Compassion and the vibe of the city...

Thomas Merton once said:  The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings - which are all part of one another - and all involved in one another.  I seem to recall this insight being related to his visit to NYC after a long time as a cloistered monk.  He could feel the whole of the place pulsating with life.

I know I certainly felt a deep and loving vibe as I just wandered through the city these past few days, too.  It was a good type of solitude and retreat - not too much alone time - but enough to get me refocused.  As I read and prayed three themes from scripture kept popping up:  rest, tears and waiting.  I had to laugh at myself because I've been searching for and wrestling with these truths for 40 years - and I guess I always will.  Now, from time to time, some people let me know that they are uncomfortable with their pastor posting such vulnerable truths about wrestling with demons, the blues and all the rest.  And on one level, I get it:  we all seek shelter in the storm.  But what I learned so long ago from Henri Nouwen - and others - is that what is most personal is also most universal.  So, I'm willing to take the risk of confusing some in the trust that others will be encouraged to keep at the journey even when it feels empty.

When I was wandering around one day, I came upon these guys at a subway stop and they were playing, "As Time Goes By" with grace, beauty and style.  I gave them a big tip, listened for a few more songs and shared a smile.  As Di says, "James can ALWAYS find some jazz no matter where he goes..." At another subway station there was a brass duet playing "Down By the Riverside."  I joined in singing with them - and we shared smiles, too. Life felt slow and real and simple. Now I'm home - and glad to be with my honey and our dogs.

My time away was filled with prayer and rest, tears and laughter and feasting with my dear daughter and her husband.  It called to mind this great old Joni Mitchell tune that not only expresses my profound gratitude and respect for street musicians but also captures some of the inner blues I've been wrestling with these days.  As Nouwen advises: Go with the feelings and let them move you towards inward compassion - trusting always in God's grace. Tonight I can say:  Amen, brother Henri, amen.


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