This morning, following the children’s time in the church service, the pastor gave out Tootsie Roll Pops to all the kids. While he was passing them out he said; “The only rule about these is you cannot run while they are in your mouth!” Made sense. Anyone with a chunk of candy attached to a paper stick could choke themselves if they tripped and fell lodging the sucker in their throat. The kids did what I would have done; pulled off the wrapping and put the candy in their mouths. They walked back to their seats careful to heed the pastor’s words of warning.
I reflected on the warning of the pastor, running with a tasty treat but also a choking hazard. There are times when we have a good word or tasty gossip on the tip of our tongue. We want to run and tell someone the good news or the tantalizing tidbit. Instead of first being mindful and still, being thoughtful and thankful for the blessing, or hearing a salacious piece of fact or fiction from someone we rush to the next waiting ear to spill all the details. We forget or don’t care that careless words hurt people.
Words are life-giving and soul-crushing. We must be careful how we use them.
For more reflections, writings, poem and other articles, please visit:
Last night I stuck a bag of trash on the porch. Living in the country and not placing garbage in a receptacle is like playing Russian Roulette. Sometimes a varmint gets into it and other times they just pass it by. Unfortunately, last night something got into the trash and scattered it all over the driveway. It was the first thing I saw when letting the dog out this morning. I went inside, grabbed a new bag and began recollecting the trash. There’s nothing quite like picking up frost-covered garbage at dawn.
As I was gathering it and stuffing it into the bag I began to recall a Jewish wisdom tale;
A woman repeated a story (gossip) about a neighbor. Within a few days, everyone in the community knew the story. The person she talked about heard what had been said about her and she was very sad. Later, the woman who had spread the story learned that it was not true. She was very sorry and went to a wise rabbi and asked what she could do to repair the damage. After giving this some thought, the rabbi said to her, “Go home, get one of your feather pillows, and bring it back to me.” Surprised by the rabbi’s response, the woman followed his advice and went home to get a feather pillow and brought it to the rabbi. “Now,” said the rabbi, “open the pillow and pull out all the feathers.” Confused, the woman did what she was told to do. After a few minutes, the rabbi said, “Now, I want you to find every one of the feathers and put them back into the pillow.” “That’s impossible,” said the woman, almost in tears. “The window is open and the wind has scattered them all over the room and blown many feathers outside. I can’t possibly find them all.” “Yes,” said the rabbi. “And that is what happens when you gossip or tell a story about someone else. Once you talk about someone, the words fly from one person’s mouth to another, just like these feathers flew in the wind. Once you say them, you can never take them back.”
It was a great reminder that not only every word but every action has consequences that we cannot foresee. Our lives should be lived mindfully aware that our scattered thoughts, words, and actions will impact the world for evil or for good.
What You See, Hear, Say –
“When brethren return from a journey, at the end of each canonical Hour of the Work of God on the day they return, let them lie prostrate on the floor of the oratory and beg the prayers of all on account of any faults that may have surprised them on the road, through the seeing or hearing of something evil, or through idle talk. And let no one presume to tell another whatever he may have seen or heard outside of the monastery because this causes very great harm.” #RuleofSaintBenedict
As a Benedictine Oblate (http://www.osb.org/obl/intro.html), one of the disciplines we are asked to employ is reading the “Rule of Saint Benedict” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_Saint_Benedict) each day and apply it’s principles to our twenty-first-century lives. The sections which deal with simplicity, humility, poverty of spirit and servanthood are ready-made for our loud, brash, celebrity and money/possessions obsessed culture. The other sections which deal with life inside of a monastery can be more difficult to figure out how to envelop into the life of a middle-aged man living in Columbia, Tennessee.
The section of the “Rule” above is from Chapter 67. I have reflected upon it much of the day, especially the part of laying on the floor during prayer times at the monastery and “begging” the brothers to pray for them after their journeys outside of the cloistered community. It says the reason for this is; in case the monk “sees or hears something evil” or participates in “idle talk.”
Most days I go throughout my day and don’t recognize evil. I see a lot of hurting people struggling to get by, battling for a better life but my focus is on them, not the evil that might beset them. I wonder if we miss, have become used to, been contaminated by, the workings of evil in our world. We are blinded by the trees to the forest.
I also was intrigued by the admonition of the returning brothers not to tell others about life outside of the monastery and that this could cause; “great harm.” When people take trips, vacations they come back with lots of pictures and stories. For Saint Benedict, would this be acceptable? Doesn’t seem like it. However, I believe the Rule is going deeper.
In our twenty-first-century world, “idle talk” is everywhere! Social media, television, radio, internet, are all filled with gossip, insults, hear-say. Everything everyone sees is posted online usually with a snarky or judgemental comment. I am in full agreement with Saint Benedict that this environment does cause great harm.
Anyway, that’s what’s been on my heart today as I’ve traveled. At the risk of violating the “Rule,” I won’t tell you where I went or what I did. 🙂