Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jesus knew what and when...?

Gratitude Journal
1. Cold weather in December... feels like Christmas!
2. Little kids - torn between wanting to sit on Santa's lap and yet really not wanting to be anywhere near the jolly ole man.
3. Company Christmas parties - this years Western Theme, a real treat!
4. Photo's of grands when you aren't close enough for the real thing.
5. Advent Services in new chapel at Pastoral Institute.

"Suffer the little children to come unto me..."

Have you ever thought about what Jesus knew and when He recognized He was 'different'? Some scholars say on the Mount of Transfiguration. Others think He may never have really been sure, all the way to the grave. Still others say He may have had His first 'understandings' as early as the occasion with the learned in the Temple near His twelfth year.

Whatever the time may have been, I have yet to hear anyone propose that He arrived as a baby fully aware!

No the birth narratives are pretty much what they are... birth narratives. A baby born to a man and a woman of low estate. Either in a stall or stable or cave, but definitely not in a home, much less a hospital. He came as an infant. Crying, messy diapers (cloth, no less), nurtured at His mommas breast. Probably some sleepless nights due to gas. Eventually He had to learn to crawl, walk, talk, run, fall down and get up, and do all the other things a baby or young child has to do to accomplish the normal childhood development issues.

So what can an infant teach us about God? Very little theological education focuses on the baby Jesus. Yet I believe there are one or two blessings just in visiting and reflecting on the Christ Child of those early years.

1. Dependency. He came and was totally dependent. He had to rely on others to care for His every need.

2. He was open to receiving. He had to cry to gain attention like like all infants, but He also had to accept whatever care was provided... even when He was not able to recognize who was the provider.

3. He kept on growing. He may have enjoyed being held and playing with siblings and running and jumping and laughing. But he 'put away childish things' when the time was right.

Wonder what it would be like for me to accept just how dependent I am on Abba right now? Wonder what I might receive if I were open and willing, without choosing my resources? Wonder why I fear growth and continue to fall back into my old ruts and habits?

God - Christ Child - visit me once more.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Incredible Love and Suffering

Gratitude Journal
1. Advent and preparation time...
2. Christmas Cards
3. Seasonal dishes revisited
4. Christmas memories - even the tuff ones
5. High, HOLY Christmas music!

Incredible Love and Suffering

'Change only comes through two avenues: incredible love or suffering!'
Richard Rohr

The first time I heard RR say these words something rang very true about the message. I have known times in my life when I received such deep and profound love (I always called it grace) that I was amazed and awestruck!

But there have also been times when I had to face deep grief or loss or dark nights of the soul and my world appeared to be coming apart. Change definitely happened then too!

I have a dear friend. Over the past several years she has had cancer to return and return again. She has been in and out of the hospital. Her husband too has cancer and he is on dialyses. There are other family stressors... parent care, children and grand kid issues. When I look at her life I ask 'WHY LORD?'

Change. What does it mean to change? How have I changed? Where do I need to change? When will my friend be able to live in peace and not have to face so many changes?

While I believe change is caused by suffering, for my friend, why so much incredible suffering? Not sure I like this idea of some folks facing so much and others seemingly walking through life all snug and secure and un-changed... living self-centered and prejudice lives, while others struggle each moment of the day to make sense in their suffering!

Change. What does it mean to change and how does Advent call me to change? Lord, help me to be more loving and less judgmental! Forgive me and use me this Christmas season to respond in Your love. Grant some of Your peace to my friend and her family. Through Christ I pray.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Paul's Thorn in the Flesh... and My Own!

Gratitude Journal -
1. Fireworks
2. Productive weekends...
3. Anticipation of "Grandkid" visits!!!
(their parents too, of course)
4. Resting after they leave...
5. Exciting news for a great young couple

Paul's Thorn in the Flesh... and My Own!

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! 2 Cor. 12:7

Throughout my years of ministry I have heard many differing opinions regarding Paul's thorn and what it might have been. Some indicate that he walked with a limp; others have said that his conversion on the Damascus Way blinded him and/or caused sight problems for the remainder of his life. Several joke-sters have indicated he 'must have been married.' Obviously, no one really knows...

But I know my own thorn! While I am not trying to be coy nor do I want to bait anyone into '20 questions', I will not share my thorn. But I know it is there. It has been with me for years - probably since birth. But it is mine...

There are days when I am comfortable with it, like an old shoe. I know it and know its energy and can manage it quite well. There are other times when I am much weaker and struggle mightily to deal with my thorn. I have to wrestle it and fight it and hold it off. It becomes like a monster that will not let me go.

Over these last years of spiritual growth - hopefully some maturity as well - I have come to decide that I benefit most when I acknowledge my 'helplessness' in this struggle and like my brothers/sisters in AA - take it ONE DAY AT A TIME. Some times I am successful. Other times I need a 'sponsor' to call, to pray for me, to walk beside me in silence, to remind me that I am not alone. "Your higher power is available, John. Call for strength and courage and you will make it through to solid ground."

I do not consider myself a 'victim'. I am a human with a 'thorn' like millions of others. It may cause me great personal or professional harm. It may continue to wound me for the remainder of my life. But today, I celebrate that it will not have the final word on my life. I am loved. I was created in God's image. And God has my beginning and my end in His/Her hands. I will not fear. I will live by faith...

My prayer for you is that we can be 'fellow-strugglers' together. I will pray for you and your journey and I give thanks for your prayers for by pilgrimage too.


Monday, June 21, 2010

What do boys need from their fathers?

Gratitude Journal
1. The gift of observing my son as a father! - Great job...
2. The gifts from my own father -
even though unintentionally wounding, many gifts indeed!
3. Significant men along my path who have personally 'fathered' me - THANKS
4. The ancient fathers in the faith - for their legacy
5. The HOLY FATHER - who welcomed this prodigal home...

The following is a passage from Richard Rohr's writings. It was recently part of his daily devotional thoughts provided through the Center for Action and Contemplation. I find his offerings always stir my own faith journey! This one specifically spoke to me both personally and professionally. MAY IT BE A GIFT TO YOU!

What do boys need from their fathers?

When I was giving priests’ retreats in Peru, a sister working in the main prison in Lima told me a story I have never forgotten. She said as Mother’s Day was approaching the prisoners kept asking for Mother’s Day cards. She brought card after card so they could write to Madre. As Father’s Day approached she decided to be better prepared. She bought an entire case of Father’s Day cards, so she could give them to the prisoners when they asked. She told me that case is still sitting in her office because no one asked for a Father’s Day card. She couldn't give them away!

My friend looked at me with tears in her eyes because she understood the source of so much suffering. She realized so many of the men were in prison because they never had a good father or a father at all. Sometimes I think the “father wound” might be the most common wound on this earth.

I wonder if the jails and prisons of the world would not be much emptier if young boys had fathers to bless them, encourage them, and initiate them into manhood.

God save us - God heal us - God encourage hope in us


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Beth Retires... and Moves to Next Chapter!

Gratitude -
1. Vocation and Calling
2. Friends and loved ones on the journey...
3. Planting seeds
4. Companionship!
5. New chapters in life

"By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done." Genesis 2:2

I have always believed that the story of God 'working' for seven days and completing His weeks work was just part of a bigger story. In verses regarding creation of human-kind it indicates that God invites His creatures to 'name the animals and be fruitful and multiply.' In other words, creation was not finished. O'Conner's book - Eighth Day of Creation primed that pump for me.

Since then, I have believed God got up on that eighth day and continued the process He had begun the first week. However, now He had helpers-partners. And I also believe that 'creation' continues to unfold even unto this day!

Well, she's gone and done it... Beth retired as a public school educator! Really can't believe it has been a thirty five year journey and now this chapter has drawn to a close. Counting the years she taught in a Hebrew Academy and an Assemblies of God school, Beth actually has recorded close to 40 years instructing, encouraging, nurturing, and/or administering on behalf of children. The special needs of gifted kids has been her passion.

But this year the stars aligned and the tea leaves indicated it was time. She indicated her concern for the transitions that lie ahead for public education. Unfortunately it seems more and more to be two steps forward and THREE STEPS BACK. Politics, money and expectations to do more with less stack up to a discouraging outlook. "It is time for the younger set to tackle these issues with new insight and energy."

So - now my wife will enter a new chapter in her life. It will take some getting use too, on her part and mine.

But I believe she too has several more chapters in her partnership with God and the gifts He has given her!

Grand kids are a priority and I'm sure they will see Nonny more often. Yet, I believe there is too much life and interest and enthusiasm for Beth to just sit through these next years. She brings so many talents.

I thank God for Beth and her passion for children. Early on it was an adjustment for us when the school year took so much of her attention. Yet, I applaud that she pursued her 'calling' and for the benefit she has been to so many children that did not have a voice. There are countless 'at-risk' kids, gifted kids, regular kids, failing kids, lost kids, sick kids, blessed kids that have been touched by her hands and her love.

Whatever you choose to do, just know that the seeds you planted will bear fruit for years and years to come! I love you!!!


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Projection... a sin for all of us!

Gratitude Journal
1. Quiet days that turn into very productive days!
2. Progress, even small steps, toward a goal...
3. Braves baseball - even when they don't win I enjoy watching
4. Laugh radio - on XM Radio
5. Beth's hamburgers

"God said, 'Who told you you were naked. Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?' And the man said, 'The woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree..." Genesis 3:11-12

As far back as Genesis humans have been 'projecting' onto others responsibility for their own sinful decisions. In this verse Adam points his finger toward Eve to explain why he failed. He sounds like so many of us today who try to escape our own wrong-doing by accusing others for getting us into the mess we ourselves created.

The original word from God after creating mankind was 'it is very, very good'! And here, a short distance from God's declaration, Adam begins to hide from his original identity in God the Father and we have been denying God's beloved status for His created order ever since.

Wonder what it would have been like for Adam to turn to God and say: 'Yep, I failed and made a mistake. God forgive me and set my feet on the straight path once again.'

Why is responsibility and accountability so hard for us to accept? Are we scared that God will not love us? Are we expecting that what we have done is so bad that God would never be able to forgive us?

God had confidence in us! Yet, we go on and on pointing our crooked finger at others and exclaim - 'thank God, I am not as bad a she is... she started it, she made me, she enticed me, etc' Or 'God all of that group is totally bad or totally wrong (blacks, Democrats, Republicans, Jews, city-folks - country-folks, you name your preferred scape-goats). Do we really believe that we are off the hook and really better than some one else?

To make matters even more complicated, when we cannot forgive ourselves for 'our part' it is so easy to hold onto our hurt and anger. I imagine it was easier for Adam to be mad at Eve than to live with his anger and guilt for his own failure!

Next time we feel someone has 'done us wrong' maybe we need to ask, 'wonder what part I played in this situation?' Wonder what it might have been like if Adam had asked that question long ago?


Saturday, May 8, 2010

It's Mother's Day... and Grandma has returned!

Gratitude Journal -
1. Doctors and nurses and techs who 'care'...
2. The gift of health - too often taken for granted!
3. Chaplains who 'check-in', even by phone
4. A supportive community of faith and at work
5. Young adults who don't 'discount' their elders!!!

(21) And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: (22) And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and Methuselah begat sons and daughters: (23) And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: (24) And Enoch walked with God: and he [was] not; for God took him. (25) And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech: (26) And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters: (27) And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died. Genesis 5:21-27

My mother-in-law - fondly known as "Grandma" - will be 92 on July 1, 2010. Her mother lived to be almost 101. About a month ago Beth (my wife) and I, moved Grandma to Magnolia Manor Assisted Living in Columbus. She had lived with us for over seven years.

Concurrently with her move she became very confused. This past week, following the 'perfect storm' of issues related to a chemical imbalance, she was hospitalized. Each day was more and more serious... until this morning. She experienced night-terrors, painful probes, moments when she did not recognize me or Beth...

When I arrived today, she was wide-awake, smiling, and eating on her own. She even started joking with me and telling one of her long stories to the nurse.

I am grateful for her doctor who cared enough to use her expertise to 'bring Grandma back'. I am very thankful for a host of nurses and others who have monitored and supported and took time to listen to me and Beth with encouragement. We have been blessed once again that God's grace is providing strength and returned hope.

We - Grandma and the rest of us - have been more than blessed by the number of 'days upon the earth' and if she had transitioned into her new existence, we could only stand in awe for a the gift she has been and a life well lived. But it appears that we have some more time.

On this Mother's Day Weekend, I am indeed thankful for my wife and her 'mothering' of our children! But I am also thankful, in the absence of my own mom, that we have been blessed thanks once again to have Grandma return!

Holy Father, like the O.T. writer, may I too look back and be thankful... But my I also count each present moment as gift and not take them for granted!

Monday, January 25, 2010

You can never see what you have never been told to look for...

"In My Father's house, there are many rooms..." Jesus

Gratitude -
1. A warm home to come home too when it is cold outside...
2. Oti's new grandson - Ethan, and his big brother Michael
3. Being able to follow the progress of my friends receiving treatment for cancer, so far away - prayers for all of you and your families!
4. Spending the afternoon with Beth looking at antiques - most items older than the two of us...
5. Finishing a big task - even if it was on wing and by prayer!

The Kingdom of God is the metaphor Jesus used for who is included in God's grace and who is beloved. The is not a kingdom of stone or place, but within all creation. He is not talking about an afterlife either, as so often is taught - 'just get right with God and then you can die peacefully!'

No He is talking about a way of seeing and being in the present moment - a world without human kingdoms, ethnic communities, national boundaries, or social identifications. That is about as subversive as you can be.

Jesus also told a story about sheep and goats - indicating that one day there would be some type of judgement. That has caused fear and dread for some of us for a long time. However, I believe there is much more 'hopefulness' in that picture than most of us realize...

Jesus plainly states that this is the Father's business! There is no indication that we should ever worry or fear or be concerned about which of our brothers/sisters are in or out - just invite everyone to the banquet!

We are to draw circles AROUND everyone and not be exclusive. The question must be for every Christian: how do we make our story known without sounding like we are in and another is out - winners and losers?

Recently I had the opportunity to be interviewed by a local writer regarding differing religious groups in our area. Some are very exclusive: you must quote certain scripture, or you must follow certain rituals, or you must keep away from certain people, then you can belong and be assured of God's love...

St. Peter had a dream on a house top; an experience that changed his life and ministry forever. The dream said to him - go to EVERYONE - and tell the good news that God is on their side - NOT go ask them how much scripture they can quote or if they are vegetarians!

In other words, when Jesus said that God would take care of judgement, that got us off the hook. Who are we to judge who is getting it right or wrong? Who are we to say who is in and who is out? Who are we to point fingers?

I believe Christians should not be in the business of saying who will be a winner and who will be a loser!

When Jesus said that it 'rains on the just and unjust' - when Jesus said that we should not worry about 'the practices of others who speak in a different way' - 'he that is far us, cannot be against us'. He is saying that we need to fight and run away from dualistic thinking.

PRAYER - God may I this day not leave anyone out of Your grace and mercy. As I have so richly received, may I give and forgive.



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

He that is without sin...

Gratitude Journal
1. Pastoral Care - thanks Wes and JBO
2. Times of silence and reflection - sometimes even that is hard!
3. Ali's visit - great to see her and family...
4. Hope
5. Growth in awareness and insight into a bigger picture.

Jesus said - he that is without sin, cast the first stone!

Jesus was bent down on the ground writing something in the sand. A group of men had brought a woman caught in adultery to him and wanted him to stand with them in stoning her. However, he said just enough to get the attention of the group and the scripture indicates that 'all the men slipped away'.

Blogging has potential for lots of things. It can be a network for staying in touch. It can be a forum for ideas. It can be a time of reflection and challenge. It should never be used to inflict harm!

While I have used blogging for over a year and my Gratitude Journal for six or seven years to share my reflections, I recently posted a blog that was a personal reflection on a 'bully' situation I had experienced. It was part of my own struggle and my own frustration over a recent encounter with something I believed was harmful not only to me, but to a group of folks I have been committed too for a long time.

I honestly shared how my 'humanity' wanted to go one way, but my faith kept getting in my way and calling for me to take another route. However, by sharing my thoughts my 'feelings' came through more than the actual corrective faith stance. The blog was truthful - from my limited perspective - but it caused pain, sadness and grief.

I do not apologize for whatever 'truth' was there... but it was not my plan to inflict more destruction. Therefore I deleted that particular blog.

While I will continue to write about my journey of faith, I will draft it, sleep on it and send it on the following day.

I did not say that I was without sin. However, the blog appeared to some as if that was my implication. For that misunderstanding I apologize. Like St. Paul of scripture, I am chief amongst sinners.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year - EMMANUAL (God with us...)!!!

Gratitude -
1. The gift of 'new time'...
2. The gift of remembrance!
3. The gift of family - both immediate and extended.
4. The gift of call - an incomplete journey.
5. Divine, initiated HOPE - the unexpected...

Tabernacles - a space to worship YAHWEH - moved with the Israelites; other gods stayed home!

I am indebted to my friend Wes (as I am for so many recent gifts from the Spirit) for reminding me of God's history with His people!

In the book of Exodus, God's people were instructed to construct a movable structure called the tabernacle. This elaborate tent was a place where God would meet His people as they moved from place to place. It was a constant reminder that the Spirit was always with them.

The tabernacle was therefore a reminder that the Divine Presence was different from other gods of the time.

When ones god is stuck in one time or one place the rules change when one leaves that particular time and place. A person might even say they are now free from their old rules and therefore there are no rules.

If you have ever had any relationship with an addict you know it is when he or she is away from home that trouble begins. His thoughts or her times of quiet reflection do not 'stay within normal boundaries'. It is easier to get into trouble...

Wes recent suggestion that the idea of tabernacle was a gift to God's people. The major contribution was, no matter where you go God was/is there too. He/She is not stuck back at home.

As I enter 2010 - a new gift of time - God may I remember You move with me. I am not alone. I can trust whatever comes my way. I will be surrounded by Your love and Divine Presence. No matter where I journey in this new year, You are there to greet me.

Thank You for this new gift of time and open me to Your will. Grant me a receptive heart to Your Presence on this wonderful path, each step of the way!

What a gift, indeed!