Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Just When I Need . . .

my wife and i have just returned from europe, where we spent time in germany, italy, and austria, as well as making one very quick trip into the czech republic.  we traveled with another couple, and i had planned to continue posting to my blog on the tuesdays we were traveling.  our circumstances didn't allow that; sometimes we had little or no internet access, sometimes our apartments didn't allow the privacy i needed, and often i was so tired that i didn't have the energy to stay up late or get up early to write.  as we went along, i thought frequently about the need to write about an experience, so today i will tell about one of the people we met along the way.

it was my job to plann our trip, figuring out all the train connections, securing seat reservations when needed, finding apartments, ordering rail and transit passes, booking tours.  i felt a great responsibility for the success of the trip and found myself worrying about the details as we traveled.  when we needed to travel to munich to catch our train to rome after staying in a small southern bavarian town the first few days of the trip, we were to arrive at the munich station on a small regional train and find our train to rome within only fifteen minutes.  as we approached munich a young man sitting accross the aisle from me asked where we were from, and this led to a conversation about our trip and his studies to complete a degree in psychology.  when he learned i was anxious about finding our train in the large, unfamiliar station, he offered to escort us, as he had a longer wait for his next train and was well acquainted with the munich hauptbahnhof.  what a wonderful sense of relief his offer was!  i had worried throughout the preceding night about catching the train to rome.  it was a popular route, seat reservations were hard to come by and expensive, and missing the train would have made us arrive in rome late in the evening.  as he walked with my wife through the train station, the rest of us trailing behind with our luggage, he told her that he was grateful that he had run into us, because he had a chance to practice his english with americans, a rare opportunity for him, and we were certainly grateful that he was there just when we needed his help.  even with his guidance, we just made our train.  had he not appeared and made his offer, we would never have made the train.

once we settled in to our seats, my wife and i said in the same breath, "that young man was an answer to prayer--an angel placed in our path."  this experience was repeated often on our trip, and in my next post, i'll write about a young man we met on the train to rome.  i often think that we shouldn't ask god to help solve the petty problems of our day to day lives, and i seldom pray for such help.  even without praying for help in making our train connection, i realized that God was present, probably chuckling over my anxious, fretting mind and wondering why i didn't simply trust that when help was needed it would be provided, even without asking for it.

so often this is the case in our lives.  my prayer for each of us this day is that we learn that God is alway present in each moment, always ready to give us the help we need, and sometimes providing help we didn't expect through circumstances that don't go as we had hoped and planned.  shalom.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Be to the Helpless a Helper Indeed

"intentions" are something i've been thinking about lately.  as i've examined my actions and the reasons for them, i've discovered much of the time i do things because they seem to be the "right" thing to do.  the reason i perform the "right" action isn't as much because i want to help another, but because i feel duty-bound in act in the right way.  i wonder if doing the right thing out of a sense of duty is beneficial to me and if the receiver of my action perceives that i'm not acting out of love, but instead am acting in what i perceive to be my own best interest.  after all, if i fulfill my responsibility to act in the right way, to perform the caring action, aren't i putting "stars in my crown," amassing "good karma" to my own credit?

the right intention is probably as important as the right action.  when i act primarily because it helps me, the receiver of the action is not the one who is the center of the action, but rather the focus is on the doer: me.  i've spent some time praying that my heart would become that of a servant whose focus is on the person being helped, not on the person doing the helping.  perhaps that is why right intention follows immediately after right view in the eight-fold path.  right action comes further along the path and right effort even further along.  if i am to act in true loving-kindness, i must set "self" aside in favor of focusing on the "other" toward whom loving-kindness is directed.

my prayer for myself and for others continues to be that we will all be transformed, becoming true servants, serving others out of love for them, not serving others because it is beneficial for us.  isn't this what jesus was teaching peter when jesus insisted on washing peter's feet over peter's protests?  shalom.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fear Not, Little Flock

a few nights ago, i dreamed that a man was stalking me.  i was terribly afraid of this anonymous man, and as i was in my bathroom preparing for bed, i saw his face in the frosted glass of the bathroom window.  my fear took my breath away, and i could get no words to form in my mouth as i gasped for air.  finally, i was able to say aloud, "go away!"  the man disappeared, and i awoke struggling for breath with my heart racing.  i'm sure that the genesis of this dream was a detective novel i'm reading, and i'm not interested in the psychological meaning of the dream.

what interests me is the relief i felt as i woke more fully from the dream to realize that what i experienced was not real.  how often we live with needless anxieties that interfere with the enjoyment of life.  our fears stalk us as the man did in my dream, and we have but to say "go away" to see those fears disappear, and the calm relief that replaces them reminds how lovely life is.

soon my wife and i will leave on a trip to europe.  i have been frantically planning, worrying over railway timetables, investigating the best way to see the most with the least effort, debating what we will have time to do and what we must leave for another trip.  in all that, my fears that i'm making wrong decisions, my anxieties about getting confirmations of all our reservations have caused me to lose sight of the joy that we can experience as we see new sights and meet new friends.  these worries have overtaken the fun of planning the trip and remembering that even when plans go awry, those unplanned difficulties often present opportunities to have experiences we would otherwise miss.

i forgot for a few days that joy is in the present moment, not in some future that may never come to be.  my prayer for myself and you is that we will be reminded that all is well, even when that doesn't appear to be so, and that all we have is this moment given for our enjoyment.  shalom.