Reflecting on Trespasses….

Viral Encroachment by Kira Skala
Abstract art can be tough for me. I tend to use my head over my heart, so the images are not easy to understand or rationalize. Yet this abstract watercolor by my dear friend Kira hit home at first glance. My heart grieves for the world we have left behind as this virus has encircled the globe. My head cannot begin to wrap around what we are going through or where we will end up. Kira calls her work ‘Viral Encroachment’ – a fit title to explain how this tiny organism has taken hold of our daily lives. Something we cannot see has changed everything we can see. An unseen force has taken over, very slowly then all at once. I pondered the sort of things that work that way, piling up over time until the burden is intolerable. Each incident is not that big of a deal until you get to the last straw that tips you over the edge.

We pray about those little indiscretions every Sunday as part of the service. In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. Other translations substitute debt or sin for trespass, but what are we really talking about? It was time to go back to the original text in Greek. It was time to ask our parish priest, Pete. In his words:

The Greek word is paraptoma: para = around or alongside; ptoma = slip, trip, or fall. Literally, it means to fall alongside of or more simply, to fall away from. Idiomatically, though, it gets tricky, especially for translators. It’s a verb, action, trying hard to be a noun, thing. Thus we get something like “slips” or “lapses.” For once, the King James translators weren’t that far off the mark when they came up with “debts,” in the sense of things worthy of grudges. Sadly, using the word “sin” really defeats the purpose, as it doesn’t look like what we think Jesus was trying to convey, but there it is.

The really interesting thing, at least to me, is that trespassing implies a moving forward into forbidden territory, whereas paraptoma suggests an accidental falling away from the good. It’s almost as if the translation is opposite Jesus’ intent: a paraptoma is, for all intents and purposes, an accident; a trespass is an intended wrongful act. – Reverend Doctor Peter R. Gustin

This virus cannot move on its own – people carry it from place to place, from person to person. You are contagious once you contract the virus, but symptoms may take a week or more to appear. Surfaces can hold the virus and be picked up by another person touching an affected area. All of this sounds a lot more like a series of little accidents, careless indiscretions, thoughtless actions. Each incident doesn’t seem like much but over time we end up with more than we could begin to imagine possible. It is easy to succumb to fear, to look for someone to blame. Yet are we really angry at any single individual, or are we simply furious at the whole situation?

Make time today to hold open space for grace. Consider each little act more like an accident. Forgive as you wish to be forgiven. Take precautions to safeguard yourself and others out of love instead of fear. Look for new ways to socially connect in the current climate of social distancing. Take time to check in with one another, especially folks we would normally see on a regular basis. Most of all, let each of us lean on God’s strength rather than our own. As Brother Lawrence would say ‘My only chance of success is with you, Lord, for alone I shall surely fail’.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved

Greek origin of ‘trepasses’, reflection by the Reverend Doctor Peter R. Gustin

Watercolor entitled ‘Viral Encroachment’ by Kira Skala©2020, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved.

Reflecting on Decisions….

Should I stay or should I go Ullenius
Decisions are part of everyday life, but not every decision is simple or straight forward. The toughest choices we all face in light of the Coronavirus involve when and if to venture from our homes. At this stage, we all understand we need to keep our distance, yet there are matters that seem to weigh more heavily as each day goes by. This photo by my friend Steve seems to capture the dilemma we all face. I grew up with streetlights like the one in this photo. There was one on the corner outside my bedroom window. I spent many a day at that window, home from school sick with everyone worried the common cold would escalate into bronchitis. I have asthma, so even a cold is far from common. This type of streetlight seems a bit bare bones to me, although the birds were always big fans. The birds ganged up on the pole, until there was no longer room for even one more to fit. Then they would all rustle their wings and at least one would take flight. As soon as that bird left, another bird would crowd into the makeshift flock. What was so great about this particular perch? Why did they all crowd in together? At first, I thought that it was a great place for the birds to spot insects, but it seemed the bird who was crowded out took off into the sky rather than toward the ground. Perhaps those lonely days I spent in my room as a young child were the beginning of these reflections. There is only so long you can read, and the only television was downstairs in the living room. So the view out that bedroom window became my television, for better or for worse. Now we all seem to be stuck inside and wanting to go out and play, or work, or to buy just a few more groceries. Perhaps there are more pressing matters, a sick and frail friend or family member you long to visit one last time. If decisions are already tough, then how difficult are they when the stakes are so high? In times like these, we must consider both our own interests and the common good, perhaps considerations in conflict with one another. The situation continues to evolve, so a decision we delay until tomorrow may no longer be an option. Like the refrain from this song by The Clash:

Darling, you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I’ll be here ’til the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

We may leave, only to be stuck at that location for the foreseeable future. We risk a longer separation than we expect as restrictions tighten. So perhaps we need to simplify the whole decision process – are you willing to spend six to twelve weeks with the folks you are with at home? If you leave, are you willing to spend that long with your coworkers? Patients? Shoppers? Make time to consider what is truly important to your heart, not your head. Avoid overthinking the situation or getting ahead of yourself. Make decisions as needed, and once you make a decision, let it go. Enjoy the present and what it has to offer you. Cultivate beauty in your surroundings and be intentional in your actions and especially your words. Address concerns head on rather than belittling them or avoiding a tough conversation. Lean on God’s strength rather than your own, inviting the Holy Spirit into your midst to guide and guard you and those you hold dear, this day and always.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved

Lyrics from ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ by The Clash

Photo entitled ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ by Steve Ullenius©2020, used with his permission, All Rights Reserved.

Reflecting on the Resurrection….

The Eastern Redbud outside my kitchen window has seen better days. Ice from the winter before last lobed off the main trunk, leaving behind a lopsided tree that looks more like a bonsai than a redbud. Last summer we decided to give it another chance, and this spring we are reaping the rewards of that decision. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Cecilia. Rather than focus on the blooms, Cecilia captured the beauty of the first few leaves. I love how this single heart shaped leaf is in sharp focus, while the brightly colored blooms blur into the background. It’s easy to be tempted by the radiant beauty of flowers, a beauty that quickly fades away. We fuss over the bright display, happy for a new beginning, and soon tire of looking when the blooms fall and leaves unfold. Yet look at what we are missing. Each and every one of these newly formed leaves is shaped like a tiny heart. The new life that has replaced the old comes from a deeper place, a steadfast love, emerging after experiencing the adversity of winter. Perhaps we are blessed with flowering trees to help us understand the resurrection of our Lord. The disciples did not recognize the Risen Christ, until He called them by name. New life had emerged from the tomb, yet this life did not resemble the Christ who died on the cross. Take time today to look for new life all around you, in unexpected shapes and forms. Consider the miracle of an unfolding leaf that began growing during the cold of winter. Let go of the flashy blooms and dig more deeply into the heart of life, seeking a sustained growth, a greater miracle. And remember, no matter how lopsided life may become, the Author of Creation is waiting to give us not just a second chance, but chance after chance, until we live into the Resurrection. Photo entitled ‘The Heart of the Redbud’ by Cecilia Carr

Reflecting on Heart….

An unseasonably warm day is more than welcome, less than a week after snow flurries. While we may be baffled by the weather, the birds are beyond thrilled. This morning a chorus of birds greeted me, singing their hearts out. So I was drawn to this amazing artwork by my friend Jeanne. I love how she combined an accurate anatomical image of the heart with images of nature. The two toned background emphasizes the left and right sides of the heart, which seems like a vase on top of a table. Our hearts are often taken for granted, despite giving us life one beat at a time, despite holding the longings and desires of this life. We go about our days without giving it a second thought. We expect our heart to work for us, day in day out, both in a physical and emotional sense. Yet without taking time to fill our hearts and nourish our souls, we find our lives, and our hearts, like an empty vase. We can become so overwhelmed by the busy-ness of life, relying on logic and reason to sort out our days, that we can allow haste to run roughshod over our own feelings and the feelings of others. Perhaps that hectic pace hurts us more than we know, damaging us in ways that only surface years later. Take time today to fill your heart with love and compassion. Allow the Holy Spirit to drench your soul, to slow your steps, to bind you together with those you love. Invite the Author of Life to sanctify all of your efforts, creating a chorus of both reason and emotion. And remember, ‘My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever’ ~ Psalm 73:26. Art entitled ‘Sacred Heart’ ©2012, by Jeanne Mischo, used with her permission

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