Surviving your Parishing 1.0

Clergy are a strange sort.  When things go well (read “well” as “the way I want,” or “as the community hopes” – this does not necessarily include “the way God has planned, before I stepped in and put my twist on it all,” which is part of the problem), when things go well I tend to praise the Lord.  And I should.  And when things go poorly (read “poorly” as “the way I didn’t want,” or “according to some other person’s planning/sabotaging,” or even “less-well-than-expected” – which usually means something about numbers), when things go poorly I tend to blame myself.  And I should.

That’s not to say that God isn’t to blame when things don’t go my way, or that I’m not a part of the picture when things go my way.  Perhaps, though, as I alluded to in my digression above, the problem is my defining of what constitutes things going well and things going poorly.  Where does God enter the equation?  So often, clergy can become so self-obsessed that they forget: is it forgetting that God belongs in the equation, or is it assuming that God’s in the equation without any intentional seeking of His will (afterall, if I’m involved then God’s will must be included)?

But for things to be going well, they must be going according to God’s will, not our own.  For things to be going poorly, they must be going according to our own will, not God’s.  We, who pray multiple times daily that God’s will be done – must we not also remember that for God’s will to be done, we must be willing to do it, with all of the lengthy discernment that is entailed?  Let us seek His will above our own!

Health & Fitness

Let me just say that we haven’t fallen under, since my last post about our health regime!  It’s been a week since then, but we are still working on it (I will admit to a few setbacks in that time).
First, with regards to diet, let me say a few words.  It’s harder to watch what you eat than you think!  But we’re working on making vegetables a much bigger part of our eating.  I’m tackling the morning blood sugar spikes with added fibre (of the PGX variety).  The hardest meal is supper, as so many “regular” suppers are big carb meals… things like noodle casseroles, or perogy/potato/french fry/rice based meals… breaded anything… So that’s one that we’re searching for some further alternatives for.  Also, eating out is always a bad idea, though some places do have really nice salad.  I especially recommend the Greek Salad at TNT, if you’re ever through Swift Current.
Second, with regards to exercise.  I had really found that the X Stretch was doing wonders for my hurt(ing) wrist, and will keep it in my regular rotation (though not every day).  We did a couple of the 10-Minute Trainer videos last week, and that was good for us.  I also spent a good half hour on the bike one morning – great way to fit in morning prayer when the kids know to leave you alone (if they’re up yet, and for it to work for me… well, they can’t be).  This area will only increase as time goes on.
Overall health, we’re trying to keep more active.  The rule that we don’t watch more TV than we’ve spent time exercising has not been followed completely, but we have been watching less, and it seems to me that was the point.

Stretching, Day 2

Well, as I expected my blood sugar did lower during the day yesterday.  By two hours (or a little more) after lunch it was a nice 6.6, so I had a snack.  By supper it was 6.3.  So I know that it does alright – will keep up on checking it, though.

Yesterday I stuck to my meal-plan.  I had more vegetables and fruit than I’ve had in a day for a while!  I didn’t snack in the evening.  I did stay up far too late, though I use the excuse that a certain young man wouldn’t calm down to get back in his bed.  We also stretched again, last night.

Now, part of our plan has us only watching as much TV as we spend time exercising.  While we’re not exercising this week, we count the hour of stretching that Tony Horton has us doing on the X Stretch DVD to that end.  So we get an hour of TV viewing after we’ve stretched.  The idea is that we don’t get “as much more as we want” after that.  Last night was… somewhere in between?

I know that the X Stretch was not meant to be done every day – but I don’t think it’s damaging.  I could feel it, though, last night.  I could feel that I’d stretched the day before.  It was a little easier; seemed a little more flexible.  There were a couple of places where I could feel that things had tightened up in reaction to the stretching the night before.  But it was good, and will be again tonight!

Finally got over to refill my water jugs, for the water cooler, too – makes such a difference, having clean-ish water to drink!

Stretching, Day 1

Last night I stretched.  It’s clear that I need to exercise, and eat right.  I haven’t been.  But I usually jump in too hard too fast, with exercise – so I thought I’d start a little slower.  I usually injure myself somehow, exercising – so I thought I’d start a little more limber.

Last night I stretched.  Cindy knew I was going to, and she had agreed to join me.  I put in the DVD with my stretch routine on it, X Stretch (it’s the seventh DVD in the P90X set).  She almost backed out, but we made a go of it.  The plan?  To X Stretch every night this week.  Who knows what next week will bring.  This week is the week to stretch.

We also took on a bit of a diet.  Perhaps we’ll actually stick to it, today.  I don’t know how Cindy did yesterday, to be honest, I only know that I didn’t really stick to it.  I woke up this morning and my blood sugar was at 8.6.  Granted, that’s probably higher than what it was when I went to bed last night.  I know that my blood sugar goes high when I haven’t been eating, but I haven’t been watching it – so part of doing things right is watching it.  Knowing that I’m going to be checking keeps me from eating the wrong food, and it’s important that I eat the right food.  We’ll be eating more vegetables (and fruit) on our diet (this is life now, by the way, not just a diet), and drinking lots more water.  I will keep posting on it, too, because accountability is… necessary.

Discipline

I have a friend who rants (every now and then) about Christianity not having a designated martial art.  He talks about how Eastern faith traditions have martial arts associated with them which encourage people to be conscious of the relationship between their body and soul.  In disciplining one, one learns to discipline the other.  He cites the volume (is that a pun?) of Christ-adherents who are out-of-shape.  Now, don’t get me wrong (or him, for that matter).  There’s no denying that there are some Christians who are in shape, and I’m not aware of any study that compares the percentage of Christians who are against the comparison of Buddhists (or any other tradition) who are.  So there’s no way, currently, to really know whether Christians drop the ball on fitness any more than people of other faiths.  What I do know, however, is that some do/have, and that I don’t want to be one of them.

We’re all somewhat out-of-shape, I think (except one young father in my parish who spent some years in Japan and earned his black belt in ninjutsu – which seems to somewhat prove the point of my other friend, mentioned above).  It’s so easy to do what comes naturally.  Chips and pop are so accessible; so is poutine (there’s a reason we live in this country, afterall).  And we’re middle-class North Americans, so we’ve got some expendable income to buy it with.  And so we consume.  It is a consumer society, isn’t it?

But what of discipline?  It takes a body and spirit together to make a man, and Christ came to save men, didn’t He?  How could we make our faith about only a soul’s salvation?  Doesn’t Paul talk about disciplining our bodies?  Doesn’t Christ say that we need to be faithful with the little things (which we have largely, in Western Christendom, regarded the physical as), if we are to be entrusted with the big things (which would refer to the spiritual, on this track)?  So, what of disciplining the body?  We can teach prayer, encourage Bible reading and devotional use, promote Bible study groups, and even service in His Name (not to mention fasting and the wide variety of other spiritual disciplines that are easily at hand for the Christian), but what about the body?  We cannot ignore it as ‘worldly,’ as though this makes it inconsequential.  We cannot neglect it as a necessary evil.  What of the incarnational mindset that says, “Christ has no body now but yours; no hands, no feet, on earth but yours…”?

My friend has discovered Russian Systema, a martial art that grew out of the Russian Orthodox tradition.  He plans to learn it.  I’ve opted for the home exercise regime that I’ve meant to do for a long time.  I’ve pulled out the old P90X DVDs, and started.  Last Saturday I pulled out the X Stretch DVD and forced myself to elongate in various ways – it was hard to believe that a few months ago (when Cindy and I completed 13 weeks of the Power 90 workouts) I could put my nose on my knee.  All of those gains seem to be lost.

On Sunday I pulled out the DVD that the P90X supplementary workout routine asks for – I’m doing the Lean set, to try to lose extra weight during the course of my exercising, rather than the classic routine.  Core Synergistics was my battle that day, and yesterday I faced down the Cardio X DVD.  Later today (I’m not sure when, exactly, I’ll be able to fit it in) I’ll be tackling the Shoulders & Arms, with the Ab Ripper X DVD.  It will hurt.

A couple of years ago Cindy and I had made it through four weeks of this exercise regime.  We were looking and feeling better than we had for years, or have since.  But we dropped the ball, and didn’t keep going for the remaining 9 weeks of it.  What a mistake!  Well, hopefully this time I will be able to keep it up.  Those who are faithful with a little will be blessed with a lot.  Time to whip this body into shape!

Greek to me

So it turns out that Greek is… Greek… to me.

In somewhat typical fashion (always having been far more secure in my abilities than I should have been), I assumed that because I was taught Koine Greek (really, to be able to read the New Testament) in seminary, I would easily understand spoken Greek at a Greek Orthodox service.  In somewhat typical fashion, I underestimated the task (to a degree), and was, then, wrong (to a degree).

It turns out that there are all kinds of vowels that are pronounced differently, by actual Greek speakers, than I was taught.  I’m not sure if it’s a “time” thing – ie. they used to pronounce it the way I was taught Koine; over the years the pronunciation has changed.  In light of this, I understood far less than I thought I would.  But, that said, I understood far more than this would suggest – and I started to get the hang of the pronunciation that was used, and was able to figure out what various things meant (which, for me, meant figuring out how they were spelled) as I heard them.

I thought that I would at least be able to jump in to the Greek part of the liturgy (all of it was repeated in both Greek and English) at the Lord’s Prayer.  I do know the Lord’s Prayer in Greek.  But the different pronunciations got me, and while I could keep up with the other worshipers as they spoke (with the pictures of the words in my head), I could not keep up in my speech.  Yet my experience this evening suggests to me that I could pick it up without too much trouble.

But then again, it’s somewhat typical of me to be far more secure in my abilities than I should be.

Bound or Loosed

There are a couple times in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus tells His followers that what they bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and that what they loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  It may not be immediately obvious what He means by this, but my hope is that we can gain a little insight today.

Binding and Loosing was actually a rabbinic practice.  Teachers of the Law would bind and loose, and there are a few reasons that I think we should understand Jesus as referring to this kind of binding and loosing.  The first is that Jesus Himself was recognized, in His own time, as a rabbi – as a teacher of the Law.  This means that Jesus was someone who taught on the Law, where it was bound and where it was loosed (we’ll get to what that meant shortly).  The second reason that I think we should take Him as referring to this broader rabbinic practice is based on how often He engages in it throughout this gospel.  But before seeing where Jesus engaged in the ‘binding and loosing’ rabbinic practice, let’s just see what it is we mean by it.

Traditionally, we have understood Jesus as referring to absolution for sins when He refers to binding and loosing (this is due to an appropriation of the application of a similar saying from the Gospel of John, which is made in a different context).  For the teachers of the Law, the Torah was always authoritative; always relevant; always supreme.  Nevertheless, they recognized that there were certain circumstances in which its regulations were not to be applied.  If the Law applied to certain circumstances, they would say it was bound.  If it did not, then they would say it was loosed.  As you can probably guess, there were times and issues on which different rabbinic schools disagreed with each other.  Some felt the Law was bound in a certain situation, while others felt that it was loosed.  Or the other way around.

The contexts in which Jesus refers to binding and loosing, in Matthew, lend themselves to the understanding that this was the practice He had in mind.  In the earlier case (16:19), Jesus has just been correctly identified by His disciples as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, and has promised the conferral of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to them (or to Peter specifically, depending on how you read the passage).  The implication is that what they bind or loose will have something to do with the keys to the Kingdom – or with the way to the Kingdom.  This suggests that the binding and loosing that they are doing is determining what is appropriate conduct for Christ’s followers – that is, what His “rabbinic school” sees the Law bound to and what it sees the Law loosed from.

The second situation in which Jesus refers to this practice is in 18:18, which is in a larger discourse on forgiveness, and follows right on the heels of His discussion of the appropriate method for restoring and reconciling with one in the community of faith who has fallen into sin.  The reconciliation lesson hinges on the disciples’ community having or setting standards which it requires its members to uphold.  Again, then, I think that we’re being directed to recognize that the binding and loosing that Jesus refers to is the binding and loosing of rabbinic practice, whereby the appropriate situations for the Law to be bound to, and the appropriate situations of the Law to be loosed from, are set and determined.

Now, with this much said we will do well to reflect on the appropriate means whereby this binding and loosing takes place.  There is a paradox present in this instruction: on the one hand, the Church is under the Lordship of Christ Himself; on the other, Jesus says that Heaven is affected when the Church binds and looses (don’t get too hung up on what “the Church” might mean, at this point – we will address this in the coming days).  Understand that we’re not specifically talking about forgiveness, when we say ‘binding and loosing,’ but we’re talking about the standards for the community of God’s people, within which we understand what sin is (and thus, what requires forgiveness).  Thus, somehow the standards of Heaven are subject to the standards of the Church.

The paradox is that the Church is subject to the Lordship of Christ.  At its best, the Church upholds the teaching of Christ and the standards that Christ lays out for it.  In such an ideal case, we can then bypass the middle man and say that the standards of Heaven are subject to the Lordship of Christ – a statement that most of us would be fairly comfortable with.  The problem with inserting the middle man is that we’re sure that the Church gets it wrong sometimes.  What do we make of this?  What if the Church gets Jesus wrong, and binds the Law when it should be loosing, or looses the Law when it should be binding?  Does Heaven still “go along” with the Church?

Well, in Jesus’ words… yes.  So notice what we’re talking about here.  We’re talking about entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven, which is in some way dependent upon the standards of the Church.  We’re not saying that God’s standards are in any way dependent upon the Church – we’re even recognizing that the Church could quite possibly get God’s standards wrong.  What is said here is that if the Church is wrong in its teaching: if it has bound the Law where it should have loosed; if it has loosed the Law where it should have bound, then the individuals who have been led (or in this case, misled) by the Church will not be denied the Kingdom of Heaven, simply for the Church’s corporate/institutional mistake.  Heaven will accept the one who bound where they should have loosed, or who loosed where they should have bound, though it be an unacknowledged sin, because the Church was in error.  What the Church bound on earth was bound in Heaven; what she loosed on earth was loosed in Heaven.

This is some rather abstract illustrating of the point.  Tomorrow we will begin to look at some more concrete examples of binding and loosing, pulled from the pages of Matthew.

Snowed in

So apparently there’s going to be another blizzard, the likes of which we haven’t seen here since… last Friday. At any rate, Cindy says that I’m confined to the house – which means that the Halo party will have to go on without me. Conversely, that means that Dransik has my attention for the day. Unfortunately, it also means I have to put off my gaming with Michael until Sunday – but that can be done easily enough. He gets a ride to church in the morning with Greg, can come home with me for the afternoon, and then get a ride home again with Greg after Evensong. Hopefully that will work.

So, what does a day of Dransik look like? Well, for one it’ll probably involve some people giving me some pixels (you know birthday presents in a video game…?). Hopefully it’ll involve a bunch of people coming online to play – do some group hunting, hopefully get the Game Moderators to give us a few events (a race, and a big hell monster attack), maybe do some group reminiscing. One friend has already offered to bake a birthday cake for me, in game (yes, it is possible to bake cakes in Dransik – if you take time to plant and harvest your crops, mill flour, milk cows, and gather eggs!). So I think that’ll be a good time. I’m certainly looking forward to it. Oh, and I have a birthday present for myself, on Dransik, too.

Birthday Bliss?

So I thought it would be awesome to play lots of video games on my birthday. At first I wanted to have people over to my house – Michael and a few others – to just play some Battlefront II, or maybe Halo 2 (not Halo 3, as I only have 2 360 controllers, so two would have to be spectators). Subsequent to that, it turned out that Jeff Matsumiya was taking care of Jordan Henkelman (both from Holy Trinity), and that they wanted to host a big Halo 3 tournament at Jordan’s house – so why not on Saturday? So part of my birthday celebrations will be diverted to Jordan’s house for Halo 3, it looks like. Yet now, on top of that, I’ve really been itching for some more Dransik – and people who play that game with me are interested in having some kind of event for my birthday. But Dransik is only one player… so how do I fit that in? It’s painful to have so many friends that want to play with you!

Where to?

So my position at Holy Trinity is coming to a close. Due to financial considerations, I will not be continuing here beyond January. It hit us kind of hard at first, though we’ve gotten used to it, now. The question, though, is this: where do we go now?

I’ve spoken to a few bishops, and all of these conversations have been very positive. It seems that these types are enthusiastic about the possibility of having me work in their respective dioceses. Or is that just bishop talk? I remember back to a conversation I had with Ron Ferris years ago. I was a youth delegate to synod in Algoma, and we were at Bishophurst for a reception (Bishophurst being the bishop’s residence in that diocese). In a brief conversation with Ron, he commented that my father was doing a fine job in Thunder Bay – and that he could use a dozen more clergy “like him.” I commented that he probably said that to all of the pks (preacher’s kids) in the diocese. His answer was that he didn’t. I asked him what he said to the other ones. He said, “Nothing.” Now, I don’t put too much stock in that – it was a quick conversation. I’m sure that there were many things that he spoke to pks about, even if he wasn’t too impressed with the work that their parents were doing. That said, it was just a few months later that he asked my dad to be the Archdeacon in Thunder Bay. So he was certainly honest with me about his impressions of his ministry. So maybe it’s just the cynic in me that would think that a bishop would express interest, even if there was none. I’ve been burned before, so I guess a little cynicism is to be expected – though not affirmed. Being a trusting individual is one thing that I strive for.

So there are a couple of things on the horizon, I guess. The hard part is being open to all possibilities (thus, giving God free reign to lead me where He will, rather than where I will), even the ones that sound somewhat similar to possibilities that haven’t worked out for me in the past.