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“Cattywampus”

For the past two weeks, I have been with my youngest child, Vyse, in rural Canaan, NY, about an hour south of Albany, building a greenhouse. We spent the first few days designing the structure, ordering the materials, and prepping the ground. “Murphy” was in charge, so, of course, everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. So we got too many cinderblocks and too many bags of mortar. Ugh.


It happened that the site chosen for the greenhouse is the old leach field. In case you, modern urbanites, do not know what a leach field is, it is the old sewer systems for homes in rural areas. Each house has its own septic tank, and once the waste materials had dissolved, they overflowed into the leach field underground and were absorbed by the ground. In the olden days, a leach field was made with rocks and gravel about two feet below the surface, lasting about 20 to 25 years. Irma Bombeck, in the 1080s, wrote a funny book titled “Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank,” explaining its impact on the land. In modern days we only have a septic tank, which would have to be emptied after several years. Because the field was not used for a better part of half a century, we did not have to hold our noses. Whew.


However, we ran into rocks, forcing us to change the foundation’s design. We were repurposing old windows, meaning the greenhouse had to be extra sturdy and precise. I basically spent a week and a half playing with power tools and a whole bunch of 2x4s. Long story short, we did not finish, and I will have to return to put the roof up. Yeah!


Because of the leach field, our foundation had to be very cattywampus and funny looking. However, because of the adjustments that were made to compensate for the uneven foundation, the structure is straight and sturdy, well, relatively straight. After all, it was I who built it, so you can’t expect it to be too straight. But I overengineered everything to ensure that the structure would not fall down. There is nothing extra 2x4s cannot fix. More is better. No?


The building process made me think about spirituality. Working with bent, warped, and twisted 2x4s made it impossible for us to make the building straight. I am not sure that even if we had straight materials if we had the skills to build it straight, but surely with crooked materials, we did not stand a chance of coming close to building it straight. So, if we are honest with ourselves, we have no choice but to admit that there is no way our spiritual lives could be straight. What a relief.


The sad reality, however, is that we all have experienced people who have emphasized the idea that being spiritual means to be straight. How wrong they are. Having a crooked foundation, we struggled with whether to make the walls straight to the foundation or to the ground. As you can imagine, it is straight with neither; it is only straight in the cattywampus land. In the same way, our spiritual lives are nothing more than making daily adjustments to our cattywampus spiritual lives. Wow.


Our past lives have impacted our choices today, and we are called to make the most faithful decisions we know how to make today. We are called to adjust and adapt to the best of our ability each and every day. That’s faith.


Living cattywampus spiritually lives with you.


Pastor Sunny

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