Thursday, December 30, 2010

renewal

recipe for vacation:

sleep-in each day, well past normal waking hours

rise before the sun at least once

read a book until the sun sets

bake chocolate chip cookies from scratch and eat every one of them

walk on the beach at least a hour a day, mindfully

journal when muse shows up

pray silently on balcony overlooking the waves

follow training plan and run along sand prescribed (but estimated) distance, stepping in rivers and scaring seagulls out of the way

stay up late watching movies online

play scrabble. lose. have fun anyway.

stare at the beach area for minutes at a time. watch the waves, the birds, the (few) people. notice the dolphins.

dip or float in the over-heated pool

do nothing

breathe in

breathe out

pray without ceasing

show up to this moment


I hate the two-faced, but I love your clear-cut revelation. You're my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your Word to renew me. Ps 119:113 (The Message)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cone of Silence

The idea of the "cone of silence" originated in the 60's TV series Get Smart. In the show, it was a source of great humor as this amazing device could keep private conversations private. However, it rarely worked well and so any leakage created funny anecdotes for comedy.

This week is the last week of Advent. What I call my cone of silence sources from reverence and, as E. Peterson calls it, Fear-of-the-Lord. Its a source of wonder, amazement, joy and surprise.

As I approached the meeting with the Bishop, I placed a cone of silence over me. How shall I respond? How will he respond? In the end, amidst all my anxieties, I just showed up.

Our conversation was enlivening, infuriating, imaginative, and thought-provoking. I will continue to pray about this and when I'm ready, release my cone of silence. That's what my vacation is for.

Thanks for holding me in prayer during this time, in this moment.

Friday, December 17, 2010

3. Don't Wait

As a chaplain at a level-one trauma center, we were called to be present at every death. I used, quite frequently, an approach provided by Zen Hospice Project (Frank Ostaseski) about being at the bedside of dying people.

Here are the Five Precepts:
1. Welcome everything. Push away nothing. Create an environment of fearless receptivity.
2. Bring your whole self to the experience.
3. Don't wait. Patience is different from waiting. When we wait, we are full of expectations. When we are waiting, we miss what this moment hs to offer. Worryingi or strategizing about what the future holds for us, we miss the opportunities that are right in front of us.
4. Find a place of rest in the middle of things. You can't just stop the experience but rather bring attention fully to whatever you are doing.
5. Cultivate a "don't know mind." Stay really close to the situation and allow it to inform your actions.
I'm not a chaplain at a trauma center at this point and I am still finding these precepts to be very helpful in my "regular" life. As I move through Advent this year, I find tension between what I learned as precept #3 "Don't Wait" and the meaning of Advent to "Wait." Wait-Don't Wait. Wait-Don't Wait. So, I am practicing holding both.

As in the name of my blog, I'm NOT WAITING. I'm trying to just show up to every moment. That's all I can do. I'm working on being present - now, in living or now, in dying. Now. Now. Now, again, now.

As in the name of this season, I am WAITing. I'm waiting and pondering in my heart what it will mean for that particular presence of Light and Love in our midst - the incarnation of God among us. I'm waiting and knowing that God is not "out there." Joy is just around the corner, hidden in every cell, in the hear and the now. Back to “Don’t wait,” because God’s joy need not be waited for. God’s joy is waiting for us.

How are you NOT waiting in this moment? :)


Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always! Psalm 131:3 (The Message)


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Talkety-talk-talk-talk

I know better.

The other day one of my colleagues did "that thing" again that really bugged me. Being at the top of the hierarchy, he got away with it and being at the bottom of the hierarchy, I felt like I couldn't say anything. So I stewed about it all afternoon and evening. Woke me up middle of the night.

Realized, hey! Use Your Voice.

Next day, shared with my supervisor about what happened and how I wanted to talk to "him" about what he did. She encouraged me.

She asked, spontaneously, for a meeting with "him" as well as "her" (another higher-up who does "that thing" as well). Why was I so nervous!? (rhetorical question)

Talk talk talk we did. I shared how I felt. He shared why he did "that." She said she didn't even realize the impact. I was relieved!

I know better. Confront as soon as possible. At least I did it within 24 hours!

Christ Jesus, help me to be a good steward of my own soul. Guide me to say what I need and hold me in your arms as I become vulnerable, even with petty things. May I see Your face in all that I meet this day.

How are you talking through this moment?

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. 2 Corinthians 1:12

Friday, December 10, 2010

Needle's Eye

Issue 6 of CONSP!RE magazine deals with the economy of God.

One article in particular caught my attention. A family who lives in India realizes that most of the friends they have live on about $2.20 per day. Inspired by their seven-year-old, they embarked on the challenge to live on just $110 for the month, which was very low for them and still 50 times more than their neighbors.

I include here a few of their realizations:
  • Hospitality often involves significant cost to the poor: providing simple tea and biscuits blew the family budget for a few days
  • It's harder to be generous when budget is tight: they found themselves becoming stingier
  • Frustration when others don't pay their way: they learned humility to ask others for repayment
  • Medical visit would have meant not paying the rent: period.
  • The poor spend more to live: buying smaller volumes and lower quality meant higher per-item cost and more frequent replacements
  • Minimal budget takes more time: Deciding how to spend money is a pre-occupation.
Living on less, working in an under-employed job, staying aware of cultural pressures... this article fueled my desire to be "in solidarity" with people who are poor. Which is why my current role as receptionist at a non-profit agency keeps me grounded.

Every day, people walk in with little to nothing. They seek assistance. They seek someone to hear their story. They just left an abusive relationship. They don't have any heat. They want to organize someone to give their kid a gift this holiday season. While I am pulled into their story, I am relieved that I can point them to our referral service. I am honored to be close to these folks, even while I am repulsed by the systems that exist that influenced their being in this situation to begin with.

Working at the low end of the organizational hierarchy, I have had a few realizations myself about having less privilege:
  • Privacy and personal space is little to none: Those higher in the organization have their own, lockable offices and personal space. I am learning to be more public.
  • What's "mine" is "yours": The stationary supplies belong to everyone in the office. Just because I have a preferred black pen that I keep near my keyboard doesn't mean that someone might walk by and "like" it. I am learning to use what is nearby and not make favorites, since it will probably disappear during the day.
  • It's harder to say what I need: Most everyone else's priorities come first. When faced with an envelope-stuffing deadline, I found it hard to ask for help. I know better - I must ask when I need assistance and not think "oh, it's just this simple task, I can do it" when there are so many competing priorities.
I'm finding that yes, it's a strain on my spirit to live into a sense of abundance and the YES of God, with power and privilege all around. How blessed I am to be reminded and to practice possibilities. Tough lessons. I pray for God to keep reminding me.

What is your needle's eye like, in this moment?

Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who 'have it all' to enter God's kingdom?" The disciples couldn't believe what they were hearing, but Jesus kept on: "You can't imagine how difficult. I'd say it's easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for the rich to get into God's kingdom."That set the disciples back on their heels. "Then who has any chance at all?" they asked. Jesus was blunt: "No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it." Mark:10:23-27 (The Message)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fishbowl

I work in the reception area lobby.

My workspace looks out towards the entry door. To the left and to the right of my space are two long hallways that lead down to the offices. Just above my work area, above the desk level, are large, inviting, open window-like spaces on either side. Behind me is the entry/exit from my work area into the office work room, with the copier, postage machine and my friend, Legion.

Basically, I have no walls in my space, except for the building pillars at the four corners to hold up the second floor. Working in a fishbowl like this, I am learning something about myself:

I'm visible from all sides but I only have eyes in front. This means that my head is constantly turning to see who is coming in the door, which employee is standing on the side by the newspaper talking to me about the daily news, or listening for cries for help from the fabulous but complicated Xerox machine we just received. I'm learning about myself that I spend energy tracking the origin of noises.

This also means that when I am looking one way, someone can approach from the other. This is a bit unnerving, to me. I am taking the time to explain to each person to please not approach me from "the back" but it sounds so petty. I'm learning about myself that alas, I only have eyes in front. When others surprise me, I need to pause and take a breath. It's not their fault I'm a bit edgy.

This also means that anyone can see me when I am on line looking up something personal. Or they walk by when I am putting on my lipstick, or blowing my nose, or checking my cell phone text messages. I'm learning about myself to be more public about personal stuff and to keep the really personal stuff for some other time.

The (not "my") space is public-use. I have exactly one drawer to call "mine" since all the office supplies really belong to everyone in the agency. What's mine is yours! So why does it irritate me when they walk into the (not "my") work space (usually from behind me), reach in the (not "my") top drawer and pull out a pen? I'm praying about this; it's all God's stuff anyway so why do I feel a need to claim it as mine? I'm learning about my lack of capacity to let stuff go.

I'm learning about grace. I'm learning about saying what I need to others, before they become a thorn in my side. I'm learning about humility. I am praying to be respectful.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:1-4

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut

In my current position, I get to be the last step in the postal mailings. Once the letters are formatted, merged with the 300+ names to whom they will go, printed out and ready-for-stuffing, then it's my role to fold the letters and stuff.

"Folder is my name. Making you humble is my game," this folder cries.


Click here to see a YouTube video of said folding machine. [Notice how at the 1minute5second mark, where it shows how nicely the paper is folded, that several pieces of folded paper are folded into themselves. This does not make for easy stuffing, especially when the letters need to be in the same order as the personalized envelopes into which they go.]


One day, my role was to fold about 150 double-sided, stapled letters announcing that we would be honoring requests for money. It was due to go out the next day and so time was important. The envelopes were ready, I just needed to fold and stuff. For every ONE set that was folded, TWO jammed in the machine or folded into the next letter. Grrrr.


Another day, the letters were personalized by the manager and address to the leadership givers with personal notations. "Handle with care!" that manager told me. Gingerly, I approached the folder and pleaded my best prayer, "may it be according to your will." This time, only about 10% were diagonally folded or crunched and required tender loving re-folding. Grrrr.


Just when I think that perhaps I have a solution to some strategic problem announced by the marketing director, I have the opportunity to interact with this monster.


I'm trying to make peace with this monster. I decided to rename it Legion. Now where are the pigs when I need them?


Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission.


Lord, help me learn patience. There is enough time.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thank. Full.

What a welcome break!

Spending a week-ish with my sister and her family in Random, Kentucky was, well, random.

We practiced gratitude - for the funky cabin the in woods, the broken oven on Thanksgiving day and the replacement oven located in another cabin, the one-on-one yoga instruction from my yogini sister, the skill of brother-in-law to cook a turkey on the grill, my honey's heart-stopping sweet potato pie and a brilliant scrabble game loss at the hands of my nephew-rock-star Logan. We were even grateful for midnight awakenings of wasps and mice!

Like I said, it was random.
It was all good, although not really restful. Being in a different space, with surprising surroundings and amazing geological formations like arches and natural bridges to illuminate our hikes, we practiced gratitude. And now the refrain from the e.e. cummings poem rings in my ear:
i thank You God for most this amazing 
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything

which is natural which is infinite which is yes


(i who have died am alive again today,

and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth

day of life and love and wings:and of the gay

great happening illimitably earth)


how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no

of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?


(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


For what are you full of thanks in this moment?


...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess 5:18

Monday, November 22, 2010

tired

it's been a long week. i'm reflecting on how little i can reflect when i'm tired.

i pushed my muse all week with my sermon, new job, interviews for 2nd job, starting a running program, monitoring our new cat. i can't even capitalize my words.

i'm thankful for all the blessings in my life and happy to have a bed upon which to lay my head. i'm taking the rest of the week off, cuz going crazy is not in my job description.

so i conclude this short entry with my favorite prayer from the new zealand prayer book for the evening.
==
Lord it is night.

The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done. Let it be.

The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.

The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.

In your name we pray. Amen
==

thanks for showing up to this moment.

Sermon: Christ the King

Proper 29 Year C 
Jeremiah 23:1-6, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43
Vicki Hesse, Ministry Intern

Luke 23:33-43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Well, here we are –It’s Christ the King day and
the last Sunday in our liturgical year,
Happy New Year! 
Instead of singing Auld Lang Syne,
we will sing Crown Him With Many Crowns.

I wonder what other Kings we know of...
·        King of Pop – Michael Jackson
·        King of Soul – Otis Redding (if you grew up – or can remember – the 60s)
·        King of Queens – a popular TV show             
·        King of Beer – usually on the mind of Sunday afternoon football watchers
·        King Kong?
·        Or maybe the news of Prince William marrying Kate?

But what kind of Kings are they?

They are “the best” in their field
and their notoriety piques our interest
and
their charisma enthralls us.

What kind of power
do these kings have for us? 

== == ==
Historically, a king would be
the person at the top with all the political power,
the head of the state.

He usually got all his power
by being born into a royal family
or
sometimes from self-proclamation
after attacking villages and scattering the people,
then taking power over the people. 

While not all kings were violent and evil,
Sometimes, this kind of king ruled as an autocrat
with absolute power over state and government,
ruling by fear and decree.

And while the King was
legally responsible
for the welfare of the widows and orphans,
sometimes it wasn’t out of generosity –
many of  these unfortunate people
were usually relegated to
many years of labor
in exchange for their care. 

How would you feel
as a subject under this kind of king? 

I don’t know about you, but
I would probably be in yellow terror alert  
if they were anywhere near. 
I’d do what they asked –
after all, the King has all the power
and the subjects have none. 

As a subject of this kind of king,
I would have to swear to be
obedient to the King alone,
or be charged with treason.

Like I said, not all kings were like this, but many were.

So why is today celebrated as Christ the King Sunday?
Well, it was in 1925, that Pope Pius 11th
was peeved about
the increasing nationalism and secularism
that he saw in the world. 

In his yearly encyclical,
the Pope noted that
“the majority of {people} had thrust Jesus Christ…
out of their lives,”
because,
as Pope saw it, folks had no place for Jesus
“private affairs or in politics”
and he wanted to address that.

Of course, that was only in 1925…
[Does this still apply to today?]

And so, the Pope marked this day as a celebration in our liturgical year as the crowning glory
of all the days of the year.
As the hymn says,
“crown him the Lord of Heaven,
enthroned in worlds above,
crown him the King to whom is given
the wondrous name of Love.”

Our readings today capture
the glory of that kind of King

In the first reading (Jeremiah,)
God promises to send forth
A new kind of King –
a faithful ruler who will gather all who are exiled.
This is not the kind of king we talked about earlier,
that power-mongering, disrupting kind of king
who expects the subjects
to figure it out themselves.

Have you ever been exiled and
thought you had to figure it out on your own?
Have you ever thought,
“Can’t we just all get along?”

In this Kingdom, we can get along, together.
We are welcomed home.

That’s a new kind of King. 

In the second reading (Colossians),
we hear that this King
offers to share his power and strength with us –
not the grim, teeth-gritting strength,
but God-given glory-strength.

Have you ever needed strength to be patient?
Have you ever needed just to endure?

This King gives us power to transform –
to be patient when someone cuts us off on the freeway,
to be thankful for what we do have
even when working in a minimum wage job,
to be forgiven for those very-human mistakes we make.

This King’s glory-power
brings together – all things
“in heaven and in earth –  seen and unseen”
How spacious, how roomy
is this Kingdom!

That’s a new kind of King. 

In the Gospel reading from Luke,
we recognize the humanity of this King –
how hard it is to be human,
to bear the taunts,
to have someone poke fun at us,
to be cursed. 

We empathize with this King
and sense our compassion growing inside.

THEN we get a demonstration
of a new kind of King’s
glory-strength
when he says,
to “forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The story shifts, and
in a moment of intimate familiarity,
the thief addresses the King by his first name –
Jesus –
and asks simply
to be remembered.

This King – who came
“to proclaim salvation to the poor and the marginalized,”
and who came  “to seek and save the lost” –
promises to him -
that he will be made whole,
that he will be welcomed home,
that he will be forgiven

And he does so
with mutual intimacy and affection.

That’s a new kind of King. 

== == ==
And what’s been gnawing on me all week is this question: if this is my king, how am I different?
And what of us, this King’s subjects? 
How does this change us?

Part of the answer is that
it makes us a new kind of person.

Under this King,
we are not “subjects,”
we are disciples, followers,–
and our life is transformed
from being ruled through the
feudalistic lordship of pop culture
to a life in companionship with our King.

We are transformed more and more
into compassionate beings,
“into the likeness of Christ.”

With Christ as our King,
we are gathered, empowered and forgiven.
 
it makes us a new kind of person.

Under this King,
We show up at the homeless shelter,
feed each other, and
realize that we are gathered up.

Under this King,
we have glory-strength
to confront those who bully
and to welcome people
who are different than us.

Under this King,
Even when we are confused,
we can find confidence and rest
in the spaciousness of God.
in the wondrous name of Love. 

it makes us a new kind of person.

As a new kind of person,
We are called to share in his glory-strength and
in the face of this world
work for peace and reconciliation.

To put together backpacks for kids
To teach children tolerance
To use our voice and political will
to change systems that oppress our neighbors or ourselves.

As a new kind of person
With a new kind of King,

Our call today is to seek and to serve
Christ the King
in each other.

Our call today is to forgive ourselves and others.

Why?

Because today,
we will be with Christ in paradise.

Amen


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On Not Clinging

I recently blogged about Cynthia Bourgeault's talk on wisdom ways of knowing.

In her expansive wonderings of the heart, the instrument "par excellence of wisdom," she connected our heart's ability to know deeply. We are to obey the heart - which means to listen from the depths. It is the heart, she states, that is perfect and our work is to get in touch with the heart and to explore any places where the signals to the heart "get jammed."

So how do we open our heart?

This question has been stewing in my spiritual crockpot ever since.

In Philippians, St. Paul writes about Jesus' ability to have the same mind as in Christ, and not cling to God. He emptied himself... perhaps this is the secret of his teaching - to not grab on.

My morning silent prayer time is strengthening this open-my-heart and learn-to-let go muscle. It's a paradox of allowing openness while detaching from the outcome.

So today, I pray to let go, with love.

What are you not clinging onto, in this moment?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Goodbye

We said goodbye to each other this week.

Eleven weeks ago, we were ten folks who didn't know each other. We were over ambitious, under employed, and looking for a purpose. United Way and our Pacesetter Chair transformed us into a team of supportive, hardworking, message-spreading advocates. For life.

Since Friday was our very very last day on the campaign, we gathered in a circle on Thursday to share each others' gifts. Thanks to one of our teammates who is a Spiritual Director and who knows how to bring out the best in others, we prepared 3x5 cards filled with five or more words about each person. What they were good at. What made us laugh. What we saw in them. What we hoped for them.

And for more than two hours, we shared and cried and hugged and laughed.

Eleven weeks ago, we were ten individuals. Now we know each other as family, as our support team. I'll hold onto those note cards for a very long time. And now I feel strengthened to say goodbye, to find closure in this ending, to grieve the loss of good colleagues, and to begin looking forward to what is next.

Thank you, my teammates! Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!

To whom are you saying Goodbye in this moment?

When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. Acts 20:1

Sunday, November 7, 2010

PK

One of my colleagues is a Preachers' Kid. Yes, the apostrophe is in the right place.

Not only his father, but also his mother was a preacher. She exceeded all manner of educational requirements (MDiv, DMin, PhD) for her pastoral ministry. Father preached and she ran the church (women can't be ordained in "that" denomination).

My colleague, we'll call him Pierre, explained that dinner time conversation in their house was not, he knew, normal. Who else is arguing about the conjugation of verbs in Hebrew or in Greek? Who else threw around theological discussions about the meaning of Revelations as easily as discussing the weather?

Pierre explained to me that he learned over the years to never say never. "I'll never go to University of Alabama, yuck... are you kidding?" Where did he end up attending? University of Alabama. "I'll never live in Atlanta, are you kidding?" Where did he end up living after he met his now-wife? Atlanta. "I'd never take a part time job doing fundraising!" Where did we just spend the last 11 weeks? Fundraising for United Way.

He shared with me, in a tender moment at our last celebration gathering, that his father, who was otherwise very verbose, gave him sage advice before he died. "Son," he said when Pierre announced his engagement to the now-Mrs., "Be patient." Yea, yea, Dad, I know. Be patient. "No,BE patient." Yea, yea, Dad, I know. "No, BBBBEEEE patient. As in the Greek, BE is BECOMING. BE patient." Yea, yea, Dad. Okay!

A year or so later, when Mrs. Pierre was pregnant with baby #1, she scolded Pierre for some random, benign act of carelessness. She yelled at him. What crossed his mind? BEcome PATIENT.

This is really Pierre's story but it has stuck with me.

And as I step into what's next for me, I'm taking Dad's advice, to BEcome patient. With me, with my life, with God, with others.

What are you BEing in this moment?

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Portal

In a recent "BEING/Speaking of Faith ", Krista Tippett interviews NY Times Journalist Nicholas Kristof. Mr Kristof talks about how mass need paralyzes peoples' capacity to give. Tippett points to the emotional response that one specific story might create in a listener's heart a kind of "portal" for compassion. Through this portal of compassion the listener might be moved to give or to take action for change.

I connected with this notion when I thought about the two dozen the United Way rallies that I have been a part of in the last 11 weeks. And, I realized the importance of telling Just Our Story about why I personally "Live United." When we were first trained on this presentation, I wanted to share all the wonderful things that United Way is doing and describe all the terrible statistics that point to the broad and deep need in our community.

Now, having heard this small snippet about Rokia and Moussa on the interview, I understood why one personal story is more powerful. Here is a partial transcript of the full interview:

=============================

Ms. Tippett: But there's some way you put that and somewhere you said that the emotional response becomes a portal and then rational arguments like numbers can play a supporting role.

...

Mr. Kristof: That opening, that connection, that empathy, is really an emotional one. It's done based on individual stories. And we all know that there is this compassion fatigue as the number of victims increases, but what the research has shown that is kind of devastating is that the number at which we begin to show fatigue is when the number of victims reaches two.

Ms. Tippett: Right. Would you tell the story about Rokia and Moussa, the photograph that they used to illustrate this?

Mr. Kristof: Yeah. This is from the work of a psychologist called Paul Slovic. There were experiences where people were shown a photo of a starving girl from Mali called Rokia, a seven-year-old girl, and asked to contribute in various different scenarios. And then also a boy named Moussa. And essentially people would donate a lot of money. If they saw that Rokia was hungry, they wanted to help her. Likewise, when they saw a picture of Moussa, they wanted to help him. But the moment you put the two of them together and asked people to help both Rokia and Moussa, then at point donations dropped. And by the time you ask them to donate to 21 million hungry people in West Africa , you know, nobody wanted to contribute at all.

Ms. Tippett: Because they're overwhelmed by that, or it doesn't spark the same reaction that actually enables people to act.

===========================================

For me, I have wondered how God could possible contain all the world's misery. Or even all the world's joy. It's just too massive for my little heart.( That's why God's God and not me.) Perhaps this is a portal to my own understanding that might possibly apply to God - that through personal stories, personal narratives, personal sacred moments... God does Give. God does Take Action. God Cares. God Loves.

What is your portal, showing up in this moment?

So let's go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This "insider world" is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let's take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus' name. Hebrews 13:13


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Knowing

I recently went to a talk by Cynthia Bourgeault at Montreat College. The Emcee introduced her as one who can speak to the place "...where suffering and love meet." I found that to be true.

In her talk, she discussed ways of knowing. There's the ordinary way of knowing - from the outside - and the direct knowledge way of knowing - how you "just know" something. And, there are the "three ways of knowing" as espoused by G.I. Gurdjieff. This really caught my attention.

In this approach, we know through 1. moving, 2. emotions and 3. intellect.

In Moving, we have some intelligence through movement: gestures, dancing, cellular shifting. This is why gestures speak to me in liturgy. I love to kneel when I pray. I cross myself at the consecration of the host. I bow and fold my hands in prayer-form when I say "peace" to someone I visited in hospital.

In Emotions, this doesn't really translate to "heart" knowing - it's more about empathic knowing - chakras / solar plexus / stuff like that. She reminded me how empathy travels faster than the mind can absorb. It's why this week when my colleague Mr. Mom teared up at the farewell of Ms. China, we all "knew" he loved her deeply as a friend and our emotional response was to tear up as well.

In Intellect, that's the cognition approach. This is so common that it's an over-used muscle. I read about doing my Live United presentation but only when I actually get up and say it, moving into my space and using my emotions, will I really "know" why I "live united."

My point is that in her discussion she emphasized how the body "tells" you something that the mind can never really know. It's like riding a bike - you just "get the hang" of it.

I wonder how God knows me. My instinct is that God knows the movement of my breath, the empathic responses that spontaneously burst through me and the academic brainwork that is stuffed in the gray matter upstairs.

Showing up to this moment, I pray for awareness to "know" Love in all forms - movement, emotions, intellect - and to find harmony in these ways of knowing. I'm grateful for Cynthia Bourgeault and her brilliant insights.

How do you *know* in this moment?

Knowing what is right is like deep water in the heart; a wise person draws from the well within.Proverbs 20:5 (The Message)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Recognition

At a rally the other day, I shared the United Way of Asheville & Buncombe 2010 campaign video.It was a usual rally agenda: thanks/introduction, story, video, The Ask, pledge cards and thanks/close.

This rally was for a small group of folks from a local agency that does a lot of work in the community. So it should have come as no surprise that after the opening scene, when the first Live United speaker began, they called out to me, "Hey, we know him!" Then, they recognized the judge with whom this Chief Court Counselor was conferring. Then, they recognized the next two protagonists in the video with glee, exclaiming how great she did or how they know that organization.

It was as if I was sharing my vacation photos with my own family. What fun!

I began to wonder about how God must recognize us when we are authentically being ourselves. Those times when I speak in front of others, going with the flow and losing myself in the conversation... I imagine God, saying to the angels and archangels in heaven, "Hey, I know her!" I imagine God beaming with delight that even if I miss a beat or mis-speak a name or bumble my words, that like my video viewers that day, God only sees the real me and delights in me.

How is God delighting in you, in this moment?

You're blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom, when you make friends with Madame Insight. She's worth far more than money in the bank; her friendship is better than a big salary. Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth; nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her. With one hand she gives long life, with the other she confers recognition. Her manner is beautiful, her life wonderfully complete. She's the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her. Hold her tight—and be blessed! Proverbs 3:13 (The Message)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Beannacht

I can’t recall exactly when I heard Krista Tippett interview John O’Donohue on Speaking of Faith in 2008. I do recall when I downloaded the podcast and re-listened to it over and over...driving to and from Spartanburg last year.

And each time I heard the interview, this blessing touched my heart.

Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets into you,
may a flock of colors,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O'Donohue ~

Parts of it increased my capacity to overcome my deep sadness after one particularly difficult "on-call" of seven deaths back to back. Parts of it connect me with a spiritual experience in a field of wildflowers near Aspen, Colorado. Parts of it remain a mystery – an unknowing; an invisible longing –the unanswered, humble feeling of which I grow more familiar with each read. All of it seems important to my spiritual journey as I show up to this moment, in this place.

In my work-a-day life there is much encouragement, positive attitude and teamwork - but sometimes it has has put gloss and spin on the outside, while abandoning any inner work –that is, leaving us all bereft of naming what is difficult, dark, real about our lives. That rigorous inner work made my chaplain residency program difficult and I grew to appreciate the authenticity gained by doing it.

However, these days,by deftly avoiding any difficult feelings,it seems that much of the webbing that holds us together in communion is lost. I seem to have lost a sense of belonging. I am familiar with this feeling and am pretty sure I’m not the only one that feels this way –and I sense that be-longing and re-membering is part of my call and part of our work as creators of a fresh expression of Church.

In the blessings that O’Donohue offers in his book, To Bless The Space Between Us, he addresses the gritty, sometimes dark realities of life.

He does so while simultaneously nudging the shoreline of the accompanying newness. In this blessing, he names quite clearly what it feels like to grieve and in this way I connect to it. By connecting to my darkness, I feel ready to accept the intimate warmth he offers in each verse. I belong.

In reflecting on the invocations for nourishment, clarity, fluency and protection, I feel understood and find hope.

In the first verse, the notion of deadening weight on my shoulders reminds me of stacking hay in our barn as a child. Back in the day, I could carry an entire bale on my back and hoist it onto a stack, no problem. Now, that hay bale comes in the form of my human failures, unkept agreements, unworked grief. While this weighs me down, I sense the weight on all our shoulders - global warming, political strife, recession and decline - and I sense paralysis.

This weight sometimes causes me to stumble. I love how this blessing- instead of exhorting me to“do more lunges so your legs are strong to endure a fall”, it is the earth who is invited to dance and to adjust with grace, to participate in my finding my balance.

In the second verse, I recall what it was like living in London. Most days the windows were grey, either from fog on the outside or humidity from the inside. It was a relief to rest my gaze on the window pane –not really focusing on the outside nor the inside of my apartment. I never did belong in London and I felt lost. Gazing at the window was relief. I chuckle at the idea of a flock of colors bursting into my apartment.

I recall with delight another time, when I hiked through the meadow of June wildflowers that covered the hillside just beyond the Maroon Bells in the Aspen (CO) wilderness. That day, I was sure that God threw confetti onto the mountain just for us to experience. It was breathtaking. And healing.

In the third verse, I am puzzled by“fraying canvas of a curragh.” I understand that a curragh is a type of Irish boat with a wooden frame, over which animal skins or hides were once stretched. (Nowadays, canvas is more usual.) Having done some boating, I can imagine the horror I might feel if the canvas that contains my boat begins to fray. And having done some snorkeling, I can connect with the fear of the deep black ocean beneath me and the unknown that lies beyond.

As a curragh of thought, I reflect on my assumptions – how have they been frayed? How have I relied on the “known”assumptional canvas that contains my understanding of God? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do infants die? Why do murderers live? How can I console the family of the fatal car crash victim in one moment and sit with the driver of the car to console him the next? What would Jesus have me do?

And so, in these times, I yearn for a path of yellow moonlight, inspired by God, to bring me safely home.

For me, when I am offered the nourishment of the earth, I take communion. And when I am offered the clarity of light I know that I will see God face to face. And when I am offered the fluency of the ocean, I remember body surfing in Manhattan Beach and the joy of surprise waves. And when I am offered the protection of the ancestors, I join my voice with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven.

And so, in the slow wind of Spirit's presence, this blessing in this moment covers me with a flowing and protective cloak that minds my life and your life - into common life.

How are you showing up in this moment?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sounds

Sunday afternoon walk. I listen.

Wind over my ears.

Leaves cross the pavement.

River rushes below in the gorge.

Geese fly over head, honking.

A squirrel rushes up a tree and jumps branches.

Creature moves in the brush.

The fountain at the community pool across the way is flowing water.
Leaves rustle in the trees.
Birds chirping in choir fashion.

A car whooshes by.
The tires peel off the pavement.
My footsteps crunch through the small gravel path on this bend.
An apartment's wind chime is singing.

The freeway moans in the distance.

A train alerts motorists.

Trees creek as they bend and bow.

I breathe.


Awaken my ears, O Lord, how you speak in creation. Awaken in me your voice.

What do you hear, in this moment?

What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.
Oh, look—the deep, wide sea,
brimming with fish past counting,
sardines and sharks and salmon.
Ships plow those waters,
and Leviathan, your pet dragon, romps in them.
All the creatures look expectantly to you
to give them their meals on time.
You come, and they gather around;
you open your hand and they eat from it.
If you turned your back,
they'd die in a minute—
Take back your Spirit and they die,
revert to original mud;
Send out your Spirit and they spring to life—
the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.

Psalm 104:24 (The Message)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Community

Last week I attended rally after rally. I witnessed intimate sharing between colleagues.

Rough and tumble facilities maintenance workers dressed up in costumes to sing a song for United Way. Second and third shift medical care workers came in on their day off to support a co-worker who read her own, personal story in the talent show. Care givers at hospice invited us (UW folks) to remain in the meeting as they held a memorial ceremony for patients who died the previous month. Even a "rock-star famous" physician leaned close to me and shared with joy how his grandchild is attending a special charter school supported by UW.

Between the risk-taking practice managers and the late-night hourly workers, I found deeply meaningful interactions with all kinds of people. I witnessed them encouraging each other, sharing communion of cake and punch, and wishing them well as they got back to work.

Showing up to these moments, I experience what it means to Live United. The work, the stories, the emotions, the courage, the vulnerability... it all endeared me to Grace that flows freely between us, as a thread connecting us all.

How are you connected in this moment?

The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn't even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, "That's mine; you can't have it." They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them. Acts 4:32

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ring The Bell

We have a fun ritual in our work these days. Each afternoon - or more often, when possible - we acknowledge as a team the "money" envelopes we receive.

After weeks of delivering pledge cards, showing videos, making invitations to give and participating in all kinds of rallies, we now have something to show for it all! Each account's pledge envelope inscribed by their campaign coordinator tallies up the pledge cards with payroll deduction agreements, cash, checks, and credit card numbers. All gifts matter! Even the small, $1 gifts!

We collect up our envelopes, gather as a team, and march into the lobby of our building. One of our team grabs the cowbell from the shelf in our space and with a knowing nod, runs through the hallway ringing the bell. We all shout out, "All staff to please report to the front desk! NOW! We have some celebration to do!"

Amidst bells ringing and fun music launched from someone's iPod, we dance, do the hula hoop and announce our envelope numbers. Each day we hear about how we are doing - after all, that's why we are there - to collect funds for distribution back into our community. Yippee! We are doing it!

With the sound of clanking, I reflect on the sacramental nature of our ritual. It's an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace that so many other people have given generously to help our community be stronger. We are marking, in our own way, how Spirit has moved hearts to give and inspired minds to put those gifts to work. We pray using our body in movement - "shaking our groove thang" - to show the movement of grace between and among companies.

We all show up - to that moment - inspired and remembering God's presence in our lives.


"But remember the root command: Love one another." John 15:17 (The Message)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Heart. Beat.

Does it count as aerobic exercise if my heart races over 200bpm while flying down a single-track trail over rocks and roots and leaves?

When I did this last Saturday on the Tsali Thompson Loop trail, I think that I forgot to breathe. It was mid-day, but the cool air was trapped in the canyon into which we rode. As I gripped the handlebars, my knuckles went white with fear of falling. Grrr... why is this so hard for me?

Mid-way through the ride, we began to ascend. Up and up and up. I stood on my pedals and got into 'granny gear' to grunt my way up the rocky path. Sweat poured down my back and my breathing slowed, actually, as I lightly and gracefully used the handlebars for slight balance adjustments. Ahhh.... it's a beautiful day!

I reflect on how different I feel when I am descending (frightened, self-absorbed, trying to "do it all" myself, focused on *steering* the bike over gnarly objects) from ascending (strong, self-assured, looking out at the scenery, challenged, accepting the bumps along the way by bending my knees). I wonder if this is about "being in control" and my discomfort when I am "not," duh. It is just too obvious about how the more frightened I become, the more dangerous I make my situation.

I have a hunch this mirrors my current "not in control" constellation of unknowns in my life - my discernment path, my temporary job, my short term internship at a parish, my unfinished board certification chaplaincy paperwork. I am emotionally much better when I reframe it all - towards the inner strength to continue: the challenge of climbing up, the sense of call that I feel no matter what the Bishop or COM might discern, how I believe that my short 11 weeks at United Way will make a difference in agency funding, how deeply I love the internship parish and know that they will be there when my assignment is completed.

In this moment, my. heart. beats. In showing up to this moment, I choose to see the dark aspects and in this moment, to ride like the wind. Thank you for joining me on this pathway.

Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path. Psalm 44:18

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Castles These Days

Trim Castle in County Meath, Ireland (near Boyne) is one of the largest castles in Ireland. It is known for the part it played the film Braveheart, and this one struck me as a "classic" castle with most of the "I learned about that in 5th grade" components.

It was built by a wealthy noble person, has a ringwork of outbuildings to protect the inner sanctum, has an external ditch (moat) surrounding it (filled with sewage), is located near a popular river, and has several inner rooms that lead to more inner rooms...

Living there must have really been an adventure.

One of my "new" accounts is not unlike this castle. I'm sure that the building was built by one of the wealthy noble people, the doctor. It consists of a ringwork of outbuildings that protect the doctors offices. There is a parking lot surrounding it and an external margin of nasty prickly bushes that prevent anyone from getting actually near the bricks (or the windows). It's accessible from a nearby boulevard but is not on that street - only a side road nearby.

The main building itself seems to be in the shape of two snakes on a stick (the medical symbol) and has many corners, as if it has been built upon and added-to across the ages. There are rectangular waiting rooms, a reception, long hallways and many defenses before one can get inside to begin to have a conversation. Once inside, the rooms are solid, sound-proofed with tiny windows to keep other patients from peeking in and keep privacy violations out.

I am just amused at while we are so post-modern in our society and have the very best health care, there is much brick and mortar that remains medieval. It's a human system, built for protection, privacy, care and compassion.

As I look at the similarities between modern-day doctor's offices and medieval castle fortresses, I reflect on how I have put up boundaries around my soul. I have a complete ringwork of outer selves that protect me from being authentically me. I know that sometimes information seems to take a long time to get down my heart/mind hallways - which means that I am slow to react. Once there, I wonder if I really "hear" or is my inner ear sound-proofed to what is really being said?

Today I pray for openness. I pray to let down my guard, just a little, and be authentically me. I pray that I might "hear" what others are "saying" when they are not speaking to me. I pray for presence of mind to listen to God's silent whispers, to bring healing and hope.

What is your inner castle like, in this moment?

You brought me out into an open place; you rescued me because you delighted in me. Psalm 18:20