Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Call of the Wild

The book was on the top shelf. I was just tall enough to face that shelf. Neither the bookcase nor I were very tall and I was too young to be able to read very well but the title always caught my attention, The Call of the Wild. I’m not sure whose book it was, perhaps Grandma’s because she read a lot. Neither my Dad, their son, not Grandpa was seen reading much beyond the newspaper. Some 70 years later, the Great American Read is on Public Broadcasting television, and The Call of the Wild has called out to me again. I no longer have my Grandparent’s copy; however, the book is now on my Kindle. I’ve read this great story of Buck several times. His story, and the way Jack London can describe an event, has always captured my imagination. It is one of the great books, at least in my opinion. Reading it again reminds me of the bookcase in my grandparents’ home and the book. Buck’s story is that of an archetype calling this great dog back to his ancestors from the forest and wolves. Reading The Call of the Wild again brings me back to my Grandparent’s home with fond and peaceful memories.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Selective Memory and Emotions

One of the longest phases of the grieving process is the phase called 'Selective Memory and Emotions.' My brother, Bobby, died last September. He and I would watch the Oklahoma of University football games on television and give each other a high-five when there was a great play and, always, when OU scored a touchdown. This past Saturday was the beginning of the 2018 football season and OU was on television. I watched the football game. There were many great plays and OU scored a lot of touchdowns. I missed Bobby. There was no one with whom I could share the game and give high-fives. It didn't seem the same.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Happiness, a inside work

My friend, Brother Paul Quenon, is a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani. He has lived there for 50 plus years. He has a new book, "In Praise of the Useless Life, a monk's memoir." Brother Paul begins his book-memoir with a quote from Pascal. "Man's unhappiness spring from one thing alone, his incapacity to stay quietly in one room." I'm not so convinced that this is the "one thing alone" that causes unhappiness; however, if I'm not comfortable with myself I may never find happiness. Deep happiness and contentment are so related that I don't think they can be separated. For too many individuals, happiness seems to be sought outside of ourselves, examples: jobs, marriages, children, houses, material things, vacations, etc. These things are not unimportant. They do not, however, make one happy. Happiness is an inside job. I recommend reading and memorizing the Beatitudes, where blessed can mean happy, or Paul's letter to the Philippians written from prison and ask what is the Biblical teachings about happiness?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Meditation is being attentive

I recently went to the Pharmacy to pick-up a prescription. I was in a hurry because I had made myself a schedule of errands. When I arrived at the Pharmacy, it was closed for a lunch period. I was frustrated. I decided to go to the lunch counter at the Pharmacy and get something to eat since I was made to wait. As I sat down with the menu, I took a few deep breathes. I didn’t like myself being so frustrated. I watched the waitress and thought about who she might be and what kind of life she might live. At a nearby table was a mother with several children. I quietly asked the Lord to bless her, her children as well as the waitress. I got my sandwich and thought how easy it is in my life to get a meal. Whatever else meditation may involve, it certainly means being attentive to the present moment and all that may involve.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Holding Lightly

Dionysius, the Aeropagite (who wasn’t the same person as in Acts 17:34) wrote that the process of spiritual growth passes through three phases. The first is purgation, followed by illumination and finally union with God. By purgation Dionysius surely means “the sin that so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 2:1). I believe purging the “sin issue” is a crucial first step. However, I also think purgation must involve the assumptions, attitudes, thoughts, etc., that keep my mind and heart closed. Open hands and mind are available to receive gifts; whereas a closed mind or hand, which becomes a fist, isn’t available for any reception. When I close my mind and heart; I’m not in an attitude of accepting gifts, not even illumination or union. I’m stuck. Open hands and mind mean that what I hold dear; I also hold lightly. An open hand and mind also means that I may let go of an attitude or thought easily. An old friend was fond of saying to the congregation, “Don’t believe this because I believe it. God’s Spirit may cause me to change my thoughts and belief tomorrow.” Hold your thoughts and attitudes lightly because God’s Spirit may be gently blowing new attitudes and thoughts into your heart.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Purging

I’ve been purging my closet, the basement and my book shelves these past several months. Clothes that I don’t actually wear have gone to the Salvation Army. I’ve not even kept those that I might again wear after I’ve lost the ten pounds that has been my goal for several years. Books have gone to colleagues in ministry or the International Book Project. Tools have gone to Habitat for Humanity. Purging hasn’t been easy because the clothes, books, tools, etc. all have a story. Their stories evoke memories of other times, places, events and/or people who were significant in my personal story. Giving an item away involves my accepting the possibility that I might not recall that specific part of my history again since I no longer have the reminder item. Purging feels like letting go of an old friend. The most difficult purging, however, is not in my closet, basement or book shelves. Rather, it is the purging of thoughts, ideas, assumptions, attitudes, desires, values, etc. that no longer fit with who I really have become or the world in which I live.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Generativity

My description of myself reads that I'm in that era which Erik Erikson called, Generativity versus Stagnation. Generativity means to what do I give myself. If there is nothing to which I give myself, I'm a good candidate for stagnation. We've been cleaning the basement and our closets. There are some wonderful items we've rediscovered; however, they are useless except for the memory or stories which they hold. That's a good description of stagnation--holding a great story but not of much use now. I'm grateful that in the era of my life, which many call the elder-years, I'm able to give myself to clergy. My ministry is as a Therapist, Adjunct Seminary Professor and Member Care minister with missionaries. I spend my time with ministers who pastor a church or who are on a staff; missionaries; students in a Seminary and folks who are ministering with their involvement with some of the social issues of our time. I know that these folks have much to give me in terms of their energy, new ideas, challenging values, etc. They are crucial in my on-going maturity. Generativity is a reciprocal arrangement or it isn't true generativity.