Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Distractions? . . .

There’s a story in the Hindu tradition that runs something like this: God and a man are walking down a road. The man asks God: “What is the world like?” God answers: “I’d like to tell you, but my throat is parched. I need a cup of cold water. If you can go and get me a cup of cold water, I’ll tell you what the world is like.” The man heads off to the nearest house to ask for a cup of cold water. He knocks on the door and it is opened by a beautiful young woman. He asks for a cup of cold water. She answers: “I will gladly get it for you, but it’s just time for the noon meal, why don’t you come in first and eat.” He does.
Thirty years later, they’ve had five children, he’s a respected merchant, she’s a respected member of the community, they’re in their house one evening when a hurricane comes and uproots their house. The man cries out: “Help me, God!” And a voice comes from the center of the hurricane says: “Where’s my cup of cold water?”

This story is not so much a spiritual criticism as it is a fundamental lesson in anthropology and spirituality: To be a human being is to be perpetually distracted. We aren’t persons who live in habitual spiritual awareness who occasionally get distracted. We’re persons who live in habitual distraction who occasionally become spiritually aware. We tend be so preoccupied with the ordinary business of living that it takes a hurricane of some sort for God to break through.

Author Unknown

God's Gaze . . .

A prayer for prophets:
God of the Great Gaze,
We humans prefer satisfying un-truth
to the Truth that is usually unsatisfying.
Truth is always too big for us,
And we are so small and afraid.

So you send us prophets and truth speakers
to open our eyes and ears to your Big Picture.

Show us how to hear them, how to support them,
and how to interpret their wisdom.

Help us to trust that your prophetic voice
may also be communicated through our words and actions.     

May we practice a spirit of discernment
and a stance of humility,
so that your Truth be spoken, not our own.

We ask this in the name of Jesus the Prophet,
for we desire to share in your Great Gaze, Amen.

(author unknown)

"Eye of God"  - Picture from Space by the Hubbell

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Putting the Extra in the Ordinary!

We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new.” (Henri Nouwen)

Liturgically speaking, this time after Pentecost until Advent is considered the season of Ordinary Time. These are the numbered Sundays in the liturgical calendar with readings that reflect how we are to live out our faith in our everyday lives.  However, I’d like to take a little different twist on “ordinary time.”  Ordinary usually is defined as “common,”  “average,”  “uninteresting,” “unimpressive,” or “unremarkable.”  However, as I reflect on the ordinary times in which we presently live, there are many remarkable things happening in which we all, on this planet, are being invited to ponder, to pray about, and act upon in a healthy and just manner.

In his book, Deep Change, Robert Quinn writes that there is a difference between incremental change and deep change.  He states that incremental change is “usually limited in scope and is often reversible.”  Whereas, deep change “requires new ways of thinking and behaving.  It is change that is major in scope, discontinuous with the past and generally irreversible. . . it involves taking risks and means surrendering control.”  As he continues to contrast and compare the changes that happen on an organization and individual level, he cautions that “deep change is not something we need to do every day . . .but we need to do it more frequently than we have in the past.”

So let us step back into our inner selves, setting aside any distractions that may be pulling on our ordinary time, our ordinary thoughts, or our ordinary feelings.  Then with our extraordinary imaginations – call up all the ordinary issues of our time (across our planet) – that require extraordinary courage, integrity, hope, vision, faith, creativity, innovation, and compassion like never before.  Here are just a few to get started: poverty, health care, joblessness, trafficking of women, children and body parts, drug wars, abuse – physical, mental, spiritual, and psychological, global warming, immigration, homelessness, the rainforest, discrimination, lack of resources, obesity, famine, genocide, wars, global economy, water and food issues - to only name a few.

I make no judgments on these, but this “ordinary time” calls for all of us to do our part to risk being people of deep change - it is a time - "a unique opportunity to make everything new" – that is, to have a vision and to actualize it. 

These times are not ordinary – they are really  extraordinary times that call for extraordinary measures of faith, hope, courage, integrity and love.  So together let us call upon our “Everyday God to be strength and love in us as we live each new moment to begin again and again and again!

What incremental or deep change have you recently experienced?
Who are your mentors through this time?
Reflect on a time in your life you felt called to do more for others and to make a difference which called for risk on your part.
What are the learnings and wisdoms you hold after a choice you made to “surrender” your control and to open up with extraordinary faith, vision, hope, and courage during these ordinary times?
(Adapted ~ previous posting 2012)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Jarring Experience! . . .

There was once a very religious man.  One day he heard the voice of God in his prayer inviting him to come to a certain mountain where he would be able to see the face of the Divine and experience God’s loving embrace.

The man came out of his prayer and could not contain himself. He thought of this day when he would see God face-to-face, and he just could not wait. But then he thought to himself, I have to offer God something in return for such a wonderful gift and to commemorate this once-in-a-lifetime occasion. 

He thought of gold, silver, precious stones – but nothing in the material world seemed to suffice. Finally, he decided to fill a jar with tiny pebbles. Each one of these pebbles would represent one of his prayers, sacrifices, or good works. When the jar was finally full of his little pebbles, he ran up the mountain. He got to the top and his heart was ready to explode in anticipation. But to his surprise, he could not see or feel anything divine.

He began to think that he was deluded, a victim of a divine prank. Holding his jar, he broke down and began to weep. Just then, he heard God’s voice once again, saying, “I am waiting to show myself to you and wanting so much to take you into my loving arms, but you have put an obstacle between us. If you want to see my divine face and experience my love, break that jar!”
Author Unknown

Thursday, May 31, 2018

In Ordinary Time . . .something extraordinary . . .

The Auction

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art.  They had everything in their collection from Picasso to Raphael. When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door.  A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said, “Sir, you don’t know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart, and he died instantly.  He often talked about you, and your love for art.” The young man held out his package. “I know this isn’t much. I’m not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.”

The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. “Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It’s a gift.”

The father died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. “We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?” There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, “We want to see the famous paintings.  Skip this one.”

But the auctioneer persisted. “Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?” Another voice shouted angrily, “We didn’t come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!” But still the auctioneer continued, “The son! The son! Who’ll take the son?”

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. “I’ll give $10 for the painting.” Being a poor man, it was all he could afford. “We have $10, who will bid $20?” “Give it to him for $10.  Let’s see the masters.” “$10 is the bid, won’t someone bid $20?” The crowd was becoming angry. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. The auctioneer pounded the gavel. “Going once, twice, SOLD FOR $10!”

A man sitting on the second row shouted, “Now, let’s get on with the collection!”  The auctioneer laid down his gavel. “I’m sorry, the auction is over.” “What about the paintings?” “I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!”

(Author Unknown)

Be ready for the God of surprises . . .

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Welcoming Story . . .

At the City Gates
(Source Unknown)

Long ago, in a far-away town, an old woman used to sit at the city gates, watching the travelers passing through, and sometimes engaging them in conversation.

One night, when it was growing dark, a traveler came along; weary from a hard day’s walk. ‘Excuse me,’ he said to the old woman, ‘but I am looking for a place to rest, and I wonder, can you tell me what the people are like in this town?’

The woman smiled, and in reply she asked him a question of her own. ‘You have had a long journey,’ she commented, ‘and you must be feeling weary. Where do you come from?’

A little surprised by her question, the traveler told her the name of his home town. ‘Mychester,’ he said.

The woman was interested. ‘Oh,’ she smiled, ‘and what are the people like in Mychester?’

‘Oh,’ replied the traveler, ‘you wouldn’t believe how awful people are in Mychester. They don’t care if you are hungry and thirsty. They wouldn’t even pass the time of day with you. And if you ask for help they turn away, or deliberately send you the wrong way. They are rude and unfriendly in the extreme.’

‘My word,’ replied the old woman. ‘Well, I’m afraid I have bad news for you. The people here in this town are very much like the people in Mychester. I don’t think you would like them very much.’

The traveler was disappointed. ‘Oh well,” he sighed. ‘I guess I’ll move on then.’

A short time passed, and soon another traveler arrived at the city gates. He saw the old woman sitting there, smiled and approached her. ‘Excuse me,’ he said, ‘but I am looking for a place to rest, and I wonder, can you tell me what the people are like in this town?’

The woman smiled back at him, and again she asked him a question of her own. ‘You have had a long journey,’ she commented, ‘and you must be feeling weary. Where do you come from?’

‘I come from Mychester,’ he told her.

‘And what are the people like in Mychester?’ the woman continued.

‘Oh, they are so kind,’ the traveler replied. ‘I like them a lot. They are always friendly, ready to help each other and generous to a fault.’

‘Well’ the woman told him, ‘I think you will find a warm welcome here in this city. The people here are very much like the people in Mychester.’

Saturday, May 26, 2018

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!” (Source Unknown)

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 locked 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.