It was my first (and perhaps my last) white-water rafting experience of my life.  Before entering the raft with my fellow white-water rafters and shoving off from shore, there were several instructions shared with us. These were important instructions!  These were instructions applicable at some point during our tumultuous trip down river.

One of the first instructions I remember was–should your raft turn over and you find yourself in the water, do not fight the water! Relax, let your life-presever buoy you along.  Thank God for that instruction!  We had barely reached our first rapid when, you guessed it–over we went into that stirring, troubled, tumultuous water that resembled a washing machine on a heavy duty cycle!  To my knowledge, of all those in our raft,  there was only one remaining in the raft when it rolled.

Thrashing violently in the water,  feeling like the last human to be brought to the bottom of this gigantic “washing machine tub,” I remembered: relax, surrender, let the life-preserver buoy you.  I did and it did–I was immediately buoyed by my life-vest! The water was no less colder, no less “wash tubby,” no less swift and no less treacherous along the way.  Upon safely reaching our destination, which seemed like 40 days and 40 nights, I felt like I had been on a survival course and had not been warned, “If you decide to take on this mission you may have a near death experience!” OMG!

Most people I know have had experiences like this at some point in their lives, experiences my mother described as “winger washing machine” experiences. In case you do not know, there is a difference between a washing machine and a wringer washing machine. A washing machine has a agitator that agitates the water, but a wringer washing machine has not only an agitator it also has a mechanism attached to the top of the washing machine that you pass your clothes through two rollers to squish the water out of them. Wringer washing machine experiences wash you out, wring you out and leave you feeling weak as a new-born calf. Truth is, “IF crises made appointments, none of us would schedule them.” Someone has said, “The difference between a problem and a crisis is–a problem can be solved, you have to live through a crisis.” How true!

Which brings me to a thought I have been contemplating, something I think most people contemplate when faced with some cantankerous wringer washing machine crisis-RESIGNATION OR RELINQUISHMENT!

I must confess to you there have been times when, before I get to either resignation or relinquishment, my bull-headed, cantankerous side rears it’s head. You see, I’ve never been one who liked to surrender. Sometimes that has been a good thing, but mostly, it’s taught me a lesson, a lesson I hoped I’ve finally learned. When I do find myself blinded by my bull-headedness–HUMILIATION always waits in the wings.  Ugh!!

Truthfully, no one one is immune from such non-surrendering behavior. However, with age and growing wisdom, that is not where any of us have to stay.  There are times to surrender.  There are times when we need to rein in the self-will run riot.  There are times, as an old  Kenny Roger’s song says,  “You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run….”   There are times to pray The Serenity Prayer and really act on what we have prayed: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.”

Which brings us to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Richard Foster in his book, Prayer:  Finding the Heart’s True Home, has helped me as much as anyone to understand the difference between resignation and relinquishmnet. In his book he writes:

“…the Prayer of Relinquishment is Christian prayer and not fatalism. We do not resign ourselves to fate. Catherine Marshal writes (from her book,Beyond our Selves, p. 94) ‘Resignation is barren of faith in the love of God…. Resignation lies down quietly in the dust of the universe from which God seems to have fled, and the door of Hope swings shut’.”(p.50)

I can only imagine the anguish in Jesus’ heart as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is unfathomable the depth of emotions he felt! What we do know he was not resigned to his fate. No, what he did was relinquish his will to his Father. Again, Foster:

“Here we have the perfect flowing into the will of the Father. ‘Your will be done’ was Jesus’ consuming concern. To applaud the will of God is not difficult…until it comes at cross-purposes with our will. Then the lines are drawn, the debate begins, and the self-deception takes over. But in the school of Gethsemane we learn that ‘my will, my way, my good” must yield to higher authority.” (p. 50

So, when those wringer washing machine experiences come our way (and they will come our way), may we be reminded there is one who buoys us more than a life-vest. Foster writes: “The Prayer of Relinquishment is a bone fide letting go, but it is a release with Hope.” (p.52)

Thanks for sitting a spell with me!  Before you go, would you like a cup of coffee?

Well, they are certainly stacking up. Before these, there were all of the catalogs and sales flyers stacking up.  They haven’t stopped, but there are fewer and fewer every day, but now another stack has begun— layers and layers of them ! I’m talking about Top Lists: TOP TEN LISTS, TOP TWENTY LISTS.  Tops Lists for the Worst and Best: in dress, in songs, in stories of victory or defeat, in movies, in actors/actresses.  I even found The Top 10 Top 10 Lists of 2012.

One list that stands out in my mind as this year comes to a close is The Top 26 List: 20 Children:  Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Aveille, Benjamin and Allison.  6 Adults:  Rachel, Dawn, Anne, Lauren, Mary, and Victoria.

Recently when I saw the movie, The Hobbit, there is a scene in which Gandolf the Wizard speaks a word about the great depth of loss and tragedy that has come to the Dwarves upon the loss their homeland.  Gandalf says,  “Our deaths were beyond the count of grief!”

As we (that’s you and me) sit a spell on Sinner’s Row, let’s end 2012 with confession and with new resolve:

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed by what we have done, and what we have left undone.  (from The Book of Common Prayer)

Or,

Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.  We have failed to be an obedient church.  We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy.  Forgive us, we pray.  Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. (from The United Methodist Hymnal)

Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God’s love for us. In the name of Christ, you [and I] are forgiven!

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Confession:  I’m new to this blogging thing.  Confession:  I am a sinner.  And as Forest Gump said, “And that’s all I’m gonna say about that!” (For now at least)

SINNER’S ROW

I don’t recall where I was when “sinner’s row” popped into my head, but I know it resonated deep within me.  Perhaps it resonated with me because if there is any place I belong it is on sinner’s row. Perhaps you do too, but you make that decision!  For those who choose not to sit–God Bless!  For those who do choose to sit–God Bless!

Anyway, if you feel comfortable, come sit a spell. We’re not going to sit and swap sinner’s tales, even though 16th century Martin Luther said, “Be a sinner and sin boldly….” Oh and remember  St. Paul?         He confessed that he was the  “chief of sinners.”  And we?  Well, we all have our own and enough sins to go around!

So, here is what I propose we do (today, at least) as we sit on Sinner’s Row, let’s listen deeply to what W.H. Auden has written about the Three Wise Men (I know! I know! It’s not Epiphany):

“At least we know for certain that we are three old sinners,
That this journey is much too long, that we want our dinners,
          and miss our wives, our books, our dogs,

But have only the vaguest idea of why we are what we are.
To discover how to be human now
          is the reason we follow the star.”

— W.H. Auden, “For the Time Being, a Christmas Oratorio”

Oh, by the way,  Martin Luther not only said, “Sin boldly.”  He also said, “…Believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly!”

Welcome to Sinner’s Row!  Come sit a spell!

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