Sometimes the happenings in the world, or even in one’s own family, can seem so big or unmanageable. They can bear down, throwing things out of whack, making them, and us, off balance or unsettled. We all can experience times of feeling swallowed up or spit out and washed up.
In such times it can be easy to place a lot of importance and attention on where we are and what is happening rather than on whom we really are and, “all that we can be.” Still, we must remember, calling ourselves to the truth, that we are much more than the happenings in our lives and times. They, the externals, are not a reflection of who we are. However, the way in which we respond is.
Oftentimes stepping back and taking the time to look within enables us to look up, and out, with a renewed perspective, a greater sense of inner strength and insight or wisdom…making it possible to once again, carry on with greater confidence and hope.
“I am the eagle, I live in high country in rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky.
I am the hawk, and there’s blood on my feathers.
But time is still turning, they soon will be dry.
And all those who see me, and all who believe in me
share in the freedom I feel when I fly.
Come dance with the west wind and touch on the mountain tops.
Sail o’er the canyons and up to the stars.
And reach for the heavens and hope for the future
and all that we can be, and not what we are.”
– “The Eagle and the Hawk” by John Denver
There is a saying that people learn what they live…what they experience. As I have gone through life there are many people who have had an impact on me through both their words and actions. With the month of August mid-way through and faith formation registrations in progress, I think of my first Sunday school teacher. I recall the love and care with which she taught and interacted with me and my fellow kindergarten classmates. I can still hear the sound of her voice as she taught and as she sang to us, and with us, “Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me…”
Years ago while I was driving, out of the blue, that long forgotten song came into my mind; a much needed reminder at the time. Only as I reminisced about that time in my life, did I realize how deeply touched I was by Mrs. Lahage’s words and actions, and the way they reflected her faith. Most of all, I remember her gentle, loving presence and the generosity with which she shared her faith with us; a faith so genuine and far greater than any obstacle that might occur.
As I think about how much I learned from that experience, I feel grateful to God for the gift that Mrs. Lahage was. I also feel thankful for the grace that has enabled something that happened so long ago to become a source of strength and inspiration today. There really is an appointed time and place for everything.
Continuing to reflect, there are many others who have made an impression on me and from whom I have learned. There are some who have made a more profound impact than others and some in more positive ways than others. There are also some who have done so perhaps knowingly and others not. Similarly, I also have impacted others along my journey. There are some of which I am aware and others of which I am sure that I am not.
In a sense we are all teachers in one way or another. Sometimes it is through a specific role and sometimes it is unknowingly as our words and actions may simply be observed by another. Rare, if it all, is the person whose life does not touch that of others. And, more often than not, it is the spirit in which we live and share with others rather than what we know or exactly how we do what we do that makes a difference as we make our way. Then, again, isn’t that what being a disciple is all about?
“Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.” – Luke 13:22
The other day I saw a photograph of two swimmers competing in the Olympics. The caption underneath the picture called attention to the fact that one of the swimmers was so focused, his head straight ahead, while the other swimmer’s head was turned in the direction of his competitor rather than toward the “finish line.” The picture and accompanying story made me think about focus and attention in everyday life.
What catches my attention? Or more importantly, what do I allow to hold my attention? On what do I focus and to what does it lead?
The ability to focus is a gift. How do I use it? How do I recognize when I have become too focused, or when my attention has shifted to something of little or lesser importance in a particular situation?
Most often, there are clues when I am drifting (or about to) away rather than toward that which is good, or better, for me. To see or sense them though, is not necessarily easy especially with all the distractions that society offers. What is one to do?
Looking back to the Olympics, with the dedication, discipline and focus required to get there, it is clear that there is something far greater than a bunch of sports being played. It’s as if we are all pulling for each other without necessarily even trying all that hard. There is something that pulls us out of our own world…our own country as we often watch other countries competing and begin cheering them on, too. There is a Spirit that transcends all that is visible. One that propels and lifts both the athletes, enabling them to dig deep down, and the spectators, allowing them to enter the journey.
That same Spirit, creating a sense of unity and providing inner strength, and so much more, is available and waiting to capture our attention. Waiting to lead and guide us whether we are competing in the Olympics, going to school, working a job…doing anything at all…or doing nothing.
Each afternoon as the sun begins its descent, it shines in through one of the side windows on our house. As it does, it reflects off of a crystal prism that resides on the windowsill. The result is an array of light and rainbow spots on the walls and ceiling of the living room. The pattern that is displayed changes depending on whether there is a breeze and the branches of the nearby trees are swaying, and therefore interrupting the flow of light. Whatever the pattern may be, it’s always quite beautiful.
On this particular day as I sit and observe, I wonder to myself, “What do I reflect?” As I think of a particular situation, there is much that quickly comes to mind. I slow down and look more closely. Then, I catch myself. “The things I am afraid of”; that is the category on which I have landed. Could it be that my fears are leading me and guiding my responses when it comes to this situation?
As I look up and around at the reflection of light and color, it becomes clear. Zoom out. Re-focus. “What are my hopes regarding this situation?”
“May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela