Friday, January 31, 2014

What Did You Come To Teach Me?


A woodworking friend shared this true story that he went to visit a “master woodworker” to see this man’s work and gets some tips. He walked into the store and was amazed at the beauty of this master’s creations. He introduced himself and asked him for some wooding pointers. The man’s response appeared to be rather rude: “What did you come to teach me?”

My friend was caught off guard and felt embarrassed since he was nowhere near the skill level of this artist. He grew silent, walked around the store for a few more minutes and was ready to walk out the door when the master called back: “Where are you going?”

My embarrassed friend was perplexed and he said that he had come to learn a few pointers to take home to his shop. This master politely told my friend that he meant no disrespect from his comment: “What did you come to teach me?” Rather, he reassured my friend that in any meeting with a person his philosophy was that if we listen carefully to one another there is always something we can learn from each other. There might be one point of view or phrase that we hang to that will make a difference in our life if we only listen carefully to one another.

It seems that this man was not purposely insulting his visitor but wanted to assure him that we are all have something very important inside of us to share from our unique experiences. So next time you are confronted by a person who appears to be lost or afraid or not quite with it. Instead of rolling our eyes or ignoring their comments give them a chance to share who they are and their life experience and they might teach you something new.

I am learning from my woodworking friend that you can take a round bowl that has dried for six months into a oblong, distorted shape and mold it back into a beautiful round bowl. You have to be careful as you spin the wheel at 1020 rpms. But it is possible to turn that wobbly mess and craft it into a thing of beauty.

So if you think your life is out of shape and you have dried up into a cold, crusty person that no longer fits the mold of Christ. Maybe it's time to come back to the Jesus and listen to his words so that He can give you direction and make a difference in your life.

God invites us to listen to his words and what do you hear? “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.” (Psalm 78:1).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who feel out of sorts or no longer worthy to come back to church. Let this be an invitation to return to church where you feel welcomed and accepted and learn that Jesus wants you to know that you are His child made in His image to bring glory to his world. What’s your glory and how will you bring it to others today?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

You Got To Be Kidding

I walked into the door of the local country post office and I could see from the expression on the clerk’s face that something was terribly wrong. A customer was waiting at her desk, another senior lady was behind him and the clerk informed me that it would be awhile because her computer was “frozen.”

This frustrated postal clerk was on the phone with “tech support.” But from the moaning I overheard it sounded more like “damage control.” “You got to be kidding,” she mumbled talking to customer service. “It has never taken this long before” she shared with the rest of us. Our senior lady piped up with the profound comment  “computers are the ruin of humanity.”  I would not go that far, but the problem appeared that the clerk’s login name and password were not allowing her to complete any transactions.

I learned that the young man at the desk ordered a money order. He had given the clerk his money, but she was unable to print out the money order and worse her moneybox was locked and she could not open it because her computer was “frozen.”

The senior lady I believe was an angel in disguise since she needed eight books of stamps and she had the exact change to pay with cash. She wanted to be helpful and told the clerk that if this were happening to her “she would be in tears.”

Our senior angel gave her cash to the clerk and said she hoped it was enough to return the money back to the young man who was waiting for his money order. What a sweetie!

To be confronted with a frozen computer, or placed “on hold” with tech support sadly is a common experience in our tech savvy world. What is not so savvy is how we choose to respond. How would you handle this annoying situation? Our postal clerk was kicking the boxes, rolling her eyes and mumbling: “you got to be kidding.” When she hung up the phone and discovered that her computer was still inoperable she told me that she could not help at this time. I told her that it was not her fault that she was doing the best she could and I would return another day.

The reality is that you are going to face lots of situations that are not in your control. The next time your computer screen goes blue, you will cry like a baby. Thank you Mr. Gates. But our relief comes in a faith that says yes there is suffering in the world and our faith gives us the patience and perseverance to hang tight. Don’t lose your cool. All computer glitches eventually get fixed but hopefully not at the expense of our health or sanity.

God prays for us as we rake our brains over things we can’t control:
“And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are terrorized by computers that break down and ruin our moods. Help us to refocus our frustrations and be like that senior lady who rose to the occasion and helped as best she could. I bet she was angel and how wonderful to behold!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Angels of Routine and the Ordinary


Each year the church calendar sets aside more than thirty weeks for what it calls "Ordinary Time," a season I like you to think of as meeting the angels of routine, regularity, predictability, and ordinariness.

The term "Ordinary Time" sounds bland to us, even as we unconsciously long for precisely what it is meant to bring. Like the seasons of Christmas and Easter, this season too is meant to bring a special richness into our lives. But it's easy to miss both that season and its intent. But as we grow older it seems that we have precious little "ordinary time" in our lives. As our lives grow more pressured, more tired, and more restless, perhaps more than anything else we long for "ordinary time", quiet, routine, solitude, and space away from the hectic pace of life.

For many of us the very expression, "ordinary time," draws forth a sigh along with the question: What's that? When did I last have “ordinary time” in my life? For many of us "ordinary time" means mostly hurry and pressure, the rat race, the treadmill.

Many things in our lives conspire against "ordinary time"; not just the busyness that robs us of leisure, but also the heartaches, the obsessions, the loss of health, or the other interruptions to the ordinary that make a mockery of normal routine and rhythm and rob us of even the sense of "ordinary time". That's the bane of adulthood.

Many of us, I suspect, remember the opposite as being true for us when we were children. I remember as a child often being bored. I longed almost always for a distraction, for someone to visit our home, for special seasons to celebrate (birthdays, Christmas, New Year's, Easter), for most anything to shake up the normal routine of "ordinary time." But that's because time moves so slowly for a child. When you're seven years old, one year constitutes one-seventh of your life. That's a long time. In mid-life and beyond, one year is a tiny fraction of your life and so time speeds up - so much so in fact that, at a point, you also sometimes begin to long for special occasions to be over with, for visitors to go home, and for distractions to disappear so that you can return to a more ordinary rhythm in your life. Routine might be boring, but we sleep a lot better when our lives are being visited by the angels of routine and the ordinary.

It's extremely difficult to be attentive to the present moment, to be truly inside the present.  It's not easy to live inside "ordinary time."

We are challenged to be attentive to the various seasons of the year: Advent, Lent, Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. This morning, we need to challenge ourselves to be attentive to "ordinary time." Our failure to be attentive here is perhaps our greatest spiritual shortcoming.

Let your heart pray these verses “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. (Psalm 131:2).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we get comfortable with this season of "Ordinary Time" that leads us closer to our angels of quiet, routine, solitude and space away from our hectic pace of life.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ice Castle

This past week, despite another brutal winter storm, I received two requests to write letters of reference for people to serve as sponsors for a baptism. Not always required, but some priests like reassurance that the baptism sponsor understands their role is to model Christ in their own life. I wonder, who was Jesus’ sponsor when John baptized him in the Jordon?

There is a story that in some of the old castles in Europe, there are found deep wells to supply the castle with water in times of a siege. A water supply that would bring water from an outside source would be at the danger of the enemy. So while people inside were protected from the enemy their necessity of water was provided for in a "safe" manner. This put their minds at ease. Imagine if someone had to go out and get water then they would have to place their own lives in danger.

Sometimes, we are much like the castle, in that if we depend on "outside sources" for help we might find that the enemy has cut our help off. That is why, like the castle, we need an inner supply of strength. In times of trouble, difficulties, events that would make us discouraged, our help must be in the peace that only Jesus can give.

However, we are tempted to "try and do it myself".... like reach out instead of reaching "in" Now, don't get me wrong, it is often important to reach out, but not at the expense of reaching "in". Jesus, according to His own lips, is the water of life, but He is even more. He said, "My peace I give you, not as the world gives, but as I give." (John 14:27) And how we need that when the world is attaching our castle.

Peek inside this ice castle that I took on New Year’s Eve and see if in a quiet moment you can invite Jesus into your heart to help you with something that is making a mess out of your life. Let his words of peace inspire you with his wisdom and reassurance.

Let your heart pray these verses: He reached down from on high, he took me; he drew me out of mighty waters. (Psalm 18:16).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that the peace of the Lord be ever so powerful to you. May the grace of faith flow like water and fill your life with gentle peace and love.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Resolutions 2014


On New Year’s Day, I am watching the Rural Network presentation of the Rose Bowl Parade when I get interrupted with a phone call from a friend in New Jersey. This unique, special man who has served God faithfully as a priest and in retirement travels the country competing in archery. We share “guy talk” for over an hour but some interesting themes were coming out of our discussion. I’ll put them in the form of resolutions for 2014.

ONE:” Take good care of yourself! This means physically, mentally and spiritually. My friend recently attended a retired priest gathering and was shock to see so many of his colleagues suffering from dementia or physically unfit. Do something that makes you want to move leads to resolution number two.

TWO: Get moving! Enough computer gazing or whatever you feel you can’t live without. Put on the long underwear if you live in Western New York or sneakers if you moved to Florida for the next four months and get moving. This leads to resolution number three.

THREE: Do something that turns you on. Something you really enjoy. For my friend, shooting arrows and hitting the bulls-eye, for me I put on my long underwear in 14-degree cold and slide across the field and over the steams to take this shot that you are looking at on your computer screen. Maybe you need to practice at your piano, or get into the garage and start turning out wooden bowls. This leads to resolution number four.

FOUR: Stop all the whining about what’s wrong with the church and the weather. Make a difference yourself! In our discussion about ministry, we imagine the new pope is leaning to invite women to serve as deacons in the church. Fantastic! We sense an openness to invite married priests back into ministry to serve the needs of many priestess parishes. Why not offer your talents and help teach a religion class, or serve as a greeter or the hospitality group or be a Eucharistic minister and visit someone homebound or in the hospital. This leads to resolution number five.

FIVE: Forgive yourself and forgive those who have hurt you in the past.
We carry lots of baggage that weighs us down that makes us grumpy. We are no longer joyful because we have yet to surrender the hurts from our past. Yes, it takes time to heal, but pray for forgiveness and know that God listens to our cries of injustice and Jesus will come to heal and help us move on. Let’s try one last resolution.

SIX: Quit__________________. You fill in the blank. Promise yourself to get extra help if you have been unable to let go of this nasty habit. I promise to pray for you that you get the help you need to feel better about yourself.

As you reflect on this snowy waterfall, let your heart pray these verses: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Lord, I will continue to pray for all my Sonshine Friends in the New Year that that God will help you find joy and peace in your life.