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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Stuff and Joy

A person can accumulate a lot of stuff over a lifetime.  In preparation for moving, I'm spending a lot of time these days going through stuff, both at home and at work.  Among many reactions to the things I'm finding, two seem to come to the forefront.  

The first is - "Why in the world do I still have this?" The response to this is usually a quick heave into shredding, recycling, trash, yard sale, or donation pile.  Examples:  old college and seminary text books, cancelled checks (remember writing checks?), old bank statements, 3.5 floppy disks, photos of people I don't know, playbills, church bulletins, ticket stubs, and so much more.

The second reaction is - "Oh, I'm so glad I still have this!"  The response is usually to sit for a moment and remember someone or some place special in my life, then putting it aside to be packed.   Examples: just about anything my children created, family photos, little things that belonged to my parents, my great grandfather's pocket watch, things I will actually use, and not so much more.

The main difference between these two reactions is a question I learned to ask from reading a book about downsizing, Marie “KonMari” Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. The simple question is: Does it bring me joy?

It's a good question for all of us to ask about much of life - Does it bring me joy?  


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Anything / Everything

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle.  But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.  Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child - our own two eyes.  All is a miracle.
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet God feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? ...Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.

Look deep enough into anything 
and you will see everything.
The universe in a grain of sand.
Eternity in each fleeting moment.
A leaf holds the milky way.
Each breath the Wind of Creation.
The faintest sound the cosmic "ohm" -
an echo of the Eternal Voice,
"Let there be...!"
And it was good - very good!
Look deep enough into anything 
and you will see everything.
Look deep enough into your soul
and everything is a gift.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Musing on Jesus

Recently a Facebook Friend asked in a post, "What if Jesus had not been crucified? What would his life have been?  Would we even know of him today?  My friend's questions stirred my own imagination.

Who was Jesus?  I often muse about this. There was a flesh and blood person who lived two thousand years ago in the eastern Mediterranean region called Palestine. He was a baby who absorbed through his senses, learned, developed and grew, like all humans do.  He was a boy who played, got into mischief, tested his boundaries, and loved his parents.  He was young man who worked, studied, worshipped, dreamed, struggled and enjoyed life.   He had all of the life experiences that every human who has ever lived has had or will have.  His teachings of love, compassion, justice, forgiveness, and grace really aren't that exceptional when placed among the wide array of religious, philosophical, and moral traditions of his time and prior.  Like many prophets, priests, teachers, and shaman before him, he brought hope and transformation into the lives of people who encountered him.   He eventually died at the hands of imperial power because of his political and religious convictions, an end suffered by countless people through the ages.  Then his story took a dramatic turn into the world of mysticism, myth, belief, spiritualism and cult.  Eventually the story was institutionalized, appropriated and domesticated by the same empire that killed him.

Today, over two thousand years later, on the other side of the earth, in a culture that would be unrecognizable to Jesus, I sit and muse about who he was, and have dedicated my life's work to this musing.  Through it all Jesus' life, teachings, and story still bring hope and transformation in people's lives.  I think not so much so that we may believe he is God, but because he is so much like us.  For me, this means hope and transformation come through following the humanity of Jesus, more so than worshipping his divinity.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Surprise Visit

Last week I was in Estes Park, CO with a group of pastor colleagues for a third annual Pastor Theologian Retreat.  It is a week of fellowship, hiking, and conversation around a reading list of books we’ve all had for months ahead.  It truly is a week of sabbath, study and nurture.

This year the retreat could not have come at a better time.  The week before on the heels of resigning from Capitol Hill Presbyterian congregation where I’ve been pastor for the past twelve years, my brother Tom Walton died suddenly and unexpectedly.  So, a week I had intended to spend making personal contact with many church members, turned into a week with family and friends in the town where I grew up, mourning the death and celebrating the life of my brother.  It was the day after doing my brother’s funeral and burial that the retreat began.  

Four days into the retreat our group hiked the trail to The Lock and Sky Pond. While descending the trail, a colleague and I were on a section between Alberta Falls and the intersection with Glacier Gorge where a rather long, flat, rocky path hugs a craggy cliff above with a gorge far below with magnificent rock cliffs on the other side of the gorge. It is one of my favorite parts of the trail. We noticed a group of people ahead of us looking up into the craggy cliffs.  This usually means wildlife has been sighted.

As we approached we also realized a park ranger was in the group identifying their object of attention as a Big Horned Sheep. Friends who frequently hike in Rocky Mountain National Park tell me that it is rare to see Big Horned Sheep near the most traveled trails, especially one as popular as the trail to The Lock and Sky Pond.   

At first it was difficult to see the sheep because he blended in with the earth tones of the cliff.  He was posed for a few minutes as if to say, I’ll stay here as long as you want.  Then began to effortlessly move along the cliff in the direction we were walking.  For several hundred yards we walked together, pausing occasionally, the sheep high above looking down, and us gazing up to see if he was still there.  He followed along beside us until stopping just before we turned around a bend.  I looked back up one more time and watched him watch us until we were out of sight.

Later when I looked at my photos and zoomed in on several of them it seemed as if that Big Horned Sheep was looking straight at me. That’s when I remembered my brother Tom’s zodiac sign was Aries the Ram.

I don’t put much faith in astrology but I do know that we are all connected with each other and creation in more ways than we can ever imagine.  All of Creation truly is One, in life and in death.