A FRIDAY MEDITATION – My Responsibility?

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden 

to work it and take care of it. ~ Genesis 2:15

Today, I don’t even know where to start writing.  There are times when so much is happening so fast that focusing on only one is difficult.  What subject do I choose?  On these days, my husband, and sometimes others, might suggest that I take a break.  I consider that.  I consider following my original plan of not writing at all, ever. But then, that doesn’t feel right.  You see, for the time being at least, writing is an assignment given to me from God, and I do know what I should write about today.  I just don’t want to because it’s still about clutter. I don’t want to write about this because writing it calls me to change.

You have probably heard what Pope Francis is saying about climate change.  He says that, although some of the change is due to cyclical rhythms of the planet, much more is caused by humans.  Many of us believe this is true. It is one of today’s burning issues.  Pope Francis calls it a moral issue, and it is also a stewardship issue. Whether we agree about the cause or not, we have still been charged with care of the earth and its resources.  In the beginning, the Genesis story tells us that after God created the earth, he made humans and gave them the job of taking care of it.  We only have to look around to see that we aren’t really handling that responsibility very well.  Romans 8 tells us that creation waits, groans even, for God’s children to deliver it from decay, but how do we do that?

If we are not working in politics, how can we make a difference and fulfill God’s command to be stewards?  Once again, not all of us are called to big things but each of us is charged with doing what we can. Many mystics and saints say that small is sufficient. We are to pray and then do what’s in front of us. What would that be?  A few years ago there was a little slogan or song.  Maybe you remember it – “Reduce, reuse, recycle – the three R’s that benefit the planet.” We can take this seriously. This asks us to consider how much is enough, what we throw away, how we use water, and so on.  You probably have your own list.

I can take care of the little plot of ground that I think we own.  I don’t do a very good job of it at times.  I have a bad habit of letting the water run down the drain when I brush my teeth and wash my face. I’m trying to break that habit, and that requires awareness.  I can wait until the dishwasher or washing machine actually has a full load before I run them.  We recycle and donate many things, but I’m sure if I put my mind to it I could come up with more.  We can bundle our errands.  Most of these are little sacrifices.  We can “Give as we receive.”  Can we even begin to give back what we have been given?  It will take all of us. We pray, “Lord, what will you have me do?”

“Lord above, how often do I distort your creation to my ends then feel sorrow when all I see is desert? How often do I treat your creation without love, then despair that love is absent? May I instead try not to despair, but to love: not to bend the world to my will, but pray that I might be a servant to yours. May I love your creation, as I am loved as your creation, as Christ died for love of me.”—St. Thomas Aquinas

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – No one is an Island

“‘NO MAN IS AN Island,’ Dr. Donne wrote,‘intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.’ Or to use another metaphor, humanity is like an enormous spider web, so that if you touch it anywhere, you set the whole thing trembling.” ~ Frederick Buechner

I have always liked this quote by John Donne.  I reminds me that we are all connected to each other.  We all have the image of God within us; we are his creation—his children—even if we have no clue.  If something happens to one of us, in some mystical way, it happens to all of us. When I read this meditation by Frederick Buechner, I felt the trembling.

We have trembled much recently.  I hardly know where to start – maybe a police standoff in our own backyards with a man who had barricaded himself in the home of his parents, or weird things happening with shattered windshields on the interstate.  At least one person’s side car window was shot out and she was injured. Two other people, just wandering around, were shot and killed.  There is flooding.  We have only to watch the news, or read it, to know that things are not as they should be. And then, yesterday, the tragedy of a shooting inside a church in South Carolina where nine people were killed. This whole meditation could be bad news.  This does not look like the Kingdom of God, does it?  Yet, Jesus tells us that it is here among us and within us.

The trembling is almost like an earthquake. Sometimes, I am afraid and maybe you are too, but we can’t live our lives in fear.  We’re overwhelmed and, often, we don’t even know where to start in spreading the kingdom.  I know what we don’t do.  We don’t fall victim to hate and fear.  We can’t.  Frederick Buechner also says, Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.”

Many of the blogs, notes, letters, and Facebook posts, today, remind us that the only answer we have is Jesus – the love of Jesus that is for us and for everyone.  We don’t respond with hate or revenge, but most of us don’t really think we can make much of a difference in what happens on the big scale. Many of us are not called to do huge things to make that difference, but Jesus calls us all to compassion and forgiveness. He tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  He tells us to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us. This is something we can all do.  In case you start to believe that this is entirely too simple for what we are facing in our country, Mother Teresa said, “Peace begins with a smile.” That’s pretty easy. It’s a start.  Then the trembling we feel will be that of Love.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Still more clutter!

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” ~
Psalm 130:1-2

For the last couple of weeks, I have been writing about clutter in life, how it accumulates, how it effects our spiritual lives, and how we can start to get rid of that. This week, I cleaned out part of an overgrown flower bed; sorted some books and put some things away in the storage room.  Some of that will need to be revisited later, but I needed space to sort. I plan to do more decluttering this summer and I’ll keep you informed on how that’s going.

There is other clutter in our lives, though, that doesn’t necessarily concern our physical surroundings.  There could be clutter in our minds, in our bodies and/or in our spirits. This clutter often ends up in the God spaces of our heart and interferes with our hearing and awareness of him. There are periods in my life when I have more trouble with this than at others.

This has been a tough year for me, so far.  You know about this, beginning with approximately two months of various illnesses and, then, the ongoing recovery from them.  This recovery has been complicated by the serious injuries of my brother, and the aging heart of my mother, in addition to some other family issues. The grey upon grey winter combined with the rain upon rain spring has made it difficult to deal with my seasonal affective disorder, and fibromyalgia flare.  I’m sad and I hurt.  I begin focusing on issues and, before I know it, there is clutter.  I feel heavy and I can’t find my inner music.  Usually it is in my head and heart, but until a day or so ago, I couldn’t hear it.  Though I know it isn’t true, God seemed absent.  Other things are in the way. I stuff it in there. Some of it is whining. So, how do I quite stuffing, stop whining and get rid of this clutter?

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning”.
~ Psalm 130:5-6 

Yes.  I love this psalm.  It’s a song of assent.  It’s a “things will get better” song.  It is a song of hope. It’s a “God will return” song.  It has been put to music and this music has begun to sing in my head and fill my heart. I’m so glad.  Music helps dispel whining for me. It pushes away stuffing. Then, I spend more quiet time with God.  I continue to follow my Rule of Life.  I list my blessings. I thank and praise God for them and for his presence in my life. This week, I remember my brother’s miracle of healing. My husband and I had lunch with two of our great-grand daughters and their mommy. I laugh with them.  It feels good. There have been a few days of sun and blue sky this week. I’ve soaked up sun. Thank you, God.  I find new flowers in my overgrown garden. I weed and dig in the dirt. I’ve cooked outside on the grill, twice. I spent time with you in community; we pray together and take Communion; we pray for healing; we laugh, we love on each other. I thank God for you.  You are God with skin on.  Thank you, God.  Thank you, community.  I am so grateful.  I have more inner space.  Things are looking up.  What more could I ask? What more do I need?

Spring Cleaning

Healer of our every ill, light of each tomorrow,

 Give us peace beyond our fear, and hope beyond our sorrow.

~ Marty Haugen b. 1950

How is your spring cleaning coming along?  Its hard work, isn’t it, and I don’t mean cleaning out closets, cleaning out the inside of cupboards and washing windows and screens.  Last week, I wrote about spring cleaning and how this, along with decluttering in order to make more space in homes and our hearts, can be a spiritual discipline and can bring us to simplicity of life.  I haven’t progressed very much in making this happen, although, I did put three more shirts in the donate pile, along with some things from the storage room.

Part of the problem, of making getting rid of “stuff” so to make more room for God a spiritual discipline, is that this requires us to do the task prayerfully—a practicing of God’s presence, a mindful process—when we would rather just get the job done.  But if living more simply and opening ourselves to God is our main focus for “spring cleaning”, we look at each thing in a different way.  Example:  The shirts in the donate pile are shirts that I have had for a while and I have worn them many times.  They are still in very good shape, but the last several times that I have put them on, I have taken them off right away and worn something else.  Somehow, they don’t look right anymore.  If I “pay attention” to this, if I am listening, I might find that these three perfectly good shirts are clutter to me but could be life giving to another who is without.  They can become gift.  And there is so much more in the nooks and crannies of my home.

How do we know what is clutter when it really looks like something else.  William Morris, born in the 1800s, was a textile designer, architect, and writer among other things.  He once said, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”  I believe that most useful things should also be beautiful, at least to me.  What happens if I have a very functional something, but I see it as ugly?  I have a certain brown couch in mind.  It feels dark and takes a certain amount of peace from the room.  Well, I haven’t come to grips with it yet, but I plan to look at it prayerfully and see what it says.  If it stays dark and pulls me down, I’ll need to get rid of it even if I have to stand up.  I’m too sedentary anyway.

William Morris also said, “Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.” How much is enough?  Jesus told his disciples in Luke 9:3, “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.”  We may not travel our journey as lightly as this.  Actually, most of us will not, but we can travel lighter than we do now.

Over the next few months—my summer project—I want to go through all my “stuff.” I’ll ask these questions of myself.  Why do I keep it?  Why do I need it?  Is it useful?  Is it beautiful?  Can this be a gift of life or an object of joy for someone else?  If I ever manage to get this all done, with God’s help, and if I can answer these questions, I’m fairly certain that there will be more space and lightness in my home and within me.  I may even find simplicity.

May you, also, dear ones.