Category Archives: life basics

Coffee Wars

It does not insist on its own way. I Corinthians 13:5, NRSV

[For the full text, click I Corinthians 13 above.]

The coffee pot was moved back to the corner, and thus began the battle…

The church kitchen had been a disorganized mess for years, so the youth group took it on as a way to contribute to the life of the community. Cupboards that hadn’t been opened in years, much less emptied, were given a thorough scrubbing; what was broken or dangerous was removed; what was left was cleaned, organized, and labeled. The walls were degreased and repainted. It took hours, but the transformation was spectacular.

One of the best things: the coffee station had been relocated to a space near the service window. Everything was within easy reach, and it made coffee hour so much easier for hosts and guest alike. The youth group did the honors that first Sunday after the reorganization, hosting the coffee hour and revealing the new kitchen.

The grumbling started within hours. How could the teens change the kitchen without asking (they had permission from the church leaders)? How could they toss things out without permission (only broken and expired things were thrown away)? What right did they have to change anything?

The next Sunday, the coffee pots and machine had been moved back to the corner by persons unknown, recreating the old set-up. The youth, assuming someone didn’t know about the new place, moved it again. The next Sunday, it happened again. And again. And again. Finally, the youth gave up. Their hard work and best intentions had run into a communal unwillingness to change. The coffee making status quo was restored, but the damage was significant: the youth no longer believed that their efforts or their presence were welcome.

I doubt the adults who moved the coffee pots were intentionally causing damage to the teens of the church. I’m almost positive that there wasn’t a conspiracy intent on rejecting and dismantling the gift of time and effort given by the youth. This was just a typical knee-jerk reaction, a reclaiming of turf, an exercise of power. I wish the adults had asked themselves this question:

What is more important: keeping things the way I want them or honoring the gift offered by others?

The true and most disturbing question: what would have been their answer?

The Examened Life

It’s November. The days are getting shorter, and the separation between Halloween and Christmas seems to shrink a little bit more every year. I don’t want to lose this month of harvest and giving thanks.

Last year, I wrote a pandemic curriculum for Thanksgiving based on the Daily Examen of Saint Ignatius. In a time when many activities were out of the question, and many people were questioning their life patterns, it seemed like a good idea. I put it in the form of three questions:

What was good? What was hard? Where did you see God?

Families were encouraged to take some time each day to answer them together, and were given paper of various shapes to write their answers down. It was my way of offering a specific spiritual practice for God’s beloved children of all ages.

This year, even with the restoration of some of our pre-pandemic patterns, I’m returning to the three questions of the Examen for the Thanksgiving curriculum. What was good this day/week/month/season? What was hard? Where did you see God? I hope you will join me, adding your own answers and spending time with the creator who loves you beyond measure.

Click here to add your thoughts on these three questions;

https://padlet.com/ccpsundayschool/1cb2vk2xkdnyrxeh

It’s Not Just About Me

…the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever;

the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;

[Psalm 19:9-10a, NRSV. For the complete psalm, click psalm 19 above.]

 

English doesn’t quite get the point across. This isn’t fear in the sense of afraid-for-my-life/scared-to-death; this fear of the Lord is the quickening of the pulse, the scared-to-life sense when holiness shows up. This isn’t fear that harm will come, but keen awareness of the difference between creature and Creator.

This awareness of my own limitations, this encounter with the love that created all that is, this is what I should desire more than gold. My finitude in the presence of the loving Infinite doesn’t diminish me: it just gives me the slightest glimpse of God’s sacred love of everyone and everything else.

It’s a wonderful and humbling gift of truth: I am God’s beloved, and I walk a world full of other beloveds.

 

Each and Every One of Us

You weren’t put on this earth to be miserable.

It’s something my grandmother used to say, a truth that’s been handed down three generations and beyond. Life isn’t easy, but it isn’t meant to be awful. Difficulties are a given, and times of trouble and sadness are just part of life’s fabric; so is fun, joy, and satisfaction. Work finds its counterpart in play, tears in laughter, boredom in fascination.

This old world holds so much, as does the world within. You aren’t made for unending misery: you are made for joy. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

It is there for each and every one of us.

Deep Inside My Bones

“I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts,

and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’

for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

Hebrews 8:10b-11, NRSV

Are you enough? Are you loved, and lovable? Do you know, REALLY know, that God delights in you?

YES is the true answer: you are enough, you are loved and lovable, and you are a delight to God. Know this, accept this, inscribe this in your head and on your heart. This is the law of love that guides life and gives us all we need to embody love in our outer actions and inner thoughts. We won’t do it perfectly, and we might not always do it happily, but we can and will do it. And that, my friend, is reason enough to rejoice.

Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

[The Deer’s Cry]

Pass It On

May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

 

Everyone is born with unique gifts and deserving of deep love. Everyone has something to offer their small part of the world that no one else can, bringing new realities into being. But it takes encouragement and courage to offer your gifts to the world. Often, they seem so small, so limited.

That’s where the second part of this benediction comes in…

Pass on the love that has been given to you. If you haven’t been loved as deeply and broadly as you deserve (and you do deserve such love!), let God’s infinite love fill your heart and pass that on. Gifts alone aren’t enough; gifts offered in love are. 

It’s one of the great mysteries of life, and one of the most obvious. It’s amazing how easy it is to overlook.

In My Ever-Living Soul

[Christ Church Parish, Plymouth, Massachusetts]

It blends in with the rest of the windows in the chapel – blue in tint, full of small symbols, rarely noticed by anyone but the people who sit below it during Sunday worship.

It’s breathtaking to me, this small bird. Surrounded by the virtues, the gospel writers’ symbols, and so many flowers, it’s a visually quiet pane. Peaceful.

Whoever crafted it, I owe you a debt. To see a bird perched on a branch is such a common thing – a glance out a window is likely to offer just this sight. I think that’s why you included this bird. To remind me that God is ever-present, a common element in my life.

But it’s when I remember that God is just as surely perched in my soul that I can trust that ever-living is an adjective that applies to it.

Contemporary Announcement (1983)

Contemporary Announcement 

Ring the big bells,

cook the cow, 

put on your silver locket.

The landlord is knocking on the door

and I’ve got the rent in my pocket.

Douse the lights,

Hold your breath,

take my heart in your hand.

I lost my job two weeks ago

and rent day’s here again.

[Maya Angelou, Contemporary Announcement; Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?; New York: Random House, 1983]

That wonderful feeling when there’s enough money to cover the basics: food, clothing, shelter. The dread and shame when there’s not enough money to cover the basics: food clothing, shelter. In just two paragraphs and a word short of a full deck’s count, Maya Angelou puts us in that rented apartment.

These words are being lived out by millions today, thirty plus years after Angelou published them. Will we ever learn that poverty is not a moral shortcoming or a character flaw?

Jesus, Saint Francis, and Gandhi all figured that out. I have hope the rest of us can, too.

 

The Pasture – An Invitation

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;

I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away

(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):

I shan’t be gone long. – You come  too.

I’m going out to fetch the little calf

That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,

It totters when she licks it with her tongue.

I shan’t be gone long. – You come too.

[Robert Frost, The Pasture, Anthology of Robert Frost’s Poems; New York: Washington Square Press, 1971, p. 15. It’s the first poem in many Frost collections – his invitation to his readers to join him in seeing the wonder that waits just outside the door. Or inside it, for that matter. ]

This isn’t an invitation to a party or a once-in-a-great-while gathering. This is an invitation to come along on the mundane traipsings of daily life, and to help out with the day’s work – lending a hand, or at least providing good company.

Only a select few are asked to come along for these little trips that will add up to a lifetime.

Treasure such invitations, and for God’s sake as well as your own, grab your jacket and go.

Morning Prayer

In particular I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating, and sleep, which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right.

[A Morning Resolve, Forward Day By Day, inside cover, Forward Movement, Cincinnati, Ohio; www.ForwardMovement.org]

As I write, my local Shaw’s is out of toilet paper, chicken, diaper wipes, and sanitizing cleaners. Fear has caused a number of my neighbors to buy enough staples to last half a year or longer, leaving the neighbors who cannot afford to stockpile such things in immediate need. The problem isn’t the one or two people who take so much more than they need, it’s the ones who see them doing it and follow suit. Fear is catching.

But how should we live our faith in our shopping? None of us wants to be left without, having to depend on others for daily needs, and none of us really wants to live at the expense of those around us. Since we don’t know what the immediate future brings, it’s difficult to make faithful decisions: what if we make the wrong choice?

It’s been my habit for several years to recite a prayer when I awake, before I get out of bed and begin the day’s work: Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. In all things, help me to rely upon thy holy will. In every hour of the day, reveal thy will to me.

It goes on, but the rest is really a riff on these first three sentences. It transforms my day from a series of tasks and encounters to the grace of God’s daily gift of life. Peace as the basis, not anxiety, panic, or ambition. Reliance on God’s abundant love for all, not on my own self-centered plans; awareness that I can’t comprehend God’s perspective, and that I must continually pray for guidance throughout the day.

I make mistakes, and I come up short. I act without kindness, and I forget my neighbor. But in times like these, it’s only by beginning the day in God’s peace that I have any chance of holding the needs of my neighbor in my heart along with my own. God, give me the strength and wisdom to begin and end in prayer – especially now, when it’s difficult. Amen.

[Mr.Mister, Kyrie, Welcome to the Real World, RCA records, Recorded October, 1984-April 1985, released November 27, 1985. Purchased from iTunes]