Worth Revisiting: Work Harder, Pray More

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In light of upcoming elections, many of us have spent time considering our options, weighing the consequences and praying that not only our nation survives but can address necessary issues. As difficult as this election year has been, I am reminded that my faith, though resting solely in Christ, cannot remain isolated from the reality that it is practiced in a world that often runs counter to that faith. Noted Lutheran theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, stressed three elements of “costly discipleship”: (1) prayer, (2) community, and (3) an engagement with surrounding political realities.

At this time in my life, I  seek to have an active life of prayer, a discipleship in community, and in small everyday ways to be engaged with the political realities in the world around me. Yet, in my youth, I was undoubtedly more political- even devoting my undergrad entrance essay to the the apathetic attitude of Americans towards voting and working towards change. In the last 10 years, admittedly I have become somewhat disillusioned in the leadership to protect and preserve  life, and determination to truly accomplish transformative change. However, the mission of  working towards the kingdom of God  is calling us forth as a church, as the body of Christ, to respond. And before we ask, “What can I do?”, we need only look to the efforts of those individuals who have taken that step to make a difference and the power of a “Yes!”

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”

St. Catherine of Siena knew the intimate connection between contemplation and action, between our baptism the living out of our discipleship. Renowned for her care for the poor, diseased, and the conversion of sinners, she used her insight, and conviction to influence both pope and city state leaders alike in a call for peace and unity of the church.

“Ora et labora”

For St. Benedict, prayer and work were the basis of monastic life directed towards the commitment to  further“seek after peace and pursue it.”

“Praying with my feet”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel first gave this response when asked why he, a renowned Hebrew scholar, chose to march with Martin Luther King in Selma. For when prayer is centered on God, there is an invitation both to piety and praise, as well as to commit our actions towards that love of God. Whether or not you feel represented, led or inspired by either candidate in this election, the majority of us can agree that there remain many steps to be taken ahead.

“May prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother.. is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when ecclesial service is attentive only to doing, things gain in importance, functions, structures, and we forget the centrality of Christ.” Pope Francis, Angelus 7/21/13

Pope Francis is setting a beautiful model that we can all emulate in calling us to reach out as a community to meet those who are suffering and in need…to embrace, heal, provide reconciliation and be a means of hope. He articulates the necessity to be aware of the intimate presence of God within, to seek moments of contemplation in our everyday world, work for the common good, and encourage others to do the same. It is here that I see my place currently within the community of faith in working towards these initial steps, and in enacting my faith albeit locally towards new paths. Each step is a prayer, and a hopeful course of action. Each life encountered, an opportunity to see and meet Christ in one another.

Reflect: What shape does “costly discipleship” take in my own life today and in the years ahead? Am I engaged in active discipleship and willing to “pray with my feet”?

Peace,

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Take it All to Prayer

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Over the last few months,  a potential mission opportunity has been occupying a special place in my prayers. Our collaborative, having already made two trips to Haiti for teens with another in February, has decided to embark on an adult trip next July. This mission, though only a week has born great fruit among the youth in our collaborative many of whom had never seen such poverty. Their experience there has taken away the inner reservation to openly speak of their love of Christ, and replaced it with a realization and a passion for what evangelization truly is. These teens make a very compelling case for mission and witness of the conversion power of Christ.

So, when first approached to consider leading the adult trip, I could not help but think of all the lives that would be changed during this time. Yet, I also knew that as a follower of Christ like all things in our lives that this too must be taken to prayer. The difficulty that can arise, for all of us as believers, is when a perceived good receives a resounding no in prayer. So much so, we may delay our verbal response because we are hopeful that God has a “yes!” waiting somewhere in the wings.

This is where I find myself today, after much prayerful consideration and soulful introspection, with an answer I know to be the right one. With each heartfelt petition and reasoning for going, God has also helped me to discern why this trip at this time is not to be. Maybe God is calling forth the gifts of someone else. Perhaps there will be a reason that I am needed here. While none of these are revealed fully now, I trust that God has a time and purpose for all of this.

And in giving the outcome to God, what I have received in its place is peace.

“As we have seen, there is sometimes a big difference between what God is actually asking of us, and what we imagine he is asking. We won’t have the grace to do what God is not asking of us. But for what he is asking, he has promised us his grace: God grants what he commands. When God inspires us to do something (if it really is God who is the source of the inspiration), at the same time he supplies the ability to do it, even if it is beyond our capacity or scares us at the start. Every motion that comes from God brings both the light to understand what God intends, and the strength to accomplish it: light that illuminates the mind, and strength that gives power to the will.”
Fr. Jacques Philippe, In The School of the Holy Spirit, p. 21

Reflect:

Am I inviting God into every decision in my life, even the potentially good ones? Or, do I only ask God to support a decision I have already made?

Pray:

Lord Jesus, you asked that we follow you. So when the paths look equally good, or when we are inclined to take one over the other, help us still to seek your will and not our own. For this is where true happiness lies. In each of these moments, we ask that you also give us the courage to speak this truth and trust your loving will and purpose for our lives. My savior, and my dearest friend you will never steer me wrong!

Peace,

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Are You Saying Yes.. When You Should Be Saying No?

Today, perhaps you find that you had  much rather be saying yes to the many things that come your way than even contemplating the word no. Maybe, you do so out of a well intended desire to please others, or the thrill  from successfully multitasking a multitude of tasks. And still, though your yes may result in a benefit for yourself, your family, friends, or community does not mean that it is still the answer that God may have intended for you to give.

This is not an easy message for us as Christians, who are trained to offer our time and talents to the service of those placed within our care. We take the scripture from Romans 12 urging us all to present our bodies as a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” and neglect to heed the verses to follow:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Discernment isn’t an add on when we find ourselves confused as to what path to take but it is essential in every choice we make. Even those opportunities which are in themselves good and promise to be fruitful. Take a moment to consider, if you will, whether you are inviting God into each of your decision making moments or just some of them. If not, why not?

Pride

Ah, yes..that clever and insidious sin of pride. It creeps into even the smallest of places leaving us thinking foolishly that we are the only the only ones that can complete a task or the best one to do so.

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

Thus, inevitably we must prayerfully discern why we feel that our yes is needed and be careful not to take on a project out of pride. But wait..you mean someone else might be called to take on a challenge, or be given gifts to fit the purpose?

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another..” Romans 12: 1-21

We are not being asked to do it all ourselves but in fact, are to call forth the gifts in our brothers and sisters to build up the body of Christ. Those around us do not always see their own gifts and releasing our own prideful motivation allows God to move others into action. It also permits each one of us to glimpse God actively at work as the best human resource manager and project manager for this world in which we live in.

People Pleasing

So, maybe we do not feel we are the best qualified, are already over committed or not really inclined to take on a task but do so because we would like to say yes to the person who has asked. This is not a good motivation either yet admittedly is an easy trap for the kind hearted Christian. In parish ministry we often find the same people being called upon time and time again. They want to be helpful and usually are, but offer a yes when honestly it should be a no. Then later, burned out and tasked beyond reason they leave serving because there simply is no more to give. Recognizing your own need to renew and refill is a valid and essential reason to say no. While initially difficult to do, as well as an adjustment for the one asking it may be the right answer. In making space for quality  prayer time and detachment from the reaction or approval of others we can begin to see that  God’s approval is the only one that matters.

Reflect:

Is there a decision in my day today that I might not be needed to say yes to? Have I invited God into the task? Would others be better served by my no?  

Peace,Signature

Worth Revisiting: A Slippery Slope

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She was a bit surprised to see him there..standing among his homeless companions of many years. For several months he had found sobriety along with an apartment and a day job, maintaining his distance from a number of his former friends. The last time we had seen him he had appeared healthy and in much better spirits thankful for the care and concern shown. Not today though. Today, he was visibly agitated and the closer she got the more she realized his sobriety was no more. Greeting everyone present, one by one she checked in with them and handing them coffee as they spoke.

“I need 5 dollars and if you really cared about me you’d give it to me”. “Jim”, said one of the other men “now you know she doesn’t give money. Leave her alone.” Yet, he persisted getting more belligerent each time he spoke, till finally he said. “You know what I need it for, and if I don’t have a drink soon I will die”.  Sadness, filled her heart at that moment. She had seen him at this point before and it had nearly taken his life. There was no such thing as one small drink, or a stopping point for “Jim” it was all consuming. He had fallen into his addiction again, and all of the old habits that befriend it.

As any conversation with an AA or NA member will tell you..sobriety is not a sprint but a lifelong cross country journey. A constant attraction towards your own destruction, with the deceptive lure of rationalization and self reliance there at the ready. Those family members and friends that stay the course are well accustomed to the roller coaster of pain, joy, success and failure that are present along the way.

Yet this is true, though perhaps to a lesser extent, of every battle with temptation, sin and desolation.  Do we recognize our own weaknesses and the slippery slope that we start down when we once again find ourselves facing our worst selves? Will we be pulled under, will we try to go it alone, or will we seek help?

Awareness and Accompaniment.

While each of us were made for more, we repeatedly find ourselves choosing less. Being aware of that which is lesser and our own inclinations to a particular temptation or sin is a good step towards being better prepared when we meet it again. Still, the beauty of our faith is that we are never alone in our journey towards God. Though sin usually carries with it guilt, shame, and insecurities- our faith bears mercy, love and hope.  Through reconciliation, and in community we find both strength and accompaniment, encountering not condemnation and an all loving and merciful Father. Only then are we truly able to accompany others- to offer love and mercy in the struggle, and compassion and hope where none were evident before.

“Lord, thank you for loving me- knowing all of my weaknesses and being there to catch me when I fall.  Help me to keep my eyes open to the pitfalls ahead, and my ears ready to hear your voice. Carry me through, Lord. And please I ask dear gracious Father, make my heart ready to respond to the needs of others.” 

Peace,

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In My Corner

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Backs up against the wall prepared for an uphill battle, or at the very least a ready argument we turn anxiously to look for just who is in our corner. Even for the smallest of tasks we seem so ready to face everything on our own and only when we see the overwhelming odds do we recognize the depth of our need. Like a boxer, we stand bruised and bloodied with eyes nearly swollen shut before we fall on our knees .And yet, the fact of the matter is that it never has to be this way.

Corners

First a little observation about corners. As a friend of mine recently noted, corners are not the neatest, most brightly lit or cared for of places. That is where we keep the things we choose to hide or cannot deal with in the light of day that simply form the cobwebs of our lives. It is where we relegate the things that we hold onto, just in case we might find them of use one day. Now while it is true that God is needed to shine light on all of the hurt, guilt, and sin that lies here his love is never meant to only exist in this confined space. For if we let him, he longs for us to lay our heart and lives wide open for him to walk and guide our every movement.

Trust

So then why are we content to relegate God to the corner, asking only for his help when we feel we need him most?  Quite personally, it has been for me when I have suffered most from a misplaced trust in my own abilities or those of others. Forging ahead without consultation or consideration of his advice, I set off assuredly on a course that most certainly was doomed from the start. “Where did it all go wrong?”, I ask myself knowing the answer even before I ask the question.  It isn’t even a new story either. For time and time in the scriptures, God is asking us to include him in the planning, to wait to act. And yet time seems to stand still, and the uncomfortableness of the silence and the restlessness in the waiting tempt us to action. What I do not see, however, is the interplay of God at work in the hearts and lives of others seeking to bring us all to be a part of his master plan. While God can most certainly accomplish it all without me, he longs to have my trust and participation in the effort.

Rightful Place

Well, if the corner isn’t the sole rightful place of God in our lives, just where should our  Advocate and Comforter, Counselor and Deliverer  be? Truth is at times God is more than willing to take the lead, to walk beside us, and albeit carry us when we think we cannot go any further. All he asks is that he be first in our lives. The first consultation, the first consideration, the door that we first approach and move through in our day.Yet, how do we invite God to occupy that space in our lives if we have only turned to the coach’s corner in times of crisis?

  1. Pray- talk, surrender your concerns and difficulties but also  be willing to share your joys and blessings. It is all important to our loving Father.If we ever want to move God from the remote corners we have to give our all the good and the bad and include him in the decision making.
  2. Reconciliation- In considering what remains in our corners, now is a good time to “clean house”, maybe even do a little construction and eliminate the corners all together. Add some light to the darkest areas of our life by throwing open the shutters through confession and allowing God’s love to penetrate our hearts.
  3. Discernment- When a big decision seems to suddenly erupt on the scene..chances are that there were several smaller issues that were went unnoticed  or that led to this crossroad. Take time to allow God to lead. Discernment may appear at first glance to be inaction when really it is the most important part of any action that we take in our Christian lives.

My hope for you today is to recognize the friendship that our loving Savior is calling you to- not just a hiding place but a constant light, shield and hope of our life to come. Not for a moment does he ever forsake us. Isn’t it only rightful that we honor his choice to be with us always?

Peace,Signature

 

 

Worth Revisiting: When God Talks

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What is it to say that God talks? How do we know that God is really speaking and guiding us as we seek to follow?

I would venture to say that nearly every believer has at some point in their walk of faith has questioned and sought certainty of God’s constant dialogue with them. Silence might seem deafening at times and the fear of abandonment or trial just too great. Hang in there, you are in good company…what you are describing has been felt by countless saints and even uttered by our Lord himself on the cross.

Not that long ago, my teenage son who had experienced a very difficult day with a friendship, and dealing with academic pressures found himself unable to sleep. Pausing by his room to say goodnight, I became suddenly aware that he needed to talk.

“Mom, why is it that when I pray I cannot hear God speaking to me? I pray every night, even apart from our family prayer…and I never hear anything back.”

“What is it that you are expecting to hear”, I ask, “an audible voice?”

“I’m not sure, he responds, but right now it’s just silence.”

“What is it that you feel…can you feel God present even if it may seem he isn’t that close?”

“Yes, but I really wish he would answer me, and help me figure out how to handle all that I am dealing with”

Smiling, “Were you just praying earlier? Have you ever considered that is why I am here now?”

Thinking of this moment today, I am reminded that perhaps we sometimes set expectations on just how God is to respond to our prayer and miss him working in the events and lives of all those around us.

Setting time aside for scripture is another way that we, if open, can “hear” God speaking to us. This past week was a beautiful testament of this! With a number of prayerful concerns on my mind last

 Monday,

I picked up my coffee and sat down with a few scriptural reflections for some Father-daughter time. Asking God for guidance, I opened my eyes and to my delight was a reflection on Luke 11:8-9..

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

God was asking me not to carry these matters alone but to ask, seek and depend on him. Though I was pleased with this consolation, God was not satisfied. He underscored it with the 2nd completely distinctive reflection on James 1:5-6…

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.

It wasn’t enough for me to simply ask, God was telling me I needed to trust that he had it all in control. Without faith and trust, my prayers and conversation were shallow and superficial, not at all the deep friendship that God longs to have with each and every one of us.

Wednesday:

I had hit the ground running from the moment my feet first met the floor. Scrambling to get put into place things that should’ve been done earlier I had skipped my morning reflection time. God had not given up on me though. My chosen post for Worth Revisiting was a reflection on Matthew 13:1-9, and focused on the essentials of prayer, mass, love and scripture. Quickly I had uploaded it and opened the linkup for the week without giving the post itself the needed read. That is until the Holy Spirit got my attention. Unbeknownst to me initially, my colleague Allison Gingras had also chosen that very same scripture passage to revisit. As she and I both sat in amazement, I knew that there was something God wanted me to notice in that passage and post. Then there it was, in my writing by my own hand. I had woken up without tending to my own weeds and preparing my soil adequately. “Father, thank you for your patience, persistence and humor in seeking me- when I am otherwise occupied and not always seeking you!”

Thursday:

Having come to the realization that all of my notes for my radio interview that day no longer existed, I was feeling quite dismayed. That is, until I turned to this reflection,

“We must always be starting again. These continual recoveries, this endless beginning again, tires and disheartens us far more than the actual fighting. We would much prefer a real battle, fierce and decisive. But God, as a rule, thinks otherwise.” — Dom Augustin Guillerand

Once again I found strength and determination to take up the task at hand, knowing that God had a purpose in the re-do, in my beginning again. Humble but reassured, I saw purpose in the work ahead.

So, how do we know when God is talking to us?

This tangible experience of his presence, which is at times overwhelming and also more subtle, is both anticipated and yet surprising. It lifts us up, reassures, comforts and guides, giving us hope when we have none. Even when we are not aware of it, God is ever present and faithful.. waiting for us to make space in our day. When we do– the more attentive and attune to the sound of His voice we are, no matter what the world throws at us. When was the last time you heard God talk?

Peace,

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Work Harder, Pray More

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In light of the upcoming elections, many of us have spent time considering our options, weighing the consequences and praying that not only our nation survives but can address necessary issues. As difficult as this election year has been, I am reminded that my faith, though resting solely in Christ, cannot remain isolated from the reality that it is practiced in a world that often runs counter to that faith. Noted Lutheran theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, stressed three elements of “costly discipleship”: (1) prayer, (2) community, and (3) an engagement with surrounding political realities.

At this time in my life, I  seek to have an active life of prayer, a discipleship in community, and in small everyday ways to be engaged with the political realities in the world around me. Yet, in my youth, I was undoubtedly more political- even devoting my undergrad entrance essay to the the apathetic attitude of Americans towards voting and working towards change. In the last 10 years, admittedly I have become somewhat disillusioned in the leadership to protect and preserve  life, and determination to truly accomplish transformative change. However, the mission of  working towards the kingdom of God  is calling us forth as a church, as the body of Christ, to respond. And before we ask, “What can I do?”, we need only look to the efforts of those individuals who have taken that step to make a difference and the power of a “Yes!”

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”

St. Catherine of Siena knew the intimate connection between contemplation and action, between our baptism the living out of our discipleship. Renowned for her care for the poor, diseased, and the conversion of sinners, she used her insight, and conviction to influence both pope and city state leaders alike in a call for peace and unity of the church.

“Ora et labora”

For St. Benedict, prayer and work were the basis of monastic life directed towards the commitment to  further“seek after peace and pursue it.”

“Praying with my feet”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel first gave this response when asked why he, a renowned Hebrew scholar, chose to march with Martin Luther King in Selma. For when prayer is centered on God, there is an invitation both to piety and praise, as well as to commit our actions towards that love of God. Whether or not you feel represented, led or inspired by either candidate in this election, the majority of us can agree that there remain many steps to be taken ahead.

“May prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother.. is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when ecclesial service is attentive only to doing, things gain in importance, functions, structures, and we forget the centrality of Christ.” Pope Francis, Angelus 7/21/13

Pope Francis is setting a beautiful model that we can all emulate in calling us to reach out as a community to meet those who are suffering and in need…to embrace, heal, provide reconciliation and be a means of hope. He articulates the necessity to be aware of the intimate presence of God within, to seek moments of contemplation in our everyday world, work for the common good, and encourage others to do the same. It is here that I see my place currently within the community of faith in working towards these initial steps, and in enacting my faith albeit locally towards new paths. Each step is a prayer, and a hopeful course of action. Each life encountered, an opportunity to see and meet Christ in one another.

Reflect: What shape does “costly discipleship” take in my own life today and in the years ahead? Am I engaged in active discipleship and willing to “pray with my feet”?

Peace,

Signature

Through the Lens: Theology & Sprituality

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Sandra Schneiders, defines spirituality as the experience of conscious involvement in the project of life integration through self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives.”  “Religion and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals, or Partners?” Santa Clara Lectures v.6. no. 2, Feb 6, 2000.

In Schneiders discussion of spirituality, she begins with a very narrow understanding and use of the term in regards to the intensification of an interior prayer life, and communally within a guided retreat setting. As described, it seems limited in its effect where its participants seek to leave the everyday world to experience the Holy Spirit in a contained setting. This level is then expanded somewhat in a second approach to be a transformative experience intended to affect not just one’s prayer life but a lived increase of an everyday life of faith and service. The third approach encompasses both of these but redefines our prior catholic understanding of the body and emotions as something outside the realm of spirituality to include these in lived spirituality. Lastly, we have the broadest approach which also considers how one’s spirituality and life experience can and has impacted the world both politically and socially. Even to reflect that one’s own worldview, and life experience itself is a product of and affected by the historical social contexts of the world around us. In moving concentrically outward in depth of experience of spirituality, we also move from a narrow understanding given to a chosen pious group of believers to that which can be shared by all, and essential in a holistic life in the world.

For the majority of my life, I would say that I have understood spirituality primarily within the second approach. Growing up I had been given a wonderful role model of spirituality in my grandmother, whose prayer and faith life radiated not just within her own life but in all those who journeyed with her. Like her, I have desired and seek to live my faith both in prayer and within the entirety of my everyday experience. Therefore, when I attended the Cursillo retreat several years ago, it wasn’t novel- but first of all a re-commitment to give all aspects of my life to God and seek greater discernment in my path of discipleship.

It is in this discernment journey that I have begun to understand the tie of spirituality to that of the body and emotions. How can I better impart the gift of being a woman, wife, mother, and friend in the realities of life and share fruitfully the gift of love wholly? In my studies at Loyola, I recognize this approach to a lived spirituality calling me to broaden my horizons again from the microcosm of my immediate community to that of the world at large. As a hopeful “awakener” of the faith, I understand that the questions of those I encounter are ones that have the potential to allow each to find meaning and purpose in their lives and in the world.

Yet what is the dialogical relationship between spirituality and theology, and how do they impact one another? 

Very broadly, spirituality and theology appear as seekers in trying to understand the mystery of and our relationship with the Other, and in a perfect dialogical relationship can add support, understanding and indeed life to the journey. Visually, I see this as one’s left hand and right hand, which are both needed together in prayer, supporting the other in receiving communion (i.e. the Eucharist), and in reaching out and serving as communion to others. While one can perform these actions one-handed, or allowing one hand to dominate, it is in the partnership that one can embrace the fullness of the opportunity set before us. Thus, we look to the unique contributions that both spirituality and theology can provide to understand the breadth of the human experience and relationship with God.

According to Schneiders, Christian spirituality is both a lived awareness and experience of seeking God, which involves our whole self but goes beyond our finite selves, and which is enabled by the Holy Spirit. [1] This is compatible with how I also understand spirituality as a conscious commitment to seek God in all things that is dependent on the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength. Likewise, I would agree that although Christian spirituality is a personal experience, it also involves a community of believers.[2] This is clearly visible in the experience of the disciples and early church but is also true in the contemporary experience of spirituality.

Yet, today we can benefit from centuries of faith understandings to fully appreciate our own experience of spirituality. This is where theology can inform, inspire, “criticize”, and “challenge”[3] this lifetime journey by providing a degree of structure, points of reflection, and others’ experiences for the believer to consider. Without a backdrop or context in which to place one’s experience, how could one interpret the similarity or uniqueness of it at all?  Conversely, theology without adequate spirituality provides theoretical truths and boundaries, but lacks the witness to the Spirit continually at work in the unique experience of the individual. The role of theology should therefore be to guide and not “control” the field or “subordinate” experience of spirituality.[4] Rather, in partnering with spirituality, theology is enlivened, dynamic and transformative reflecting also the contemporary lived experience of its believers.

Peace,

Signature


[1] Schneiders, p. 266. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[2] Schneiders, p. 266. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[3] Schneiders, pgs. 270-271. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[4] Schneiders, p. 273. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”

A Slippery Slope

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She was a bit surprised to see him there..standing among his homeless companions of many years. For several months he had found sobriety along with an apartment and a day job, maintaining his distance from a number of his former friends. The last time we had seen him he had appeared healthy and in much better spirits thankful for the care and concern shown. Not today though. Today, he was visibly agitated and the closer she got the more she realized his sobriety was no more. Greeting everyone present, one by one she checked in with them and handing them coffee as they spoke.

“I need 5 dollars and if you really cared about me you’d give it to me”. “Jim”, said one of the other men “now you know she doesn’t give money. Leave her alone.” Yet, he persisted getting more belligerent each time he spoke, till finally he said. “You know what I need it for, and if I don’t have a drink soon I will die”.  Sadness, filled her heart at that moment. She had seen him at this point before and it had nearly taken his life. There was no such thing as one small drink, or a stopping point for “Jim” it was all consuming. He had fallen into his addiction again, and all of the old habits that befriend it.

As any conversation with an AA or NA member will tell you..sobriety is not a sprint but a lifelong cross country journey. A constant attraction towards your own destruction, with the deceptive lure of rationalization and self reliance there at the ready. Those family members and friends that stay the course are well accustomed to the roller coaster of pain, joy, success and failure that are present along the way.

Yet this is true, though perhaps to a lesser extent, of every battle with temptation, sin and desolation.  Do we recognize our own weaknesses and the slippery slope that we start down when we once again find ourselves facing our worst selves? Will we be pulled under, will we try to go it alone, or will we seek help?

Awareness and Accompaniment.

While each of us were made for more, we repeatedly find ourselves choosing less. Being aware of that which is lesser and our own inclinations to a particular temptation or sin is a good step towards being better prepared when we meet it again. Still, the beauty of our faith is that we are never alone in our journey towards God. Though sin usually carries with it guilt, shame, and insecurities- our faith bears mercy, love and hope.  Through reconciliation, and in community we find both strength and accompaniment, encountering not condemnation but an all loving and merciful Father. Only then are we truly able to accompany others- to offer love and mercy in the struggle, and compassion and hope where none were evident before.

“Lord, thank you for loving me- knowing all of my weaknesses and being there to catch me when I fall.  Help me to keep my eyes open to the pitfalls ahead, and my ears ready to hear your voice. Carry me through, Lord. And please I ask dear gracious Father, make my heart ready to respond to the needs of others.” 

Peace,

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Our Vote of Conscience

 

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A member of the League of Women Voters and a District Chairperson of the Republican party in the late 60’s, within a Democratic stronghold of the South,..my mom was truly a groundbreaker. Deciding to run as a representative in Arkansas, the deck was clearly not in her favor and yet she doggedly pushed on ahead. Extremely principled, she wouldn’t budge on issues of importance to her–life and the quality of life, education, just laws and government, and fair taxes. Not to mention, she outright refused to portray herself as anything less than this merely to speak to another audience. Her political career was all but doomed, and yet what she instilled in me was a belief that there are moral principles worth fighting for.

Though I myself never ran for office, I became quite active in my HS and undergraduate years in the political scene, resolutely campaigning for those I felt could offer a good vision for the future. Going door to door, putting up signs and holding a microphone at counter rallies, I was more than willing to speak for a cause. My entrance essay for Mount Holyoke College, in fact, was aptly entitled “An Apathetic Voter Makes for a Pathetic Democracy”.  Clever, eh? So then, what happened to dull this avid proponent of democracy into more of the subject of this essay? Experience and disappointment.

Through my 30’s, unconsciously I had begun to acquire a new mantra on the political system. Unable to feel any candidate fully or even partially represented values I held dear I had resolved to be religious but not political.  Clearly there was room for growth on both sides of the political spectrum, and the losers weren’t the candidates but the American people. Particularly I felt were those who were being enticed by temporary campaign promises, courted, then all but forgotten in the months following the election. Issues of the protection, preservation and betterment of life for those most vulnerable have been more often than not it seems, never intended to succeed either in theory or practice.  Gridlock.

However, the nice comfy perch I had found sitting above the fray by acquisition of a philosophy of moral superiority was also feeling less comfortable and more concerning. What difference was I making in the lives I proclaimed to be asserting for if I refused to take a stand, if my approach was to simply resign to throw my hands up in disgust? If I was merely going through the motions and lacked purpose in my step?  Yes, even though there may not ever be an ideal candidate it is my responsibility to vote my conscience and my faith. Then whoever is elected, they too may need a reminder from all of us that there still exists faith, hope, love and charity- and these are truly values worth fighting for.

This election you too can accept the invitation to vote your conscience..and hold politicians accountable.

Peace,

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