Journey

This is about my spiritual journey and trying to find what God is calling me to next.

Tenebrae

Stay here, remain here with me, watch and pray.

That feeling when… your coworker comes to talk about a project that she is working with on and you can see that she is struggling with something much greater and you ask her what is going on and she talks about an eighteen month old cousin that unexpectedly stopped breathing. That feeling when… you get a message from your coworker the moment you sit down to your computer asking if she can come over to talk about the project and you know it isn’t about the project, but the cousin has died.

Stay here, remain here with me, watch and pray.

That feeling when… you read the stories in social media about the old Asian doctor, trying to get home and the airline, trying to get seats for its employees, calls in the police to remove the man who does not want to give up his seat. You see his bloodied face on video after video. You read the statement from the CEO about the customer being re-accommodated. It is Holy Week, and you think of the re-accommodation of Christ.

Stay here, remain here with me, watch and pray.

That feeling when… you hear of another shooting in another school, when you hear of a history of domestic violence and weapons violations, and you hear that the eight year old child who got caught in the gun fire, died.

Stay here, remain here with me, watch and pray.

That feeling during Passover when… the White House Press Secretary, trying to defend the missile attacks against Syria, compares the leader of Syria to Hitler saying that even Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons against his own people, and when asked to clarify the remarks talks about “holocaust centers”.

I hold all these things in my heart as I walk to the community room in the health center. In a few minutes, I will be the Easter Bunny for many kids coming to our spring celebration. I look at the traffic outside and am told that someone jumped off the Arrigoni Bridge.

I need to bring a little Easter joy to the children of the community, but I still feel mired in the anticipatory grief of Holy Week.

Stay here, remain here with me, watch and pray.

There are many reactions that small children have on seeing the Easter bunny. I hold out my arms, and some rush to me. Other’s hide behind their parents. Here is a symbol of joy, of happiness, of something too good to be true, and we are distrustful. We know that something that seems too good to be true probably isn’t really good or true. We hold back. I wonder how much we do that in our personal lives, our emotional lives, our spiritual lives, perhaps even as we approach the Eucharist.

What is it that we are really looking for? To be loved. To be told, it’s okay. It will be okay. To be allowed to be scared, hurt, frightened, or sad, and yet still loved. We long to have our creation in the image of God acknowledged, and not become just another number, another consumer, another entity from which others try to extract wealth. We long to hear truth, but that is not the way of the world.

Instead, we are objects, to be re-accommodated for other’s profits. Even if we offer to serve, our institutions seek to turn our offer into a transaction. So after all the bad news. After holding this while sharing joy with little children, I head off to church, sit quietly, and pray.

Stay here, remain here with me, watch and pray.

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Ouch: Further Reflection on Daring to Become Dependent

The past couple of weeks have been very busy for me. It seems like just about every evening there are two or three events that I should attend, usually at the same time. So, I’ve not been going to a lot of things I would have liked to go to. It seems like this is going to continue for at least a couple more weeks.

It has significantly impacted my writing. Some of the events I’ve missed have been writing events, and when I get home, I don’t have the energy to write, especially not the energy to try and write a poem a day, which had been my goal for Lent, and then for Poetry Month.

This evening, I have only one event scheduled, but I expect it to be exhausting.

This morning, a friend posted a daily reflection online that particularly jumped out at me.

Daring to Become Dependent
April 4

When someone gives us a watch but we never wear it, the watch is not really received. When someone offers us an idea but we do not respond to it, that idea is not truly received. When someone introduces us to a friend but we ignore him or her, that friend does not feel well received.

Receiving is an art. It means allowing the other to become part of our lives. It means daring to become dependent on the other. It asks for the inner freedom to say: "Without you I wouldn't be who I am." Receiving with the heart is therefore a gesture of humility and love. So many people have been deeply hurt because their gifts were not well received. Let us be good receivers.

Henri Nouwen

For further reflection...

Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." - John 4: 6 - 10 (NIV)

Your response...

How can you practice the art of receiving today?

At various church events, we often talk about the Guidelines for Mutuality. One of the guidelines is about practicing self-focus.

When we are practicing self-focus and noticing a feeling of fear, anger, or loss, we might want to literally say “ouch” to alert the group to the impact that some words or actions are having on us.

This came to mind as I read the daily reflection. “Ouch”. Most of the people in my family are much better at showing appreciation when they receive a gift. I’m not as good at it as they are. Yet our house is filled with gifts I’ve given and received that have remained unused.

I think of this also in terms of the gifts God gives us. Do we use those gifts? Do we offer ourselves with these gifts as gifts to others? How are our gifts to our communities received?

I think of that as I pray about my meeting at the end of the day, and all I can say is “ouch.”

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Fear of Becoming

I am afraid
of stepping outside
of my comfort zone

I am afraid
of entering
the unknown quadrant
of the Johari window.

I am afraid
of confronting
my unconscious
incompetencies.

I am afraid
of being ashamed
of what I discover
and what I reveal.

I am afraid
of delving deeper
into the unknown
and becoming
unknowable.

Yet this is where
the magic happens
This is where
we become like
the incomprehensible
divine
mystery.

Confessions of a Muslim Episcopalian

In the aftermath of the Trump election, friends of mine were posting online that if a Muslim registry gets set up, they would register as Muslims. Others questioned whether this was a meaningful gesture. Would such registrations be compared against who actually goes to mosque or even has Muslim friends? Instead, they suggested, attend a mosque or at least an inter-faith event. Get to know some Muslims.

With this in mind, together with my own journey of trying to figure out what God wants of me, when a friend of mine who is a Muslim chaplain invited me to the Seventh Annual Shura and In-Service Training for Chaplains and Imams and Other Service Providers to the Muslim Community sponsored by the Association of Muslim Chaplains, I decided to attend the event.

I am not an Imam nor a chaplain, but I am exploring if chaplaincy might be part of my journey. Likewise, I don’t currently provide services to the Muslim community, but that may also be part of my journey.

As I headed to the event, I wondered how I would be received. What it would be like, for me, a white Christian male to attend a Muslim event which would also probably have more people of color than white people?

One of the first breakout session I attended was about Building Diverse Allies in Post-Presidential Election America. It was a great session. One of the things that was talked about was cultural appropriation. Being mindful of this, I am seeking respectful and considerate ways of joining with the struggle of Muslims in describing myself as a Muslim Episcopalian.

Muslim means, one who submits to God. We might use the Arabic word for God, Allah. We might speak of God in terms of the Abrahamic traditions, the God of Abraham. We might speak of God as Creator. While I might have some minor differences in my understanding of who God compared to my Muslim or Jewish brothers and sisters, I do believe we are all worshiping the same God, and that if we take our faith seriously, we are all called to submit to the same God. Likewise, there are probably minor differences in understanding and practices of how we submit to God.

While those who are afraid of Muslims might say, but that’s not what we mean, and talk about Muslims from other countries that might threaten us, I would suggest that this real meaning of Muslim is, in fact, much more threatening to the powers of the world. In submitting to God, we are recognizing a power that is greater than the presidency, than nations, than even consumer product brands. The power of God is frightening to the powers of this world.

So, as I seek to submit to God within the traditions and understandings of the Episcopal Church, I feel it is appropriate to call myself a Muslim Episcopalian. I feel it is appropriate to learn from my brothers and sisters in the Islamic tradition of submitting to Allah. I feel it is appropriate to acknowledge those things that we have in common and celebrate our differences instead of letting those differences separate us or create fear.

There is a lot more to say about the conference, and I hope I’ll have energy to write more later. Until then, I invite my Christian friends to consider in what ways they are, or should be Muslim.

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Contemplative Snow Shoveling

It is still dark when I rise,
a late winter storm
having dropped
a heavy blanket
of snow
on the driveway.

I normally spend this hour
in contemplation and study
but I know
it will take me
much longer
to clear
the driveway.

The waning gibbous moon
hangs low in the western sky
flanked by two bright stars,
or perhaps
more likely,
by the planets
Venus
and Saturn.

I lean on my shovel,
relax;
I can feel each muscle
in my body.

Deep breaths.
What is your body telling you?
I feel my heart pounding
within my chest.
It is telling me
to go slowly
to pace myself;
wise advice
for both
the shoveling
and life.

The scape of my shovel
and the scrape
of a distant plow
are joined
by the wind chime
swaying
in the post storm
breeze.

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