Let those who have ears…

I admit that I struggle with “the Church” and with the apparent ideologies of parts of the church that I deal with… like the Cursillo Movement. I admit that I struggle to be inclusive, to remember and love these entities that I struggle with, even when we diverge on interpretation, or when I feel like I have moved on and I have shed some of these ideas. I admit that at times I do think I am more advanced or a bit superior. I’m not, when I look closely and honestly at myself, but I do struggle with those tendencies.

Last night I listened to a couple of talks at a Cursillo School of Leaders. These were well done, and well researched. The women who happened to be talking had put time, effort and thought into these presentations, and both admitted that the preparation had caused a change of mind and/or heart in themselves.

I listened to the words and a couple of things struck me:  First, I was hearing with different ears. Same words, but very different meanings to me. That means I heard things I had never heard before, even if I had heard the same words proclaimed. One of the ideas that has been voiced is about being fully human. I’ve mouthed those words, but mostly they were a mystery to me. I hear words about “something superior to this world” and I bristle… until I begin to understand that what I seek is superior in as much as it is more, beyond, a unity of the physical world we see (and touch and hear) and the Spirit  or power that animates not only humans but all the world. A unity in the universe.

The other thing that struck me was the simplicity of “method” talk and how the speaker shared her journey toward a better understanding of “the method.” She talked about “Make a friend, be a friend, bring that friend to Christ” and how the goal was “Bring a friend to Christ” not “Bring a friend to Cursillo.” That might happen that one would bring a friend to a Cursillo weekend, and that would probably be a good thing, but that is not the goal. Even before that, she reflected on what it means to make a friend and be a friend. I kept hearing the words to an old song “What a friend we have in Jesus…” as she spoke.

I’m listening with new ears. I’m hearing the same words and moving to a different understanding. If I truly believe that God is everywhere and in everything/person/creature/plant/situation, and that the same holds for the Body of Christ, then I’m approaching this idea of sharing the Good News differently. I only need to witness to the Love that is Lord of Heaven and earth and be led by that light. I don’t need to judge. I don’t need to worry that someone else is responding incorrectly. I can let go of the need to be “right.”  I am free to evaluate the results of actions without judging the person.

Maybe those are the ears Jesus was referring to… for now, I’m going with that.

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.

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!