Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Anglican Curate goes to Prison!!

Sooooooo....Fr. Tim, where have you been keeping yourself?

Good question!  I know it's been quite a while since my last posting but since some ideas have been swirling around in my brain lately and looking for an outlet, I thought I'd get my theological butt in gear and start writing again.

There have been some fairly significant changes in my life since I last wrote.  In December, after almost 2 long years of unemployment (in the secular realm.  I still worked like a dog for that taskmaster Fr. Terry.  hehehehe) a friend of mine let me know about a Chaplain's position that was opening up at the Prison where he worked in Kentucky.  He thought it might be a good fit for me so I interviewed.  And low and behold...THEY HIRED ME!

January saw me moving down to Eastern Kentucky ahead of my family to set up house and begin my training.  My family followed a week later and Voila! here we are.  I'm loving the work of a Prison Chaplain.  It's challenging but it also allows me to explore the Grace of God in new and exciting ways.  The family is settling in well and we are off again on a new journey. 

So...Welcome to the all new Echos of My Mind (theological reflections of an Anglican CHAPLAIN)

Monday, June 28, 2010

The God Who Questions

Why is that at our most difficult times, when we have the most questions of God, He does not answer us?  Certainly the One who is from all eternity has the answers we want.  Certainly He could dispel all our doubts and anxiety with but a word.  But more often than not when we cry out our questions we are met with a nagging silence.  It's nagging because somehow, somewhere, deep down inside of us, we wonder if maybe we have asked the wrong question or even are not entitled to ask the question in the first place.

Like many things with God, I believe the solution lies in relationship.  We too often get our relationship with God wrong.  He is not the Object of our quest but rather He is the Subject.  We are not outside of God examining Him.  He is examining us.  He is testing us.  He is determining our metal, trying our imperfections, setting us in right relationship to him.

Peter Kreeft in his excellent book on the Wisdom literature of the Bible, "Three Philosophies of Life", says that the answer as to why God does not directly answer Job's questions of him is that it is not about who Job is but rather who God is.
"Because of what God is, he cannot show up in answer to Job's questions, in function of Job's needs.  God will not answer Job because God is not the Answer Man.  He is not the Answerer, the Responder.  He is the Initiator, the Questioner."
How often does Jesus answer the questions of the Pharisees or his Disciples with not an answer but a question?  "Should we stone this woman?"  "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."  Our questions of God are typically of the kind that ask what kind of God He is.  Is He truly all powerful, is He truly all good, etc.?  What God often responds is, "Who are you?"

Who am I?  Am I someone who desires God above all else?  Even above the answer to my question?  Do I long to see God's face or am I simply satisfied with His back?  Will I allow Him to question me and lay bare my soul so that I may be made whole?  When God shows up and responds to Job, not with answers but with questions, Job answers
"Before, I knew you only by hearsay but now, having seen you with my own eyes, I retract what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:5-6
 Job has his answer, finally.  God is. And that is enough.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Quest for Higher Purpose

In his ground-breaking book "The Quest for Community", Traditional Conservative sociologist Robert A. Nisbit wrote,
"Is not the most appealing popular religious literature of the day that which presents religion, not in its timeless role of sharpening man's awareness of the omnipresence of evil and the difficulties of salvation, but as a means of relief from anxiety and frustration?  It enjoins not virtue but adjustment.  Are not the popular areas of psychology and ethics those involving either the theoretical principles or the therapeutic techniques of status and adjustment for the disinherited and insecure?  'In what other period of human existence,' asks Isaiah Berlin, 'has so much effort been devoted not to the painfully difficult task of looking for light, but to the protection . . . of individuals from the intellectual burden of facing problems that may be too deep or complex?'  Every age has its literature of regeneration.  Our own, however, is directed not to the ancient desire of man for higher virtue but to the obsessive craving of men for tranquillity and belonging. (emphasis mine)
This last line has caused me to think a little about how we order our daily lives.  "Quest for Community" is now 55 years old.  Yet I believe that Nisbit was almost prophetic in describing our detached, isolated, Facebook obsessed culture.  Last night I posted the final line of the above quote and began discussing the topic on-line with a friend of mine.  I love getting into these discussions with her since she often challenges me to be clear about what I am saying (something that Priests and philosophers can, notoriously, be bad at).

She simply asked me whether or not I thought that the quote about the craving for tranquillity and belonging was a good or bad thing.  On the face of it, these seem to be desirable commodities.  They evoke warm, comfortable feelings.  We can imagine ourselves sitting upon a green hill in the lush countryside, leaning against our beloved, firm in his or her embrace.  If we listen closely we can almost hear the sound of song birds in the distance.  These are good things, right?  However, Nisbit was not using these terms in this way.  Instead, he is using the terms as precisely as can be in order to evoke in us a visceral reaction to their textbook definitions.

Monday, May 24, 2010

And the Beat Goes On

OK...so I'm 43 years old today.  Opening my Facebook this morning showed me just how much one life touches and is touched by others.  I have a huge smile on my face because, until you see it down on (digitized) paper, you have no idea how many friends you have.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rest in Peace

This past week I was honored to be asked to do the funeral for the son of one of my best friends.  Dustin was only 18 years old and died of unknown causes on Thanksgiving.  The funeral of a young man is always difficult but when it is sudden and unexpected the task becomes daunting.

I knew that I would be preaching before a large crowd of mourners at Dustin's High School.  What could I say?  What would offer comfort to both teens and adults who sat with broken hearts and looked on, seeking answers?  It has always been my habit and belief that the only thing that I can truly offer in these times is the Gospel.  And so that is what I gave.

The term "Rest in Peace" is so common to us all that we sometimes overlook the context.  Why have we been given these words to use during times of death?  Because it is a statement of faith.  Rest in Peace is not a request it is a statement of fact.  When a person puts their trust in Jesus and then orders their life in such a way that they seek to follow His way of love, then the end of temporal life becomes a resting from a job well done.  Christ Jesus has already done the hard work of defeating death.  He has already transformed death from a finality to a transition from temporal to eternal life.  There is no fear of the end of things for those who put their trust in God.  There is only peace.

Dustin's life was one lived to the benefit of others.  He reached out to all who had need and was a young man who did so selflessly.  His mother told me a story about how one bad weather day a couple of winters ago, Dustin got up early, loaded his truck with chains and jumper cables, and headed out on the highway just to see if anyone needed help.  It wasn't his job.  He could have been home, safe and warm and playing video games.  But he had a desire to serve others.  His was a life in which the Parable of the Good Samaritan was lived out.  I will miss Dustin and my heart grieves for his parents.  But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that his life will always serve as an example of love for all those who knew him.  Rest in Peace, Dustin.  May Light Perpetual shine upon you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Your Cheatin' Heart

Recently God has been focusing my attention on the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  In part this has been because of the changes that have taken place in my own marriage.  The sudden change that takes place in the marriage when a spouse becomes paralyzed can focus your attention on the nature of your relationship and the commitment to the vows you have made.  But lately I have also witnessed more than my share of marriages breaking up for a variety of reasons.

 Over at the Washington Times, Cheryl Wetzstein has been looking into the recent announcement that David Letterman had been found to be cheating on his long-time girlfriend (now wife).  She comments on this by referencing a study done by the University of Chicago on Co-habitation.  The finding show that

"of 3,500 people found that 94.6 percent of cohabiters and 98.7 percent of married people expected sexual exclusivity from their partners.

But the survey found that expecting fidelity didn't mean getting fidelity, especially among unmarried people. Of married men, 4 percent said they had cheated on their wives in the past year. Of cohabiting men, 16 percent had cheated. And of single men with steady girlfriends, 37 percent had cheated."
Perhaps even more astounding is the fact that this tendency toward infidelity does not diminish when those who previously co-habitated finally get married.  Why is this?  The answer is fairly simple.  It is because marriage is created by God for something more simply sharing of expenses.

In the 1549 English Prayer Book, the beginning of the Service of Matrimony reminds all those gathered for the event that
"[Marriage] is not to be enterprised, nor taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God, duly considering the causes for the which matrimony was ordained."

How often is Marriage undertaken for reasons that satisfy only our "carnal lusts and appetites"?  Does the Church spend enough time teaching the purposes of marriage?  Or have we simply made marriage the door prize for not having sex out of wedlock?

Since the two people who are joined together are intended to live as a Sacrament, perhaps we as the Church need to spend a lot more time preparing couples to live this life according to God's purposes.

Photographs used under Wiki Commons license.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My First Post

Ok.  This is the first time I'm attempting to do a blog.  It's kind of an outlet for me while I've got some free time on my hands.  If you find something here that interests you...please enter into the conversation.  I will, however, have a few rules (you knew that one was coming didn't you).
  • Argue persuasively.  If you've got an opinion feel free to share it but do it with the intent to persuade NOT to denegrate.
  • Vulgarity is the last resort of an exhausted vocabulary.  Although mild inflections may be used, vulgarity will be deleted.
  • If you make a statement of fact, be prepared to back it up.
Alright.  Now that that's off my chest, let me tell you a bit about me.  I am a 42 year old Anglican Priest who lives in the Metro Detroit area.  For those who care about such things, I am a member of the Missionary Society of St. John the Evangelist, part of Forward in Faith North America and a priest in the Anglican Church of North America.  I serve as a Curate (Associate Priest) of Saint John the Apostle in Clinton Township.

For the last 14 years I have been overjoyed to be married to the most wonderful, Sicilian sprite.  We have two beautiful daughters who are the precious gems of my life.  Anna recently became a quadrapalygic so we are learning new things about committment and the Sacrament of Marriage.

I am an voratious reader and enjoy the beach, fall, World of Warcraft, preaching the Word of God and pretty much anything that brings the warmth of hearth and home.