Sunday, December 16, 2012

Where are the Answers?

I’m a Marriage and Family Therapist as well as a Pastoral Counselor.  Over the years I’ve sat with women and men who were abused as children.  They ask me, “Why won’t God protect innocence children?”  I don’t have an answer to that question—didn’t then and don’t today.  What efforts I’ve heard seem to be trying to protect God and God’s reputation.  If God needs our protection, we don’t have much of a God.  I think God has a lot to answer for when we enter the eternal realm.  With the murder of the children and adults in Connecticut, that question is fresh in my mind.  I choose to continue to believe, pray and look into the scriptures.  I’ll continue wrestling with the question.  Whatever faith is all about, at least it is trusting in a reality, i.e. God, who won’t let you make sense of the reality.  That’s doesn’t seem fair.  Today I’m grateful for some of the imprecatory Psalms, such as Psalm 44—note the “but” in verse 9 that changes the tone of the Psalm.  My prayer is from Psalm 44:26 “Wake up God and help.”  These Psalms of lament let me know that I’m not alone with these questions about this God.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Violence, enough already!

I’m both incredibly sad and very angry this weekend.  I’m sad and full of grief because of the death of the children and their teachers in Connecticut.  Their grief is unimaginable to me.  I pray for them and that community regularly throughout the day.  I’m also angry.  I’m angry because our policies don’t put money into mental health programs.  We have a difficult time funding quality education.  I’m angry because of the violence in our culture.  Violence is not the answer to our frustrations and lack of power.  I’m angry that we have allowed large groups with powerful influence and money, such as the National Rifle Association, to buy the silence of our leaders regarding sensible gun control.  For the sake of our children, we can no longer be silent.  Let’s make the commitment to contact our leaders and say, “Enough!”  The possession of a gun may be used for sport or self-defense, but it seems more frequently to be a dangerous response to a feeling of impotence.  If we permit violence to grow in our culture and our hearts, there aren’t enough weapons to protect ourselves and our children.  The Christian model is the person of Jesus, our Redeemer, who was non-violent.  Lord, in your mercy.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hearing God?

I've heard folks say that God has told them such and such.  On the one hand I'm envious because I've never been that certain.  I'm suspicious.  It is too easy to confuse my own ego needs with God's desire for me.  I've been reading Francis deSales' Introduction to the Devout Life.  Even though I've read it several times, it is one of those books to which I often return. Francis was the Bishop of Geneva during the time that John Calvin's followers were creating religious and political havoc in that area by insisting local governments govern according to the morality as the Calvinists interpreted the scriptures. Francis wrote a number of letters to individuals with instructions about keeping one's spiritual life alive in the midst of conflict, persecution and lack of support. He writes, for example, to Philothea (lover of God) saying that she is to seek spiritual guides, teachers, mentors, partners, etc. who "must be full of charity, knowledge, and prudence, and if any of these qualities is lacking there is danger."  As I approach the end of 2012, I've been wondering and praying about continuing with my spiritual director. That's an evaluation I do at the end of each year.  Father Michael, whom I've been seeing at the Abbey of Gethsemani for a couple of years, is full of charity, knowledge and prudence. Perhaps the Lord has answered my question or maybe it is just one of those things that happen. 


Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Election is Over

The Elections are over and I'm glad. I had long grown weary of the ads, especially the attack ads. It is a bad sign when someone promotes themselves primarily because their opponent is worse. What was witnessed during those attack ads, I would call verbal and mental abusive behavior.   At the Counseling Center, we remind folks that such abusive language may mean that the client is not far from physical violence and abuse if they don't learn to deal with their egos and anger. Whether or not your preference was elected (most of mine were) I hope that all of us will be praying for all of our elected officers so they can govern with the common good in mind rather than their egos, political party, personal political future hopes, etc.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Praying the Psalms

In his brief book, Praying The Psalms, Thomas Merton writes, "There is one fundamental religious experience which the Psalms can all teach us: the peace that comes from submission to God's will and from perfect confidence in Him." (pg. 26.) This past Saturday I was at the Abbey of Gethsemani. I thought again about these men who pray all 150 Psalms every two weeks. Their eight daily services are primarily composed of praying, as a melodic chant, the Psalms. My friend Father Michael has been at the Abbey for almost 50 years. It is no wonder that the Psalms are a natural part of his conversational vocabulary. When asked a question, he gives a very thoughtful answer which usually has quotes from the Psalms involved. Several years ago my class was visiting the Abbey, one of the students asked Father Michael how he would teach someone to pray. His answer was simply, "Pray the Psalms everyday." I think a wonderful prayer is "Lord, I give you thanks, for Your mercy endures forever." (Psalm 118:1)


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Healthy Image of God

In his book, Signposts of Spirituality, Trevor Hudson quotes William Temple, "... if people live with the wrong view of God, the more religious they become the worse the consequences will become."  There is a young woman who suffers from anxiety surely made worse by a mother who demands perfection and, therefore, is always critical of her daughter. She lives with the fear that she isn't good enough for God. A woman who believes God "took her son" by suicide because she was too emotionally involved with a male co-worker. A man who believes he can never be forgiven by God because he struggles with pornography. I believe our image of God is to be found in Jesus, i.e., "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). Whatever else church may involve, it seems to me that the foundation is to help others have a healthy view of God. By healthy, I mean the image of God revealed in Jesus. It has been interesting for me that all of the above examples relate to very religious people, if by religious we mean individuals who are very active in their church, even in leadership positions. I've a friend whose favorite saying is, "Just because you park your car in a chicken house, doesn't make it a chicken."  Whatever else church may involve, the foundation is to help others have a healthy view of God.  


I've been reading Frank Laubach's book, Letters by a Modern Mystic. Dr. Laubach was such an influence to the world that he has been called, "The Apostle to the Illiterates." After his death in 1970 a USA stamp was issued with his picture as a way of honoring his international influence. This little book is a wonderful collection of letters that he sent to his father during the time he was a missionary with the American Board of Foreign Missions. He served on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The first letter is dated January 3, 1930. He writes that living in the atmosphere of Islam is a wonderful stimulus as he seeks to know and do the will of God moment by moment. He writes, "It is exactly that 'moment by moment,' surrender, responsiveness, obedience, sensitiveness, pliability, 'lost in His love,' that I now have the mind-bent to explore with all my might. It means two burning passions. First, to be like Jesus. Second, to respond to God as a violin responds to the bow of the master." (January 26, 1930, page 6.)  The letters of Frank Laubach were written after a period during which he found himself "profoundly dissatisfied." It was in his dissatisfaction that God revealed the need for this new attitude of constant attentiveness to God. This constant attentiveness resulted in discerning 'God's moment by moment will' for him. Too often we've heard God's call to a ministry, and then gone off thinking we could do it by ourselves. It is the attitude of "Thanks God for the general direction, now I can handle it from here but, don't worry because if I get in trouble I'll get back to You." I suspect that the basic discipline of spiritual formation is constant attentiveness.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Small Beginning

Today I was given the wonderful opportunity of preaching at the 65th anniversary of Trinity Baptist Church in Lexington.  Several hundred people gathered to worship and celebrate.  I had the privilege of being on their staff and Pastor for 21 years.  Trinity Baptist Church is a remarkable church with a long history of ministry (Yes, I'm biased.) For example, they began Quest Farm which is a residential farming community for 18 adult mentally handicapped adults. The church also established the Bob Brown Housing which is an apartment complex for 20 elderly and physically handicapped persons. Trinity has a Meals On Wheels ministry which feeds many individuals everyday. The church has 32 national flags hanging in its sanctuary because each flag represents a regular participant in the church's history. Trinity was integrated in the late 1960's.  The staff has been racial integrated. The church ordained women as deacons in 1981 and soon thereafter a women to the Gospel Ministry.

This fascinating church began 65 years ago when Rev. Delaney established a Bible study and worship service. The young church couldn't pay him anything, so he sold shoes at a nearby Department store. Only God could have known what would have been the results of that beginning. I wonder if their beginning seemed insignificant to Rev. Delaney and the few folks who met with him for a Bible study, singing, prayers and worship. I wonder if they ever thought that they should abandon their effort and join with one of the established churches. I'm grateful they were faithful.  If you ever become discouraged, remember it is very possible that you may never know the results of your faithfulness. Rev. Delaney died in the late 1950's when Trinity Baptist Church was very small in attendance and struggling financially. I wondered today if he could ever have imagined what the Church's 65th anniversary would look like and what the church had accomplished during all those years.  You never know what the Lord will do with your faithfulness.


Monday, September 3, 2012

The Telephone and Connection

 My wife has a cell phone that does more than I can imagine.  It can check her emails, text, check facebook, go to Google, has a clock, GPS and many other things of which I don't know.  She says that it is important to keep her 'connected.'  I do believe that it helps her keep connected.  However, I was really connected when I was a child and stayed at my grandparents farm.  Their phone was connected to a party line and an operator.  Whenever you picked up their phone, you had to listen for a minute to make certain that none of the others on the line were using the phone.  If they were, you waited until they were finished with their call.  Connection, however, really happened with the operator.  Whenever I picked up my grandparents phone and no one else was on the line, the operator would come on the line.  She recognized my voice and knew who I was.  She would say, "Hi, Richard.  I hope you are having a good time with your grandparents."  She would then ask, "Who do you want to talk with?"  I'd answer, "Daddy" or whoever I wanted to talk with.  She would connect me to Kib Warren's, where Daddy worked, and ask them if Russell was there.  When he came to the telephone, she would say, "Russell, Richard is on the line."  If, for example, Daddy had left Kib Warren's and gone to Hamburger King for lunch, they would tell the operator and she would contact Hamburger King for me.  If he had left there, she might ask if I wanted to talk with my mother.  She also knew how to connect me to my mother.  That was a telephone system that really connected me to my childhood world.

The Washing Machine

Because of my wife's health, I've been doing our laundry for the past several months.  I appreciate our washing machine.  I'm old enough to remember my mother and grandmothers doing laundry with their wringer washing machines.  Those old washing machines had a wash tub that sloshed the clothes around.  I remember them being very loud.  After washing, the clothes would go through the wringers which pressed a lot of the water out of the material.  You had to be careful not to get your hand caught in the wringers.  After going through the wringers, the clothes were placed in a basket and then they were carried out to the clothes line to dry in the sunshine and wind.  It was obviously important not to do laundry when it was going to rain.  My job as a child was to hand mother the clothes pins which held the clothes on the line.  My memory of Mom's machine was that it was green and the motor leaked a little oil on the kitchen floor.  Mom would have me clean the oil off the floor after all the laundry was done.  Hanging over our modern washing machine is a rub board that my grandmother used.  That was her laundry 'machine' before grandpa bought her a wringer washing machine.  As I do laundry today, I'm grateful for our washing machine and dryer.  Indeed, they are labor saving devices. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Neighborhood Announcer

Bobby, my brother who is mentally handicapped, loves to sit on our front porch. Out on the front porch, he is like the neighborhood announcer with a running commentary describing everything that is happening. Since he is hard-of-hearing, he also talks rather loudly. For example, he may say, "She is coming out of the house wearing blue jeans. She is getting into the car." Or it may be, "That man's big black dog is wetting on the fire hydrant." Etc., etc. you get the picture. We have a neighbor who has a drinking problem. He is single and has lived near us for 30+ years. When he is drinking, he is very friendly, comes to visit and always asks to borrow $2. Bobby describes him as, "The drunk man who wants money." Yesterday afternoon, Bobby announced to the neighborhood, "Richard, Richard, the drunk man is coming to our house to borrow money." The truth is--he was drunk, he came to the house and he asked to borrow $2. Our neighborhood is a lively place with Bobby as the front-porch announcer.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Search for a National Standard

Much of our political debate seems to revolve around discerning a standard for which we seek.  As a Christian I seek my standard from the Bible.  I suspect that I'd be labeled as a fiscally conservative.  I believe that if you don't have the money, then don't make the purchase, with the exception of a house.  If a credit card is used, then pay all of it off at the end of the month, otherwise don't make the purchase.  This requires some self-discipline.  I believe that self-discipline is the basis of all other disciplines.  I try to live simply.  If I purchase a new shirt, I give a shirt away via Goodwill, Salvation Army, clothing banks, etc.  I have more than enough clothes so I try not to add to my closet, just replace when necessary.  I'm also one who thinks a nation will be judged by GOD in terms of how it treats the poor.  I suspect that I'd be labeled as a social liberal.  I can't ignore this because there are too many verses and sections of the scriptures that speak to this.  For example, Proverbs 29:7, "The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern."  I really want to be included among the righteous.  I read Ezekiel 22:23-31 in light of our political and religious systems and think, "O my, we're in trouble."  So, I seek a standard and I suppose that I'll be labeled as a fiscally conservative and a social liberal.  The actual truth is that I don't like labels--for me or anyone else.  Labels usually have just enough truth to be descriptive, but just enough falsehood to be misleading.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Practicing Medicine and Health Care

Unfortunately I've had the experience of being in a lot of Physicians offices recently.  My brother has a fractured wrist and left hip.  My wife has arthritis and struggles with nausea.  In the midst of many recent Physician visits, I've been reading Dr. Victoria Sweet's, God's Hotel, A Doctor, A Hospital and a Pilgrimage  to the Heart of Medicine.  Dr. Sweet makes a difference between practicing medicine and doing health care.  Medicine is important because it has to do with tests, prescriptions and the body's chemistry and biology.  Health Care, however, is even more important because it takes into account the whole person.  Health care of the whole person certainly involves tests and prescriptions but, in addition, it requires necessary time to listen to the patients story and their life's circumstances.  Health care looks into the eyes of the person to see the anima or life force stirring in the person's soul or spirit.  In the hospital, Dr. Sweet, reflects on the crucial information she learns from sitting quietly beside the bed of her patients.  Doing good health care requires patience, listening skills, seeking the "big picture" of a person's illness and, sometimes, it involves eliminating whatever it is in the person's life that is in the way of their health rather than adding something else, ex., another test or prescription.  Practicing medicine may be efficiently and effectively accomplished during a quick office visit, but health care cannot be done in a hurry.  It takes time to hear and see the soul of a person.  I think Dr. Sweet would say that practicing medicine is a science, whereas health care is a art.  I recommend Dr. Victoria Sweet's book.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It Isn't Always So Simple

I've just returned from a Doctor's appointment.  On the way home I stopped at a Chick-fil-a restaurant and picked up sandwiches for our lunch.  We are very fond of Chick-fil-a sandwiches and their waffle fries.  In the recent days there has been a lot of media attention to a statement made by the leader of the restaurant chain.  He spoke in favor of traditional marriage between a heterosexual couple.  He termed such marriage as the Biblical model.  After his statement, there has been a protest against Chick-fil-a by those who support gay and lesbian relationships.  There has also been support by those who favor traditional relationships.  I've been a supporter of committed and healthy relationships whether they be traditional, gay or lesbian.  In the midst of all this Chick-fil-a attention, I read a July 25th blog of a dear friend in Louisville who is a Disciples of Christ minister, i.e., titled "Under the ginkgo tree."  She referenced another blog at in which Rev. Hollie wrote about a local Chick-fil-a franchise owner who is in a committed lesbian relationship and she is a committed Believer.  I recommend you read Rev. Hollie's blog regarding Chick-fil-a because things are not always as simple as we might think or wish.  Thank you, Rev. Hollie and Rev. Julie.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Our Culture of Violence

During my childhood in Shawnee, Oklahoma, an early Saturday afternoon movie was the norm.  Several of us young guys from the neighborhood would go to the Hornbeck Theater and watch a cowboy movie.  The Hornbeck played cowboy movies for kids our age and only early Saturday afternoon.  I think the movie cost me (well, Dad) a dime.  Those western movies featured our heroes: Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Arthur, Roy Rogers, Red Ridder, Lone Ranger, etc.  These were the good guys who always got the bank robbers.  After the movie we would run home, got our play guns, holsters and cowboy hats then we acted out whatever we had been watching.  It was great fun as we played cowboys all over the neighborhood.  I recall those experiences as I watched and read about the horror that happened in Aurora, Colorado, where a young man killed and wounded so many in a theater showing the premiere of the Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.  What we watch or put into our minds and imaginations, can too easily become reality.  We tend to act out what we watch.  There is too much violence, i.e., shooting, rape, hitting, porn, cursing, war, torture, etc. in our culture and it is readily available for our imaginations via television, movies, Internet, songs, etc.  When we put violence into our minds then violence is more easily acted out.  When we watch or listen to violence our conscience becomes numb and eventually we are no longer even aware of its impact on our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, actions, etc.  I pray for the victims in Aurora, Colorado.  I also pray for the daily victims of our culture of violence who probably don't even realize that we are also victims.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Rains and Advice

The rains have arrived! They came about 4 o'clock this Sunday afternoon and the temperature dropped quickly from 101 to 87. We've been in a drought and heat wave for the past week or so. My neighbor across the street is putting on a new metal roof and when the rains came he didn't stop working, just yelled, "This is wonderful." Another neighbor decided to go for his walk in the rain and Judy has moved to the front porch. You might think we've gone nuts enjoying the rain and cooler weather.  Tomorrow our friend and financial planner will go with me to see my brother's Attorney. Bobby's Attorney is a lady who specializes in special needs. Bobby's Special Needs Trust needs to have some changes. I'm pleased there are people who know how to write Trust documents, understand the details of the law for special needs folks and financial planners who know how to handle some Trust money so that Bobby continues to be eligible for help. These two friends are like the rain and cool weather--they make a big difference. There have been too many times when I tried to handle things on my own without professional advise. I tried to do the best I know, which too often turned out to be not the best. That independent spirit, which might also be pride, can be like our hot, dry weather--not much grows except frustrations. It is wisdom to know when to ask for help. "...wisdom is found in those who take advice" (Proverbs 13:10b, NIV.)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Grandma's floor lamp

Grandma Landon loved to read.  After the work was done on the farm and in the house, she would read.  Her favorite was the Bible, but after that she loved western novels, especially Louis L'Amour.  When their time came, Grandma and Grandpa moved willingly into a nursing home operated by Mrs. Duck.  Grandma told Dad that their room light wasn't good for her eyes when she read.  Dad purchased a floor lamp that had a curved arm that enabled the light to be adjusted so that it was just over her shoulder.  When my granndparents died, that floor lamp went to my parents home.  After Mom died and Dad moved in with us, that lamp came with him.  When Dad passed away in 1997, I cleaned up and painted that lamp.  It now sits at the end of our small counch in the computer room.  Whenever I'm doing a lot of reading, I like to sit under that old floor lamp of Grandma's.

Legalized self-interest takes a hit

This week the Supreme Court, by a surprise majority, upheld the major tenants of "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."  This is a wonderful name for a piece of legislation which has unfortunately been labeled, Obamacare.  I'm very pleased with the Supreme Court's decision.  Like many citizens, I've been displeased with all of the stalemating happening in our legislative branches of government. While reading Trevor Hudson's book, Signposts of Spirituality and I saw the small phrase "legalized self interest."  As soon as I saw that phrase I thought that describes many situations but certainly my critique of present-day government.  The leaders in government are working hard to take care of themselves and their supporters and that is legalized self-interest.  I'm grateful that The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed the Supreme Court assessment.  With the new law, my health care sysstem will probably change and I may have to pay a higher premimun.  Nevertheless, it is good because it is a law based on morality rather than self interest.  In my judgement based on the teachings of Jesus, quality health care for all the citizens of our nation is a moral issue.  Legalized self-interest has taken a hit.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Instructions need to be simple and clear

This weekend my brother was with us.  He comes on Friday evening and then immediately after Church on Sunday he returns to Quest Farm where he lives.  He is mentally handicapped, yet pretty clever.  His favorite drink is diet Dr. Pepper. In anticipation of his weekend with us, we purchased some diet Dr. Peppers and put them in the refrigerator.  We told him that he could only have three each day which seemed reasonable otherwise he would drink them until they were all gone.  He drank three on Saturday just as he had been told.  However, on Sunday morning prior to our taking him to church at 9 am, we noticed three more Dr. Peppers were gone.  When we asked him about them he said that they didn't have Dr. Peppers at Quest Farm where he lives so he drank his three-a-day in the early morning hours of Sunday. I guess he was obedient to what he was told, although that wasn't exactly what we had in mind.  The lesson is that whenever instructions are given to anyone, they need to be very simple and clear.  No one can read my mind to know exactly what I meant, so I have to work at simplicity and clarity.  My brother is mentally handicapped and obedient, but he is also pretty smart.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Decoration Day

This is the Memorial Day weekend. When I was a child it was called, Decoration Day. Families would go to the cemetery and decorate their families graves. I guess that was why it was called Decoration Day. I have many memories of going to the cemeteries with my folks and grandparents to clean grave-stones, plant flowers, talk and eventually go to grandma's house for supper. I remember my parents telling me not to run and jump over headstones. They said that wasn't respectful.' I'm not certain that as a child I knew what respectful meant. I probably stopped running and seeing if I could jump over headstones, at least for a little while. I think little boys have short memories. I do remember that it was at the cemetery on Decoration Days that I learned many of the "stories" of my ancestors. For example, I always loved Grandpa's story about his aunt who was a Nazarene evangelist and healer. All of her sermon notes blew out of the trains window, so from then on she preached without notes. I rarely used notes when I preached. I wonder if that story influenced me? I know it was a significant influence when I heard people saying that women couldn't preach. I hope you will say a prayer of Thanks to God for your ancestors as well as say "Thanks" to those who are still living. Also, express gratitude to those who have served in our military. I didn't serve in the military. My young adulthood was during the days when everyone had to register for the draft. If your draft classification and number was high, you were going to be drafted into the military--just go ahead and pack your bags. My draft board gave me a status of 4-D, as best I remember. That was the classification for clergy, clergy students and the mentally ill. Maybe they knew something about me way back then.  Our accomplishments, freedoms, etc. are probably because of those who have gone before us and upon whose work we stand.  Deo gratis.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I've a colleague who says he rarely uses the term "immature" because it sounds so judgemental.  Rather than that term, he tells folks that if they are primarily focused on the now, their feelings and themselves then they are likely to make unhealthy choices--unhealthy choices as in immature.  Certainly we need to pay attention to the now, our feelings and our self but these need to be filtered.  A preoccupation with whatever is happening now could be filtered through a consideration of consequences.  What might be the future implications of what I'm thinking about doing?  Feelings need to be filtered by thoughtfulness so that we can determine if, how, when and to whom we might share those feelings.  How could I share my feelings so as to help the present situation?  A focus on self could be filtered through a consideration of others.  What would be the implications for my family, friends, colleagues, etc. of the actions that I'm considering?  I've encountered too many folks who get themselves in difficulties and cause unnecessary problems and grief for others because they insisted on doing whatever they felt like doing at present and they thought their behavior affected no one but them.  That sounds like children who are expected to be immature.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Listening and Relationship

Yesterday my Spiritual Formation class from The Baptist Seminary of Kentucky spent the day at the Abbey of Gethsemani.  We were fortunate to have Bro. Paul spend part of the day with us.  He said that he came to the Abbey in order to better listen for God in the silence of a contemplative place.  The Abbey is a place of silence.  In the silence one can listen for those "holy nudges."  Bro. Paul indicated that listening is critical for the developing of a relationship.  I hadn't thought of listening in that manner.  Listening is so important that the first word in the Rule of St. Benedict is "listen."  I think of listening for God so that I can get a word.  That is also crucial.  However, listening is more than just getting a word.  Listening is foundational for the developing of a relationship.  Without listening a couple's relationship will diminish.  To develop some times of silence and listen for God is important.  I may hear a word from God but, also, that act of listening helps develop and deepen that relationship with God.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Things Are Not Always As They Appear

I don't like the taste of beer. I never have and can't seem to develop that taste. However, I admit that I haven't tried too hard to develop the taste. A few days ago at the grocery store, I noticed a shelf of individual bottles of beer, most of which I had never seen before. I was curious. I looked them over. They were bottled with fascinating labels. Since they were new to me, I decided I get two different ones just to try. They looked so appealing. I bought them and took them home. Over the next several days, I opened each and tasted the contents. I didn't like the taste of either. They both tasted like beer and I don't like the taste of beer. So, down the sink they went. I spent a couple of dollars on something I knew I didn't like but they looked so appealing. I wish I didn't need to keep on learning a basic lesson about life--things are not always as they appear.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My "Check Engine" light came on

My "Check Engine" light came on this week. No, this is not about our automobiles; it is about me. I was to return a phone call early in the week and I couldn't figure out who the person was. I thought and thought with no progress. I finally asked our Church Secretary and with a strange look on her face, she said it was one of the Church Staff. I was embarrassed. Later in the week I received an email asking for some information, but I couldn't figure out who the person was, although the name was familiar. The next day, I realized that the person was one of my Seminary students. My "Check Engine" light was on. This is probably the accumulation of the past several months rather than one major thing. I consulted with a couple of my colleagues and they agreed that I needed to make some adjustments. So, with my colleagues guidance I've made some changes. I've marked off three, maybe four, weeks from work as soon as we graduate students from the Seminary. Second, I've told my colleagues and folks at the front desk that I'm not available for any new clients until early June. Third, I've said that I'll not take on any new assignments, ex. preaching, speaking, leading a workshop, etc. until mid-summer. Fourth, I've asked my colleagues to hold me accountable. I've agreed that they could look at my appointment book and calendar whenever any of them desire. When one's "Check Engine" light comes on, it is crucial to give it attention. So stop what you are doing, 'pull off the road,' figure out what's happening realizing that you probably need some help doing an assessment, make the necessary corrections and, finally, find someone or several who will hold you accountable.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Change and Discernment

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy said to her dog, "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore." Dealing with change is not easy. I've lived in the same house since 1973 so obviously I value stability. Stability is one of the vows that has been important in the history of religious vocations. Nevertheless, change happens all of the time and change surrounds us. For example, the Seminary were I'm an Adjunct Professor has gone primarily to distance learning. So, I've had to learn how to teach an on-line class which involved my comprehending a new definition of "blackboard" and, then, how to use it. I like some changes. My response to many of the change-challenges has been to carefully choose how to respond. Adapting to changes creates changes in me, some so subtle that I don't recognize them for awhile. Therefore, it is important to discern how I respond to the changes that are happening around me. .

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Boredom and the Spiritual Life

I relish writers and speakers who are honest about the spiritual life. In his book, Crossing, Mark Barrett writes, "Boredom is one of the many inevitable obstacles we meet on the spiritual path." (page 2.) Thank you! I'm often bored with my prayers, worship, Bible reading, Eucharist, etc. Sometimes it feels like I go through my spiritual disciplines with one eye of the clock so I can "get my spiritual ticket punched." When I confess this boredom, I have a fear that others will interpret this as my not having a strong faith or a proper relationship with God or lack of personal discipline or whatever. I think otherwise. It is because of my faith and relationship with God that I can be honest with God. I trust God and believe God already knows that I'm bored. So who am I trying to fool when I refuse to recognize my boredom? Even as I confess to a time of boredom, I don't have a three step prescription for remedy. The only thing I know to do is to keep showing up and being honest. I suspect my relationship with God has more to do with my being honest in this spiritual journey than anything else.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Of Gods and Men"

At our Lay Cistercian meeting this Saturday, we watched the video, "Of Gods and Men." This is a moving video of the seven French monks who choose to remain in Algeria during that country's violent time in the 1990s. The monks were ultimately taken captive and martyred in 1996. The movie focuses primarily on their individual and collective process of discernment. Discernment is never an easy spiritual discipline because the ego will always work overtime in order to protect the self. Self-protection is one of the primary functions of an ego. The movie does an excellent task of revealing the difficult struggle with which the monks make the decision to stay even after the Algerian authorities asked them to leave. The monks knew with great clarity that the chances of things going well for them was not very good. This is a powerful video and one that I recommend. Our major decisions involve the process of discernment. This movie helps us to understand what that involves.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Poor and Politics

There has been a lot of press about the poor and those unemployed who live at, near or below the poverty rate. Some of our national leaders seem to think that the poor are lazy, satisfied with being poor, have a "safety net," pleased to be on welfare, and on and on. Dorothy Day, a Christian social activist of the past generation, said "The true atheist is the one who denies God's image in the 'least of these'." Truth is often clear and simple yet neither recognized nor well received.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Those Who Walk With God

How lovely are the faces of those who walk with God, Lit with an inner sureness of the path their feet have trod.
How gentle is the manner of those who walk with Him; no strength can overcome them, and no cloud their courage dim.
Keen are the hands and feet, Ah yes, of those who wait His will; and clear as crystal mirrors are the hearts His love does fill.
Some lives are drear from doubt and fear, while others merely plod; But lovely faces mark all those who walk and talk with God.
(An unknown author, "Those Who Walk With God" bookmark)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration

Today is the Sunday of Martin Luther King, Jr's 2012 holiday celebration. I'm at home because of illness in the family. I decided this would be an excellent opportunity to watch and/or hear several church services. So, I tuned in. I watched and/or listened to several evangelical Protestant worship services this morning (where are the others?) None of the churches that I had tuned into spoke about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his message of prejudice that hinders equality. Why were these pulpits silent? One of our culture's significant problems is the failure of equality. That struggle is more subtle than in the past. We've legislated against the most obvious types of social segregation but, we have a lot of work to accomplish with personal and social prejudice. We deny prejudice in ourselves and that makes it difficult to root out. All the churches I listened to had well-planned worship services and they offered a variety of types of music to fit one's personal preferences. All of the preachers were excellent speakers. However, given this special holiday that not only honors the Christian Prophet of this generation but, also, draws our attention to the ministry of challenging prejudice, these churches were silent. I hope they aren't representative of most churches.