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Part 2 of Hallowed be Halloween.

There is nothing quite like a child who prepares for their Halloween costume.  Thinking about the alternate identity.  Determining what they could stand to be and what they could not.  There is nothing like the child that comes to your door and peaks from around their mask to let us see their faces.  They often say “its me”.   Such hope to be known (even behind some very gross masks) is one of the good practices of Halloween.  Shame on us if we do not want to know who is under the mask when they come to our door.

There is something about growing up.  The dynamic with masks changes.  No longer are they purchased.  No longer are they always chosen.  They seem to slip on and before we know it we are wearing the mask of aggressor or victim.  The mask of trickster or know-it-all finds its way around our identity.  Masks of honor and shame, either one, can stifle.  Once a child and now an adult, we allow the masks to stay where they are not welcome because we are no longer children but adults.  We fear we should have known better than to have this mask.  After all, when we were children we picked them.

The mask of an adult requires a different sort of courage.  But we must remember that they once played peek-a-boo and they are still children of God.    Halloween whispers a divine question….”Who is behind the mask?”.

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Weight Watchers tells me, “Count your points.”

Points are a way to anticipate how the consumption of food finds body mass and becomes weight.   The goal is that the body weigh less but not nothing.

Points are a hassle.  The counting of points requires attention if not mindfulness.  The counting of points can consume a day.   So after three weeks of refusing, (and I do have regular times when I refuse to count) I will start counting points midweek when it seems too late to do so.   Not only for my body but also for my soul.

I will count the points because I am not a good judge of the weight I throw around.

The points counted provide me a better sense of the weight of myself.  Of course, I do not just consume food.  There is an invitation to consume life and its experiences.   Those, too, need counting.  For some experiences “cost more” to consume than others.  Again, I am not good a good judge of the weight I throw around unless I am mindful of what I am taking in.

So in my forties, after consuming a lot of junk, I have grown weary of it.  I simply don’t consume the fast or process foods  as much as I used to.   This habit was a long time in coming.  Synchronizing the body and mind is years of work.  Funny, I thought my mind was ahead of my body.  When in reality, my body was the laboratory for my mind to learn the method that would also have a terrific spiritual benefit.

In my forties, I can also say that I have consumed a lot of spiritual junk as well.   Again, an expensive way to consume resulting in a weighted experience that I am tempted to throw around as I relate to others.  I used to take in and digest experiences that are the spiritual equivalent to junk food.  This I do not do anymore.  Rather, I savor what is fresh, life-giving and full of possibility.  This is not always comforting ingestion.  Painful experiences can be full of possibility.  This is not always self-focused ingestion.  How I treasure feasting with others as they celebrate their power and their empowerment of others.   Gorging no longer works.  The ingestion of what gives life and is robust with possibility requires the homage of careful breakdown upon the palate of life.  These are my best prayers….the digesting ones that never find adequate words.    Such a spiritual diet leaves me ready to “weigh in” confidently.

What is life-giving, fresh and full of possibility  is not expensive to consume.  The expense is in their breakdown, digestion and assimilation into my life…..as fiber to my soul.   Take, eat, this is my body….freshly broken,  full of possibility and life-giving.     You will not throw your weight my child, you will use it to carry my yoke.  

Jesus and weight watchers?  Well, for me anyway.  After all, he loved to eat.

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I would not say that our house is enamoured with Halloween.  The children have dressed up in years past.  They have all walked the trick or treat route.  But at the end of each year, hey are ready to go home a bit early and they are a bit uncertain of the most gruesome costumes.  One year, as my children were worried about a group of marauding teens dressed like ghouls, one mother said to me….”Leslie, the holiday is good for your kids it  will toughen them up!”   But I wonder….is the holiday meant to desensitize us to the gruesomeness or  the uncertainty of tricks and treats?  Or is All Hallow’s Eve, in the spirit of all good festivals, intended to increase our sensitivity so that we can live with a greater sense of adventure?

Every week in church, we say the Lord’s Prayer.  Some say the ritual is good for us.  That is softens our heart and makes us better people.  But again I wonder. Is the prayer or even the art of praying meant to keep us docile and obedient before a mysterious God?   Or, could prayer be a ritual meant to increase our sensitivity to life and the adventure of faith?

It has been a temptation within the Christian church to distance Halloween and good Christian fun even though the two had so much to do with one another in the early church.  Perhaps over the next several weeks we can consider,  “Hallowed be Halloween”!

 

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Dripping faucet

Image via Wikipedia

There is a faucet in my house that sits the greatest distance from our water heater.  If I am patient, what runs cold from this faucet will eventually warm up.  If I return often, the residual warmth is ready.  But this faucet’s position is always a great distance from the heating source.  I am responsible for calling for the warmth and welcoming it whenever it arrives.    1 Corinthians 13:1-7.

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Texting on a keyboard phone

Image via Wikipedia

Texting is a challenge to the human experience.  It challenges us to be articulate without our full communication arsenal at our disposal.  It challenges us to be brief and agile in our response time.  Texting challenges us to feel connected and yet be balanced in our solitude.  The High School Sunday School class at First Presbyterian Church of Osawatomie is studying texting in detail over the next four weeks.  This week, they will consider texting and the body. 

This subject is important because the state of our body influences our ability to communicate and text well and faithfully.  The subject is also important because the mechanics of texting makes great demands on our body.  The interdependence of the body and technology is remarkable.  Texting is just another part of the reality that we human beings are both organic and mechanistic.  Replaced knees, hearing aids, pacemakers, eyeglasses were earlier ways we enhanced our body joining it to technology.  Such a partnership, we found, could greatly enrich life.  When our body was aided, our psyches were released and more open to experiencing life.    

As a person of the Christian faith, scripture and tradition instruct me that my body was the design of the Ultimate Source of Creativity, God.  The hand-held device by which I text is a secondary creation even as it is full of wonder.  So, when I think about this partnership and how to manage it, I want to draw on the wisdom of the primary creation in order to guide my behavior and decisions.  In other words, using these fundamental observations regarding God’s design of the human body, how shall I be a person who texts faithfully?  

What shall we say of the body and the technology of texting?  We might begin by saying that our body is itself, a messaging system.  The body is hardwired, chemically triggered and a cautious receptor of the external environment.

 The body is hardwired in countless ways but perhaps the most fundamental of connections would be the synapse within our nervous system.   The synapses are both chemical and electric and are the means by which neurons (cells with a message) make their way to target cells that need their message.   Our body and brain’s hardwiring needs excellent nutrition in order to stay functional.   

So too, our texting needs to be of a quality that it enriches and nourishes other people’s lives and potential.  Of course there will be lots of pragmatic texts but I have also heard of texting that is sent in order to remind human beings  of their potential and their contributions.  Like food for thought to the brain, texting can empower the living of other human beings.

The body is chemically triggered in countless ways, but  a chemical of particular interest of the human being is the chemical serotonin.  This chemical performs a great many functions within the body which includes the working of all sorts of muscles.  Properly balanced, serotonin  allows for experience of happiness and satisfaction.  Out of balance and the human being can suffer from depression.  It is thought that protein rich diet, B-6 and daily exercise a healthy amount of serotonin in the body.   

Texting can trigger a chemical response within the human being.  Texts can trigger, excite, alarm us.  Because texting increases the amount of information that comes our way and affects the chemical reactions within our body, the wisdom of balance as discovered in research on serotonin becomes an important clue in texting faithfully.   We must balance anxiety with a calm responsiveness.  Not unlike Jesus stilling the storm for worried disciples.  We must balance alarm with a clarity of mind and strategic response.  Not unlike Jesus’ response when he is arrested in Gethsemane.  We must balance our anger or fear with a trust and confidence.  Jesus is remembered as saying,  “Forgive them for they know not what they do” from the cross.  If we do this…communication will less likely go haywire and relationships strengthened and individuals more resilient.

The body is a receptor of external information without being completely vulnerable to the exterior world.  Of course, our skin serves this most basic function.  It is sensitive to the outside world while simultaneously filtering and protecting the body from infectious and hazardous elements.  The skin can receive hydration gratefully one minute and detect an infection that needs to be fought off in the next.  Decisions, decisions.  So that even when our phone receives text messages, it is important to remember that we are not our phone.  We do not have to take in the messages that are received.  We can make decisions  to receive or reject all for the welfare and strength of our human pilgrimage.

So, somewhat playfully, this week we will offer our teens three body basic rules for texting:

1.  HARD WIRED RULE – I will remember my body does get tired and depleted.  When I am depleted and tired, I am not at my best to communicate in a faithful way.  I will let my phone charge while I take in lots of vitamins, minerals and rest.

2.  CHEMICAL RULE – I will remember that balance is the key to feeling good.  I will not overindulge in gossip, negativity or worry when I text.  Occasionally, I will move beyond passive texting and offer “food for thought” to those I love and care about.

3.  SKIN DEEP RULE – I will remember that I can receive information without taking it all to my innermost places of mind and heart.  When I am confused by others communication, I will take time to think before I vent to another person or fire off a quick response.  When I receive hurtful information, I will manage it before it makes its way too far into my heart and mind.   When I receive important information that is painful, I will find a way to take it into my system so that I am stronger and more resilient. 

Perhaps with such rules, we will feel less like triggered cyborgs driven by our devices and more like thoughtful human beings whose faith will be known despite any hex in the text.

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Weekends are about returning a pattern of self care and community.  We step away from the routine of the work week and we want to make the most of our time. This often requires a shift in our mind set.  We might be focused on:  getting free of work week resentments; being more mentally available to our families;  mobilizing ourselves for imporant home improvements; or readying ourselves for community events.  Whatever the weekend,  if we want to shift the mind, we must first get the body’s attention. 

The ability to guide our mind (instead of having random thougths guide us) begins with breathe control.  This can lead to greater awareness.   Yoga is an ultimate practice in breathe control and awareness.  Often associated with Eastern Religions, it is important to note that Yoga is not a religion or the practice of one religion but “…an aid to practice the spiritual truths in all religions” (www.dlshq.org/teachings/yoga.html

There is a great deal of conversation on the internet about whether or not Yoga and Chrisitanity are compatible.  With intention, I believe they are.  Yoga can be a spiritual practice for the Christian person in a number of ways.  Sometimes, pracitioners couple scripture with postures and yoga becomes a way to reflect on sacred texts.   Another option is to use the postures to pause and meditate intentionally upon a life dilemma in light of who we believe God is calling us to be.  Still another option is to focus on health and healing as one moves through the poses.  In this last example, healing and health can be physical or social.   There are a number of websites that offer information about how Christians can use yoga to increase their Christian mindfulness and discipleship.  A great one is http://www.christianspracticingyoga.com.

Breathe deep … its another weekend!

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