A Life Filled with Questions

A photo taken with the Trustees at Saturday's Meeting of Elected Bodies

A photo taken with the Trustees at Saturday’s Meeting of Elected Bodies

While many of us wait for warmer days and real spring to arrive, many seniors in high school are waiting to hear about where they will find themselves on life’s great adventure. One of the things I like to tell juniors in high school to do, is to get their story straight. Most of them don’t know that as soon as they enter their senior year, every adult will ask them, “So where are you going to college?” Or “What are you doing after high school?”

For many young people, this is one of the biggest decisions of their life thus far. And the reality is, it is the beginning of a series of questions that family and friends are going to inquire about for years ahead. For once they are in college, many will begin asking, “So what are you majoring in?” And then in short order comes the question, “So what do you plan to do with that degree?” After this comes the future family line of questions, “When are the two of you getting married?” Which then is almost always followed by, “When are you planning on having children?” Only to shortly be followed by, “How many kids are you planning on having?”….Years pass and then the questions begin again, “When are you going to retire?” … “Do you plan to spend part of the year somewhere warm?”

“Loving Mystery in who we live and move and have our being, we give thanks that you continually open our minds with ever-deepening questions and open our hearts to ever greater depths. Help us see in your ‘deep but dazzling darkness’ the love that sustains all things and give us courage to let go of our lust for certainty and embrace the risk of trust.”

This prayer, written by Grace Cathedral Dean Emeritus, The Very Rev. Alan Jones for the book Journey with Mark, I have found helpful in a life filled with questions about what is next. I also believe it provides a helpful frame as we begin to enter into the Holy Week experience… a time unquestionably filled with more questions than answers. And yet, Jones suggests in his prayer that when we let go of “our lust for certainty and embrace the risk of trust” we truly do begin to experience the “Loving Mystery”.

May your Holy Week be filled with the assurance of our Lord’s never ending presence.

Moving Closer to God’s Will

FullSizeRenderAs I walked along the wooded trail with a group of young people, one of them stated, “There is a question I’ve always wanted to ask.”

“Go for it,” I responded.

“Is it hard to be ordained?” she asked.

Well, I must confess, I did not see that question coming so I replied, “Interesting question. Is there something in particular that you are wondering about?” She paused for a moment and then said, “It just seems like it would be really hard to always be holy all the time.” Oy! We are going into the deep water here, I thought to myself.

“Let me start by sharing one of my favorite prayers.”

“Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” AMEN. (BCP 832)

And then I offered, “It’s called the Prayer of Self Dedication and it’s one I pray most every day. Because the fact of the matter is, ordained or not, it can be a challenge to live a faithful life. I find this prayer a way to daily recommit myself to live life, I believe, as God calls us all to.”

After a moment or two of silence she said, “I really like the part about drawing our hearts, and guiding our minds and filling our imaginations, but controlling our wills… I am not too certain about that!” I could feel a big smile on my face and without reservation I replied, “Couldn’t agree more!” The shock on her face made me smile all the more. “What? That surprises you that I would be challenged by that as well?” I asked. “Seriously,” I continued. “It’s hard for all of us.”

We walked on a little further and then I suggested to her, “How about this, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done’… I’ve heard you pray that with the rest of the group countless times…” 

“Right…” she said slowly. “So…are we not asking God every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer that we are about God’s will, not ours?” We walked for a while in silence and then she said, “Well… when you put it like that… it makes more sense.”

I gave her (and me) a moment to reflect, and then I jumped into the deep water again. “So, your question about being holy is a challenge for all of us. Because holiness, in the end, is about not our will, but ‘Your will be done’. The more we can let go of our will and praying for God’s will, the more we can live as God’s holy people.”

May our Lenten journey continue to be an opportunity for us to move away from our will and to move closer to God’s will.

Truly Noticing Those Around Us

This morning at the JRLC Day on the Hill

This morning at the JRLC Day on the Hill

As I turned off the Texas interstate onto the winding country road that leads to Camp Allen, I was immediately struck by what began to take place. The driver of every car that passed me waved at me. My first thought was, “These are Episcopalians leaving Camp Allen who know me.” Then I thought, “Maybe they’re not being friendly, but rather trying to alert me to something wrong with my car!” And then a smile came across my face as my small town childhood clicked in… waving to other folks is what people do in the country.

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, uses a phrase in his Ted Talk entitled Why Aren’t We More Compassionate? that really caught my attention. He talks about walking in New York with a sociologist, discussing the challenges of those who are homeless and how we have all developed an “urban trance” making others virtually invisible. Goleman’s suggestion is if we do not notice others, we won’t empathize with others, which means we will not bring any form of compassion to others. 

Interesting contrast: waving at every car that passes you versus being completely oblivious to others around us. While I have certainly experienced different dynamics between rural and urban settings, I have also consistently experienced a lack of personal acknowledgement in all settings. 

One of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith is both our connectedness and our interdependence: “Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29 and “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” Romans 12:4-5.

And then there is what we prayed on Ash Wednesday during the Litany of Penitence:

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us.

Urban, rural, or suburban trance, we are called to not only notice, but be in relationship with, those around us. How else can we fully embrace our Baptismal Covenant to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves”? 

My prayer for all of us this Lenten season is that we may, in fact, truly notice those around us.