"Fully alive people do not see their lives as a perennial funeral procession with one day following uneventfully on the heels of another. Alive people see tomorrow as a new opportunity which they eagerly await. They are on the growing edge of life." (Father John Powell)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"A Sacrament of Thanksgiving" by Howard Thurman

TODAY, I Make my Sacrament of Thanksgiving.

I begin with the simple things of my days:
Fresh air to breathe,
Cool water to drink,
The taste of food,
The protection of houses and clothes,
The comforts of home.
For these, I make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

I bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that I have known;
My mother's arm,
The strength of my father,
The playmates of my childhood,
The wonderful stories brought to me from the lives of many who
talked the days gone by when fairies and giants and
all kinds of magic held sway:
The tears I have shed, the tears I have seen;
The excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the eye with its
reminder that life is good.
For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I finger one by one the messages of hope that awaited me
at the crossroads:
The smile of approval form those who held in their hands
the reins of my security;
The tightening of the grip in a single handshake when I feared
the step before me in the darkness;
The whisper in my heart when the temptation was fiercest and
the claims of appetite were not to be denied;
The crucial word said, the simple sentence from an open page
when my decision hung in the balance.
For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I pass before me the mainsprings of my heritage:
The fruits of the labors of countless generations who lived before me,
without whom my own life would have no meaning;
The seers who saw visions and dreamed dreams;
The prophets who sensed a truth greater than the mind could grasp
and whose words could only find fulfillment in the years which
they would never see;
The workers who sweat has watered the trees, the leaves of which
are for the healing of the nations;
The pilgrims who set their sails for lands beyond all horizons,
whose courage made paths into new worlds and far-off places;
The saviors whose blood was shed a recklessness that only a dream
could inspire and God could command.
For all this I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I linger over the meaning of my own life and the commitment
to which I give the loyalty of my heart and mind:
The little purposes in which I have shared with my loves,
my desires, my gifts;
The restlessness which bottoms all I do with its stark insistence that
I have never done my best,
I have never dated to reach for the highest;
The big hope that never quite deserts me, that I and my kind
will study war no more, that love and tenderness and
all the inner graces of Almighty affection will cover the life of
their children of God as the waters cover the sea.

All these and more than mind can think and heart can feel,
I make as my sacrament of Thanksgiving to Thee,
O Father, in humbleness of mind and simplicity of heart.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Constantly Open to God

In his most recent book, Opening to God, author David Benner begins his introduction with these insightful and challenging words:

"Just imagine how different your life would be if moment by moment you were constantly open to God. Think of how much your experience of yourself, others and the world would change if you were continuously attuned to the loving presence of God and allowed the life of God to flow into and through you with each breath. Such a life would itself be prayer...prayer is not simply words that we offer when we speak to Got but an opening of our self to God."

I am thinking that this is what the Apostle Paul meant by praying unceasingly. It's not a matter of shutting my eyes and bowing my head. It's more a matter of this openness that David Benner describes. To be honest, I am truly drawn to this type of experience. But, I also realize that I go through my day rather mindlessly and "out of tune." In other words, not attuned to the loving presence of God. Our culture is also one in which we are easily distracted. Facebook, 24/7 news, constantly wired and checking emails and texts. All of this keeps us mentally occupied and distracted.

I realize that a growing edge in my life is to value the spiritual reality enough to be open to God's loving presence in the world. It's not that God isnt present. I'ts more that I'm not paying attention and maybe even looking in the wrong places. I can pay attention by:

  • Pausing throughout the day for brief periods and simply sitting in silence.
  • Reading prayers or Scripture and soaking in them
  • Taking a walk and enjoying the beauty of the day
  • Listening to my own feelings, emotions, responses to life in the moment

You might have your own list. Trust that God is wanting to communicate with you in this moment. Be open. I know I'm trying to be.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Procrastination - A Spiritual Issue

Most of us, including me, would label "procrastination" as a time management issue. And it is - but not always. Certainly there are things I put off doing because I just don't have the time to do them. But, for the most part, there are certain things I put off doing because there is some measure of unpleasantness surrounding it. And, if I am truly honest with myself, I put off doing certain things because of my fear of failure. I have come to understand that a root issue of procrastination is that of fearing failure.

If I feel called to engage in some type of ministry or feel led to initiate some type of endeavor often my first thought is, "Will it succeed?" or "Will I fail and fall flat on my face?" With those thoughts in my head, I tend to back off and not risk. With that in mind, I keep putting off what I need to be about because I don't want to experience the hard stuff of failure. But who has not experience failure in their life. And, does failure ever have the last word? I know that failure is not a deal breaker but somehow the thought of failing can paralyze me and so I procrastinate.

The consequences of procrastination are not so great. If I am leading a team of people or a group of people then they being to lose their confidence in me. If I am pastoring then some significant opportunities might slip away because I didnt act in a timely manner. Even my spiritual growth is stunted because I am not out there living on a growing edge and am choosing to play it safe. what I find to be true, then, is that a significant growing edge in my life is to move beyond procrastination and move toward living life.

This was reinforced to me recently as I was reading a reprint of a Brennan Manning book. His recently re-published book Souvenirs of Solitude has this to say about procrastination:

"Procrastination is perhaps the worst, the most damaging failure of all. We who believe in Jesus, who hope in vindication, who proclaim the love of the heavenly Father waste our time trying to avoid the things taht are most important because we're afraid we are going to fail in them. How much faith, how much hope, how much love does the perpetual procrastinator really have?"

Manning then goes on to offer this spiritual challenge:

"In the final analysis, the real challenge of Christian growth is personal responsibility. The Spirit of Jesus calls out a second time. Are you going to take charge of your life today? Are you going to be responsible for what you do?"

I once read that a good way to define "responsible" is to think of it as two words, "response-able". In other words, we all have the capacity and the ability to respond. The question is, am I simply reacting to life or responding to life? A reactive heart is a procrastinating heart but a responsive heart is an alive heart. I want to be alive. I want to live responsively. That's my growing edge.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

God Loves Us In Our Nothingness

"Perhaps one of the things that most undermine the development of our intimate relationship with God is our inability to realize and accept the fact that God does really want an intimate relationship with us, that we are really important to him. He made us for no other reason than to enjoy us and to have us enjoy him. He had an absolute fullness of happiness and he wanted to share it, so he made us. Such absolute gratuity is difficult for us to comprehend. Our whole training and the attitudes that prevail in today's world reinforces the conviction that one has to merit love, that everything we get has to be paid for. Not so with God. Nothingness cannot merit until it is gratuitously given something to serve as a basis of activity and possible merit."

"Centering Prayer" by Basil Pennington

Monday, September 21, 2009

In Celebration of International Peace Day

In celebration of International Peace Day, I offer the following quote from George Fox, founder and visionary of the Quaker movement.

"We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fighting with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretense whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world. The spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight any war against any person with outward weapons, neither for the commonwealth of Christ, nor for the commonwealth's of this world."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"Answering the Great Deception" by Howard Thurman

Howard Thurman is one of my absolute favorite writers. This piece by him is a great encouragement to keep the hope and faith even in times of despair and disillusionment. The great deception is that there is no hope. Let us keep the faith!

During these turbulent times we must
remind ourselves repeatedly
that life goes on.
This we are apt to forget.
The wisdom of life transcends our wisdoms;
the purpose of life outlasts our purposes;
the process of life cushions our processes.
The mass attack of disillusion and despair,
distilled out of the collapse of hope,
has so invaded our thoughts that what we know
to be true and valid
seems unreal and ephemeral.
There seems to be little energy left for aught but futility.

This is the great deception.By it whole peoples have gone down to oblivion
without the will to affirm the great and permanent strength
of the clean and the commonplace. Let us not be deceived.
It is just as important as ever to attend to the little graces
by which the dignity of our lives is maintained and sustained.

Birds still sing;
the stars continue to cast their gentle gleamover the desolation of the battlefields,
and the heart is still inspired by the kind word
and the gracious deed….

To drink in the beauty that is within reach,
to clothe one’s life with simple deeds of kindness,
to keep alive a sensitiveness to the movement
of the spirit of God in the quietness of the human heart
and in the workings of the human mind—this is as always the ultimate answer to the great deception.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Is My Pain Transmitted or Transformed?" by Richard Rohr

Is your religion helping you to transform your pain? If it does not, it is junk religion. We all have pain—it’s the human situation, we all carry it in a big black bag behind us and it gets heavier as we get older: by betrayals, rejections, disappointments, and wounds that are inflicted along the way.

If we do not find some way to transform our pain, I can tell you with 100% certitude we will transmit it to those around us. We will create tension, negativity, suspicion, and fear wherever we go. Both Jesus and Buddha made it very clear to their followers that “life is suffering.” You cannot avoid it. It is no surprise that the central Christian logo became a naked, bleeding, suffering man. At the end of life, and probably early in life, too, the question is, “What do I do with this disappointment, with this absurdity, with this sadness?” Whoever teaches you how to transform your own suffering into compassion is a true spiritual authority. Whoever teaches you to project your doubt and fear onto Jews, Moslems, your family, heretics, gays, sinners, and foreigners, or even to turn it against yourself (guilt and shame) has no spiritual authority. Yet these very people have often preached from authoritative pulpits.