LOVING WHOLEHEARTEDLY

An eager young man longing to live a good life, went to his rabbi and said, “I know that the Hebrew Scriptures say that we ought to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength. But I am very much aware that my heart and soul and mind and strength have bad parts in them. So, tell me, how can I love God?”

After a pause the rabbi replied, “Well, it seems that you’re going to have to learn how to love God with the bad parts too.”

Source: Unknown

CONSIDER THIS

“The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest, but wholeheartedness.” David Steindl-Rast in response to a question by poet David Whyte.

“In fiction good people do good things and bad people do bad: that’s why it is called fiction!” (Oscar Wilde) In real life bad people can do good things and good people can do bad things.

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PITCHING IN

When the pastor became ill, the small rural community gathered to pray for his recovery and ask for God’s guidance during his lengthy absence. Having first looked at all their pastor’s many responsibilities, those present took an inventory of their skills and talents. “I could take over the capital campaign for the new educational center,” offered an accountant.

“I’d be willing to lead bible study,” said a retired librarian. “I could train lectors and help the kids with the Christmas pageant,” volunteered an amateur actor. “We’d like to visit the home-bound and help with social care,” stated a middle-aged couple, recent empty-nesters. “And I’ll get an email list together and give everyone updates about what’s happening at the parish,” said a young computer programmer.

Source: Elizabeth-Anne Stewart

CONSIDER THIS

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. 1 Corinthians 12:7

Building the church, is a collective, collaborative effort. Our unique gifts, skills and talents are not just for our own benefit but for the sake of all God’s people (and that’s everybody)!

What are your gifts? What are your skills?
How can you use them to pitch in, and help build the church and the kin-dom?

How can you invest them even further and be an instrument that with others can help heal the world and the planet?

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ENCOUNTERING THE LIVING GOD

“It was Thomas Aquinas’s proofs for the existence of God that brought me into the Church,” said the eager theology student to his professor.

“I’m very happy for you,” replied Sofia, the wise, seasoned and experienced  teacher, “they almost drove me out of it.”

Source: As remembered and retold by Philip Chircop SJ

CONSIDER THIS

There’s a big difference between proving the existence of God and experiencing  God; between explaining God and encountering God. Thinking, analysis, and philosophical arguments are lovely and can be very helpful tools but they also run the risk of boxing up the faith in dangerous and suffocating systems of belief.

Analyzing God or faith is like dissecting a frog, when you take it apart, you might find out what it’s made up of, but the frog itself is killed in the process.

How do you experience and encounter the divine?

SHEPHERD OR BUTCHER

Two people were watching a man drive a herd of sheep through the main street of a small town.

“I thought shepherds led sheep. I didn’t know they drove them with a whip.”

“They do,” the other fellow remarked. “That’s not a shepherd. That’s the town’s butcher.”

Source: Robert R. Cueni, The Vital Church Leader
Abingdon press, 1991

CONSIDER THIS

God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Psalm 23:1-3 (The Message)

DON’T GET USED TO IT

“Imagine you want to boil a frog, how do you do it?” John asked Peter.

“Well,  I would simply place the frog into a pot of hot water.”

“Don’t you think that as soon as the frog feels the heat, it will jump out?” said John  smilingly.

“How would you go about it?” Peter asked.

“Put a pot of cool water on the stove and then add the frog.  Not sensing danger the frog will stay.” John said.  “Next, turn the burner on low to slowly heat the water. As the water warms, the frog relaxes. The warmth feels good. As the water gets hotter it acts like a steam bath draining away energy and deepening the frog’s relaxation. The frog becomes sleepy and has less and less energy while the water is getting hotter and hotter. By the time the frog realizes its danger, the water is beginning to boil, and it is too late to take action. There is neither time nor energy left to do anything. The frog perishes in the boiling water.” John concluded.

Source: Based on a version of the story I first read in
Daniel QuinnThe Story of B

CONSIDER THIS

Although after a quick internet search, I was relieved to learn this story isn’t factual (modern biologists have debunked the myth), the tale is still a metaphor worth simmering in!

Haven’t all of us, at some point in our life, remained in situations that weren’t good for us, that were slowly damaging our body, crippling our mind and stifling our spirit?

Are we paying close attention to what is going on around us or are we allowing ourselves to become complacent, not noticing when the ‘water’ is getting hot?

Keep testing the water, so you can leap before you boil.

THE RAGMAN

Even before the dawn one Friday morning I noticed a young man, handsome and strong, walking the alleys of our City. He was pulling an old cart filled with clothes both bright and new, and he was calling in a clear tenor voice: “Rags!” Ah, the air was foul and the first light filthy to be crossed by such sweet music.

“Rags! New rags for old! I take your tired rags! Rags!”

“Now this is a wonder,” I thought to myself, for the man stood six-feet-four, and his arms were like tree limbs, hard and muscular, and his eyes flashed intelligence. Could he find no better job than this, to be a ragman in the inner city?

I followed him. My curiosity drove me. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Soon the ragman saw a woman sitting on her back porch. She was sobbing into a handkerchief, signing, and shedding a thousand tears. Her knees and elbows made a sad X. Her shoulders shook. Her heart was breaking.

The Ragman stopped his cart. Quietly, he walked to the woman, stepping round tin cans, dead toys, and Pampers.

“Give me your rag,” he said gently. “and I’ll give you another.”

He slipped the handkerchief from her eyes. She looked up, and he laid across her palm a linen cloth so clean and new that it shined. She blinked from the gift to the giver.

Then, as he began to pull his cart again, the Ragman did a strange thing: he put her stained handkerchief to his own face; and then he began to weep, to sob as grievously as she had done, his shoulders shaking. Yet she was left without a tear.

“This is a wonder,” I breathed to myself, and I followed the sobbing Ragman like a child who cannot turn away from mystery.

“Rags! Rags! New Rags for old!”

In a little while, when the sky showed grey behind the rooftops and I could see the shredded curtains hanging out black windows, the Ragman came upon a girl whose head was wrapped in a bandage, whose eyes were empty. Blood soaked her bandage. A single line of blood ran down her cheek.

Now the tall Ragman looked upon this child with pity, and he drew a lovely yellow bonnet from his cart.

“Give me your rag,” he said, tracing his own line on her cheek, “and I’ll give you mine.”

The child could only gaze at him while he loosened the bandage, removed it, and tied it to his own head. The bonnet he set on hers. And I gasped at what I saw: for with the bandage went the wound! Against his brow it ran a darker, more substantial blood – his own!

“Rags! Rags! I take old rags!” cried the sobbing, bleeding, strong, intelligent Ragman.

The sun hurt both the sky, now, and my eyes; the Ragman seemed more and more to hurry.

“Are you going to work?” he asked a man who leaned against a telephone pole. The man shook his head. The Ragman pressed him: “Do you have a job?”

“Are you crazy?” sneered the other. He pulled away from the pole, revealing the right sleeve of his jacket – flat, the cuff stuffed into the pocket. He had no arm.

“So,” said the Ragman. “Give me your jacket, and I’ll give you mine.”

So much quiet authority in his voice!

The one-armed man took off his jacket. So did the Ragman – and I trembled at what I saw: for the Ragman’s arm stayed in its sleeve, and when the other put it on, he had two good arms, thick as tree limbs; but the Ragman had only one.

“Go to work,” he said.

After that he found a drunk, lying unconscious beneath an army blanket, an old man, hunched, wizened, and sick. He took that blanket and wrapped it round himself, but for the drunk he left new clothes.

And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping uncontrollably, and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm, stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again, exhausted, old, old, and sick, yet he went with terrible speed. On spider’s legs he skittered through the alleys of the City, this mile and the next, until he came to its limits, and then he rushed beyond.

I wept to see the change in this man. I hurt to see his sorrow. And yet I need to see where he was going in such haste, perhaps to know what drove him so.

The little old Ragman – he came to a landfill. He came to the garbage pits. And I waited to help him in what he did but I hung back, hiding. He climbed a hill. With tormented labor he cleared a little space on that hill. Then he signed. He lay down. He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and a jacket. He covered his bones with an army blanket. And he died.

Oh how I cried to witness that death! I slumped in a junked car and wailed and mourned as one who has no hope – because I had come to love the Ragman. Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man, and I cherished him; but he died. I sobbed myself to sleep.

I did not know – how could I know? – that I slept through Friday night and Saturday and its night too.

But then, on Sunday morning, I was wakened by a violence.

Light – pure, hard, demanding light – slammed against my sour face, and I blinked, and I looked, and I saw the first wonder of all. There was the Ragman, folding the blanket most carefully, a scar on his forehead, but alive! And, besides that, healthy! There was no sign of sorrow or age, and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.

Well, then I lowered my head and, trembling for all that I had seen, I myself walked up to the Ragman. I told him my name with shame, for I was a sorry figure next to him. Then I took off all my clothes in that place, and I said to him with dear yearning in my voice: “Dress me.”

He dressed me. My Lord, he put new rags on me, and I am a wonder beside him. The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ!

Source: Walter Wangerin Jr, Ragman and other cries of faith (HarperSanFrancisco, 2004) pages 3-6

CONSIDER THIS

“If you are all wrapped up in yourself, you are overdressed.” – Kate Halverson

How free are you to let go of all your old rags, and how ready are you to receive some new clothes?

A DISCONCERTING REAPPEARANCE

Once upon a time a young man who had been reported killed in action came home from a prisoner of war camp. His family and his buddies and even his girlfriend had mourned him as dead and then more or less got over their grief.

His sudden reappearance was disconcerting, to say the least. They had all loved him, but they had in effect written him out of their lives. His girlfriend was engaged to marry someone else. Moreover, he didn’t seem like the boy who had gone off to war. He was thin and haggard and haunted.

However, he was now mature, self-possessed, and, astonishingly, happy. He hadn’t smiled much as a kid and rarely joked. Now he was witty and ebullient all the time. A quiet kid had become an outgoing adult man. He didn’t fit in the patterns of relationships he had left behind. Quite the contrary, his happiness and maturity were unsettling. He congratulated his former girlfriend on her coming marriage and shook hands cordially with the fiancé. There’s something wrong with him, everyone said. His family went to the priest. There sure is, the priest said – he has risen from the dead and now acts like a saint.

Source: Andrew M. Greeley, April 20, 2003
www.agreeley.com

CONSIDER THIS

  • “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26
  • “What requires courage is being willing to disappoint and upset all those friends and family members who want us to stay the way we are, because they want to stay the way they are. It’s being prepared to redefine success and failure, and to become a fool if need be. At heart it’s being willing to receive information from the darkness within, so there can be less of us that is buried, and more of us resurrected.”  -David Weale