Saturday, September 22, 2012

Found in Out of the Way Places

When I saw Roger, he and Charlie were engaged in conversation in the lobby.  My heart is always touched by them both. Roger is highly educated and elegant.  He has little or no mobility in his lower body, and he can no longer read, but his mind is very much intact. I know at times he feels trapped.   The last two times I had visited him, he was ill and quite angry.  Yet, when I saw him this week, his color was good and he was smiling.  He took my hand and said, "Oh, Sue Ann, I have been in the hospital twice.  While I was there, I found myself thinking about some of the people that are here - people who are really very caring.  I found myself thinking about you, and how you are always telling us that God is calling us into relationships.  I think I am finally beginning to understand."
Charlie, who was looking freshly scrubbed, began to tell us yet again, in his carefully measured speech,  that he has a Ph.D. from Harvard.  His life path has not been an idyllic stroll, but rather one marked by the extreme highs and lows of mental illness.  I think that he keeps telling us so he can remember that there were not just difficulties and dramatic  mishaps in his life, but some real triumphs as well.  He reminded us of his thesis that had been returned to him marked, "Immanently acceptable."  And then he smiled and said, "I suspect that Sue Ann believes that we are all immanently acceptable."  We all laughed deeply, but it was a poignant moment of being known and loved for each of us.  We have now known each other five years.     
I think you all for your birthday wishes.  This year I turned sixty, and on October 15 I will celebrate my fifth year with SpiritCare, a truly life changing ministry.   I also have been serving as an interim minister for a small church in San Jose,  New Community of Faith.   Yes, it is a balancing act, but I am grateful.    
This blessing came to me twice yesterday, so it seems wise and well to send it to all of you.   May your courage and your love be rekindled today, and know that you, too, are immanently acceptable, for you belong to God.        

For a  New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

~ John O'Donohue ~  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Great Expectations

I have a friend who is Hindu, and formally, she is addressed as Swami 
(I believe there is more to her title, but I am a bit of my league with the language). As she goes about in the world with her ready smile, shaved head, and orange robes, she is most certainly noticeable.   She often greets people, and even my dog, with "Oh! I have been waiting for you!"  She says this, not with a sense of "Where have you been, you are late!" but with the sense of great openness and hospitality that creates a sense of belonging even before one arrives.  It is a gift that is wonderful to witness and to receive.  
This, of course, is the sort of hospitality that Christians should extend.  However, my friend told me that recently some young men, claiming to be Christians, announced to her, and not in a loving way, that she was, without a doubt, going to hell.  Now, she is secure in her faith, but it did leave her wondering how professed followers of Jesus could be so unwelcoming.  I often wonder that myself, and I know I am not alone.   I think some of the breach comes from a misguided notion that some are broken, and some are not.  That some are saved and some are not.  That somehow, only  Christians can experience God, despite a very rich and diverse world that is brimming with a variety of cultures and faith traditions. 
Certainly such prejudice is not limited to Christians.  We see this prejudice tragically played out across the world.  Yet, I think for those of us who claim that we follow the way of Jesus, the call is to always to be reaching out with love.  Reconciling with love.  And receiving with love.  That is the gift, and the responsibility of the communion table.  There can be no feast if we do not generously share in love.  The rest we leave to God.    
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him," Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly (Luke 19:5-6).       
The way we answer the door is the way we deal with the world...When the person knocks - whenever the person knocks - the porter [the one whose responsibility is is to answer the door] is to say, "Thanks be to God" or "Your blessing, please" to indicate the gift the guest is to the community. The porter is to be warmth and welcome at all times, not just when it feels convenient. In the Rule of Benedict, there is no such thing as coming out of time to the monastery. Come in the middle of lunch; come in the middle of prayer; come and bother us with your blessings at any time. There is always someone waiting for you.   
                                                     Rule of St. Benedict, Joan Chittister, O.S.B.