Category Archives: Historical Musings (Old Stuff)
Note: I was poking around in some “stuff” this morning and found this. I undoubtedly wrote it almost twenty years ago!! Yea, I have files of written stuff! Anyway, I still like it and claim the empowerment of Just a Thought. Thought I would share.
Just A Thought
I sometimes wonder, really I often times wonder. Truly, I spend a lot of time wondering. My wonderings bring me to questions. My questions lead me to thoughts. My thoughts most frequently go nowhere. That is my thoughts do not lead to answers. Neither do they resolve themselves in solutions. Should my wonderings bring answers? Beats me! Just a thought.
If in my forty-five years of wondering or pondering or maybe, just thinking I have come to an answer, it is simply, repeatedly, and conclusively that I have no answers. I do not want to have answers or THE ANSWER. I do not want that responsibility. Now aren’t I such an irresponsible rascal! Or, am I? Ooops, another question!
I have grown up, outgrown, left behind those days of seeking to answer my own questions as well as those that others or the world might put before me. I like to believe I have, anyway. Still, I might be deluding myself about that; however, I think not, I hope not. I most assuredly pray not. I suppose, now that I think about it, that answering questions filled a need for me. I was, still am in many ways, a needy person. Aren’t we all? Ooops, another question?
Having the answer(s) looked good. Looked smart at least. Unless, God forbid, it was the wrong answer. Wrong answers brought consternation, condemnation – mostly my own (You stupid idiot!) – shame, “go crawl in a hole” syndrome, and oh, yes, FEAR. Need I mention continual rationalization, excuse making, back peddling, and, yes – blame shifting. Such an irresponsible rascal I am. Or am I? Maybe so – maybe not? I don’t have the answers anymore.
I think, too, that having the answers or thinking that I had the answers felt powerful. UMMM? Now is there anything wrong with needing to experience a sense of personal power? I think not. Oh, dear? Did I answer my question? Am I regressing? Wait don’t panic! “I think not.” – that’s a thought not an answer. It is my thought. It is a valid, worthy thought. It is mine, and I have a right to express it. Now that is powerful! It is not power over anyone, anything, or any bit of information. It is empowerment from within – real personal power.
Yep, I do believe I have learned. I’ve learned I don’t like crawling into holes. They are dark, musky, and cramped – oh, my legs. I don’t like hearing “You stupid idiot!” I was not created to carry a weight of shame. I am no longer comfortable rationalizing or making excuses. I do not like irresponsibly shifting blame. I choose to no longer live in fear – fear of being wrong, fear of not looking good or smart, fear of experiencing no power in, over, and through my life.
Long ago a fellow by the name of Paul wrote to his dear friend Timothy, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7 KJV) Yes, I have learned. Today from the empowerment of God within I share only thoughts, not answers. Thoughts that are, for the most part, the careful considerations of a sound mind. Thoughts shared openly out of love and not harbored in fear.
Oh, yes! I wonder. I think thoughts. I ask questions. Are there any answers? I think not – Save One. Just a thought!
In the spring of 1998 after experiencing a series of “reversals” – that means things were falling apart and “going to hell in a hand basket” in most areas of my life — physical health, relationship, professional, financial — I took off. I needed a break. “Get out of Dodge.” Change of scenery! I needed respite, recovery, and renewal. Pulling up stakes and leaving was different for me, yet I knew I had to go. I had seen an advertisement for seasonal help wanted at Grand Teton National Park. Actually, I gave the ad to my then twenty-year-old son thinking he might be interested. He wasn’t. The more I thought about it – why not me! The twenty year old son was working part time, still living at home, and perfectly capable of taking care of himself and the house. The seventeen-year-old son was going to be away all summer performing with The Cadets, a Drum Corp International group. Nothing was keeping me there but the part time job I had at the public library. So, why not! I applied and they hired me. I took a step of faith and quit the library job trusting that I would find another job upon my return. The younger son and I left home on Saturday, May 23rd. I dropped him at the Dallas airport for his flight to New York and his summer adventure. I headed out on my journey. I was a mess of brokenness! I remember tears clouding my eyes and telling myself “Stop this, you can’t see the road,” as I headed west out of Dallas. I was excited, yet I was anxious. Could I do this? What was out there on the road ahead? All I knew for sure was that I had committed to show up for work in the Grand Tetons on Tuesday, May 26th. I had 1,300 miles ahead of me. I was on the road!
JOURNAL Entry: 8:30 a.m. Monday, May 25, 1998 – Somewhere along US Highway 287 north of Rawlings, WY
Along the Road
Not a cloud in the sky.
Not another human being as far as eye can see.
Just wide open spaces and gentle cool breezes.
The eastern sky ablaze in the morning sun.
A ribbon of road before me.
A path of life to follow.
A journey to know.
A destiny to experience.
A history behind
Rich in joy and sorrow, love and tears.
A Hope ahead and today just as rich
Filled with joy and peace, adventure and rest,
Love and sorrow.
All to be known along the journey.
All to be experienced.
Each and all a destiny of their own.
The sun still shines.
The breezes still blow.
The road still winds forward.
The daily Destiny.
The Father knows I trust –
A Heart full of Hope.
Yes! I dance and sing – YES,
Along the road!
Not long after arriving in the Grand Tetons I discovered the Dixie Chicks song “Wide Open Spaces” which became one of the many road songs that lifted my spirit and nourished my soul during the months in the mountains. Even today when I listen to it my heart swells with cherished memories, joy, and thankfulness, as well as the knowledge that I sometimes simply need to hit the road and experience again wide open spaces!!
Reflections on a New Year’s Resolution
I did actually sit down and begin this post on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2014, but was distracted and played “Tag, You’re It!” (see previous post) instead. Oh, that I had resisted the distraction! Anyway. . .
In considering the resolution thing for the New Year, I am baffled. Yes, there are some things I would like to do/accomplish in 2014, but do I really want to “resolve” to do them, or as Nike so aptly put it, “Just Do It!” My record with resolution making/keeping is mediocre at best. Hopefully yours is better! Yes, I would like to lose 15-20 lbs. Isn’t that the trendy resolution these days! I want to spend more time writing, and I really need to clean out those closets. And, I always want to spend more time outdoors kayaking and hiking, but given where I live, that usually involves more travel time. Yes, I would like to travel more in 2014! So, there you go!
But, hey! I really just want to be, be present in the moments, behold the Christ within me and those around me – be they lover, friend, family, or a stranger in the midst. Who knows what the New Year will BE – until it actually IS?
I did clean a closet yesterday and found this – a personal journal entry dated:
JANUARY 1, 1995 – Sunday
I am not much for New Year’s Resolutions. It always seemed rather peculiar. Committing to do something just because it was the beginning of a new year. But I suppose we all like the idea of a fresh start, a clean slate. My experience has been that give a week or two and the whole idea has been forgotten. The old familiar pattern of doing things has crept back in. Actually, it never was out. So, no resolutions for me!
Today as I baked cup cakes and danced around the kitchen, I felt a serge of excitement about the approaching new year. Outrageous! That’s it! No resolutions just a desire to experience life to the fullest in the new year. To live outrageously – extravagantly, remarkably, outside the bounds of the expected. Not moderately, mildly, or with mediocrity. But outrageously!
To live, love, and laugh outrageously.
To ascend to the pinnacle of joy.
To plummet to the depths of despair.
To smell the wind;
To feel the flagrant flower.
To see life in every view;
To know truth in every day.
To love sincerely, affectionately, and purely.
To honor self, others, and God in every way.
To work and serve both man and God.
And to do it all outrageously!
TO BE OUTRAGEOUS! FREE! RECKLESS! SPONTANEOUS!
That is my desire for the New Year – 1995.
Wow! That was nineteen years ago!! Looking back, I must say that 1995 was an OUTRAGEOUS year. It was a year of extravagant love and crushing loss. It was a year of intense personal struggle and soul searching. It was the year that shook the foundation of my life, my identity, and marked the beginning of a directional shift in my life and spiritual journey. It was a year that was devastating in the moment, yet invaluable and vital to who I am today. Don’t want to repeat it, but so thankful for it!
On second thought, maybe I will make that resolution for 2014:
A desire to experience life to the fullest in the new year. To live outrageously – extravagantly, remarkably, outside the bounds of the expected. Not moderately, mildly, or with mediocrity. But OUTRAGEOUSLY!
Uuuh, maybe not outrageous in the same way as 1995, but certainly outrageous for life in 2014! I can’t wait!! Just do it!
Note: As I have mentioned earlier, 1997 was a HUGE year for this seeker on the pilgrimage. I wrote this piece during that time as my journey made dramatic shifts from a focus on “doing” — Bible Study, church, the “right thing” — toward simply “being” focusing on quiet, contemplative prayer, and “practicing the presence” as Brother Lawrence said. The basis for my whole identity shifted from me — who I was, what I did, and how well I did it — to Christ. Not the church, not the Christian faith tradition, but Christ — who he was and is and living in union and communion with him. As my focus has shifted through the years, I have come to believe that the most important thing for me in my faith journey is becoming christian. Notice that is with a small “c” meaning Christ – like, and not necessarily the “C” of the Christian faith tradition.
Beholding . . . In the Mirror. . .With Open Face
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed in the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. II Corinthians 3:18 (King James Version)
As I study and meditate upon II Corinthians 3:18, I become more convinced that within it we are given the “recipe” for the christian — “Christ” — life. I use the word “recipe” somewhat with tongue in cheek for I know we as a society, as a nation, and as a people clamor for neat packages. We want to manage in one minute, improve our golf swing in five easy lessons, and become effective people in seven steps. I admit unashamedly that I have had my days of adherance to seemingly reasonable, simple step-by-step methods for efficacy and management of all areas of life.
However, over the past several years, and particularly the last two, I have increasingly experinenced that the “recipes”, for the most part, just don’t work in the vast complexities and mysteries of the processes of life. However, if we consider this a “recipe” verse for the “Christ” life, what are the basic ingredients and procedure? First, there is the individual, you and I. Second ingredient is the Christ, Jesus — the Lord — and finally the Spirit of the Lord. Rather simple thus far — me, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Now, what do I do with the basic ingredients!
I sit myself before Christ, the Lord , and I look at Him. Now, friends, this is not just a simple behold — lo, look, see. This is beholding! This is the Greek word katoptrizomai, a comparative of the word kata which frequently denotes intensity, and a derivative of the word optomai which means “to gaze with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable”. So, here is the picture: I am sitting before the Christ intensely gazing with wide-open eyes at the remarkable Lord. I suppose the remarkableness would most definitely be His glory. What do you think?
Now that we are beholding the glory of Christ, the Lord , what happens? It is as if the Lord becomes a mirror, “as in a glass”. As I sit before the Lord, my mirror, the reflection, or the image I see of myself, is my true self created in His image. Even as I continue to still and humble myself before my “mirror”, my Lord, I am changed into “the same image”, His image — the image in which I was truly created. How in this world can just looking in a mirror change my image? I must admit that looking in the mirror most mornings does change my image, but not without a great deal of effort on my part and the application and use of numerous substances and devices. Blow dryer, curling iron, and several cosmetic products just to mention a few.
However, when it comes to being changed before the mirror of the Lord, the only things needed are that we come; that we come with “open face”; and that we be willing to surrender and submit to “the Spirit of the Lord.” In order to understand how we come with “open faces” or “unveiled faces” as used in the New International Version, it might be helpful to look at II Corinthians 3: 12-17. In these verses we are told that we have a hope, and with that hope we can be very bold before the Lord. We do not have to put a veil over our face as Moses did to keep the people from seeing that his face was losing the radiance which was received while in the Lord’s presence. You can check this out in Exodus 34: 33-35. Under the old covenant during Mose’s time he was the only one, as God’s appointed leader, who could be bold and come before the Lord. Now, however, we can be bold and come before the Lord with open face, receive his radiance, his glory, and then walk among men without a veil to hide the fact that the radiance is diminishing . In fact, we can reflect the radiance of the Lord to others. In essense we can become mirrors ourselves. We are to become mirrors as the Christ within is reflected to others.
Brothers and sisters! Perhaps I just got a glimpse of heaven Have you ever seen the bright reflection of a mirror in the sun.? So bright you can’t even look at it. Think of it. Revelation 1:16 tells us “His (the Lord’s) face was like the sun shining in all its brillance.” With the Son shining on the multitude of those who have been transformed into his image — those who have become mirrors, a “sea of glass” before the throne (Rev.4:6) — I can’t imagine the magnitude of the brightness. Nor can I fanthom my light sensitive eyes tolerating the experience. Just another reason for the necessity and the promise of our lowly bodies being transformed to be like His. Isn’t God good! He gives us a sight to behold and then he enables us to behold it. Speaking of beholding, let’s get back to the original idea of open (unveiled) faces. (Please do pardon my slight distraction while sharing in my excitement.)
We are not as Moses. We are not limited in who can come before the Lord, nor do we have to cover our faces afterward. Why? Look again at II Corinthians 3: 12. “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” What is the hope that we have? Jesus Christ — the Christ within, “the hope of glory.”(Col. 1; 27). So here’s the scoop! Through and because of the Christ within we can come boldly before the Lord, the mirror, and sit and behold the glorious image which transforms us into that same glorious image, the image we were created to reflect.
Now exactly how does this occur and how long does it take? Beats Me! Probably a lifetime, but I don’t know the answer for myself or anyone else. Returning to the recipe analogy, I am not the cook! (Thank God! Cooking has never been one of my strong suits.) Who is? “…even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” So even with the recipe the transformation into the “Christ” life for each of us is still a mystery. Given the mystery are we willing to be faithful in coming before the Lord? Are we willing to abandon ourselves and surrender the transformation of our lives to the mystery of the Spirit of the Lord? Are we willing to trust God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and behold Him with open face as in a glass and remain content to just “be” in His image. I find these to be questions I must ask and answer daily, sometimes several times a day!
Note: In the Fall of 1997 I began a semester of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training. The training involved classes and actual hospital chaplaincy work which I did for a couple of months before medical issues (detached retinas) forced me to have to drop out. During those two months I learned a lot about myself, felt God’s work within me, and gained a new perspective on God’s calling to live and be in the spirit of Christ in this world. I wrote the following relating an experience I had while doing the chaplaincy work — an experience I will never, ever forget.
WE SHALL BEHOLD HIM. . .
There was a faint “Come in” in response to my light knock on the door. As I entered the room I could see him lying in the bed. He peered through the bed railings as I moved toward him. At his bedside I noticed the stark contrast between his very black skin and the white, though not crisp, sheets. His lunch, barely touched, still sat on the tray table. I softly commented that he certainly didn’t eat much. He somewhat laughed and said, “I couldn’t eat that if I was well.” His laughing revealed the truth, only three misdirected teeth. I chuckled with him as I replied, “No you couldn’t.” We exchanged smiles as we were now both aware of the truth. His not eating had nothing to do with the food. I felt a warm affinity for this little black man with only three teeth.
As I visited with him, I began to notice his condition. His eyes were dark but not clear, with the white being more yellow than white. His almost hairless head sat squarely on fleshless shoulders. What hair he did have was wiry with a hint of gray. It stuck straight up and out from his head as if in defiance of any comb that came near. His gown was all awry uncovering the distinct outline of bone covered over only with tight black skin. The rest of his body was decently covered with the sheet; however the buldge was clear evidence of a swollen stomach. Later as I thought about it, I realized that his body was probably finally giving way to the ravages of the years and a “hard life.” We chatted a bit about how he was feeling — “Better than yesterday!” — where he lived, and his family. We were interrupted by the attendant picking up the lunch tray. She too commented on his not eating. He responded as he did with me; however, she did not understand. He and I chuckled and exchanged smiles again. I told her that he couldn’t chew the food. This seemed to focus her attention toward him as she uttered or perhaps gasped an understanding, “Oh!” She offered some menu options for dinner. He settled on chicken noodle soup, crackers, and jello. All of which he could probably manage very well with his three teeth. She left with tray in tow, and we returned to our visit which was nearing a natural end.
I asked if we could pray together before I left. He said that would be good. I then asked, as I often do, if there was anything specific that he’d like to pray for or about. His answer, “That I might just get better because I know I won’t get well.” At first I was startled by the acknowledgement of the reality concerning his condition. Here was a man who had the ability and the courage to express the truth of his life as he knew it. And to say it in a way that gets attention. He surely had mine.
With this last revelation he settled into deeper levels of honesty and personal pain. He was concerned about where he would go after leaving the hospital and even more distressed about being a “burden” to his children. I heard his feelings and was able to empathize a bit. Not that I, or anyone else would ever experience his reality in his way. Yet we all from our own varied experiences can recall feelings of anxiety, concern, and loss. How many times have I heard dear ones caught in the grips of illness, or simply and naturally aging, project their own sense of helplessness as a “burden” to their loved ones? The only words I could say to this one were, “I hear you”. Tears were brimming his eyes, and I felt their sting in my own.
“Where is your hope now?” He took his hand from under the cover and simultaneously tapped his chest and pointed upward. I asked if he knew Jesus. “Oh, yes!” was the response. I took his now uncovered hand in mine and prayed. I do not recall anything I said, but I will never forget feeling his hand in mine and the peace that was within and between us. He thanked me for the prayer. I thanked him. I left the room in awe of Roosevelt.
I made my way down the elevator, to the office to get my things, and out the door to the car. I was running a bit late for my next appointment. I had not intended to stay as long as I did with Roosevelt. I had the car radio tuned to the local Christian station as I drove back to town. I was more in tune to my thoughts than my driving or the radio. A review of the morning visits brought serenity and thankfulness for the whole process. I was remembering a recent conversation with a friend about meeting Jesus in the face of strangers when the song on the radio penetrated my thoughts. “We shall behold Him, We shall behold Him; Face to face in all of His glory. We shall behold Him.. . .” Emotions overwhelmed me. Tears flooded my eyes, wonder filled my heart. I wept as the truth sprang up and flooded my soul. I had beheld Him, today, face to face in the glorious face of a little black man with three very misdirected teeth and defiant hair. I beheld him today in Roosevelt. And just think, I almost missed it!
Yes, I almost missed it. I had been on the hospital floor for three hours. I knew if I made one more visit it would intrude into any lunch and “rest” before my afternoon appointment. I also knew, or thought I knew, that Roosevelt was a black man. This knowledge was born of nothing other than my experiences. All the Roosevelt’s I had ever known were black men or boys. This knowledge contributed to some anxiety about visiting him. In my short time as a volunteer chaplain, I had realized that I was more comfortable visiting with women than with men and the least comfortable with black men. I do not believe my uncomfortableness was based on anything other than my lack of experience. So I was stretching, growing, expanding my comfort zone, and that is usually uncomfortable at first.
The debate in my mind over making this particular visit was like a see-saw gone berserk. I won’t make the visit. It’s getting late, and I am tired. I’ll pop in for just a minute. It’s lunch time. He’ll be eating. I will excuse myself to allow him to eat. But I really don’t have time. I was at his door twice and did not knock. I completely left the floor once and came back. What made me finally knock and enter, I do not know. No doubt the Holy Spirit wrestling with my own self-centered, controlling spirit. I have learned over the years that when this struggle is so intense there is apparently something I need to do, learn, or experience from that which my spirit seeks to avoid. I suppose this was never truer than it was today.
How often before have I missed it? Probably more than I care to think or imagine. Yes, I believe we do miss resplendent opportunities to behold God in all of his glory in the faces of those around us. We become self-absorbed in our own agendas, busy with our never ending activities. We become self-consumed, and miss the opportunity to feed and be fed by the Roosevelts encountered daily in our lives. My prayer has become, “Jesus, slow me down. Jesus, open my eyes. Jesus, direct my sights out and around. Jesus, let me really see others. May I see you, Jesus, as I behold others. May your Spirit transform me with each sighting.”
“And we shall behold him, we shall behold him. Face to face in all of his glory.” I beheld Jesus, the Christ, today in the face of a very sick, truthful, and courageous little black man with three misdirected teeth and defiant hair. I was not only blessed but changed, never to be quite the same as before. I pray, Jesus, that he may have seen something of You in me.
I have recently been revisiting some of my earlier writings and came across this one that I wrote in the Spring of 1997 regarding Henri Nouwen. That year was a period of change and deepening spiritual awareness for me, and Nouwen’s life and work had, and continues to have, tremendous influence in my life and journey. Here is what I wrote then and what I still believe now.
A Reflection on Henri Nouwen
I have not picked up a spiritual magazine or journal over the last two or three months — and I have picked up several — without finding some words eulogizing the late Henri Nouwen. He died of a heart attack in September, 1996. What was there about this mere man that so many from such varied sources would offer such consistant tribute? Philip Yancy in Christianity Today refers to Nouwen, “A better symbol of the Incarnation, I can hardly imagine.” Gary Collins, president of the near 18,000 member American Christian Counseling Association, touts Henri as his favorite Christian counselor and writer.
Nouwen was born and raised in Europe and was trained in psychology and theology in Holland. He came to the United States as a ship’s chaplain when in his 20’s. At Harvard, Yale, and Notre Dame he was an admired and popular professor. He averaged a book a year –some 30 in all. His reputation as a conference speaker was evidenced in his extensive travel schedule. He walked among spiritual giants not the least of these being the seriously disabled residents of L’Arche Daybreak, Richmond, Ontario, where he lived the final decade of this life. While at L’Arche Daybreak, a community home for the seriously disabled, Henri served as priest for the community and personally cared for Adam, a profoundly retarded young man. Carolyn Whitney-Brown, artist and spiritual director at Daybreak, reminds us that Henri chose to live where his reputation meant nothing. Many, if not most, of the community could not read. At Daybreak Henri found a place where the longing of his restless soul was satisfied — a home where people would be less interested in his credentials than in who he was. He continued writing and traveling to speak from time to time. However, when travelling a member of the community usually went along to speak with him, and he always returned home to the haven of Daybreak.
Nouwen’s books were written from the heart with great candor. He revealed personal struggles and shortcomings that most of us would dare not admit, not to mention publish. In The Genesee Diary he wrote, “While teaching, lecturing, and writing about the importance of solitude, inner freedom, and peace of mind, I kept stumbling over my own compulsions and illusions.” In his transparency he touched the core feelings and concerns of his readers’ hearts. His works returned again and again to the theme of the “beloved”. His message to us in Life of the Beloved is that “becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say or do. It entails a long and painful process of appropriation or, better, incarnation.” Henri gives us some glimpse of what that “painful process of . . . incarnation” might entail in Can You Drink the Cup. He encourages us not to be afraid of the raw realities of our lives:
When each of us can hold firm to our own cup, with its many sorrows and joys, claiming it as our unique life, then we too can lift it up for others to see and encourage them to lift up their lives as well. The wounds of our individual lives, which seem intolerable when lived alone, become sources of healing when we live them as part of a fellowship of mutual care.
Nouwen revealed in absolute truth who he was, and who he was not, in simple trust and faith that in the revelation others might come to know their belovedness. “A better symbol of the incarnation, I can hardly imagine.”
I personally was introduced to Henri Nouwen and his works in 1990 through a gift of his book, The Wounded Healer. Each reading of it, as well as his other works, touches the depths of my heart and renews afresh the truth of my belovedness, the reality of my struggles and brokenness, and the promise of rest for my longing soul in the bosom of my loving God. I do not wonder that so many would offer such tribute to the life and work of such a mere man as Henri Nouwen.
When the imitation of Christ does not mean to live a life like Christ, but to live your life as authentically as Christ lived his, then there are many ways and forms in which a man can be a Christian.. The minister is the one who can make this search for authenticity possible, not by standing on the side as a neutral screen or an impartial observer, but as an articulate witness of Christ, who puts his own search at the disposal of others.
from The Wounded Healer by Henri J. M. (Just Me) Nouwen