Today my Uncle Don would have been one hundred-ten. He would take is vacation in August, always determined to leave Brooklyn in time to make it to Maine for his birthday. My uncle was a gentle, soft-spoken man of faith. On a Sunday morning he could always be found at the 8 o’clock service at an Episcopal church. “Credo,” he would say, and leave it at that. That was enough for me.
The Sunday church service went well. I gave it what I had, but as I said in my sermon, I did so with prayer, God’s grace, and the message I received from the story in John’s gospel of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand. The Living Christ was among us. Jesus gave me enough pieces to pass on his message, and he gave the people in the pews enough pieces to hear what they needed. We all had enough.
We all have enough. In fact, most of us (those privileged to read or write blogs) have more than we need. “I’ll take more time…I’ll keep this extra just in case.”
This morning I started getting rid of all the extra stuff in the dining room—dishes, a collection of rocks and shells, three of six water pitchers, drooping, partially melted candles. I will pass the pieces on to family, the church fair, the put-and-take, and the dump. My challenge is to believe have enough time to do this in every room in the house. Yes, I have enough.
I was planning to post something while on vacation in Maine, but the ‘24 hour flu’ usurped . So here I am back at home. This weekend was supposed to be a time of quiet following that busy social time away, but two hours after we arrived home, I found myself saying yes to running the church service this Sunday--which of course includes giving the sermon, which of course means writing one.
The lectionary is John 6: 1-15, the Feeding of the Five Thousand. In John’s gospel Jesus, not the apostles as in the other gospels, does the feeding, hands out the pieces of bread and fish. No intermediaries necessary in this one. I like that. Here we have the Living Christ showing us how to do our part, our part, not all the parts. We all have our gifts, be it in our church community or in other areas of our life. Do what we can and receive the rest from others. That way others can do the same. Everyone giving and receiving.
Today I’m thinking about forgiveness. I thinking that to forgive may be the most difficult of spiritual tasks, and yet the most important. Why important? If I can’t forgive, I harbor resentments, judgments and everything else that separates me from God and keeps God’s presence from me. God may be an idea in the distance, but not as love living inside me.
Why is forgiving difficult? Because my ego, in wanting center stage, needs to hold onto the very feelings I need to release in order forgive-- anger, jealously, envy…you know the list.
I know can’t forgive on my own, but through prayer I ask for God’s help so I can move from fear to love. Thank God, God is more powerful than I am.
Regular readers of my blog know that I am continually searching for ways to keep God foremost on my mind and in my actions—in other words, to pray without ceasing.
I came across this from the writings of Amy Carmichael, a missionary in South India during the first half of the twentieth century. When we are self-centered, she tells us to name the opposite:
Untruth—Thy truth, Lord
Unkindness—Thy kindness, Lord
Un-Impatience—Thy patience, Lord
Selfishness—Thy selfishness, Lord
Roughness—Thy gentleness, Lord
Discourtesy—Thy courtesy, Lord
Resentment, inward heat, fuss—Thy sweetness, Lord, Thy calmness, They
To keep it simple, just say, “Thy will, Lord.” In fact, it works even when my granddog wakes me up too early in morning.
Richard Meux Benson was the founding brother of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In a recent sermon Br. Curtis Almquist in talking about intercessory prayer, quoted Benson,
“In praying for others we learn really and truly to love them. As we approach God on their behalf we carry the thought of them into the very being of eternal Love, and as we go into the being of him who is eternal Love, so we learn to love whatever we take with us there.”
This approach removes any judgment I might have about how God ‘should’ respond to my prayer, or any thought that I might take on the role of God.
Br. Curtis goes on to say, “It is a tall order, to pray in such a way, but it is co-operating with what Jesus gave his life, praying for one another on earth as it shall be in heaven. Pray for your enemies. Bless, do not curse them. Pray for your enemies. If you were to ask, where to start? Start with three. Pray for three enemies. How long? Pray until you begin to sense the ice melting in your soul, the beginning of the flow of compassion. Keep it up. Love will come. Love will surely come.”
Who are my enemies? I don’t have big time enemies, but I do have people who annoy me and get in my way, people of whom I’m jealous. They are my enemies because they come between me and God. I will start with three.
I am very grateful to be back in the Angel Room with time; time to pray, write, read, pray; time for silence, solitude and simplicity. I’ve missed this time, although I’m filled with gratitude for the family and travel time I’ve had.
Today I’ve been thinking about how hard it is to love others when I am judging them. In Writings from the Philokalia: on Prayer of the Heart, the Monks of Callistus tell me: ”Not seeing evil intentions gives birth to love.” When I judge I often unconsciously assume an evil intention in the other person. But when I think about that monks’ comment and stop presuming evil intentions, my focus shifts, judgments fade away, and I’m left knowing that that person is struggling just like me to be loved and to love.
Taking time to pray, read, write, and ponder is why I am very grateful to be back here.
I’ve taken a little blogging time off, and due to the July 4th festivities, I’ll probably be taking some more in the next few days. Family is arriving and then poof, they will depart by the 6th. My mom told me that every morning she expressed gratitude for her family, her health and her life situation. I try to do the same. Not a bad way to start the day!
Every since our kids were young, July 4th has been our best family holiday. Nothing like local New England parading right by our house, attracting kids and grandkids to return to the ‘homestead’. When the kids were in grade school we had an antique fire engine that we, family and friends, rode in the parade. I continue to be very grateful for all the freedom I have.