Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Aloha" is Hawaiian for "Stop Texting"

I've been in Hawaii the last week doing some talks on forgiveness at the University of Hawaii-Manoa's Newman Center.  A fantastic, fantastic community of people, one that a lot of Jesuits I know have raved about over the years. It's been great to be with them.

And it's been so interesting to be in Hawaii, too.  A lot of last week was spent doing some school work and work on talks, but I've also had a couple days of R&R.  And a number of things have struck me.

For instance: Vacation is a lot like retreat.  The first thing you have to do -- and it's a really hard thing -- is to unplug and slow down.

I came to Hawaii going almost as fast as the plane that flew me into the airport.  I was online all the time, keeping up with some things going on at school, up late, going going going.  It was like I never left LA. I'm seeing the beaches, wandering around, eating great food -- and none of it is really sinking in.

And then I remembered how when I was a novice our director used to tell us before retreat, these first days of retreat, walk slowly.  Take your time with everything you do -- with eating, with opening doors, with breathing, even.   And it's interesting, when you do that, the rest of you slows down, too. That's when you "land".

One big difference between a retreat and a vacation is, on a vacation you still have the opportunity to be online a lot.  And maybe the need, too.  But I've also discovered here, there's a lot of online that's waiting to fill in any gaps of time that I give it, but is completely unimportant. Pinterest can be a great time suck. Same with Facebook. In fact, when it comes to Facebook, I wonder if there's not a phenomenon where people post MORE on vacation than normally. It makes sense -- they have more time, and if they haven't been able to keep up in their normal lives, this is an opportunity.

The thing is, if you're in Hawaii and you're spending much of any time posting on Facebook, you're probably missing out.  All things in moderation, of course, but just a hunch.  And Facebook's never going to tell you that (though I've had the occasion where friends have said, Dude, why are you posting so much right now?).  Mark Zuckerberg wants you on Facebook! So do the Winklevossi, probably.  So if you have to actually force yourself to do it. Step away from the monitor, ma'am.  Put down the cell phone.

And relax.

Speaking of which -- I'm off!  More on Hawaii in a few days.

The beach at Ala Moana. Sooo relaxing. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

See the Sin and Be Saved

Last Sunday's readings were all about sin -- in the first God delivers his people over to the Babylonians because they just won't stop turning away from him.  In the Gospel we see the other bookend, with the Johannine reading about God sending Jesus to save us. 

But what really struck me was this statement from Paul: "Even when we were dead in our transgressions, God brought us to life with Christ."

There's that line at the start of Dante's Inferno -- "I awoke to find myself in a dark wood."Dante is dreaming that he's at the entrance to Hell.  And, once he realizes that's where he is, he thinks to turn around to leave.  But he's told, oh no, there is no going back. The only way out is through. 

When it comes to sin in our lives, I think we'd all like to do the same as Dante, go around it or back away from it.  But I think the challenge of Paul is the same -- to salvation, there is no way around. There is no going back. We have to face what we've done, who we are.  We have to go through. 

And at that moment when we see ourselves as we are -- that moment when we see our cruelty reflected in someone else's face, when we wriggle like worms on the hook before the realization of our own pettiness (don't you hate those moments??) -- and we think we are terrible, horrible people --

That's the moment of truth. Because we are all that we see, and God sees all the same -- and he loves us just like that.  Yes, just as terrible and messed up and silly and awkward as we are.  

If you're looking for material for prayer here in the later days of Lent, try sitting with that a while.  

Dante in the dark wood

Friday, March 16, 2012

Finding God on Pinterest, Part 4: These Are the Droids You're Looking For

After my post on Wednesday, I felt like my whole search for God thing has gotten a little Debbie Downer. God isn't here, God isn't there.  Who am I to say that, to start with!  And then, if not there then where?? 

So today, I present, without editorializing, a few great photos I found on Pinterest. (And sorry for the delay today -- Blogger has been giving me trouble all day!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Finding God on Pinterest, Part 3: Jesus, Faith, Hope, Love

So, last week on FGoP... I went looking for images of God on Pinterest.  I looked under a couple obvious categories -- "God"and "beauty". And I found a lot of preachy quotes and celebrities.

Some will wonder, why didn't you start with Jesus?  Well, here's why -- because images of Jesus are so incredibly romanticized.  It's either Jesus of Arabia:

I'm sorry, but pap: 

Or it's sexy handsome Jesus -- which in this case looks a little like David Copperfield. 

I would not want to get coffee with this guy.

Honestly -- and this should come as no surprise to anyone who's been reading this blog for a while -- I prefer this:

Jesus, taking a picture of the apparition of the Sacred Heart on his iPhone.  Classic.

So, then I look to the cardinal virtues.   And again, it's some pretty weak sauce. 

Faith leads to quotes:

Nice, but preachy.  Also, what does it mean?  Because it sort of sounds like it's saying that God is a puppet master who calls the shots, and we don't believe that. 

Great quote, I love it.  But it's not an image.


"Hope", oddly, leads to quite a few images that suggest despair...

The Scarily Trapped Person

The Wrist Cutter...

(Truth in advertising, there was also this:

Not exactly an image of God, but not bad.)

Lastly, here's Love:

The Real Caption: "I love this dining set."
Caption: "Love this!"

Caption:"I love this player!"

So basically, part shopping list/registry and part celebrity worship. 

Now, my whole search sort of begs the question, what constitutes an image of God, doesn't it? I mean, that kid with the bubble, or some of those quotes -- some pretty solid stuff, things a whole lot of smart people might choose.  

For me, it's about a doorway.  Some pictures, like some books, open up a world to us.  In this case, they reveal a little piece of who God is and what he thinks of us.  

Pictures that are too perfect, too romantic, too staged don't satisfy this criteria.  They may be pretty, but on some level you know they're fake.  Similarly, pictures that are too pious or on the nose put us (or at least me) off because they've shut out reality.  Jesus can be a handsome guy, but he still has to be a guy, with a broad palette of human feelings and reactions.  He shouldn't be constrained.

So what I'm looking for is a glimpse -- pictures that open that door into the heart of God just a little.

My search continued to "poverty".  It's a leap! I'll explain how I got there next time. 

Finding God on Pinterest, Part 1: Getting Started

Finding God on Pinterest, Part 2:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Prayer for Monday

More on Pinterest to come -- thanks for the comments! Keep them coming!

But to start the week, a little prayer that a friend gave me.

May the blessings release through your hands
Cause windows to open in darkened minds.

May the sufferings your calling brings
Be but winter before the spring.

May the companionship of your doubt
Restore what your beliefs leave out.

May your solitude be a voyage
Into the wilderness and wonder of God.

May your words have the prophetic edge
To enable the heart to hear itself.

May the silence where your calling dwells
Foster your freedom in all you do and feel.

May ou find words full of divine warmth
To clothe the dying in the language of dawn.

May the slow light of the Eucharist
Be a sure shelter around your future.

John O'Donohue

Friday, March 9, 2012

Finding God On Pinterest, Part 2: Beauty

On Wednesday I posted about trying to find images of God on Pinterest.  I started my search with the obvious: "God." And I found a lot of quotes, and not a lot else.

So then I thought, let's try a different way in.  I searched under "Beauty."

What would you think I got? Sunsets, flowers, gorgeous portraits? Art?

No. This is what I found:
Super Models.

Celebrity Hair. 

Non-Celebrity Hair. 

More celebrity hair. (Seriously, they might as well rename my search "Hair".)

A few pretty outfits. 

And, biggest surprise: 

Nail designs. Really. And not just one.  A bunch of nail designs.

Okay, if Beauty=Personal Beauty, what about "Beautiful"? 

And right away, there's this: 

I wouldn't call a shrub beautiful, exactly, but I like the color, I like where we're headed. 

There's cool sky shots: 

Which may or may not be real.  Or it might be Superman and the Super Friends flying by. 

There's this baby. 

She's cute. 

But most of it is still this.  

(Stop waiting, he's not coming.)

And this. 

Put some pants on, dear, you'll feel less cold.

And a number of pictures of Mad Men actress Christina Hendricks:

She is definitely beautiful, but she is not God. 


She is really really beautiful. 


Where was I now? Oh, right, "beautiful" didn't work out so well, either.  Much more varied. And the baby, she might get close to what I'm looking for. 

So totally off in slumber land. Yeah, if you wanted to add to your list of the face of God, I could see it.

But the rest, not so much.

Maybe I needed to be more religiously specific. Probably not, it can get a little preachy out there, but it was worth a look.

Next week: Faith, Hope, Charity, and Jesus.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Looking for God on Pinterest

Do you know Pinterest? It's a relatively new social networky site where people "pin" images either from their photo collection or, more often, from things they see online.  Think of it like an online clipboard, where you can store all sorts of cool images and ideas you have as you surf the web. (In fact, you can organize your material into "boards".)

I've had a Pinterest account for probably six months, and most of that time if I used it, it was only to find images like this:

What can I say, Star Wars humor makes me happy.

But then recently I started using with the program more intentionally.

And as I hunted down images like this--

ET Better Phone Home Fast, Cuz He's About To Get Blowed Up

and this --

(Amen to that.) 

-- I had the thought, what about God? Where might I find God on Pinterest?

And so I started a search. And it's been an interesting journey.  I've learned a lot about how we think about God, and where he and isn't to be found (at least for me).

For the next couple entries, I'm going to post my search.  And hey, search along with me.  Get up on Pinterest. And if you find any images that speak of God to you, share them with me!

A Teaser: What's in a Name? 

I started my search by simply searching under God.

Here's what I found:

Yep, that's right. Words. Lots and lots and lots and lots of words.

Many quotes from the Bible. (Intriguingly, none from the Koran or the texts of other religions.)

Some paraphrases, like the above Scary-Movie-Title-Looking "Trust in the Lord" (which I think should have after it, "OR ELSE!" or "'CUZ HE'S COMING BACK, AND THIS TIME HE'S TAKING NO PRISONERS".

Some are more artistic, like the lovely hand quote on hand above.  Others are really mundane, if incredibly well intentioned, like this:

(I feel like the voice on this is a valley girl, like, totally talking to her friends and like someone says, my dad is like, uber amazing, he like totally understood when I had that party and like totally trashed his Mercedes. 

And then this other girl says, actually, you know who the best father is? God.  

And they're all like, DUHHH.)

But almost always, words words words, and not much in the way of other visuals.  Under the category of God, pretty much no one offered a real image.  

A couple exceptions: 

1) The Combo, word plus image (in this case, a pretty sweet one).   

2) The Wow: Though listed as "God", "God" is here not an indication of the person standing here, or the person who made the dress, but basically another way of saying "wow".  

Why so many words? I think because words are little doorways for people back into deep, important things. They're a means of reminding us of who we are and what's important, and of reassuring us.   Some pointed to our need for God, some encouraged us to believe, some told us it's all going to work out.

All good. But this wordiness didn't resonate with me, not at all. I love Scripture, I love to read it, but little pithy phrases -- that's not God for me. That's not what I was looking for. I want images.

So that was my first discovery: For me, God is someone I see, someone I look for, more than something I read.

But what kind of images? My first thought was, beautiful ones.  God is found in beauty.

So, that's where I went next -- "Beauty"

Come back next time to hear what I found...

(Actually, I did find one word-based piece under God that I really liked.

God does the best post-its.)

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Poem for Monday

The Winter Wood Arrives

I think
   I could have
      built a little house
         to live in

with the single cord
   half seasoned, half not--
      trucked into the
          driveway and

tumbled down. But instead
    friends came
       and together we stacked it
           for the long, cold days

that are--
    maybe the only sure thing in the world--
        coming soon.
            How to keep warm

is always a problem,
     isn't it?
        Of course, there's love.
            And there's prayer.

I don't belittle them,
     and they have warmed me, 
         but differently, 
             from the heart outwards.   

    what swirls of frost will cling
        to the windows, what white lawns
            I will look out on

as I rise from morning prayers,
      as I remember love, that leaves yet never leaves,
          as I go out into the yard,
             and bring the wood in

with struggling steps,
     with struggling thoughts, 
          bundle by bundle,
             to be burned.

Mary Oliver    

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Thorns of My Suffering...

Just got home from the opera Simon Boccanegra.  It's about a popular leader whose daughter disappears as a child, to reemerge in his life many years later without either he or she knowing they are related (classic opera), and precisely as his 2nd in command decides to overthrow him.

Toward the end Simon is dying a very slow, painful death. It's an opera, after all. And looking on his daughter and her husband, he says this little prayer:
"Lord, bless them. Let the thorns of my suffering turn to flowers."
Seemed like a nice prayer to share during Lent.