Sunday, August 04, 2013

Looking Backward at Forward

Luis, who loves morning "quiet time"
Many mornings, once the coffee is brewing in the kitchen, I sit at an antique roll-top desk in a corner of my den, surrounded by photos of family and friends,  Luis the 13 - year - old dog at my side, and I read the day's meditation in Forward Day By Day.  This pamphlet is published quarterly and distributed through churches across the world (   The jumping - off - point for each meditation is the scripture assigned for each day in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.  This week, at the end of this quarter, before retiring the old pamphlet, I'll record insights that I underlined and starred with my right hand while Luis nudged my left to stimulate his morning massage between the ears.

June 5, Luke 17:20-37, "those who lose their life will keep it." Author Daniel Simons in boyhood "lived with low-grade anxiety" about the idea of the rapture.  "The irony is that Jesus was hoping for the opposite behavior.  ...Trying to make life secure is a sure way to anxiety: 'Is it secure enough yet? How about now?'  And conversely, when we invest deeply in what is now, where God is always present, we find that fear falls away."   A perpetual worrier myself, who has worried since June 5 about preparing for the upcoming school year, I'm grateful for a reminder to enjoy the sunshine and old Luis while I may.

June 6, 2 Corinthians 8:1-16.  Simons, an Episcopal priest who serves at Trinity Church, Wall Street, NY, NY, knows about poverty and homelessness.  Why, he wonders, do people with the least among us also show joy and generosity?  Simons rejects the folk notion that poverty produces joy, but "generosity in any situation creates more of itself," and the poor more quickly take the risk of sharing their little.  "Generosity is a gift that keeps on giving," he writes, and adds, "there are not too many times a day to say 'I love you.'"

June 10, Deuteronomy 30:1-10, "For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you....when you obey...."   Simons writes, "God's promise of blessing for good behavior is a comforting feature of religion, but it's only one end of a spectrum of God's relationship with us."  Jesus is at the other end, "God's presence in the midst of -- and not just in spite of -- catastrophe" for the innocent. 

June 12, 2 Corinthians 11:21 ff.  "I will boast of the things that show my weakness."  Simons points out that Paul, "in an inverted way, is bragging."  But "he is trying to point people beyond a sense of earned accomplishment... to something more radical: identifying with our weaknesses.  Why would anyone do that?"  Simons takes an idea from Buddhists, the "beginner's mind."  In meditation, they say, "see yourself as always beginning" instead of thinking how long you've been at it. 

My own worries and also new ideas for teaching after 33 years' experience reminds me that I'm always beginning.  Writing is the same way; as a teacher of writing, I should show kids that it isn't something that gets easier with experience; you only have more options to choose from.

June 15,  Luke 20:1-8, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."  Simons remembers as a young deacon being advised, "the deacon's primary work is to give the work away." In education as in church work, giving away responsibility "increases the collective power" of the group  "When authority is about control it often ends in death; when it is about invitation it leads towards life."

June 17, Acts 1: 1-14, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set...."  Simons likes to know how things work, and the apostles want to know God's plans for them before they "dive in and live in" their lives of faith.  "That, in the end, might be the leap of faith:  not believing the unbelievable, but stepping into an experience without the answer."

June 22, Acts 4:32-5:11, the story of Ananias and Sapphira, who kept back some of the proceeds from a land sale when they said they were giving all to the Church.  When Peter calls them on their lie, they fall dead at his feet.  "Their sin is solely their self-inflation -- saying that their gift was the entire sale price.  This was a version of 'keeping up with the Joneses,' since other believers were also selling their possessions to contribute to the new church."   Peter says they were deceiving God,
And since this is impossible, it is really about deceiving the self.  And what is so damaging about self-deception is that when we do it, we cut ourselves off from ourselves.  Conscience gets dull; we can't orient to truth, to the greater good of the community. It happens imperceptibly.  ...[Let's reflect on] where our own integrity might need a tune up.

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