John 15: 1-8
“I am the vine. . . . Remain in me.”
To what or to whom do you stay connected? Is it a good connection? Is it a connection that feeds you, one that nourishes your spirit, one that gives you joy and life? To what or to whom do you turn to when the chips are down?
If I am to be honest, I have to say that sometimes I turn to things or people that are not the best for me. My spirit ends up further eroded. Gratefully I eventually return to the Source that does nourish my spirit in good ways – and people that share and support that connection.
When I remove myself from my Source due to busyness, worry, compulsive behavior and the like, I begin to whither. I can literally feel the life force drain from my body. When I seek to re-establish that connection I feel the life force return.
To what, or to Whom are you connected? Is it a good connection?
This past weekend I was talking to a friend who is very much into fitness. She is hot to say the least! Her upper arms are like a fine sculpture. OK, lest you think I’ve gone the other way, I’d really like her upper arms, but on a guy! On to my point. I told her that I really need to get back into my exercise routine. I said I would do it as soon as this transition in my life is over and in place. She looked at me and said: “Why wait? Do it now!”
Why do I think that I don’t have the time to take care of myself in the midst of busy transition? The reality is that if I don’t take care of myself, consequences loom. Already I feel the pain of acid in my stomach as worry consumes me, a pain that would work itself out with some stress reducing exercise!
Is there something in your life that you’re putting off until the “right time comes?” In reality, there is no right time. Now is the right time. Go for it! . . . And pray that I can too!
Note: For those who read these meditations, you’ve noticed that I’m not writing daily anymore. My goal is to provide meditations on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I hope that you find these a source of help along your journey!
Would He Be Recognized Today?
If Jesus walked among us today, would he be recognized? And, if he was, I wonder who would recognize him? I suspect that those who would recognize him wouldn’t be the usual suspects.
Look at Mattew 21: 33-43, 45-46. In Jesus’ day, who were the ones who didn’t recognize him? Many times in the Gospels it was the established religious leaders who didn’t recognize him – the ones supposedly in charge of the vineyard. Curious hugh? Is the same true today?
Those who did recognize Jesus were most often those you would least suspect: the uneducated, the poor, the sick, those rejected by their religion, women, those known to be sinners, those on the fringe. These are the people who recognized him.
It can really be a pain sometimes to be on the fringe of religion or society. It’s difficult. If you find yourself on the fringe, take heart. You just might be in the best place to recognize the truth and depth of his message – even though the powers that be may tell you otherwise.
“Reform your lives!” (Mark 1: 14-20)
So often we feel paralysed, seemingly incapable of “re-forming” things in our life or the life of our world.
I recently talked with a young gay man who works in a church and he spoke to me of the guilt he felt in representing a church who contributes to the pain of other gay people. He spoke sadly of the high suicide rate among gay and lesbian teens, largely because of the messages they receive from their churches about being bad, sick, disordered and an abomination. He is a music director in a church and loves inspiring people through music. He is also a man of faith. Yet he feels hypocritical for working for a religious institution that contributes to the death of young gay people through the messages they send out. I asked him to look for various ways, if even small, that he can send out a different message, even if it is one on one, ways in which he could be a leaven in the bread as it were. He’s not powerless to make a change.
Alone, we may not seem like we can do much to change things. But together, there is much that can change. I think of the motto of the Equal Rights Campaign – come out, come out – one person at a time. Little by little it adds up.
I also received an email from the publisher of “Epistle,” a web magazine for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender Christians. It is linked on my site here: epistle.us. He spoke of an email he received from a straight evangelical Christian who had been grappling with his church’s negative teachings about gay people. He found this site and it helped him realize that we are not aweful people, but human, Christian, struggling, . . . just like him. I realized in that email that what I write CAN make a difference in the lives of others and that is my desire. Nothing would make me feel better than to know that I had saved a life by what I write here.
Perhaps we can’t do everything to change things in our world, but each of us, no matter what our situation, can do some small thing to be an agent of change. Each of us can somehow be a part of the solution – no matter the problem that we’re seeking to change. And we need not be paralysed by ever thinking there’s nothing we can do.
Sometimes love demands that we get in someone’s face. When we see someone we love doing something which is harming them, love demands that we say something. Sometimes these words can and need to be strong, . . . but always said in love. If we do not say anything, we fail in love. Again, these words must always be said in love. Parents know this full well when they correct their children and at times forcefully demand a correction of bad behavior. It is out of concern, not simply anger.
As we continue to celebrate light in the midst of darkness, sometimes getting in someone’s face can be a way of lighting the way to a better life for them. Indeed, it is perhaps the most loving thing we can do, yet one of the most difficult. I am grateful for those in my past who have had the courage to get in my face and helped me onward to a new way of living.
Depending on what’s going on in your life, the holidays can either be something that you welcome or that you want to avoid, or somewhere in between. Whatever the case, there is, after Christmas, a sense of pause, out of the routine of normal schedule, at least for many. This forms within a natural contemplative space, which points us to a new year that is about to dawn and to thoughts of personal evaluation. All of this of course leads to New Year’s resolutions.
The time when we come near to ending one year and beginning another has a freshness about it. The past is past and we look to the future with new hope. An energy emerges which gives renewed possibility to what previously may have seemed impossible . . . “I’ll never loose weight! I’ll never be consistent about my diet and exercise! I’ll never find time for my kids! I’ll never find a partner! I’ll never overcome this addiction! I’ll never find the right job! I’ll never feed my mind with more good reading! I’ll never have time for prayer or reflection!” . . . And the list goes on. But, this time of year, doesn’t it seem like some of those “nevers” come closer to being possible?
The important thing to remember, I think, is to be consistent with little changes. Even one small change in a day can make a big difference in overcoming inertia.
Do you see the possibility? Go for it!
Some of us who are gay unfortunately have had negative experiences with our families. I know some gay people that were kicked out of their homes when they were teens, others whose partners are never welcome in their family’s homes. I myself was told by my brother around this time last year that I was a spiritual detriment to his family and that he needed to protect them from me. Gratefully I also know families who welcome their gay sons and daughters and their partners with open arms. How blest are they indeed!
Whether we are gay or straight, people sometimes have difficulty with their family. Family issues have a way of coming to the fore around this time when, traditionally, families gather. If you are one who has issues with your family, take heart. Even Jesus‘ family had some issues and his genealogy certainly contained a few characters! I can only imagine what Mary and Joseph’s brothers and sisters must have thought of their nephew at times! No one is really immune. It’s just a part of life.
I think its important, especially this time of year, to have some sense of family, some sense of belonging, particularly for those who have difficulty with their own families. Perhaps it might be a time to look around. Is there someone that we know who is without a sense of family or belonging? Like the One who welcomed all to the table, perhaps we might invite them to our tables. And if you are one who is alone, one who has been rejected, know that you are not rejected from the Divine table, but are embraced in love – no matter what your family, or even your church family may say!