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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Blogger's Block

I guess it happens to all of us at some time or another – we simply have nothing to say that we haven’t said before.  Maybe it comes from not sitting quiet and still long enough (or at all) to hear something new.   Maybe these are the times we need to listen.  And so it is today, I share with you words from Thomas Merton that I shared in last Sunday’s sermon, probably as much for myself as for you.
There is a pervasive form of modern violence to which the idealist … most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help every-one in everything is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his/her work... It destroys the fruitfulness of his/her own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom, which makes work fruitful. 

                           - Thomas Merton, from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


"Failure is not an option."
    -from the movie "Appolo 13"

Even though the above quote was never actually said by the real flight director of Appolo 13, Gene Krantz, it captures the "can do" persistence of all the scientist and technicians involved in that historic event.   It also describes an ethos that permeates much of our culture that praises success and has little if any patience with failure.

Ironically, the idea that failure is not an option is one of the greatest obstacles to success and the Appolo 13 mission is a perfect example.   The eventual solutions to problems that finally returned the astronauts safely to earth were the results of trying different options until arriving at one that worked.  Simply put, their eventual success was but a path strewn with failure.

How many times have you said, or heard someone else say, "I'm not going to do it unless I can do it right."?   And, how many times has nothing been done, or done too late as a result of such thinking?   Too often we let the perfect prevent the possible.  Too often we are so afraid of failure that we never risk success.  And to not risk success is living in creative paralysis.

Think of all of the great ideas, inventions, advancements, and achievements in human history.   How many would have actually occurred if the people involved had not risked failure, and actually failed in the process of finding solutions, struggling with language, trying various combinations, or getting up after falling?  This is especially true when looking at the people in the narratives of the Bible and other holy texts.

This doesn't mean we should not set our goals high and have grand vision.  Quite the contrary - it is actually an invitation into excellence as we set our minds and passions on those things that seem impossible.   I'm not sure who said this first but I do know that we need to keep saying and living:  "It's only impossible until someone does it."   And we'll only really do it when we're not afraid to fail.  So in the end, perhaps failure is really the only option.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Log In

Be still and know God
           - Psalm 46:10
There is a lot more going on around us that we can’t see than that which we can. Modern physics tells us that the light visible to humans is but a fraction of the entire electromagnetic spectrum of radio, micro, infrared, ultra violet, X, and gamma rays.  And even within the narrow band of visible light there is seemingly endless possibility of perception.  Yet we seem to be predisposed to see that which we expect to see.  Could we possibly tune our lives to expect something different?
Back to the electromagnetic spectrum, even though we can’t see all of the different waves we have developed ways of detecting, measuring and using them.   We have smart phones, radios, microwave ovens, infrared and ultra violet lamps, and X-ray machines.  We touch our phones and a world of information opens up,  turn on a radio and music plays; push the button on a microwave and the frozen food thaws; flip a switch and light appears. Through our human imagination and creativity what once would have been thought to be mysteriously impossible and perhaps even sorcery is now commonplace in our lives.
What if we applied the same imagination and creativity to the Presence of God in our lives?  What if we began to see our lives as receivers and transmitters of unseen Spirit that permeates the entire universe?   And then, what if we began to tune our lives with intentional silence, stillness and attention to our immediate surroundings?  How do you think our lives and world would change?
Just like the only way to hear the music is to turn on the radio, and the only way to check your email is to log in, the only way to know God's Presence in our lives is to intentionally engage the Spirit. 
For people in the DC area, I invite you to a time of listening, stillness and attention, tonight, January 11 and on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month at 7:30 p.m. at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church.   During the weeks leading up to Lent and on to Easter we will explore Gods Calling to Humanity within the Interdependence of Creation.  Each evening will include times of silent meditation and contemplative music.  Please join us.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Year

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,  “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation…”  …At that moment [the prophet Anna] came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.            –Luke 2:28-30, 38

The stories of prophets Simeon and Anna encountering the baby Jesus at his temple consecration are not so much predictions of the future as they are symbols of passing the torch of Truth from one generation to another.     

Both Simeon and Anna have reached old age with their hopes, dreams and visions of a new world still unfulfilled.  And then they see a young couple with a new baby following the prescribed rituals of their faith. 

If we can enter that moment without encumbering it with all that we have come to believe about this family and especially the baby; if we can see this story as an ordinary human encounter in which the extraordinary breaks through, then something about the moment opens their and our eyes to see what others cannot see: the past and future coming together in new life, new possibility, new promise, new hope.

Perhaps the Truth they see, proclaim and pass on to us is the knowledge that tomorrow is created today.  What ever we think, feel, and believe in our deepest conscience today is what tomorrow becomes.

One thing that usually gets said about Christmas is that we should live every day as if it were a day of peace and good will.  So why not extend the same message to New Year’s Day and live every day as if it were a new beginning leaving behind the old and stepping into promise and potential?  Why not embrace the call of the psalmist?  “This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice be glad in it.”

Jesus comes as the embodiment of new life and a new world – a new life and new world that according to him is already here if we but only choose to live in it.  And what we choose today becomes tomorrow.

A Prayer for the New Year

God of time and space, known by many names and sought through many traditions, as a new year begins we are reminded of your Eternal Presence.  Beyond this moment and this place your Spirit bonds all creation in a tapestry of interdependence, transcending vested interests and personal privilege.   

Standing on the threshold of a new year may we forgive any discord, mistrust and disappointment of our past, as you have forgiven, and may we receive your grace-filled future of promise and potential that awaits nothing more or less than our open minds, our loving hearts, and our open arms stretched out to one another and thus to you.     Amen.