Meditations Category


Kindness Too

Kindness Too

A yellow light on my dashboard caught my attention; it was the flat tire indicator. I checked the air pressure in each tire and inflated all four to the appropriate psi. Even after driving around, the light remained on. I re-checked and the tires appeared to be maintaining their air pressure. I did consider putting a piece of duct tape over the indicator light, but thought better of it.

Instead, I took my truck to a locally owned automotive repair shop. The extraordinary kindness of the employees was immediately evident. Everyone went out of their way to be helpful; and I said as much to the clerk when I paid my bill.

She said “it all boils down to treating people the way you want to be treated.”

The apostle Paul lists kindness as one of the “fruit of the Spirit” to the church in Galatia.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self-control. Nothing in the Torah stands against such things. Galatians 5:22-23 Complete Jewish Bible

As I contemplated these attributes, I wondered if there is a reason for the sequence of the “fruit?” Is one trait more important than another? I found one article on-line to suggest that yes, from the beginning of the list to the end, one quality grows into the next. I’m not totally convinced that is true—they all seem equally important to me.

However, the longer I examined the list the more intrigued I became with how the attribute of kindness is smack dab in the middle of the nine. Moving forwards and backwards in the list, kindness is fifth—fifth from the beginning and fifth from the end—as if kindness is the pinnacle, the acme, the vertex of the fruit of the Spirit.

I even checked ten or so other translations to see if the arrangement changed in any way. Aside from a few paraphrased translations and the use of various synonyms in others, kindness remained rooted in the middle.

A little more research yielded the following information about the number five:

The number 5 symbolizes God’s grace, goodness and favor toward humans … Five is the number of Grace, and multiplied by itself, which is 25, is ‘grace upon grace’ (John 1:16) … The God’s law consists of five books, which are called Pentateuch. The New Testament Pentateuch consists of the 4 gospels and the book of Acts, which can be considered God’s grace and favor to the humankind. (biblestudy.org)

Ceramicist and author, Rupert Spira says “… I consider kindness one of the highest virtues … what we do to another, we literally do to ourselves …”

Kindness, it seems, is the beacon of hope; a light necessary to heal a year filled with the darkness of immeasurable and unrelenting grief and pain, seemingly insurmountable hatred and divisiveness, and incalculable suffering and need.

Kindness … let your light so shine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuGsv2Epquo&t=72s

Unity

Unity

The following is an excerpt from ushistory.org about the Pledge of Allegiance:

“The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931). It was originally published in The Youth’s Companion on September 8, 1892. Bellamy had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.

In its original form it read:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added. At this time, it read:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower (a Republican, by the way) encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Bellamy’s daughter objected to this alteration. Today it reads:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

What does this covenant mean to you? In light of the fact that Mr. Bellamy wrote it to “be used by citizens in any country,” shouldn’t there be a deeper more enlightened interpretation than simply devotion to one’s country?

There is a lot of talk about “unity” these days … unity and healing.

Both of these concepts appear to be the go-to sentiments since the 2020 election results were called for Mr. Biden by the Associated Press just a week ago. After a bit of research, I found the word ‘unity’ is a fairly common term in presidential inauguration, acceptance and concession speeches especially after particularly contentious campaigns and close election outcomes.

After all, we are the United States of America.

In light of the way so many people vehemently support the Pledge of Allegiance, how can those same folks say “America, love it or leave it?” Also, please note, right-wing Republicans and fundamental Evangelical Christians, that this oath that is at the very heart of your patriotic nationalism was written by a “socialist minister.” How is that for irony?

I have few enough friends on Facebook that it is very easy for me to tell when someone has unfriended me. As a result of my outspoken support of truth in the face of Mr. Trump’s lies and Mr. Biden’s win, I lost several of them in recent times. They felt, it seems, they could no longer associate with me due to, what appeared to them, as my supposed “hatred” of Mr. Trump.

And that’s just the thing …

I do not hate Mr. Trump. I do not hate anyone who supports him. To do so would be to believe they are not also children of God, and that is simply not true. Furthermore, in this very shared, interactive and interdependent world of ours, we cannot ever for very long disassociate from “our enemy” as some bloggers I have read suggest.

Jesus is adamant about how we are to respond to our enemy. Over and over again, His mandate is crystal clear in stories like the Good Samaritan and in the message of the Sermon on the Mount.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Matthew 5:44-47

If you do not believe him, perhaps the wisest king in Hebrew history can persuade you. Solomon said:

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on their heads, and the LORD will reward you. Proverbs 25: 21-22

To “heap coals of fire” on the heads of our enemies means to choose to act out of generous, selfless love rather than vengeance and retribution.

This is not easy! Just ask Malala Yousafzai or Corrie Ten Boom or Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi or Nelson Mandela or Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

As I write this, I am looking out my front window through my neighbor’s yard to a house on the next block that has a blue Trump banner flying on the front porch. I have never met the person(s) living in that home but I could certainly make assumptions about them.

What good would that do? The anger, frustration and, yes, hatred toward them that fills my heart as I look at that pennant only hurts me!

And just because I have not been formally introduced to them, does not mean that I have not stood in line with them at the grocery store, or sat beside them at the doctor’s office, or had some kind of interaction with them in the course of one of my days.

Whether we know who are enemy is or not, we are called to treat people the way we want to be treated.

Perhaps this the true spirit of awareness Mr. Bellamy was calling forth in all God’s children.

Love is who you are. When you don’t live according to love, you are outside of being. You’re not being real. When you love, you are acting according to your deepest being, your deepest truth. You are operating according to your dignity. —Richard Rohr

For further perspective on this topic, please visit: https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/14/europe/nazi-grandfather-store-scli-intl-grm/index.html

For more on the meaning of “heaping burning coals,” please visit the following site:
https://free.messianicbible.com/feature/time-heap-burning-coals-enemy-2/

Waiting

Waiting

I’m waiting.

Among the Oxford Language definitions for the word wait is: “used to indicate that one is eagerly impatient to do something or for something to happen.”

“Eagerly impatient.”

‘Eagerness’ and ‘impatient’ are not two words that I often associate with one another. For me the word eager implies happiness and joy, while the word impatient implies disgust, worry, and/or anxiety. Putting these words together seems like an oxymoron.

My father and I often joke about his helping me with my math homework as a child, particularly word problems. I just did not get it and he was not patient. We can kid about it now, but at that point in time, it was not funny. I think I can honestly say that my dad was not eagerly impatient, waiting for me to understand, he was pretty damn frustrated, as was I.

Depending upon on whom you are voting for, you may feel eagerly impatient.

I have often found myself caught feeling anxious, concerned, and frightened while I wait for November 4th to get here. Do Trump supporters who are afraid of the “radical left” feel those same emotions worrying about Biden winning? Is this why I see campaign signs on FB and in front yards that read “Jesus 2020?” I do not see this slogan on the FB pages or front yards of Democrats, that I know. Does that mean we do not love Jesus like Republicans do? Do Republicans somehow believe Jesus would support Trump or is that their way of saving face in light of voting for a tyrannical twit?

Are Trump supporters as worried as I am about the acrimonious and contentious nature of our divided nation? Do they believe that the feelings of hostility and hatred will just disappear should Trump be re-elected?

As a child, I waited with great anticipation for Christmas wondering what Santa would bring and place under the tree. In high school, I waited for my learners permit to arrive in the mail. When I was a young adult, I could not wait to leave the nest and once married, I could not wait to have children. When my teenage sons began driving themselves, I could not wait for them to come home safe and sound.

Waiting … waiting in long lines at amusement parks, the movie theatre or the grocery store, waiting at the airport for a loved one, waiting for election results, waiting for tests results, waiting to be healed, waiting to die, waiting to live, waiting for universal restoration.

Whether we like it or not, we are in a perpetual state of waiting.

This year in particular appears to be defined by eager or anxious impatience, depending on your perspective, as we wait for a safe and effective COVID vaccine. I personally am having a very difficult time waiting to hug my grandchildren and other beloveds.

What is your state of mind and heart as you wait?

Isaiah 40:31 says:

but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

In the Complete Jewish Bible translation, it reads:

but those who hope in ADONAI will renew their strength,
they will soar aloft as with eagles’ wings;
when they are running they won’t grow weary,
when they are walking they won’t get tired.

Waiting it seems is not a passive activity, but one filled with eager anticipation as the Oxford definition suggests, and one filled with hope.

Waiting with hope, how awesome is that!

It doesn’t mean we will not have doubts or questions. It doesn’t mean we will not act rashly. It doesn’t mean we will get what we want or think we should have. It does mean that we can trust in the One to whom we all belong.

My childhood pet was a dog named Dolly. She was my best friend and definitely a member of the family. When we came home from being out, she would be at the door waiting, dancing around with her tail wagging so hard it looked like it might fly off. This is what I imagine our hope looks like while we wait.

No matter who wins the election, there will still be beloveds sick and dying due to COVID and other diseases. There will still be people who are homeless and unemployed. Fires, hurricanes and earthquakes will continue to rage causing untold damage and destruction. Some things may change because one man is elected to office but it is not about that one man, it’s about us.

The question is not about how you will respond on November 4th, it is about how you are responding now. Do you know who your neighbor is now? What are you doing for your neighbor now?

Yes, we are waiting, but that waiting is being held in the hope of now.

The following quote from Mr. Rogers is our calling: be a helper, now.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Unfathomable

Unfathomable

The word du jour is unfathomable.

As defined by Oxford Languages, unfathomable means “incapable of being fully explored or understood; (of water or a natural feature) impossible to measure the extent of.”

“Impossible to measure the extent of” …

The number of dead due to COVID-19 is unfathomable, as is the number of those infected with the virus.  Those numbers do not include the innumerable grieving family members nor the completely exhausted front-line workers–utterly unfathomable.  Mr. Trump’s stupidity, sheer volume of lies, and depths of degrading debauchery is unfathomable, as is the fact that there are still individuals willing to vote for him.

Is the election only two weeks away? This also seems unfathomable considering it was just eight months ago that this pandemic began and four years ago that he was first elected.

I was still teaching at the time and I distinctly remember sitting in a curriculum meeting with my fellow Social Studies teachers commiserating over the election results—the majority of us having voted for Mrs. Clinton. In her shock, a colleague noticed how calm I was and asked how I could be so “Zen.” Naively, I said, “we made it through eight years of Bush.” In retrospect, my lack of awareness and understanding of the consequences of what had just occurred is unfathomable.

I could not then fully imagine the extent of the complete desecration and destruction the US and the world would endure in every respect —globally to individually, microscopically to cosmically, in all conceivable ways–under Mr. Trump’s presidency. Our circumstances appear unrecoverable.

Yet …

I went outside very early this morning hoping to catch a glimpse of the Orionid meteor shower. As I watched the sky turn from deep shades of royal blue to aqua to turquoise, I noticed the darkened silhouette of a bird on the ridge of my neighbor’s roof. He was majestically facing east, honoring the sunrise. Then in one swift moment, he elegantly and decisively dove off the roof like a breathtaking cliff diver and flew out of sight.

I was undone by the unfathomable beauty of creation and wept from complete joy.

In his Good News narrative, Luke writes about the encounter between Mary and the angel Gabriel, where He explains to her that she will be supernaturally impregnated with a son and that her relative, Elizabeth, is also pregnant. Elizabeth is described as an “old woman” who appears to be reproductively challenged and well beyond normative child bearing years. After telling Mary this, Gabriel’s last statement is, “For with God, nothing is impossible.” Luke 1:37

Nothing is impossible because I Am is … unfathomable.

The following poem seems to sum up what I am trying to express today.

Before being born into the world of time,
The silence of pre-existence was all absorbing.
The transition from eternity to time
Is full of sufferings, fears, and little deaths.
But, in the transition from death
To eternal life,
The silence of pre-existence
Bursts into boundless joy.
All that can be manifested emerges
From the endless creativity of
That Which Is.
But
The Secret Embrace
Of
The Source of all creation
With
Infinite Transcendence
Can
Never be revealed.

—Thomas Keating, “The Secret Embrace”

Dancing Butterfly

Dancing Butterfly

Have you ever watched a butterfly dance?

A friend brought me a beautiful bouquet of Mexican Sunflowers and sat them on the ground near us as we began a socially distanced, outdoor chat. I had just received word about the death of dearly loved friend and was a weepy, snotty mess.

Ingrid tenderly listened while I told her all about my experiences with Cheryl’s bright and joyful energy, generous and loving heart, and selfless spirit.

In the midst of our conversation, a lovely Monarch butterfly lightly wafted through our air space and gently landed on the deep orange-hued blossoms. We were both immediately awe-struck by this sacred moment. Our delicately winged visitor was in no hurry to leave and she lingered with us in reverential silence for at least 20 minutes, gently and slowly flapping her ornamental wings.

I steadily became aware of Ingrid softly praying. When she finished, our lovely guest gleefully flitted and fluttered; playfully bobbing up and down, weaving back and forth, and looping side to side. After her holy dance, she landed daintily and dawdled a while longer. Shortly thereafter, without fanfare, she lifted skyward yawing as if to wave good-bye. We waved back thanking her for her visit.

After Ingrid left, the fullness of grief landed on me like a lead balloon immobilizing me. In a brief text exchange with my cousin, explaining I how I felt, he responded:

Even if you can find only a tiny space to do this in, ask yourself what are you believing…? Without any looking for an answer… Just the tiny space of the question…

No expectation… Nothing… Just be in that tiniest little space that is made apparent by such a simple question, a question you are inviting something else to answer, if it wishes, in its own time, or not…

You are in total not-knowing, just this question that comes and goes, leaving you in its spaciousness… Hang out there, let everything pass through you, all the feelings thoughts images memories and sensations…

So, I did and that is when I heard it, like a needle stuck in a scratch on a vinyl record, repeating the same line over and over again.

“I can’t believe she’s gone.”

Everybody acknowledges grief differently and there is no timeline for working through the heartache and pain. In the wake of deaths due to COVID, there could be, at a minimum,  anywhere from a half a million to a million or more beloveds experiencing the grief of losing a loved one—and that is just COVID deaths. That number does not include those mourning the total loss of their homes, belongings, and/or possibly business’s due to fire and flooding or other unforeseen circumstances. We are living through unprecedented times of affliction, suffering, and loss.

What is there to do? How do we move forward? Where do we go from here?

I followed my cousin’s advice and sat in the awareness of not-knowing, letting the question “what am I believing” come and go in the spaciousness, allowing all the feelings, memories and sensations to pass through. Eventually, the needle moved and fluid freedom returned.

About grief, the mystic poet Rumi says:

I saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out, “It tastes sweet, does it not?” “You’ve caught me,” grief answered “and you’ve ruined my business. How can I sell sorrow when you know it’s a blessing?”

Maybe this is what David was saying in Psalm 30 verse five, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Situations and circumstances do not necessarily change for the better overnight, but maybe you will experience a dancing butterfly while you wait.

Squirrelly

Squirrelly

The desk where I sit to read my Bible in the mornings is situated near a window that overlooks my backyard. Easily seen from this window is the birdfeeder built by my grandfather hanging from a black metal pole and the bird bath that once belonged to my grandmother.

I was reading from the Torah book of Leviticus when I became distracted by the antics of a squirrel at the hopper. As much as I tried to concentrate on God’s laws and festivals that Moses was describing, I just could not stay focused due to the hilarious activities outside my window.

Squirrels are amazing creatures. Because they can rotate their ankles 180 degrees, they can point their hind paws backwards which enables them to climb down trees head first. This ability also comes in handy for hanging off feeder ridges upside down while eating with their front paws, which is what my little friend was doing.

While the feeder gently swung back and forth ever so slightly, my furry suspended friend nibbled away. Something must have startled him because he did this monumental swirling acrobatic flip from the feeder into the nearby Crepe Myrtle bush. As I watched him fly and then tumble through the limbs of the bush, I was scared he would become impaled on one of the branches. Thankfully he landed safely and after a brief second to make sure the coast was clear, he excitedly scurried across the ground, easily scaling the thin iron pole to the nirvana-inducing smorgasbord.

I went back to reading about the year of Jubilee, the day of Atonement, and other sacred offerings when I was struck by God’s holiness. As I tried to reconcile the awe-rendering holiness of God in the Torah to the warmth and all-encompassing love of Jesus, the grayish-brown circus rodent continued his stunts.

He was once again draped topsy-turvy on the feeder when a huge Blue Jay swooped down like the Red Barron attacking Snoopy landing on the platform edge. This action immediately caused Squirrelly to frantically bail and retreat. I laughed out loud.

The juxtaposition of my trying to read what seems like a serious book in the Bible to the bushy-tailed escapades occurring outside my window appeared to mirror my inner musings of trying to resolve seemingly contrasting ideas about God.

Squirrelly was just too entertaining, so I closed my Bible and enjoyed the divine circus unfolding before my eyes. Several Cardinals came and went as well as my first ever sighting of a Carolina Chickadee. I was pleasantly surprised to see a remaining Robin mixing with the troop of Sparrows that socialize in the close-at-hand Spirea Bush. The Blue Jay had departed and Squirrelly, now earth bound, was feasting on the fallen seeds.

Have you ever noticed that squirrels look like they are praying when they eat? By using both their front paws to hold food to their mouth, they maintain a sacred posture of gratitude and peace.

I never did come to any mind bending conclusions about God and Her holiness.  What is there to reconcile when a praying squirrel inspires as much awe as any sacred writing? Sometimes you just have to stop and watch the squirrels.