The Church is community… even when we don’t like one another…

Chaplaincy, thought of the day

One of the unfortunate results of the American need for puritanism is that we tend toward more and more “pure” churches. It’s far too easy in our congregations to leave one body for the other. Disagreements, petty and profound, take on the language of God and our passive/aggressive side kicks in and we “have” to leave. As though we can somehow escape human nature.

We are human. We are going to disagree. I wonder what it would be like (in the salt/light context) for churches to model the idea that humans can get along even when they dynamically disagree? I wonder what it would be like for Christians to embrace the idea that they are peacemakers in themselves, their homes, their churches, and their local organizations? I suspect that the healthiest congregations are those made up of republicans/democrats/libertarians/green/coffee and tea parties – all worshiping the same God – all proclaiming the same gospel.

From the introduction to Bonhoeffer’s Spiritual Care:

Christ is the mediator not only between God and humanity but between persons within the Church … The Church is not an assembly of like-minded individuals, nor is it an agency organized around a certain previously agreed-upon principles (like a social agency or a labor union). The Church is entered through baptism, and it is baptism which gives us our relationship within the church. W are ties together in the body of Christ even if we don’t like each other. Community is not the same thing as camaraderie. 

 

Well. Said.

True community works through the disagreements rather than leaving one disagreement for the comfort of people who are where I am at.

Barry on humility and laundry doing

thought of the day

Barry Sanders on life: “Maybe a good rule in life is: never become too important to do your own laundry.”

Humility is sometime of a lost quality in professional sports it seems. In a world where everyone has their own brand and that includes the touchdown stance for the video game, Sander’s simple toss-the-ball-to-the-ref-cause-you’ve-been-there-before-and-will-be-there-again action seems quaint and old fashioned. I grew up watching Sanders play the game an when he was done, he was done. He is his own man. Unpretentious and classy. I true role model.

Here’s one the world’s oldest books of wisdom on humility, “Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

What goes in…

thought of the day

GIGOGarbage in, garbage out. It is a succinct explanation as to why computer findings would be errant. It first shows up in the 50s as computers begin to be used for actual work! It highlights the idea that if the original data is flawed, the conclusions will absolutely be flawed!

2 millennia ago Jesus of Nazareth put it this way. “You brood of vipers!! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Overcoming

thought of the day

The Apostle Paul says in Romans, “Do not be overcome by evil, overcome evil with good.” When he writes this, he is experiencing the worst of humanity and yet his faith drives him to believe that it will get better. Sometimes it seems like it just won’t get better or that the world around us is so bad that it will inevitably overcome us. It will not. Think of your own life, for all the pain, there has been also a great deal of good.

Helen Keller said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.” She ought to know…

Why are we giving? Why do we argue about giving?

thought of the day

A thought on giving. In America, we are a very giving people when there is a natural disaster etc. I sometimes wonder why we seem to have an issue giving to systemic or ongoing problems. Sometimes, I experience people fighting about the cost of the gift, whether or not they should give, or if there is a better way to give. Perhaps these are good questions but then, at the end of the day, we need to give.

The question is, why do we give? In Buddhism, there is the idea that giving does us no good when we do so for the wrong reasons – being shamed or intimidated into giving; giving to receive a favor; giving to feel good about yourself – these are impure motives. The gift helps the other but does nothing for us. The purest motivation is that of giving with no thought of return. Giving just to help.

Giving is essential to Buddhism. Giving includes charity, or giving material help to people in want. It also includes giving spiritual guidance to those who seek it and loving kindness to all who need it. However, one’s motivation for giving to others is at least as important as what is given.

What is right or wrong motivation? The Anguttara Nikaya, a collection of texts in the Vinaya-pitaka section of the Pali Canon, lists a number of motivations for practicing charity. These include being shamed or intimidated into giving; giving to receive a favor; giving to feel good about yourself. These are impure motivations.

The Buddha taught that when we give to others, we give without expectation of reward. We give without attaching to either the gift or the recipient. We practice giving to release greed and self-clinging.

Some teachers propose that giving is good because it accrues merit and creates karma that will bring future happiness. Others say that even this is self-clinging and an expectation of reward. In Mahayana Buddhism in particular, any merit that might come with giving is to be dedicated to the liberation of others.

Paramitas

Giving with pure motivation is called dana paramita, or “perfection of giving.” It is first in a list of paramitas, or perfections, that are to be cultivated in Buddhist practice.

So, here is your thought for today, “A pessimist, they say, sees a glass half empty. An optimist, sees the glass half full. But a giver sees the glass of water and starts looking for a thirsty person to give them a drink.” Give just to give. Don’t argue or fret about it, just find a need and fill it.

Dignity and Respect

Army, thought of the day

Dignity and Respect. These are the watchwords by which we conduct our profession as Soldiers/Civilians working for the US Army.

Often though, honestly, it’s hard. It’s frustrating. It would be so much easier to treat others with dignity and respect if “they” would just, oh I don’t know, deserve it…

People can be so hard to work with.

Here’s the thing – treating others with dignity and respect has nothing whatsoever to do with them and their actions – it has everything to do with us and ours. It is a testament to our own character when we can reach deep within ourselves and teat others with the dignity and respect we give ourselves even when they are not returning in kind.

Here’s a reminder I ran across and thought worth sharing, “Our inner strengths, experiences, and truths cannot be lost, destroyed, or taken away. Every person has an inborn worth and can contribute to the human community. We all can treat one another with dignity and respect, provide opportunities to grow toward our fullest lives and help one another discover and develop our unique gifts. We each deserve this and we all can extend it to others.” – Author Unknown

We are the ones who make dignity and respect happen.

Good Friday Prayer

thought of the day

Today is Good Friday. In my tradition, its one of the most significant days of the year. It’s the day that Christians everywhere commemorate the death of Christ.

On this day, I’m reflecting on the fact that in the name of Jesus, people have been killed. Nations have been brought low. People have been abused. Of course, hospitals have been built, churches established that have helped countless people on their journeys. Lives, including mine,  have been changed.

The problem with Christianity has rarely been Christ particularly, it’s with Christians. But then, that’s the thing with all religions – regardless of the belief system, it worked out by people and people have issues!

Few doubt the gravity of the sacrifice commemorated by this day. Few doubt the love that drove Jesus to take up his cross, endure the humiliation, and die for humankind. Whatever issues you might have with Christians or the church, I encourage you to think about the heart of Christianity  – Love. “Herein is love”, the Apostle John wrote, “not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to pay for our sin. And not for our sin only but for the sin of the entire world.”

This Easter, I pray that God’s peace be upon you. That the Blessing of the Resurrection be upon your family, your children, your work, your play – upon you. Amen.

A Prayer for Good Friday.

O Jesus, Who by reason of Thy burning love for us
hast willed to be crucified
and to shed Thy Most Precious Blood
for the redemption and salvation of our souls,
look down upon us here gathered together
in remembrance of Thy most sorrowful Passion and Death,
fully trusting in Thy mercy;
cleanse us from sin by Thy grace,
sanctify our toil,
give unto us and unto all those who are dear to us our
daily bread,
sweeten our sufferings,
bless our families,
and to the nations so sorely afflicted,
grant Thy peace,
which is the only true peace,
so that by obeying Thy commandments
we may come at last to the glory of heaven.

Amen.

I have busy mornings. Every Soldier does. There is PT, getting ready for the day, coming up with something pithy (thought of the day) for my morning staff meting, and having breakfast with my family. I make the breakfast thing a priority because its important that we all begin the day together and end the day together at dinner.

There is not a great deal of time in that routine for doing other things besides what I have mentioned. When that routine is upset, it can set the day on edge.

This morning, it was a stuffed lion. Lila. Not sure why Sophie named her favorite animal after her cousin but she did and Lila is a presence at our house. Lila comes to dinner. Lila doesn’t like green food. Lila was not impressed with so-and-so at school today. Lila would really like to watch some TV now…

This morning Lila was missing in action. Nowhere to be found. There were tears. Sobs. Snot. The usual grief. I spent some time this morning doing grief counseling with my child. We walked through shock, denial, anger, bargaining and (after giving approximately 55 seconds of my morning to actually look for said stuffed lion) were reaching acceptance through the depression – we stat down for breakfast. There were bites of cheerios and concerns about whether or not Lila had a blanket on her, wherever she was.

That’s when this happened: (I quote from my Facebook)

Sophia was concerned about her stuffed lion that she couldn’t find this morning so Ransom calmly told her it was probably taken by space aliens who have a space ship with a green light that sucks animals into the ship where the aliens get to play with it. Not to worry, the aliens are mostly nice.

… Not. Comforting.

I was all, “Son. Really??” Sobs begin all over again.

Then, the little stinker walks into his and ‘Fia’s room and comes out with Lila after two seconds.

“Where was that Ransom??”

“Oh, she was just under ‘Fia’s pillow.”

Right, of course she was. Why didn’t I think of that. Bad Dad…

I listen all day long. I hear stories all day long. I hear grief all day long. Sometimes, I’m so worn down from all that, I stop hearing what is being said and I assume (or pass judgement) on what is being said based on my circumstances.

“That’s not a big deal.” “I wouldn’t worry about that.” “There are worse things happening in the world. What makes you so different??”

These are not helpful. They are not kind. I don’t mean to be unkind. I certainly do not intend to blow people off but I’m busy and busyness tends to erode pastoral care.

With people, fast is slow and slow is fast.

Today, hear what someone is saying to you. Really listen. Stop. Use eye contact. Present open body language. Listen.

When you want to respond. Don’t. Continue to listen.

It’ll be more helpful than you know.

thought of the day

Normal Flies Chaos.

thought of the day

“Should be. Ought to be. Usually. In the past we have…” these are words that, when used always trigger some sense of questioning in myself. It tells me that the person I am talking to is experiencing some kind of internal consternation (in the context of an inspection etc). There is the “normal way things are done” and the real way things are done. Morticia Aadams noted, “Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” Indeed. Proverbs 28:2 gives the remedy – When the country is in chaos, everybody has a plan to fix it, but it takes a leader of real understanding to straighten things out.

Children are closer to God.

Peace, thought of the day

Sophia: Dad, did your mommy like to sing?
Me: Actually, yes, very much.
Sophia: I wish I could hear her voice.
Me: (Speechless)
Sophia: I think I will hear it in Heaven.
Me: Yes. Yes you will.
Sophia: I think she likes to sing in Heaven.
And just like that, the moment passes. Children are closer to Heaven.

The following story was told to me by my therapist while treating my PTSD. She reflected that one of her clients had told it to her:

“I was going to put my children to bed one night and, while standing in the doorway, I observed my four-year-old talking to my 6 month old infant in her crib. I saw her lean over to the baby and say, “Will you tell me about God, I am forgetting already.”

There is the idea that children come from God. I just tend to think they are closer.