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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Most and Much

Last Saturday a friend of ours died in a mountain biking accident. She was a vibrant, joyful, and adventurous person who enjoyed and lived life to its fullest, and as it turned out, to its very end. Earlier this week I visited a church member on his ninety-first birthday in a rehabilitation center. He is rehabilitating from a stroke and has a positive attitude about his recovery.  When I left his room I passed another man in the hallway with a walker and his therapist.  I overheard this man say gloomily, "First I lose my arms, then my legs. Then I fall and that's the end of it."

The elderly gentleman in the hallway has obviously lived a long and hopefully full life, however the resignation in his voice anticipated and even embraced death. I know it is unfair to judge a person's life from one brief encounter, but I immediately wondered if he had carried a similar attitude throughout his life. In contrast, the attitudes of our friend and the elderly church member anticipate and embrace life.

All of this has me wondering about the expression "getting the most out of life," and especially the word "most."  There is no preset amount of life for which we strive.  The "most" and "much" of life depends on each person's circumstances, abilities, and especially attitude.  How we spend most of our lives, determines how much we get out of life.

The Latin expression "Carpe Diem," or "Seize the Day," seems to be mostly associated with passionately accomplishing extraordinary things, or doing ordinary things extraordinarily. It can also be taking the circumstances and abilities of the moment and putting one foot in front of the other through difficulty and challenge.  Whether we are riding a mountain trail or pushing a walker down a hallway we can still get the most out of life. In the end, we never know exactly how much we have left.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

First, Last, Only

For some strange reason this morning I am remembering the first time I saw and used a microwave oven.  It was at a friends house in the mid 1960's, a friend whose family had the means to own one of the first microwaves.  It was called a Radarange.  We spent the afternoon thawing out frozen hotdogs and eating them.  Now everybody has a microwave oven. First times often become routine.

Do you remember the first time you did or saw something that was totally new to you? Things like: the first time you saw the ocean, your first plane/train/bus ride, your first car, first love, or first loss. The lists can be endless because the old cliche is true, there is a first time for everything.

The same can be said for the last time as well. Accept it or not we all eventually die and there will be, and already has been, a last time for everything. We remember some of these like our last encounter with a deceased loved one, or saying goodbye to someone while knowing you'll not see them again. Last times often become wistful or haunting memories.

Sometimes the first and last come together and we experience something for the only time. We may remember a special place we visited knowing we'll never return, or a person we'll never see again. Or perhaps it was something you knew you didn't wish to do again, as in: That's the first and last time I'll ever do that! Only times are sometimes remembered with regret, relief, or pride at having done something at least once.

Our lives consist of first, last, and only times. Perhaps it would behoove us to pay more attention to all of them, to experience each moment and what that moment brings as fully and as best we can. For whatever the moment brings, it may be the first or last of many, or it my be the only chance we get.

It occurs to me that an attentive life is like breathing. We can't remember our first breath, nor will we know when our last comes, but we can always pay attention to one we are taking right now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Stepping Back From The Fray

When I turn on the radio or TV, or sign into Facebook these days most of what I hear is quite distressing. The world appears to be coming apart at its seams. War, terrorism, racism, sexism, religious extremism, and rancorous politics dominate our information sources. En depth conversation and discourse has fallen victim to sound bytes and tweets aimed at shaming and blaming someone or anyone for everything.

I step back, as best I can, from the fray and see flashes of light and glimmers of hope in the darkness and dread. We live in an age of turmoil because it is an age of unprecedented social, economic, political, and theological change. As our world grows smaller through rapid travel and instant communication we are confronted with the vast and wonderful multiplicity of life on planet Earth. Multiplicity also brings the different and other into our lives. We humans have always been drawn toward and feared whoever or whatever the "other" might be. Like a snake, it terrifies and fascinates at once.

One reason for the terror and fascination is that we recognize, either consciously or not, something in ourselves. We see ourself in the other. We encounter our own darkness and our own light. And our darkness and light is reflected to those who consider us as the other. 

This is where the wisdom of sages, saints, and mystics comes to remind us that there is no such thing as the "other." Whatever language or words we use whether: "One," "Neighbor," "Sister," "Brother," "Namaste," "Shalom," or "Communion," the spiritual teachings and practices of the ages call us into the reality that we all participate in and are part of a force and process called Life. 

Our challenge today is not to find an answer or solution to the world's problems. We already have the answer deep within us. We already see the answer in others. We already know the answer.  Love one another, even, and probably more importantly, those who threaten us the most.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Anniversary Week!

Today is the fifth anniversary of One Eternal Presence (OEP). It began as a way to share my experience while on sabbatical in the summer of 2011. Then on October, 5, 2011, I published the first post of what became a weekly reflection on faith and life. Along the way I've shared wisdom gleaned from others and offered some of my own insights on experiencing the interconnected wholeness of life. I've also heard from many of you as you've commented on posts, shared insights of your own and sent me encouraging emails.

Since OEP's anniversary always comes the week after World Communion Sunday, it is a reminder that even though we may practice religion in different ways, or have no religious tradition at all, we still remain one human family, sharing the same planet while carrying similar hopes, dreams, sadness, and joy.  Our common needs far exceed our individual fears.  We really do share the heart of One Eternal Presence.

To commemorate and celebrate five years and 245 posts I ask you to take a moment and consider sharing OEP with someone you think will enjoy reading it by forwarding this email to them or sharing the OEP site link. 

Thanks to each of you, and I look forward to more years of sharing One Eternal Presence.