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Archive for March, 2010

Well, maybe not full…

I have four quarters in my pocket this afternoon. That’s a little unusual for me, not because I spend my allowance too quickly…I just don’t normally carry around change like that. It’s been jingling along with me all day, an added “noise” to a typically quiet walk through my school’s hallways. It’s also been an odd reminder on this Wednesday, sometimes called the Day of Silence within Holy Week. (It’s called such because we don’t have a lot of details in scripture about what happened on this day, therefore many consider scripture “silent” about today’s activities during this week leading up to Easter.)

This added element to my routine has made me think a lot about Judas today. There’s nothing really written about his activities today, per se, but we know that leading up to that last Passover dinner with Christ his “pocket” was making a bit more noise than usual.

“That is when one of the Twelve, the one named Judas Iscariot, went to the cabal of high priests and said, “What will you give me if I hand him over to you?” They settled on thirty silver pieces. He began looking for just the right moment to hand him over.”    Matthew  26:14-16, The Message

I wonder what was running through Judas’ mind with all that extra money. Thirty pieces of silver…thirty days’ wages…the price of a slave.

Whenever I find some extra money, my mind races. What could I get…probably a new book, new music, etc.  “Found” money is exciting in many ways, and extra money in our pocket is music to our ears. I wonder if Judas treated his as such? As he walked through the streets of Jerusalem, this extra amount of coins in his purse would have felt funny, heavier than usual. I wonder what was going through his mind as he listened to the extra noise these 30 silver coins made. What song did his “found” money sing?

You can almost hear the cadence of his footsteps…

You…betrayed…the King.    You…betrayed…the King.

I think sometimes it’s easy for us to judge Judas, not just for his betrayal, but because it was for such a pitiful sum. I know Donald Trump would have looked down his nose at him, and even sneer at his short-sightedness. “If you’re going to sell out the Son of God, at least get a good price for Him.”

But the reality is, I sell out Jesus all the time…

when He asks for my time.

when He asks for my focus.

when He asks for me.

And I’m sure Mr. Trump would consider me quite the rookie at this trading game, because usually my demands aren’t great sums of money. No, the price for turning my back on Christ is often much simpler…

an extra half hour of tv,

one more chapter in the book I’m reading,

a day of getting my to-do list done,

and on the cadence goes.

You…betrayed…the King.   You…betrayed…the King.

It’s a sad song, isn’t it. I think next year during Holy Week, I am going to get 30 quarters…$7.50…and carry them for the week. My own 30 pieces of silver, with their extra weight and extra noise, just as a reminder…

that there’s a little Judas in each of our pockets.

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As I reflected later on my Investiture at St. Meinrad, I was again struck by my feelings at the end of the service. When Fr. Meinrad informed me that the monks were going to give me the “Sign of Peace”, I remember feeling a little weird. I was unsure of what was about to happen, due to the fact my faith background didn’t exhibit a “Sign of Peace”. (There are many times that I think my branch of Protestantism doesn’t exhibit much peace – signs, wonders or otherwise!)

As each of the monks individually grasped my shoulders and spoke their blessings, they pulled me forward and leaned Bob Investiture Sepia into me. This was not a hug, or an embrace per se, but something somewhere in the middle. I felt a strange invasion of my personal space. Although it was something deeply spiritual on their part, I was unsure of how to react. What should I do? What should I say? Is there some sort of special response I am to give?

How odd that in my Protestant roots this blessing makes me feel so uneasy, invading my “space”. Like so many other spiritual practices, we in Protestant churches have “sanitized” the Sign of Peace and its blessings down to a mere handshake, or a well-meant “church hug” sometime during our worship services. In our railing against the Catholic church, we have tended to throw the baby out with the proverbial bath water, and in turn have lost all sense of benefit that these practices might give us on our journey.

Maybe part of the reason these men seem to feel a closer connection with the Divine is not the particular church they are a part of, or the habits they wear, or the vows that they took – maybe it’s the fact they let God routinely invade their space through the sharing of these blessings. If I consistently felt God’s presence symbolized by the intentional “invasion of my space”, maybe I wouldn’t feel so far from Him. Maybe if I made it a practice to not just “greet those around me” or participate in a surface “love feast” (as my home church used to call it), but to intentionally touch and bless those who I am in community with, I too could feel His “invasion of my space”. Maybe it would help me to see our worship services as less about what I get out of it, and more about God inhabiting the space through me.

Maybe…

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Bob's investiture at St. Meinrad

A few weeks ago, Sharon and I travelled over to the St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. We have had a relationship with the monastery there for nearly ten years and have enjoyed visiting their peaceful community several times.

This was a special trip, however. Shortly after Noon prayer in the Abbey church, I stood before Fr. Meinrad and a few of the other monks in order to be invested as an Oblate Novice. This begins a year of prayer and study led by Fr. Meinrad into a deeper walk with God. I have pledged to spend the next year studying the Rule of St. Benedict, praying daily the Divine Office, practicing lectio divina and growing in my own spiritual formation.

The small ceremony was interesting and went by quickly. I received a load of materials to study, along with an Oblate Scapular and the Medal of St. Benedict. (I later found out that Sharon and Fr. Meinrad had been conspiring via email about the weekend, and she gave me my own copy of the Oblate Liturgy.) I didn’t have much time to drink in what was going on, and before I knew it I was being blessed by the five or so monks that had witnessed the ceremony. Afterwards, it struck me that I had had the ordination that I never received in all my years of ministry which brought tears to my eyes.

After the ceremony we had an unexpected lunch with Fr. Meinrad (Oblate Director for the archabbey), who shared many stories of his years at St. Meinrad.  We had beautiful early spring weather, and enjoyed walking the grounds as much as we could.

What a great beginning to what I believe will be a challenging and insightful journey!

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The Art of Savoring

I think that savoring is a lost art.  We in America find little time to savor life around us.  We live lives that are filled with too many choices, and too many busy days trying fit them all in.  The author Mike Yaconelli defined savoring as “cherishing, appreciating, relishing…When you and I stop and savor a particular of life, we soak it in, we listen with all of our senses, we immerse ourselves in what we are savoring.”  Now I ask you, when was the last time you did that?

What are the things you savor? A short list of my favorites: the taste of a Dublin Dr. Pepper, the colors on a trout I just caught, the music of Giacomo Puccini, the look on a student’s face when they’ve “gotten it” for the first time, a Fall drive to our friends in North Carolina, the way the sun hits my wife’s hair, the smell of steak on a grill, the blank page ready to be filled…and the list could go on.

Many would say they have forgotten how to savor, that they need to re-learn.  I don’t think the trick is LEARNING to savor, I think the trick is DECIDING to savor.  Why have we allowed media to convince us that life is lived in 15-30 second intervals?  We used to take time to walk outside, to listen to that piece of music, to read the pages of that book all the while lingering in the euphoria of the moment.  That magical moment where we find ourselves transformed from parent, worker, student, etc. to actually living the moment from the emotional connection formed with the composer, writer, artist or Creator.

Have you felt that connection lately?  Are you savoring something…anything?  What are you savoring?  WHEN are you savoring?

This week’s assignment is to find something to savor.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  It may be your favorite CD, your favorite book – it may be your child or your mate.  Just find something.  And then take the time to savor it.  Make the experience more than “spending time” – make the experience a connection with your soul.  Allow the moment to change your soul forever.  Drink in the moment and submit to the emotions that it conjures.  And then, write it down!  Start a “Savor List”.  Note the things that that make you happy, those moments – small or large – that brings your soul fulfillment on the deepest level.  Then you can return to it when life’s moments have turned to the beige we so often live in!

Grace and peace,

Bob

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Choose to bloom!

In 1899, the U.S. Patent Office released a statement that simply read, “Everything that can be invented already has been.”  If you are like me, sometimes it’s easy to think that everything that God could do in this world has already been done.

One January several years ago, when we lived in central Arkansas, a series of tornados struck our area. They devastated our local communities. I remember driving through the damaged area and seeing mile after mile of countryside that appeared war-torn with debris, both of man-made structures and of nature.  I was shocked at how much destruction could be made by what were really “smaller” tornadoes. It was in this area that I also found something amazing.  In one section of forest that lined the highway, trees were literally ripped out of the ground.  It was incredible to see the mighty systems of roots that are usually so well hidden underground.  Suddenly, in the midst of the mass of destroyed trees, I noticed one particular tree.  It wasn’t as big as the others nor was it as torn apart.  It was simply lying on its side – and it was blooming.  In the sea of dead brown, a wonderful wash of white flowers stood out like a beacon.  There was no reason for this tree to be blooming.  It was knocked over, mercilessly beaten to the ground. The tornado that literally broke it didn’t care that it was about to burst into its springtime boom.  It just came.  It blew.  It destroyed, and it passed.

But the tree bloomed.  You see, the tree had a job to do.  The tree was supposed to bloom.  And it did.

We are no different.  We have a job to do.  God has placed a spirit of creation within us that is supposed to bloom, no matter what storms come our way.  Has one come your way recently?  Something or someone in your life that didn’t care that you were supposed to bloom?  Not caring that you had a job to do, it just blew and tried to destroy.  And now you find yourself lying on your side.  Torn and beaten, you know that you are still to bloom.  You are to be that dazzling array of color in a world of otherwise dead brown.  There is a special bit of something unique that can never be seen anywhere else.  And if you choose not to, the world will forever miss a certain sparkle that only you can give.

God is an incredible Creator, and you are an incredible creation.

Choose to bloom!

This week’s challenge is to brighten the day of three people.  Not just the “church people” we always immediately think of, but the cashier at Wal-Mart, the convenience store attendant, the garbage collector, etc.  See if brightening their day doesn’t just brighten yours too!

Grace and peace,

 Bob

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