Ultimate measure

the-ultimate-measure-of-a-man-is-not-where-he-stands-in-moments-of-comfort-and-convenience-but-where-he-stands-at-times-of-challenge-and-controversy

This quote from Martin Luther King, whom we celebrate on Monday, has been on my mind all week. In fact I used it the other day in a post. Today, as we head towards that particular celebration of a civil rights hero, a firestorm erupted on social media.

Apparently Rep. John Lewis of Georgia had an interview with NBC on Friday and he noted that he did not see Trump as a legitimate president. You can see a portion of the interview at this link. Whether or not you agree with John Lewis, he is a man who has given his life over to the betterment of our nation. An early and active leader in the Civil Rights, one of the “Big Six” in the movement during the 60’s. At the head of this group stood none other than Dr. King. Roll Call said of Lewis, “John Lewis…is a genuine American hero and moral leader who commands widespread respect in the chamber.” Ultimately, Lewis’ leadership is not some dotted line or winding road attached to the legacy of Martin Luther King, it bears a direct connection. Connected to this is the legacy of the non-violent protest.

All of this, which you likely know a good deal of already, points to what went down on social media today… In response to Lewis’ interview, the president-elect saw no other path forward than to blast him. Hard. In fact, here it is, 7:45pm on Saturday night and as recently as 20 minutes ago, the president-elect was still tweeting about Lewis.

c2hhls9ucaaqtu2-jpg_largeThis got me to thinking about the King quote in relationship to the two men. What is their measure? John Lewis was a leader of the nonviolent resistance movement in the 60’s, (pay attention people, that is the movement that we all need to focus on!) who has been attacked by dogs and men, and who did not react with violence. Donald Trump who was busy avoiding the draft in the 60’s responds to the slightest criticism with a barrage of angry tweets.

What is the measure of  each man?

Now remember, this is a blog about the intersection of faith and life. So let’s talk faith… I am thinking about another man in another era. He was also known as a man known for his nonviolent acts of resistance. In fact his acts of nonviolent resistance were all about revealing the Kingdom of God to one and all. OK, he did get angry that time and turned over the tables, but nobody got hurt as far as we know. Mostly he Continue reading

Choose wisely, together

These are strange days. Each day I encounter news that I could not possibly imagine would ever exist. There is a hashtag called #nottheonion, because ludicrous stories may be satire – or they may be reflective of something real.

Some quotations have worked their way into my consciousness, so I have been praying with them and pondering them.

the-ultimate-measure-of-a-man-is-not-where-he-stands-in-moments-of-comfort-and-convenience-but-where-he-stands-at-times-of-challenge-and-controversyThe first is this one from Dr. Martin Luther King, who we will remember in a national holiday on Monday. I am acutely aware that for many Americans, their own comfort and convenience, their own safety and security, trumps (oh that word) all other things.  At some level we are all guilty of this, aren’t we? Yet, when we get right down to it, especially for people of faith, things like comfort, routine, convenience, and so forth are all expendable. What matters is – as Dr. King noted – where we stand at times of challenge and controversy. And I do believe that we are entering a place of great challenge and controversy.

20171011-trump-cnn-buzzfeed_0For example, at the so-called news conference on Wednesday, the president-elect ignored a CNN reporter’s question, berated the reporter, and then called CNN fake news. Let’s just say that that kind of behavior does not strike me as either presidential, or as behavior that is attuned to the First Amendment. That this moment stands for challenge and controversy is Continue reading

Say yes

I’m not going to lie people… I did not have time to write a post for today. As a result, I am turning to last year’s edition. The Jubilee of Mercy has concluded, but our mercy never should, and we should say yes to giving and receiving mercy always. Blessings on this feast day.

There Will Be Bread

say-yes1Say yes to the difficult.

Say yes to the challenging.

Say yes to the improbable.

Say yes to the absurd.

Say yes to love.

Say yes to peace.

Say yes to hope.

Say yes to mercy.

Say yes to God.

Buck the trend, upend the world as God’s radical partner, God’s unlikely choice, God’s mysterious candidate, unknown to the world, but made for great things.

Be the gateway to promises kept. Be the portal to astonishment. Be the opening to wonderment. Be the way to passage to love. Be the door through which mercy flows.

On this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, look from one side to the other, by saying yes to sin and death, by saying yes to a clean heart and eternal life.

On this opening of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, say yes, even if it means an almost imperceptible shift of your inner…

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Lost in Logroño

google-maps-logoOne of the least faithful elements of my Camino was my reliance on Google maps. At the least provocation, I would grab my phone and start checking details, often when I was in a city. This happened in Logroño when we went in search of a Decathalon store. We did not get lost, but did we ever get misguided because we were sent very far out of our way. This not good for my already ailing feet, bringing new meaning to 10 steps forward, 5 steps back.  The problem was not that I used Google maps; the problem was my utter reliance on something external, and not trusting my instincts. Or God. All while on a… pilgrimage.

Lost is my overwhelming feeling as I begin Advent this year, and there is no Google map app to help me find my way. Thank God! It slowly begins to dawn on me, as I try to “wait in motion” that perhaps the lessons of Logroño offer me a clue.

The Camino was a seed in my heart, albeit a dormant one, for many years. My guess puts my first knowledge of it to around 1992, maybe even late 1991. Although dormant, the Camino was a form of waiting in motion in my heart. Two and half years ago the seed began to sprout when Sue and I began to plan our journey. #SquadGoals, right? And a personal goal as well. The focus became clearer and clearer, even when I felt fear, discouragement, or doubt. My sense of being lost right now has to do with the fact that my goal has been achieved. Veni, vidi, vici! Great. There goes over 20 years of longing… Now what?

Am I really lost? Do I simply need a new goal? What happens next?

img_4429-1Back to Logroño – maybe I am not so lost as I am misguided. Trusting a tiny piece of technology outside of me instead of trusting God within is a challenge. Yet that challenge provides me with some direction. If only I toss the phone of my heart,  take a look at what’s around me, ask for directions, and just walk.  This requires things like contemplation, action, patience, faith, courage – and the willingness to truly get lost in order to get found. Trust in God. Why didn’t I see those directions on my Google map?

Today’s Scriptures sent a glimmer of hope to me, helping to keep the momentum of my waiting in motion up. This is from the responsorial psalm…

It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.

It is also better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in Google maps. Don’t get me wrong, the maps – like humans – have their place in the greater scheme, but they are not the Christ I await this Advent. Again, the notion of a goal springs forth. There is but one goal and that goal is God. I’m not sure how to find my way to the Christ being born, but I do know this, I will not get there if I don’t put the phone away, and trust in God. I pray this day that I can do just that. Care to join me?

More waiting, more motion

wait-1As I mentioned the other day, Advent seems to be like waiting-in-motion to me this year. This is not unusual given that I have recently returned from walking along the Camino Francés route of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Pondering my waiting-in-motion, I read these words from today’s first reading:

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

Given the current social and political climate, I am frustrated by the wait for this great day when the wolf, lamb, leopard and others will be playing nicely together. How long must I wait, how long Lord?

It seems like a long wait right now. Awakened early this morning by who knows what, I experienced my thoughts slamming into the walls of my brain, like untethered objects in an attic during an earthquake. In the dark of night it dawned on me that part of the problem was that my waiting was in fact, the problem. In my mind I could see  tears roll down the red-hot cheeck of a petulant child with fists balled up, screaming “WANT! NOW!”  Of course, the child is me. Lion, lamb, Christmas, nice, NOW!

Which brings me right back to waiting-in-motion and pilgrimage. Right now I feel as if I am stuck in a linear spiritual ditch. I long to head straight to my destination, Advent. Oh come on, who am I kidding? My desired spot is hardly Advent, despite my protestations that I love this season. If I am honest, I want to get to Jesus who will take care of everything. The reality is that I am not in a ditch, and the journey of Advent, like all journeys of the spirit, is not at all linear. And Jesus? I think he means for all of us to do the work with him, and not standly idly by as he whips up a dose of world peace.

When I was near the end of the Camino, the pilgrim path wound itself up and down mountains, and through green forests. Some days it felt like passing through a magical woodland, awash in mystical mists or luminous light. The path was worn down in so many places, and I was reminded me that many people had walked here for a long, long time. Waiting-in-motion, co-conspirators with the mission, whether they realized that or not.

on-the-way-to-sarriaToday that thought brings forth an element of the journey of Advent that is not at all linear, considering I make this journey each year. And it is certainly not one that I make alone. Pressing on with common purpose with others, I do go forward, a trip that is well-intended but meaningless if I do not go deeper as well.

One of the things that shaped me most powerfully on Camino was the slow and plodding nature of the thing. It demanded a presence of the moment the likes of which I had never experienced. I wish that I could tell you that I always liked it, but I cannot tell you that. Sometimes I hated it. It made me go… yes, you might have guessed it – deeper.

santiago-directIn the slow motion of a biped inching along, I was being reformed. As in re-formed, not fixed or corrected!  This would not have happened if I had driven from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, a ride of  8 hours, give or take. Instead, I walked, often up to 8 hours a day… for about 35 days. Would it have been the same? I think we all know the answer to that question!

This long ramble redirects me to the pilgrim path of Advent. If I want lions and lambs to get along, I must make the effort to walk there with them. If I want to “get to” the God-with-us of the Incarnate Christ, my presence is required, step by step. It is not a straight line, and it is not on the surface, and it is most certainly not passive!

In the foreward to the book, Traveling Souls, Contemporary Pilgrimage Stories (edited by Brian Bouldrey) Pico Iyer writes:

“A pilgrim’s journey, unlike a traveler’s, never ends, only deepens.”

The power of that pilgrim journey has me back on my feet, even if only the feet of my heart. Step by step they make their Advent way, going deeper with every footfall. It may be more waiting, but it is also more motion. It is the only way.

Waiting-in-motion

waitThe season of waiting and watching is upon us. Days grow shorter, nights grow longer as we anticipate Christmas. For those of us who celebrate Advent, it is a time of anticipation, a time to pause, a time to observe.

One of the things on my mind this Advent is how I waited so long for my Camino. It was not sitting still in the darkness waiting, it was more the anticipation of what was to come, and my waiting consisted of doing a lot of walking and hiking! Other anticipatory acts were to consider what equipment and gear I might need, and then acquiring said objects. The Camino took over a huge space in my mind, my heart, and my body.

The Camino itself was a form of active waiting. Each day included a great deal of physical activity, as we covered an average of 15 miles per day. Think about how long it takes to drive 15 miles. Well, walking – often up and down hills and rocks – takes about five to eight hours, depending on conditions. When we were walking on La Meseta, long, hot, dry, dusty stretches of flatness, we could not wait to find a tree for shade and rest, or for the next town – which might be 17 kilometers ahead. And no, there would be nothing in between. That is very active waiting, acute awareness waiting!

meseta-after-castrojeriz

Waiting in motion, meseta style!

We walked as a form of waiting as we arrived at the next town, and we were also walking as was waiting to arrive in Santiago de Compostela, our goal. Some might argue that all that forward movement was not really waiting, but now that I look back, it was waiting. I see it as waiting-in-motion.

17024f000b86ca5dfce1b53cef5a6dd7istock_000011563599xsmallWaiting gets a bad rap in our culture. Waiting, in many of our cultural themes implies a kind of impervious impatience that translates into the notion that our time is too precious to waste. Aren’t we far too busy, far too important for that kind of nonsense?

Well, that might just be true depending on who or what we wait for, but it is not universal. It can be very challenging to see waiting as anything but torturous. Clearly, when we wait for justice – yes, that it torturous. But what about all the instances of waiting that bringforth gifts? If we skip past the wait, we miss the gifts? And how can we tell the difference?

This Advent, I hope to explore what it means to wait, and to wait-in-motion, as well as considering who or what we wait for. What are our priorities? Who will we sit in the stillness for, anticipating their arrival?