Saturday, November 21, 2009

Seeing things...

Gratitude -
1. Visits with acquaintances that turn to friendship
2. New wheels!
3. THANKSGIVING - and American tradition...
The gathering of family and friends!
4. My health
5, Early morning quiet time for reflection.

"Where should we look for the Day of Coming? And Jesus answered, Don't look here and don't look there!" Luke 17:23

We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are...

How often do we hear some modern day prophet 'yellin' in our direction and asserting that THEY have the answer. Just listen to them and they will provide all the answers we need to overcome any obstacle.

The older I get the more I realize no one has the answer. We are all on a journey and my experience ALWAYS colors the answers I may profess to have at any given time.

While I agree we should respect those in authority and grant due respect toward our elders, far too many of them are just becoming 'elderly' and have not done enough homework on their own path for me to listen to them for guidance. It is so confusing and unreasonable as to why one should listen to these 'prophets' for any understanding about God or anything else! I am sickened by folks that 'got their religion and all the answers they needed' when they were ten or twelve and their faith stance has not changed one iota since that time long ago. They have the 'formula' and nothing about their walk with God has grown.

I am most frustrated with myself. I am the worlds worst. I catch myself oh so often living as if God's story is over and done. Living as if there is no more movement of God in 'burning bushes' or 'walks on water;, much less as if the 'still small voice' has been stilled and there is nothing left for me to seek or grow toward!

God grant Your mercy and grace this day as I consciously seek to be open to where You are leading and changes in my long held patterns of relating not only to You, but my brothers as well.

Through Christ I pray.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

When is change a gift? Change always equals some type of death...

Gratitude -
1. Dwight - moving toward lay Dominican
2. Donovan's blog
3. Brandon's ordination
4. Cleaning out and throwing away
5. The gift of CHANGE!

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; REPENT (change your mind) and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

“Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life – even though invisible to spectators – is with Christ in God. He is your life. Col. 3:3

Some of us enter the Thanksgiving season with sadness. We may have lost significant people in our lives. Grandpa will not be sitting at the head of the table to carve the turkey. Aunt Elizabeth’s disease finally took its toll and she will not be with the children and grandchildren for this annual family gathering. Some families may have lost younger members too – a child, a spouse, maybe a sibling…

Loss takes many forms. It might be health which may entail chronic physical pain. A host of people in America have lost jobs. Due to economic stressors others have lost their homes over the past twelve months. Some have experienced ‘natural’ disasters forcing them from home and livelihood.

In the midst of all this loss can we say any of this is ‘gift’?

Several years ago I was introduced to the idea of ‘Cradle Episcopalians’ – meaning the person was born and reared in that particular denomination. I sorta chuckled and with some degree of pride thought to myself how thankful I was I had not been ‘born’ into any church. I was a Baptist and at the ripe old age of 11, I had made my own decision regarding church membership.

As ludicrous as this might sound to me today there was a time when I had to change my understanding of just what a free choice I had made. In all actuality I too was born on a denominational pew like most others attending church. My pew just happened to be a Baptist pew and it was the only faith tradition I had ever known. So the thought of making my own decision regarding church membership was almost laughable. I chose to be Baptist in large part because that was where my parents attended and I wanted to ‘belong’ too.

Now as an adult I find I am called to change (to die) to lots of old understandings. In her recent book “An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith,” Barbara Brown Taylor talks about the benefits of going through loss. She suggest that we stick to predictable routes through life, preferring what is efficient and safe to that which is dangerous, unknown or wild.

“And yet,” she writes, “if someone asked us to pinpoint the times in our lives that changed us for the better, a lot of those times would be wilderness times.” She cites times like divorce, a move, illness or a career change as times when change (death) forces us to put on new glasses; to see though different lens.

Recently my journey has begun to shift and I have been challenged to consider other ways of looking into the Mystery we call GOD.

As we enter these two special seasons of the year – one secular and the other very sacred territory – I invite all of us to embrace this time as seasons for change to happen. Some new considerations might cause us to die to some items in our life that may have served their function. Maybe it is time to let them go. Stand and risk a new idea, a new way of being embraced by the Mystery and possibly a GOOD NEWS way of seeing things might arrive as a gift. It will not be easy. But it will be a gift if we dare to follow!


Friday, November 6, 2009

A reason for joy...

Gratitude -
1. Harper Elizabeth Adams - born 11-5-08
2. The colors of autumn
3. Being back in Art Class
4. A NEW computer...
5. Unbelievable joy - not giddy happiness -
but serious, deep, abiding joy with life

"My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I'm happy. I can't figure it out. What am I doing right?" CHARLIE BROWN aka Peanuts Cartoon

Have you ever had a day or a period in your life when you were happy or filled with joy and you were not exactly sure why OR where it was coming from? Such is this time in my life.

I have been on a high since my recent retreat where we focused on Male Spirituality. I have a friend who was reared in Texas and she insists it is the Texas air. 'It gets deep inside and you are never the same.' (thanks Sandy - makes as much sense as anything else - ha)

However, I have to believe it has to do with relationships and new insights. The relationships with my seven new brothers - now known as the Joshua Brothers - was deep and real. Although we did not know titles and background, we begin to be vulnerable with one another almost immediately. We shared our hurts and pain. We talked of old wounds and baggage we had carried to cover our pain for an incredibly long time.

Then we sat together without speaking and honored one another. We prayed for each other and we offered hope, without trying to fix or change anyone. Ever so slowly we trusted ourselves to each ritual and never judged another.

There were indeed differences between us. Faith, age, nationality, probably our vocations were very different although we never ask, fears over sexuality issues, wounds to those we loved, past addictions that were still fresh, suicide ideation, and much more... We were all struggling.

We had all built big walls. The walls were in place to cover our pain and protect us. Over time the walls began to crack. One of our leaders shared 'the LIGHT shines through the broken places'. And that was the case for each one of us. We all found grace!

I must admit that I had known this word for a long time. I have preached it for years. However, I had never known grace in relationship to other men. I had felt they were generally judging me and I was coming up a failure. This feeling was almost as old as I am...

So the relationships with these new brothers and with God were pivotal. The insights still come as I learn to sit in silence, contemplating my brothers, their grace toward me and God and His grace too. (more about contemplation in the future) While I know I am broken - I also rejoice that the light shines through...

May you too know such joy!


Sunday, November 1, 2009

The old way has to go...

Gratitude -

  1. New brothers!

  2. Being touched, deep in my soul
  3. En-courage-ment
  4. Texas Hill Country
  5. Wes Eades

Jesus said: “You're looking for proof, but you're looking for the wrong kind. All you want is something to titillate your curiosity, satisfy your lust for miracles. The only proof you're going to get is what looks like the absence of proof: Jonah-evidence.” THE MESSAGE – Matt. 12

Over the past week I have experienced the most transforming event of my life.

Now I have begun to look over every aspect of life – my life – and assess my priorities and energy. I am filled with questions and joy like never before. I am excited about life! While I do not doubt past decisions and commitments, God has definitely opened new doors of understanding that continue to rattle old ways of thinking! But it is more than intellectual growth – it is a heart change too.

I was blessed to take part in the Males Rights of Passage (MROP) retreat in the Hill Country of Texas. About 40 men gathered for sharing and study for five days. We only shared first names - no titles or vocations, no passing of business cards... I joined seven men as my 'home group'. We spent an incredible amount of time baring our souls with one another, along with our deepest fears. All sorts of anguish rushed forth. Hopes for the future, along with failures and losses of the past.. Woundedness inflicted not only by our families, but also ridicule and pain perpetuated by our young friends became almost too difficult to bear. We cried together about the pain we too had inflicted on others!

We took part in rituals and teachings. We played drums with abandon. We walked though mud and took long hikes. We started and ended the day with prayer and reflection. We spent over 8 hours in total silence and we also spent this time fasting.

So, what did I learn? What has changed? What did I experience? GOD'S LOVE – deeper and more cleansing than ever before! Jesus loves me, this I know... I learned that I have developed a shell (ego), thinking it would protect me and keep me safe. However, it has only caused more and more pain for me and those I love and become heavier and heavier to carry and maintain.

For way too long I have been a part of a worthiness system when it comes to my faith journey. If I did just the right things, (attend church, contribute money to the poor, be kind to neighbors and strangers, etc...) then I would make God happy with me. He/She was sitting in heaven with a big black book, keeping score. Unfortunately I was rarely, deeply happy. Didn't laugh much and joy was a thing of my past. I had adopted a sick system and the true me was so deeply buried, I couldn't recognize grace, must less accept it as the gift it is!

And yes, I have heard all this before. I have actually preached it. But this time it is different. Something profoundly new is happening deep within me. I may struggle with the words, but the WORD has touched me like never before... And I want to say that while the burden is easy, living out this new truth is hard. I have already allowed too much of this experience to slip away and I have returned to too many of my old ways - but they must die. And that is my new goal and new calling.

In the months ahead I will be sharing bits and pieces of my journey. Not as an exhibit, but as 'one beggar who has found some crumbs and willing to share...'. I invite your feedback and questions along the way.

Lord, thank You for this day. Continue to remove the false self I have been building for so long. May honesty be my goal – with myself and with You! Use me to be graceful toward all. May I forgive as I have been forgiven. AMEN