Turn Back…

There is something special about being beachside early evening before the sun takes leave of the day. Oftentimes, as the day time masses thin out and before the night time crowd heads into full swing, there is a lull… a window through which one can see and hear more clearly the ocean. At this time, one can also see his/her full shadow or spread belongings freely where just a short while earlier space was rather sparse.

Sitting there looking and listening to the waves breaking and feeling a gentle breeze can be very relaxing, almost entrancing. While this may be an experience one could label as being good, it can also be limiting. It can turn from being a respite into being an escape. And while we all need a break from time to time, it is also important to consider one’s trends and tendencies, and to where they lead.

A few weeks ago, there was a re-run of a Simon & Garfunkel concert that was held in New York’s Central Park in 1981. It was hard to believe that this event had taken place 36 years ago and featured songs that were even older than that. One of the things that I found particularly striking, as I listened, was the phrase, “Silence like a cancer grows.”

Silence can often be the great pretender. It may seem safe and masquerade as the voice of reason or the way of peace, when it may actually be a dangerous route to travel. While silence and the path of least resistance may be appealing, in the long haul, they can quietly and subtly cause destruction and promote decay and indifference. More often than not, when all is quiet, all is not well.

Sometimes we can be drawn into a false sense of well-being and enticed toward the easy way out. We can be lured toward that which, on the surface, might be perceived as “good.” We can also be tempted to gloss over or to look the other way… cajoled into making no waves or steering clear of anything that might possibly lead to confrontation or dissent.

The Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, contains a plethora of verses with the exact words, or something very similar to, “do not be afraid.” Many times, whether we recognize it or not, fear is at the root of silence. Many times we can be lulled into sitting quietly, peacefully looking and listening to the breaking waves, not even realizing that our backs are turned to the Light.

Jesus said:

“Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.” –  Matthew 10:26-28

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Be the Church…

A lamp to my feet is your word, a light to my path. – Psalm 119:105

Venturing out on a beautiful day, I came across a banner with writing and a broad spectrum of colors in the background. Initially it was the array of color, against a mostly white backdrop, that caught my eye. However, upon further examination, what seemed to be horizontal bands of color, now appeared to be pieces of wood, shaped and stacked as if they were part of a log cabin.

The colors were beautiful, but underneath them, each piece…each log still showed signs of the grain that is part, and parcel, of wood. This background image, along with the words written across some of the logs, gave it character and made it compelling. Perhaps the most thought provoking part of the banner was the first line of words, “BE THE CHURCH.” I cannot help but wonder, what church? Is there a church that offers the experience of the words that followed (protect the environment …fight for the powerless …embrace diversity, etc.)?

“BE THE CHURCH.” Next I think, who? Who is to be the church? Is it the priests or ministers and staff, or the people who attend? Is it a combination? Is it for all to partake in?

Then, a childhood rhyme, one accompanied by hand and finger movement, comes to me. “Here is the church. / Here is the steeple. / Open the door, and see all the people.” It used to seem true. Only, I had just been to church and I did not see “all” the people.

“BE THE CHURCH.” Upon further reflection, I am sure many people already are the church, even if they are not “in” the church. In fact, I know many who take being the church to heart and strive to do so in their daily lives. Perhaps those who have left the building, do not enter because it lacks the character, diversity and integrity… because it is no longer (or maybe it never was) a place where they can truly “BE THE CHURCH.” Perhaps it is because so often, those who “run” the church forget about the people, and more importantly, lose sight of the purpose. Then again, that would be the people.

“BE THE CHURCH.” Be who God created you to be, and wherever you are, be faithful to God.

To truly serve and honor God is to serve and honor God’s people and all creation. We must remember that God’s people are ALL people.

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Possibilities…

It seems that so much in life begins with believing. In order to accomplish just about anything one has to believe that the task or the dream envisioned is possible. Otherwise, it would not be attempted.

In addition, what one believes often determines how one views and responds to the world and its happenings. Throughout history, many a person has heard the words, “that’s impossible,” only to prove them wrong. Why is it that where one person may see a dead end and nothing further that another sees possibility and options to be explored?

There is often a drive or a spirit that cannot be denied. It leads the way for the one who truly believes. Sometimes it is for good and at other times, not so much.

In The Minpins, Roald Dahl wrote, “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” While this was written in a children’s book about a fictional community living high up in a tree, it is applicable to life on the ground and in reality. There is a great sense of direction, inner strength and wisdom that can come with believing.

Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, went to Jesus in the dark of night, seeking the truth—light. In their conversation, Jesus said to him,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:16-18

Nicodemus heard these words, but did he believe them? More importantly, do we believe them?

Nicodemus started the whole conversation with Jesus by stating what he knew (John 3:2). It seems that his knowledge prompted him to seek out Jesus—Light in the dark of the night. However, it was more than that. Both his mind and his heart were open.

How do our minds and hearts lead us? How do they shape our actions?

We are called not only to seek, but also to live in the Truth and Light. Do we really believe this, and how do we allow it to inspire and influence us as we go about our way each day?

We are different, but at the same time we are alike… all created in the image of God, and as such, in the same image of Jesus and blessed with the Holy Spirit to guide us. How bright the world can shine, one person at a time, when we embrace that place, and live from it.

Brothers and sisters, rejoice.
Mend your ways, encourage one another,
agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the holy ones greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. – 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

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More than days…

Growing up we had a wrought iron fence around the patio in the back yard. It was a nice looking fence, sturdy and reliable, creating an enclosure and added layer of safety. In order to keep and protect its appearance and function though, every so many years it required maintenance.

I remember the first time I helped my father with this process. Before we could paint, we had to use a wire brush to remove any rust that might have developed in the time since the fence’s last painting. While it may have been easier to just paint over the rust, neglecting to scrape it away and sand it down, would result in the paint breaking off and exposing the fence to further deterioration, in addition to necessitating more frequent painting.

Our lives can be similar to wrought iron fences, in that we also can have spots that are rusty, or things that cause us to shine less brightly than we are capable of… to be less than who we really are and have been created to be.

On the feast of Pentecost, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, the people were gathered together in one place.

In the Old Testament description of the preparation for Pentecost (a.k.a. the Feast of Weeks), it is written:

You shall rejoice in the presence of the LORD, your God, together with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, and the Levite within your gates, as well as the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow among you, in the place which the LORD, your God, will choose as the dwelling place of his name. – Deuteronomy 16:11

And, in the New Testament description of the coming of the Holy Spirit after the Ascension, it is written:

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. – Acts 2:1-3

Part of the preparation to receive the blessings of the feast was gathering together. There was a gathering in the Spirit to receive the Spirit. However, even before this could happen, other things needed to transpire. At the forefront, people needed to make time to prepare. They needed to make time for both themselves and each other as well as for God. In doing so, they were scraped and primed, and ready to be made new by the Holy Spirit.

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The Land of the Living…

Every year, usually in May, my local library displays artwork created by students throughout our school district. When attending the opening night of the art showcase, one can expect the library to be noisy and bustling with people rather than its usual quiet, slow-paced atmosphere. During this nighttime, community event, students show their artwork to loved ones, and people of all different ages not only view the work on display, but also tend to strike up conversations.

It is a time of excitement and joy at the library. One can sense it in the air and on the faces of those who attend. It is nice to be there and to see such creativity, and it is often a good time for all. The work, all created in the confines of art rooms throughout the school district, remains on display through the end of the month for all who may enter to see.

This week, during a visit to the library, in the midst of writer’s block, I got up and moved to another spot to take a break for a few minutes. As I was sitting in one of the more comfortable, living room like chairs, I looked up to see rows of magazines in one direction and rows of newspapers in another, and then between the two, display stands covered with art work from the school district show. As I gazed, I was struck by the beauty of the colors, the creativity, and the various forms of artwork around me.

While I have always enjoyed opening night of the art show and the beauty of the work displayed, this particular day, I had the opportunity for a viewing in a quieter setting, and during the daytime. In revisiting some of the work, the beauty was even more noticeable and spoke to me in new ways. Just as the students were sharing a piece of themselves (their minds… hearts… souls) in their art, we share pieces of ourselves wherever we go… wherever we are.

Overall, the experience was a great reminder of how good it can be to revisit or retrace one’s steps every now and again, even in what might seem minor at first glance. It is good to reflect on the ways in which I contribute to the environment around me. This is especially true in the midst of societal events that can lead one to see darkness and death more so than Light and Life in the world as well as in our day-to-day routines.

The truth is that there is, and will always be, more good, and potential for good, than there is bad. Oftentimes, all we have to do is take a step back, look again to see what perhaps we did not notice before or to remind ourselves of the good that we have experienced. When we allow the goodness that God has planted within each of us not only to take hold of us, but also to shine through us… to influence our words and actions, and most especially our prayers, we cooperate with God in building and creating.

We have are far greater impact than we might imagine. It is up to us to acknowledge and appreciate, as well as to nurture goodness, in ourselves and in others.

“I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord, in the land of the living.” – Psalm 27:13

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All is Grace…

There is so much that goes on in the world and in each of our lives that sometimes it can be hard to sift through it all. Situations, people and things can become lumped together, making it difficult to see clearly or to have a good sense of what is authentic, and what is not. Without that, finding a grain(s) of value in the midst of it all, is nearly impossible.

More often than not though, and yes, even in a dense fog or in the darkness of night, there is something to be gained. Like a lost gem waiting to be discovered, there is often wisdom to be found in all things, even in what might seem like drama or nonsense.

Oftentimes, it can be very appealing, and perhaps all too easy to walk away or quickly discount that which one does not understand. However, what seems more important is doing so for reasons that are true and pure.

How does one know when to walk away?

Seek Wisdom (Sophia) first, and she will lead the way. Wisdom tells me that wherever I am at any particular moment, that is the place and time that God has anointed for me to be there. It is a place for me to encounter, as well as to be, the face of Grace. Each moment and each situation in my life, in each of our lives, has something sacred in store for us. It is as if we are constantly on the brink of greatness; a greatness that extends beyond this world.

Desire therefore my words;
long for them and you will be instructed.

Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.

She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her;
one who watches for her at dawn will not be disappointed,
for she will be found sitting at the gate.

For setting your heart on her is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever keeps vigil for her is quickly free from care;
Because she makes her rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them on the way,
and goes to meet them with full attention.

For the first step toward Wisdom is an earnest desire for discipline;
then, care for discipline is love of her;
love means the keeping of her laws;
To observe her laws is the basis for incorruptibility;
and incorruptibility makes one close to God;
thus the desire for Wisdom leads to a kingdom.  (Wisdom 6:11-20)

By the grace of God, we are where we are meant to be, at this particular point in time. Through Wisdom, we can see, everything is Grace.

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In word: “Everything is a grace because everything is God’s gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events—to the heart that loves, all is well.” – St. Therese of Lisieux.

In song: “Everything Is Grace” by Matt Maher.

Legacy…

While oftentimes society can see “legacy” in terms of what meets the eye, and what can be measured, legacy is much deeper than that. William Shakespeare wrote, “No legacy is so rich as honesty,” in his play All’s Well That Ends Well (Act 3, Scene 5). Catherine of Siena wrote, “For people become like what they love,” in a portion of a letter (Letter T29) to Regina della Scala, a noblewoman. When fiction gives way to truth, and one scratches beyond the surface reaching the heart of the matter, therein lies what will be left behind and passed along, whether individually or collectively. What stands the test of time, whether for good or bad, is legacy.

Often a question or thought like, “What is this about?” or “There has to be something more than this,” leads one to pause and take notice. In spiritual direction, we strive to discern and live out choices that uncover and align with one’s deepest, God-given, desires. In the process, whether or not one is aware, the force within that often works to serve one’s own legacy becomes tamed, almost naturally. Over time, when one works consistently, in union with God, at being faithful and honest, persevering and following through, trusting the call to rise above and move beyond, though there may be moments of fear or shadows of doubt, the transformation occurs. When it does, legacy is turned toward serving that which is greater, the legacy that is God.

It does not stop there though. Perhaps that is the true beauty of legacy. In relationship with God, while the promise remains the same, we are called to be not only faithful, but also ever-growing and ever-changing. We are called to evolve. We are challenged to take stock of what is around us, and what is within us, as we go through life and each situation we encounter or interaction we have.

The lesser legacy (personal legacy) secretly seeks to keep us where we are spiritually. It seeks to keep one’s sight on the best way to reach one’s own personal goals and ultimately to serve oneself. While the legacy that is God always seeks the greater good. It reveals the way to move beyond and rise above that which would look to undermine, drive a wedge between us—or bring us down—individually or collectively.

Since the beginning of time, a divine desire for unity and wholeness has existed within and among all creation. Throughout time, many a soul has searched to discover, to become one with, and to live from that place of legacy. The contemplative, spiritual life is all about legacy. It is a shared legacy that calls us to remember, to see and to be the light. This is what truly makes us one with God and each other.

It can be good to ask oneself, from time to time, “How is legacy operating in my life?”

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