Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kicking Against The Goads

A goad is a sharp stick used to guide sheep, goats, cows, etc.  I guess it was the forerunner of the cattle prod.  My life has been full of goads against which I have kicked and fussed.  For example, I have high blood pressure and take medicine that keeps it well under control.  However, when this was first diagnosed, I said, "No" to the medicine and "I'll take care of this myself with diet and exercise."  My Physician said it wasn't going to work because my body parts were getting too old.  I didn't want to accept that so I dieted and jogged.  I lost weight and felt better than I had in years.  When I would check my blood pressure, it was still too high.  My Physician, who was a friend, kept goading me to take the medicine.  During one check-up, my blood test also revealed that my cholesterol was too high.  Once again, my Physician said, "Take the medicine."  He repeated the line that my body parts were getting old and this is what frequently happens.  Nevertheless, I kept kicking against the goad or the reality for which I didn't want to accept and adjust.  I finally gave in and began taking the medicine.  It was hurting me to kick against the goad or the reality of my situation.  The book of ACTS reports Paul sharing the Lord said to him at his conversion, "I hurts you to kick against the goads" (Acts 26:14.)  I think kicking against reality only hurts the one who is doing the kicking.  It also helps me to know that even St. Paul kicked against the goads.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Learning and Adjusting

These days I've been driving my son's truck.  It is a 1995 Chevrolet S-10 pick-up.  Dad gave it to my son when Dad was no longer able to drive.  The best thing about the truck is it is a stick shift, i.e., 5 forward gears with the shift lever on the floor.  The auto in which I learned to drive was an International pick-up with a stick shift which was the delivery truck for Mom and Dad's furniture and hardware store.  The family car was a 1950 Buick and it also had a stick shift.  I recall when I first drove an automobile with an automatic shift. I think it was an Uncle's care.  I remember being fearful that in spite of the letters and arrow on the steering column, I would still get it in the wrong gear. I also recall that I kept pumping my foot trying to find the clutch.  It wasn't there.  An automatic shift just didn't feel right.  However, I have learned.  I can now move back and forth between the truck's standard shift and the family car's automatic shift.  Learning and adjusting is wonderful.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


I've been reading Matthew Sleeth's book, 24/6.  He is a former ER Physician who now has a ministry in Lexington called "Blessed Earth."  I'd recommend that you look them up on the Internet.  His 24/6 book is about keeping Sabbath.  His concept of a Sabbath is different from and more than just going to Church on Sunday.  Sabbath is a day of doing nothing as a reminder that God is God and God keeps everything moving according to God's plans.  My Spiritual Director has suggested that I pray outside and in the morning.  Therefore, I sit outside and pray as the sun is rising as a reminder that I can't make the sun rise, I can't make the birds sing, I can't make the flowers bloom, etc.  All these wonderful things are God's gifts to me whether or not I recognize or acknowledge them.  Those morning times are times of Sabbath for me.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Literal Thinking Can Be Limiting

 My brother, Bobby, had a echo cardiogram a few days ago.  Bobby is developmentally delayed.  When he was asking me what they were going to do to him, I tried to give a simple answer.  I told him they would put some jelly on his chest and use an instrument so they could see his heart at work.  Just as I gave my explanation, I realized that I had messed up.  Bobby responded to my explanation with, "Will they put grape jelly on my chest?"  Bobby loves grape jelly on his peanut butter sandwiches.  I tried to clear up my explanation by saying the jelly was like Vaseline.  After an hour or so, Bobby came to me and informed me that he didn't know you could buy grape or strawberry Vaseline.  He said that not only did he not know this, but didn't understand why anyone would want grape Vaseline.  I realized that I couldn't get around his literal understanding of what I had said.  To think only in literal concepts is not only very limiting; it is also makes one unable to think beyond that literal understanding.  I wish I had used a different word than 'jelly' in my explanation to Bobby.  I wish there were not so much literal thinking in our Churches.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Prayer as Control Surrendering

One of my favorite religious authors is Joan Chittister, OSB.  In her book, Wisdom Distilled From The Daily,  she writes a chapter on prayer.  She wrote, "Prayer ... is not a matter of mood.  To pray only when we feel like it is more to seek consolation than to risk conversion." (p. 31.)  Again, she writes, "... the function of prayer is not magic.  The function of prayer is not the bribery of the Infinite.  The function of prayer is not to change the mind of God about decisions we have already made for ourselves.  The function of prayer is to change my own mind, to put on the mind of Christ." (p 35.)  I try hard not to tell God what I think God needs to do.  As of yet, God has never asked for my advise.  That doesn't mean that I've not offered.  I certainly make my requests, but prayer is about my accepting and trusting the mind of Christ and the belief that God is constantly working, whether or not I can see God's work.  Prayer is an act of trusting God's gracious and powerful presence in whatever life has in store for me, my family, friends, community, church and the world.  This kind of prayer is difficult.  It is surrendering control.

Laundry Day

Saturday is laundry day in our home.  The clothes that have been tossed in one of the three laundry baskets are gathered and sorted into their appropriate piles.  Buttons are unbuttoned, sleeves are unrolled, water temperature is selected, soap is added and into the washer goes the clothes.  From the washer, they go into the dryer.  When the dryer buzzes, the clothes come out, are folded and back into the drawer or closet. Sounds as simple as it really is.  Doesn't take a great deal of time, but takes some time.  Confession is sort of like getting the clothes and my life washed, dry'd, and back into the proper place so they can be ready for the new day.  Pretty simple and it really is.  Confession is sitting with God, unbuttoning and unrolling events in my life and permitting God to put me and my life's events back into their proper place so I can go into the next days being clean or forgiven.  Saturday may be a good time to sit with God in confession while the clothes are in the washer and dryer.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Not Here To Impress God

I've been reading Voices of Silence, Lives on the Trappists Today by Frank Bianco.  Since it is largely about the Abbey of Gethsemani where I go for retreat at least one day per month, I was greatly interested.  When one of the monks complained about his prayer life and worship becoming dry, the Novice Master replied, "You are not here to impress God and you couldn't do that anyway." (page 47.)  My Spiritual Director has said those words to me on a couple of occasions.  It is a difficult lesson for me not to judge my worship, prayer and ministry experiences on the basis of how I feel or think about them.  Too frequently I want to judge my experiences with God as if God has asked me, "What do you think about what I'm doing?"  That's arrogance and I've been infected with it.  God has never asked me about my opinions or judgments of God's work.  When I hear others talking about experiences with God, I rarely hear them say that in the silence or dry times, God has been most real.  I think my feelings need to be the caboose and not the engine of my experiences with God.