Friday, May 31, 2013

Silence is God's Gift

"God's first language is silence. Everything else is a translation." -- Thomas Keating

"Talk low, talk slow, and don't talk too much." --John Wayne, Old Guys Rule

"Theophilus of holy memory, Bishop Alexandria, journeyed to Scete, and the brethren coming together said to Abbot Pambo: Say a word or two to the Bishop, that his soul may be edified in this place. The elder replied: If he is not edified by my silence, there is no hope that he will be edified by my words."
--Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert

 "You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger." --James 2:19 (NRSV)       

Saturday, May 25, 2013

God's love leads to more awareness

What does it mean that God first loved?
I used to have questions about the Christian proclamation declaring sin universal in the human family. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, it seemed it was all too easy an excuse. Hearing we are sinners every Sunday, why would anyone be surprised if behaving badly was soon to follow?

While some describe sin as rebellion against God, it's also resistance, because the condition, however subtle or apparent, is not one we are free from, at least in this life.    

Too often I get the impression that if I come to Jesus, my rebellion against God's love is somehow solved and I don't have to worry about it anymore. Mainly, I get something (eternal life in heaven) for myself.

This approach is tragic because it can foster self deception. I can use my faith to cover whatever darkness that remains in the corners of my life. Hidden from others and myself, I can convince myself that the injury I caused never really happened. The contemplative Thomas Keating would call this "selective memory." We defuse this process when in Step 8, we "make a list" of all those we have harmed.   

Many, if not all, religions provide a taxonomy of who the sinners are, along with a classification of what sins are better or worse. That could describe both the religion of Jesus' day and in our churches. For example, sinners in the New Testament are associated with disability and sickness, education and class, occupation and family tree, nation and race.
But even if we choose resistance, it's the loving Trinity's life in us that gives us the desire and opportunity to bear fruit that is sustainable and lasting.  God doesn't lead us to take roads that lead to nowhere. We're first created in God's image, surrounded by grace and love. 

This is what it means when the Apostle declared that before we loved, God first loved us (I John 4:19)  And that applies to every one of us--even more than our persistent turning away from God. Once upon a time, when God called us out of being into life and light God loved us into being. God's never stopped loving you. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Compassion requires more, not less, courage

Compassion is as unpopular and misunderstood today as in Jesus' time

As a complete diversion, recently I tuned on my radio app hoping to hear some sports news and I got an earful of a conversation where no one wins-- and also the last place I thought the gay vs. straight debate would surface.

But I stop listening when people- sports jockeys included- start going on about what Christians believe.

 If we stood up for Jesus, we would accept others for who they are, not for who we want them to be. It always requires more courage to love as we are loved by God. Growing in compassion includes facing your own darkness, always the more difficult move. Unless we're engaged in a spiritual practice that can challenge our self-deception, the first choice is to project our garbage onto God or others.      

Judging others is the easy way out of our own mess. It's the path of least resistance, and the "wide" way that Jesus describes in Matthew 7:13 ff. The other caution that follows on the heels of Matt. 7:13, is Matt. 7:16, as it asks the simple question, how's that working? Our occupation with correcting others, taking the role of judge, how is that producing the fruit of a more loving spirit within us and with others?

To all who are recovering from what so- called Christians have done to them and for those who've given up hope in finding acceptance in the church, it's not easy.  Remember in his day, Jesus said that the worst "sinners" will enter God's Kingdom first, and the religious folk whose holiness was backed by their Scriptures, would fall in behind. (Matt.21:31)

The truth is, there are Christian people who care more about authenticity than pretense. Look for those, even while turning off the school yard bullies.   

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dear Caregivers

It was a long day's journey into night at a local public hospital the week before the Holidays.

I learned so much about the excellent care and wisdom of the surgeon and the quality of people on the staff, from the nurses to the cafeteria personnel.

These are good words from the waiting room. They can apply to anyone who attempts to offer their care, not just in the recovery room. What kind of letter do you think your care-receiver would write? What would they add or edit? 

Dear Caregivers:

Please excuse my bad behavior! I don't usually act like this, but I'm frightened and feel vulnerable. 

I read your every facial expression as an indicator of my health- or bad news. 

I listen to everything you say, and every exchange you have with staff members. I think everything I hear is about me.

Don't forget about me or leave me alone for too long- I'm scared! I'm not only afraid of what will happen to me, but also what I'll see while I'm here. It's upsetting to me.

I wonder how clean your hands are and whom you last touched, but I won't say anything. I want you to like me and treat me nicely.

My diagnosis may not be life-threatening, but it is a big deal for me. In fact, I will always remember this visit. My family will talk about it for a long time. It will become part of our family history. 

Explain everything in a way that I can understand. Use words I know. I should know what your are saying to me. but sometimes I don't. 

Be kind. I appreciate the fact that you are here when I need you. I just wish you knew me outside the hospital. There are people who love, need, and pray for me. By the way, they are praying for you too.

Your Patient

Friday, May 3, 2013

Compassion, Holiness & the Truth of a Story

Do questions of safety, convenience, and vocational purity come to mind before asking what God is doing?

Luke 10 :29-37 (The Good Samaritan)

At last week's meeting of the Jericho Tollway Authority, we heard from several of the users of our highway from Jericho to Jerusalem. In summary, we discussed two viable directions of moving forward. You could include doing nothing, but we have already decided to take action because the problem of robbery and beatings is alarmingly high.
  1. Digging deeper ditches, so that the injured and dying would remain out of sight.
  2. Paying others, even Samaritans, to render aid.
As your Chair, I would like to add that the results of our study have concluded that digging deeper ditches is neither time nor cost effective at all. And #2 is not all that cost effective either. Besides, it involves more, not less, contact with undesirables and Samaritans.

However, something that was said at last week's meeting has stayed in my mind.

That was the part about one day soon, it will be one of us lying in the road, beaten and half dead. Or one of our children. It all brought me to the realization that some action is needed on behalf our neighbors and family. Even more, for the sake of our neighbors and kin folk who must travel this dangerous stretch, it may be best to consider any traveler our neighbor-- simply because it could be any of us who fall prey to the violence of thieves. 

Therefore I present to you the third option:

In the event that anyone must travel the Jericho Tollway for any reason, it is the determination of this body that all travelers be legally considered neighbors and kin. Further, all travelers have the responsibility and freedom to receive assistance from and render mercy to whomever happens to be on that road, be they family- or Samaritan.   

Or course, this applies only to everyone who is not a Priest or Levite. 

Any questions? By your silence, you signal that you are all ready to vote on the item before you. 



Oldies but Goodies