Three Surprises –
In a recent conversation that included a range of topics including heaven, I told a friend what had been said to me many years ago. “There will be three surprises when we get to heaven. People will be surprised who made it. People will be surprised who didn’t make it. Lastly, people will be surprised we made it!” It’s a humorous yet true statement about the afterlife and Heaven’s membership. There will be surprises aplenty so don’t be so convinced in your beliefs, ability, and acceptability that you lose the mystery of a God who knows more than you, sees more than you, and is bigger than you can imagine. Heaven mirrors God’s nature and love not ours.
Wisdom teaches us that our ways are not God’s ways, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. In the Benedictine tradition, we are to keep our; “eyes tilted toward the ground.” We are to keep our sin and shortcomings always in front of us. Not as a burden to bear but a constant reminder of God’s goodness and a reason to rejoice.
Several years ago I was leading a Bible study and we were talking about God’s grace. I made the statement; “Without God, no matter what we said or did, we had no true goodness or love.” A man in our group spoke up and asked; “If we don’t have anything worth redeeming why does God love us?” “That,’ I answered, ‘is why they call it grace.”
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I watched a video today about distraction. It explained how the brain can become accustomed to being unfocused and our inability to change it back. The presenter gave the example of someone having a cellphone in their hand, laying on their desk, next to their plate at a restaurant, or pulling it out of a pocket or purse during a conversation. At this moment the person with whom they are conversing or meeting with realizes they are not the most important person or thing in the room. The cellphone says to the other; “Someone may call who’s more important than you. Something might ‘ding’ indicating a happening that’s more important than you.” It also impacts the person who has the phone because now they have to look at the screen, see any notifications, continue to check for changes and updates.
I was talking with a group today and part of the session was on; “Listening more than you speak.” I used the adage; “You have two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you speak.” We spoke about respect and giving the person you are interacting with your eyes, ears, and mind. Focusing on the other when we are talking, engaging, communicating, connecting, experiencing each other is vital for all participants. When we are made to feel like we one of the many tasks a person has that day we lose our focus and become distracted by their distractions.
Yesterday, almost one million students across the United States of America, walked out en masse to protest school shooting and the inability of adults to agree upon how to make our schools safer.
There were two types of protests that were happening. One was #walkout which encouraged students to leave their school classrooms and #walkup which encouraged these young adults to find someone who seemed to exist “on the edges” and talk with them eat lunch and begin a conversation that hopefully would develop into a relationship. I supported the #walkout and the #walkup protests and thought both had merit and could change lives. Neither was a perfect way of protesting but each one was worth doing.
However, I noticed that many folks were for one or the other. Not many looked for balance in the two approaches. Students were either labeled #walkup or #walkout. It seemed not much conversation was happening between the quickly diverging groups. This made me sad. The reason the students were protesting is that adults can’t talk to one another, find a compromise, work together on behalf of our nation’s youngest and brightest. Now, it was happening again.
I am sick of litmus tests that divide us as a nation, community, and families. I am tired of people not being able to listen to one another even if we do not agree with the other. There is almost always a middle way where we remember we’re all human, deserving of respect and kindness instead of disdain and meanness. Perhaps one day we will realize we have more in common than what we allow to tear us apart.
I listened to a conversation this week where the person told another, to their face, that they hated them. “I hated you when you left,” they said. “It took a long time to not hate you anymore.” It was an honest and startling admission. Most times people are adept at not showing the person they hate their true feelings.
It left me with a question; “Have I ever, in my life, hated someone?” I define hate; as the inability to see the good in someone. As I reflected on the question a person came to mind. If I’ve ever hated someone, according to my definition, this man fit the criteria. I had the hardest time seeing the good, the light, the benefit of his existence, the unique expression of God in him. It was, at times, impossible to not be suspicious of his motives, think of the worst outcome of his decisions, belittle his beliefs and talents. Then, one day, ranting in my head about something he had done the question came from out of the blue; “Can you see any good in this man?” My mind stopped dead in its tracks. The answer was “no, I couldn’t.” It was then I realized the problem wasn’t him it was me.
I’d love to post about how this moment fixed everything but it didn’t. However, it did give me a new way of looking at this person and my role in the frustration, anxiety, and chaos within me. It took me a long time to forgive the hurt and betrayal he had caused but I began focusing on what was going on inside of me instead of what someone was doing on the outside. This made all the difference.
“You will never see God until you can see Him in every next face you see.” #SaintMotherTeresa
To be unselfish is the key to abundance. To not hold on to anything, desire anything, be covetous of anything or anyone. Abundance comes from being content and this comes from acceptance of all life brings our way.
Too often we see the lives of others or review our own lives and wish they would have turned out different brings suffering. These illusions only lead to pain and heartbreak. What we have received is only temporary. As hard as it is to accept this world only gives us transient treasures and trinkets. Whether it be people or things, our inability to control when and how they leave our lives is a lesson we need to learn.
Only eternal gifts last. When we are given them we may hold on to them as tightly as possible but to do this we must let go of what we hold dear that is not eternal. Transience is not evil. To love those who bring wonder, kindness, and love to our life is not wrong. However, it is a bittersweet connection because it is temporary. While this is painful to know and experience it also makes every moment more treasured.
Most of our lives are full of abundance but knowing they are not ours forever is the test of true life, true love, true wisdom.
Luck or Life?
On my way to worship this morning a big black cat ran across the road in front of me! I needed to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting it. The reason for the rush is an even bigger gray cat chasing it. Black cats are supposed to be an omen of bad luck but for this one it was fortunate it crossed the road when it did, as fast as it did, or things might have turned out differently.
During service a special speaker talked about growing up in war torn Romania. Her past included sexual and physical abuse, mental health issues, infertility and an incredibly uncertain future. However, each of these painful, difficult and tragic events have given her a powerful testimony today and many blessings have blossomed from the ashes of what most would call a cursed younger life.
Our understanding of a lucky, blessed, fortunate life or an unlucky, cursed doomed existence is limited by our inability to know the future and how love, grace and peace often come from the most desperate and desolate personal journeys.