Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday - Message from the Presiding Bishop

While I'm still working on getting the Lent blogs caught up, time does continue to march on, so we're sharing the Presiding Bishop's message for this Easter.  May it be a blessing to you!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lent: Relationship With God's Creation - Soil

The worksheet for this section of the program talks about your relationship with God's creation.  We'll begin with the first video which talks about what's in the soil, both in a literal and metaphorical sense.

So, print out the worksheet twice, and fill in what you have currently.  Then fill in what your idea is, and figure out a rule to get you there.  What type of soil do you want in your heart?

Lent: Love or Attachment

The video on this topic is probably one of the more deeply philosophical concepts the Brothers at SSJE have addressed, so it may take you a time or two through it to determine where this might fit in your life.

Usually, we hear about love as being a specific type or another, generally reverting back to the various Greek words for love:
Agape, or love for everyone
Eros, or sexual passion
Philia, or deep friendship
Ludus, or playful love
Pragma, or longstanding love
Philautia, or love of the self
This discussion today, however, posits that all love comes from God, and that we should focus on that, so that we don't form an attachment to the love we might individually generate, thereby diminishing the connection that could otherwise be full with the presence of God.  Is this a monastic idea or one that we need to seriously consider for ourselves?  And where might it fit into your rule of life?  Take a look. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lent: Getting to Yes

Saying that two letter word can be so tough at times.  Br. Luke hits it directly on the head in this video.  How many times do we agree to do things, because, as people know, if you need something done, ask a busy person.  And often behind every busy person is an inability to say "no."

However, this exercise is about building a Rule of Life, about finding things that are good for us, healthy for us, that make us better able to serve God and serve others.  And sometimes, saying "no" will allow us to be in a better frame of mind, in better health, and in a better spiritual place to then be able to say "yes".

Setting boundaries, learning that you don't have to try to please everyone all the time - these are very difficult lessons for some people.  Here's a collection of articles that might be able to help.

Look at your schedule.  Look at some of the things you already know are good for you - are some of the things in your schedule interfering with your ability to do the things that are good for you?  Things like exercise, preparing healthy meals, getting enough sleep, etc.  Where do you need to say no?  And what do you need to clear away so that you can say a health "yes" to?

Lent: Thriving

Br. Nicholas expressed an excellent point in this video - which can be summed up in the KISS principle.  We'll go with the nicer version, and say that it means Keep It Short and Simple.  And the short and simple of it is, what works?  Do that.

In looking at our relationships and our interactions with others, look at what has worked best for you in the past, what has made you feel good and achieved what you want to achieve.  In most instances, it's a fairly simple solution.

I have a friend whose very first response to absolutely everything is "No."  I'm not sure if that's her method of keeping things simple, but it has led to no small amount of frustration on my part, because sometimes, what I'm asking is - at least to me - a very easy, logical, simple request.  But, I have learned that if I accept her no, and then give her a day, she thinks about it, processes it through both her brain and her huge heart, within a day, she's altered her answer.  Now, the answer may still be no, but this time, she'll have a logical argument against whatever it is.  More times than not, however, the answer is either an unqualified yes, or a qualified yes, and again, she'll have very logical and sound reasoning.  So the lesson for me in this KISS process is, don't get frustrated, just wait a day.

Part of this can also be explained through personality "types".  The one I learned is called PACE, and essentially they divide how people think and react into colors:  red (big picture, bottom line, very dynamic), blue (emotional, heart motivated), yellow (all the details, down to the very last one, very organized), and green (everything is about why).  Now, the world needs all of those colors, but in learning about someone, you learn how to communicate.  If you have a yellow person who has to talk to a red person, they're going to get really frustrated, really fast - particularly if they don't know how the other communicates.  If the yellow person is aware they're talking to a red person, they have to bite their tongue about all the details, and give an overview and the expected result - then stop.  Really hard to do, but the red person then has as much information as they need and want - because they actually trust that the yellow person knows and has done their job in all the details that they can't stand - to make a decision.

Think about your relationships with others.  What makes you thrive?  What feeds your soul?  What nurtures you and helps you grow?

Do that.

Lent: Conflict Resolution

In today's world, the opinions expressed by Br. John in the video are not uncommon.  Conflict, differences of opinion, holding viewpoints that contrast with our own - these are reasons to end relationships, not learn from them.

When I was growing up, my father, the social historian, taught us both history and rhetoric as dinner table conversation.  He would bring up a particular conflict in history, and we would have to be able to argue either side of that conflict from the point of view assigned to us.  This required that we get to know the why people had various opinions and positions.  And in learning this, we learned that in arguments there are always at least two sides to things, often more.  So for me, every argument was an excellent opportunity to learn about people, and particularly about the person I was arguing with.  It was fun.  And both sides gained from the experience.  Unfortunately, most people tend to view conflicts as what I call a fight.  And I will avoid fights as much as possible, because they're never fun, and generally, both sides lose, not just the particular conflict, but respect for one another, and feelings get hurt.

So let's put this back into the religious forum, into the creation of your Rule of Life.  There are certainly some instances where a fight is definitely an instance where something is wrong and needs to be corrected.  A friend posted the meme here at the side, and we can see that Christ, one of the most peace-loving, willing to explain and teach and talk about anything kind of people, was willing to fight to right a wrong.

But also think about His normal mode of being.  He didn't exactly hang out with people who likely shared His points of view.  But he didn't get into conflicts with them either.  He talked, He taught, He listened and learned what was important to them, and where they were coming from, so that He knew how to teach them what they needed to know.

Looking at the chart you've been working on regarding relationships and where they need to be strengthened and nurtured, go ahead and ask yourself the question, WWJD, and see if you can emulate our greatest teacher in the process.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Lent: Unconditional Love

This video deals with a subject that pretty much all of us deal with at one point or another.  And usually, we approach the concept of "unconditional love" from the point that, Jesus gave His love unconditionally, and we must strive to emulate that.  Certainly, that is true, and WWJD (What would Jesus Do?) is absolutely something to consider in all aspects of your life.

But!  For today, I want you to think about people in your own life - parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, teachers, mentors, etc. - and figure out who has provided you with what felt to you like unconditional love and acceptance, support and belonging?  Think back on times with them, and how you felt.  What did they do differently than other people?  What did you do differently that allowed you to accept that love from them?

Because Br. Robert is correct - we are often our own worst enemy when it comes to being able to accept unconditional love.

So now take it the next step.  Have you accepted the unconditional love that Christ brings to you?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lent: Connections

In this phase of the Lenten study with SSJE, we are once again given a worksheet to do in conjunction with the video.   Go ahead and borrow your kids' crayons, or take out your colored pencils, and think about this, work on the worksheet, and figure out your own connections, good, bad, indifferent - healthy, needing improvement, needing a start.

In some ways, we can be reminded of the statement at the end of the tablet on the Statue of Liberty:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

And while we, as Americans, welcome these people in, we, as Christians, must welcome them with the love of Christ.  How many of us, legitimately worried about the safety of our country and shores, have forgotten that Christian duty - the commandment of Christ - to love?

So think about your connections, and where you haven't built connections yet.  Honestly look at how you can expand your circles just a little bit further to fulfill the commandment.  And write it down.

Lent: "Dis-ing"

This video talks about organizing your own life, and to ensure that you maintain a healthy balance, to appreciate those things that our senses remind us of.

The rule about no disrespecting a creation of God, no focusing on disadvantages, not being disagreeable just for the sake of doing so, sowing discord - those are good things.  If you must focus on dis words, try being a disciple, practicing the discipline it takes to create good habits, and discovering how to find that healthy balance to be as God intended us.

Lent: Whole Self

This video reminds us that life includes body, mind and spirit - just because we're looking at the spirit in this aspect of developing a Rule of Life, we shouldn't forget that God gave us a physical life, a mind, and a spirit.

We've focused a whole lot on questions dealing with the spirit, so let's look at some of the questions dealing with the mind and the body.

What do you do for fun?

What excites your passions and heads you off to pursue some thing or another?

What catches your attention, and makes you decide to explore a topic further?

What gets your blood pumping and your body moving (minds out of the gutter please, this is a church blog *grin*), and makes you want to move some more?

What's going to contribute to the wellness of your whole self?

Lent: Through God's Eyes

Wow!  This video provides a really awesome exercise, to map yourself, your body, inside and out - through the eyes of God, the eyes of a parent who loves you unconditionally.

So, if it's a bit chilly outside, here's a focus for you to sit and meditate (You can allow the music to play or mute it, your preference).  Do the exercise - it won't take too long - just as long as it takes.

Now, how do you feel?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lent: Creativity

This video talks about inspiration, and how that can be expressed through prayer that may come out in creative ways - through song or art or arranging your room differently.  Creativity doesn't have to be something others might appreciate, but rather what has inspired you to do something different, to express yourself in a new way.

Think about the creativity involved in God's creation of the world.  There's a wide variety of beauty; but then there's also the science and intricacies involved in life, the biological mechanisms and how things work; there are puzzles to figure out; hidden places to explore; planetary bodies that share their light with us in a myriad of ways; cycles of life around us everywhere.  In everything there is creativity in the creation and in the discovery.

So today, what has inspired you?  And what did you *do* with that inspiration?

Lent: Blessings in Frailties

This video brings to mind a lesson that I was blessed to learn a couple decades ago.  This blog will be a little more personal, but in it, I'd like you to think about your own weaknesses or frailties that you can turn around into blessings in your own life.

Many years ago, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  And initially, it wasn't too bad - just something I needed to watch and occasionally take medication for, take things a little bit easier.  But as time passed, my hands became deformed, I had to cut my waist-length hair, 'cause I couldn't hold a brush long enough to brush it out, I had to get up earlier so I had time to get the same things done in the mornings that needed to be done.  And I found myself taking a whole lot of medicine, and needing a whole lot of help.  I began to worry that I would have to change jobs, because typing hurt and writing was impossible.

As anyone with chronic pain knows, we are not pleasant people to be around.  We snap or react sharply simply because we're in pain - not because we are angry at the person being snapped at.

Fortunately, I had some really good friends and family, and I learned how to ask for help, and how to graciously accept it (there was the hard part).  I learned that I couldn't do it all, and that as much as I did for others in the past, they now had the opportunity to do things to help me - I was their blessing!  And I learned that RA can be as a result of judging oneself too harshly - not accepting who you are as being worthy.  Now that took a lot of work, but eventually, my hands straightened out, I took less and less medication, and learned to accept that I was okay, just as who I was, and that God loved me as that person.  I let my hair grow back out (can you tell I missed it?), and eventually, got back to "normal".

But things had changed.  I had been blessed with lessons in asking for and accepting help, with learning to like myself as I was, with an appreciation for the life that God gave me.  I no longer take medication (unless I forget all those lessons and completely over-do what I'm capable of), and I remember those lessons and am grateful, every day.

So what blessings do you have in your life?

Lent: Your Body

This video discusses how to, as the desert fathers advised, "descend from our heads into our hearts and to live in our bodies."  There is so much emphasis on appearance in our media these days.  But this isn't what Br. Nicholas is talking about.

Many people have heard the phrase that "your body is a temple," but do you know the origin of the whole quote?
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.  - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
 So we actually have a spiritual reason to be taking care of our bodies.  Part of that includes eating the proper foods - not junk food.  Part of that is finding an exercise (or several) you enjoy, to exercise the body you've been given.  And if you have difficulty with doing those things, perhaps making note that the body we have is just a loaner, and we need to turn it in, in good condition when we're done, may help you do that.

There was an interesting experiment that a high school student did.  It's worth a watch.  Some of the language can be a bit objectionable, but think about how teenagers can occasionally react to things.  And how we ourselves react at times.

Lent: Loving Yourself

We're going to play catch-up here for a little bit, so there may be several blogs posted in a day.  Both SSJE and I have been having technical difficulties.

In cooperating with God's love, we learn that important lesson on how to love yourself - and how others can help you accomplish that.  There are so many times that we have allowed those weeds in our souls to flourish, and to occasionally drown out the voice of God that we are "precious and honored" in God's sight.  So this is to help you learn to listen for the voice of God, and do some weeding.

SSJE is doing this work in Phases, and we have entered Phase 3.  Your homework comes all on one worksheet, but it's going to require thought and prayer and maybe even some meditation.  Be honest with yourself - don't say what you think the world wants to hear, but rather what you actually believe.  Take a look at the Phase 3 Exercise, print yourself out a copy and work on it through this week.