Sunday, July 15, 2018

Spirituality of Non-Hurrying

“Nothing can be more useful to a man than a determination not to be hurried.” Thoreau wrote that and it's not meant as something trivial.
We hurry too much, pure and simple. As Henri Nouwen describes it:
One of the most obvious characteristics of our daily lives is that we are busy. We experience our days as filled with things to do, people to meet, projects to finish, letters to write, calls to make, and appointments to keep. Our lives often seem like over-packed suitcases bursting at the seams. It fact, we are almost always aware of being behind schedule. There is a nagging sense that there are unfinished tasks, unfulfilled promises, unrealized proposals. There is always something else that we should have remembered, done, or said. There are always people we did not speak to, write to, or visit. Thus, although we are very busy, we also have a lingering feeling of never really fulfilling our obligation.
We are always hurrying.
What's wrong with hurrying? Any doctor, police officer, spiritual director, or over-worked mother, can answer that: Hurrying causes tension, high blood-pressure, accidents, and robs us of the simple capacity to be in the moment.
But spiritual writers take this further. They see hurry as an obstacle to spiritual growth. Donald Nicholl, for example, says “hurry is a form of violence exercised upon time” an attempt, as it were, to make time God's time our own, our private property. What he and others suggest is that, in hurrying, we exercise a form of greed and gluttony? How so
The gospels tell us that even Jesus was so busy at times that he didn't have time to eat.
Too often we have a rather simplistic notion of greed and gluttony. We imagine greed, for example, as hoarding money and possessions, as being selfish, hard-hearted, like Scrooge in the Dickens' Christmas tale. For most of us, greed takes a different, more subtle form. More than money, we hoard experience. We try to drink in the world, all of it. We would like to travel to every place, see everything, feel every sensation, not miss out on anything. We constantly hurry what we're doing so as to be available to do more. We try to juggle too many things at the same time precisely because we want too many things. The possessions we really want are experience, knowledge, sensation, achievement, status. We're greedy in a way Scrooge never was. Gluttony works essentially the same. For most of us, the urge to consume is not so much about food or drink, but about experience. We are always in a hurry because we are forever restless to taste more of life.
But there are other kinds of hurry that come from simple circumstance and duty. Almost everyone of us, at least during our working years, have too many things to do: Daily, we struggle to juggle the demands of relationships, family, work, school, church, child-care, shopping, attention to health, concern for appearance, house-work, preparing meals, rent and mortgage payments, car payments, commuting to and from work, bus schedules, unwanted accidents, unforeseen interruptions, illnesses, and countless other things that eat up more time than is seemingly available.
The gospels tell us that even Jesus was so busy at times that he didn't have time to eat. God didn't make a mistake in creating time, God made enough of it, and when we can't find enough time and, as the Psalmist says, find ourselves getting up ever earlier and going to bed ever later because we have too much to do, we need to see this as a sign that sooner or later we had better make some changes. When we hurry too much and for too long we end up doing violence to ourselves, and to our blood pressure.
Lord, I pray for Sonshine Friends that they learn to stop and smell the flowers. Help us Lord, to walk more slowly, eat more slowly, talk more slowly so that we can enjoy and savor the beauty of Your gift of time.

Monday, July 09, 2018

We Are More Than People Think

My best friend who I had the privilege of serving as his best man 20 years ago invited Sue and I to stay as his guests in Nashua. His beloved spouse made gourmet meals every day and we spent our time watching World Cup Soccer, some PBS detective shows and enjoyed the Boston Pops at Tanglewood. He recently retired after 40 plus years service as a geriatric physician.

His vocation was to get his elderly patients off their pills and make them as independent as possible so they could enjoy their golden years. His other talent was to teach the next generation of young docs how to care for seniors with respect and dignity.

My best friend is now 75, and he was showing off the features of his new 2018 Subaru with all its bells and whistles. His family comes from Detroit and he has an extensive appreciation for all makes of cars. Yes, his toy has google maps, back up screens and bells that sound when you cross the lines. This is a good thing because when seated as a passenger he made me crazy. We are on the highway and you need to change lanes to make a turn but he’s still going straight until someone points out “not here go there.” “I’m sorry” he says. Now we are on cruise control and he shares when you come up too close to the car in front of you, the car’s brakes back you away. Good thing because I didn’t want to be part of that guy’s bumper.

Bless his dear wife and Susan who are in the back of the car and his wife says to “quit it” you’re making us dizzy. I’m sorry, he says again. Mind you, he’s more then it seems. He’s not trying to be malicious or rattle us, just a tad careless at times.

I wonder, when you retire does something happen to your brain that says you can get a little flaky and people around you will look the other way. Maybe, he just wants our attention. You may think that he’s just another doctor who has enjoyed the power and prestige of his position and expects people to bow to all his whims. You would be dead wrong with my friend for he is not what it seems with this true story.

Our spouses called to make reservations for dinner after the concert, but every restaurant was booked except one known as the Church Grille that took no reservations. After my friend parked the car, we are walking to the restaurant and he says let’s go here. I’m thinking that’s silly since the ladies had called the Church Grille. However, when we got to the door, the place was dark inside and a sign on the door read the place was closed that night due to a plumbing problem.

I turned and there’s my friend running back to the other restaurant. We walked only halfway not sure what he was up to. Then he’s frantically waving his arms to come back. He’s more than people think because we learned that this restaurant had no reservations available, but there were 5 free seats at the bar where we could eat. No problem, we appreciated my friend’s quick response and to our surprise enjoyed a wonderful gourmet meal. When I wanted to pick up the bill, he said to me “please let me take care of this.” So, I got off my bar stool, walked over to the end of the bar and took him by the shoulder and said “Thanks.” You see we are always more than people think.

People are always more than we think. You may never know that my best friend worked with veterans who struggled with their PTSD and drug addictions. You may never know that he has an auto-immune disease that requires a powerful medication that lays him up for a day or two before he feels better. You may never know that his generosity extends to all his adult kids and grandkids whom he visits often around the country. His grand-kids love their grand-dad.  He gives quietly to all his family and I can say: “We never knew he had it in him.”

The point is that we are indeed more than people think and sometimes you know, it breaks out. Sometimes our crazy side drives other insane, then again our generous and heroic deeds pop out to challenge others’ assessment and in surprise they say: “We never knew you had it in you.”

This happened often to Jesus and his disciples as they began their ministry to the folks in surrounding villages. The truth is people are always more than we think and therefore we must never lock them in the box, nor should they lock us in.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who have been misunderstood by family and friends. You know our silly side and our heroic deeds. Help us to see the good that you see in all of us and be a grateful people.  

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Holy Family Fathers Gift to Their Children


The Batavia News by Jessica Dillon
NORTH JAVA — When members of Holy Family Parish first tossed around the idea of a memorial playground three years ago, it took just 37 days before mulch was laid and a play-set complete with a spiral slide, monkey bars, swings and a small rock wall sat ready and waiting for the community’s youth.
“Clayton Park,” dedicated in memory of infant Clayton George, who died at just 15 days old in March 2013, served as testament to the devotion and caring nature of parishioners and local residents, many of whom had rallied together to raise $15,000 for the cause.
Even after all this time, they haven’t lost their giving spirit — just last week, the men of Holy Family set to work once again on another community project, constructing a picnic pavilion to serve as the perfect shady shelter for parents watching their children play on sunny days and as a safe, dry space during the sometimes rainy outdoor Masses and old-school picnics held annually at the parish.
“Basically, we were all sitting around one day looking out at the park playground, and every year we have an outdoor Mass to honor our grandson, so we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a pavilion out there?’,” said Clayton’s grandmother, Marie George. “It kind of snowballed from there.”
With a sizeable contribution made by the daughter of another late, beloved parishioner, Ed Bartz, and with continued donations flowing in for both the Clayton Park and parish building funds, the approximate $5,000 project soon became a reality.
“(Bartz) contributed an awful lot,” said Marie’s husband, Steve, who serves as a construction leader on the project. “He was a fantastic woodworker and donated many handmade wood goods to the church and to fundraisers.”
And so volunteers — at least a dozen of them — didn’t hesitate in offering up their time for the cause, with even Rev. Matt Kawiak, the church’s pastor, helping to nail in the boards and install the roof on the 24-by-48 structure.
“What people like about Holy Family Parish is its sense of community,” Kawiak had said just days before the Clayton Park dedication. “Clayton Park is a reminder that while the tragedy of a death of a child is devastating, the faith community can provide comfort and support to grieving parents.”
Now the pavilion, too, is intended to bring healing and restore the joy to the hearts of all people whose hearts have been broken by the death of their loved ones, Kawiak said.
Work on the project is nearing completion, with the metal roof fully installed and plans for the addition of a concrete pad and the installation of grills firming up. Though a dedication ceremony has not been set just yet, parishioners expect it will coincide with the annual Clayton Park Picnic held each year in early fall.
“This is for the whole community,” Steve said. “That’s what we want the whole thing to be. Even though it’s on church property, it’s big enough for maybe small weddings or bridal showers or baby showers or family reunions. It’s open to everyone. All are welcome.”
And not just at the pavilion and park, but at church, too, the Georges said.
In the wake of the closure of the former St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church in 2007, Holy Family Parish was born from the ashes, and the congregation has worked actively to welcome new parishioners ever since.
“If you’re looking for somewhere to go, we’re there,” Marie said. “We want everyone to know that they’re all welcome. We don’t turn anyone away.” 
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends and especially grateful to all the volunteer dads, granddads and mentors who built this manificient structure to bring kids to the playground. Bless these nurturing men with good health, strength and joy.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Blood and Sweat

A pastor was invited to help the men in his parish build a church pavilion. It turned out to be quite an education on the kind of talents and skills God had blessed his parish. Four by fours had to be placed three and a half feet deep in a hole and separated eight feet across. You needed some muscles to move these posts and when all else failed the “man thing” to do was to take a sledge hammer and pound it into place. After placing eighteen posts in place, it was time for lunch, Gus, our chuck wagon cook, served lunch with his secret ingredient “limburger cheese.” Our numbers grew to ten in the afternoon with the addition of a young pro who helped this team of volunteers straighten their earlier lines with laser beams and a lever and a wonderful positive attitude who shared “piece of cake.”  Our senior volunteers may not have had all the skills but their hearts and sweat make up the difference.
This Sunday is the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, an invitation from Christ is to be there for one another in times of difficulty and tragically in life. Jesus came to the sick and dying and those who felt abandoned and misunderstood. It is also the 7th anniversary of rebirth of Holy Family Catholic Parish. What a perfect feast to celebrate that we are the blood that brings warmth to people who feel cold from loneliness, despair or grief. We are the hands of Christ who bring His comfort and hope, and help nail in the two by fours to build a church pavilion next to the church playground.
The pavilion still needs a lot of work before completion, but let me offer my humble thanks to Chris for straightening our lines, for Steve nailing the boards, for Rory and Harry holding up our beams, for Andy digging the holes, to Larry and Tom drilling the screws and cutting boards, for Gus who kept us hydrated and Chris who made us all smile with his enthusiasm.
Bishop Mack shared that I was doing a great job, I corrected him and said that it is the people who God has blessed with many gifts who deserve all the credit. My job is simply to open the lid and let their light, their gifts, their wisdom, their faith and their love pour across this community and county and others will follow.
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends and the people of Holy Family Catholic Parish that their blood and sweat are signs of your presence in our community. I am truly humbled and grateful for their generous and warm hearts and pray You continue to bless them with Your peace, joy and wisdom.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

I'll Love You Forever


This year I sang a lullaby to all our nurturing women who serve as parent, mentor and guide to children, neighbors and friends in their lives. The lullaby comes from a children’s book written by Robert Munsch entitled: “I Love You Forever”. The words are:
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My Mommy you'll be.

Now for a moment, put your arms around yourself. Cuddle your body, hold yourself the way you would hold a baby in your arms. Now, after you have a real good hold of yourself, close your eyes and begin to rock yourself. Rock yourself real good, the way you would a baby, and just keep doing it. When you grow up, no matter how old you are, and if you are crying and you don’t know why, I want you to rock yourself just like this. As you do it, remember that you are God’s little child, and that God understands why you are crying even if no one else does. As you rock yourself let me offer this blessing:

To the Moms who are struggling, to those filled with incandescent joy.
To the Moms who are remembering children who have died, and pregnancies that miscarried.
To the Moms who decided other parents were the best choice for their babies, to the Moms who adopted those kids and loved them fierce.
To those experiencing frustration or desperation in infertility.
To those who knew they never wanted kids, and the ways they have contributed to our shared world.
To those who mothered colleagues, mentees, neighborhood kids, and anyone who needed it.
To those remembering Moms no longer with us.
To those moving forward from Moms who did not show love, or hurt those they should have cared for.

Good and Gentle God, we pray in gratitude for our mothers and for all the nurturing women who have joined with you in the wonder of caring for life. You who became human through a woman, grant to all mothers the courage they need to face the uncertain future that life with children always brings. Give them the strength to live and to be loved in return, not perfectly, but humanly. Give them the faithful support of partners, family and friends as they care for the physical and spiritual growth of their children. Give them joy and delight in their children to sustain them through the trials of motherhood. Most of all, give them the wisdom to turn to you for help when they need it most.
Lord, I pray for all our nurturing Sonshine Friends who need your gentle touch to remind them that we don’t have to be perfect to be a mentor to our kids. We need  to know that as you hold us close we can hear you sing to us at this very moment:
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My Child you'll be.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

We Need a Teacher


Last week, I drove 420 miles to Ripley, West Virginia to learn wood turning. The idea of holding a blank piece of wood and shaping it on a lathe at 2,000 rpm can be frightening. Yet, I think of all the times I had the privilege of standing behind Ed Bartz, a wood turner from my parish.  He could take a chuck of wood and shape it into an exquisite bowl. His gift gave birth to the thought that this might be something that I would like to learn.

Cedar Lakes Conference Center, in Ripley, offered multiple classes in stain glass, water colors, quilting, fly-fishing, black smiting and wood turning. I was fortunate to meet my instructor, Byron, from Charleston, West Virginia, who has been teaching this course for many years. He enjoyed sharing his passion for wood with his novice students. I told him that my experience was limited since my mentor would let me hold the spindle gouge for a few seconds but never let me shape the bowl. I came to learn the basics. Put on an apron, the safety glasses and take that bowl gouge, anchor the gouge on the tool rest and pivot the gouge so that it slowly and carefully sliced the wood. However, I can’t count the number of times that instead of slicing, my wood would catch and make a mess of things. But Byron was patient and he shared that it takes practice and the whole idea was to learn the basics and come home with a few ideas that you would want to improve once you got home.
And isn’t this why we come to church. To learn the basics, how to love in a way that makes a difference in our life. However, we need a teacher. Jesus who walks along our side teaching us the basics. Not one to show us how to hold our hands, but how to extend our hearts. One to help us know when it is time to be more quiet and when to speak. A teacher who can show us how to slow down and how best to speed up for the sake of the other. For the sake of love. We need a teacher who will model for us what it is to live the sort of love that will go beyond what is expected, making the sacrifices, actually die for another, as Jesus offers now.
What I learned in wood turning applies to our spiritual journey. Byron preached patience in the classroom and his hands would sometimes wrap around my hand to guide the gouge so that it was making the proper cut. In the same way, Jesus guides us in our everyday life so that our love reflects his patience, compassion, and wisdom. However, I learned that to get comfortable and good in wood turning applies to our spiritual journey, we won’t get it right the first time, or the second, or maybe even the fiftieth time. We need to keep on turning. In wood turning, you need to practice, practice and practice. In the same way, to grow spiritually, you need to pray, pray some more and pray for the fifieth time until your life shines like the Christ with patience, mercy and understanding.
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who daily need to practice, practice, practice this divine spirit of love. Not always easy, but with Jesus looking over our shoulder and holding our hands steady we eventually get the idea how to manage the difficult cuts to make a beautiful life in the image of God.

Monday, April 09, 2018

What Part of Your Life needs a Resurrection?

The disciples, when they went into the empty tomb, they couldn’t have imagined that they would find an empty tomb. The empty tomb raised questions, immediately. It raised questions for the women. The disciples come; it raised questions for the disciples. And that empty tomb—it’s been raising questions every since, and it will raise questions until the end of the world. It represents the most significant moment in the history of the world: the moment where Jesus rose from the dead. And now the tomb’s empty. So lots of people got lots of questions.

I have one question for you today: What part of your life needs resurrection? What part of your life needs to be resurrected?
Some of our biggest challenges, some of our biggest problems, some of our biggest crises, some of our biggest obstacles—they take more than a year to solve, to change, to heal. The real question is: Do you actually believe that whatever mess you’ve got yourself into, or however bad the situation is in your life, or whatever tragedy or challenge it is that needs to be resurrected in your life . . . Do you actually believe that God is willing and able to resurrect it?

Let me share some examples:
I pray for my friend that she finds a resurrection. She’s a grandma whose children and grandchildren find easy to exploit. They come and help themselves to food in her house. Grandma told her girlfriend that she feels so much stress that she would like to walk out of her home and never come back. She plans to will her home to her grandkids. However, her daughter-in-law learned about grandma’s generosity and said she would buy her home now and move in with her two little kids and three dogs. Grandma already has a daughter living with her and three dogs of her own. Her daughter hasn’t talked to this relative in four years. The chaos would be nerve racking but grandma cannot say no to her relative. Her friend said she needs to set boundaries. Grandma feels like she would fall short if she couldn’t take care of her family. Her friend reminded her that she needs to be compassionate to herself; while that comes easily with others, she needs to be less of a savior to her family and more like a best friend to herself. Her girlfriend believes that God can help grandma in this dilemma.

There are several areas in my life that need resurrection: my passion to get healthier; my marriage; my relationship with my estranged daughter. And I will continue to pray for these intentions. With God, all things are possible!

I would like to say that my body needs to be resurrected. After having had back pain for the past twenty-five years, I had surgery last June which has made the pain and mobility issues for me so much worse. I was active in my parish before and no longer can be. So, I would ask God to resurrect my body so I can continue doing the things I love. Do I believe that he can do this? Absolutely.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who need a resurrection. I believe that God is willing to resurrect you from the messes in your life. Blessed Easter!