Thursday, October 31, 2013

Riding through the ups and downs...

Wow... the day is only half over but its already full.  Some days are like that, yes?  One
surprise and/or challenge after another with still much more to come.  These days I can't handle it all at once - I have to pace myself - so before heading back to the hospital it seemed wise to have a pot of pumpkin chai - and a little poetry.  My honey turned me on to this one by Aaron Smith entitled, "Like Him."

I'm almost forty and just understanding my father 
doesn't like me. At thirteen I quit basketball, the next year
refused to hunt, I knew he was disappointed, but never 
thought he didn't have to like me 
to love me. No girls. Never learned 
to drive a stick. Chose the kitchen and mom 
while he went to the woods with friends who had sons 
like he wanted. He tried fishing--a rod and reel 
under the tree one Christmas. Years I tried
talking deeper, acting tougher 
when we were together. Last summer 
I went with him to buy a tractor. 
In case he needs help, Mom said. He didn't look at me 
as he and the sales guy tied the wheels to the trailer, perfect
boy-scout knots. Why do I sometimes wish I could be a man 
who cares about cars and football, who carries a pocketknife 
and needs it? It was January when he screamed: I'm not 
a student, don't talk down to me! I yelled: You're not 
   smart enough
to be one! I learned to fight like his father, like him, like men:
the meanest guy wins, don't ever apologize. 

I quit the realm of rough and tumble politics almost 20 years ago because I didn't like who I was becoming.  As my life fell apart back then, I came to experience what Richard Rohr wrote about today:

We don’t come to God (or truth or love) by insisting on some ideal worldly order or so-called perfection, but in fact we come “to knowledge of salvation by the experience of forgiveness” (Luke 1:77)—forgiveness of reality itself, of others, of ourselves—for being so ordinary, imperfect, and often disappointing. Many also have to forgive God for not being what they wanted or expected. One reason why I am so attracted to Jesus and then to Francis is that they found God in disorder, in imperfection, in the ordinary, and in the real world—not in any idealized concepts. They were more into losing than winning. But the ego does not like that, so we rearranged much of Christianity to fit our egoic pattern of achievement and climbing.
Isn’t it strange that Christians worship a God figure, Jesus, who appears to be clearly losing by every criterion imaginable? And then we spend so much time trying to “win,” succeed, and perform. We even call Jesus’ “losing” the very redemption of the world—yet we run from it. I think Christians have yet to learn the pattern of redemption. It is evil undone much more than evil ever perfectly avoided. It is disorder reconfigured in our hearts and minds—much more than demanding any perfect order to our universe. Much of the Christian religion has largely become “holding on” instead of letting go. But God, it seems to me, does the holding on (to us!), and we must learn the letting go (of everything else).

It is good to remember that a part of you has always loved God. There is a part of you that has always said yes. There is a part of you that is Love itself, and that is what we must fall into. It is already there. Once you move your identity to that level of deep inner contentment, you will realize you are drawing upon a Life that is much larger than your own and from a deeper abundance. Once you learn this, why would you ever again settle for scarcity in your life? “I’m not enough! This is not enough! I do not have enough!” I am afraid this is the way culture trains you to think. It is a kind of learned helplessness. The Gospel message is just the opposite—inherent power.

Thomas Merton said that the way we have structured our lives, we spend our whole life climbing up the ladder of supposed success, and when we get to the top of the ladder we realize it is leaning against the wrong wall—and there is nothing at the top anyway. To get back to the place of inherent abundance, you have to let go of all of the false agendas, unreal goals, and passing self-images. It is all about letting go. The spiritual life is more about unlearning than learning, because the deepest you already knows and already enjoys (1 John 2:21).

Sometimes I wish I had more energy - or wisdom - or love. Sometimes I wish I was a tougher kind of man - or a better pastor and husband - but the truth is I am just me - and that is sufficient, yes?  Incomplete, to be sure, but sufficient.  My call is to learn to accept and cherish just have what I have so that I might be able to love it as much as God does.  Ok, my cuppa is over so it is off to the hospital and a few more meetings.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A wild weekend...

Things are starting to pop these days at church:  we just returned from a jazz and liturgy workshop in Cleveland and this weekend there are four - count them four - key events happening in our faith community.

+ First, on Friday night, we're going to host the local LGBT Live Out Loud Youth Dance at our church.  This is just one of our commitments to living into our Open and Affirming commitment that grew out of a dialogue this past summer.  Here's the poster...
+ Second, on Saturday, we'll be joining others for a Habitat House build.  After the first of the year, we'll dedicate this house and honor the mom and her two sons as they move into a house that helps her manage her challenges.

+ And third and fourth:  All Saints/All Souls Day worship on Sunday.  In the morning we will celebrate Eucharist - and I'll share a story of St. Michael Daniels.  Then at 3 pm we will hold our first Jazz Vespers. This will be the first time our great vocalists will have a chance to perform with some of best jazz friends (without the joy and chaos of the 100+ guitar armies of Thanksgiving Eve.)
We have started the 2014 stewardship drive - we are starting to rehearse for our Thanksgiving Eve "Festival of American Music" benefit on Wednesday, November 27th (for emergency fuel assistance in the Berkshires) - and then it will be ADVENT!  Hold on to your seats, beloved, the good times are on a roll. 
Thanksgiving Eve 2013
Wednesday, November 27 – 7:30 pm
First Church on Park Square
27 East Street, Pittsfield, MA

A Benefit of American Music and Poetry for
Emergency Heat in the Berkshires
(Pittsfield Area Council of Congregations)

Musical Guests
Carlton Maaia II – Rebecca Leigh – Between the Banks
Andy Kelly – Jon Haddad – Bert Marshall - Linda Worster
Hal Lefferts - Charlie Tokarz - Grahm Sturz – Sue Kelly and more!

playing for our lives: a concert to combat local homelessness June 15 @ 7 pm

In an interview with Krista Tippett a few years ago, the late Jean Vanier gave contemporary people of compassion his antidote for despair:...