The Jet Age


Has anyone else gotten into the new ABC show Pan-Am? I love it. I love historical stories with female leads. (Thank you, American Girls) The series focuses on the complex-but-still-mild-enough-to-show-on-television stories behind the clean and girdled air hostesses galavanting across the globe in 1963. How glamorous. 

That’s what everyone says that the airline industry used to be: glamorous. I’m too young to know. But it’s my understanding that in the beginning, the airlines had to be glamorous. It was a marketing strategy to help customers get over the idea that they were, in fact, getting in a tube to hurl through the sky at 500 miles per hour. 

Maybe it’s a testament to how adaptable humanity is, that now, just a generation later, flying involves sweatpants and sleeping pills. Getting in a tube to hurl through the sky at 500 miles per hour becomes a chore. Whatever. 

For me, it’s easy to let my relationship with God go the way of the airline industry. To let myself get comfortable and forget that God is first and foremost a big and powerful God. To let worshipping something to large and grand feel more like a chore. I get used to God. Whatever.

Maybe the fix is to opt for whatever the metaphorical window seat is and absorb the full view of this greatness. Maybe the fix lies in seeing my ginger ale and honey roasted peanuts as a makeshift communion. 

Whatever the fix is, I draw the line at wearing a girdle. 


St. James the Far-sighted or “I see the Messiah”


Matthew 13:53-58 “53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.

54 He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power?55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?”57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.”58 And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.”

A friend of mine told me about a study about small airplanes that have to make emergency landings on roads toavoid crashing. It was a neuropsychological study on the people in the cars onthe roads where the planes are landing. They never see the plane, not untilwell after the incident is over. Time and time again, they don’t see the plane.Our brains seem to create a blind spot around what we couldn’t possibly expect,or maybe even assume to be impossible. We just can’t see it.

This morning we celebrate the feastof St. James, first bishop of Jerusalem, likely brother of Jesus and possibleauthor of the epistle that bears his name. James the righteous, James the just,James Adelphatheos, and, let me coin a new one today, James the Far-sighted. Hegot to live beside Jesus his whole life, probably shared countless meals, grewup together, hung out with him during his ministry, but never really jumped onboard with the whole ‘son of God’ part.  Well, not never. Because after Jesus was crucified  and resurrected, he then saw hisbrother for who he was- a savior. Thesavior. St. James the farsighted.  

If we were to have a movie madeabout Jesus’ life as told through James’ point of view, it would have to bedirected by M. Night Shamalan. Do you know who I’m talking about? His moviesare known for having a huge twist at the end where the audience learnssomething really big that was true for the whole movie. You go back and watchit again and it’s so clear: of course Bruce Willis was a ghost the whole time.And for James, of course Jesus was the Messiah the whole time.

The gospel reading today would bean important scene in the movie. Jesus up there preaching and all his townspeoplecan see is that kid they knew, maybe an acne-ridden teenager clumsily trying tolearn to be carpenter like his father. Messiah? Son of God? Ha! They don’t seethe plane.

I’m reluctant to put any blame onbrother James because I know how easy it’d be to make the same mistakes myself.God works so seamlessly, sometimes I don’t see it until all is said and done.That’s okay. Perhaps God’s dreams are so big and perfect that our tiny brainscan only begin to maybe understand it with our proverbial ‘20/20 hindsight’.

What does that mean for today?Are  there any spiritualoptometrists for our far-sightedness? Let me know if you find one, but untilthen, we have this not-so-easy thing called faith. We hold close to faith andlet go of the expectations and assumptions of how God works and what Jesuslooks like. And trust. Trust that God’s grace is enough. Amen. 

St. Philip, the Ethiopian eunuch and Cinderella’s ugly step-sisters

Today was the feast of St. Philip and the new testament reading comes from Acts when Philip went out and shared the gospel with the Ethiopian Eunuch:
(Acts 8:26-39)

   “Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,    
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,      
so he does not open his mouth.
 In his humiliation justice was denied him.    
Who can describe his generation?      
For his life is taken away from the earth.’ 
The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.”

This Ethiopian eunuch heard something in the gospel. Something worth rejoicing over. Rich, educated, but powerless and an outsider, the eunuch related to Jesus particularly. The butt of some jokes turned out to be the Son of God. How beautiful. The Ethiopian eunuch went on his way rejoicing and today, Africa is where Christianity thrives the most. They still see something in the gospel worth rejoicing over.  It’s something like the underdog story. The messiah that was beaten, downtrodden, humiliated and then… resurrected. 

If Jesus is the ultimate Cinderella story, it can be easy for us (read= American Christians) to play the role of ugly step-sisters. The prize is ours. We deserve it. The prince is ours for the having if we just say what we’re sure he wants to hear. Tell us differently and we’ll scrunch our noses in entitled disbelief. 

(Emphasis on the ugly)

Fellow Americans, (particularly fellow white, English speaking, economically viable ones), this is a good news, bad news situation. The bad news is- we might not really grasp this perspective of the eunuch, the outsider. Ever. There’s a good chance you’ll spend every day of your life only knowing cultural privilege. The good news is, and I know this for sure, this eunuch’s rejoicing is highly contagious. Make yourself prone to it, somehow, and you’ll be all the better for it. 

Do Not Be Ashamed- Wendell Berry

You will be walking some nightin the comfortable dark of your yardand suddenly a great light will shineround about you, and behind youwill be a wall you never saw before.It will be clear to you suddenlythat you were about to escape,and that you are guilty: you misreadthe complex instructions, you are nota member, you lost your cardor never had one. And you will knowthat they have been there all along,their eyes on your letters and books,their hands in your pockets,their ears wired to your bed.Though you have done nothing shameful,they will want you to be ashamed.They will want you to kneel and weepand say you should have been like them.And once you say you are ashamed,reading the page they hold out to you,then such light as you have madein your history will leave you.They will no longer need to pursue you.You will pursue them, begging forgiveness.They will not forgive you.There is no power against them.It is only candor that is aloof from them,only an inward clarity, unashamed,that they cannot reach. Be ready.When their light has picked you outand their questions are asked, say to them:"I am not ashamed." A sure horizonwill come around you. The heron will beginhis evening flight from the hilltop.

An Open Letter to the Guy or Gal that Stole My Debit Card



Maybe you’ll find this by taking the time to google that name on that debit card that you found (how?) and then tried to use, unsuccessfully, at two local gas stations. I wish I could take credit for that, but it was all BB&T fraud department. I was highly impressed with them and would recommend them for any future banking needs you might have.

I’ll try and not make any assumptions about the desperation and character deficiencies required to commit such an act. Maybe you are that figure we talked about in my college ethics class that had a hungry family to feed. Or maybe you have an expensive addiction to support. I’m naive. And frankly, I like being naive in that way. I read enough articles to know that this is a hard country to be poor in. Like I said, no assumptions.

But I hope you’ll be happy to know that because of you, I had to get in my car and drive to the bank to withdraw the $30 that I hope will get me through the weekend. Did you know that my bank was having a customer appreciation day and giving out a free lunch to anyone that came in? Was that your plan all along, to help me get some free barbecue (with Cheetos and a Diet Coke!)? You silly thief, you!

So here’s wishing you the best, whatever that might be. I got a free lunch and you didn’t get a cent of my teensy checking account. You could’ve gotten a good laugh if you saw the available balance. Let me know how I can help in the future, okay?