Another View

 “Welcome everyone as if you are welcoming Christ.”

Benedictine Credo

Hard to live sometimes when you are with the people with whom this should be the easiest– family. On Thanksgiving, or any holiday where there is a gathering of extended family, we truly are thankful for each other. However, those little things that draw more attention than the bigger truths separate us from that thankfulness so easily spoken.

Today I wait. Others peoples’ schedules and sensibilities about how the day unfolds don’t always match my ways especially when I am someplace else. The truth is that here, in someone else’s home, it’s not my ways that matter.  

To have the patience and insight to see the goodness of God at work in other people’s lives is grace. To understand how that goodness can be nourishing and nourished by my honoring their presence is a gift.

The lesson comes again for me, to meet this day with openness. To welcome another person means that I am open to other ways of seeing the world. There isn’t just “one story” but a continual story that changes moment by moment.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

This works for paying attention to people too, even those we hold so closely that it obscures this expanded and liberating view.

 

Imperatives

You’d think it would get easier; figuring out what is important to do in a day.  Because, as it goes, each day makes a lifetime.

Kathleen Norris’ found poem, Imperatives, puts together Jesus’ spoken words on the subject.

Imperatives

“Look at the birds

Consider the lilies

Drink ye all of it

Ask

Seek

Knock

Enter by the narrow gate

Do not be anxious

Judge not; do not give dogs what is holy

Go:  be it done for you

Do not be afraid

Maiden, arise

Young man, I say arise

Stretch out your hand

Stand up, be still

Rise, let us be going…

Love

Forgive

Remember me.”

Today is before me; it is very clear right now what to do. Remember.

Beyond Capable

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s
grace to enter and do the rest.

This is part of a prayer composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw titled “A Future Not Our Own.”  The whole is worth reading (click here).

As we do, we construct meaning from powerful words like these that connect and make sense of our own experience. I grew up in a family of secrets.  I learned how to be self sufficient so that others would consider me strong and reliable so the secrets remained safe.  It’s taken me many years to realize that and how trust is not just about trusting God but trusting other people who have given me every indication that they are trust worthy.

Even though I sometimes falter, I know I am capable; I am productively aware that I cannot do everything. I only catch glimpses of the sense of literation in realizing this.

I do know that I can let go of the wheel, so to speak, and the world keeps turning; that letting go is another opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter…even me.

Lost and This is What I Found

I decide I should leave by 8:30 to arrive in plenty of time for my day long interview that begins at 9:30.  Thanks to my phone I know it will take me about 20 minutes to drive.  I’ve never been here so I should give myself a bit more time. I gather everything I need to take with me.  But, where are the car keys? 

Losing car keys, even for a rental car,  is not life threatening.

Frantically, for a few moments, I search.  Pockets of yesterdays jeans or jacket?  Suitcase?  Work bag?  Left at the hotel desk when I checked in?  Laying near the car in the parking lot?  No, I remember pushing the button to lock the car on my way into the hotel.  They are big keys, what did I do with them?

In The Wisdom Way of Knowing, Cynthia Bourgeault writes that “surrender is an act of spiritual power because it opens the heart directly to the more subtle realms of spiritual Wisdom and energy.”

Meeting this day in a state of anxiousness will not serve me.  I know that.  I also know that I can’t find my keys.  Surrender, not to give up, but to know there is more I can find here.  

First, give up that I can do everything for myself.  Call the chairperson of the interview committee and admit I’m not perfect and need help.  Well, not in those words… I will say I’ve done something embarrassing by misplacing my car keys and need help to get to the interview on time.   She isn’t answering, I’ll leave a voice mail.  I’ll further admit my vulnerability to someone I don’t even know.  Call the main number and ask for the administrative assistant’s number, that seems logical to get  a message to the committee.

“No one by that name works here, are you sure that is the person you are looking for?”  Yes, she works in this department, her name is on the itinerary.  I’m connected with the chairperson’s voicemail again.  I call back and the kind lady says,  “Oh yes, I found out her father passed away and she is not in the office.”

Don’t be anxious, meet this with calm surrender… this is what to do. 

At the hotel’s front desk, the person in charge had lost her voice.  She listened as I calmly (amazing, I know) asked, I need to get to an interview by 9:30.  Anyone who could take me?   Wade, the security or maintenance person, cheerfully said he would pull his truck around front to pick me up.

Wade trusted me (really my phone), the one who’d lost her keys, to get him there.  He wasn’t sure of the way as we navigated winding roads full of fall color and rolling hills. It was a beautiful October day and  a joy to just ride and listen to his story of Wades. His father and grandfather before him were named Wade he told me, when he heard my son was named Wade too.

The main entrance was blocked due to construction but in good hands we made our way around another curve to the entrance that led directly to the building where I needed to be.  Wade pulled over so I could ask a young girl who kindly directed us. I thanked him for the ride, he noted I was early and had some time; no need for hurry or be anxious.  

Losing [my keys], I had to let go of outcomes that were beyond my control.  Losing is giving up seeing what will happen next. Losing is ultimately not knowing, but also knowing that I must do what I have before me in the moment; where I suspend the lostness to lean into other kinds of provisions.   In that surrender, I was able to notice and experience care.  Paying attention to the care of hotel staff who looked out for me; the hug instead of a handshake I received from the chairperson who had listened to my voice-mail and called me to say everything would be fine; the care of one who shared his thick sweater with me when we walked outside because I forgot my coat in my hurry; and the casual conversation with the quiet one who gladly took me back to my hotel.  And more…  to lean into the vastness of the world around me and the abundance of God’s imagination for living.

Ephesians 3:20  “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or imagine.”

Break and Through

I’m wiggling this quote out of the context in which it was originally written for my own purposes, just so you know.

Frederick Buechner wrote this line in a piece titled “Healing” as advice to the one who prays for another to be healed, whether it is in body or soul or both.

Like all writing we read, we scrape out bits that help us tell the stories of our own lives.

“Think of yourself rather (if you have to think of yourself at all) as a rather small-gauge, clogged-up pipe that a little of God’s power may be able to filter through if you can just stay loose enough.”

First of all, being unselfconscious, as I see it, is a struggle.  Even when I think I’m honestly putting myself out there for the sake of another person or cause, I’m still putting myself out for all to see, don’t you see?  Those continuous conversations, wonderings and to be honest—stories I create in my mind are based on my assumptions that are rarely filled with truth.  Clog.

Stay loose enough?  Letting go, being attentive to the moment occur fleetingly in my clogged mind; but even small moments make break-throughs possible.  Open up even enough to let God’s power filter through.  And…

“if God doesn’t seem to be giving you what you ask, maybe he’s giving you something else.”

Found by Joy

Struggle and grace are recursively lived.

Holding on to what I discover and experience—what does that look like in real life, over and over anew?

It means to me that I listen for how God is already working and that I work alongside capable people, wherever I am, to live lives in response to God’s love.

The monks at Gethsemani I observed on my recent retreat there generally don’t make themselves known individually. Collectively they create a place for people like  me to renew and find my life by living their own lives—being true as they see it to the people God made them to be. By caring for each other as a community, they make it possible for each one of them to live out their devotion to God.

In the little I know about Thomas Merton from his work and other’s writing about his life; he couldn’t have, wouldn’t have written what he did without the support or collective presence of Gethsemani.

How does struggle and grace enable me to live outside the lines, or as Father Seamus, housemaster at Gethsemani, explained the contemplative life as countercultural?

Parker Palmer records that Rosa Parks, when asked why she sat on the seat in the front of the bus that ordinary day in Montgomery, Alabama, said that she did it because she was tired.

That seems to me like she had the courage to do what was right for her at that moment that was counter to the cultural norm. Was it that simple or profound?

Palmer says it was more than her body being tired. It was her soul that was tired of playing by the racist rules and denying her selfhood.

One of my challenges as an educator is to find,  as Parker Palmer says, ” a right relationship to institutions with which I have a lifelong lover’s quarrel.” Is an academic presence a way for me to build new relationships that create an ethos of shared lives that dismantles hierarchies? My faith compels me to work alongside other people to create more equitable footings in a spirit of grace and growth.

Every journey, honestly undertaken, stands a chance of taking us toward the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.

I met someone yesterday that says that place found him. I am on the way there, too.