When my husband, Tim, and I were engaged, the couple who led our marriage prep classes reassured all the new couples that while partners argue over everything from how to hang the toilet paper roll to who gets the TV remote, there are really only a few major areas couples fight over to the point of causing stress in their relationship: Parenting, Money, Religion and Sex. Oh. Is that all? For goodness sakes, people. WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
Basically what our sweet pre-marriage counselors were saying is: at some point you’re gonna need help. Can I get an amen?
People seek help from therapists, counselors, pastors and well-meaning friends with armchair degrees for all kinds of reasons. Stress at work, parenting and family issues, marriage trouble, depression, mental health issues, job change, loneliness, divorce, grief. The list is pretty endless, so don’t you dare think you have something that no one has ever heard of. Still, there is a stigma attached to seeking professional help.
I taught parenting classes for years and I was always disheartened to hear people explain that they were embarrassed to sign up for the class because it made them look like a bad parent. No – you know what makes you look like a bad parent? Being a bad parent! Meanwhile, the people who sign up for parenting classes are busy having healthier relationships, more cooperative kids, and more fun!
So let’s talk about that little thing called “stigma.” It means “something that takes away from one’s character or reputation. A mark indicating something is not right.” Ok. So maybe you’re afraid counseling would take away from your reputation or people would see that something is not right. Fair enough. Wrong. But fair; I see where you’re going.
Now try this on for size: if you wear corrective lenses the chances are good you might have been diagnosed with stigmatism. Stigmatism (or astigmatism as it’s also known) has to do with the way an oddly shaped eye refracts light. (I have oddly shaped eyeballs. Just sayin’.) The stigma in your eyes causes things to look out of whack until you correct it with the help of a professional.
And of course there is the stigma of a flower — that delicate, oh-so fragile part of the flower that stands at attention in the center of the petals whose SOLE FUNCTION is to be a RECEPTIVE landing zone for everything that comes its way in order to increase its efficiency in helping to produce other flowers.
Then there’s stigmata, which – you guessed it – also comes from the same root – and refers to – are you ready for this? — the UNEXPLAINED bodily scars of some CHRISTIANS which mimic the scars of Jesus caused by his crucifixion. Think St. Francis, St. Bernadette, and Padre Pio.
The Apostle Paul ended his entire letter to the Galatians with this: “I bear on my body the marks (stigmata) of Jesus.” In Paul’s day, a mark or a brand might have been used for identification of an animal or slave. But Paul’s scars weren’t completely unexplained; he bore those scars because of his work in spreading the gospel of Jesus. Why? BECAUSE PAUL WAS ALL-IN. And he often paid the price for his relentless pursuit of Jesus by being jailed, scourged and beaten, not to mention shipwrecked a time or two.
So the next time you think, “Oh, I can’t possibly let people know I’m in therapy, it has such a stigma — what will they think of me?” Rest assured, we will think: there goes an incredible human being who is receptive to seeing life in a new way, and who bears the scars of having lived life all-in.
After all – what else is there?
P.S. If you think this blog is a shameless promotion of the upcoming marriage retreat at Snowmass Chapel, you may be right. If you think we’re promoting our upcoming workshop on teen mental health, you might also be right. And if you think we are promoting our Stephen Ministry & Caring Connection which offers peer to peer support for people who are hurting – YOU ARE 100 percent SPOT ON. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2. No stigma. No shame. Just the marks of life, my friends. At some point, we’re all gonna need a little help.
Without a doubt, the attack on New York City was a watershed moment. I shared with our children that the US was different pre 9/11. It is likely all of us remember where we were when the events of that day eighteen years ago hit our consciousness.
We were living in Concord, New Hampshire. At the time I was serving as Assistant Rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Early that September morning, I learned that one of our parishioners named Jim, living at home, but under hospice care, was nearing the end of his life. I quickly headed to his home where his wife greeted me at the door. They lived in a simple trailer filled with love and mementos from a long life together.
After catching up with them both, Jim asked for communion, which I had brought with me. When a few prayers were said, I took a wafer out of a travel communion box. I held the wafer in my hand and looked into Jim’s tear filled eyes. I said, “Jim, this is the body of Christ for you.” As I said the words, “the body of Christ for you,” I saw the television in the background. At that exact moment, the first tower collapsed. We were speechless.
While lots happened in the ensuing days, including being asked by the Governor of New Hampshire to set up interfaith worship services, what has remained with me the most was the memory of the juxtaposition of the wafer being placed in Jim’s hand at the moment the first tower fell.
Although it is difficult for me to come up with words to describe that experience, I know that our suffering is met with God’s suffering and that our suffering is not distant from God, but rather lies within the center of God’s heart.
Whether it is the unspeakable horror of that September day and the years of torment that followed for so many or our own suffering in our lives now, suffering is perhaps when we are closest to God and God is closest to each one of us. We may or may not be able to articulate that intimacy with God during such times, but my prayer is that in ways that supersede understanding we may take great comfort, solace and strength from this truth. Jesus’ pain on the cross joins our pain on the crosses we bear each day.
The good news is that the cross and suffering does not have the last word to who we are, but rather a restored and renewed life, as it was and remains for Jesus and all who have gone before us, including all who perished 18 years ago today.
While eternal life is ahead for each of us, in the meantime it is helpful and reassuring to know there is no place where God is not, even when we are in the darkest of places. David, of Israel, understood this when he wrote the following words. I invite us all to pray and meditate upon his words as they are a salve to our post 9/11 broken hearts.
1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
While the leaves have yet to change, you can feel the coming of the fall season. Nights are cooler and the sun is changing angles bringing forth new ways of looking at familiar things. Although the calendar may not show it, summer is soon to be behind us here in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Despite the fact that we all have different likes and dislikes, I am struck by how many people love fall as a season. I understand why it is the favorite of so many, but it strikes me as a bit ironic that this is the case. Inherent with the season of fall is change. Fall is all about transition, shifting, transforming, and becoming something different. The constancy of winter and summer are not present in October and November.
Why is it then that we embrace the wonder and beauty of change when it comes to a meteorological season, yet sometimes resist change when it comes to the seasons of our lives?
When it comes to leaves during fall, many of us wake up each morning with a sense of anticipation of how different leaves will look and the air will feel. When we see or experience the variations, it brings joy and gratitude.
Perhaps there is a lesson in God’s creation in all of this for us to pay attention to. Could it be that God’s desire for us is to embrace the changes in life, the deepening of wisdom that happens as a result, and the value of both dormant and growth periods? What if we learned to embrace changes in our life just as we embrace the seasons of nature?
Throughout scripture, I cannot find an example in which God’s message is, “don’t grow, don’t change, don’t move forward, don’t let go and trust me, or hold on to what has always been.” Rather God’s desire is that we grow more deeply into a relationship with Him, that we learn to give all of ourselves to Him, that we learn to hold onto only one thing, God Himself.
I believe this season of fall is a great opportunity for each of us to explore what it is we are holding onto that perhaps we need to be letting go of. It is a great time to ask God for help in embracing healthy change and to get in touch with where we are stuck. It is also important to intentionally take time with God and move from a static relationship into one that is fluid, dynamic, and alive, if this is where we are in our faith journey.
Change is not always easy, I know firsthand. But if it were not for change, I am not sure I would cherish the beauty of the moment, the learning opportunities that are continual, or the constancy of the presence of Jesus. I invite you to embrace this fall season in a spirit of wonder, and to do the same with your life.
Catching a glimpse of something is part of our human experience. My hunch is that each of us have had glimpses of the terrible and wonderful in our lives. Once in a while, perhaps we even catch a glimpse of how things should be in this world.
Like parents at a playground with no phone in sight pushing their girl on a swing. Or a couple speaking words of understanding and compassion finally forgiving each other for hurts long held within. Or a deep depression lifting following years of despair. Or a one year anniversary of having had the last glass of scotch.
There is a great tune from the country singer Lee Ann Womack titled, “There is a God.” Here are some excerpts. “Try and put your arms around a 100 year old tree. Climb up on a horse and let it run full speed. Watch a flock of birds against the morning sun. Close your eyes and listen to the river run. Catch a firefly in your hand or a raindrop on your tongue. Plant a seed and see what comes out of the ground. Find the heartbeat on your baby’s ultrasound. Hear the doctor say he can’t explain it, but the cancer is gone.”
While there is more, these lyrics express not only the presence of God, but they give us a glimpse of how things should be, should always be. Once in a while, if we pay attention, we get glimpses of the good, the right, the just, the peaceful, and the loving. When Jesus walked the dirt roads of Israel, he too gave us glimpses of how things should be.
I invite you to immerse yourself in Jesus’ words in the Gospels, teaching such as, “Love your enemies; forgive everyone; when you lose yourself, you find yourself; let go of power and ego; treat others as you want to be treated; what matters most is where you heart is; nobody is better than anybody else; real wealth is a life grounded upon a relationship with God; give all your burdens to God; do not fear…”
Jesus said and taught so much more, and if we listen, really attend to Jesus’ words, they all reflect how things should be. But in the midst of all that is right, we live in an era in which there is extreme division, contentiousness, hostility, and ugliness. As Jesus followers, we should never enflame, encourage, or intentionally participate in such things. All of this, I believe, is an invitation to ask ourselves, “How am I to live as a Christian right now in the midst of it all?”
Perhaps what we are called to do in our good and bad and certainly divided culture, is to give everyone around us a glimpse of what things are supposed to look like through our words, our actions, our silences, and our inactions. Maybe we are to tend to our hearts, first and foremost, so they don’t become hardened or harsh or critical or mean or venomous or divisive or reactive or paranoid, but rather so they become more and more like the heart of Jesus.
Could it be that the rubber-meets-the-road point of this is to understand that we are in a tough rough world and that has been the case since the beginning. To know that while this is the case, there is a point to our journey, meaning to being alive at this time, and a purpose to which we are each called. That one purpose we each share is to give people around us glimpses of how things should be and will be when it is all said and done.
So how do we give people glimpses of how things should and will be one day? I believe we have to keep our eyes on Jesus, internalize his teachings, however imperfectly we do so, and be intentional about how we show up in the world each day. We need to act, sometimes not react, speak up, sometimes hold our tongues, and take an honest look at what our lives are giving people a glimpse of.
If we are giving people glimpses of how things should be and will be one day, then the essence of who we are and how we show up will reflect joy, peace, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, self-control, and love. It means our lives will not be full of conceit or envy or anger or judgmentalness or division or put downs. It means our lives and actions and words will reflect Jesus and all he taught and said.
So I leave us with some questions today. Questions we can only answer for ourselves. Here are those questions. Does my life and how I show up give people a glimpse of Jesus? Does my life and who I am give people a glimpse of how things should be and will be when it is all said and done? Fundamentally, does my life give people a glimpse of the love of God?
Hard questions, yes. Essential to think about if we want to take our walk with Jesus seriously, without a doubt. Certainly this gives us much to think and pray about and ultimately act upon. And I believe giving others a glimpse of Jesus will change everything, one person at a time.
Aesop’s Fables were part of my childhood. To this day I remember my mom and grandmother reading them to me.
In the fable of the North Wind and Sun, as I remember it, the north wind and the sun get into an argument over which one of them is the strongest. In the midst of their debate, a person traveling strolls by wrapped in a cloak. In response, the sun and the wind agree that whoever can strip the traveler of his cloak must be the more powerful of the two.
The wind went first by blowing a hard cold fierce wind on the traveler. The wind howled and howled and the stronger the blast, the tighter and tighter the traveler clung to his cloak. No matter how hard the wind tried, the wind could not strip the traveler of his cloak.
Then it was the sun’s turn. He shined warm gentle rays down upon the traveler. The traveler was engulfed in a pleasant feeling and soon he loosened the cloak he was wearing. Over time he became so comfortably warm that he removed the cloak completely. Hence, the sun won the debate with the wind.
One moral of the story is that gentleness and kindness are often far more powerful than force. This may be why the following quote is attributed to Aesop. “No act of kindness is ever wasted.”
This fable came to mind the other day due to a simple act of kindness by a stranger toward me. I was busy and had to run errands when I noticed my gas gauge was nearing below empty. Despite my pressured schedule, I pulled into a station and filled my car up, after which, I went inside to buy a cold iced tea. After waiting for a few moments in line, I approached the woman at the register. She smiled and said, “no charge today for you.”
I replied, “Really?” She said, “Yes.” After thanking her and complimenting her for her kindness, I got into my car and went about my day. Her simple kindness remained with me. Indeed, Aesop was right, “no act of kindness is ever wasted.”
I know this may seem to be a platitude or overly sentimental, but I believe there is great wisdom in Aesop’s fable of the North Wind and Sun, as many have said over the years. I have a strong suspicion that if more and more of us engaged in intentional kindness, much would change in our lives and in our nation. We certainly have plenty of evidence of what things are like when we are anything but kind to one another.
Perhaps this is why Paul wrote in his letter to the people of Ephesus, “Be kind to each other.” Simple, of course. Challenging at times, certainly.
The Rev. Dr. Robert de Wetter
This last weekend, yet again, horrific shootings happened in Dayton and El Paso. While I believe there are broad based steps that can be taken which will necessitate everyone yielding something, I remain saddened by the fact that we live in a country in which right decisions are subservient to partisanship and pressures for re-election. Our nation’s inaction since Columbine, in my view, does not reflect any faithfulness to Matthew 22: 34-40, which is the foundation of our faith and lives. This is not a partisan statement, but rather one that comes from a pastor, not a polarized politician.
El Paso has been part of my family for a long time. It is where I feel most grounded, largely because of the multiple generations of my family that have called the city home. It is a special place filled with great and humble and family oriented people, despite economic challenges. It also remains one of the safest cities in the US regardless of the events of last weekend and despite the fact it is on the border. Citizens of El Paso and Juarez have never viewed the border as a problem, but rather as a unique blessing to be celebrated. Indeed the two places are interdependent in most definable ways.
This week I was asked by a leader of the city to write a letter to the editor of the El Paso Times. I have done so. Being limited to 220 words was not easy, especially for a preacher. Anyway, I have included my letter, not because it is a magnum opus of thought, but rather I just wanted to share what has been on my mind and in my heart. Love and prayers to each of you.
Dear People of El Paso:
As my family has been part of the community for over 120 years, I know well the soul of the city. El Paso is the place it is because of its people. I believe the kindest, most generous, resilient, humble, loving human beings anywhere call El Paso home. Yesterday members of our congregation joined me in continuing diligent prayer. We pray for strength, healing, peace, hope, and the will to overcome. Growing up, I remember the Rio Grande River flowed freely without cement banks or walls. The spirit of the time was one of a giant abrazo. There was a sense of joy, unity in diversity, acceptance instead of division, a celebration of intertwined cultures, gratitude for international interdependence, words that built-up instead of tore down, and a shared commitment to make El Paso a great place to live. I believe such things remain part of the DNA of the El Paso/Juarez communities and the future is bright. While I grieve, cry, agonize, and rail against voices and acts of hatred, it is apt to remember that El Paso is the Sun City. I believe light overcomes darkness. Love, not evil prevails.
With love and gratitude to all El Paso –
The Rev. Dr. Robert de Wetter (son of former Mayor and Mrs. Peter de Wetter)
This last week at the beginning of my sermon, I asked a variety of people to put glasses on with colored lenses. When I asked each person how the world looked, each responded that things appeared to be precisely like the color of the lenses they were wearing. The person with red lenses said the world looked red. The person with the blue lenses replied, “Everything is blue.” The same was the case for those wearing yellow, pink, purple and green lenses.
The color of the lenses we have on determines the color of how we see things. When we have a set of lenses on, it can be hard to imagine seeing things in a different way. And sadly, when we have a particular set of colored lenses on, we may even think it is the only way to see something.
All of this, I believe, serves as an apt metaphor for something of vital importance. That is, every day, you and I have lenses through which we see life and all of what I said about colored lenses applies to many other lenses as well.
If I put on a lens in the morning that says, “People are negative.” Guess what, that is what I will see throughout the day. If I put on a lens in the morning that says, “People are pretty darn nice.” I will see lots of nice people throughout that day. Or if I put on a lens that says, “Gratitude” I’ll have a very different experience than if I put on a lens that says, “Complain.”
There are countless other lenses. Just think for a moment about some of them. Old. Young. Liberal. Conservative. Flexible. Stagnant. Fear. Trust. The list goes on and on. When we wear lenses it is hard if not impossible to see things from a different perspective unless, of course, we are intentional and open.
Whether or not we are aware of it, each of us makes conscious or not-so-conscious choices about what lenses we wear in life and those lenses affect everything. Everything, from the decisions we make, to how we act, to our emotions, our outlook, and our relationships with others. All such things come from our lenses. And like it or not, there are many ways to see the same thing.
There is one lens I struggle with putting on each day. I know it is the right lens to put on. I know my life would be different if I began each day with this particular lens. I know I would experience more joy, less stress, a sense of release, less judgmentalness, more love and kindness, and a greater sense of purpose if I put this lens on each morning and left it there regardless of what comes my way any given day.
What I am talking about is the lens that says “Everything in my life, about my life, in this world, is God’s.” Said more simply, if I started each day putting on the lens, “It all belongs to God,” boy would things be different.
If my life is spent embracing, trusting, and living by the idea that everything belongs to God, my life will be entirely different than if I kinda of, or sort of, or once in a while live by the truth that everything is God’s.
To be more specific. Is nature which surrounds us God’s? Does that impact our relationship with creation? How about the abilities and talents we have? Are they God given and therefore God’s? How about our success? God’s? Or how about our family, our partnerships, our marriages, our children, and our friends? Do they all belong to God? Or is it just all circumstance or due to me and my efforts.
To what extent do we treat and relate to strangers or those who are vastly different from who we are as if they belong to God? How about time itself? Does our time and how we spend it, does such time come from and belong to God at its foundation? How about our assets? Our bank accounts. The cash in our pocket. It is all God’s or kind of or sort of or when there is some left over? How about our bodies? Do we treat our bodies as if our bodies belong to God? What about where we live? Do our homes belong to God?
The point of all of this is not to make us feel deficient, guilty feeling or somehow less than. The goal here is not to diminish who we are or make us feel bad. The point is actually quite the opposite. The point of all of this really is about a wonderful, glorious, upbeat, exciting, loving invitation from God to work on something together as followers of Jesus.
God invites us to work individually and collectively on living by the truth that everything and everyone belongs to God. God extends this invitation because God knows that as we accept the invitation, we will more and more discover the astonishing life God intends for each of us to have.
I invite each of us to do something over the days ahead. That is, to explore what lenses we wear in life. How do they affect and impact us and others? What do others see about us as a result of the lenses we wear? Where are we with the lens that it all belongs to God. And how do we think things might be different if we wore that lens more often?
While these are challenging questions, it is essential that we remember God adores us and wants it all for us and wants us to have amazing purpose filled, joyful and love filled days. And God knows the way to get there is to make a choice everyday to put on the lens that says, “It all belongs to God”.
Summer is in full swing in the Rocky Mountains. The color blue is given new meaning when looking at a July sky, cool nights act as a salve taking away the heat of the day, and fresh air contrasts the high ozone levels found in global cities. Indeed, summer at elevation is special.
While Snowmass Village and the Roaring Fork Valley as a whole are quite busy, I’ve discovered there is much peace and solitude to be found fairly easily, especially when one attends to the senses. This certainly has been the case when it comes to what our eyes can see.
Perhaps due lots of moisture, the wildflowers have been uniquely spectacular. Lupine, Skyrockets, Monkey Flowers, Bergamut, Columbine, and Mule’s Ear are just a few examples of what has been blooming with awe inspiring beauty. Like a painter’s palette, astonishing colors are smeared everywhere.
Upon reflection, this summer’s wildflower eruption brings Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel to mind. Jesus said, 28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” (Matthew 6 – NLT).
Indeed, if God has the capacity to create such magnificence, will God not care for each of us when it is all said and done? Wildflowers and in fact so much of God’s creation stand ready to remind us of this point, if we simply pay attention to what is in front of us. Throughout each season, God uses creation and what we experience through our senses to teach us and invite us to remain centered upon God.
Jesus, following these words, goes on to say in essence, “with this in mind, focus on the present moment, not the past or what might be in the future.”
Wildflowers become potently stunning precisely at the moment we are looking at them in the moment. The fullness of their beauty is realized only when our gaze upon them is what is filling our minds. Thoughts of the future or recollections of the past, quickly diminish our experience of them.
It is as if God through God’s wildflowers is saying to us, “To experience the beauty of wildflowers fully, you must see them as they are in the now. To experience life as I envision for you, stay in the moment knowing the moment is where you will discover me and the true you most completely”
For some, this summer will go on for months. For those of us at elevation, this season is fleeting. But wherever we happen to find ourselves in the weeks ahead, I invite us all to pause and fully engage whatever snippet of God’s creation is right in front of us. There are lessons to be learned and gratitude to be expressed through it all.
For most of us, our days are filled with surprising turns, the unexpected, including those darn things known as interruptions. Calls from people we know, things that come up both good and bad, stuff with our bodies, intrusive thoughts and feelings, not being able to finish a sentence when talking, co-workers knocking on a closed door, etc.
While we experience a range of thoughts and feelings due to being interrupted, and as I reflect upon the whole topic, I am coming to realize that interruptions and how we respond to them can be deeply spiritual occurrences that impact our faith journey.
In some ways, in fact, interruptions can be great opportunities to grow, learn, and deepen our walk with Christ. And if we pause for a moment, we will discover that Jesus was a master at responding to interruptions in profound ways. When a person interrupted Jesus, he or she was never the same.
One day, at the end of a long shift of fishing, Peter and Andrew are at work cleaning up and getting ready for a bit of sleep. Jesus came along, sees them, and says, “Hi boys. I know you work hard and I know you are fisherman. But I have an idea for your life. Follow me, right now, and I will make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch women and men instead of perch and bass.”
Talk about an upending workday interruption. Talk about an unexpected career move. Take a fellow named Jairus. Jesus was standing sea-side just having made a trek across the water. Jairus, a prominent religious leader, approached Jesus and said, “Jesus, my 12 year old daughter is really sick. I think she may die. Please come with me. I know you can heal her, please.” Jesus accepts the request and begins to walk with Jairus to his house. A large crowd of people, jostling for position, began to follow.
While walking, a woman who had suffered a terrible medical condition for many years and had lost everything as a result, slipped in behind Jesus and touched his robe. She believed by touching Jesus’ robe, she would be healed. Jesus stopped and turned to look at the woman. She was healed and her faith was strengthened.
Although Jesus was on the way to deal with one big problem, Jairus’ daughter, the sick woman’s interruption did cause Jesus to stew. He took on both big problems at the same time.
Fast forward to sometime later. Jesus and his apostles had been working tirelessly. Clearly they are exhausted and needed a break. Just a bit of down time to collect themselves and get some much needed rest. We even learn they were so slammed with work they didn’t have much of a chance to eat anything.
In response, Jesus invites them all to find a quiet place to chill out. So, they all climbed into a boat to head off to a remote place. But someone saw them get into the boat and launch from the beach. Word got out. Quickly, literally thousands of people started running along the shore after them.
When Jesus and his crew landed, Jesus saw the crowds and his heart broke. In response, he began to teach the people. As time passed, near the end of the day, his apostles pointed out it was time to leave so the people could get home before dark to eat.
This turned into the well known feeding of the five thousand in which thousands of people were miraculously fed by some fish and a few loaves of bread. Nothing like finally finding some time to rest only to have it interrupted by the needs of thousands of people.
We have just looked at a few stories of interruptions happening to Jesus. There are so many more. So I have to wonder. Why are there so many stories in scripture in which interruptions are part of the central story line? Might it be that interruptions are something we need to pay close attention to. Are there opportunities to be found? Here a just a few thoughts.
Interruptions remind us that ultimately we are not in total control of things. We may have a plan. We may have a strategy. We may have clear cut hopes. But interruptions, big and small can remind us we are not in control, God is. Most of us like certainty, at least when it comes to some areas of life. We seek clarity and predictability. But interruptions remind us, if we let them, that there is ultimately not much we can be certain about, other than the love of God and that nothing will ever separate from God’s love.
Interruptions can remind us too that none of us has everything down pat. Interruptions can create awareness that nothing is perfect, that imperfection is the norm, and can help us release perfectionism and learn to relax.
Throughout scripture, patience is a virtue and lack of patience often gets people into big messes and a lot of trouble. Interruptions, if we allow them to teach us, can help us practice, practice and practice patience, patience that will help us in many areas of life.
Interruptions can teach us to be more sensitive to others, to learn what compassion entails, and what lies at the heart of empathy. Needing help is rarely if ever convenient.
One key thing at the heart of our walk with Jesus is learning to be other not self-focused. Interruptions, if we allow them, can teach us to live from the place of being other focused, not self-absorbed. Said another way, interruptions, if we let them, can teach us to live more like Jesus, accepting interruptions as they come and attending to what is right in front of us in the midst of what else is going on.
Yes, I think I am coming to learn that interruptions are in fact islands of grace in the sea of too much busyness and getting things done. And I believe the more we accept interruptions, even embrace them, the more and more we will become like Jesus, full of hearts of compassion and the love of God. And I pray that when we are interrupted, we might learn to hear such interruptions as God knocking at our door.
Recently my family and I traveled to Upstate New York to visit friends and a community of faith where I served as Rector a number of years ago. While the Finger Lakes region of New York is not where I am from, it is spectacularly beautiful and rural, with stunning vistas and gorgeous glacially carved lakes.
On one particular afternoon, my son Peter and I joined our friend Mark to explore an area known as Carpenter Falls. In this specific area of Upstate New York, there are a number of waterfalls, but the main one Carpenter, is around 90 feet high. Typically, as described on a state website, “the falls fall as a powerful ribbon that cuts through a notch in the massive overhanging limestone caprock where it plunges into a deep pool.”
The water flow is described as variable and over the years I have seen just a trickle of water to quite a bit more. When the three of us recently went, it was an entirely different story. Such a massive amount of rain had fallen that Carpenter Falls made those at Niagra look small.
As we walked we stood at the top of the falls. We were each silent as the roar of the falls and the scene of the volume of water flowing was breathtaking. After a few minutes, we hiked across the top of a hill to gain access to a trail that one can take to get near the base of the waterfall. The ground was muddy and slippery as ice as the trail was covered with clay over limestone.
Our son Peter, nimble and flexible Peter, had no difficulty on the trail. I, on the other hand, when I tried to follow Peter, slipped and fell down a 70 degree pitched hillside nearly 50 feet through trees, branches, and rocks. Both Peter and Mark thought at first it was the end of me. A bruised body, sprained wrist, and cuts on my torso was all I sustained.
As I was lying at the bottom of the hill recovering, Jesus’ parable of a house built on sand came to mind. Clearly sand is not something to count on as Jesus points out in the story. Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 7 said in essence, “When you build your life upon me it is like building a house on rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit, but nothing moved that house. It was built on rock.” After my experience at Carpenter Falls, I can make the same point using the metaphor of hiking on wet clay or a dry trail as an example.
This week is July 4th. A wonderful holiday with fabulous traditions that have been part of our great nation for a long time. It certainly is a day to ponder the blessings of what it means to live in America, to reflect on all who have made our country possible, and to give God thanks for freedom, which is from God to begin with.
While our nation’s independence is central to who we are, I believe it is important we not view our relationship with our creator in the same way. When it is all said and done, our loving God does not seek our independence from Him, but rather our complete and utter dependence. And while we live in a great incomparable land whose DNA is grounded upon freedom, I believe it is essential for us to remember this July 4th, that Christ is our rock, our foundation, and the basis from which we are called to live.