Thursday, September 11, 2014

Time for Change

I`ve been exploring ways to connect up with people lately.  You see, having MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities) makes this rather difficult, if not downright impossible.  If I go into any group situation, someone is bound to be wearing a heavy dose of perfume, or cologne, or hairspray, etc., etc., etc.  Going to a public restroom can be a real challenge. 

Reaching out on the internet seems to be the only route to go.  The advertisers are winning in convincing people that things don`t smell right unless we buy their chemicals and spray them everywhere or throw them in the dryer or plug them into the wall.  It`s wishful thinking to believe that I will ever reach the audience that corporate dollars can reach, but I must do something.

So I`ve changed the topic of this blog.  I will still be exploring spiritual and religious topics because that`s where my heart is, but I will also be touching on that which causes me pain--MCS--and how it impacts my life and the lives of other "canaries."

Coal mining companies used to use canaries down in their mines to signal when the miners needed to leave and get some fresh air.  The canaries would stop singing when the air became too toxic.  That`s what those of us who already have MCS are--the canaries that have stopped singing to alert the world that the air is getting too toxic and it`s time to change or risk death.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Courage

Amelia Jenk Bloomer
Feast of St. Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Amelia Jenk Bloomer
Saturday, July 20th

Today in the Episcopal Church we celebrate the lives of some pretty courageous women. All of them stood up for the rights of women,the abolition of slavery, and other injustices at a time when society and the Church regarded them as inferior beings. To read more about their tremendous courage in the face of huge challenges, check out the Padre Mickey Dance Party blog.

Harriet Tubman
Being courageous is not something I put down when I write an inventory of my strengths. Fear and anxiety are much more familiar to me. If I think about courage as requiring boldness, as exhibited by these four women, I don't recognize it in myself. Wordsmyth lists several synonyms for courage—audacity, daring, gallantry, heroism, pluck, prowess, spunk, and heart. 'Heart' resonates with me. One of the definitions for heart includes “energy and courage; spirit.” I suspect I do have some heart.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Tibetan lamas recount an ancient prophesy about the coming of the Kingdom of Shambhala. It will come at a time when the people of the world are in danger of self-annihilation. It's not a place where people can go, but a state of heart and mind in the Shambhala warrior. “The Shambhala warriors know that the dangers that threaten life on Earth do not come from evil deities or extraterrestrial powers. They arise from our own choices and relationships” (Macy). There are two weapons used by the Shambhala warriors—compassion and insight. Compassion is needed because it gives us the fuel to act on behalf of others. But compassion alone causes us to burn out so we also need the insight to see the interdependence of everyone and all that exists.

[Insight] lets us see that the battle is not between good people and bad people, for the line between good and evil runs through every human heart. We realize that we are interconnected, as in a web, and that each act with pure motivation affects the entire web, bringing consequences we cannot measure or even see (Macy).



I would say I'm a pretty compassionate person who's become burned out because I have not cultivated enough insight into my interdependence with all other beings. I try to act from my ego—my separate self. I can work on changing this and cultivate both of the weapons of a Shambhala warrior.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.








Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Mess

Daily Lectionary Reflections
Russian Icon of Peter's Denial
Proper 8, Monday

Peter is what Southerners call 'a mess'. It's a term used affectionately for someone who seems to always be doing something that stirs up trouble, but you can't stay mad at them because they're so lovable. I'm not sure where the term came from. However, a mess is something that can be cleaned up—not a total disaster from which no good can come.

In the reading from Luke, Peter denies that he knows Jesus, not one time, but three times. Of course, Jesus predicted Peter would do this sort of thing. He knew Peter's loyalty and curiousity would keep Peter lurking around while Jesus was being crucified, but he also knew Peter's fears—fear of death for being identified as a disciple of Jesus, enemy of the state!

And it was at Peter that Jesus yelled, “Get thee behind me Satan” (Matt. 16:23 KJV). Peter was being nice, saying “Heaven forbid,” (Matt. 16:22 NEB) when Jesus told the disciples that he would be put to death by the elders in Jerusalem. Peter loved Jesus. He didn't want anything bad to happen to Jesus. Imagine Peter's shock as Jesus chastised him for this!

Peter's the one that tried walking on water and failed. At least he tried. The other disciples stayed safely in the boat. Peter's also the one to whom Jesus said, “You are Peter, the Rock; and on this rock I will build my church . . .” (Matt. 16:18 NEB) Funny thing is, Matthew places this encounter only a few verses before Peter blurts out, “Heaven forbid” or “Never, Lord” (NIV). (I like the “Heaven forbid” better. It sounds more Southern!)

After Jesus is crucified, Peter and John get arrested by the Jewish rulers, and Peter proceeds to openly proclaim Jesus as being raised from the dead by God, and “there being no other name under heaven granted to men, by which we may receive salvation” (Acts 3:12 NEB). Somewhere he found the courage to acknowledge that he was a disciple of Jesus after faltering previously.

It's also Peter who opposed Paul about the baptism of Gentiles until he had a vision where God told him, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15 NIV). He proceeds to the house of a Gentile, Cornelius, and admits his mistake, saying, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism” (Acts 10:34 NIV). Peter and those who accompanied him were “astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:45 NIV).

Despite being 'a mess', God uses Peter. That gives me hope. I stumble often. I run away in fear, denying God's call on my life. I think I'm right about something, only having to apologize later. I can be 'a mess', too, but God cleans me up again.

There's a meditation, written by Gerald May, in the Recovery Devotional Bible, that speaks of this as a good thing:
For every failure in my life, I feel either guilt or shame, and sometimes both. And it is all right.

It is better than all right, for it has been more my failures than my successes that has opened me to love (1292).
And isn't that what it's all about—opening to love.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Silence

I've been listening to an audio book series, written by Margaret Cole, the Father John and Vickie Holden series, that takes place on an Arapaho Indian reservation. Father John is a Jesuit priest who solves murder mysteries. Within the book, Cole sprinkles beliefs of the Arapaho, one of which caught my attention--only in silence can we hear the approach of the Divine.
Photo by Niels E. Pedersen

We live in a noisy world. The Industrial Revolution brought with it machines and machines can be noisy. But nature can be noisy as well—just spend time in Georgia after the tree frogs start their nightly “symphony.” Therefore, it's a distinct possibility that the silence alluded to in many religious traditions is not the absence of noise, but rather a place of stillness.

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Hafiz, a 14th century mystic and poet wrote:
Noise
Is a cruel ruler
Who is always imposing curfews,
While stillness and quiet,
break open the vintage bottles,
Awake the real Band (Fox 215).

From the Upanishads, fundamental Hindu teachings written between 600-300 BCE, we learn:
He is the inner self of all,
Hidden like a little flame in the heart,
Only by the stilled mind can he be known,
Those who realize him become immortal (Braybrooke 173).

Despite knowing that I need to cultivate stillness, it's a most difficult task. Distractions get my attention. Demons speak my name so much louder. “Noise is a cruel ruler.”

Obviously, God hasn't given up on me, coming to me even in a novel, asking for me to return to the silence found in stillness, to return to working the 11th step--”Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him . . .”.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I've been listening to a series of meditations put out by Wild Divine. In the one I listened to today, Connecting Outside Yourself, Deepak Chopra shared this ancient saying:
I am not in the world,
the world is in me.
I am not in the body,
the body is in me.
I am not in the mind,
the mind is in me.
The body, the mind, the world,
they happen to me
As I curve back within myself
and create again and again.

The term “I am” is shared by many of the world's religions as name for the Divine. In the Hebrew Bible, Moses asks God what God's name is. And God replies, “I Am who I Am” (Exodus 3:13-14).
Julian of Norwich, a Christian mystic born in 1342, wrote:
    Our Lord Jesus oftentimes said:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Prophets

Daily Lectionary Reflections
Ezekiel Saw the Wheel - William H. Johnson
Proper 6, Wednesday

As I was pondering and researching the readings for Wednesday's lectionary, I came upon a commentary written by Brian Peterson, a professor of the New Testament at the Lutheran seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. He stresses how Luke changed the quote he used from the 2nd chapter of Joel. He substituted “they shall prophesy” for “I will pour out my spirit” in verse 18 which adds a different dimension to the understanding of the role of the Spirit:
For John, the Spirit is the Advocate, the continuing and comforting presence of Jesus with the church, and the source of peace. For Paul, the Spirit is that which unites us to Christ, makes us into his body, and gives particular gifts to each person for the sake of the community. For Luke-Acts, the Spirit is the power of God, the mighty burning wind that blows the church into new and unexpected places of ministry (Peterson).
Personally, I'm more comfortable with John's and Paul's interpretation of the role of the Spirit. I like knowing I have a source for peace available to me and that each of us brings a unique gift to our communities, but being a prophet requires a whole different set of criteria.

According to Beth Tanner, an Old Testament professor from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Deuteronomy 18:15-20 describes the function, expectations, and requirements of a prophet, “The only function of an ancient prophet was to declare the word of God to the people” (Tanner). Prophets come “from among their own people,” (verse 18), are accountable to God if they don't speak only the words God gives them (verse 19), and will be put to death if they have spoken of other gods or words they weren't commanded to speak (verse 20).

I don't know about you, but being a prophet seems pretty risky to me, especially considering that writing this blog could be considered as falling under the profession of a prophet. I don't consider myself to be a prophet—a teacher, maybe, but not one who actually always speaks what God commands 100% of the time.

Given what Luke has described happened to the disciples before they were able to speak to the people in a language everyone understood, being moved by the Spirit seems to be the prerequisite. I've never spoken in tongues or even had much of an ecstatic experience, but I do sense the movement of Spirit in my life. Through Lectio Divinia, prayer, and other forms of meditation, I do feel led to share with others my faith journey. I hope it is pleasing to God and others. Otherwise, writing this blog may be my death sentence!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bernard Mizeki

Daily Lectionary Reflections
June 18th
Bernard Mizeki

Bernard Mizeke, or Mamiyeri Mitseka Gwambe, was a Christian missionary and martyr, born in Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique). At around the age of 12, he left home to go and live in the slums of Cape Town, South Africa, working as a laborer. He abstained from drinking, even though drunkenness was rampant in the slums, and attended night classes at the Anglican school, run by the Society of Saint John the Evangelist monks. He decided to convert to Christianity and was baptized on March 9, 1886. He seemed to have a gift for learning languages and proved himself an invaluable assistant, translating many sacred texts into African languages.

After graduating from school, he did mission work amongst the tribes of what is now Zimbabwe, eventually building a school for the Mashona. He was able to bridge the gap between the religion of the Mashona and Christianity, producing many converts. However, black African nationalists considered all missionaries as working for the European colonial governments. Bernard, warned of impending danger, refusing to desert his converts and asserting that he worked for Christ and not any government, was fatally speared on June 18, 1896. While his wife and a helper went to get a blanket and food for him, they reported seeing a blinding light and the sound of rushing wings from the hillside where they had left him.

It's amazing what sacrifices people will make once they've been filled with the Spirit and strengthened by their love of Christ.