Thursday, April 17, 2014

blessings


BLESS YOU
 
May the relentless blessings of God                                                                                                                         disarm all our excuses which keep us from fully being alive,                                                                              Arrest the racing thoughts which keep us awake,                                                                                                   Dissolve our delusions and fantasies,                                                                                                                          Distract us from the endless technology                                                                                                                   which lures us into a virtual life,                                                                                                                                         and spark our souls into actually living again,                                                                                                      Dismiss our stubborn refusal to forgive                                                     and the grudges we hold towards others.
O Lord, surprise us with joy, open our hearts that they might sing
Protect those we have found the strength to love                                      and fill us with more love to share
That our world might soon be seen only through your eyes,
and from your heart.
Amen.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
God be with you and on you and around you and behind you and above you and beneath you and in your pockets and in your thoughts and in each tear and drop of sweat and cover you as the air and fill you as the water and surprise you like a great joke and touch you like a lover and support you like a friend and be born from your very core like a child and grow from you like your hair and be replenished upon you as your skin and flow through you as your blood and infect you with every germ and penetrate you with every ray of light and be before your breath and behind your fear and under your pain and around all of your most desperate loneliness and more still within you than the depth of your quietness and more desirous than any of your addictions, and arrive before you and leave behind you until you know that you are in God, in all that ever was and is and will be – in every tree and every rock and every creature that crawls or flies or moves, in every cloud and mountain and every raindrop and frost and every blade of grass and every river and ocean and every insect and virus and every star and planet and everyone who ever was and will be – and will be in God.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

trekkers turns 20


This Spring marks the 20th anniversary of a different approach to ministry.  In the late fall and winter of 1993-4 several members of the Episcopal Church of St. John Baptist, having been moved by the need to address the dire needs of youth in our community, began talking about how we might act.

The impetus came when a young man in seventh grade was found walking around town in the early hours because he was kicked out of his house when his mother’s new boyfriend came over. The boy had a history of abuse and it was apparent that things were only going to get worse if someone didn’t step in to help. Several other stories emerged of young people in need and the lack of mentors for these youth.
A small town can be a divine place of support and nurture for a young person or it can be hell when labeled and stereotyped as a problem or seen as a threat.
The Rev. Peter Jenks suggested some way in which adults who have moved into area might somehow connect with these young people to help. Al LaPlante, a Maine guide suggested taking the young people and adults out into the woods for a common time together. Jack Carpenter, a former Young Life director and not only a member of the parish but also working with a group called Youth Forum Maine, set up the framework to make this happen. Along with others from the parish a ministry was formed. The focus was always to meet the needs that were before us, and not to try to create something that would better the parish or the larger church or the gospel as we might have understood it. Our goal was to be faithful to what we felt called to address, nothing more. Whatever we were going to do, it was evident to us, was going to need a wide range of community support. It was important that people from all churches, organizations and backgrounds needed to join together to make this work and to connect with the youth. The first trip was with four adults and four seventh grade boys, then shortly thereafter a girls trip was made. It was called “Trekkers”. Year after year it continued to grow and add more trips, following the young people throughout high school. Members of St. John’s still serve on the board, support it with financial support and make sure that when the groups travel to other cities they match up with churches in the local areas to sleep and cook, connect with the community. It is not mandated that there be people from our parish on the board or involved, but it is something that people have continually felt important to support.
Recently a trip was made which set out to introduce ninth grade students to historical places they might only have read about, and in so making the journey we we at the local parish were able to connect with an Episcopal Church in Hanover Mass., and Washington D.C., who were able to host them in their pilgrimage. Many of these young people have not been out of the state before.  For a county with great disparity of wealth and very little connection to any church this opens the faith community to finding a way to help and support new insights for the young people in efforts not to offer them the experience of others, but to help them discover their own path and experiences.
The journey began small, seeking to meet local needs with local people and resources. Step by step the journey was made, with the parish and church association not mandatory, or in any way necessary but with relationships always held as most important, the organization has continued to grow with the needs of the community.  This organization is not a church based initiative, but rather a community based initiative. It was an act of faith, which was given away and in doing such allowed to grow in new ways. Young people and adults from a wide range of the community have served on the board, making crucial decisions.  Under the guidance of its director Don Carpenter, the organization has built links to a broad range of people and organizations for support, mentorship and guidance.  What began with the immediate need of one young man, and the prayers and response of a few adults slowly emerged what is now a vital part of a community.
For more information visit them at:   Trekkers.org 

Friday, March 28, 2014

The body and Christ

I have been reading Stephen Greenblatt's book, The Swerve, and have been fascinated by the history of the Christian Church and its rise after the fall of Rome. There was a time of great suffering and the body became something that was seen as bad, sanitation fell by the wayside and sexuality was dangerous. The understanding of the blessings of suffering  became more evident in Christian writing, and more and more those who denied the flesh were exalted. But I began wondering, would my wife find it at all appealing that I beat myself because I was thinking about other women, as a way to only think about her. That I would continually whip myself and deny myself because of how I was so greatly tempted.  I think she would wonder how much I really loved her.
The great timing of the Pax Romani led to the ability of Christianity to spread quickly and far and wide, but the fall of Rome also led to the addition of suffering and its importance as being a key element in Christianity, that and the suffering on the cross. But the body is important. For Christianity it is vital, as God chose to enter into the created physical realm of life on earth to reestablish the connections of life, and the interdependence of love.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

the vitality of music

One hundred years ago only a few people were listening to recorded music, most music was experienced by hearing people play it. For most people the knowledge of vast quantities of music were unknown, unless one had access to a symphony or ensemble of some sort to play the music.

With the advent of recordings, suddenly vast libraries of music became accessible to everyone. As we drive our cars, prepare our meals, or go about our chores, even while we shop there can and often is music playing in the background. This causes music to be seen as a backdrop to our lives. This is wonderful in some ways as it brings sounds that are amazing into our lives that otherwise would be unknown. But it is at a cost. Recorded music becomes more ordinary, and listening to it is a recreational activity. It is the beat we work out with at the gym, it is the tunes that calm us when we are stressed in the midst of traffic. Its ever present potential and its presence in public places, makes it sometimes to ordinary. There is a value that is lost when it is always available. There is also an element of intimacy that is lost when one is no longer a witness to the performer in a live setting. In a similar way a great painting in a print in a book is far different than it is when we view it before our own eyes.

When music becomes so common, we are prone to simply listen to what we like and is familiar to us. The challenging sounds and tones that lead us into fear, or helps us to face uncomfortable realities is less likely to happen when we are choosing our music, or playing music in public places, or can simply press a button to change the channel. And when this element of music is lost, so, too, is a deep dimension of music that is meant for our well being.

I have been consciously not listening to the radio when I drive, or have it playing when I am doing things around the house. I have found myself singing more, and the quiet is more a part of my every day experience. When I did go to a concert the other night, of the DaPonte String Quartet, I found that the live experience was much more vibrant and the experience of the music much more powerful than it has been before when I would oftentimes have music playing in my life.

Just as we need to be more conscious in our eating, what we are eating, so also might it benefit us if we were more conscious to our listening and to the silences of our world.  New sounds emerge, and more sensitive awarenesses arise.
The DaPonte String Quartet performing for students at a local school

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

the feast of St. Joseph

March 19 is the feast of St. Joseph, the man who raised Jesus. He was a man who listened to his dreams and had to adapt to a life that he might not have planned.

Over the course of history we have witnessed the effects and power of the patriarchical institutions and men of machismo, Putin being a modern manifestation of such. St. Joseph is an example of masculine energy and grace and protection that is different. It is good to hold up different models of manhood, different strengths and ways of doing things.

Joseph had to adapt, had to find deeper places of love, and had to have the strength to say we need to flee when the time came.  He listened to his dreams and was able to bring God into our lives more deeply.

I wonder how much influence and effect he had on Jesus, and as such on civilization.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Some thoughts

It makes me feel justified to be right,
but it helps me to feel free and to be alive to be in love.

I thought of an app for the new phones.
One that would record everything people tell me and sort it for me into catagories:
brilliant things I need to remember
things I didn't hear but should have
things I thought I heard, but really didn't hear at all
stupid things that I should forget
details that need to be recorded, and I thought I wrote down
Idle conversations that can be forgotten
things that were important and totally missed
things that I should not have heard
things that amaze me


another app might record everything I say and catagorize it:
Things I really should not have said
things that actually made sense and surprised me
things that i thought were funny, but weren't
things I need to apologize for later
things that had no meaning at all
things that I should stop saying all together
things that no one heard me say
things that i should have said, but didn't


Saturday, February 22, 2014

langauge and orientation


There was a recent video that was passed around the internet of a person asking people on the street whether they thought people were born or chose to be a homosexual.  After they answered the question, then the person would ask them, if they were not homosexual, whether they were born or chose to be heterosexual.  It was a cute and insightful exercise.  It left people who were not homosexual baffled and thoughtful with the idea of when they chose to be heterosexual.
After watching this video I began to reflect upon the very different experiences people have regarding their sexual orientation. Homosexuality has caused people to struggle and become more aware of their sexuality and relationships as they interact within our society. This, of course, has much to do with the long standing oppression and opposition to homosexuality within our society.
By feeling or thinking that one’s heterosexuality is “normal” or the standard way of being has also been an opportunity for people who are of such a persuasion to not reflect as much upon their sexual orientation.  When did I chose to be a heterosexual? What caused me to be such? Why am I not gay? These are questions that, until now, I have not ever asked myself. 
As a heterosexual there are not many well known descriptive terms for my orientation. Women can be called a lesbian, a title I have always thought was a very nice sounding word. Or men are often referred to as being “gay” if one is a homosexual. But for me, I simply have “straight”, or heterosexual.  Somehow, I think this is too bad.  I know labels have been very demeaning and used to put people down or hurt or isolate them, but perhaps they can be turned into a positive understanding.  I remember when I heard that straight people are sometimes referred to as “breeders”, it made me laugh and I thought it priceless. I liked it. Being creative with our language and turning negative situations into positive understandings is a gift our language offers. All too often we let it slide into simplicities of stereotype and profanity, all in efforts to elevate ourselves. Perhaps we should instead elevate ourselves by using better language and not put down others but embrace our experiences with a broader brush and palette of verbage.

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