Category Archives: Meditations

Something that encourages thought and reflection

Thoughts for Thursday

Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him:

Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and
I will refresh you. Matthew 11:28

God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,
to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but
have everlasting life. John 3:16

This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
1 Timothy 1:15

If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus
Christ the righteous; and he is the perfect offering for our
sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole
world. 1 John 2:1-2

(BCP pg 332)

****

Growing up in a Rite I church my priest would usually say all of those things after we had confessed our sins on Sunday morning, one after another. I think most people just pick one or two, but Father Marquis went through them all.

I’m not sure when I realized they were verses from the Bible. Maybe I was browsing the BCP one day, maybe one of the verses I had memorized for Sunday school finally clicked as a verse during a service. But I love how they fit together, and I know they are kind of paraphrased, but they flow so beautifully. This part of the service just felt so holy and special. The way he said them all, the way he wanted us to hear those words, and to be people who truly turn to him.

It’s amazing to me how language can shape an experience; how someone’s tone of voice and pronunciation and word choice can influence a situation. If you can feel someone’s sincerity, someone’s earnestness that you hear what they are saying in their voice, you pay attention. I felt that on Sunday mornings when I heard these words. (Is there such a thing as a holy timbre?)

It’s true in daily life, too. I can tell a difference on the other end of the phone depending on how I answer it. When I make my voice calm and soothing, when I’m cheerful and pleasant, when I try to convey that I’m here to help you, the other person on the end of the line is much more likely to respond kindly. If I’m flustered or upset or annoyed, if I let the stresses of the day get into my voice, people can tell. And maybe they’re not so patient with me, and the conversation isn’t as, ah… pleasant as it could have been.

Try it sometime, if you can. See how changing your voice changes the interactions you have with the people around you. It’s one of the ways we can show people they are loved–to let that love come through our words. You never know–it might make someone’s day or change the course of yours!

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Thoughts for Thursday

firefliesFireflies
by Cecilia Woloch

And these are my vices:
impatience, bad temper, wine,
the more than occasional cigarette,
an almost unquenchable thirst to be kissed,
a hunger that isn’t hunger
but something like fear, a staunching of dread
and a taste for bitter gossip
of those who’ve wronged me—for bitterness—
and flirting with strangers and saying sweetheart
to children whose names I don’t even know
and driving too fast and not being Buddhist
enough to let insects live in my house
or those cute little toylike mice
whose soft grey bodies in sticky traps
I carry, lifeless, out to the trash
and that I sometimes prefer the company of a book
to a human being, and humming
and living inside my head
and how as a girl I trailed a slow-hipped aunt
at twilight across the lawn
and learned to catch fireflies in my hands,
to smear their sticky, still-pulsing flickering
onto my fingers and earlobes like jewels.
—–

I love this poem. Good poetry, I think, is honest, and it’s a peek inside someone else’s soul–a peek that also reveals something about the reader, maybe that they didn’t even know about themselves. Her vices are also my vices–some of them anyway. And it makes me think about myself, and what mine are, and how there’s something beautiful in sharing them with others.

Impatience is something I have struggled with my whole life. I have learned that for the most part patience pays off, like when you decide to re-heat pizza in the oven instead of the microwave. But when it comes to being patient with other people–waiting on someone else to do something or complete something–I struggle. It’s hard to slow my pace down to match someone else’s.

It has taken several not-awesome learning experiences to slow down, breathe, and let go of the thought that I’m in control. I am most certainly not and that is for the best for everyone. It’s hard for me to sit in that tension, that anxiety.

Recently my boyfriend went on an 8 day mission trip to the Dominican Republic. I missed him a lot, and the communication black out was hard for me. So impatient was I (and, also I just love surprises) for his return that I drove to the Atlanta airport (both of them.. ugh, Atlanta, why you so crazy?!) to meet him there. I stood in the arrivals area with my little sign positively WRIGGLING with impatience. His flight came in early so I was dancing around for 30 minutes, searching faces coming off the escalator. There were two little boys waiting for their father who exhibited more patience than me.

When their group finally did come of the escalator I didn’t see him. I went up to someone else that I recognized and I was like “Welcome back! Where’s James?!” I ended up completely missing him in the crowd because I was so impatient. He saw me before I saw him and I totally missed that fun little moment of surprised recognition. A small thing, but something I had been looking forward to.

I wish I had been able to calm myself down enough to patiently wait there. I wish I had talked myself down, breathed, and let things happen as they would. Hindsight’s 20/20, right? I can see why they say patience is a virtue.

As I continue my journey through (formal) discernment I’m learning more and more that I definitely need to cultivate patience in my heart, and to let God handle things. It’s really freaking hard, y’all. It’s not like I can just up and decide to go to seminary–other people, the church, are part of this. And I’m sure I will have many, many more opportunities to practice patience in my life, not just waiting at airports or for correspondence from committees.

All those Psalms about “wait for the Lord” make so much sense…

Necessary Work

Sometimes you need crunchy guitars to get you through the day, and some days you need to listen to Bach to drown out the rattle and whirr of the window unit. I know this particular song is turning a bit into a cliché, the piece of music that those of us who know nothing about classical music listen to on repeat, but I don’t really care. You could call anything old and beloved a cliché, except it hasn’t lost its beauty and meaning. Not to me, anyway.

The other day I wrote this note to myself (another necessary cliché, perhaps) as I was wading through a long to-do list:

photo (15)

Of course, I was in the middle of writing an email and listening to music when I stopped to write this down. I am a hypocrite, sometimes because I know the right thing to do but choose not to do it, and sometimes because I am pulled in so many directions I am often trying to go both ways at once.

Maybe that’s why we pray, to carve out a little space, to find a way. Prayer is simply pointing yourself in a direction.

I haven’t been praying much lately, to be honest, but nonetheless prayers are still answered. The next issue of Trinity news is almost done and St. Lydia’s met its fundraising goal though donations are still needed if you have a few bucks to throw our way (and I feel the need to show you this ridiculous and fantastic meme that Emily Scott, our pastor, made).

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Work doesn’t always feel like a clean and simple checking off of to-do lists (I’m sure you know this). It’s often messier than that because it involves our own fallible hands and minds and, worse, other people. The work of living together and creating something good, whether it’s a magazine or a church, music or a meal, is sometimes a slog, but it’s also necessary and it’s the only way forward.

Love is Work

I’m currently reading the Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison, which are all about, well, empathy. I especially love the title essay, which you can read here. Here’s an excerpt:

Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us – a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain – it’s also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It’s made of exertion, that dowdier cousin of impulse. Sometimes we care for another because we know we should, or because it’s asked for, but this doesn’t make our caring hollow. The act of choosing simply means we’ve committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations: I will listen to this sadness, even when I’m deep in my own. To say going through the motions – this isn’t reduction so much as acknowledgement of effort – the labor, the motions, the dance – of getting inside another person’s state of heart or mind.

This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always rise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled,  that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work. I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones.

Basically, this is a reminder that loving your neighbor as yourself, and even loving yourself, is a choice you have to make. Sometimes love is easy, and sometimes love is work.

 

Thoughts for Thursday

God Loves Everybody.

There is a house that I pass by every day with a handmade sign hanging from a flagpole. When I first moved to this area of town it was made out of a bedsheet and simply says, “God Loves Everybody.” I’m not sure if it fell victim to bad weather or if it got old and fell apart or what, but lately the flag that has been flying in front of this house appears to have been made from a bath towel.

The little old woman that lives there can often be seen lounging on the front porch in a lazy boy recliner, reading a book and/or smoking a cigarette, or sometimes just hanging out watching traffic go by. Sometimes I see her out wandering the neighborhood, this thin little woman with clothes that seem too big.

I met her once. I spotted her last summer at an event at our quaint little downtown square. I talked to her for a minute, and she revealed to me that she had a brain aneurysm. I hugged her. And every time I drive by her house I look for her, but sometimes all I see is that precious little reminder that God Loves Everybody.

I have no idea what prompted this woman to put that message out there by any means necessary, be it bedsheet or bath towel. I don’t know this woman’s story, just what I observe in my almost daily drive bys. I do know this: I am grateful to her. I am grateful for the reminder she gives me, that we are all God’s children and we are loved. She is an unexpected jewel in my daily drives, twice a day, and I need that.

So, dear ones, don’t forget that God Loves Everybody. May you preach it from the porch or wherever you are in your life today.

 

Moves

I’ve just finished reading Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. In it, revolutionaries hold international businessmen, dignitaries, and an opera hostage in a house in an unnamed South American country. They speak many languages, but with help and time they eventually learn to communicate with each other. It’s a lovely and melancholy book about, in part, the things that connect us despite our differences and the way life breaks us apart.

We recently celebrated Pentecost, the day that the disciples found themselves speaking languages that were foreign to them moments ago. I wonder if it was like listening to a new song, and being surprised to find you already know the melody. Of course, things eventually got much more difficult the disciples, but they did not stop traveling and learning and spreading the Good News. The Gospel was not static and neither were they.

Occasionally, I see the trend among Christians to create a whole separate culture (see: Godinterest). While I do think that it can be helpful to create community with others who share your values, it’s possible to cut yourself off from what others can teach you, giving you a skewed view of the world and making it difficult to have any discernible impact. You can’t serve a world you can’t see and you can’t love people without listening to them.

One of the things I love about living in a city like New York is how often you encounter people different from yourself, how many languages you might hear walking down the sidewalk. Sometimes I also hate this part of living in a city, especially at 8am on a crowded train when somebody is playing a Candy Crush with the sound turned all the way up and someone else is asking for money.

Living with others is hard work. We all know this, if only from navigating our Facebook feeds, but shutting ourselves off from others is not an option. Living with and loving other people requires us to move, to cross borders. It requires us learn new languages.

All Y’all Come Unto Me

 

 

Thoughts for Thursday

“To forgive is not just to be altruistic, it is the best form of self-interest.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

——-

I’m friends with Desmond Tutu.

Okay, so maybe we’re just Facebook friends, and it’s probably more like I’m friends with Desmond Tutu’s intern or social media coordinator or whatever, but still.

Recently he’s been posting about The Forgiveness Challenge.  It’s something he and his daughter Mpho recently started as part of a global forgiveness project. Your 30 Day forgiveness journey begins with a precious, precious video of Abp Tutu and his daughter welcoming you to the challenge, then realizing they messed up/it was awkward, and they look at each other and laugh together. I love the candor in that video, and the joy they so obviously share together. In the challenge you go at your own pace, and you can do several days at once if you wish.

I’m only a few days in and I am really intrigued by this journey. I think there are a lot of times in daily life we mess up, or overstep bounds, or do something to someone that we say “I’m sorry” for. And there are times when we are wronged, in big ways and little ways, and we say “it’s okay”. And sometimes, it’s not okay, but that’s how we try to express forgiveness. That seems incomplete to me. My hope in going through this challenge is to understand how to forgive and how to ask for forgiveness from others.

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray that God will forgive us as we forgive those who have wronged us. What would it be like if God withheld forgiveness from us the way we sometimes withhold forgiveness from others? Hmm…

St. Lydia’s is Moving

For about as long as I’ve been living in New York City St. Lydia’s has been my home. It’s a progressive, inclusive community that combines liturgy and a meal. The people who attend range from young twenty somethings who have just moved to New York to homeless men and women to even a few families with kids. It is, I think, an example of what church can be at it’s best.

We’re moving into a new space, so I’m sharing this video with you so you can get a sense of what we’re like and what we’re up to (and I confess I’d love it if you’d to consider making a donation). If you’re ever in New York, come visit!

Play it Right?

Every Wednesday, I’m going to post a song I’m listening to along with some thoughts on faith and links. Sometimes the song and the reflection will connect and sometimes it will just be something I think you’ll enjoy listening to while reading. – Jeremiah

This past weekend at St. Lydia’s we read John 20:19-30. In it, Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room, but Thomas is out. We hear Thomas’ familiar reply, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Of course, we all know what happens next.

Many of us who are intimately familiar with doubt find some kinship with Thomas and his inability to believe. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe,” says Jesus. I haven’t seen, and I often find it pretty difficult to believe.

I recently came across an article via Episcopal Café by John Falcouner, which was a helpful reminder that there’s more to faith then belief. He writes:

Religion is about living in the world in a certain way, seeing it differently, experiencing it differently. It entails beliefs, but it is a matter of beliefs, ways of acting, communal expectations, covenants, rites, and so on fitting together into a context that forms the background of an entire life (a “form of life” Wittgenstein calls it—Philosophical Investigations, section 19). No one of these is fundamental to the others. Religious beliefs, practices, and acts each have meaning against the background of and within the web they form. Together they are the meaning-context for religious life. Beliefs, theological or otherwise, don’t have a special, more fundamental place in their relationship with the other parts of religious life and experience. They are part of a whole, and to be a religious person is to live within that whole.

Beliefs have assumed an inordinately prominent place in America. You cannot be a Christian without right belief, seems to be the mindset in much of Evangelical Christianity. From Episcopalians, I more often hear something along the lines of, “We shouldn’t act before getting our theology in place,” an idea that often makes me want to roll my eyes.

Yes, developing a coherent theology is important (somewhat, and for some people, anyway), but I think it rarely precedes action. That’s just not how human beings work. It’s part of a whole “form of life,” which is messy and often all out of order.

Christian Wiman gets at this a bit, in this excerpt from his poem, One Time.

But the world is more often refuge
than evidence, comfort and covert
for the flinching will, rather than the sharp
particulate instants through which God’s being burns
into ours. I say God and mean more
than the bright abyss that opens in that word.
I say world and mean less
than the abstract oblivion of atoms
out of which every intact thing emerges,
into which every intact thing finally goes.
I do not know how to come closer to God
except by standing where a world is ending
for one man.

We, people of faith, theologians, are really closer to poets than scientists anyway, scrambling for the right words to express what’s going on just beyond our understanding, hoping that when the moment comes, we’ll see God standing before us.