Tag Archives: Transfiguration

16th day of Lent.

16th day of Lent. Selling Girl Scout cookies is teaching my Sweets goal-setting, people skills, decision-making, money management, and business ethics. This morning she was crushed because she misplaced a four dollar payment a friend gave her. It took a while to realize that it was only four dollars, and that she’d been doing a great job keeping track of the rest of her sales dollars. Once she remembered that she said, “if I don’t find it, I’ll take it from my allowance.” “Great!” I said.This afternoon, she had a nice lesson in customer service also.

I received a call from a customer she’d delivered to who said that two of the boxes she received were for cookies she didn’t order. “Okay” my daughter said when I handed her the phone. “I don’t have those cookies right now. I’ll come back with them later.” She ended the call and turned to me. “Dad, look at the spreadsheet, the cookies I gave her were the ones she ordered. What are we going to do? She wants Tagalongs. I don’t know if I have any.” “Well, I’m sure we can get them somewhere” I said. “What do you think would make her happy?” “Tagalongs. But what if she made a mistake when she placed her order? She has to take those cookies.” “Well, how would you feel if you had to take cookies you didn’t like just because you made a mistake?” “Okay” she said, not because she would feel ok if that happened but because she understood my point. I asked her to look up the order on the original form. She did. “Dad. This says she ordered Do-Si-Dos.” It’s a data entry error and her second mistake of the day. “What do you think you should do?” I asked. “I have to call her.” She calls and confirms that it’s the Peanut Butter sandwich cookie she wants, and not the Tagalongs. That’s what the customer gets.

Sweets loves selling cookies. Tonight I asked her what she likes the most about selling cookies. “People get so happy” she said. “What about delivering cookies. What do you like the best about that?” “It’s the same thing. They’re so happy to see me.” Marshall Rosenberg said “the most joyful and intrinsic motivation human beings have for taking any action is the desire to meet our needs and the needs of others.” She loves selling cookies because she sees them making people happy. To me what she is doing is meeting the needs of others through her service.

This year she beat her goal by a hundred boxes, selling three hundred more boxes in her initial order than she did last year. She did it in less time, and with less effort than she ever has. At the same time, she’s about a week behind in her deliveries. When you sell 1100 boxes of cookies there’s a lot of work that has to happen in between the fun of taking the orders, and the fun of delivering them. That in between part went missing until she came to terms with what had to be done. Now, she’s flowing.

When I think about what it must have been like to be a disciple of Jesus, I think that early on the disciples must have felt, that it was fun. They were spending their days with someone who made them think, who helped others, and who introduced them to living their lives as Jews in a different and compelling way. Like Peter, I wouldn’t have known what to make of the Transfiguration. Mark says, “He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified” (Mk 9:6). Once it’s over, the scriptures say, Jesus told them “not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.” I think they loved being with Jesus, helping people, and listening to him teach. What was next for Jesus was beyond them.

For Jesus, saying that the transfiguration wasn’t to be spoken of? That’s his first real “come to Jesus” moment (it’s late as I write, and bad jokes come out when I’m tired). Or to make more painful and obvious wordplay, it was his “mountaintop experience.” The moment when he realized that being who he was, and living the life he believed he was meant to live, came with a cost. A price greater than any of the work involved in between selling and delivering Girl Scout cookies, yes. But experiences like that for Jesus, for my daughter, and all of us, are crucibles through which we find out who we are. They’re not easy. As a mom who’s given birth to a child might say, “it’s the most pain I’ve ever experienced. It was worth it, too.” Along the way there are moments, and lengths of doubt. Being true to the life you’re called to live, as a scholar, a nurse, a sibling, or spouse isn’t often easy. What parent doesn’t sometimes wish for “a break?” You do the best you can, whether you feel like it or not. Ten times out of ten, it’s enough. When you give what you have, it is enough. That’s you being only the person you can be, “living in time” (Christian Wiman).

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15th day of Lent.

Today I spoke with a friend about what it was like being a dad, and how I had no clue what I was getting into when I started. I had thoughts, of course, but really, I had no idea. I might as well have been on that mountain with Peter, seeing Jesus with Moses, and Elijah, followed by the cloud and a voice. There wasn’t a voice except the one saying, “It’s your turn to get up with the baby.” Followed by my “I was just up with him.” And then in reply, “no, I was just up with him.”

Becoming a parent. It’s transfiguring. The moment of birth is an awakening that brings responsibility. A little while after I married I consented to having a dog, because it’d be a practice of sorts, before having a baby. After my son’s birth I wondered what person thought the two were analagous. It’s there, yes, but palely. Living into the full reality of what being a dad was really like, and understanding what the role requires is something that happened over time. Along the way at various points I was like Peter suggesting to his mom that we build our own shrines. Me seeing being a parent as something I did, and not something I was.

Faith is like that in a way. We can find ourselves longing for an experience we had of church in the past. Or a sense of who God is, which is sure, that we haven’t had since before college, or high school. I’m fond of a phrasing Peter Rollins uses in his book How (Not) to Speak of God saying that “To believe is human, to doubt divine.” It’s so easy to cast things as black and white in our spiritual life, even when we know we’re surrounded with grey in so much of what we do. We forget that Jesus doubted. When we doubt, we’re being like him. For Rollins, “doubt is a purifying fire that helps us find out what we really are.” The things you doubt, those are the questions that are yours to love, so you can live your way into answers (Rilke).

Christian Wiman makes these same points when he says “[T]here is no way to “return to the faith of your childhood,” not really….No. Life is not an error, even when it is. That is to say, whatever faith you emerge with at the end of your life is going to be not simply affected by that life, but intimately dependent upon it, for faith in God is, in the deepest sense, faith in life–which means that even the staunchiest life of faith is a life of great change….God calls to us at every moment, and God is life, this life. Radical change remains a possibility within us right up until our last breath. The greatest tragedy of human existence is not to live in time, in both senses of that phrase.” (My Bright Abyss, pp 7-8). Life changes us all the time. Our sense of who we are as people who have faith, informed by our lives should also change. Let yourself be transfigured.

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14th day of Lent.

Love is a choice. It’s an action. Oh pheromones may draw us to each other. Or maybe a certain look, but over time, it’s a choice. By that I don’t mean choosing to stay in a relationship–it’s that of course–but the real choice, the transfiguration that happens in families, in great friendships, and with love is the one where you accept and see the limitations and flaws of the other person and know that even though they’re limited, even though they sometimes frustrate and anger you, they are enough.

The transfiguring doesn’t happen right away. It isn’t easy either. As Rilke says, “For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.” (Letters to a Young Poet #7). It helps if you’ve done the work and have a working sense of your limits, flaws. Knowing them, you still see yourself as whole.

Anais Nin’s wisdom rings true, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Or as we are not. Today I saw a postcard that said, “Throwback Thursday, that picture you took twenty pounds ago when you wished you’d taken more pictures of yourself before you were fat.” We don’t see people as they are. We see age, disability, orientation, color, creed, weight, and class. As Annie Dillard notes in Pilgim at Tinker Creek, “What you see is what you get.” As with a lot of things, Transfiguring begins with you.

Here’s a neat transfiguration story I first encountered moons ago, in Scott Peck’s book The Different Drum. Who said how long? It is so long ago that if I were to tell you how long, I’d have to cough as I did. You know, so you wouldn’t hear me (and I wouldn’t hear myself).

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13th day of Lent.

What happened to Peter and his companions during Jesus’ transfiguration? They fall asleep and wake up. They see Moses and Elijah with Jesus and don’t seem to know what to do with that experience. As if anyone would! The best that Peter come up with is an idea to put up shrines and consecrate the place as sacred.

People still do that. They have a religious experience in a particular place and suddenly that place is where you go to find God. That place, as opposed another, as if God is more present in one place than another. A church isn’t the house of God because God is more present there. It’s the house of God because people gather there. Churches are for us that way.

Peter didn’t get it. He doesn’t yet get what this experience will require from him. Peter needs to be transfigured, too. As the Scripture says “he did not know what he was saying.” (Lk9:33). Mark says “he was terrified.” Almost to emphasize this while he’s talking a cloud forms around him and he hears a voice say “listen to him.” The him, being Jesus. Once he gets it. Once he understands that he’s not just witnessing something, that instead God is asking something of him, and of Jesus, he’ll have his own epiphany and be transfigured. He’ll see things differently, and he’ll live differently as a result.

Today a video started popping up in my feed that showed the skeletal shapes of people on a black screen, behind which folks of all shapes, creeds, sexes, ages and abilities were kissing, hugging, and dancing. The people behind the screen were couples, spouses, families, and friends. The “Love had no labels” video is lovely, and effectively helps one understand that relationships are about love. In that way, it offers three minutes where you might find yourself transfigured. Take a look.

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11th day of Lent.

Two quotes and a story on this day after hearing the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration at Mass.

“The glory of God is [a person] fully alive, and the life of [the human person] is the vision of God.” ~ Saint Irenaus, Against Heresies Book IV, 20, 7.

“The only true and steadfast Teacher, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, through his transcendent love, became what we are, that he might bring us to be what he is himself.” ~ St. Irenaus, Against Heresies, Book V, preface.

“Reb Zusya, a righteous rabbi, lay dying. His disciples surrounded him, and were astounded to see that their teacher and sage, a man whom all regarded as a model of appropriate thought and deed, shook with fear at the prospect of death and judgement.

“Master,” said his disciples, “why do you fear God’s judgement? You have lived life with the faith of Abraham. You have been as nurturing as Rachel. You have feared the Divine as Moses himself. Why do you fear judgement?”

Zusya took a deep, shuddering breath, and replied: “When I come before the throne of judgement, I am not afraid that God will ask, ‘why were you not more like Abraham?’ After all, I can say, ‘O God, you know best of all, that I am Zusya, not Abraham, how then should I have been more like Abraham?’ And if God should ask, ‘Why were you not more caring, like Rachel?’ I can respond, ‘Master of the Universe, you made me to be Zusya, not Rachel. If you wanted me to be more like Rachel, you should have made me more like Rachel.’ And should the True Judge say, ‘Zusya, why were you not more like Moses?’ I can respond, ‘O Mysterious One, who am I, Zusya, that I should be like Moses.’ But, I tremble in terror, because I think the Eternal will ask me another question. I believe I will be asked, ‘Zusya, why were you not more like Zusya?’ And when I am asked this, how shall I respond?””

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