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January 8, 2020
I am unable to rid my mind of the the obscene images of ballistic missiles being fired from Iran to Iraq seen as I watched the news last evening. The world standing at the precipice of another war. No one is innocent in this fiasco, what feels like a never ending crisis. I don't pretend to understand all the complexities of the situation in the Middle East, though I definitely find myself motivated to learn lots more. What I do see, on every side, is this on-going struggle for dominance and control, the will to power, an approach to conflict, that is grounded in violence out of a sense of righteousness and a desire for revenge. The need for control and domination is usually a symptom of fear and insecurity masquerading as "strength" yet actually exposing profound weakness.
I keep hearing: "Iran is a bad actor". However true that may be, I am asking myself: what do I (we) know about the country of Iran, its' culture, its' history, its' people? What long term effort has there been to engage in meaningful dialogue characterized by, at least, as much listening as speaking? And, not leaving this solely to the government and military leaders given we have access to technology and forms of communication previously unthinkable.
We're having a hard time growing up as a people, a global community, one human family. Are we, perhaps, just entering the adolescent stage of maturation as a human species? It seems likely! The good news is: we have the chance to keep growing, expanding, waking up!
In the midst of the above thoughts, I look out the window and see that mother nature is sending a dusting of snow. Why is it that these white flakes are able to bring a kind of comfort? As a child, I always loved snow, was fascinated and mesmerized by it. I have no recall of a particular snow event that stands out from those early years. It's more a general sense, that in the drabness of winter here in the midwest, the loss of color and apparent deadness, those crystalline flakes brought brightness, a sense of aliveness, to the landscape. I find myself aching for one of those heavy, fluffy snowfalls, inches, even feet, deep that creates a profound stillness, a quiet like no other I've ever experienced, like a welcoming, permeating hush that draws me into itself.
In the face of unsettling times may we each be drawn into a space of simple stillness, pause long enough to be refreshed by it and then, re-enter, the outer struggles in much more adult and creative ways in the awareness that we are truly one human family.
December 4, 2019
It's Advent - - not a " time to wait for Jesus" as a marque I recently read states. So what, then? Perhaps a time to intentionally awaken to the sacredness of all life, the presence of the holy in everyone and everything, incarnation as creation, in creation, on-going emergence inviting our participation.
It strikes me that the very significant part that Jesus plays in this unfolding drama of incarnation, is the vision for living that was expressed in and through his challenging and inspiring life, that vision into which we are all invited. That vision has often been expressed as the "Reign of God". I like even better the more contemporary phrase used by some scripture scholars, "Companionship of Empowerment". It's a vision, both demanding and attractive - - expressing a way of living beyond too small categories. It's a way of seeing that allows one to experience, in the birth of every child, animal, plant, snowflake, star, planet, in each and every one of these,the ever new and always ancient event of incarnation.
As I read, study, reflect and ponder many of the stories about this great teacher, Jesus, I see a person who lived as though his only ultimate authority was the one he called "Abba", source of life. His vision allowed him to see the innate goodness in every person, however wounded, broken, marginalized, sinful. Recall the story of the "woman caught in the very act of adultery". The crowds insisted that, according to the law, she be stoned to death. How did Jesus respond? According to the story, as he stands with her, he speaks to the crowd, stones in hand. He says simply, let the one among you without sin cast the first stone". Had they done so, both he and the woman would have been hit.
Is that a factual story? More likely, a powerfully symbolic story of our call to incarnate compassion, to be willing to stand with the victim, whether innocent or guilty, simply because she is human.
So what does this small glimpse of the life of Jesus have to do with Advent/Christmas? To the extent that some us want Jesus to be the focus of this season, it seems imperative that we get beyond an often too sentimental "virgin birth in a manger" of a sweet baby to the adult who lived out of an abundance of compassion, radical inclusivity, insistence upon non-violence and merciful justice. While it's true that the birth of any child is an "amazing grace", another "word becoming flesh" in time and space, it's the adult Jesus and the life he lived that deserves our focus. We need no longer wait for him. Rather, this season provides a focused time for us to embody the same spirit that moved in Jesus, that has been present in every stage of the process of creation from the beginning.
November 4, 2019
Although it is definitely the Fall season, the temps here in the South Bend, Indiana area are feeling a lot like winter. Still some leaves needing to drop from the tree branches. There is already a thick, crunchy carpet of them especially under the oaks and maples. Since I haven’t seen the groundhog family in several days, I’m presuming they have gone into hibernation for the season. A young buck came to the feeder yesterday, his coat dark and heavy in expectation of frigid days and nights. Nature provides inspiration, education and enjoyment. Given the huge challenges in our country and world, it is gift to take some time out just to behold the wonder of it all and to allow oneself to be touched, refreshed and a bit renewed. Perhaps, in paying attention to the natural life all around us we may be motivated to find better ways to care for our wounded earth, home to us all.
This past Saturday, my daughter, Carol and I spent some time planting spring bulbs in the gardens. Makes me think of the words of author, E. B. White, in the closing paragraph of the introduction to Onward and Upward in the Garden written by his wife, Katherine and published after her death. He writes:“As the years went by and age overtook her, there was something comical yet touching in her bedraggled appearance on this awesome occasion — the small, hunched over figure, in studied absorption in the implausible notion that there would be yet another spring, oblivious to the ending of her own days, which she knew perfectly well was near at hand, sitting there with a detailed chart under those dark skies in the waning days of October, calmly plotting the resurrection.“. I know I will never plant spring bulbs without the sense of also “plotting the resurrection” and it occurs to me that there are so many ways we all might, together, conspire, for the coming of new life everywhere.
September 3, 2019
There is a feeling of Fall in the air this morning.
As I wrote daily reflections in my notebook I was mindful of so much that is happening in our country, indeed in our world. Lots to be concerned about and to find creative responses to. Having recently participated in a weekend experience focused on “regrets” I became aware of another regret: that for far too long I did not realize how brainwashed I was into a dualistic way of perceiving reality. The price of that being a divided life, seeing everything in “either/or, black/white, all/nothing” categories.
Along the way, there has been, continues to be, a slowly waking up process that invites me to see and experience more holistically. A key factor in this expanding is what science has discovered about our evolutionary story, an on-going unfolding of life expressed in more and more complex forms. We as the human species being a recent emergence in this story, are in relationship with all other forms of life and interdependent with them. Theology, spirituality, cosmology, sociology, every window through which we gaze at life is impacted. And, I find that both exciting and challenging.
Imagining a creative process, unfolding over more than 14 billion years, is mind and spirit expanding. Whatever the source of this great wonder, it becomes more awesome and mysterious, a reality larger than any small human projection kind of god. Prayer becomes for me, within this vision, much simpler, a willingness to look, listen and see all that creation offers and, then, to bow my head and heart in gratitude. I guess there is no need for regret in not “knowing” that sooner. Perhaps, it took all these years and life experiences to be ready, something like soil getting ready for new seed, growing in it's own way and time. Still..........
June 17, 2019
Today’s Morning Reflection
THIS CUP OF BLESSING
This morning as I spent some early morning reflection and writing time, first cup of coffee in hand, I was drawn into the awareness, as I have often been before, that what I was sipping and tasting was more than coffee, so much more!
As the faces of friends flowed into my mind, I found myself also mindful of the capacity of each of us to re-member and bless. In that moment I knew that this cup, held in both hands as it was raised and lifted toward my lips, was indeed a blessing cup.
After lingering in that realization for awhile I was moved to write a series of blessings that were also a part of my own being blessed in that lingering space.
May what follows serve as invitation for you to know what blessings are waiting to be received and shared by you.
May you know the blessing of the red bird stopping for a visit to the garden.
May you know the simple joy of quiet presence.
May you experience the wonder of creation unfolding before you.
May you be touched and awakened by the gentle and powerful presence of spirit in and around you.
May you be moved to laughter at the play of squirrels.
May you feel a sense of loss as the last peonies (or roses or lilies) begin to fade as well as gratitude for the beauty they brought into your life.
May you experience an inner quickening at the sight of a newborn fawn.
May you hear the laments of the wounded earth and her children.
May we have eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to respond to what is real and true.
May we come to know our own goodness ever more deeply and live from that space more fully.
May we stand in awe at the always and everywhere manifestations of the holy.
May we, together, find a path toward peace and fullness of life for all.