end of 2014.

Marlin would like to re-launch that list with a focus on Special Topics for Changing Times beginning with Mental Health and Christian Formation. His interest in mental health comes from an adult son and daughter with severe mental illness. One is presently in a long-term care facility and the other is in a 24/7 group home. Marlin is now on the Scott County Mental Health Court Board. This is a 2 or 3 year program for those incarcerated to become stabilized and receive reduced time/eliminate their sentence. He believes that connecting the dots and networking in the maze of a present piece-meal approach to mental illness is a social justice need in our time and that the Iowa legislature needs to provide proper funding for the continuum of care required with mental illness issues.
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