Saturday, September 6, 2014

For You Whose Life Feels So Mundane

I'm thinking about you whose life feels so mundane, so daily. This is for you --and there are many of us--who feel so boringly ordinary and question if our everyday, unnoticed tasks have any meaning. A lot of us have difficulty seeing the sacred in the common moments of our day. It's easy to separate the physical from the spiritual. It's hard to see significance in what feels so menial. Whether you're wiping up the vomit of your child or you're working on an assembly line installing thingamajigs on whirlybobs or I'm rolling paint on a wall it can feel inconsequential and without purpose. 
Micha Boyet, in Found: A Story of Grace, Questions, and Everyday Prayer, describes a season of her life when she did not work outside the home and so was the primary caregiver of her children. She had become acquainted with some of the works of the early Benedictine monks and was reading The Benedictine Rule.
"In the thirty-first chapter of the rule, Saint Benedict states something so remarkable that I keep coming back to it each night as I stack bowls and dry plates. He says, 'All the utensils of the monastery and in fact everything that belongs to the monastery should be cared for as though they were the sacred vessels of the altar."
All the utensils.
I take the sponge and rinse it in the silver sink. Nothing in this skinny kitchen is all that special. And I've been living as if my tasks as a mom, those daily mundane tasks--the brushing of my son's teeth, the wiping of his bottom, the dressing of his body, the kissing of his scraped knees, the soothing of his wild terrors--as if they were nothing significant, as if they were simply normal, what every mother does.
I'm mesmerized by Saint Benedict's words, that the monks should care for every tool in the monastery, from the garden hoe to the kitchen cleaver, as if it were the very chalice of the Eucharist, the tool that brings the blood of Christ to the lips of believers.
I am undone..
I'm not sure why I've been waiting for this. I'm not sure why I needed someone to say it to me this way. But with Benedict's words, I feel my world has been reborn holy. Suddenly my life, all these small daily instruments I am packing in my home, and the very sippy cup I fill with milk and raise to my son's lips, is an instrument of worship.
How did I miss it before? How was I so sure that God did not value my unimpressive daily life?
I see my reflection in the dark night window. My short hair is bobby-pinned out of my face. My red sweatshirt hangs loose from my chest. And in the reflection of the glass pane, I see it.
I am a priest. I am a priest of the gospel, holding the chalice to the lips of my son. Carrying the plate of bread to the hungry. My life has value because God has touched every mundane moment with the glow of holiness. 
It matters. It all matters." 
Grace and peace to all my ordinary friends and may you find the sacred in the simple.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Reminder for My Conservative and Liberal Friends

If you are a political or religious conservative that does not mean that ipso facto you possess the truth (truth being defined as that which corresponds to reality). If you are a political or religious liberal/progressive, you don't either.
If you are a conservative you simply look for or at reality, that which is true, through a different lens than does the loathsome liberal.  If you are a liberal, you haven't reached a state of enlightenment, positioned far above the knuckle-dragging conservative.  You both are simply viewing something differently because you have chosen differing lenses through which to look at life, politics, and faith.  Even though you loudly insist otherwise, you really don't absolutely know that your lens is not distorted.  In fact, since it is a mere lens, distortion unavoidably comes with the glasses.  NO ONE sees or understand clearly and perfectly. But you talk as though you do see and know it all and you are becoming obnoxious and abrasive. Could you please exercise some humility when you make your pronouncements? 
BOTH lenses are distorted.  The conservative lens, just because it is conservative, does not see more light than the liberal lens.  The liberal lens, merely because it is liberal, does not therefore have a clearer glimpse of reality.  If you're a conservative it is a vantage point, a mere perspective from which you view life and faith. .Conservatism is not the truth; it is merely an angle , a vantage point from which you look at or for truth. Equally, liberalism is simply an angle, a "perch" from which you observe, as well.
Maybe this will help. There is a winding river, coursing through a deep canyon. Both canyon walls are covered with tall, dense brush, numerous trees and undergrowth.  A dense fog hovers over the river.  A conservative is perched up high on the right side (of course) of the canyon wall; a liberal (where else?) on the left.   Due to the terrain, the trees and undergrowth, and the fog neither the conservative nor the liberal can clearly see the river.  From their respective vantage points, they report, however, what they can ascertain about the river via sight and sound.  Their reports must be tentative, because their vantage points preclude absolute knowledge about the river.  In fact, there are days, due to the fog when they can't even see the river; they report only what they hear.
My conservative friend, you are looking at the river from a distance.  You are not in the river; you don't own the river.  So please quit acting as though you do.  
My liberal/progressive friend, you, too, view the river from an equal distance.  Neither of you are closer to the river than the other and therefore you cannot claim a clearer view.  So please quit parading your enlightenment.
Can you entertain the idea that your view does not constitute the river?  Your view of the river and the essence of the river are not one and the same.  Why do you pontificate as though they are?  
I ask you to exercise humility and whether a career conservative or a lifelong liberal can you treat the one with a different view in the same manner you treat your peeps who share your view?   
Your venom only further aligns those who already agree with you.  Your venom never--NEVER--convinces anyone who differs.  In fact, it further polarizes and alienates them from you.  And if that is all you are about--if that is how you roll--would you please secure your position on the canyon wall and engage in a silent retreat?
On the other hand, if you can engage in civil and respectful dialogue as you describe your view of the river, while simultaneously being willing to learn from the observer perched on the other side of the river as to what they are seeing, maybe our voices won't continue to drown out the roar of the river. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Can We Resist the Rant?

Facebook gets ugly.  Duh.
The Christian community on fb is often ugly.  Sadly, duh, as well.
Civil is apparently viewed as spineless, kind as weak. Being abrasive is justified as speaking the truth.  Being disrespectful is rationalized as "just being honest."
"I tell it like it is" has replaced "I tell it like I think it is."   Seldom, if ever, does a post begin with, "I could be wrong. . . "  Humility has been discarded; in-your-face hubris is now the norm.
There is seldom neither a desire or room for discussion.  People don't want dialogue; they want your agreement.  To disagree is to defy.  To have a dissenting opinion is regarded not as being different, but as being wrong.
This is my experience of far too many in the Christian community.  When it comes to expressing a loathing of someone or spewing toxic hatred often I hear little or no difference between the Christian-and-proud-of-it and the individual who professes no faith or spirituality.
How can this be?  Have we forgotten that it was not Jesus, but the Snake, who spewed venom?  And yet I see my brothers and sisters spewing their poison against the President, the gays, those liberals, illegal immigrants, Fox News, any immigrants, CNN, abortion, abortion advocates, conservatives, progressive pastor/teachers. . . the list is endless.  In seeking to make a righteous stand and uphold morality we need to very careful; it was Pascal who said, "In seeking to become angels we may become less than men."
Do we actually care about the person or group or church we are assaulting with our words?  If we voice our view of a sensitive issue do we care about how our words will impact those who disagree with us?  Or  am I only and all about giving voice to what I think, feel. believe and value-- and to hell with how it will affect you?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Grateful For the Interruption

Big Rule:  Don't  acknowledge me, mention the weather to me, bother me, interrupt, talk or breathe loudly when I'm reading.
This morning I was sitting in Mac's slathering down my breakfast, book-in-hand.  A heavy, dense book about the emotional sense that Christianity purportedly makes.  Head buried in my book, looking neither left nor right, hoping to avoid all other people. I'm sitting in my self-imposed isolation at a counter and an old man sits down two seats from me.   A major violation of my space-boundaries which demand the length of a football field in any direction.  I've noticed him there before.  Always carries a beat-up briefcase that appears to contain all his earthly records. I keep reading and out of my peripheral vision I can tell he keeps glancing at me and then returns to his own business.  I'm thinking, Oh crap; he's gonna say something.  I bury my head deeper into my book.  He leans toward me and says, "So.  You think you can learn more from reading that book than you can talkin' to somebody?"  Oh crap.  Busted.  I reply, sounding but not feeling congenial, "Oh, not all the time," and I put my book down.  I notice he's perusing a mag of some sort and i ask him what he's reading.  He tells me it's a book about how to read.  He's 80 y.o. and three years ago he started learning to read. I repeat--he's 80 y.o. and three years ago he started learning to read. He was born on a plantation in Mississippi and worked the fields, never going to school.  He eventually moved to Peoria and became a very good boxer.  And faked it all these years.  In social settings he'd avoid the limelight, attempting to avoid any situation that would call on him to have to read in any detail.
I asked him,  "Until 3 years ago when you began this formal reading instruction, could you read ANYTHING?"  "Oh, words like 'cat' and 'dog.'"
He's 80; how does that happen?
He showed me his reading lesson which consists of a couple brief paragraphs and then several questions to test comprehension.  He proudly showed me last week's lesson for which he received an A+.  I asked him if he would read me a sample from that lesson.  In a very broken cadence he read, " The. . . boy. . . was . . . very. . . hurt. . . when. . . his. . . .father. . . departed. . . "   Reading another sentence he stumbled on the word "clever," and had to sound it out.  But there was no shame; all I saw was a  pride and a growing self-confidence that were surely nonexistent three years ago.
He has come further than I will ever have to.  From being a son of a slave he has struggled, agonized, labored and literally fought his way to become a man of dignity and self-respect.
"So.  You think you can learn more from reading that book than you can talkin' to somebody?"
No, sir.  Not today, sir.  Any time you want to talk I'll drop what I'm doing.  You have much to teach me and I still have much to learn.  Thank you, Bob.