Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In The Fullness Of Time

Timing is everything in life.  I believe that.  I also believe that I have squandered far too many opportunities waiting for “the right time” which never seemed to come.  Especially if I felt intimidated or overwhelmed.  I can always find something wrong with the timing when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  

Out of a certain degree of necessity, I have perfected the art of procrastination.  Procrastination gets a bad rap sometimes.  I’ve learned to value procrastination.  Some truly forgettable ideas have come and gone in a flash.  I go to bed thinking I can’t wait to get started and I wake up wondering “what was I thinking?”  Procrastination has saved me an awful lot of embarrassment.

I’ve come to understand that timing in life is not a matter of finding the right or wrong moment, but learning instead to trust the moment.  Whatever the moment.  To seize the opportunities each moment presents and understand the limitations.   And I’ve also learned that the more I can get my ego out of the way, the easier that is to do. 

I know that God has a way of slipping a burr under my saddle when God wants me to set out in a new direction.  Trusting the moment is sometimes nothing more than acting on the desire God has placed in my heart, acting in good faith, and waiting for the “fullness of time.”  Which is always God’s time, and not mine.  Thank goodness.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Holistic Worship

Our dog walker's worship has been filled with surprises.  Our little "pack" has grown each week.  This week, we met a 3 month old Swiss Burmese Mountain dog.  Cute and fuzzy, and when full grown, will weigh in at 150lb or so.  We’ll want to stay on his good side.

Each Sunday, a couple of labs run out to greet us and insist their bath-robed, coffee toting owners come out and meet us too.  This has sparked some good, impromptu conversations with our neighbors.  Conversations that wouldn't happen without this ministry. 

I think this is what I appreciate about our "dog walker's worship."  The "holistic" aspect of it. 

We tend to "compartmentalize" worship.  It happens outside our everyday lives.  On a Sunday, a day most of us are off, though not as many as there used to be.  We come to a special place, designed for well behaved adults, where we sit and sometimes stand, to praise God.

Pets are not allowed.  Heaven forbid!  Though pets play such an important part in the lives of so many of us.  They are companions for the elderly.  Trusted confidantes to the young navigating the treacherous waters of adolescence.   Their presence in a household is a blessing a thousand times over.  But worship makes no provision for them. 

The same dynamic happens with children.  In order to worship, children are expected to behave like little adults, because worship is designed for adults.  Children's sermons, and activity bags notwithstanding.  Aren't these really designed to keep children entertained so they will sit quietly, like little adults? 

And if they don't keep a child occupied sufficiently, parents are often left with no other option but to rush their child out of worship to a nursery, or a "cry room" where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth" often feeling embarrassed and apologetic.   I remember those mortified feelings, though I learned that I was bothered by my kids making noise more than the people around me.  I think that’s still the case today, but I don’t know that it helps parents now, anymore than it did for me. 

Our dog walker's worship offers a welcome, holistic approach to worship.  We don't need to step out of our lives to join God.  Our lives are a blessing from God, and God is found in the everyday living of our lives, walking the dog, playing with our kids.  God is present in all of it.  

I'm wondering how we can bring this holistic approach to worship and apply it to children.  We have a dog walker's worship.  What about a liturgy of the playground? 

Monday, July 08, 2013

Finding Forgiveness

 I have a system for walking the Mount Vernon Trail with the dogs.  I walk down hill on the left side, and up hill on the right.  You see, downhill bikers are going a lot faster, with less time to react to a man and two collies, than uphill bikers.  Everyone gets more time this way. 

The only time this system doesn't work is in a valley.  Then, everyone is barreling down hill no matter which way you’re going, and it’s run for your lives.   

This morning, we'd just gotten to one of those valleys.  Lots of them have bridges, which makes sense when you think about it.  We were walking downhill on the left, when I saw a cyclist on the other side of the bridge also coming downhill, on the same side of the path.  An older guy, clipped mustache, like an accountant or a banker in spandex.

We stepped to the right on the bridge in plenty of time.  He gave me a withering, contemptuous look, as he flew past.   

What a jerk, I thought to myself.   

From my reaction, I was immediately aware of the tenseness and stress I had been carrying on this walk. The pressure behind my eyes, the tightness in my shoulders.  I had been grinding my teeth too, without being aware of it.  Now I was. 

My brief encounter with “spandex man” had opened my eyes to what was going on inside of me.  For this entire walk, hadn’t I been as unconsciously annoyed by the cyclists as spandex man had been with me?  They felt like an intrusion.  To what? 

We continued walking, and I thought about that.  We were on a level stretch so the dogs and I were walking on the right side of the path.  I heard an "on the left" from behind me, so we stopped to let the cyclist pass, and I said, "OK. Got it." to acknowledge I'd heard. 

It was spandex man again.  He said something to the effect that I wasn't giving him enough room to pass…eh, more or less.  I guess he thought we should jump into the bushes and let him have the entire path.   

It was like a match hitting the remaining fumes of my anger. 

"Stupid a**hole, get off and walk if a bike's too much for you."   

Wow, I thought.  I hadn't reacted that way to anything in a long time.  Not that it was wrong.  Actually, my knee jerk description was pretty much on target. 

Was I really carrying that much tension?  On another day, a stupid a**hole like that wouldn't have gotten a rise out of me.  What was going on in me today? 

Maybe spandex man came back because I had more to learn.  I began to pay attention to the cyclists, and my reaction to them.  And God sent another almost right away.  Almost the identical scenario. 

"On the left" 

"OK Gotcha." 

We stopped and waited.  Another cyclist.  This guy was more like Yogi Bear on a bike.  Ear phones in.  Shirttail flying.  No helmet.

When he passed, our eyes connected and he said, "Nice dogs" a little too loud because of the ear buds.  I nodded and smiled.  He wouldn't have heard me anyway. 

It was like that with the rest of the cyclists we met on the trail today. 

What had changed? 

Spandex man had awakened me to the stress and tension I was feeling.  Even had me express it.  That awareness prompted me to hold myself in compassion.  I extended that compassion to the cyclists, many of whom are out here on a hot day riding to deal with their own stress and tension.  We were all here, me, the dogs, the cyclists, to get our bit of exercise. 

My interactions with cyclists became opportunities to practice compassion.  We were all out here together, trying to cope with our lives.  Dealing with our own a**hole-ness.   I can be a royal a**hole.  To spandex man, I was. 

By the time I got back to beginning of the trail, my tension and anger was gone, lifted like a cloud.  I finally got around to wishing compassion for spandex man. 

Words like those that passed between us have a tendency to burrow under the skin.  To stay there and fester.  I'd been on both sides of those exchanges.  I know.  Awareness and compassion had enabled me to enter into a different future. 

This is what forgiveness is.  Not diminishing the event, or forgetting it ever happened.  It's about how we carry an event forward into our lives. 

We can use an offense to create separation, and if we do, we remain frozen in a solid block of resentment.   Or, an offense can be an opportunity to connect compassionately with others.  Including the offender. 

Forgiveness isn’t about the past.  Or about making wrongs right.  It’s about what kind of future you want. 

So, let me say thanks, spandex man.  From one a**hole to another.