Tag Archives | Spirit

There is no closure… dancing to someone else’s drum

Not sure how this all fits together. My first reflections this morning were on how to “let go” — I read the readings before mass; I thought of Solomon asking for wisdom and letting go of his own glory. I reflected on Jesus’ words about finding a treasure and selling all to be able to buy the field where the treasure lay. So many ways to let go of what is no longer useful.

I thought about the gospel and how the fishing net collects many things which are sorted later — and what is good and necessary is kept, and the rest thrown away. So many times I’ve not been willing to throw the net and see what is caught before I throw things away. I want to decide ahead of time what I will catch and keep. My judgement first.

As I listened to the choir practice before mass I realized that it was going to be difficult to “go with the flow.” I hear the music at a different tempo than those who lead it at church. I felt called to try to let go of what didn’t really matter, to let go of my own way and try to follow the timing of that other drummer without all the negative stuff. That’s hard.

You see, there is no closure. When I let go of the timing I hear in the music it’s a small death. When I can’t let go of my drummer and fail to enjoy the other drumbeat, it’s a small death. There is no winning or losing. I must accept both. So, I can get closure in either direction.

I can’t say I succeeded. The closing song was sung at a tempo that felt dirge-like to me. It might have been beautiful to others, but it sucked the life and energy out of me. I can say I made a stab at letting go of how I would have led it and in that way I could search for a certain beauty/joy in the way it was sung. Perhaps one day I will be able to appreciate it. Perhaps not. But certainly, it’s not an anger of frustration that deserves to hold on to my life and my spirit. It just is a different approach to the music. And, the music is what calls me and soothes my soul.

I’ll try to focus more on what’s good and important and let the rest of it work itself out.

Wish me luck.

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Blast from the past

We watched the movie “Woodlawn” last night. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have friends who were students at Woodlawn High School (Birmingham AL) when the story took place. To them, it seemed that the movie was reasonably accurate. I was in college at the time, but my own high school years were during the opening years of mandated integration, and the closing of the black high school which forced far more integration into the two [originally] all white high schools. And this story of Birmingham high schools and football was set against some of the most violent times and places of this time in Alabama history.

But the part of the story I was totally unaware of was the back story of the “evangelist” (I think maybe a Campus Crusade for Christ “missionary” or some one inspired by a similar group). He called himself a “sports team chaplain.” He offered a simple message and challenge to a predominately “Christian” football team and things began to happen.

First off, the coach, while skeptical, allowed him access. This would never be allowed today. And, indeed, over the next 2 years, as the team began to be a single team, not a divided squad, pressure was brought, and the coaching staff pays for its choice to let this happen. And, in the story, it spreads to the rival school, Banks, and that staff pays a price as well.

There were quite a few of the opening scenes that I remembered seeing on TV first hand: George Wallace in the schoolhouse door trying to block the first black students at the University of Alabama and Bull Connor with dogs and firehoses. These are not just file footage for me — they were live.

The moment that was the real blast from the past for me, was when the chaplain talked about Explo 72 in Dallas Texas. 100,000 plus college students in the Cotton Bowl with Billy Graham. A totally dark Cotton Bowl that is finally lit up starting with a single candle who’s light is shared until all 100,000 candles are lit. Think Easter Vigil — we start in darkness and light the many small candles from the Easter Candle. I was there. I was in the Cotton Bowl. I experienced this. And, it had faded from my memory.

I listened to the message in the movie and I watched the “One Way” hand signal ( a raised hand with the index finger pointing up). And, as I listened to the message weave through the movie, I heard the simplicity of the calling of God: “You are not alone. You are loved. Come to me.” That’s the message of the Gospel that still bores it’s way through to me. I slices through church laws and practice (I’m now a practicing Roman Catholic); it overrides denominations of Christianity. And, in many ways, though not all, it moves beyond Christianity.

This movie could have been preachy, but I think it avoided that. And I’m glad of that. It showed examples of overcoming anger, fear and discrimination. It even showed Bear Bryant in a light that made me not so “anti-Bear” (I’m also of the Auburn persuasion). It was a quiet witness to the power of allowing God to work in the everyday world we find ourselves walking through.

 

Gift

Maybe this should be titled “Gratitude” or perhaps “Reflections by a Skeptic.”  However, I think “Gift” works as that is what I’m reflecting on.

There are some relationships that of late have seemed strained and distant. I believe I have some understanding of why this might be. The misinformation that gives rise to  it is painful. The desire to jump up and shout “You’ve got it all wrong!” and proceed with a defensive stance is strong but probably not a useful response.  So I sit with the situation, and I wrestle with understanding and forgiveness. And I am seldom of a mind to believe in the Divine Intervention.

On Sunday, in the midst of much disorganization and chaos, I pulled a dear friend aside and asked her to pray over me. She obliged, calling the Spirit to bring healing and wholeness to the immediate situation. I felt a bit of calm, a bit peace and a hope that I would be able to work through the babble and chaos with grace. That was good enough.

Good enough until I was face to face with a couple of people that had exuded a coolness in my direction of late. In every case, there was warmth and peace. An unspoken  closing of distance surfaced. Over and over I noticed these flashes. And I marveled. It seems that the Holy Spirit decided that my expectations set the bar a bit too low. The Spirit was not in to simply meeting my expectations – Her vision went far beyond.

Thanks to my friend for her presence in prayer. Thanks to the Spirit who breathes out healing and peace. Thanks for the gift that was, and is, so much greater than expected.

Unexpected Returns

Anyone who knows me is not surprised that I find the current English mass translation to be rather poor. In general the translation seems poor, cumbersome and does not invoke a sense of beauty or better understanding of what we celebrate. I find it distancing.

There is an exception: one of the responses I learned, and repeated,  from the beginnings of my journey within the Roman Church went this way:

Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the Word and I shall be healed.

The current translation is now:

Lord, I am not worthy for You to enter under my roof, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed.

(OK, I’m not positive I have the words exactly correct, but I think I do.)

It’s the “enter under my roof” and “my soul will/shall be healed” that have had the impact. When I heard and said the former version, I was focussed strictly on the Host — that little wafer that I received. Not that this is a bad thing, but the “enter under my roof” and the addition of the word “soul” seem to broaden my understanding. I now reflect on allowing God to enter into my “house” – into my “home” — into my life in general. My house is the world, the heart and the mind where I live.  When I say the words “under my roof” it calls up a vision of welcoming God into that space where I live. And, the grounding for where I live, day to day, in physical terms or in emotional or spiritual terms is my soul.

Now, I’m not sure what the intent of the change was. For me, this opens doors. It gives me something more concrete to work with. It points to the places where I live and to the reasons and forces that empower me to move day by day. What a beautiful surprise!

 

 

Touched

This morning at mass we sang “Servant Song” for the presentation of the gifts. This is the one that starts out with “What do you want of me, Lord? Where do you want me to serve you.” It became even more moving to me than usual because of Mery. Mery is our newest music team member. She’s from Panama. She is in her 30’s, I would guess and full of life and enthusiasm and joy. She is the mother of a toddler and wife of a grad student. English is her 3rd language, probably (after Kuni and Spanish); Mery cannot sing “Servant Song” without being moved to tears.

It is still amazing to me that music and words can bring someone to such a place – tears of joy and/or sorrow. No wonder the little phrase “To sing is to pray twice” stays and stays and stays around.

Mery was embarrassed by her tears in front of the congregation. I had to hug her. It was so good to see someone so moved by the Spirit.

…they were confused

Today, which is the feast of Pentecost, the first reading from Acts contains the line “…they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” I helped with music at mass last night, and again this morning, so I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the readings, and only being confused.

At both masses, we were first asked “How many of you believe in the power of the Holy Spirit?” and then challenged to let the Spirit speak to us in the readings, and move us to speak during the homily time. It made for very interesting and varied reflections at the masses I attended.

Sometimes I am confused — I don’t expect God through the movement of the Holy Spirit to speak to me in my own tongue. I mean, really reach out to me right where I am. It’s almost confusing to try to grasp the fact that the Spirit comes to us right where we are — not when we accomplish something to make us worthy, or maybe only when we decide that we will go to a place and then be open. The Spirit is here and now. The Spirit is in the marvelous and the mundane. The Spirit is the power to that moves us to action, calls us to change and makes it possible to live fully.

I am so thankful that while the Spirit can “confuse” me by Her marvelous actions, She is also the power and presence that makes it possible for me to embrace the confusion and know that I am called, chosen and sent to make God’s love real in the world today.

Alleluia!

Immaculate Conception

[Note:It’s easy to remember my niece’s birthday as she shares it with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception…]

This a season of Mary as well as of the coming of Jesus. It’s rather like we need to see what came before to get to the gift of the baby Jesus. And so, I’ve been considering the concept of “Immaculate Conception.” I learned early on in my journey into Catholic Christianity that this Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s beginnings, not to her conceiving Jesus.

Often, it helps to go back to the original language to find a meaning to theological ideas. But, I don’t have a history of terms here, so I fall to considering the English meaning of Conception. Creatures are conceived, but also are ideas conceived. Take the term “concept” – basic concepts underlie projects and belief structures. Mary’s Immaculate Conception – Mary, conceived without sin — that had to be God’s concept. We wouldn’t have thought of it. And so, Mary, who the Catholic Church declares to have been conceived without sin, had to be the result of a concept that was born from God.

As Advent progresses, we move toward the birth of Jesus. What a concept! God becoming one of us in every way except sin. Had to be God’s idea. We would never presume to think this is really something God desired. I suspect that even those sorely broken humans who seem to think they are God carry deep within them a strong doubt that God would really want to be them. They might think they can have God’s power, but, I suspect that they don’t really think God would BE them.

And so, I wrestle with terms like Immaculate Conception and Jesus born of the Virgin Mary. And I look at the word Virgin, free of sexual attachments. I consider the Virgin was a translation and perhaps it refers to a young woman, free, in an of herself, to make the decision to embrace God’s will. The angel Gabriel told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her. Ah! The source of the concept of Jesus – God incarnate originates from God as the Holy Spirit. And Mary said “Yes.”

The power of Mary’s “yes” and the awesome gift of her allowing God to become human through her knocks me over sometimes. And it reinforces my awe at the site of a new baby, and the power of someone, anyone, everyone saying “yes.”

How Can I Keep from Singing?

There’s an old (Shaker?) hymn that has been keeping me company of late:

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation
I hear the sweet though far off hymn
That hails a new creation:
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

What though my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Savior liveth;
What though the darkness gather round!
Songs in the night He giveth:
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of Heav’n and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

I lift mine eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smoothes
Since first I learned to love it:
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing:
All things are mine since I am His—
How can I keep from singing?

Usually I sing the modified words that Pete Seeger wrote, where the Savior is Truth, Christ is Love, and the refuge is rock, etc. But the essence if still the same and it leads me to that quiet place where I am in touch with Love and Truth and the powerful Presence (of God) that is the underpinning of all creation. Once there, How can I keep from singing?

Lest I get a big head

Susan told me I sounded mighty calm for having lost my cell phone on Saturday. Truth be told, I was very calm because I noticed it almost immediately and managed to talk to another of the shuttle bus drivers, who called another driver, who caught up with the driver who had my phone, who gave it to the next driver due to come to my location, who brought it to me. Whew! I must say, I felt like my guardian angel was working really hard on that one.

Guardian Angels – I love the image of a Guardian Angel, although I’m not sure I really believe in such a thing. And then again… Many years ago, I ran into a woman who had recently retired from the place we both worked. As we chatted, she talked about the pressures and difficulties of caring for her mother. Suddenly, I found I had reached out and given her a grand hug (this would not be a normal occurrence in this work place relationship). As I walked away, I had a real since of having been honored by being allowed to be an angel.

That sort of thing has occurred more than once in my life. Each time I feel honored.

Maybe an Angel, or even a Guardian Angel is in reality another person who is open to the movement of the Spirit and willing to be moved to action. Just as those bus drivers went out of their way to get my phone back, I pray that I am willing to go out of the way to be there when someone needs me. Sometimes it seems a bit scary and sometimes it seems a bother, but it always seems right to be the hands and feet of Christ when called.

Right time, right place

I am often amazed at how life works out. Sometimes, it’s just that you know that a lot of pieces are coming together in a way that indicates that there is a higher power running the show. One example is how I came to be involved in FAMVIN through what seemed almost a chance meeting on the internet. FAMVIN didn’t even exist at that time, and now I’m in up to my eyeballs, and I met some of my best friends through the process. Who knew? (Well, I’m inclined to think Someone knew.)

Another might well be the circumstances that ended up in my leaving on parish and moving to another. I’ve written about that before when I tried to transcribe a witness talk I gave for an Ultreya meeting a few years ago. It was an occasion of losing my parish and finding my church.

And now I have a sense that it’s happening again. A young Ugandan priest who thought he would be going to Chicago this summer finds himself here in east Alabama. True, he’d like to raise some funds, but more importantly he shares himself, his dreams and his faith. He is on fire in a rather quiet, but intense way. He has a vision of way to try to help his country now and in the future. He realizes that he is here, in this place, for a reason and he gracefully and joyfully tries to understand this American culture and share his own. It’s even more amazing to me that a part of the way he got to this spot was an email contact with a young man in a nearby city who happens to be a good friend of my son-in-law.

So, I watch the Spirit breathe on us. I try to see what, if anything, I am called to do in response. This world is so much more than it seems on the surface and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future will bring. And I’ll keep Fr. Michael on my prayer list.

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