Posts Tagged ‘joy’

The Role of Clergy

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

I have been many things – teacher, administrator, coach, electrician, cook. And now … a pastor.  A very blessed job.  The “last of the generalists” as someone put it.  A job filled with moments of incredible joy.  A job filled with moments of deep pain.   And all of it blessed.

At this time the role is dramatically changing as the very nature of church shifts.  Fr. Richard Rohr speaks to the challenge of how many clergy are seen, thoughts that speak as well to the opportunity to serve better.

We clergy became angry guards instead of happy guides, low level policemen instead of proclaimers of a Great Gift and Surprise both perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed at the heart of all creation. 

A great deal of truth in that statement.  And a great promise of what could be.  And what could be? Hint…  smile as you read those two words “happy guides.”


Living Safe in Low Gear

Friday, October 12th, 2012

These words by Walter Brueggemann tell much of our story.  We prefer too often “living safe in low gear.”

Easy of course to cite our penchant for grotesque over accumulation of “stuff” as evidence of our misplaced desire to build “safe harbor.”  However, the same must be said of many intellectual pursuits, where we likewise purse a cognitive form of “grotesque accumulation” in our desire to be certain and right.  That is not the role of education or knowledge which in truth must be an opening instead of a closing, a shifting actually away from from living safe and instead shifting into a higher gear.

I love these words of a former student, Alison Massey: “…instilling the passion and desire for education and critical thinking [is vital] when it comes to such important issues and life in general. While some people think a college education is just a means to an end, I see it as an opening of more doors than I can ever imagine. I hope to instill this in my girls and encourage all people to open those doors for their kids by exposing them to books, the arts, and education in general so we can ensure the next generation find more values in these things instead of reality, garbage, fast food entertainment.“ Unfortunately education can increasingly become about “reality, garbage, fast food entertainment.”  Restated it more open job placement than opening of minds.

And that is our choice.  We can choose an education that closes us in, shuts us down.  Or we can choose an education that welcomes, paradoxically, a great unknowing, cognitive dissonance, a search blessed by God. That does not mean a search without knowns but a search with knowns aligned closely around cores of love, compassion, service.  Such a search is rigorous, demanding, uncertain, and in the end joyously blessed!

Some Days We Just Miss It!

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

There are days we just miss it, days known more for halting, stumbling humanness than for anything grandiose or athletic.  And God is there too.

I think it no small thing to always check ourselves against several benchmarks, one of the most important being “joy.”  Can we look at those “less than” moments with a sense of joy?  Can we smile?

We do a disservice to creation when we obsess on performance issues measured up against an  imagined perfection.  ”Perfection” is a mathematical concept not a human one.  That does not mean sloppiness ascends to the level of virtue.  It does mean however joy remains a mark of the spiritually mature, be that in moments of achievment or in moments/ days where we just plain miss.

Joyful Joyful on Dependence Day

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

The word “utopia: comes from the Greek literally meaning “No Place.” Utopia is no place.  And we spend much time vainly striving for that very “no place.”

And yet heaven and joy are actually some place. To the extent that we accept heaven, even in this life with all its limitations we too can be “receptacles” as it were of heaven.  Heaven then is not far off.  Far from a utopian “no place,”  it is instead some place.

And how do we know we are there?  Joy.

That joy is not a “I have” but a “We share.”  It grows more from a sense of dependence than from an outsized sense of independence.   Our job is to place ourselves in those very places, pulling our vision down from a never-attained utopia into the very blessedness of the here-and-now we share.

This week filled with those “sharings.”  They included trips to the Ronald McDonald House where a 13 year old proudly asked me to feel the seem of a plate in her cranium from brain cancer surgery, to Wyeth’s baptism and his parents tearful desire to raise there son into a life of deep integrity; from smiling emails from a group in the Catskills who organized a retreat on Joy,a  retreat that included a rope swing and cold water, to a picnic lovingly filled far beyond what we anticipated in temperatures far greater than we would have liked but did not matter, to a wedding in which the wave of joy of Ivan and Amy rode through town in a joyous tsunami of sorts picked up and carried many of us along for an evening.   We shared!

All of the above are clear reminders and calls to the joy that is before us, not a joy born of independent adventure but of dependence, one to another, in God’s creation.  Joyful, joyful.


The Simple Joy of Being

Friday, April 27th, 2012

So the equation is relatively simple.  Our self-centeredness is our hell – created and staffed by ourselves!  Inmate and Warden – all one and the same.  To the extent that our self-centeredness can be be detached from the thought patterns that protect, and yes even sickly nurture it, the more we let God in.  The more we let God in the more we come to the simple joy of being, the more we open into our true selves.

Funny how those moments of self-less joy catch us by surprise.  I am consistently too self concerned to let joy in.  God, at His always surprising best, works most effectively when I am not looking.  The joy of a new thought gleaned from some unforeseen source.  (Did you know seeds contain within them all the nutrients and energy they need to germinate?  A sermon taking root over that idea!)  Lunch with a dear friend.  Sharing history with a parishioner.  A text from the wise, “Buddy … God’s will not ours be done.”  My mom reminding me to write a poem.

None of that matters right.  Today I did not move mountains or marry a couple or offer words over the end of a earthly life.  But it was a day of joy, a day full of the simple joy of being.

What can you learn in 20 minutes?

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Returned this weekend to our old “home” – the Pocono Mountains.  We spent our first years as a couple and family here – teaching at Pocono Mountain High School.  It was the birthplace of friends and connections that last to this day.

We have so much impact on one another.  At times the blessing of that simple fact almost overwhelms.  This has been a week of it.  The 9/11 service gave birth to over a 100 connections.  And these connections -  many are very real – including grateful thanks as well as requests for prayers and just simple reaching out. Paulette, for example, sent a beautiful prayer for peace for her parents, one that just sang in my heart this morning.

And then there are the old Pocono Mountain students and swimmers from days gone past.  They are now often getting married (congratulations to Jenn and Pat who are getting married today!)  or now have children of their own.

Spent time last night with a dear family.  I used to teach Theresa – over 15 years ago. Her and her husband Neal are doing an incredible job raising a rather outgoing young son, Brayden, who is courageously moving forward through health challenges.  As a fellow Star Wars fan, I can safely say, “The Force” and “The Phillies” are with this crew!

And all of this just brings me to my knees.  Because the fact is, no matter how many times as a teacher or pastor I get thanked, I KNOW in an absolute way that I have received infinitely more than I ever gave.  You can’t be around the Walsh’s of the world and not think “courage” and “grace.”  You can’t be around Jenn and Pat and not think “joy.”  You can’t read Paulette’s prayer and not think “peace.”

So what can you learn in 20 minutes?  I sat by the lake for 20 minutes in simple prayer.  Of course my brain skittered away from the task at hand – distracted by silly in-my-brain debates and construction noise – but there were a few moments of quiet clarity, times where the beauty and majesty of God’s handiwork in this world gently spoke to a world far deeper than words.  It is a world that connects with Neal, Theresa, Brayden, Jenn, Pat and Paulette – with Life.  It breaths into that place of depth – where “deep meets deep.”   My normal hampster-wheel of ego driven noise is silent there.  And what do we learn in place?  Do you have 20 minutes?

Joy Beyond Understanding

Friday, August 20th, 2010

The goal of faith, in a certain sense, is joy, hence the Gospel or “Good News.”  Good news does bring us joy.  That bringing of joy however occurs in a different way then we might expect.

When we sit with those in pain, we occupy a sacred place.  Part of that sacredness in my experience has been that in that silent place lies seeds of joy.

As one author noted, we live straddling the line of detachment and attachment.  Christianity is about attachment.  From a New Church perspective that means connecting with God by connecting down to the even mundane tasks before us.  In a sense then everything becomes sacramental.  Talk about attachment!  That being said, there must be a balance – living by one truth at the expense of more sophisticated, mature, rounded view is dangerous stuff.  Detachment brings about balance, allowing for a more rounded view to evolve.  How could we ever make a stand in our life without in a sense learning both the mystery of attachment and the mystery of detachment?

Sitting with those in pain demands that attachment and detachment.  The pulling in and the pushing out – the breath – all part of the dance.  Anger is met with remorse.  Saddness met with joy.  Despair with grace.

That is why joy is beyond understanding.  It is the richness of depth – of joy – that evolves from those who have walked that path.  Their joy is thick and tempered, buried in a deep loam rich with the smell of earth.