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wheat and weeds

Image from https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org Early in my life, I was taught to identify weeds. My mom took me to the vegetable garden and instructed me to pull up the purslane (we called it Fatta Han) and thistles so they wouldn't interfere with the peas and tomatoes. As an adolescent, I got a job hoeing beets during the summer months and many a weed fell under my hoe's blade. But what are weeds, exactly? How do you know whether something is a weed or not? Basically, weeds are classified as undesirable plants that grow alongside desired plants. There is nothing inherently bad about them; they are just in the wrong place, at least according to the farmer or gardener. In forests, ditches, valleys, and meadows, there are virtually no weeds because there is no intentional planting.  Whether a plant is a weed or not depends largely on its location. In a vegetable garden, a dandelion is considered a weed. Yet some harvest dandelions for herbal tea. In a field of wheat, grass is
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Jesus and the thief

Recently, I was listening to a reading from Matthew 24, a story I have heard many times before. However, this time something seemed out of place. Jesus is talking to his disciples about the coming of the Human One (Son of Man). He states that they do not know what day the Lord is coming, so they must keep alert. His metaphor of choice is unexpected. “But you understand that if the head of the house knew at what time the thief would come, he would keep alert and wouldn’t allow the thief to break into his house. Therefore, you also should be prepared, because the Human One will come at a time you don’t know” (Matthew 24:43-44, CEB). Did Jesus just compare himself to a thief? That would be disturbing. If he wanted to emphasize the unpredictability of divine/human encounters, why didn’t he use a positive metaphor, like an unexpected visit from a beloved relative, or a serendipitous encounter with a long-lost friend? Why a thief? No one wants an encounter with a thief. Such a visit invoke

mailing list of life (repost)

While scrolling through some stuff on my computer, I came across this piece which I wrote eleven years ago. June 9, 2010. It reads like a "Dear Future Me" letter in some ways. These are words I need to hear right now. They are reminders about what's truly important in navigating the road ahead. And I also see how I have changed in the interim years, less convinced that God is male, less idealistic and certain, less theoretical and more embodied, and more aware of the ways we have turned blind eyes to inequities right under our noses. These days, I would also pair self-forgetfulness (decentring myself) with radical self-love and care. Nevertheless, these words make me smile and look at my body and my life with kindness and appreciation. Thanks, younger me. You did well.  ----------------- I was reaching for something the other day when Dean pointed at my arm and said, "Hey, that's new!" He was referring to the triceps swinging lazily in a stretchy hammock of

You are the branches

Image from evineyardapp.com Last week I was reading the beginning of John 15 again. Here, Jesus employs the metaphor of a vineyard to describe the divine/human relationship. Jesus: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done f

righteousness and peace have kissed

When we moved to Quebec, I had to adapt to a new way of greeting people. The greeting I received in other parts of Canada was a sturdy handshake which related goodwill without getting too close. In French society, it was a quick kiss on both cheeks, a rather intimate gesture if you are not used to it. I still find it a bit awkward, especially when you can't remember which cheek goes first. I have not greeted anyone with a kiss since March (due to the pandemic) and I sort of miss it. The kiss of greeting reflects vulnerability and a willingness to welcome others into one's personal space, to assume a certain closeness, even with strangers. It is, in many ways, a physical representation of hospitality and welcome.  In Psalm 85, we read: "Unfailing love and truth have met on their way; righteousness and peace have kissed one another" (The Voice Translation). The word "righteousness" is from the Hebrew tsedeq which means to make right and it is sometimes transla

stories from exile: belonging and dissenting (part 3)

Image from pinterest.com This is the third in a series of stories from exile. You can read part one  here  and part two  here . We all have a need to belong. This seems obvious. But what is not as obvious is that we also need to dissent, to set ourselves apart from the group. Belonging makes us part of something bigger than ourselves. It gives us a place to call home, a place to feel secure and safe. But without dissent, we become indistinct, a group member with no unique identity or will. Without dissent, we end up going along with everything the group does, no questions asked, a participant in dysfunctional groupthink. Any parent or psychologist will tell you that it is important and healthy for a child to learn dissent in their formative years. We need both belonging and dissent in order to be fully human. When we are experiencing some form of exile (dislocation and separation from what is familiar), belonging is harder to come by, but still vital. In less than ideal situations, we

stories from exile (part 2)

Jacob's Dream by Jusepe de Ribera This is the second in a series: Stories from Exile. You can read part one  here . The biblical texts are full of stories featuring people who leave home for one reason or another and find themselves in an in-between place. The entire saga of Abraham and Sarah is underscored by a sense of un-belonging. The history of Israel is filled with tales situated in liminal spaces. People are running from danger, travelling to find a wife, searching for livestock, going to war, passing through a foreign land, or wandering in the wilderness.  One of these in-between stories is found in Genesis 28. Barbara Brown Taylor summarizes the familiar tale: There he was, still a young man, running away from home because the whole screwy family had finally imploded. His father was dying. He and his twin brother, Esau, had both wanted their father’s blessing. Jacob’s mother had colluded with him to get it, and though his scheme worked, it enraged his brother to the point