Touched by the Spirit?

“Who touched me?” and “Whom have I touched?” or perhaps, more importantly…“How have I been touched and how will I touch others?”

It is interesting how the air can suddenly be sucked out of a room by the action or reaction of an individual. The way it can be quickly squashed. Like the domino effect. The momentum from the actions of one carries on to the second, causing it to also fall, which carries on to the next, and so on, down the line, until none are left standing. It is like a wave of destruction.

Imagine what it might be like, if we could actually see and hear both the rising and the quelling of the spirit within others in response to our words and deeds. Would my path have more dominoes that were standing or more dominoes that were knocked down? What are the things that cause me to knock down, rather than to build up? Or to become self-centered as opposed to Spirit-centered?

I was at a gathering, working with others, and as we worked, there was a spirit in the room. We were building something. There seemed to be a spirit rising within each of us as we worked together. I felt a sense of peace, unity and enthusiasm.

It hadn’t started out that way. In fact, I remember wondering, toward the beginning of our time together, “Was this task even possible? Could it really work?” However, as time unfolded, I started to feel a sense of excitement as we worked together. There seemed to be momentum and a positive energy to the group, and I could envision the task at hand not only being possible, but also working for the greater good of all who might be touched by it.

Then, toward the end, the first domino tipped, or rather, it exploded sending shock waves all around, and, even though it did not completely wipe out all that happened before it, in a single second, it certainly changed the spirit in the room. Squashed it! At least that is how it felt to me.

How many times have we all, either witnessed or committed an action or reaction steeped in “How I have been touched” as opposed to one that is cognizant of myself and “how am I about to touch others”?

I would dare to say that the times of action or reaction centered solely on oneself do very little, if anything at all, in a positive, life-giving direction. Whereas the ones that take into account oneself and others (anyone else around) are more than likely ones that acknowledge the situation for what it is without knocking any dominoes down. The latter are times of action or reaction that build up; not tear down. They help us to make the best of the situation, to maintain a spirit of peace, unity and enthusiasm, and to carry on with the hope and trust that things will work out. They always do! My faith, our faith, tells us, things work out for the good of those who love God.

What is it that takes me away from that promise? What do I, with the help of God, need to do about it so that my touch is in, and of, the Spirit?

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
But his disciples said to Jesus,
“You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

                                                                                 — Mark 5:25-34


Faith Like A Bird…

“Faith is a bird that feels dawn is breaking and sings while it is still dark.” – Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali Poet

It has been a long week or so since I last posted. As I sit to write, though, I feel a firm resolve within to “Do It Anyway.” To do what?…To continue to say “yes” to God…to continue to strive to live my life in truth and with full confidence, trust and hope in God’s faithfulness to those who love God, and are faithful to God. Despite the obstacles, despite all the wrongdoing and injustice, despite the jealousy and greed that is so present in the world around me, I refuse to stop. I pray for the heart and the will to always, “Do It Anyway”.  God has given me, has given all of us, a heart for love…a heart for all that is good… a heart to build up (not to beat down or destroy)…a heart to do right. Despite the circumstances and in the words of Mother Teresa, “Do It Anyway”!

People are often unreasonable,
illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind,
people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful,
you will win some false friends and true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest anyway.

What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.                

                                                                     – Mother Teresa

Hitting the Pause Button…


“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa

Of all that I am thankful for and all that I see as blessings from God, the capacity to reflect is at the top of the list. In the midst of a fast paced, multitasking, busy world, quiet, prayerful reflection and contemplation has been a huge gift in my life, and from what I have witnessed as a family member, friend, and spiritual director, it has been a gift in the lives of countless others as well.

The first step is in the ability and the choice to pause. Sometimes the first step can be the hardest, especially with all that goes on between work, family, and everyday life. However, experience has taught me that I need to make a conscious decision to pause on a regular basis. For when I am on the go, in motion, it is hard or even impossible at times, to notice what I am being called to, to be open to a change in course or a new road ahead, or simply to be aware of and grateful for God’s presence and the blessings all around me.

I cannot ponder in my heart and mind without first putting the brakes on, lowering the volume, slowing down, and sometimes, completely coming to a prolonged stop. It is in these quiet moments, where I find myself best able to take a step back, to take a breath, and to truly leave room to listen and to be attentive to the deepest stirrings of my soul; the meeting place within. It is in these moments, that I find myself most open and reflective. It is in contemplation that I come to see that it matters not whether I go to the left, to the right, up ahead, behind, or way over there, but that what matters most is my openness to God…to the Truth…to the best course of action, or inaction, in the eyes of God.

When I think back over my life, I feel gratitude for moments of prayerful reflection and contemplation, moments where through Divine grace, I was able to let go of any agenda or notions to which I may have been holding on to, whether consciously or subconsciously, and to be aware and open to whatever may be. I can see clearly that these moments have been ones in which I have felt a deep sense of unity with God and the world around me. I have also felt a deep sense of peace and joy, regardless of the situation, circumstances or what ended up happening. It has been through these moments of reflection, in giving prayerful pause and taking a step away, that I am able to remain centered and rooted in God, stepping back into the world without being overcome by it.

Ready. Set. Open!

“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” – Indira Ghandi

Not only can you NOT shake hands with a clenched fist but there are also many other things you cannot do with a clenched fist. Perhaps from a more positive perspective…with a clenched fist, I can do very few productive and life-giving things. In fact, one could say that there is very little I can do with a clenched fist that I can truly feel good about.

When I imagine a clenched fist, what comes to mind first is fighting. Quickly behind that are the image of a wall and the idea of a stronghold of determination…determination to defend, hold on to and preserve at all costs. At some point I have to ask myself what am I defending and at what cost, not only to myself, but also to those around me, and those on the other side of the table?

Another question, who am I serving? Am I fighting to defend or to hold on to a universal truth or value? Or, am I fighting to maintain the illusion that I am in control? If it is the latter, I am pretty much slamming the door in the face of openness and all the possibilities that may lie ahead. What could be! If only that fist would open and that wall be taken down.

In the movie based on Roald Dahl’s book, Matilda, the father says to Matilda, “Listen, you little wiseacre: I’m smart, you’re dumb; I’m big, you’re little; I’m right, you’re wrong, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” What a great example of the attitude behind a clenched fist!

It is sad to experience and to think about how much is lost or destroyed as a result of clenched fists; the potential that is never seen, never given a chance to develop. It is disappointing when that which a group or an individual has to offer, when their gifts and what makes them special, creates a barrier to meaningful work and the development of mutually beneficial relationships; when it causes division or angst instead of unity and acceptance and an environment where the greater good is the focus.

With clenched fists, nobody wins. There can only be peace and unity, working together and building up, and authentic collaboration where there is an open fist…open hands…open minds and open hearts. Where there is a willingness to let go, to lay aside what is comfortable and what is “known,” and to come to the table with a desire to learn from that which is new and different, to accept others as they are and to give them, and ourselves, the room (love, encouragement, patience, kindness, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness) to grow.