Expectations

Today is Palm Sunday. Today at mass we listen and participate in the reading of the Passion — of the final hours of Jesus of Nazareth. As Christians we know that whole story.

But, what of the expectations of those who didn’t already know? What of the expectations we have of others and ourselves — because we don’t know the whole story?

As I understand it, Judas expected Jesus to save himself. He did not expect that his betrayal would lead to Jesus’ death. He expected something different to happen. I suppose he might have thought he was giving Jesus the chance to be the militant, powerful Messiah that he expected. And then we read that when Judas saw what actually happened, he tried giving back the money. He couldn’t live with himself and he hung himself.

Peter expected that he would never deny Jesus. He was sure of himself. And yet, when the time came, he did just as Jesus predicted and denied knowing Jesus 3 times before the cock crowed. He wept bitterly. But, he hung in there and became a great witness.

This spring I have lost at least 3 people that would be counted as family. Unexpected. One fell, broke a hip which could not be fixed. It wound up ending her time here on earth. Unexpected. One took her own life. Not what you expect of the mother of a preschooler. Unexpected. One suffered a massive heart attack, only a week after having seen his heart doctor. Unexpected. I could rant against a system that let a woman fall and break her hip. I could be truly angry that a young woman would hurt so bad that she would end it all. I could be angry that a loved one didn’t manage to take better care of himself (as if that would have fixed everything). But, those were my expectations for them. Not God’s.

It’s hard not to have expectations of oneself and of others. It’s hard not to be angry and upset when we or others fail to live up to those expectations. But, I noticed in the Gospel reading today that even when Jesus knew that Judas would go and betray him, He called him “Friend”  — “Friend, go and do what you must.” Friend. Think of that. He knew that a lot of pain was coming — for himself, for Judas, for others around. And He called him “Friend.”

So, I seek to look beyond my expectations of myself and others. I seek to live beyond my expectations to accept and love myself and others when they don’t live up to my expectations for them. And I’ll walk through this Holy Week looking to see beyond, and trying to accept reality. And love it.

 

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Martha, Mary and Lazarus

Today’s Gospel reading was the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead after he had been in the tomb for four days. Four days!

The reading is full of how Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. How they were very close friends. I began to think how we all have different roles to play: Jesus had a deep friendship with these people, but they were not called as disciples. None were among the twelve. I wondered why. It seems that these valued friends might have been among those called as disciples. But they weren’t.

We all have a special relationship with God, with the Trinity, with church, with each other. We each a call that is somewhat different from others. It makes me think of Paul with his “we are many parts, we are all one body.” Guess he got that idea from a good source. Some of those close to Jesus were called as the Apostles; others were close friends, Today, some are called to religious life, some to be a part of a particular religious group (Christian, Muslim, Buddhist — or Roman Catholic, Methodist, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, various evangelical groups). This is good news! I can follow Jesus without having to feel “less” because I don’t preach or I haven’t quite found my niche. I can still be raised from the dead even after four days in a tomb.

 

 

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Seven Deadly Sins: Pride

I’ve pondered this budget that the new President has thrown out for consideration. I’ve listened to those, like Senator Ryan, who make claims about cutting out services as “an act of mercy.” I listened to those who voted for a candidate who is definitely not going to make their lives any better — who seem to vote in opposition to their own good. I’ve struggled with a feeling of superiority when I think I have a better way.

The source of all these ills it seems is Pride. Yup. Those currently in the White House are very proud of their own success. Senator Ryan it seems is very sure that his position and benefits are completely due to his own work. He is proud of himself and his accomplishments and is sure that those who have failed financially, relationship-wise and otherwise are simply not putting out the effort. He wants to push them to work hard and be proud. Those in coal country and others who voted for the current administration so often did so because they seek to be in a place where they can feel proud… no handouts, nobody to be as good as them, no need for a little help from their friends, no need to acknowledge that the Prosperity Gospel is not Christian Gospel.

And myself — I have to fight being proud that I don’t subscribe to so many of those ideas. Once you start thinking you are humble, you are not humble.

Yes, I believe that the government should serve the people. I believe that at least basic health care is as much a right as food and water and not being beaten up and abused by your neighbors. Yes, I think that tax dollars should support the common good such as the EPA, arts and humanities organizations, health care and food security — oh, and clean drinking water. On the political spectrum I probably tend a bit toward socialism, if that’s what you have to be to believe that the government is there to serve and protect the populace.

And still, I find that my beliefs cannot be allowed to make me feel proud and superior to those who see the world differently. These beliefs must call me to prayer. They must call me to a place where I respect others even while I disagree vehemently with them. If I let pride drive my actions, I find it all to easy to make fun of the other instead of pushing for justice.

Yeah — I know, they make it all to easy to make fun… but the results aren’t going to be any fun at all.

 

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Of Popes and Faith

The tables are turned, I suppose. Those brothers and sisters of mine within the tent of the Roman Catholic Church who found great comfort in previous Popes who often focussed on devotions and rules and fairly strict behavioral and belief rules are now faced with a Holy Father who is willing to say “Who am I to judge?” or who is willing to face our need to care for our brothers and sisters without so much judgement, or who is willing to proclaim that we are stewards of all creation, and look at the mess we’ve made of that job.

To me, it seems that Francis is calling us to be transformed by our faith in God — our faith in the Trinity — so God, Jesus the Christ and the Spirit. He is calling on us to actually interact with the world from that place of transformation. To let go of our assumed superiority, or presumed chosen-ness and be agents of love and change in our world. To be the salt of the earth.

Sometimes, that flies in the face of rigid rules. Sometimes that forces us to look beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of the law. And, sometimes when I hear the criticism of relativism, I want to say “And you make that [relativism] sound like a bad thing. Really?”

As best I can tell, Jesus said “Follow me.” — not “Worship me.” Following, walking in His footsteps, trying to see the world as He saw it is far more life changing that worshipping Him and keeping change at a distance — don’t you think?

 

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Things as they are

thingsastheyare

I am certainly guilty of this… sometimes I can only see the “eye” in this picture; sometimes I see a butterfly wing. And, when I am whole, awake and aware, I see both clearly.  The point of view colors the the way we see our world, our friends, our universe, our God.

 

Follow me

crosses

I waited anxiously for this election to be over. I was massively let down when my fears proved true. And the first week or so of aftermath has not eased any of my concerns or fears. Even if some folks have been reasonably quiet.

This morning I read a tirade from a white woman who, during the election season, was so anti-Hillary it just about burned in her eyes. She wanted to know why she, as a “white woman” should feel guilty for any transgressions/aggression against minorities. She took the stand I hear many, too many, of us take:  I didn’t do anything wrong. The past is the past. Get over the past.

And I thought about it. And I tried to listen to God and glean some wisdom in this area.

Jesus said “Follow me.” I believe that means all the way to the cross. Yes, we believe that Jesus died for all our sin(s). If you follow Him, I think you must also be willing to die for the sin(s) of others. To truly follow is to walk with, and to emulate that which you follow. And so, to those of us who profess to be Christians:  Doesn’t if follow that we take on the sin(s) of the world, just as Jesus did? And be willing to die to it and be recreated in Christ? To rise again?

Just sayin’…

Querencia

restless

I learned a new spanish word back in 2012: Querencia… a place of safety, home, a place from which one draws strength, a place we all need to go to and be made whole, it seems: the Wanting Place.

At one time in my life, querencia had a very concrete, physical location. It was the interior of St. Mary’s Church in Opelika. A not too large space with cool, green carpet overseen by an oversized crucifix from the front and loved into peace by the gaze of Mary in the center of the stained glass window that graces the back of the church in the middle of the choir loft wall.

Even my skeptical, cynical self cannot wipe away sitting in a back pew and knowing that Jesus wrapped His arm around my shoulder and declared “Welcome home.” I know, kind of strange. Imagined. But, somehow undeniable and very concrete. I knew at that point that this place was HOME – Querencia – place of safety, place where I must go… my “flee to.”  It has been a place of much laughter and many tears. In this tiny chapel of a church I have been ripped to shreds and made whole — sometimes it seems the shredding and healing were almost simultaneous.

There are a few places in this world where the veil seems very transparent and Love (and Love’s associate, Peace) are able to shine no matter what madness and darkness surrounds me.

But, life is a journey, and we don’t often get to keep the same Querencia, at least not in a physical sense. There are indeed those thin places and times, but I find I must seek Home in God, in all of creation and look for the times I am almost awake and aware of God’s presence. These moments become Querencia.

 

 

Fill up with the water of life

Friends came over to visit and have dinner the other night. Lives shared, good times together and one of our friends shared this story/idea from a Jesuit priest he had met on retreat:

Think of this: pick up an “empty” glass — what is in it? Nothing? No, not nothing — it’s full of air! Think of that air as sin ( or separation, or all of those things we do that are not good for us — annoying or bad habits, stupid stuff, whatever).

Fill that glass with water.

What happened to the air? Why it’s forced out, replaced by the water. If the water is the Water of Life, if the water is a walk with God, a growing spiritual awakening, in Christian terms it is the life of Christ in the glass… Aha! if you fill up on the water, there is no space for the sin.

So, don’t worry as much about the sin — fill up with God’s Love, with the Water of Life and there simply will be less room for other stuff.  It’s not easy. I know — sometimes I want to shake up the glass and make sure I can mix the air back in just to keep it around. But, I think this approach could really work out well.

 

Election Blues?

In 2013 I walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It’s a pilgrimage route that has been walked for nearly a millenium. When you walk 500 miles, carrying everything you think you need in a backpack that weighs well under 20lbs, you learn a lot about yourself, your friends, your stamina, your beliefs, and your God (if you use that terminology).

This election season has given me many reasons to rejoice in my experience of pilgrimage. I have needed to fall back on lessons learned on the Camino just to even try to walk through this election season. Things like: each person is on his/her own journey; there is no single way to walk through this world; things ain’t always as they seem; it’s okay to be uncomfortable (really, it is!);

But most of all, I have been glad that I finally found my voice. I no longer am afraid to have my own opinion, even when it conflicts with those of my family and people I consider to be friends (most of the time); I am free to look at the things that candidates say and to evaluate them for myself.

As a result, I am better able to step aside and try to be open to seeing those I disagree with through the eyes of Christ or a loving Father, It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort. It doesn’t mean that I could ever vote for a Donald Trump, but it means that I am learning to try to see the fears that seem to drive those who would vote for him. Not succeeding in many cases, but open to trying.

In the second debate when Hillary Clinton tried to calm the waters by saying that she had no problem with Trump supporters, only with Trump I wanted to scream — I have a problem with those who support him. The fact that there are those who are fairly rabid supporters  makes me worry… it makes me worry for our country and our world. It makes me sad that so many people feel disenfranchised and afraid. It makes me sad that so many people are afraid of “the other”  (latinos, muslims, arabs, blacks, etc). The Great America that these folks seek is not a place where I would want to live.

I’m still working thru great disappointment and distress at seeing how some people I used to hold in high esteem seem to feel. I’m trying to find how to respect them again. It’s not easy.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail miserably.

2016 election blues — only in God is there a cure.

 

 

A prayer to learn and remember

God for us, we call you “Father.”
God alongside us, we call you “Jesus.”
God within us, we call you “Holy Spirit.”
Together, you are the Eternal Mystery
That enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
Even us and even me. 

Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness.
We can only see who you are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing—
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.

Amen.

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