ALERT! BREAKING NEWS!

We have breaking news today that affects millions of our citizens.

The Canadian Soldiers have landed!

By the billions these airborne invaders have attacked the U. S. North Coast. They have laid siege to homes, businesses, anything and everything. And, it appears there is nothing we can do to repel this audacious and unprovoked attack.

However, as I record this attack, I can hear our defense forces calling to one another…called to action against this insidious threat. Some wearing the red breastplates.Others in the Crimson cloak of their mighty divisions. All on the wing to rid us of this encroaching menace.

To these brave troops I say, “Good Luck and Godspeed!”

Which way? God Knows

This morning as I sat in contemplation, I began to think of the choices that people make during their lives. In the tradition that I came out of, people spent their lives trying to “discern” God’s will for them. We would fret and fume about making the so-called ‘right’ choices. We certainly did not want to make a wrong one and risk at the very least God’s blessing. And, at the worst, God’s condemnation. It was a nasty way to live. Always on the edge. Not quite knowing. Waiting for some Damascus road experience so that we could move forward with some degree of certainty.
As I reflected on this, the following began to form in my mind.

Many paths there are that we may choose.
Where do they lead?
God knows.
Which shall I choose? The one with rich, green grass?
What about the one flag’d gray?
Perhaps, the one of rut and mud?
God knows.
“Choose any,” a voice did say.
“For upon all I will with you stay.”

I think it doesn’t really matter. Follow you heart.
For God will be present and will bless wherever we roam.

New Tools and New Questions

questionsI found a new tool this morning. Well, it’s not new. It’s just something that I had never paid much attention to. It’s the Voice Memo app on my iPhone. With this I can quickly note thoughts that maybe I can write about on this blog. I’m always thinking of things. But, usually when the time comes to sit and commit, the thoughts blow away like vapor in the wind.

Also, I’d like to enlist your help. What things are you concerned about that we may be able to discuss here? Maybe a pet peeve? Perhaps a thought about life and spirituality? Like my home page states, this is a “safe place for releasing hurts, disappointments and frustrations.” Or, anything else that’s important to us.

This is a small community right now. And, I moderate it pretty closely in order to keep it safe. So, please share!

Remember, tho…I’m an equal opportunity offender. I may take your ideas and twist them just a bit and toss them back to you. I do like to stir things up and make people think.

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Wednesday Musings Reprise

I was going back through some old posts. I came upon this one from one of my Musings on Wednesday posts. Originally posted in October 2013, it seemed appropriate for today. Considering the struggles that I’ve been dealing with, this offers a glimmer of hope.

I love sitting in the stillness of the morning. Outside there are the sounds of crickets and the occasional acorn falling on a nearby rooftop. A candle, the scent of cinnamon, burns and fills the room with autumn. My thoughts wander here and there. They touch memories and sensations within me; without me. In the core of my being, my heart, I sense God’s presence. Peace. Be still, O my soul.

riverI allow the Muse to guide me. ‘Where shall we go? To what far off land or sea or star?’ Perhaps, we’ll simply drift on a river as it meanders through green fields. We listen to the sound of the water flowing gently over a bed of small rocks and pebbles. It tells tales of aeons past. It knows the fish and the fowl by name. Ancient people traveled along its banks; floated on its back. Never tiring, it bends and winds its way from its source to the Great Sea. There its life mingles with that of the Other in brackish love-making in which it is embraced, consumed by this One. Is this not the way of it? We travel the path before us. Touching and being touched we grow and we learn. From our beginning, our source, we are destined to live, laugh, cry…love. If fortune smiles upon us, another may join in our journey. A companion, a friend…a lover. However, our path and theirs are not the same. Even though we walk together I have my own quest. And, you have yours. Joyful as our time spent together may be, one day our ways must diverge. You will be joined to Another. Embraced by the One who is the true Source. And, I…I will flow into the Great Sea.

Is it really OK for Christians to Celebrate Halloween?

Snoopy on punkinWell, here it is All Saints’ Day. The day after All Hallows’ Eve, or Halloween. This Christianized Pagan holiday has been around for a long time. Back in the day, the Celtic folks celebrated this holiday. Only then, it was called Samhain,( pron. Sah-win). It pretty much was a time to celebrate the end of the harvest and the beginning of a new year. It is said that these people considered this a ‘liminal’ time. That is, a time when the veil between the world of spirits and fairies and our physical world was very thin. This allowed those from the other side to more easily enter our world and interact with us. This is similar to the Mexican celebration of “dia de los muertos,” or the Day of the Dead. Far from being a theme for a bad zombie movie, people celebrate by offering flowers and sugary goodies to those who have passed on. Many actually go to cemeteries so that they can be closer to their deceased relatives. It is a time to remember and celebrate their lives.

So, why do so many Christians find harm in these celebrations?

I remember when my children were young, we wouldn’t allow them to dress up and go trick-or-treating because we were taught by the fundamentalist cult we were a part of the Halloween was demonic. It was a night that Satan and his minions were honored. So, or course, as true Bible believing folk, we had to shun that lest we catch some sort of dreaded Halloween cuties. We even took them out of school on the day when their classes had their Halloween parties. You know that you can’t allow candy, cupcakes and cider to threaten your eternal soul.

We did, however, allow them to be involved in church-sanctioned alternatives. You know, Harvest Celebrations and such. They could dress up as Bible characters or some other ‘safe’ character. My son dressed up as Curious George one year. This made the sting of being some kind of weirdo a bit easier for them to take. At least, that’s what we thought. I found out years later that our separatist practice had a very negative effect on both of my children.

Since leaving that Fundagelical world behind, I’ve found a new freedom to engage with our culture rather than hide from it. The holidays and celebrations that are part of our culture allow us to be part of a larger community of people. They provide an opportunity to rub elbows with neighbors and other people we may not usually spend time with. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did?

Halloween also gives us a chance to remember and honor our ancestors. We in the West are so hung up on death and disease as horrible things that must be stamped out, that we miss the opportunities to grab hold of our mortality…our humanity. I have had some of my most spiritual experiences while walking through a cemetery. There’s nothing to fear there. But, there is much that can be gained as our imagination reaches back through time and space to meet those who went before.

So, can real Christians find truth and meaning in the celebration of a Pagan holiday? Follow this link to Samantha Field’s blog, Defeating the Dragons. I have to agree with her. And, with all of those other souls who find life while celebrating the dead.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you!

More Musings on a Wednesday Morning

4.1.1The journey begins. No one said that it would be easy. Rocks; boulders; deep crevasses impede forward motion. Yet, forward we must go. For, to retreat…to backtrack…is futility itself. Clambering over obstacles. Vaulting over lacerations  in the earth, deep and unhealed that no salve can sooth. Forward, ever forward.

Yet above, you know, that place where God dwells insulated from the mundane…the “everyday.” The place where mere mortals press onward. Forward, ever forward.

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child.” But, I am no longer a child. I am enveloped by the ‘NOW!’ Beneath azure skies where the gods dance I am enshrouded by the nebulous mist of incense filling the temple of my heart. NOW! Pressing me forward, ever forward.

Attentive to the sound of my breath; my heart playing rhythms reaching out to the life that surrounds me. Searching for intimacy. Where are you, my Soul? Come! Take my hand as we leap, dance and run forward, ever forward.

In those days darkness will draw near. The sound of flies buzzing in my ears. I will lie down to rest. Sleep! Blesséd sleep! Yet, the journey does not end. For even now…I must press on forward, ever forward.

Musings on a Wednesday Morning

I love sitting in the stillness of the morning. Outside there are the sounds of crickets and the occasional acorn falling on a nearby rooftop. A candle, the scent of cinnamon, burns and fills the room with autumn. My thoughts wander here and there. They touch memories and sensations within me; without me. In the core of my being, my heart, I sense God’s presence. Peace. Be still, O my soul.

riverI allow the Muse to guide me. ‘Where shall we go? To what far off land or sea or star?’ Perhaps, we’ll simply drift on a river as it meanders through green fields. We listen to the sound of the water flowing gently over a bed of small rocks and pebbles. It tells tales of aeons past. It knows the fish and the fowl by name. Ancient people traveled along its banks; floated on its back. Never tiring, it bends and winds its way from its source to the Great Sea. There its life mingles with that of the Other in brackish love-making in which it is embraced, consumed by this One. Is this not the way of it? We travel the path before us. Touching and being touched we grow and we learn. From our beginning, our source, we are destined to live, laugh, cry…love. If fortune smiles upon us, another may join in our journey. A companion, a friend…a lover. However, our path and theirs are not the same. Even though we walk together I have my own quest. And, you have yours. Joyful as our time spent together may be, one day our ways must diverge. You will be joined to Another. Embraced by the One who is the true Source. And, I…I will flow into the Great Sea.

The Reunion

 

Yesterday was a pleasant day. The sun shone brightly, yet the air was not too hot. There were birds and butterflies flitting about doing what birds and butterflies do. It was a great day to sit outside and simply soak it all in. However, I had a family commitment that placed me with peopletreecousins and in-laws and children and, well, just a whole lot of people. If you’ve spent any time at this blog, or if you know me, then you realize that social gatherings are not my specialty. My idea of the perfect day would be to sit in the sun with a book and a refreshing beverage. So, to say that I was looking forward to this gathering would have been overstating things a bit.

We arrived and exchanged our greetings. Finding a place at one of the tables, we sat down and struck up light conversation. Soon, the food was prepared and everyone began milling about the food table filling plates and glasses. “Oh, that looks interesting, what is it?” And, “Who made the lentil salad?” Questions being asked as we foraged through the bowls and platters filled with the various offerings of those gathered. Finding our places again, we ate and talked. That person, (“who is he again?”), brought his two young children who are really cute! Almost completely done with his pasta salad, the young boy cries out to his dad, “Oh no, there’s olives in this! Why didn’t you tell me there were olives”?! His sister had spotted them in hers and pushed them aside. The dog belonging to our host is making the rounds of all of the tables. She looks longingly at the food on our plates, sniffing for any morsel that may have wandered off of a plate and onto the ground. Over there is a small group animatedly talking about the prospects of the local football team for the upcoming season. If the coaching staff only knew half of what these people did, there would be a superbowl in the future for our local team!

Stories told and retold. Travel adventures from those who had come from out of state. I asked our host, who likes to hunt, if he ever took the dog. He replied, “Yes,” and with a gleam in his eye, told me about how they had trained her and how she was very good at finding and flushing the birds they hunted. About this time there was a splash. A couple of the kids had decided that the pool could no longer be ignored. Occasionally, someone would walk into the house to revisit the table with the food. Picking a bit of that salad; procuring another piece of carrot cake. From the other side of a tall fence we began to hear loud thumping noises. Looking around it, I saw that the corn hole game was out. More people gathered around with bottles of water and plastic cups full of soda. More talking and laughing.

After a few hours the noise subsided into quiet clusters of conversation. Everyone, having eaten their fill, seemed content to sit back and relax. Memories were being shared. After all, this is family. There is a collective memory that is like a finely cut gemstone. One memory with many facets that reflect that memory in many different ways. Each has its own perspective that reveals a new color; a new refraction of the light that produces a unique vision of love and commitment that has continued to grow and thrive through many generations.

So, I sat in the sun and watched, talked and listened. And, I realized that I was doing exactly what I had wished that I could do. I was outside enjoying the sunshine. However, rather than reading a book, a story written by someone else, I was part of this story. A story not written with ink on paper. But, rather, one that is being written on the hearts and in the lives of this small group of people…this family.

When the Magic Happens

Alone. I like to be alone. Alone with my thoughts. Alone in a world created by my imagination. Alone with stories imagined and captured by countless others. People have recognized this and, understandably, have called me a ‘loner.’ Then, of course, they feel it their duty to invade my privacy. “It’s not right for you to be alone. Get out and meet people! Socialize! Enjoy life!” (As if it’s not possible to actually enjoy the quiet solace of solitude!)

There are times, however, when folks gather together for a common cause…and magic happens. This is the point where some people would provide a litany of group activities that are worthwhile. These would range from the marches in Selma in the 1960s to those who challenged tyranny and oppression in Tienanmen Square in 1989. They would add events in life where more than one is necessary…marriage or a soccer match.

Those who know me know that I am a musician. I’ve made music for more than 40 years. In fact, it’s when I am creating music that I find myself closest to myself and to God. I find enjoyment when I am sitting in my room, alone with my guitar, simply noodling about. There is something about closing my eyes and feeling the strings under my fingers that soothes. It can create a moment of total mindfulness. I am aware of the sound; the touch; my breath. Awareness fills my senses and I am carried away on the wings of the moment.

I have played with other musicians and singers. While, for me, being with other people is not necessarily the most comfortable experience, it is still an opportunity to experience the magic. There is something in the struggle with others to create art that adds life. Just as a butterfly struggles to free herself from her cocoon, music that struggles for its freedom can then spread its wings and fly. The band may be enriched by the experience. However, the real magic happens when the newly freed music touches the souls of the listeners.

Today, my dear friend sent me something that exemplifies how people gathered together create a magical moment that far exceeds any solo effort. She sent me a video of a song. She had introduced me this particular song a few months ago performed solo. I’m sure that some of you have heard of ‘The Cup Song’ from the movie Pitch Perfect. It’s a cute ditty where a girl sings a song at an audition using only a cup for accompaniment. When I saw it, I was intrigued by the imagination of the writer and producer. They had taken something exceptionally simple and presented it with a creative twist. And, there was magic. In the video I viewed today, the song was reimagined for quartet. There was magic four-fold! The addition of harmony, rather than cluttering, added new layers of color and texture that makes the song compelling. More than that, however, I saw people who were interrelated. They had worked and struggled to produce something together that was impossible for one person. In collaborating they created a ‘community’ gathered to enjoy the moment and each other. In the process…magic!

The Moments that Make Up Our Story

15957819-text-illustration-featuring-the-words-once-upon-a-time-with-flowers-beside-it

Once upon a time…..

The story opens and new worlds and wonders open with it. I love stories. Any kind of stories. Happy ones; not so happy ones. Stories that thrill; stories that sooth. I’m currently reading one of J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter books…again. (Yeah, I’m that kind of geek!) I’ve read other fiction by authors as diverse as John Steinbeck and Mario Puzo. I’ve spent hours in non-fiction that only a true bibliophile could plow through. I love the stories found in the Christian bible. Especially, the gospel stories. By far, however, my favorite stories are the ones that happen in real life. These are not written anywhere on paper. They are written in people’s hearts and lives.

My own story has been a mix of triumph and tragedy, like most everyone else’s. If I could graph the peaks of joy and the valleys of sorrow it would resemble the line of an EKG. These show the points at the tops and bottoms that reveal the heart’s function. I’m still amazed that my cardiologist can see the residual effects of the heart attack I had almost 2 years ago just by looking at these points. But, how much attention is given to the lines in between? Isn’t their purpose simply to connect the dots? Maybe. But, in the real life stories that folks have shared with me, the ‘in between’ lines carry the most important meaning.

As I reflect on the form, or graph, of my life I notice that the various points are the goals that I’ve worked toward. The peaks are those goals that have been met successfully. My wedding, the births of my children, my graduation from seminary. The valleys reveal the goals unmet. Vocational choices, some relationships, realizing personal worth. These are the things that I remember. These are the signifiers of my presence in this world. But, they are only points. They are singular events. There is a lot of time in between when nothing seems to be happening. Cutting the grass and doing the dishes. Paying bills and driving to and from work. There are the hours spent in front of the television or reading books. These are the mundane moments; seemingly meaningless.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been learning, slowly learning, that these times in which nothing seems to happening are potentially full of meaning. They are not simply that part of our lives that run on ‘auto pilot.’ They are the moments in which decisions are made that will affect the next peak or valley in our lives. And, if we’re not careful, we can miss these constructive moments. ‘Mindfulness’ and ‘being present’ are terms that some people use to describe the activity of simply paying attention to the moment we’re currently experiencing. I find myself constantly looking ahead to the next thing that I must do. I have this task to complete; that place to go. What’s for supper? (Even though it’s only noon!) How am I going to pay that bill on time? Myriad things vying for my attention right now!

What if I did the dishes simply for the sake of doing the dishes? What if I was truly ‘present’ at the washDishessink? Not allowing my mind to wander off to all of the other things that need to be attended to. Not reflecting on the triumphs and failures of the day prior to this moment. I could pay attention to the suds and the temperature of the water. I would see that spot of whatever that isn’t washing off. My mind would not be cluttered, but would be at rest; free to exist in this one moment that can never be captured or repeated. Then, this moment would be able to have its own significance in the whole of my story.

What are some of your ‘in between’ moments? How do they fit into your story?