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:
Wait, Hurry Up! –
This past weekend I went to see “The Last Jedi,” the latest movie in the Star Wars saga. Beth with went me and when we bought our tickets they told us to go stand in line while we waited for the designated theater room to open. We were first in line and as time ticked by we noticed some people who had bought their tickets weren’t waiting. They were going into the theater room while the rest of us stood by and watched. After this happened several times the line behind Beth and me started to grumble. Finally, a man a few people behind us broke from the pack, hurried to the room and then signaled for us to come. We were swept away in the wave of frustration and elation that at last something was happening. I’m not sure what the manager thought when the line broke but people would not wait any longer!
When we arrived in the room showing the film it was large, seating over 1200 people. The people who had not followed the protocol were already seated but didn’t seem nearly as many in such a sizable place. Everyone found their place and the disgruntled ones settled down and after a few moments and too many previews the movie started.
Afterwards, Beth and I were talking about the movie and what happened before. There was a sense of injustice of the rule breakers being rewarded while the rule followers were punished. This isn’t how its supposed to happen. However, there are reminders around us every day that good doesn’t always win, the righteous aren’t always rewarded, and injustice triumphs more than it should.
So, what do we do? Do we all become rule breakers, go our own way and let the rest of the world be damned? It is a choice we all must make but remember what the Master said; “What good does it profit a person if they gain the world, yet lose their souls?”
It happened several weeks ago but has happened before many times and chances are will happen again. A stranger, someone we don’t know and not sure we want to, approaches us and asks us for assistance. This last time it was at a gas station when a long, matted hair, holes in his shirt and pants man, with a gas can in his hand asked me to buy him some gas. I always feel vulnerable and suspicious when anything similar to this happens and try to take a look around without being obvious. I was almost finished filling my tank and told him to set his canister down and proceeded to give him enough to almost fill it. When I finished he said; “Thank you,” took the container and went back to where he and another person were sitting. I opened the front door, sat in the driver’s seat and told the story to Beth who had watched from inside our car.
It’s been a rule of mine for as long as I can remember to not ask or demand from someone what they will do with money, gas or whatever when I give it to them. I understand some people take advantage of others and use people’s generosity for nefarious purposes. I know others need genuine help. I also believe in serving angels unaware and there’s no doubt I can’t tell the difference between the three. When I give it is a letting go of the abundance I sometimes have and allow others to use it as they deem necessary.
Assisting another in need is often vague. However, giving to another isn’t about how they use the gift but having a heart that’s willing to help.
At a health council meeting today a speaker gave a presentation on going the extra mile. She asked; “Where did this saying come from?” I thought for sure someone would answer but no one did so finally I replied; “Jesus.” She smiled and moved on with her talk. She explained in the time of the Roman Empire there was a rule that if a soldier or other important dignitary asked you to help carry some of their weaponry or baggage you were obligated to carry it one mile. Jesus, however, in Matthew chapter 5, said; “If someone has you carry their stuff one mile go ahead and make it two.” The speaker continued; “The first mile is obligation the second mile is voluntary. It’s the second-mile people remember. When you move beyond your comfort zone, when you give more than what you can afford to, do more than you were asked or expected, offer kindness, grace, and love abundantly, extravagantly.”
As I reflected on her presentation it was a good reminder that what the world expects and usually gets is the minimum, the essentials. When someone digs deeper, cares greatly, meets the greatest of needs, it matters and stays with the one helped and the one helping.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” #MayaAngelou
The late Stephen Covey tells a story about a time he was speaking to a group of people in Sacramento, California:
… I was speaking on the subject of proactivity, a woman in the audience stood up in the middle of my presentation and started talking excitedly. It was a large audience, and as a number of people turned to look at her, she suddenly became aware of what she was doing, grew embarrassed and sat back down. But she seemed to find it difficult to restrain herself and started talking to the people around her. She seemed so happy.
I could hardly wait for a break to find out what had happened. When it finally came, I immediately went to her and asked if she would be willing to share her experience.
“You just can’t imagine what’s happened to me!” she exclaimed.
“I’m a full-time nurse to the most miserable, ungrateful man you can possibly imagine. Nothing I do is good enough for him. He never expresses appreciation; he hardly even acknowledges me. He constantly harps at me and finds fault with everything I do. This man has made my life miserable and I often take my frustration out on my family. The other nurses feel the same way. We almost pray for his demise.
“And for you to have the gall to stand up there and suggest that nothing can hurt me, that no one can hurt me without my consent, and that I have chosen my own emotional life of being miserable well, there was just no way I could buy into that.
“But I kept thinking about it. I really went inside myself and began to ask, ‘Do I have the power to choose my response?’
“When I finally realized that I do have that power when I swallowed that bitter pill and realized that I had chosen to be miserable, I also realized that I could choose not to be miserable.
“At that moment I stood up. I felt as though I was being let out of San Quentin. I wanted to yell to the whole world, ‘I am free! I am let out of prison! No longer am I going to be controlled by the treatment of some person.’ ”
It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.”
Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, tragedies, sickness, and death, but for the most part, we are a direct result of the choices we’ve made with the experiences we’ve encountered in this life.
I read a quote yesterday that I’ve been reflecting upon; “The world we see and interact with is the product of how our mind perceives the world.” We are assaulted each day by an overabundance of visual, auditory, sensory stimuli. It is hard not to be separated by what we experience. However, if our minds, emotions, and spirits are ever to be free we must train our minds to be still so we can experience the world anew and break free from what we’ve known, what we’ve thought, the life we’ve lived.
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. 🙂