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Wednesday, June 26, 2013


The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.    - Thomas Merton

...we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.  - Paul the Apostle, Romans 12:5

Look again at that dot.  That's here.  That's home.  That's us.  On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.  The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam...The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it but the way the atoms are put together.  The cosmos is also within us.  We're made of star stuff, we are a way for the cosmos to know itself.   - Carl Sagan

I ask…that they may all be one…so that they may be one, as we are one…I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one.  - from Jesus of Nazareth’s prayer for us, John 17

Whatever or whoever or wherever - 
  you and I are part of it.   
    Take a deep breath.  
      Feel the earth beneath your feet.  
        Smell a flower.  
          Smile at a stranger.  
            Offer a helping hand.  
              Look at the sky.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pathways con't...

I'm not sure when the fence went back up, probably for "crowd control" for the Memorial Day concert at the Capitol.  I first noticed it only a couple of weeks after writing about it coming down.    Anyway, there it was again blocking the newly groomed pathway.

Well, wouldn't you know it, the old human spirit of defiant freedom just keeps on keeping on.  Here is what the fence looks like now:

Last week some friends rode their bikes from Pittsburgh to Washington DC on the Cumberland and C&O Trails.  Their last day on the trail was right after some pretty violent weather had come through the region. Numerous large trees had fallen all along the trail ahead, blocking normal passage.  Did this stop their ride?  Absolutely not!  It simply slowed them down occasionally just long enough to lift their bikes over the natural roadblocks re-mount and keep on peddling.

The Mall pathway and my friends' trail experience both remind me of all the obstacles that keep cropping up in our lives, especially those we create for ourselves (which is probably most of them).  Just when we think we have released fear, anger, envy, or any other manner of keeping ourselves down and in place; just when we we think the pathway is clear, up pops a familiar fence.

Should we let it stop us?  Absolutely not!   Fences, trees, and fear are only obstacles when we allow them the power to keep us from walking, peddling, and living.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Privacy and Secrecy

Privacy and secrecy are in the news a lot lately, and it has me wondering: Is there a difference between privacy and secrecy?

Privacy is defined at as:  the quality or state of being apart from company or observation, freedom from unauthorized intrusion, a place of seclusion, secrecy. 

Secrecy is: the condition of being hidden or concealed, the habit or practice of keeping or maintaining privacy or concealment

Notice how each is used to define the other, yet they are different.

Assuming the opposite of private is public, and the opposite of secrecy is transparency, I think most people when asked will insist on private secrecy while usually demanding some measure of public transparency.  However we seem to live in a world where private lives are made more and more  transparent, most of the time voluntarily, ie every time we post on Facebook, not to mention "reality" TV.  While public institutions (all of them not just government) are becoming less and less transparent, ie countless layers of bureaucracy, out-sourcing, and obsession with security.

Now what does all of this have to do with our spirituality or faith?  Maybe the tension between these dynamics permeates our lives because we live in a time when the commonly accepted, and quite modern, illusions of public and private are being challenged and renegotiated.

I use "illusions" because the great enlightened teachers of most spiritual and faith traditions have taught that the private and public are not separate but always interconnected and interdependent.  One place where this relationship between private and public is taught are the teachings of Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) .  Here Jesus shows us numerous connections between our inner and outer lives.

Take a few minutes and read the entire Sermon on the Mount and see if you make the connections as well.  FYI - when you use the link make sure you click through to chapters 6 and 7.

It's no secret - our inner and outer lives are connected in ways we are yet to imagine.



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Wait a minute!"

How many of us ever really take time to "wait a minute?" A few seconds perhaps, but a whole minute? This summer at Capitol Hill Presbyterian we are beginning each Sunday worship service with 3 minutes of "silent preparation" which translates in Presbyterian as "eternity!"   
Silence is part of and essential to our well being.  It is found in some form of fashion in nearly every spiritual tradition.  Yet it is so rare in our culture.  Or, is it?

Perhaps, like so much of life, it is all about perception.  What if we begin to re-imagine silence as not so much the absence of sound but rather our stopping and waiting long enough to actually hear (or see) what is taking place in the moment?   Or in the case of silent preparation for worship, simply pause to clear our minds for what is happening and about to happen.  The same can be done before a meeting, or a phone call, or replying to an email.

How would your life change if throughout the day you really took time to "wait a minute?" any situation, you can always ask the question, where's the emptiness in this? Where's the emptiness in this? And in any moment or situation where we find this gap, where we find this sense of everything's not just one long sentence that isn't even punctuated…it's in those moments where actually there's a quietude. That's when new life and fresh ideas can come through us and into the situation.
Tami Simon, On Being with Crista Tippett

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
1 Kings 19:11-13

We join spokes together in a wheel,but it is the center holethat makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot,but it is the emptiness insidethat holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,but it is the inner spacethat makes it livable.
We work with being,but non-being is what we use.

Tao te Ching #11 - Stephen Mitchcell translation

If a person is given silence, he is given wisdomThe ProphetMohammed

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.
Mark 1:35