Saturday, January 18, 2020

Seeing in Focus - clergy column form the Leader-Telegram 200118

We had our Interfaith Prayer Service on Wednesday, January 15, and Plymouth UCC hosted it. Quite a wonderful evening of hearing prayers and thoughts from others, and sharing in sacred space together, as human beings unified in our desire for peace and willingness to pray together.

I wrote this article to go into the newspaper the Saturday before the service, but some others from the Prayer Service had written something, so I modified the original to reflect that the service had already happened and it was published today, January 18, 2020.

The Leader-Telegram is a pay-only site, and my column wasn't published on the website anyway, so there is no link. 

Here is the article. What have you experienced/learned/seen anew from your interfaith and ecumenical work?

Seeing in Focus

My eyes don’t see in focus. There is nothing shameful about that. It means wherever I look, I see a beautiful Monet landscape. And without the cost of buying one! However, it is also frustrating. I see multiple images, making stars and street lamps into circles of 6-8 lights. Less Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and more Boschisn sensory overload. Night driving is nerve-wracking, particularly in rain. To thwart the bad vision, I must carry a special tool that bends light waves to fool my brain. Many of you reading this are using that tool now: eyeglasses! Thank God for the science of lenses, and for my extraordinary eye doctor who keeps my eyes healthy and my prescriptions accurate so I can see accurately.

The physical world isn’t the only thing that suffers misapprehension. If we’re honest with ourselves, we must admit none of us has 20/20 vision when it comes to spiritual or religious matters. No one and no tradition can know “it” all. Or even what “it” is. Claiming to hold all the truth is extreme hubris. And dishonest. Like my eighth-grade self discovering my failing eyesight and getting my first pair of glasses, I am forced to admit I need spiritual correctives as well. 

As lenses in my eyeglasses help me to see in focus, the lenses of ecumenical and interfaith dialogue and partnerships help me more clearly see my faith claims. Hearing faith stories, singing music, participating in prayers and worship with others, shows me the breadth of human understanding of that which is greater than any of us. Seeing the world through the lenses of others shows me how impotent any of us are to claim a singular apprehension of Truth. Talking theology with my Jewish and Muslim neighbors in seminary; worshiping with Jews, Muslims, and Hindus; meditating with Buddhists; spending silent time with Quakers; being in spiritual formation with Baha’is and Unitarians; these have all enlarged my vision and drawn my spiritual self into greater focus.

Last Wednesday night, my congregation, Plymouth United Church of Christ hosted the Interfaith Prayers for Peace that happens every four months. We had a choir of people from three churches (representing the Reformed, Lutheran, and Catholic traditions), and prayers from our Baha’i, Jewish, Quaker, Buddhist, Protestant, and Catholic neighbors. We gathered, and will continue to gather, as people of faith to pray for peace and understanding, to learn from and about one another, to share in our similarities and celebrate our differences. We gather also as a witness against the cynical and fear-mongering voices of our current time that want us to fear one another, to dehumanize, to bear false witness against, or otherwise cause strife among people of faith. Instead of accepting that toxic narrative, we gather for prayer and community, and then when we’re done we stay for more conversation over coffee and cookies. 

These triannual interfaith prayer gatherings (the next is May 20 at the Unitarian Universalist Church), and the interfaith co-operation of groups like JONAH, are eyeglasses for our souls helping us all to see the world - and ourselves - with truer vision. Only through the lenses of my neighbors’ insights can I hope to ever resolve the fuzziness in my own tradition and beliefs, and I am as thankful for them as I am for my eyeglasses. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Day 24 - 2019 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar - the last day!

it's the last day, and it's a great day! A most excellent and fun build: porg dressed as Santa!

And the porg looks unhappy about it. Perhaps he's thinking of his brothers/sisters that Chewie ate a few days ago and, in the context of this Advent Calendar, Chewie is still eating since his minifigure from a few days ago has a big ol' porg drumstick in his hand.

Bravo, LEGO, bravo!

I'm so glad that I decided to get the calendar this year even the last couple years have had many disappointing days. Perhaps LEGO heard the cries of the fans who spend good money for these things and have felt cheated for a few years. I'd like to hope that LEGO was paying attention, and that this wasn't just a fluke of a year that might never be repeated again.

Day 23 - 2019 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Oh, yeah! Another win!

A Christmas decorated gonk-bot.

That's the name I gave this bot many many years ago, because the sound it makes is like "gonk gonk".

I just checked the Internet to find the real name of this droid, and lo and behold, that is the name. Well, not really. It's officially the GNK Power Droid, but GNK is "gonk", and "Gonk droid" is how it's referred to by the fans.

The GNK droids are walking batteries.

And this one comes with Christmas wrapping!

And they even included a bow on top! Absolutely fantastic.

Great year for the Calendar! Which I've said a number of times, but wow, it really is.

Day 22 - 2019 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Another minifigure!!

A Cloud City cloud car pilot! With funky helmet.

For some reason, I thought I should turn his helmet around to see if he fly using the Force. Come to find out, didn't have any, unfortunately. Fortunately, it's a cloud planet so the crashing cloud car didn't hurt anyone went down through the atmosphere.

In the words of Ron White retelling the story of a nervous passenger on an airplane asking, "If the engine goes out, where do you think the plane will take us?" and he answered, "All the way to the crash site."

Day 21 - 2019 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

And again a very welcome build from the calendar!

The Cloud City bi-plane thingy called simply "Cloud Car", which seems a rather boring name, really. But the build isn't boring - it's quite well done!

I find myself needing again to say "Great Calendar this year!"

Day 20 - 2019 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

The good stuff keeps coming!

Today was the Hoth nipple gun! You may remember this blasting shots into space from Hoth to hit the Imperial ships and clear a path for the Rebel transports to get away. Sure, it would have been easier to just fly the transports to the other side of the planet first and then have them fly into space... but, well, that's not what happened.

Pretty nice rendition of this gun from one of my favorite scenes in all of Star Wars! The Battle of Hoth gave us snowspeeders and AT-ATs. (Yeah, I know, the snowspeeders actually showed up in the scene looking for Luke, but we didn't really see them and what they could do until the battle).

p.s. - "nipple gun" isn't the actual name, but that's what I've called it, and how Mr. Pewterschmitt (playing the General with the Purina symbol on his uniform) referred to it in "Something Something Something Dark Side", though he said "boob-nipple gun".

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Day 19 - 2019 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar


WOW, I am so glad I decided to get the Star Wars Advent Calendar this year. Best one since the first one I got like 7 or 8 years ago or whenever it was.

Today is a stellar day - a monumental day - a stupendous day!



They don't get a lot of screen time, but they are incredibly important players in the rebellion's success against the Empire. Without mynocks, Han, Leia, Chewie, and C3PO would all have been eaten by that terrible space lizard/worm thing in the asteroid that they had flown into getting away from the TIE Fighters and Darth Vader.

So, thank you, mynocks, for defeating the Empire!

I also really like Episode V - that one, Episode IV, and Rogue One, are what I consider the most Star Warsish of the Star Wars films. So anything in those movies is welcome.

Also, mynocks are seriously under-represented in the LEGO oeuvre, so to have one show up in an Advent Calendar was a most awesome and welcome surprise!

I wish I'd had the camera on my face when I opened the door to today's build, because a very huge smile slammed into my face. And that smile came back right now as I typed the memory of it for your reading pleasure.


And it's quite a good representation, too.

I am so very, very pleased. Best Advent Calendar ever so far!

Here it is: