November 26, 2017

Finding Holy Ground: in Thanks

Many gathered this past Thursday, and throughout the weekend, to give thanks and to remember blessings of family and friends. Thanksgiving is one of the cornerstones of our interaction with God, and a way to find Holy Ground. 
In our celebrations, may we remember those less fortunate. As Br. Allen notes, “God does not need our prayers in order to call others to ministry, but I believe that God wants our prayers so that we may be aware of the needs of the Church and the world - and be aware of the role of every one of us to help guide, nurture, and encourage those whom we know who are responding to God’s call.” (Br. David Allen, Society of St. John, Evangelist)

May your prayers help you be aware of God’s Holy Ground within and around you.

Next week is the beginning of Advent, when we look toward and prepare for the birth of Jesus and the celebration of Christmas.

November 19, 2017

Finding Holy Ground: Love

As we near the end of this series of meditation of Finding Holy Ground, we’ve arrived at the source of where Holy Ground is deeply rooted. Love is the soil of all Holy Ground. All that we experience of Holy Ground through our senses, our interactions with one another, in our work and our rest begins in love.

It is God’s love for us that is the core of all Holy Ground. The Holy Ground of Creation was based in the Love that desired beauty, life, and companionship. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush and said ‘remove your sandals because you are standing on Holy Ground’, it was God’s love for the enslaved Hebrews that sparked the bush. Seeing or tasting or hearing God’s Holy Ground in the world around us is our response to God’s love for us. Life itself is the Holy Ground where God’s love meets us.

We do live in a broken world that only dimly perceives that Holy Ground and that Love. We are called to be the hands and feet and lips of God’s Love to the world. Teresa of Avila notes “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he works compassion on this world...”

I am reminded that when Naaman the Syrian was healed of his leprosy, he asked to take some of the dirt of Israel back to Syria so he could be reminded of Who is truly God. “Then Naaman said, ‘If not, please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt-offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord.” (2 Kings 5:17) We carry and spread the Holy Ground around us each day, too.

In I Corinthians 13, Paul explains Love. He says, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

As we go through our daily lives, we are challenged and sometimes respond in unloving ways. It is easy to respond to criticism with anger; to demands with stubbornness; to hatred with more hate. Love is not the easy path to take. It requires ‘turning the other cheek’, as Jesus counselled in Matthew 5:39 and following. He advises, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also…”

Love is, as Paul says, “patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.

The truth, despite all the media coverage of rage and hate and killing, is that Love has triumphed. As Ann Voskamp noted on November 6, “Never forget it: That serpent is crushed on the ground and Jesus is on the throne.” 
What can you and I do today and tomorrow and the next day to bring more of God’s Holy Ground and Love into our world? We can start by bringing just a bit more into the places we are and with the people we relate to. Like Naaman, we carry the Holy Ground with us. It may not be easy, but with God’s help, we can spread some Holy Ground around us.

November 12, 2017

Finding Holy Ground: Rest

Last week we considered how to discover Holy Ground in the busy-ness of our work-a-day lives. This time, we’re contemplating finding Holy Ground in Rest and Relaxation. This is a category I have difficulty with. I am much more comfortable getting things done, than in sitting and doing nothing.

Jesus commends the practice though. “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’" (Mark 6:31)

Jesus himself went away for quiet, when the crowds became too crushing. “But the news about Jesus spread all the more, and great crowds came to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. Yet He frequently withdrew to the wilderness to pray.” (Luke 5:15-16)

It is often very easy to think we are too busy to take time off. The world won’t stop spinning if we take a day or 2 of rest. In My Fair Lady, Eliza sings “There'll be spring every year without you/England still will be here without you/There'll be fruit on the tree/And a shore by the sea/There'll be crumpets and tea without you.” She is, of course talking to Professor Harry Higgins. However, it is a reminder that we could all use sometimes. God tells us, “Without your pulling it the tide comes in/Without your twirling it, the Earth can spin/Without your pushing them, the clouds roll by”.

My spiritual director has advised me to take a retreat, in order to refill the cup of my soul, so I can continue in the various work and ministry I do. She is reminding me that I’m not irreplaceable in any of my roles. The assorted tasks will get done (or not) just as well with me there or away. After all, “without much ado we can/All muddle through without you.”

The One we cannot do without is the One who too often gets ignored or pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Next weekend, I’ll be at a retreat focusing on Sabbath. It won’t be totally without work for me, as I’m the coordinator. Still, I hope to find some quiet for myself somewhere in the midst of it all.
Is it time to find a Sabbath time for yourself? Is it time to step away from some of what you do in order to get a drink from the well of life? Is it time to put God at the top of your to-do list?

November 5, 2017

Finding Holy Ground: Work

Over this series we’ve been contemplating how to identify Holy Ground in all sorts of ways. We pondered how our senses help us find that Holy Ground. We looked at the Holy Ground within ourselves and those around us. Have you been able to look for, and see, Holy Ground more readily over the past couple of months?

Many of us spend much of our time involved in work of some sort. Do you find it difficult to think of the daily work as Holy Ground? It is easy to get so involved in doing or finishing a project that we don’t take time to look for God’s presence in what we are doing. We can also compartmentalize our lives into ‘work for money’ and ‘work for God’. The Theology of Work Project focuses on pointing out the truth that everything we do in life is ‘work for God’. It may be sweeping a floor or running a multi-billion-dollar corporation. Everything we do, as we live, is part of bringing the Kingdom of God into existence

Some days we do it better than others. I don’t know about you, but often I get focused on the task at hand and can easily resent an interruption in the form of a phone call or someone coming into the office. I have to remind myself that as Br. David Vryhof of the Society of St. John, Evangelist says, “Interruptions are not always obstacles; sometimes they are opportunities. If we fail to recognize them, we will miss the experiences of grace that are hidden in them.” There is a good chance that God is showing up in the form of that person on the other end of the phone or standing in front of you, disguised as a coworker or visitor.

When I do take time for what is happening around me, I discover that I generally have enough time to finish my work, even with the ‘interruptions’. I also realize that I have been enriched and even blessed by the people I interact with. When I stop and refocus and remind myself that each thing I do is a Kingdom action, even mundane tasks do feel more fulfilling.

It might be self-affirming to check off all the items on the daily to-do list, but it is much more important to be present to the opportunity to welcome God. Henri Nouwen (In the Name of Jesus, 1989) suggests that we need to be “people with an ardent desire to dwell in God's presence, to listen to God's voice, to look at God's beauty, to touch God's incarnate Word and to taste fully God's infinite goodness.” We can only do that when we are open to the interruptions to our plans.

It is gratifying to get a lot of work done and be recognized as a ‘good’ or ‘dedicated’ worker. Again, it is the Brothers at the Society of St. John, Evangelist who remind us, “We should not seek external reward for service to God and to others because we could easily be distracted from the true reward. The greater satisfaction, the greater gratification, the greater reward is God. God promised to be with us always; God promised to abide in us as we abide in God.” (Br. Mark Brown)

This week, I’m going to try to be more aware of God’s interruptions to my daily routine. As Mrs. Brown Sparrow says, in one of my all-time favorite children’s stories, The Contented Little Pussycat, “There are so many things to trouble a body.” I would add, there are many, many things to keep us busy. The Contented Little Pussycat responds, after much thought, that he is contented because he ‘never worries about what might happen tomorrow’ or what happened yesterday. To be contented, this wise kitten lives in the Now.

Since ‘now’ is all we really have, we would be well advised to follow his advice and live this second and then the next. There’s a Christian song by Steven Curtis Chapman that says all we have is ‘right now’, and we should live The Next 5 Minutes like it’s our ‘last 5 minutes’ .

Being aware of God in and through us in 5 minutes segments might be a start to discovering that we are on God’s Holy Ground even in the middle of our ‘working’ life. What might you do this week to live in the present, the now, and take living 5 minutes at a time?