Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Five: Taking Stock....

3dogmom over at RevGals offers this Friday Five meme:
We’re midway through summer (for us northern gals and pals), a good time to pause for a moment to take a breath before the force of autumn’s gravity takes hold too fiercely, and pulls us into its grasp of programming and schedules and commitments. This might be the last chance we have to pause and check in with our inner divine compass, the soul, and reflect on our inner life.  Here are a few questions to consider as we do so.
What is one thing bringing you joy today? The weather is glorious - sunny and warm. We are actually having a real summer this year, and for that I am grateful!
What is a disappointment you are experiencing today? I feel like just resting and playing today, but I have too much work to do. This seems to be my norm - I so want to just play but I have stuff I have to do. I will have a vacation in August, a week with just my husband as we celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. I am very excited about that!!! Which is probably why it's so hard to work....the anticipation...
When you think about the past six months, when did your soul feel most awake? I have been doing a lot of work with Bowen Family Systems Theory and church conflict and self awareness, it's been terrific work. 
When did you experience a sorrow or regret? I wish I had been able to spend more time with family when I was in Utah in June....but I did the best I could. I did have a lot of fun with my aunt, my dad, and my son when we went to brunch on Father's Day and when she and I went to the art fair in SLC.
For what is your soul most longing? Rest. Deep rest, with some fun thrown in. No work. 
Bonus: is there a word or image that succinctly summarizes how you find your soul today? Please share it with us.

This photo was taken on July 2, by my son on our drive from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah. We were trying to squeeze in a little vacation time in the midst of a lot of work. That's how I feel today, like I really need a good vacation, time to really rest and renew my spirit after a year of hard work...and before the next year starts up....

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Compassion: a short meditation

Every time there is a natural disaster, a hurricane, tornado, wild-fire, or an earthquake, the news is filled with stories of loss and heart-rending stories of survival. We also hear many stories of how human beings have gone out of their way to help others. These acts of compassion become the heart and soul of life, restoring our sense of hope in humanity. 

Nearly every day we hear a story in the church office from the individuals and families who come to us looking for food and Kroger gift cards. The stories are tragic, but they are also stories of hope.  When people come to the food pantry our only restriction is that people don’t abuse it, that they’ll take what they need, and leave enough for others. And for the most part that is what happens - people take care of their needs and leave enough for others. 

We are a Community-Centered Church, feeding people in mind, body, and spirit. The food pantry, Blessings in a Backpack which feeds hungry kids during the school year, and working with Good Shepherd in Liberia to build a school, are just a couple of the ways we are living out the Good News that Jesus speaks about in the Gospel this morning, having compassion for our neighbors near and far; feeding people hungry for physical, spiritual, and intellectual nourishment. 

Karen Armstrong’s book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, which we read together in the summer of 2011, describes compassion as the root of all of the world religions. She writes that about three thousand years ago a phenomenon happened that moved across the globe and in and through every religion of the day. This phenomenon resulted in what is known as the Golden Rule - do to others what you would have done to you. From Christianity to Judaism to Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Zoarastorism, Confucianism, and Taoism, all of the main religions of the world adopted a primary belief and saying that grounds the faithful in compassionate living. 

Armstrong writes that compassion begins by one acquiring the ability to have compassion for one's self. There is, she writes, a disorder in western culture that stems from our inability to truly care for ourselves. It is grounded in an inability to recognize our feelings and to understand how our unconscious feelings guide our behavior. Developing the capacity to become self-aware, which includes an honest understanding of our strengths and our growing edges, is crucial to self-awareness. In addition, when we have the capacity to truly understand ourselves, and have some compassion for ourselves, we are able to take responsibility for our misdeeds and to make amends. 

For example, we have a tendency to dislike and even attack others who actually exhibit the very qualities that we struggle with in ourselves. I know that as soon as I start to feel anxious and critical of another person it is probably because that person is behaving just like me. When I develop the ability to understand what and why I am the way I am, when I develop the capacity to manage my anxiety because I understand it better, when I have compassion for myself, then I am able to develop the capacity to have compassion for others and their behavior. 


As we hear in our reading this morning from Mark (6:30-34. 53-56), Jesus feeds people. He feeds them with real food, bread and fish, bread and wine..... He feeds them with love and prayer. He feeds them with compassion and healing.  Jesus also feeds himself. He goes off alone to pray, feeding his spirit so he can then care for and feed others. This morning we are reminded to take the time to care for ourselves and to become as aware of our behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes, as we can be in order to not be driven by unconscious, and therefore often destructive energy. We are reminded to treat others as we would like to be treated, with compassion, loving God, self, and others as God loves us. 

One Degree of Difference

I did this exercise with us a few years ago, but I want to do it again. How many of you have your cell phones on you? If your cell phone ...