It always is a gift to settle in there and receive whatever God has for me.
I feel changed as the result of prayer and meditation, and sitting quietly reading in the garden, not answering the phone or checking email or Facebook (as I said a few days ago, I am a tech-afficianado, but still it was nice to be free for a couple of days)!
The change may not be all that visible to others. God and I know, however. My pastoring will be different, and I believe, better.
One thing that was a special treat: walking the Jerusalem Mile. It is a labyrinth modeled after ancient ones that allowed people who could not get to Jerusalem to make a holy pilgrimage. I walked it at the near the beginning of my retreat, praying for God’s guidance for my time, and again at the end, thanking God for the healing.
The birds sing. The wind blows. Squirrels scamper. Flowers bloom. There is beauty, even as it seems commonplace, normal.
But have you ever thought about just how special this day is?
Of course, it is the birthday of many, but not anyone I know. It is the 28th anniversary of the day when the Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer. But we hardly celebrate that anymore!
No, this day is special by itself. The possibilities are endless.
I got up this morning, fretting about all I have to do before I go on a two-day retreat beginning this evening (probably no blogs on Thursday and Friday).
What sort of nonsense is that? Yes, I have much to do. But when I keep my head hunkered down, filling myself with needless anxiety, I miss all the wondrous life around me. And I will stumble into retreat, needing the two days just to recover from this one.
So, now, I say, “Thank you, God” for THIS day. May I enjoy your gift–may I lovingly unwrap it, enjoying the beauty of the packaging, and savoring and exploring the possibilities of what lies within.
At a workshop yesterday, focused on “Creating the Caring Community,” we encountered this wisdom from David Brandon (in Zen in the Art of Helping), “Compassion means giving people room; opening doors rather than closing them; asking questions rather than giving answers.”
Compassion is more than giving people food or a hug when they are down, although surely that is part of compassion.
Compassion means letting, and helping, people be themselves and express themselves, helping them do the things that are their deepest heart’s desire.
And God wants us to extend that compassion to ourselves, too.
We, and the entire creation, are worth our compassion. In doing and being that compassion, we follow the example of God.
Recently, some of us watched a video by Pastor Rob Bell of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, MI.
The central question of the video–it only lasts about 12 minutes–is “how much do we believe that God, or Jesus, believes in us?”
We always think the ball is in our court, that it is our belief in God that is important. But Rob Bell’s suggestion is that of equal, perhaps greater, importance is God’s belief in us.
For example, he suggests that Peter’s failure to continue walking on the water was not so much his lack of faith in Jesus but his lack of faith in himself (and lack of faith in the gifts God gave him). Jesus called Peter to be his disciple not because Peter was a brilliant scholar of the Bible but because he saw in Peter certain qualities that would enable Peter to do the things Jesus was doing.
We know Jesus calls us. Does that mean he sees certain qualities in us and believes we can use them to do what he calls us to do?
How much do you believe that Jesus believes in you?
Yesterday, I applauded President Carter’s decision to leave the Southern Baptist Convention because of its continuing participation in the subjugation, and degradation, of women.
He has a public platform from which to push for change. Most of us do not.
But we do have opportunities to make a difference for women in the world.
One thing I do is support the work of Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute. If you do not know Mortenson’s work, I suggest you read his amazing story, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time.
Mortensen and the CAI build schools in remote parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, secular schools that, in his view, “will bring a new generation of kids that will have a broader view of the world. We focus on areas where there is no education. Religious extremism flourishes in areas of isolation and conflict.”
I did not vote for him either time he ran for President, but I sure like him now. I don’t always agree with the 40th President, but when he’s right, he’s right.
Jimmy Carter has left the Southern Baptist Convention, because he is tired of the way that religious body treats women. Specifically, he opposes their refusal to ordain women and their requirement that women be subordinate to their husbands.
He also connects those positions with the global abuse, discrimination, and mutilation against women. He says no religion should subjugate women, and he rightly holds male leaders responsible for the choices they make in interpreting sacred texts.
I pray for the day when he, and others of similar integrity and wisdom, also will see the connection between religiously-based misogyny and religiously-based homophobia.
But he is doing a good thing. He has tried to change the view of his denomination–with which he has been associated for 6o years–but finally decided he could do more by leaving.
May each of us live our faith with such integrity and commitment to justice.
It appears that the U.S. Episcopal Church is going to end the ban on gay bishops (and presumably lesbian, bisexual, and transgender ones, too).
The church has been avoiding this moment. Some of that is due to homophobia. Some of it is due to fearing the reaction of other parts of the wider, global Anglican Communion. Some of it is due to fear of losing more U.S. churches who, in reaction, are leaving the denomination.
There are always people who resist justice. Doing justice often exposes pain.
But when the Diocese of New Hampshire elected Gene Robinson as its bishop–the first OPENLY gay bishop in the Anglican Communion–the die was cast. God does not want God’s people to go back, away from justice, but to push forward into more.
God knows how good it is for us to cast off our fears, and how good it feels. Doing justice leads to joy.