Friday, May 26, 2017

Pentecost - In and Through and Back Again!


A story is told that there were two groups of ships on maneuvers. It was a foggy night and because of the terrible weather the captain stood the bridge – he didn't want the ships of the other group colliding with his ships.Toward dawn as his ship was going along in the ocean, the captain saw lights blinking ahead.  He ordered the signal master to signal by light to have the on-coming ship to change course 20 degrees.  The message was relayed and sent.  And back came the reply, “You change course 20 degrees.”

The captain became furious and said, “You signal that guy back, and tell him that I’m a captain and have been a captain for 25 years. Tell him I’m ordering them to change course 20 degrees.”  The message was sent.  The reply came back.   “I’m an ensign, second class.  And I suggest you change course 20 degrees, now.”

The captain became even more irate and the light was fast approaching.  So the captain said, “You tell that guy that I’m the captain of a 55-ton ship, and they’d better obey my orders immediately.”  The message was sent.  Back came the reply, “I’m a lighthouse, and suggest you change course immediately.”  And the ship changed course 20 degrees.

 Change always happens at a point in time, transformation happens over time. Change is an opportunity to see life differently now than we did before. The feast of Pentecost invites us to consider listening deeper to the call to change and the summons to transformation. We are being challenged to reflect on those places and spaces in our own lives where we may need to change course – possibly just a few degrees – or even more.

The spiritual journey is always about change and transformation – in sacred language, it is often called conversion.  The spiritual journey is not about an “extreme makeover” on the outside of us with tucks, lifts, peels, alterations, implants or porcelain veneers.  No, this journey calls for a deliberate change of course; a no-nonsense “in and through approach.” As one author remarks, “When the outer world monopolizes attention, the inner world is neglected. This inner world is the hidden place of communion with the divine.  If we do not visit it, the relationship to God withers.”

 On the spiritual journey in times and places of slowing and quieting, we enter into a sacred place and time with a willingness to move ever deeper into that inner world of solitude and communion with the Holy, although there may be a slight reluctance and resistance, now and then, on our part.  However, God continues to woo us deeper into this space assuring us of our safety and that God will never be invasive.  We also know in our being that going within does not mean staying within. It is about discovering something that will allow a much different way of being of ourselves in the outer world.  When we return to the outer world, we will bring with us a new perspective, new learning, and new wisdom.  We will see and hear differently. We will be more patient with ourselves and others; we will reclaim our way of attending to our needs and the needs of others. 

We will become more conscious of being better balanced in our way of living and doing ministry, while remembering to gently take care of our bodies, our minds and our spirits. Going within allows us to reflect on our motivations for what we do, and reclaim the sacredness of who we already are in the eyes of the Beloved. Perhaps we will feel great love in the center of ourselves, in our soul space as it opens and receives the love of God. Then this love will explode and push us into the outer world once again. 

The journey into the outer world must go through the labyrinth of the inner world.  However there is a paradox here. When we go without, we also stay within.  In other words, we enter the fray of the world, without forgetting who we are. We remember the understandings of the soul space as we go about our work, our living, and the proclaiming of the mission of Jesus. This means that from now on, no matter what we do, no matter what we encounter, we do it with a deeper awareness of the Spirit, whose love is being poured out into our souls.  “For God is able to make every grace abundant for us, so that in all things we will have all we need.”

 So what is the good news for us?
We are always being invited to consider changing course on our spiritual paths. . .
For to encounter Jesus is to change, to encounter the Spirit is to be transformed. 

 The Spirit, who is the energy of creativity, the energy of possibility is always at work re-creating those who open their hearts to the power of God’s generous love. 

 So let us move forward into the future with freedom, and change course so as to release ourselves from what we have come to hold as illusions, projections, unhealthy motivations, the certain, the familiar, the comfortable and the controlled.

 Let us move forward into the future with boldness of heart, and change course so as to give ourselves over to the Mystery, the Vision and the Power of the Spirit, and allow this energy of possibility and creativity to companion us into the now and not yet.

 Let us move forward into the future with a holy newness, and change course so that with hearts filled with the wisdom of God’s unconditional love, we will risk being prophetic voices for the least, the last and the lost.

 And let move forward with hope into the future, reverencing and welcoming the outer world, while being aware of the richness of our diverse gifts, then we will embrace the invitation to change course together, and to deepen our commitment to the transformation of our church, our world and ourselves

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Remembering Manchester . . .

For Victims of Terrorism

Loving God,
Welcome into your arms the victims of violence and terrorism.
Comfort their families and all who grieve for them.
Help us in our fear and uncertainty,
Strengthen all those who work for peace,
And may the peace the world cannot give reign in our hearts.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Memorial Day - Let us do as much as we can!!

“Prisoner at the bar,” said the judge, “I find you guilty on twenty-three counts.  I therefore sentence you to a total of one hundred and seventy-five years.” The prisoner was an old man.  He burst into tears.  The judge’s facial expression softened.  “I did not mean to be harsh,” he said. “I know the sentence I have imposed is a very severe one. You don’t really have to serve the whole of it.”  The prisoner’s eyes brightened with hope.  “That’s right,” said the judge. “Just do as much as you can!”

No doubt, we are all called to “do as much as we can” in our little corner of the world to be peacemakers.  I recall a phone call I received some years ago from a woman who went daily to church for liturgy with her neighbors, friends, and others from the surrounding towns.  She told me that she was calling because she was very concerned about the way the people at liturgy were treating her. She went on to tell me that at the “sign of peace” when everyone reaches out with the gesture of a handshake or even a hug, she has decided not to reach out and she does not want to receive the handshake of peace.  She continued her story with the details of how people approach her in her bench and extend their hand and she turns away from them. She explained that after liturgy, people even had the audacity to follow her to her car in the parking lot and offer her a handshake of peace.  Again, she spoke of how she hurried to enter her car, roll up the windows, and lock the doors – not wanting to share this sign of peace with anyone. Her question to me was, “ Aren't they wrong?  How can I get them to leave me alone?”

As I listened I prayed for insight as to how to proceed.  After she was finished describing her concern, I then spoke. I told her that the liturgy is not a private experience. We gather as a people of God – praying together in song – listening to the Word, breaking the bread and sharing the cup.  It is a ritual of communion and union!  Then I said that the handshake of peace is meant to be a sign of our willingness to live in harmony and right-relationship with each other and to let it be a prayer sent across the world for peace throughout the universe!  She hung up on me!! I just did as much as I could to have her consider a conversion to being a peacemaker or “peace-hand-shaker.”

This weekend, we observe Memorial Day. Three years after the Civil War ended on May 5, 1868, it was established as Decoration Day – a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the ward dead with flowers.  The proclamation by Gen. John Logan’s orders reads thus:  “We are organized for the purpose, among other things, of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.  What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe?”

Let us observe this Memorial Day by doing as much as we can - remembering our power and capacity to gather as peacemakers; to strengthen our spirits and vision; to decorate our hearts with the flowers of nonviolence.  It is a day of gathering with those who mourn at monuments, graves, and memorials. A day of gathering with those who stand in confusion, anger, shame, guilt, and vulnerability.  A day of gathering to remember sacrifices and great losses. A day of gathering to remember ones still held captive throughout the world, or suffering mental anguish from the trauma of terrorism and the ravages of war. It is a day of gathering with those who stand with pride for courage demonstrated and for freedoms won.  Finally, let us do as much as we can to pray, assist, give comfort,  express understanding and support to all those who have chosen to reach out in peace, and to those willing to  make sacrifices through service to their country – and may we cherish tenderly the memory of our heroic deceased women and men.
Previously Posted May 2013

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Catching up with ourselves . . .

The Practice of Pausing 

 “The Westerner, excited to be on a safari for the first time, force-marched his native guides through the jungle on a wild search for game, any game at all.  The party made good speed the first two days but on the third morning, when it was time to start, the hunter found all the guides sitting on their haunches looking very solemn and making no preparation to leave.  ‘What are they doing?’ the man asked.  ‘Why aren’t we moving on?’ ‘They are waiting,' the chief guide explained.  ‘They cannot move farther until their souls catch up with their bodies.’”

It seems to me that sometimes we push ourselves so hard and so long (to get ahead, to succeed, to achieve, to get that job, etc.) that we forget that our spirits need to learn the practice of pause. 

Much like the guides in our story, our bodies and our souls need to catch up with each other!  This time of the year in the northern hemisphere, we are in-between many events, seasons, and all sorts of activities of life.  For example: we are, at the college/university level, between final exams and commencement; liturgically, we are between the Easter season and Ordinary Time; we are between winter’s cool winds and summer’s warm breezes; and some people are between jobs, or meetings, or appointments.  All this between time teaches us that we need to practice pausing and gathering up the wisdom that is within each present moment. 

So let us become aware this week to practice pausing, honoring the wisdom within that moment, and allowing our souls to catch up with us!

Let us pray: May we leave the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love, and the future to God's providence.  Amen.

(Consider reading: The Power of Pause by Terry Hershey)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Blessedness . . .

new vulnerability

Blessed are the poor …
not the penniless
but those whose heart is free.

Blessed are those who mourn …
not those who whimper
but those who raise their voices.

Blessed are the meek …
not the soft
but those who are patient and tolerant.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice …
not those who whine
but those who struggle.

Blessed are the merciful …
not those who forget
but those who forgive.

Blessed are the pure in heart …
not those who act like angels
but those whose life is transparent.

Blessed are the peacemakers …
not those who shun conflict
but those who face it squarely.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice …
not because they suffer
but because they love.

~ P. Jacobs
Thresholds: A Book of Prayers, 2011
Edited and compiled by Helen Hacksley and Robert Steiner

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Mother's Day Tribute . . .

The Secret Recipe (In honor of Mother’s Day – U.S.A)
Previously posted: May 2013

When God created mothers, it was well into overtime on the sixth day. An angel dropped by and commented, ‘God, you are taking your time over this creature!’

God replied, ‘You should see the special requirements in the specification! She has to be easy to maintain, but not made of plastic or have any artificial components. She has one hundred and sixty movable parts, and nerves of steel, with a lap big enough for ten children to sit on it at once, but she herself has to be able to fit into a kiddies’ chair. She has to have a back that can carry everything that is loaded onto it. She has to be able to mend everything, from a grazed knee to a broken heart. And she’s supposed to have six pairs of hands’

The angel shook her head. ‘Six pairs of hands? No way!’ ‘The hands are easy,’ God said. ‘But I’m still working on the three pairs of eyes that she needs.’ ‘Is this the standard model?’ the angel asked.

God nodded: ‘Oh, yes. One pair to look through closed doors, while she asks, “What are you doing?” even though she already knows the answer. A second pair at the back of her head, to see what she’s not meant to see, but needs to know about. And, of course, the pair at the front that can look at her child, let him know that he is misbehaving and had better change his ways, while at the same time letting him see how much she loves and understands him.’

‘I think you should go to bed now, God, and get some sleep,’ said the angel. ‘I can’t do that,’ said God. ‘I’m almost there. I have nearly created a being who heals herself when she’s ill, who can delight thirty children with one little birthday cake, who can persuade a three-year-old to use his feet to walk and not to kick.’

The angel walked slowly around the prototype Mother. ‘It’s too soft,’ she said. ‘But tough,’ God retorted. ‘You wouldn't believe the wear and tear this Mother will tolerate.’

‘Can she think?’ asked the angel. ‘Not only think, but reach wise judgments and essential compromises,’ said God. ‘And she can do more than that. She can forget!’

Finally, the angel ran her finger across the model’s cheek. ‘There’s a leak,’ she said. ‘I warned you that you were trying to get too much into her.’

‘That’s not a leak,’ said God. ‘That’s a tear.’ ‘What’s that for?’ asked the angel. ‘It flows whenever she feels joy or grief, disappointment or pride, pain or loneliness, or the depths of love.’

‘You’re a genius,’ said the angel. God looked again at this work of art, with pleasure and pride. ‘The tear,’ God said, ‘is her overflow valve.’                    (Source Unknown)


If I Had My Life to Live Over’ by Erma Bombeck
(Written after she found out she was dying from cancer)
Previously posted: May 2012

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day

because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more “I love you’s.” More “I’m sorry’s.”

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute, look at it and really see it, live it and never give it back.

Erma Bombeck (1927-1996)


Mother's Day Rose . . .

Mother’s Day

A man stopped at a flower shop to order some flowers to be wired to his mother who lived two hundred miles away.

As he got out of his car he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb sobbing.

He asked her what was wrong and she replied, “I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother and I don’t have enough money.”

The man smiled and said, “Come on in with me. I’ll buy you a rose.”

He bought the little girl her rose and ordered his own mother’s flowers.

As they were leaving he offered the girl a ride home. She said, “Yes, please! You can take me to my mother.”

She directed him to a cemetery, where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave.

The man returned to the flower shop, canceled the wire order, picked up a bouquet and drove the two hundred miles to his mother’s house.
Author Unknown