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Wednesday, September 17, 2014


"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
~ Melchizedek to Santiago in Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist,  "

The news around our house this week is the arrival of a new dog.  After nearly a year of "letting go" of our beloved family dog of 15 years, Baloo, we decided it was time.  Dog people can go only so long without a dog.

My wife Peg has recently been surfing the Washington Animal Rescue League website and last Friday night announced she had found a promising prospect that had just been posted, a five year old, black lab, retriever, chow mix.  So the next afternoon we call the WARL to see if they still had the dog.  They said someone had shown some interest and was thinking on it but had not put in an application, so off to the WARL we went.

We arrived only to discover that in the time between our call and getting there someone, probably those interested people, had put in an application on him.  The dog had been "pink carded" and moved to the non-public area.  Peg, convinced the attendant to let us at least see the dog.

As soon as we saw him our hearts jumped, but then quickly dropped.  He was just what we had been looking for but not available.  So we trudged off to look at the other dogs to no avail.

On our way out we stopped at the desk and Peg asked if we could leave our name just in case the application were to fail.   She gave our name and the lady said, "You're the ones who called before coming, aren't you?"

 "That was us."

"When you called I put a pink card on him for you just in case. The application on the dog is yours."

And as they say, "The rest is history!"

It all sounds and feels like conspiracy to me!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Just Another Day

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
~ Jesus

Slipping into stockings, stepping into shoes
Dipping in the pocket of her raincoat
It's just another day
~ Paul McCartney

It was just another day.  Thirteen years ago on this date the day began as so many had before and have since.  People awoke from a night's rest and started a new day, while others were going home after a night's work.  As the sun rose, commuters filled highways, trains, buses, and subways. Airports buzzed with normal early morning activity.   Farmers were already in fields, and sailors on seas.  People went about their morning routines, many of which included casual goodbyes to people they loved.  Most people, as we usually do, went into the day with apathetic, blind benevolence toward others and the world in general.  There were also people whose lives were filled with pain, suffering and anger.  People awoke hungry, afraid, and alone.  The sun did not shine in some places.  There were no jobs to go to, no one to say goodbye to.  It was just another day.  Yet, it became an extraordinary day.

Today is also just another day as are each and every day.  It lies before us empty.  Even though our schedules my be routine, busy or relaxed, and our plans elaborate or vague, the day ahead is still yet to be played out.  Much of how it unfolds depends on our expectations.  Things will occur beyond our control, yet we do control how we react to what happens outside our influence.

Most religious and spiritual traditions and practices teach that constantly dwelling on the past or continually dreaming of the future are discouraged because we can't change either.  What we do have is the present moment and a choice as to how we live it.  What we do have is today.  But it's not just another day, it's the only one we have.  It invites us and awaits what we have to offer.

Every morning, I find myself a different person. I’m always a mystery to myself. If I knew in the first hours of the morning, what I’m going to do, what is going to happen, what attitude or decision should I take? I think my life would be deadly boring because, well, what makes life interesting is the unknown. It is the risks that we take every single moment of a single day.
~ Paulo Coelho 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Plight of Toil and Pleasure

A questioning expression I've heard more than once in recent days is "Wasn't it just Memorial Day?"  Holidays and vacations are over, schools from pre-K's to universities are back in session, and businesses and organizations are already looking toward Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I'm thinking how appropriate it is that the week after Labor Day on which we celebrate work and working that we literally go back to work in many ways.

One day last week when I was still on vacation and taking a long walk I found myself waiting at a crosswalk along with a man on a bicycle.  We exchanged greetings and he volunteered that he was headed to work.  He said, "I sure wish I had the day off."  Then he quickly added, "But I sure am thankful I have a job."  

The "preacher" in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes tells us I know that there is nothing better for [people] than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live;moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. (Eccl 3:12-13)

This word "toil" implies that our work, or for some people the process of finding work, is not always fun and rewarding, that it can sometimes be laborious and even troublesome.  

So, this week or next when we find ourselves whimsically daydreaming of lazy summer days of rest and recreation and we are suddenly brought back to the "same old stuff" the "toil" of our workplace, or job searching, it is good for us to remember that God's gift to us is for us to " and drink and take pleasure in all [our] toil." 

This is how we, along with the man on the bicycle, can say, "I sure wish I was still at the beach, or the mountains, or wherever on vacation.  But I sure am thankful I have a job!" 

Ours is a plight of toil and pleasure to " happy and enjoy [ourselves] as long as [we] live."      

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Worship Attendance?

For four out of the last five Sundays I haven't been in church.  And, with one more week of vacation in process, I don't plan to be there this Sunday either. Strangly enough my absence from church services has me thinking a lot about the difference between "worship" and "church."

The four Sundays I've been away from church were spent in order: hiking with pastor colleagues in the Rocky Mountains, sitting with my wife on a seashore beach, hiking with long-time friends in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and driving alone along the highway listening to favorite music.  On each of these days I experienced extended moments recognizing and experiencing God's Eternal Presence in awe of nature and in gratitude and thanks for colleagues, friends, and family.  I spent time in informal prayer through thoughts, music and conversation with others and with myself.  I saw sunrises, sunsets, mountains, oceans, and night skies that drew me into the sheer wonder of life and death.   I shared ideas, laughter and tears with people for whom I care and love.   Even though I wasn't "in church" I worshipped.

I must also admit that on each of these Sunday mornings I thought about not only the little congregation at Capitol Hill Presbyterian where I'm pastor but also the thousands upon thousands of places where people were gathered "in church." They came together with not only like minded people for whom they care and love but also with people with whom they disagree and who sometimes irritate and frustrate them.  They came together to intentionally worship through closely held and long standing traditions of liturgy and symbol.  The came to church to worship.

Please don't take any of this as encouragement for abandoning participation and attendance in a community of faith.  Quite the contrary.  Regularly gathering together, even with those whom we disagree, in culturally comfortable yet challenging communities of faith to honor and practice time tested traditions of worship has been and continues to be a staple of human existence.  To paraphrase Jesus, when two or more are gathered and God gets mentioned, they are "in church."      

However, worship can occur wherever we are, alone or together.  But even when we are alone, our worship immediately draws us into the interdependence and interconnectedness of Creation.  Learning to recognize and appreciate this opens our spirits to the One Eternal Presence that permeates and binds all of Creation, anywhere and everywhere - even in church.

Worship attends us. It happens.

We attend church. It's intentional.

We need both!