Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Five Resolutions, for myself, and for "the Church"
Well, it is almost a new year. And many of us as we approach the New Year think about change. We think about our lives, about how things have been, how we want them to be, and we make plans to improve our lives, improve ourselves…..
Stephen, version 62.2
Usually our plans for change come in the form of those wonderful things called resolutions. Here are some resolutions I’ve run across in my reading: Pay attention… there may be some ideas in here for you!
I will no longer waste my time relieving the past, instead I will spend it worrying about the future.
I will try to figure out why I *really* need nine e-mail addresses.
How about this one? “This year, I’m going to get ‘ripped abs’ No more middle-aged gut for me!” I love the commercial with Peyton Manning, who sits down and says… “Hey, so you are going to get a flat stomach and rippling abs? Well let me tell you something. Unless you are under 23 years of age or a professional football player, its not going to happen. So get real….”
I actually think there may be merit in lowering our expectations. Think about it, resolutions we can keep. I like this list that some underachiever put together.
Gain weight, at least 5 lbs
Read less, it makes you think too much
Watching more TV, you’ve probably been missing some good stuff
Procrastinate more, starting tomorrow
Or one could ignore the idea of change all together. Instead of resolutions we could create affirmations and just accept ourselves the way we are!.
“In some cultures what I do would be considered normal”
“I need not suffer in silence while I can still moan, whimper and complain”
But quite seriously
I have been thinking about this thing called New Years, and what I have come up with is five resolutions for myself, as a follower of “The Way”, and what might be called “Five Resolutions for the Church”
1. Don’t play games with the Bible. Each week I worry that I ‘read into” the Bible messages that are really more what I “want” to hear than what I “need” to hear. I resolve to try and be brutally honest, and not dodge the difficult messages.
However, my task is nothing compared to the American Church (I use the term loosely). How can the church get rabidly upset over sexual preference (which isn’t a big topic in the Bible), while ignoring the heart of the Gospel, passages such as the Beatitudes, and overt instructions to feed the hungry, take care of the poor, comfort the “alien” (read immigrant) in our midst?
2. Learn to “rest in God” (Thich Nhat Hanh, p.181, Living Buddha, Living Christ). All to often, when trying to be God’s person, I get caught up in what can only be called “head stuff”. I start worrying about dogma, ideologies, concepts, and all of a sudden I am totally in my head. Then my faith becomes all about me. That is very limiting. My mind can only understand God, partially. My ability to live the life Christ teaches is minimal at best. So I need to learn to rest in God, and let God work in me. I need to experience the sacred through the presence of the Holy Spirit, which is, as Hanh puts it, “the energy of God that shines forth and shows you the way.”
The modern church is all about itself. It’s cool music, its hipster ministers, its praise songs, its overhead projectors. Churches seem to be focused on entertaining. But they are also focused on shaming. Drawing people in the spiritualized bling, and then roping them in, not with joy, but with guilt. We need to remember, it is all about going deeply, and finding the sacred within.
3. Realize that activity does not replace presence. I admit it, I can be a work-a-holic. No joke. A full time job, and a half-time ministry. Not to mention family, horses, and more. The bottom line? I get depleted. So depleted that I have moments, way too many moments, when I have nothing to give. I need to remember that is was not the words or teaching of Christ, nor even the healing miracles Christ, that changed the lives of his disciples. It was his presence. And it is his continued presence that changes my life right now. Here, today. I need to be present with people. I need to sit with those who wander into my path, my day - and then listen deeply, and speak with loving speech.
The church also needs to be a presence. Often the church is a center of frenetic activity - groups, meetings, services, practices, more. But it is not present in its community. It squats in the middle of its neighborhood, but is not part of its neighborhood. Not in a meaningful way.
4. I want to water the positive seeds, and not feed the negative seeds. Jesus talks about the mustard seed, which if planted grows into a tree and become a place where birds can rest. The presence of God, the love of God, the compassion of God can grow, if I water it an nurture it. The fact is that “iIn our consciousness, there are many negative seeds and also many positive seeds. The practice is to avoid watering the negative seeds, and to identify and water the positive seeds every day (Hanh).
I can do this with prayer. I can do this by resting in God. I can do this by slowing down, and by letting the Christ in me flourish. I can recognize the negative stuff when it arises, the fare, the hate, the anger, and the greed. I can acknowledge it, and bring it into my soul, into that place where God is, so that I can heal it, and dismiss it. Do I really know how to do this? Not well! But I am getting there.
The church seems to believe it can flourish by watering the seeds of negativity. The church in America, in particular delights in growing a garden of toxic fruit. The focus of the church on “right belief ( as it defines it), on sexual preference, on “the lazy poor”, on greed (it pushes greed through the prosperity gospel, thus watering a negative seed), on a hate of other faith systems. When the church buys into the “war on Christmas”, and delights in mobilizing the masses to be AGAINST things, it has lost its way. It becomes angry and cruel.
The church too needs to nourish the good seeds. Acceptance. Love. Compassion. It needs to be doing kind things in its community. It needs to be advocating for the poor. It needs to be holding the political right accountable for taking care of the poor. Its time to water positive seeds.
5. Finally I want to be kind to myself. I have become a firm believer in self-compassion. I have developed my own little set of “self-compassion” phrases (metta phases).
May I find the Sacred within
May I find myself again
In the context of sacred love
May my body be healed
May my mind be healed
May my heart be healed
May my soul be healed
May I be at peace
The American Church needs to learn self-compassion. It needs to help people love themselves, forgive themselves, accept themselves….. as they are. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did? It is when the church does this that people can be safe enough, free enough, to be honest, and open, and let God do what only God can do!
Re-light the light
Heal the wounds
Forgive what needs to be forgiven
Release the love
OK. This has gone on too long… and I really should re-read it.
But I am going to start my resolutions early
It is time to go for walk… and see God in the sun
God in the snow
God in the does
God in the mountain
God in the breeze
God in the trees!