Thursday, March 30, 2006

Four Wounds

I was reading Henri Nouwen's "Can you drink the cup?"

Nouwen wrote as he was working with mental disabled folks in L'arche Daybreak community, he could see the sorrow in their lives and ultimately it lead him to deal with his own sorrow.
He laid out four of his sorrows.
  • The unfulfilled desire of an adolescent to be loved.
  • The need for affirmation as young adult
  • The haunting sense that life is not being fulfilled
  • The sense of grief over the loss of parents

As he laid out his own sorrows and wounds upon the soul, I began wondering if those are not most people's sorrows. Are they that universal? Then I began thinking that Nouwen struggled with these. In the world spirituality, he was the king, but he had these deep wounds. I have been reflecting upon these wounds and I am beginning to realize that these might be all of our wounds, including me.

I recall the stories of people who I loved and served, sitting in living rooms or across dinner tables. Listening to the stories and when we have got close the sorrow is poured out. I can recall a friend who had much wealth but lost it when her husband mismanaged the finances, her in-laws despised her and she as a young adult lacked affirmation she needed.

I hear stories of adults who are 20, 30, or 40 years away from being in their parent's home. They can still recall moments when parents failed to show love and affection. Those moments still shape them.

The fear and loss of parents. I hear stories of middle aged folks coming to terms with what the loss of a parent means. It means that they are now the elder's of the family and they have also lost the parent who brought them to life.

Lack of meaning in life. I recall 102 year old Kathryn who wondered why God put her on earth and if she was of any use. I listen to my friend who wonders if his job is what he is called to do.

Within all of these, I am beginning to hear my own stories.

Playing football not because I really wanted to, but because I wanted the affirmation that a letter jacket brought.

As a young adult fresh to the ministry wanting to be respected for being creative, clever, and thoughtful. How long would it be before folks came to me seeking advice?

Moments when I rush from appointment to another wandering if what I am doing as a minsiter is making a difference. Will my denomination still be here when I end my ministry? Is my work damaging my family?

As I watch my grandparents die and my in-laws and parents age, I have a sense of sadness. I ponder what my role will be.

As Nouwen asked, "Can you drink of this cup?" I don't know if I can, but the taste of sorrow is sometimes upon my lips. But, I remember that there is no Jerusalem without a Babylon. There is no return without exile. There is no resurrection without death. There is no redemption without my sin. So, I drink the cup, not because I am able...I drink because I desire to taste the goodness of God, there in our sorrow is God's goodness?

Where are the places of your sorrow?

But, I have faith in Jesus that these deep wounds in my soul, the sorrow filling my cup is not the whole story. I realize that I have today and that if I let go of the pain and embrace the moment, I am free from it in only as much as I am willing to let it go.

Are you willing to be free from the past by embracing the present?


Monday, March 27, 2006

Flower planting

Yesterday went to the nursery to get flowers. Begonias, Thrift, and other stuff. My dad, my son and I planted flowers.

We replanted a couple of bushes. Last year or two years ago, I planted these tall Indian Hawthorne bushes, poor man azaelas I call them, and they covered up the Chrysatemum and the lower Indian Hawthorne bushes. So, my dad, my son, and I dug them up and replanted them in the back of the flowerbeds.

I grew up in West Texas and flowers were not a part of life. I remember as a kid that my aunt asked me to weed her flowerbeds and I pulled up all her Marigolds because they stunk. "Flowers are supposed to smell good, so these must be weeds,"I told her. She shook her head went back inside to smoke a cigarette as she realized that having me weed her lawns was costly.

So, in Kansas City I began to find the joy of flowers. There were trees that budded and bloomed. There were tulips and Irises. It was a beautiful place in spring and I got caught up in it. It was a cool part of spring, because on that first warm week many on our block were cleaning out flowerbeds to plant. It was a community thing.

Then we moved to Texas and had to learn a whole new climate. Now, we moved from annuals to perennials. We have more shrubs and other plants that will hopefully bloom and flower.

I don't know why I enjoy this work, because it is not in my upraising. But, I find delight in watching things grow. It is way to view creation and to delight in the creator's handiwork. It is play, tools, dirt, and worms.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Nouwen's words

Henri Nouwen as the story goes, was asked by newly elected President Bill Clinton to be his spiritual advisor. Nouwen sent a message back to Clinton. "Thank you, but I have more important work to do hear at L'Arche Community." L'Arche was a community for mentally and physically handicapped folks where Nouwen served Jesus Christ.

Nouwen made an astute observation in his book, "Can you drink of the cup?" He says, the cup is our lives. My life is unique and it is different from every person in the world. My cup is filled with my own history, my own strengths, my own family, my own weaknesses. Nobody else can hold my cup, but me. However, in my life, I often find myself trying to add to my cup something that is not mine. I try to mix the drink of life in my cup with somebody elses.

I compare my cup to other folks' cups, but fail to realize that my cup is sufficient for me. When I do that, most of the consequences lead to unhappiness, failure, and chaos. I do not know how to be Joel Osteen, my buddy Wade, or even my Dad. I can only be myself. That is alright, because when I hold onto the cup that God has poured out for me, my life will be totally filled. I believe that, because the One, Jesus, that I follow has never left me thirsty and unfilled ever in my life. I just need to pick up my cup and hold it. Not compare it to yours, but hold and behold it for what it is, special.

Do you know how rich the cup that Jesus has given you is?
Are you willing to hold onto that cup, the life that God has provided?
Can you teach others how?

What is your experience with the cup?


Monday, March 20, 2006

Rite of Spring

Today, the day of equinox, equilibrium on a global scale. In our house, we are not pagans, so no dancing around in clover and lilacs. So, what is our ritual. It is put the Equinox Egg upright. I know like most rituals it can be done at any time, I am told. However, please don't bother this family ritual with a fact like that. Today, I remembered at dinner and told my son that I would stand the egg upright. He being a six year old, notice the lack of a teethy smile, was quick to tell me I could not do it. So, I finished up the tasty spaghetti and meatballs. Then I quickly worked with precision and a light touch to put the egg upright. We did it, and one day maybe my son will stand at the counter and patiently set the egg upright.

So, this is our rite of spring and we do it...because it is a moment to sense the wonder and amazement of seasons and the miraculous rotation of the earth. It is a reminder that God our creator is faithful. It happens two times a year on the same days. It never deviates. That is a profound miracle.


Notepad archaeology

While in college, I took a class in archaeology...I got my only D in my college career in that class for several reasons. The professor provided no syllabi for the class and was himself a relic, and perhaps I have not let go of that resentment older than a decade. Alright.

However, in the midst of that class one thing we learned was that the archaeologist usually can tell that the older material is usually deeper in the earth while the more recent materials are found closer to the surface. I use this method is finding stuff in my office. THere usually is a pile of stuff that accumulates in my office and I can tell what is older usually a magazine or an envelope will reveal a general date of the pile. This past week, I found, uh discovered, a notepad that I had written.

What I gather from this prayer is that this a prayer that I used before a dinner for runners who had just run marathons, half marathons, 10K and 5K races.

Our God is the god of the Long Run
God does not sprint.
Abraham set off from Ur on a late long journey of hope
Moses set off from Egypt on a late, long journy of deliverance
Peter dropped nets to follow on a long journey of faith
God does not sprint
God is faithful forever
God suffers blisters, thirsts with us
God travels morning trails and silent streets
God greets the evening as the city moves from frenetic day to a sigh of evening
God travels with us, so we are not alone.
God travels in morning gatherings
where the chorus is sung in hundreds of feet
laying out a rhythm that cheers the dawn
God travels in races cheering the elites and the one's who lead the push of the sag wagon
God has compassion on the Did Not Finish and the Did Not Start
Slowly we run, our bodies change through effort, faith, hope, and mighty grace.
We thank you God for waking with us, running with us, and celebrating with us.
Makes sense to a runner, others may not get it. That is the nature of archaeology, not every find is great.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A failed attempt at a Sunday excursion

Today was the White Rock Relays.
It was a 5 person 21 mile relay. I signed up with a team ROAD KILL 3 and got one of my buddies to join with me. I told the team coordinator, "Put me in the first leg or I can't do it."

This weekend, the city flooded. The race is run around White Rock lake in Dallas. In fact, one part of the course was covered in water 18 inches deep. It was insane. I arrived at 6:30 AM for the 8:00 AM start. There had to be coordinating to make this happen. The race director delayed the start by 30 minutes and having been at races with delayed starts, I knew that 30 minutes could be 45 minutes to an hour. So, I told folks, "I am out. I have to go to work."

Man, I was really depressed, because it would have been a helluva experience. They called the race after one lap around the lake 10.5 miles, because someone got injured. That was wise and wiser would have been to cancel the event. One of the guys one the team, said he ran in waste deep water along one of the trails.

For me, it was a moment to straddle that line between the sacred and profane. To hang out with folks who would rather run on a Sunday morning rather than be in church. These would be folks who would be unchurched. I live in a bubble where i really don't know what happens on Sunday morning outside of Western Heights CC. What happens at 11:00 AM in Dallas outside of my church? This was my opportunity to glimpse into it, and to glimpse into the heart of folks who I care about. Well, I had to bail and felt like a schmuck doing it. However, I needed to get to church and get my life in order. I did learn that people will drink beer on Sunday morning...which made me wonder where Christ would be?


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Doing good things

I recall as I finished up the week heading into the NYC marathon. I had eaten well. Drank a gallon of water each day, cut out the Diet Coke. Sweet Potatoes for meals, whole wheat pasta. I felt great. I had done my runs and I felt good. I wondered, "Why don't I do this all time?"

I think it is ease factor. It takes a little time to get all that good stuff. The bad stuff is easier at hand in my house. My wife and son are not with me on eating the good stuff. They have not adapted the mantra, "Food is Fuel." Eat to fuel the body, only.

Two weeks ago, I ran 12 miles and felt great. However, I forget that feeling many times and am not motivated to get up and run in the morning.

I see parallels in the body and the spiritual life. I feel better when I pray. I feel better when I read scripture. I feel better when I reach out. However, I forget how good that feels when I do those things.

May I get a better memory and better motivation to tend to my spirit and body.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Why I pray

To be honest folks, for me prayer is important. However, the job of a minister demands prayer but many times conflicts against prayer. Ministry needs results and many times the tail wags the dog with the spiritual life. As I stated before, I began reading the autobiographies of the saints and realized that many of these folk were really no different than you or I. They had better PR directors.

So, I am working through a dry spell and in a couple of weeks will find some time to take a few days out of the office to pray. Next week is spring break and I am going to take a day off with my son and will use a relaxed schedule to my benefit.

But let me share a story. I have had problems sitting down and planning my lenten sermon series. I had an idea, but I had not honed it out on paper. Today, I came into the office with an intention to pray about the church and my ministry. I finally said, "God, I am anxious about some things, but I am going to give you control over them. I am going to do what I feel is the right thing, but the results are yours." I control what I can control, a good reminder for control freaks.

So, where blank paper and scriptures were not coming to put together a sermon series...they popped out today. Boom, boom, boom. Is this a miracle, no. Does it solve world peace or stop the killing in Iraq. No. But it is a reminder that with our minds and spirits that less is many times more. May you find at ease in the hand of God, today.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Too much Lent

Today begins the season of Lent. It is the 40 days, minus Sundays, preceding Easter.
I have come to this season with a different approach.
Lent can be such a downer, I know I am broken, sinful, dispicable, less than useful Christian, filled with hypocrisy, focused upon perfection instead of grace, I eat too much which brings me into gluttony, selfish. I know all of this and I am self aware of my own limitations. Even though I feel at times a god unto myself...I know that it fails.

However, there is this promise. The promise is that God will use those things to bring about Kingdom of God. The very things, I hate God will use to bring about grace. Paul as they stoned Stephen hated Christians because they were less than pure in their practice and theology of Judaism...Jesus called Paul to be a minister to gentiles. Dirty, filthy gentiles who before he was on the road to Damascus would have never associated.

So, what will I do this lent? I think I will add some disciplines instead of trying to rid myself of my baggage. I am going to eat better this 40 days. 10 days before the NYC marathon, man i ate really well and I felt GREAT. I mean, I felt really good. So, why don't I eat well...SLOTH. However, I am going to do something that makes me feel great. Yes, that is narcissistic spirituality, but I think God wants good for me. The 7-11 Brownies, ohh so tasty, are not really the best thing for me three times a week. So, I will eat better. I will exercise more.

Spiritually, I am going to pray some more. One year, during Holy Week, I spent Monday and Tuesday in prayer. I said, "Its Holy Week, we eat bread, drink wine, kill Jesus, and then he is raised from the dead. Everybody knows the story and to prepare myself for telling the story, I don't need to fix bulletins, worship services, I need to pray and read that story more deeply." It was awesome, hung out at a monastery and it provided clarity.

So, be bold this Lent. Take a step back and do the courageous thing engage your faith and Jesus.