Friday, March 16, 2012

Solitude & Community

The world seems so small. We are able to "connect" with old "friends" immediately. We are able to discover what they are reading or doing - who their friends are - what they are listening to - where they are eating - but when it comes down to it, not really know what is going on inside their lives. 

Even with hundreds of "friends" - folks can find themselves alone in the world - alone in their struggles - alone facing each day. Connections are often made with those who are facing similar struggles - a facebook group, a chat room, a support group. Many churches have discovered that support groups often bring folks in the doors that would not normally enter (i.e. divorce recovery, financial peace, MOPs, AA). Connecting with others in this way often brings growth and community. Connecting with others in this way often brings transformation. 

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." (Matthew 9:35) 

Looking at images of solitude - one often sees images of a person alone. What are your thoughts on solitude? Have you experienced solitude? "We live in a very tense society. We are pulled apart...and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together...I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude." (Helen Hayes) 

"All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.

Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love." (Henri Nouwen)

Looking at Lea Kelley's painting, "Network of Solitude" below- 
what does it say to you about community and solitude? 

Where do you find yourself in the painting? Connected? Lonely? Experiencing solitude?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thursday, March 8th

As I look through the scrapbooks of my life,
remind me dear God of the "Egypts" you have brought me through -
remind me of your never failing love -
remind me that you are a God of relationships and community
and we are never alone.

Exodus 20:2 
"I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt..."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday, March 6th

During this time of preparation - 
                          this time of examination -
                                                       this time of remembering,
look in every corner - every room - every nook and cranny of my life.
      Help me rediscover those rooms that are filled with clutter -
               those rooms where I have closed the door - to deal with another day.
Sweep away the cobwebs of self reliance!
      Dust the counter tops of faith!
           Clean the mirrors of immediacy!
                     Shake out the rugs of regret!
                            Clear away the stacks of intentions!
                                     Open the draperies of arrogance!
Open doors - 
      open windows - 
              open house!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thursday, March 1st

Syrian forces overrun opposition in rebel stronghold of Homs...death toll over 7500...Davy Jones dies at 66...tornadoes hit the midwest...Republican presidential candidates look to super Tuesday...Madame Tussauds reveals new wax figure of Justin Bieber for his birthday...a silen movie, "The Artist," wins Best Picture...three men were killed during drug deal in Gwinnett County...temperatures are rising and I forgot to put pre-emergent on my lawn...I wonder if the sandwiches will be good at lunch...I hope folks remember to turn off their cellphones during the mid-day prayer today...where did I put the money for the tip?...I sure hope the weatherman was right! It would be awful trying to get all these folks off the motorcoach and into the monastery with only a few umbrellas.............

Look! just beyond the trees! The Monastery of the Holy Spirit!
Our schedule will be as follows....this gives you plenty of time to relax and enjoy your time careful as you exit the motorcoach..."Welcome!"

"My name is Brother Peter."

"I am Phill. So good to meet you! Should the folks look around the gift shop until it is time for the video...or perhaps they should wait in the lobby"........

"They are welcome to look around the gift shop."

..."Okay folks, look around the gift shop until it is time for the video."....

"The monastery is a school of the Lord's service 
where Christ is formed in the hearts of the brothers through the liturgy, 
the abbot's teaching and the fraternal way of life. 
Through God's Word the monks are trained in a discipline of heart and action
to be responsive to the Holy Spirit and so attain purity of heart 
and a continual mindfulness of God's presence."

"How?"                  "Why?"                                                                     "God."           

"Are you sure it is possible?"                            "I can hear the beat of one's heart."                                       

"Get up at 3:45 a.m.!"                                                           "I am not alone."

"all brothers are of one heart and one mind, they have everything in common. 
By bearing one another's burdens they fulfill Christ's law, participating in his sufferings 
in the hope of entering the kingdom of heaven."

Praying      .........    together
Working     .................................................    together
Eating     .........    together
Living      ......................................................     together
Dying    .........    together

"Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. 
Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, 
will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them."

                            birds...                                flowers...

gentle breeze

                 smell of coffee...                                    incense...

                                          bells...         wind chimes...



Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday, February 28th

During a recent time of reflection on retreat, I wrote the following psalm:

Creator God, ruler of the universe -
     along the shores of life, 
I seek your presence
               I long for the light
                                of your campfire in the darkness.
Around every bend in the river
    I hope to find you calling me from a distant shore.
The rapids have often overtaken me - 
                                    breathless I find myself on the other side.
Are you aware of my journey?
       Are you aware there are days 
                         when the sun beats down upon me 
      and I desire shade and a place of rest?
My friends taunt me from the shore - 
                     waving banners and cheering
       unaware of where I've been 
                                   or where I'm going.
When the river consumes me
      and beats me against the rocks -
Will you be there?
River maker - 
            bring calm to the waters ahead. 
And when I face the rapids 
            help me to see you on the other side.
Help me to remember when you tossed me a line
    and pulled me to shore
             and I found rest in you.
Creator God - ruler of the universe -
You are my guide and comfort,
                       in you I find peace and rest.

"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand." 
- Henri J. M. Nouwen

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday, February 26th

This weekend we visited our niece and her family on Friday night in Birmingham. Her daughter Bowden Ann will soon be 2 years old! We told Jessica we were coming to see her and Doug. If the truth be known, it was all about Bowden Ann. Almost 2 - she is full of energy and full of chatter! Looking into her eyes one sees innocence, imagination, wonder.... 

During our visit in Birmingham, Lisa and I also visited some dear friends, Sigurd and Sara Bryan. Lisa and I had Dr. Bryan for our Survey of the Old Testament class at Samford. We have said many times that in his presence we felt like we were on holy ground. Sara is the organist at Shades Crest Baptist Church - our church home when we got married. Looking into Sigurd's eyes one sees humility, kindness, gentleness, love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness....


Today we often find ourselves so busy that we fail to look others in the eyes. We fail to see what might be going on there - 



You can assume you know what is going on in someone's life -
                                  but when was the last time you looked into his or her eyes?

Open my eyes that I may see....

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday, February 24th

What is repentance? 
What are images and words that come to mind when you hear the word, "repentance"?

The words "I'm sorry." can seem trite. I remember when my children were little if one hurt another he or she would try to get by with simply saying the words, "I'm sorry." It wasn't until I made him or her look at the other in the eyes and say it that I think he or she truly meant it. Once the eyes met and the words were spoken, the tears began to flow.

With the word repentance in your mind, take a look at the painting "Repentant Mary Magdalene" by Simon de Vos below. What does it say to you about repentance?

There is a way that appears to be right, 
   but in the end it leads to death. 
Proverbs 16:25

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday, February 23rd

The mark of the ashes has been washed away. Reminded of my humanity I faced a new day today. As with any day I could have gone with the flow and allowed the motions of everyday to guide me and to speak to me. I have discovered that living life in this way leaves you numb - unaware of people - unaware of nature - unaware of life. 
Look at the crocus bulb. If the crocus bulb relied only in itself - it would remain a dull, fuzzy looking object and over time would simply dry up. Taking that same crocus bulb and planting it in the ground and allowing it to interact with the earth, the sun, the rain...all of nature, it becomes a beautiful flower and message of hope - spring is coming! - to all who pass by. 

A friend shared these words with me today:
In this portion of his "Psalm of the Great Reversal
Jerry Webber describes his journey in light of David's:

I've lumbered through life with this illusion
that the center of life is about what I do for You,
that I need to find great and small things to do for You;
When all along,
You've wanted to do something in me!
You've desired to build a life of meaning in me
a life animated by Your Spirit,
and lived from the soul,
inside out!
David had it backward;
he didn't need to build a house for You.
You wanted to build a house
inside him!
This is my own Great Reversal:
The shift in consciousness
to which I open myself daily,
as You build a life of meaning within me...
To this Reversal, I open myself.

Like the crocus...God desires to work in us and through us!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ash Wednesday
occurs on the first day of Lent - the seventh Wednesday before Easter. On this day ashes are placed on the foreheads of the faithful to remind them of death, of the sorrow they should feel for their sins, and of the necessity of changing their lives. The practice, which dates from the early Middle Ages, is common among Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Episcopalians, and many other Protestants.

"Honesty before God requires the most fundamental risk of faith we can take: the risk that God is good, that God does love us unconditionally. It is in taking this risk that we rediscover our dignity. To bring the truth of ourselves, just as we are, to God, just as God is, is the most dignified thing we can do in this life." --Gerald May

Psalm 8
O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; 4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? 5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. 6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

What a week for Ash Wednesday! Looking at the night skies we see Venus, Mars AND Jupiter!!! What a marvelous sight!! Most of us have only seen them in models in public school classrooms - styrofoam balls floating above our heads! 

Beginning this Lenten adventure - we pause to examine ourselves AND look at God. In the next 40 days, my prayer is that we will discover more about ourselves and God as we travel together 

and in the process our lives will be changed.

God be with us!