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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Flies and Lies

The only fisherman who will tell the truth about where the fish are biting is your father.  And if your really lucky, which fly to tie on.  Don't bother asking anyone else, you'll get a fish story.

The annual father-and-sons fishing adventure saw another season in 2010 on the remote rivers in southwest Virginia.  Knee-deep in the summer stream with cowpies about and copperheads sunning on nearby rocks, I ask what more could any fisherman ask for?  Well, fish, of course.  Trout to be exact.  

Fly fishing is like learning to drive a standard--it requires both hands, some coordination, and a lot of finesse.  It's easy to get hooked (yes, I know--last pun) on what feels like a more artful way to fish.  Rhythm is essential in casting your line, soaring over the water with grace and precision.  My first fly fishing expedition took place in 1994, chest deep in the freezing waters of the Eagle River near Vail, Colorado.  Amid the falling snow, my guide helped me land a large, trophy Rainbow trout which afforded me familial bragging rights for eternity.  Ever since that audacious beginning, I managed to lose my way back to the streams--life and all the familiar distractions got in the way.                                                                

I admit there were times when I begrudgingly went along on those fishing trips with my dad and brother.  It seems my older brother was always eager and I was always looking for excuses.  I could not for the life of me understand why my dad was insistent upon this annual venture.  What is it about taking your sons out into the wilderness in search of these slimy, cold water fish?  Understandably, no teenager could solve that riddle, it took becoming a father myself to grasp an answer.  It goes without saying that fatherhood changes the game of life completely--it's no longer about YOU but about THEM. Sharing your passions with those you love is a profound exercise of trust and fidelity, especially when you reveal the choicest fishing holes or that a copperjohn fly is the best for this stream.   

So the answer of course is priceless.  A bad day fishing is always better than any good day at work.  Adding your son or daughter (or both in my case) only sweetens the deal.  It's not about catching fish, even though that's always the stated premise.  It's about doing something timeless together without distraction and without the pressures of everyday life.  And yes it's true, time manages to stop temporarily as you wade deep into the streams.    

Time, flies, and lies make up the passion of fly fishing.  It's magic worked on me, I no longer drag my feet at an invitation.  I get it now and it makes sense.  Something tells me that my own children will probably act just as I did.           

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Work

Following the hectic move from seminary, I've been enjoying a few weeks of rest while visiting my family in West Virginia.  I'm determined to start a vegetable container garden in an effort to eat better and live, as Saint Benedict urges, "by the sweat of your brow."  I've grown from seed green beans, arugula, green onions, and hopefully some of my baby spinach seeds will pop.  I've added an established tomato plant as well as a jalapeno pepper plant.  Maybe by late July or early August I'll have some food to show for my labor.

I found a pile of old wood from a clapboard fence that was ripped out at my parent's house.  I decided that I wanted to try my hand at some more woodwork by recycling and repurposing old wood.  So far, I've built a potting table, a bench, and two plant stands.  


The potting bench was really fun to build and I did not make any drawings as such, just went forward with what I had envisioned in my mind.

The bench and plant stands are for my parent's house, they were built for a side porch that needed some pizazz.  I'm going to paint these in a milky-green antique color to give some curb appeal and pop.

All in all, I'm managing to stay pretty busy and the work is relaxing.  Having free labor around the house is not going to waste, for sure.  I find that I rather enjoy the challenge of repurposing old wood in order to create new and useful things.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Warning: Be Careful What You Pray For

Saint Francis of Assisi knew something of the power of prayer.  Recorded in the biographical work on the saint, The Little Flowers of Saint Francis, we learn of Francis' prayer before receiving the wounds of Christ.
The next day came, to wit the day of the most Holy Cross, and St. Francis, betimes in the morning, or ever it was day, betook himself to prayer before the entrance of his cell, and turning his face towards the East, prayed after this manner: "O my Lord Jesus Christ, two graces do I beseech Thee to grant me before I die: the first, that, during my lifetime, I may feel in my soul and in my body, so far as may be possible, that pain which Thou, sweet Lord, didst suffer in the hour of Thy most bitter passion; the second is that I may feel in my heart, so far as may be possible, that exceeding love, whereby Thou, Son of God, wast enkindled to willingly bear such passion for us sinners"
It's a beautiful prayer for broken people; broken people like me find these words searing.  I learned about this prayer my first year in seminary.  On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14), The Rev. Dr. Bob Hughes spoke of Francis' prayer and its efficacy during his sermon in our seminary chapel, Chapel of the Apostles.  It was a favorite of the late Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM of blessed memory who died ministering to NYC firefighters during the 9-11 attacks.  It is also a favorite of mine and helped me greatly during those early seminary days.  In fact, I used to pray it nightly.  There was something so powerful that struck me about Francis' cry of the heart: let me know that pain that delivered the world by your death, but even more fill my heart with the love that brought you to the cross.  I distinctly recall leaving chapel that day and having those words running through my mind.  I could not let them go.  I don't think I wanted to.

It turns out that you have to be careful for what you pray for, if in God's providence it is deemed necessary, it could come true.  I don't boast the stigmata, I am too unworthy of that mark but at least in metaphor I think I have come to know something of this prayer.

Death and resurrection, love and pain, wounds and healing, separation and reunion all encircle those provocative words from Francis.  To be so bold to proclaim Christ crucified and resurrected is to share in that tension where we find our own lives struggling each and every day to be wholly loved.  The marks of the crucified Lord are brought to bear in the lives of the least, the last, and the lost even now.  Some bear those marks deep within.  The Kingdom of God has indeed come near, but it has not yet been consummated in the dance of creation moving ever so closely to fulfilling God's destiny.  And so those scars remain, present reminders of infinite love mingled with mortifying pain.

I prayed those words because I believed that I needed to know that pain of being stuck out on a limb to die, to give up one's own life so that others may have life and have it abundantly.  And yet even hanging out there, God's love is poured into the heart to fill up those leaky cracks--wounds and all. You get both, and both you shall have.  There is no warning label on the baptismal font and perhaps there should be one.  This life in Christ is not all fun and games, it's real and it's really life-saving.  But.  But the cost is death and the return is resurrection.  No one said it would be easy or even remotely pleasant for that matter. The tears somehow turn to joy bringing the cross to bear under the weight of true and lasting freedom in the Redeemer.  Since praying that prayer in seminary, I have known days of extreme and total agony, crying out in dereliction with Christ.  Still there are days which swell my heart with profound, speechless grace.  Today, at least, I sense both at work.  I know them to be inextricably bound together.  Today, at least, I get those words in all their fullness and I'll take it.  Both.

Lord Christ, may I feel in my body as much as possible the pain you endured on the cross, but even more may I know in my heart the love that brought you there.  Amen.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Monk Runner

I decided that I needed an additional motivational tool for me to help prepare for the 2010 ING New York City Marathon, so I've created a running blog simply called The Monk Runner.  Check it out, though it's still very much a work in progress.

Anglican Church of Canada: General Synod 2010

On June 3, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada opened its triennial meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  You can follow the events of the General Synod 2010 online through the Synod's website.  The communications that come out of the Synod are great.  I followed the 2007 Synod with great interest and I believe it is important to pray for and support our Canadian brothers and sisters while they are meeting in their major legislative body.

Click here for the daily video files.