Meditations Category


Love

Love

I was dismayed by a recent Facebook video posting of a hockey coach giving his (high school/college age) players a locker room pep talk, by saying “If anybody is going to disrespect the flag, get the f*** out.” After another minute of his rallying cry, the video cuts to President Trump speaking about his views on respecting the flag and our nation, at which point I scrolled forward through the newsfeed praying in the Spirit.

Having been a sixth grade Social Studies teacher for five of my 17-year-career, I know first-hand that teaching patriotism and nationalism can be a sticky wicket, especially when students espoused understandings and beliefs that differed from my own.

As the hockey coach’s statement ruminated in my heart, I began to wonder about the origins of the phrase “America, love it or leave it” and the corresponding brand of divisive thinking.

This pro-war slogan of the Vietnam War era appears to have its beginnings with Walter Winchell, who supported Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1950’s when the fear of communism swept across the United States.

What purpose does such unimaginative thinking serve? Can that kind of polarized rationale really solve anything, much less the myriad of complex and serious issues currently facing the United States? What causes someone to so vehemently support such linear and dimensionless reasoning?

I can only imagine the intense and profound pain one must feel in one’s heart to hold such oppositional and unrelenting beliefs.

In light of this, how do we minister to our fellow man?

Perhaps this is what Jesus had in mind when he said,

“You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you not to stand up against someone who does you wrong. On the contrary, if someone hits you on the right cheek, let him hit you on the left cheek too! If someone wants to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well! And if a soldier forces you to carry his pack for one mile, carry it for two!” Matthew 5:38-41

Israel, under Roman domination, was faced with this exact, same oppressive mentality and Jesus called them to a supernatural, sacrificial, non-resistant Love . . . much like Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. called in their time and place.

This kind of Love empowers the giver to a greater spiritual awareness while also inviting healing (or at least planting the seed of that possibility) within the receiver.

I have only an inkling of what this would look like in today’s world.

Perhaps it looks like a football player with one hand on his heart and the other hand on the shoulder of a kneeling player during the playing of the national anthem.

Or . . .

. . . maybe it looks a hockey player courageously rising out of his seat, approaching his coach with humility, giving him a gentle bear hug, telling him thanks with genuine sincerity, and walking out of the locker room . . .

     . . . while trusting in a more spacious and spiritual purpose.

Whatever it looks like, and however difficult or challenging it may be to do, it is an action filled with the fullness of Truth, Beauty and Love.

Song

Song

One of the great blessings of my life is singing in the choir of the church I attend.

There is something very special about being with a group of people that love to sing. Although we hope we sound good, the quality of the performance is not our primary concern. Ultimately, we long to praise our Creator with the joyful blending of our voices.

Singing . . .

. . . was on my mind and heart as I walked this morning.

As I listened, I heard soprano songbirds in the chirping and twittering, followed by the alto caws of a crow and the kikirikí of several roosters in the neighborhood. A train rumbled nearby with a tenor-quality Doppler effect. No bass as I meandered, but I thought back to the previous night’s rain storm and the deep thunder rolls that seemed to echo forever like a timpani etude.

Not too long ago, my pastor used the term EGR in his message.

I do not know the origin of this acronym, but an EGR is a person that may rub you the wrong way, get on your nerves, be irritating. Interacting with them may feel and sound like a cacophony of screeching brakes followed by the inevitable clanging crash and bash . . . nothing at all like the harmonies of a pleasing ditty.

EGR . . . Extra Grace Required . . .

Aren’t we all an EGR to someone at some time?  I know more often than not my own attitudes prevent me from humming harmoniously with others . . . seems as if David knew this too . . .

Shout for joy to ADONAI, all the earth!  Serve ADONAI with gladness.  Enter his presence with joyful singing.  Psalm 100: 1-2  Another translation says: Make a joyful noise . . .

In living this life, what are the qualities of a lilting aria, an Extra Grace Required ballad?

What if we treated everyone with whom we come in contact daily . . .

. . . with the patience we have for those with a “Student Driver” sign on their vehicle, or give as generously as we do when there has been a natural disaster? How about treating everyone with the care and sacrifice of a Registered Nurse in an intensive care unit, or if we loved everyone with the sympathy and compassion we have for the bereaved? These are just a few of the lines in life’s EGR choral composition.

In other words . . . (Excerpt from I Wish I could Speak Like Music by Hafiz)

I wish I could speak like music.

I wish I could put the swaying splendor
Of the fields into words

So that you could hold Truth
Against your body
And dance . . .

I wish I could speak like divine music.

I want to give you the sublime rhythms
Of this earth and the sky’s limbs

As they joyously spin and surrender
Surrender
Against God’s Luminous breath.

Even if you do not believe in God . . . even if you don’t sing well . . . it does not hurt to at least join in . . . maybe that is where the “Extra” Grace is heard . . . if you are attentively attuned.

Let’s Dance

Let’s Dance

Then David danced and spun around with abandon before ADONAI, wearing a linen ritual vest. So, David and all the house of Isra’el brought up the ark of ADONAI with shouting and the sound of the shofar. (2 Samuel 6:14-15)

Dancing . . .

Today was a gorgeous day—cottony, cumulous clouds glided across the azure firmament . . . tree branches and leaves pirouetting with the gentle, rhythmic breeze . . . birds darting . . . wildlife prancing . . . insects flitting.

As I walked, my imagination stretched beyond Earth’s fragile atmosphere to our solar system with the planets gracefully spinning like ballet dancers on pointe as they whirl in splendor around the sun; and even farther as endless galaxies traipse upon the vastness of precious emptiness.

All creation seems to be dancing “with abandon before ADONAI” Her maker . . . the Universe dancing with Herself . . . Wow!

I love to dance . . . from dancing by myself in the living room of my childhood home, to dancing with my young sons in the family room of their childhood home, and now with my granddaughter in the play room of her childhood home . . . joyful, spontaneous, carefree, whimsical dancing.

In a text exchange with my cousin discussing my difficulty with “good-byes” he responded with,

“I try to hold hellos and goodbyes as one whole movement, sort of like a larger context in which comings and goings become a dance of engagement.”

. . . a dance of engagement . . . a thought-provoking assertion.

All of us on this blessed cosmic oasis . . . engaged in dance with each other and our Maker. Not only do we get to, but I believe we are called to this hallowed trip-the-light-fantastic betrothal.

All the interactions in one person’s lifetime from birth to death–family, friends, colleagues and strangers–a dance of engagement.

Can you hear the rhythm . . . the Heartbeat of Agape Love with Kindness, Truth, and Grace harmoniously carrying the melody?

If not, what’s stopping you?

As the ark of ADONAI entered the City of David, Mikhal the daughter of Sha’ul, watching from the window, saw King David leaping and spinning before ADONAI; and she was filled with contempt for him. (Verse 16)

I’m sure there are many theological explanations why David’s own wife, Mikhal, would not dance, beyond what I offer here.

Perhaps she felt a sense of entitlement and pride being a King’s daughter and a King’s wife. Maybe she resented being passed back and forth as a pawn for peace between the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel (her father, King Saul had given her in marriage to another man in David’s absence). David had other wives by this time, so feeling jealous would not have been an unreasonable response; some false belief prevented her from joining in the jig of a lifetime.

Whatever it is, let it go

     . . . let it fall away

          . . . embrace the eternal now

               . . . take a step of faith and

                    . . . Dance.

I’ll join you!

Hope

Hope

. . . then there are the mornings like today, while still intensely grateful for all my blessings, my heart seemed caught in a vice of agony over situations and circumstances that seem completely hopeless.

Like the heartbreak my cousin is enduring caring for her mother, my aunt, who has Alzheimer’s . . . any of the hundreds of thousands of people who have or are currently putting their own lives on hold to care for loved ones . . . my heart aches for you.

Or the senselessness of littering . . . it has been almost 50 years since the “Keep America Beautiful” campaign of the 1970’s with the commercial of the Native American crying over a polluted earth and there are still people who do not respect our precious planet?  Really? What the frack?!

Or the idiocy of state legislatures that cannot and will not pass sensible and well-deserved legislation to ensure the financial security of teachers for the health and well-being of future generations. Come on people! You greedily line your pockets with money without regard to the long-term consequences of your insensitivity and ignorance. This not only breaks my heart but blows my mind as well.

I could go on, the list appears unending, but I think you get the drift . . .

I long for the day Isaiah describes in chapter 65 verse 17 of the Hebrew Bible:

For, Look! I create new heavens and a new earth; past things will not be remembered, they will no more come to mind.

Until then, what?

I was walking the track at a local high school, head hanging, pondering the musings of my heart when I noticed a dandelion growing out of a crack in the pavement. I love dandelions; it is completely unfair that they are labeled as weeds and that so much money is spent on chemicals to rid yards of this symbol of hope.

Yes, hope–for if you have ever experienced a young child plucking one from the earth and handing it to you with the joy of innocence and wonder on his or her face, you know what I mean.  Or perhaps you remember making a wish while blowing dandelion seeds and watching them being wistfully carried away with the wind.

On this particular dandelion were two minute insects engaged in pollination. I snapped a bunch of pictures because I was awestruck. Here were these infinitesimal creatures going about their business, doing what they were designed to do, living in the moment without worry or fear.

That’s it, then, every day, each moment—as difficult as it may be—choose hope . . . “Return to the stronghold, you prisoners with hope!” (Zechariah 9:12) . . . do what you were called to do, living without worry or fear, and serve others in Charity and Grace.

. . . in other words, be a Dandelion!

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

Some days I know and feel more grateful than other days and today was one of those days. The feeling intensified as I went to work in my garden.

This year in addition to tomatoes I planted carrots, cauliflower, squash, cantaloupe, and two varieties of sunflowers—Jerusalem Gold Hybrid and Mammoth.

Since I have written previously about my fascination with sunflowers (see the meditation entitled “Obsession”), you can imagine my utter delight to have TWENTY sunflowers sprouted and growing—the Mammoths are already over two feet tall. While no blossoms are yet on the stalks, I have noticed with absolute enchantment how the stalks and “heads” have already begun to follow the sun across the sky.

I expressed this amazement of mine to my cousin in a recent Skype chat to which he thoughtfully responded:

. . . to follow the light of awareness, presence, love . . . let it lead us . . . actually come in through birth with that orientation and willingness like I suspect Jesus did . . . The way sunflowers from the get go follow the sun even though they haven’t bloomed yet or even know about blooming . . .

I began to wonder, were we not designed with this consciousness from conception too?

As soon as she knew that her relative, Elizabeth, was expecting, Mary went to visit her. When she greeted Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy (Luke 1:44) already knowing the voice of the one who would bear Christ. Jesus himself said “Let the children come to me, don’t stop them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Yes! I tell you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Mark 10:14-15

Seemingly we are conceived, born and live for an apparent short length of time knowing “God is Love is Trust is One” but somehow begin to believe things we were never intended to believe—that we are separate—separate from others and separate from God. Unconsciously and inevitably we appear to surrender to the influences and elements, the agony and deception of the self-inflicted wound. We accept “the lie” that His Love was too good to be true.

The Good News is that we can choose . . . “to see with Christ’s eyes is to see with the eyes of Love, only Love” . . . which brings healing and wholeness not only to our life but to all lives. A recent meme on the site, Contemplative Monk, states it this way:

“You will never look into the eyes of someone God does not love.”

That’s the calling then, isn’t it?

. . . to let our Light shine in the darkness in order to bring to remembrance that which was instilled in all of us from the beginning . . .

God wants to see
More love and playfulness in your eyes
For that is your greatest witness to Him.

Your soul and my soul
Once sat together in the Beloved’s womb
Playing footsie

Your heart and my heart
Are very, very old
Friends.

(Excerpt from “Your Mother and My Mother” by Hafiz)

Meaning

Meaning

At the end of March, I became a PASS (Providing Academic and Self Esteem Support) volunteer for two students at Charles Town Middle School in Jefferson County, WV. This was an opportunity that I had talked about with a friend before retiring a year ago, but I wasn’t able to attend the training until after the first of this year.

After discussion with the school guidance counselor and gaining permission from each student’s guardian, I began meeting with them individually in the school building once a week for forty minutes beginning in April. I was fortunate to have taught each of these students while still employed at CTMS so the “icebreaking” had already been done for us.

As with any middle schooler, getting them to talk about school (or anything else for that matter) can be challenging. I just tried to be present and open to whatever arose in our conversations. Sometimes we played Scrabble, Yahtze, or the card game War, but their favorite seemed to be Uno.

I was told, and knew from my past experience as their teacher, that their private/home lives were difficult and challenging to say the least. But you would have never known that if you saw us giggling uncontrollably while playing Uno.

With the school year ending, last Tuesday was my last time within the program to meet with the seventh grader and my last time permanently with the eighth grader—the PASS program is not in place in the high school where this student will attend.

As I walked to the parking lot feeling kind of blue, I thought “did I really make any kind of a difference in this student’s life?”

Between this student’s absences and my late start, we only met five or six times—a total of maybe four hours—240 minutes—14,400 seconds in a lifetime full of disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment.

What difference could I have possibly made?

Little did I know that God would answer that question at church on Sunday . . .

“There are going to be times when we don’t know if we are making a difference.”

. . . said my pastor in his message. He was preaching on 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, particularly verse 58, “So, my dear brothers, stand firm and immovable, always doing the Lord’s work as vigorously as you can, knowing that united with the Lord your efforts are not in vain.”

A friend recommended the book It’s Not Supposed to be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst to me and the following quote seems to get at the heart of what Paul is saying to the Corinthians and what my Pastor was saying on Sunday. “Understand that no time showing up and bringing compassion to another human is ever a waste of time. Rather, it’s our chance to bring context, purpose, and meaning to all of life.”

That’s it, isn’t it? The meaning, the difference we make in another’s life, is in the here and now trusting God with the outcome. “For we live by trust, not by what we see,” 2 Corinthians 5:7 because what we “see is temporary and what is unseen is eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:18.

“I have done what was mine to do; now you go and do what is yours to do.”
St. Francis of Assisi

Trust, go, do!