Thank you Creator for offering us renewal and new beginnings. Amen
I once had a coworker who was nearly impossible to work with. He was impetuous and never finished what he started and usually I or someone else would have to finish the job. He did not take criticism well; becoming childishly pouty and passively aggressive when confronted with his lack of respect for his coworkers. Nevertheless, he also had good qualities; he was often charmingly funny and entertaining and would sometimes provide breakfast for coworkers, to include the person he had been passively aggressive toward.
I am also much like my coworker, in that I sometimes lose patience with my family, friends, and coworkers. I can also be grumpy, instead of graceful when under a great deal of stress. If I chose to, I could go on and on about my own shortcomings. Aren’t we all like that, a mixed bag of positive virtues and negative emotions, the embodiment of ‘yin and yang’?
The late singer, Johnny Cash once released an album titled American Recordings. The album cover is a picture of two dogs, one dog is black with a white stripe and the other dog is white with a black stripe. In a Rolling Stone interview, Cash explained the meaning of the two dogs. “Their names are Sin and Redemption. Sin is the black one with the white stripe; Redemption is the white one with the black stripe. That’s kind of the theme of the album and for me too. When I was really bad, I was not all bad. When I was being good, I could never be all good. There would be that sinful streak going through.”
This mixture of good and bad is what the Apostle Paul was writing about in his letter to the Romans. He wondered aloud, “Does that mean I can’t even trust what is good? Is good just as dangerous as evil?” He goes on to say, ”…Yes. I am full of myself — after all I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then act another, doing the things I absolutely despise. So, if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God…is necessary…Thank God…Jesus Christ acted to set things right in this life of contradictions…” (Rom. 7:13-25 The Message)
Heavenly Creator, I want to love you with all my heart, mind and body, but I am sometimes swayed to act out through my emotions, or pulled by the temptation to do wrong. I thank you for your understanding. I thank Jesus for coming and showing that you love us even in our contradictions.
I ask you God, to give me strength to stay focused upon who you have called me to be. Yet I thank you for the grace of your love when I do not do what is right. Your love, the kind of love that Jesus shows me, allows me to love myself even when I am less than lovable and that gives me a way to understand, love and forgive my neighbor when they act in ways that make them less than lovable.
My spouse and I have been working part time for some time now. We did not choose our work situations and they are not ideal. However, working part time has given me another perspective from which to view the work ethic of the people around me, and I can say that we are very busy people.
If you ask someone, ‘how are you’ or ‘what have you been doing’, they most likely will say how busy they are. Almost no one responds, ‘I’ve just been relaxing’ or ‘spending time with family and friends.’ The response I usually hear is about how busy the person is; and it usually sounds as if they are bragging about being so busy – albeit, the bragging is often disguised as a complaint. We are a people who view busy-ness as a virtue. This should come as no surprise, after all the Puritans viewed work as a virtue and it was their religion and culture that was the springboard for our American way of life.
Yet, I have to wonder if all this busy-ness is what God had in mind when we were created. I wonder if all that busy-ness is sometimes something that we do to give our lives purpose and meaning. Since my spouse and I have been relegated to part time work status I have noticed that when I allow things to slow down, my body and mind respond accordingly. I have found that it is truly a blessing to work in the garden and watch tomatoes appear, grow and mature. I have found that painting a picture or taking photographs have made me more in tune with the creation that God has surrounded us. I have also found that when my partner and I spend relaxed time together that our bond is stronger and our relationship with each other and with God, grows and deepens. Remember, God, created work as a punishment and it was the Puritans who turned it into a virtue.
Heavenly Creator: Slow me down, help focus on the important things in this life, the things that you have given me. Keep me grounded to your creation so that I can see you in it and find my meaning and purpose in you.
During the last decade of the 19th century, a European college professor inquiring about Zen, visited a Japanese master. The master served tea, filling the professor’s cup full and kept pouring. The college professor watched the tea overflow the cup until he could no longer be quiet – “It’s overflowing, it’s full!”
“You are as full as this cup,” the master said, “full of yourself, your own opinions, and assumptions. Before you can begin to understand Zen, you must first empty your cup.”
Let’s read what the Zen Master said again, only this time replace the word Zen with God: “You are as full as this cup,” the master said, “full of yourself, your own opinions, and assumptions. Before you can begin to understand God, you must first empty your cup.”
Like the European college professor, we often go off looking only to confirm what we already believe. Author and teacher, Steven Levine defines spirituality as, “. . . openness to the unknown” I believe to be a spiritual seeker is the same as what some Christians call seeking the face of God. “Ask , and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Mat. 7:7-8)
“God, give me a spirit of openness, and a willingness to expect the unexpected. Grant me an acceptance of the diversity of ways that others seek you out.”
Note: this is a revised edition of a blog I originally posted in July 2010
Earlier this week one of my students shared with me that she learned that a friend committed suicide. She was really hurt and at the same time very angry. She said that her friend had so much potential and now he is gone. She also felt that he didn’t work hard enough to survive and wondered why he did not reach out to her for help.