Friday, January 27, 2006


There is no ideal arrangement. No optimal steady state. No lasting configuration of the way it ought to be. All we get are momentary flashes. A glimpse, a hint, an ephemeral sense of the possibilities, a taste of what could be. We see, from time to time, how things might be only if. And, then it is gone. And we are wondering how we could be out of coffee, or what happened to the half-and-half.

We place too much emphasis on getting things right. Not that things shouldn’t be as right as we can make them. Not that we should be satisfied with “government work.” Not that we shouldn’t keep the house dusted and vacuumed, and the leaves out of the gutters. We certainly should do the things that need doing. And this is exactly my point. We will never get them done. We should just do the things that need doing. And, when we think of, or see, something else that needs doing, we should do it as well. That’s it.

We aren’t trying to achieve perfection here. We aren’t out to arrange the world like it ought to be by nightfall, or in our lifetime. We are just doing what needs to be done. Right now. In this moment. And, letting that be that.

And, we have to draw the line. We have to say, “I know that needs doing, but I need a nap. I’ll see you in the later.” There have to be overriding commitments. “I’m going to take a walk.” I can’t think of many things that trump a nap or a walk. Or a cup of coffee. We have to take a solemn oath to do the things that really need doing, and get to the other things as we are able. We have to know what is important. We have to draw lines.

We are much too driven by the compulsion to serve someone else’s needs at the expense of our own. It is right to take our lunch hour to visit a neighbor in the hospital, but it isn’t right to take our lunch hour to nap in the car. My advice is that you work the things that are important to you, personally, into every day. Certainly into every week. Putting ourselves last all the time is no more admirable, or healthy, than putting ourselves first all the time. We are working to integrate our needs with what has need of us. Get that down, and that’s truly it. There is nothing else to consider, ponder, or worry about. And, we can’t do that without drawing lines.

Drawing lines means saying “No.” There are two necessary skills: Saying “No.” And, taking “No” for an answer. Get those babies down, so that you know when to do which, and you have it made. Or, close enough. Which do you do best? Is it easier for you to say “No,” or to take “No” for an answer? Spend the next week doing what’s hard. Practice your “inferior skill.” Look at it as one more thing that needs doing.

We never run out of things that need doing. We never get it done. We never get to quit, except on those occasions when quitting needs doing. But, then we only quit one thing to pick up another. So, we aren’t trying to achieve some Golden Age where things are exactly as they should be. We are just puttering around, trying to get things more like they ought to be than they are. Living this moment as well as we are able, and doing it again in the next moment. And, being conscious of the importance of incarnating God in every moment.

Did I say “incarnating God”? You might know I would add something ridiculous to the pile. Of course, we hear the phrase so often, it sounds doable, but not. The God-like qualities are the biggie. Whose idea of God are we going to incarnate? The people who denigrate homosexuals have an idea of God. The people who blow up themselves and other people with them have an idea of God. Would the real God please stand up? The real God is practically invisible. Practically incognito. Practically unrecognizable. Practically gone. In exile. Banished to the far outback of the distant hinterlands by the clamoring hoard of Mighty Sleek Pretenders to the Title.

Whose God is God, is the question. The world is full of possibilities. Maybe we should take a vote. How else will we ever decide? We could have run-off elections. That would be better than shooting it out, which seems to be the popular method of determining whose God is God. After the smoke clears away, the real God is still standing. You have to admit that it is hard to match the sheer stupidity of this approach. But, what are we going to do?

Whose idea of God are we gong to incarnate in the moments of our living? What are the God-like qualities that we are going to enflesh with our flesh, aerate with the oxygen in our blood? Who is to say? How do we know?

Why would you believe me—take my word for it—adopt my view—over Jerry Falwell, or Pat Robertson, or Joel Osteen, or Rick Warren, or the Mormons, or the Muslims, or the Orthodox Jews, or the Reformed Jews, or the Hindus, or the Tibetan Buddhists, or the Cambodian Buddhists, or the Bahais, or any of the rest of the ten million ideas of God? I’d say you have a problem. Everything hangs on how you solve it, and there is no solution in sight. Is there any wonder that so many people say to hell with religion in all forms? Who can blame them? It, at least, solves the problem of having an insoluble problem. It’s taking a sword to the Gordian Knot. But, even then, they have to live in light of something, toward something, away from something. They can say to hell with religion if they want to, but they have to have some idea of what is worth their life.

We cannot escape the need for an organizing principle, a core value, or core values, around which our lives coalesce. We cannot live well without some sense, some idea, of who we are and what we are about. I don’t care who you are, where you are, when you are, it comes down to Identity, Focus, Purpose, Vision, Clarity, and Awareness. There has to be something at the center, something pulling us forward, something pushing us on.

We cannot avoid the question. Who do you say God is? What are you going to do about it?

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