Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pokerum Mysterium

"Poker is a metaphor for Life" is a saying that one stumbles upon often when reading in the genus --. It's easy to understand how such a catch-phrase would become popular. One could structure a side by side comparison of attributes of each quite easily. Paul Samuel, in a post on PokerPages writes, "If you want to talk to people use words, but if you want to talk to God use Maths".

I consider myself a person of prayer - I pray frequently, however I use words. Maybe that is why my prayers never seem to be answered in the way I would like, maybe that is why it seems as if my life is "swirling the drain" these days.

I can perform simple arithmetic in my head with pretty good speed. Addition, multiplication, division, percentages have always come easy to me. It's the alphabet soup stuff -- Algebra -- that has always thrown me for a loop. Our daughter is taking two algebra classes this year in HS -- she stopped asking me for help some time ago -- smart kid.

Yet, mathematics is the engine of poker -- probabilities and odds --. It's a wonder it all works, really. Mathematicians have been around for millenia, seeking to explore the universe as they find it, looking for the "end of the string" so to speak, they keep pushing the boundaries of knowledge farther and farther.

And then, there is this simple game which "takes 5 minutes to learn and a lifetime to master (obi wan Brunson)". What makes it so intriguing is the admixture of a fixed universe of mathematics - the odds and probabilities don't change, and an unlimited number of players each with their own style, personalities, assumptions, expectations and wills. These combinations are what make this game so challenging and compelling.

To me, in a "micro" sort of way -- this game mirrors the mysteries of life with its rigid parameters of birth/death, and the great uncertainties which lie between them. "Never draw to an inside straight?" depends.
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Vision, Again!!

It happens every so often to me. It happened again this past Sunday. Let me tell you about it............I was preparing for worship, which these days consists of looking through the worship folder to see who needed to be remembered prayer, what was happening in the congregation in the upcoming week, and marking where the hymns are in the worship book so that I wouldn't take half the verses finding the song.

In the front of our worship space is a small table filled with votive candles where people go to offer a prayer and light a candle. As a life-long Lutheran, this practice is not familiar to me as a part of my heritage. My church home now is Lutheran, this is most certainly true, but it was started by Swedish Lutherans who probably appreciated any bit of extra heat and light (especially this time of year).

I was struck by the gathering around that table of small candles on the First Sunday of Advent. Joyce and her grandson each lit a candle and paused for a moment of prayer. Joyce and Roger bring their grandson to worship often -- they are his spiritual mentors it appears. I know nothing of their family situation other than there is a generation skipped when it comes to them worshiping together.

Heather wheeled up in her motorized chair -- a young, pretty woman whose body has been ravaged by a debilitating disease, I'm guessing MS. She is a faithful member of this community and gets herself to church most Sundays. Heather had to stretch to reach the tapers and stretch to reach an unlit votive. I'm guessing most of life is a stretch for her -- it took a moment, but she lit a candle and offered her prayer.

Another woman was there also, a single Mom whose sexual orientation is same sex. She too lit a candle and offered a prayer.

I was struck by the beauty of the tableau. Our congregation prides itself on being multi-cultural and diverse. We see it most Sundays when the pews are filled with all sorts of different folks who come together because they are simply people of faith. The tableau confirmed for me that the faith that draws us and unites us is not simply some sort of ethereal "feeling", but it is trust in something that is real. The thing that is real is God's vision for life on this earth. It's not my vision.......though I claim it sometimes. It is the dream of God about how people are meant to relate to God and to each other. It gets played out in life too rarely it seems, alas, even among faith communities.

But when it happens, it is something to behold!! A vision of the reign of God among people -- plain people who live real lives. Real lives that have been touched by the hand of a Gracious God who loves and redeems them all.