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At Home In Yourself

In January 1994, I left my job in church work because my mother’s health had diminished to such a state that she required a great deal of care and I just was unable to handle a job plus attend to her. On February 7, she died. In hind sight I thought perhaps she had set it up just that way to get me to move into a different work and a different life-style.

During that time, I read several books on simplicity that fed my soul and imagination. This is my journal entry for June 20, 1998:

First day of summer. The longest light. I awaken early to hear the first bird. She probably held off as long as possible to let her out her morning chatter. Laying there in her nest like I in my bed, feeling the cool air on my face. Unlike her, I have to close my window in the winter and live with the stuffiness. She goes to warmer places…though some birds stay here where it is cold. I want to learn about birds, and trees and forest berries and small critters.

Janet Luhrs (in her book The Simple Living Guide) writes of inner simplicity that comes when outer clutter is reduced. She asks a woman who lives alone atop a mountain: “With all that stillness, what about your inner demons?” She explains: “The more still your outer environment becomes, the more aware of what is going on inside. No more staying busy and running away from yourself.. There you are.”

As I live simply, and I think I have begun this journey, I am becoming aware of the demons of others. One symptom is talking too much, over-explaining, over-load of opinions. Somehow, as I find peace, I have less need to explain myself. Being happy with my life is becoming enough. I don’t need to convince others or pull them along. As I find inner peace, I feel less need to change. I am happy to be here if others drop in now and then. If I spend time alone, that’s fine, too.

Bernie has said to me recently, “You are quiet today.” It is true. I am getting more quiet. It is good. I have less to say because I am listening – with my ears, my eyes, my touch, my nose…all of me in and out. Jack Kornfield writes: “Stop and listen to the heart, the wind outside, to one another, to the changing patterns of the mysterious life. It comes moment after moment, out of nothing, and disappears into nothing. Live life with less grasping and more appreciation and caring.”

Luhr’s reflection on Jon Kabat Zinn’s book Where You Go,There You Are…”Once you learn to find fulfillment on the inside, you will not have to look outside. You always have ‘you’ with you, and you can  always be ‘at home’ right  inside yourself no matter where you are. This does not mean you shun the world. It simply means that you build a strong foundation within yourself first; then the pleasures of the world are simply adornments, not sustenance. It also means you live with more intimacy in the world. You are fully present and intimate with the things and people around you, rather than passing them by on your way to somewhere  else.”

Too Many Books to Read before I Die.

Yesterday, I posted a journal reflection from 1997. This is my reflection this morning, June 5, 2020:

I CAN’T DIE FROM COVID 19. THERE ARE TOO MANY BOOKS YET TO READ.

There was a woman at Good Shepherd Nursing Home. I always passed her room when I was going down the halls to see (my friend) Olie. She lay on her bed, usually on her side, reading. I could see the books but not the titles. I can imagine that she couldn’t always sit to read because, like me, her ass end would get numb and the circulation to her legs would get pinched off. So she’d stretch out on her bed and read, read, read. The learning continues.

I don’t know if she is still in her body. Olie is gone out of her’s so I have no reason to go there anymore. But she comes to mind this morning and I thank God that her eyes continued to work so long. I pray that there is a library in heaven so that when I go there I will visit her and we can talk about all the books we have read while on the earth.

Changing my view of Jesus – 1997

After a conference that I attended, August 19, 1997, “Who do you say that I am?” I wrote the following in my journal:

The rest of the conference fell flat for me yesterday. I don’t know why the speaker was so likable, but his talks seemed unfocused. Or was I unfocused? Or he wasn’t offering me any challenges. I wanted to come away with a grand new thought, a new directive, an inner banner to carry. As a result I felt a loss, a loss of a good day’s work, a loss of energy. I felt vague – what is it that I am supposed to be communicating to those I serve? Where is Jesus in all this?

I realize, I think, that I have a different relationship with Jesus than all the options the speaker proposed the first night. Jesus said, “I am the way to the Father”. I know this is true for me. For twenty plus years I prayed to Jesus, studied Jesus, worshiped Jesus, walked with Jesus, held him in my heart. Then something changed – like I was in a bubble and it suddenly broke and I was left seeing too  much. My world opened up. Then I seemed to wander for a while. The reality of God lost its concreteness – Jesus is concrete. He has a form, a character, a personality revealed in scripture. Now the God image was no image. Hardly even a feeling. Any time I tried to give image to God, my efforts fizzled. I’d wear out trying. Praying words became strange – like talking to myself. God is so within me; he knows every nook and cranny of me, even my thoughts. Why word it?

Yet I still do, especially to pray for those persons and circumstances outside my family. But I do that for me. When I give word to it, I convince me that I care and can tell those folks out there “I am praying for you.” But I have this sense that God is already there loving them so what is it I am praying about? I am praying for God to be God – as though He forgets sometimes, as though He gets distracted and my prayers get him back on track. How strange that seems. “Lord, look at Laura…don’t forget her, she needs your healing.” But God loves her a million times more than I do and I need to remind him? Rather, God needs to remind me to love Laura.

So there I go – here I am. Prayer has become a reverse conversation. I no longer  – or rarely – feel I have anything to say to God. Rather, I feel a need to stop long enough for God to speak to me. Who is it he wants to pull into my attention? Who should I be loving more?

So where did Jesus go? He carried me to the Father. The Father, the Creator, tender keeper of the world. And here I am. Do I still need Jesus? I don’t pray to him any more. But sometimes he reminds me of the expectations of the Father revealed in Jesus’ life: “Remember the poor.” “Stop and listen to the spiritually hungry.” “Give generously.” “Tend the soil to receive the seed.” “Take time to pray.” “Take time for relationships.” The messages keep coming through the Word. But I don’t feel Jesus as I once did. Rather, the kingdom dream is what I feel his life stories show me how the kingdom comes.

As for the Holy Spirit – the wind – every time someone says to me, “You are so enthusiastic,” I think, “must be the Holy Spirit.” That God in  me that moves and acts that I hardly am aware. God giving me the courage to do things I don’t want to do. Keeping one moving forward. Driving me, like a windmill. Pulling energy from somewhere.

I don’t know the Holy Spirit. I just look at what I am doing and think, “How did I get myself here?” What I think and what I do often seems at odds with one another. I don’t want to go to work – I’d rather refinish furniture. But I go and when good things happen there, I wonder, “How did this happen? With an attitude like mine, it must be the Holy Spirit.”

 

Keep the Discussion going?

When it comes to the issue of racism in America, I keep hearing people talking about “keeping the discussion going”. Why is it, I wondered, that this irritates me?

Everybody’s got an opinion and we should be at least somewhat polite about giving them a chance to express themselves, but consider this. Black families have been having discussions about racism around their dinner tables long before and ever since the first Juneteenth. They know American history and the challenges faced by Black Americans and they taught their children. They also analyzed systems – the voting system, the legal systems, the education systems, financial systems. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that when it came time to make recommendations to clean up police departments, they were ready with solutions.

Republican leaders tend to respond to the problem of police violence against black citizens as though it has just started. They want to have a discussion before coming up with solutions. It is a though they’ve been sleeping in class and they just heard the teacher say, “I want you to write a report on what we’ve been discussing and hand it in to me tomorrow.” First let’s have a discussion!

Black leaders can lay reasonable plans right out on the table because they’ve hashed out all the ins and outs already. If you want to know whether something will work, they can tell you the places where it has been tried and the outcomes, statistics and all. Our leaders need to listen and seriously consider.

I heard a woman today say something that nailed it for me. She said, “Sometimes discussions are more performative than informative.” Exactly!

Being on the Right Side of History

Today is Juneteenth and there are folks seeking to make it a national holiday. I consider myself a history buff yet didn’t know about this day memorialized by a large part of our citizenry. The fact that it is coming up to the surface now feels to me to be just part of a huge turn of this massive ship of a country we are on.

Reinventing our police forces is just part of the change we will see. I sincerely believe that when changes are implimented, members of departments across the country will find themselves full of pride for their work. And communities in which they serve will be proud as well. But this is just the beginning. I sense schools changing, housing, our financial institutions, even our churches.

Racism had its tentacles everywhere in society. What we are seeing now is a dissecting process. Even my own family members and friends are talking together, as though assigned to small groups in a college classroom. We are analyzing, reflecting upon, even tearing apart our old beliefs:

Consider this!
What if that!
I heard one mayor say!
The police captain admitted that…!
If only!
I never knew! 

We are white folks with shifting foundations. But it isn’t scary, not one bit. We are on the right side of history.

The American Character

I woke up this morning thinking, “Racism is part of the American character.” It is our unique shadow that permeates all that we do. It holds back our progress, it messes with our belief systems corrupting even our religions. It directs how we spend our money. It is the reason people fight so for their right to bear arms. It is the corruption in our courts and in our election process. It is the driver behind American’s worst decisions: who to keep out of our country, where our troops are sent  to die, which heroes we celebrate. It drives families into poverty. It causes sickness, disease and pain…it kills. It makes the history we are taught basically useless if we are to face our truth and change.

How many times have I heard liberal leaders say after racist events, “This is not who we are.” They are wrong. It is.

Bishop Defies Governor’s Orders

My thoughts on the actions of the bishop to open churches in spite of the Governor Walz’s orders:

I myself questioned the arbitrary number of ten congregants at a church service at a time. It didn’t take into consideration the size of the space. Even ten is a risk without precautions like masking and distancing. But consider this:

  1. Spacing people in pews may be good but what about the coming and going? Controlling ten people is a lot different than a hundred plus. Will all attendees cooperate? This being a rebellious act is likely, in my opinion, is likely to invite rebellious congregants.
  2. This puts pastors in a terrible position of having to enforce the rules. I can envision the divisiveness we see now between citizens and political leaders and citizens to citizens occurring within congregations. The history of Christianity is already steeped in divisiveness. We don’t need more.We need Oneness more than ever.
  3. I have been amazed at the creativity of businesses as they open, finding ways to follow the guidelines while increasing their customer potential. Tables outside of restaurants spaced wisely is an example. In one Minnesota town, the city blocked off a section of street so tables could be spread and several restaurants could take advantage of the outdoor service. The bishops aren’t showing any imagination here.
  4. Modeling disobedience to government only fuels more and it is worse if done by religious leaders. We already see in the actions of the president how his own disregard for scientific guidelines fuels civic disobedience around the country. It is worse with religious leaders. For better or worse, people tend to think when their religious leaders approve of an action, God approves. Religious leaders should save civil disobedience for issues of injustice, like Gandhi and ML King modeled.