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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ideally Human

I would ask that you address your spiritual questions to someone more qualified to comment. Ideally a human. ~Siri

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in this blog space about the amazing times in which we live, especially how our technology makes knowledge and communication so accessible and instant. Since then I've been reminded in several ways that as wonderful as texting, email and "wiki"-information can be, human beings still need vocal, visual, and physical connection with one another.

One such reminder came yesterday morning while I was on my morning walk. While walking and thinking I often use the afore mentioned technology to listen to podcasts and music. I also regularly have "tech free" walks to fully take in my surroundings. But whatever the atmosphere, rarely does a walk go by without me having a memory or thought that I want to remember.  In comes Siri.  I hold down the start button, say, "Note", and Siri responds, "What do you want your note to say?" 

Yesterday my wires got crossed with Siri and thinking I was dictating a note about the "Presence of God," I was actually at the first step of requesting Siri's assistance. So I was surprised when Siri gave the response quoted above. 

Over the years as I've contemplated, written, and spoken about "One Eternal Presence" I've often emphasized the Presence in all of creation.  However, there is one part of creation where the Divine comes shining through like no other. There is one place where consciousness, emotion, imagination, creativity, and compassion reside. There is portion of creation that has the ability to reflect and contemplate all the rest of it. There is one presence created in the image of and thus reflects the One Eternal Presence.

Thanks, Siri, for reminding me that of all the places and ways to experience One Eternal Presence, the ideal way is in humanity and our relationships with each other.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I'll Be Back

"Love your neighbor as you love yourself."
~ Jesus

In a couple of days it will be the two year anniversary of adopting our dog, Wilson. He was nearly five years old when we rescued him so he came with his own baggage.  We don't know much about those years but we do know he ended up in a shelter as an "owner surrendered" pet. It is understandable that he has a certain degree of separation anxiety.

Wilson is use to having one of us around much of the time, usually Peg because she works from home, and me when she is traveling. Whenever one or the other of us leaves him he always whines for a while after the one who just left. He presses his nose against our glass balcony door when either of us is out on a walk. When we're both gone we're not sure what he does. What we do know is that he just wants to be with us.

When we leave we always say to him, "I'll (we'll) be back." At first he would stay at the door and bark or whine but over time he learned that we do come back. Now, when we leave, he usually looks at us with cocked head and raised ears as if to ask, "Am I going?"  Then when we say "I'll be back" his ears relax, then he turns and walks to one of his favorite lying places.

As pack animals most dogs do not enjoy being alone, even when their pack is human.  However they do need quiet time and perhaps solitude because sleep is important to them. We humans are much the same. As social creatures we need relationships of various kinds with other people.  We need intimate relationships. We need social relationships. We even need superficial relationships. However, we also need time alone - not loneliness, but rather solitude.  Loneliness laments not being with someone else, while solitude welcomes being alone with yourself.

As poet John Donne said, "No man (sic) is an island."  However it is good to occasionally go to an "island" of solitude even, and perhaps especially, when we are feeling lonely.  According to much spiritual teaching learning to be alone with ourselves and loving ourselves is the beginning of loving one another.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pocket Library

One of the things hurricane Hermine left behind last week was a mess in our church library. The roof over the library had major leaks and water completely ruined the ceiling and carpet. At a church workday last Saturday the still soaked carpet and padding was removed, books were boxed up, and shelving was disassembled. For some people it was the first time they had ever been in the library, or even knew it existed.  This all prompted the question - do we really need a church library anymore?

As books came off of shelves the vast majority of them were deemed outdated and no longer usable and a few were put aside to make available on other shelves in a conference room in another, more accessible, part of the building. Most of the books, including numerous biblical and theological reference volumes and and collections, have since been donated to several thrift stores and library sales.

This all has me thinking and wondering about the availability of information in our world today, and how we carry this access around in our pockets and on our wrists. For example, in our church's Wednesday Study last night there was an obscure word in one of the biblical passages.  Instead of waiting until I could get to a bible dictionary in the library, I pulled my phone from my pocket, "googled" the word and within seconds had the meaning. This kind of access to instant information has become so common that we rarely stop to consider how amazing it really is.

When I was in seminary only 25 years ago I needed all of those references on the library shelves. Today they are only a few keyboard clicks or a question to Siri away. Everyone in the developed world under 35 years old can hardly, if at all, remember it any other way.

I truly believe we are living in one of the most amazing times of human history. This is both a privilege and a challenge because along with the availability of information comes the responsibility to use it wisely, creatively, compassionately, and judicially, not only for our own convenience and edification but for the common good of all people as well as our common home, planet Earth.

So, in a matter of minutes and key clicks my thoughts will be on the way to your pocket or desktop library. What an extraordinary privilege and responsibility to be so personally connected.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sacramental Potential

"Do this in remembrance of me."  ~ Jesus

Forty-eight years ago today, August 31, was the last full day of my father's life. Tomorrow, September 1, is the anniversary of his death.  Since those days in 1968, these dates have never gone unnoticed nor unfelt in my life. I have told the stories many times in conversations, sermons, and writings. Today, as a memory of him, I share a piece I wrote several years ago. You can find it here.

Thomas Raymond Walton
December 24,1909 - September 1, 1968