Tuesday, November 26, 2013

When the Question Is More Important that the Answer

i'm writing this on a saturday evening because my wife and i should be landing in germany on tuesday morning.  i say "should" since we may have some messy winter weather in our part of the country sunday afternoon into monday.  our flight is scheduled to depart on monday afternoon, and, if the predicted weather arrives, we may not be able to make it to the airport.  if we do, our flight may be delayed or cancelled.  on top of this uncertainty, my wife has come down with a cold--sniffles, cough, sore throat, but fortunately no fever--and is sleeping now after having taking something to help ease her symptoms.

ordinarily, i would feel quite stressed by this turn of events, but tonight i'm experiencing a deep peace.  i'm ok with whatever happens, because i know that it is simply a part of life.  weather and colds happen; they are neither good nor bad; they just "are."  if our flight is cancelled, there will be another.  somehow, we'll be able to reach the airport.  sooner or later, the cold will ease and the medicine will relieve the runny nose and cough.  we might miss a day in germany, but we may see some beautiful snow around here in its place.

in this quiet time, i've been catching up on some other blogs, and several of them have addressed what happens when an individual life comes to an end.  i've never been too concerned about heaven or the "afterlife."  spending eternity in a huge city where there are golden streets and gem-encrusted city walls, where the elect spend all their time singing in a celestial choir, has little appeal to me.  the idea that i might be reborn and have another go at trying to do better sounds much more attractive.  i have no way of knowing if that's any more likely than the traditional christian view of what happens after death, and i'm in no hurry to find out.  it's enough to try and figure out this current lifetime.

i spent much of my morning meditation contemplating the possibility that every person i encounter is related to me through some previous life.  could the next person i see have been at some time my mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter?  wouldn't it be wonderful if we are all the same--neither male nor female, jew nor greek?  how does the possibility of such kinship change how i view those others who are not really "others?"

my prayers for each of us tonight are that we experience the even-minded peace and calm that allow us to accept and appreciate life as it comes to us, that we open our minds to the possibilities that flow from not having all the answers.  may freedom from stress in the face of uncertainty and the joy of exploring many alternatives to the meaning of life excite our minds and enliven us.  shalom.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Through All the Changing Scenes of Life

my dad is facing a tough decision concerning his living situation, and my heart is aching for him.  today is his 95th birthday, and he may have to separate from his wife, my step-mother, because of her deteriorating mental condition.  it is not a choice he wants to make, but her care and her own family's abiity to care for her may force him to live apart from her.  he is in excellent health for a person his age; his mind is keen and is able to care for himself and live independently.  he still believes that he can provide care for his wife, but her worsening condition makes that impossible, and he is unable to accept what is happening.

soon i must call my brother and sister to advise them of what is happening and to solicit their help in coming to a decision on how best to help our dad.  then, we must find a way to approach him so that he sees that what he wants to happen is not going to happen and to provide whatever support we can to help him decide on his own future.  he is strong but i know that his heart will break if his wife must go to live near her family.  such an event will mean that he will probably never see her again, and, if he does, she may no longer recognize him.   already, she has periods when she does not know him, and the doctors say that these periods will become more frequent and long-lasting.

it's tough when someone you love will be put in a situation where you are powerless to prevent them being hurt and there is little you can do to ease their suffering.  i suppose in my dad's case, the best we can do for him is to let him know we hurt with him and for him, and that we will try to find a new home for him that will enable him to live securely near one of us.

my prayer today is that all those who are going through changes in their lives that they wish could be avoided will find the inner strength to deal with those changes.  may they think clearly and choose the best path, and may those of us who love them support and care for them in whatever ways we can.  shalom.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Follow with Reverent Steps the Great Example

this week's post is a day late, and there are many things i'd like to say in it.  i'll try to focus on just one theme, though.  a few days ago as i rode my bike through the park, i thought of the meaning of worship and how often the words "worship" and "service" are tied together in the christian religion; christians often speak of a "worship service," meaning the gathering together for the purpose of worship.

as i rode along, i recalled a poem by john greenleaf whittier that was at one time included in most every american hymnal.  these lines ended the first stanza: "to worship rightly is to love each other, each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer."  that hymn has fallen into disuse because of the exclusionary opening line ("o brother man, fold to thy heart thy brother"), but it contains so much of the essence of true religion (not just the christian expression of such religion) that i wish we could sing the hymn frequently.

a central teaching of any true religion (and the foundation of any moral code for those who reject religion altogether) is the abandonment of "me" as the starting point.  in christianity that concept is expressed in the teachings that "whoever would be great among you, must become a servant" (mark 10:43) and "in order to save one's life, one must lose it" (mark 8:35).  jesus taught that in serving others, one serves God, that worship and loving service are inseparable, that they are, in fact, the same thing.

one of our ministers recently wrote a blog about our motives when we pray.  so often our prayers are centered on ourselves, whereas the right intention should be to make mindfulness of God the reason for prayer.  right mindfulness in prayer isn't about how one benefits from having prayed; it is about being so mindful of the presence of God in our lives that one must pray in order to allow God to speak to us, to spend time concentrating on the Divine to the exclusion of all other concerns.

my prayer for each of us today is that we allow our needs to become so enmeshed with the needs of others that we become one with them.  may we fill our lives with love for one another, with smiles for one another, with kindly deeds for one another.  shalom.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sufficient to the Day

the past several weeks have been filled with tons of work.  i serve as our local symphony's librarian, which means that, in addition to maintaining our library of music, i must see that music is ready for rehearsals for each performance.  this entails ordering any music not already in our library and distributing the music for the upcoming concert to the principal string players to have bowing marked in it.  once that is done, i must then get copies of the music to all the string players so they have time to prepare before the first rehearsal.  parts have to be distributed to all the wind and percussion players, and folders made up for every stand before the first rehearsal.  because we are a regional orchestra, players come from a wide geographic area, so lots of music must be mailed which requires many envelopes being addressed and many trips to the post office.  once a concert is completed, all the music must be collected, sorted, and filed away or returned to the company from which it was rented, since some music is not available for purchase to add to our library.   because we've expanded our season, doubling the number of concerts from past seasons, this work has increased exponentially.

in addition to my job as the symphony librarian, i am serving as the interim music director in my church.  this means i am responsible for playing for all services, preparing the choir for each service, planning the music for all services, and working with other staff members to coordinate the church's ministries.  i find myself at the church most every day for several hours practicing and planning.

i often tell people that i'm ready to "retire from retirement."  the work load has been daunting at times, though it is all work i love and believe is important.  one of the things i try to guard against is trying to cram too much into each day.  as i begin each day, i remind myself that there are only so many hours in the day and that i must focus on each task as it comes to me without worrying about those things that are going undone.  i must set priorities and do what is most necessary first without worrying about the work that can come later, and, perhaps most importantly, i must not fill every waking hour with work; i must reserve some time that is relaxation time, like the time i'm spending now.

when i'm able to order my work in this way, i find that the time available is sufficient.  it is only when i allow the volume of work ahead to overwhelm me that i moan and fret about how much there is to be done that i want to throw up my hands and walk away from it all.  as i look ahead, i see that many of the responsibilities that i have in addition to the work i've discussed above (like serving on our church board, chairing committees, and the like) will soon come to an end as my term expires, and that will ease my work load enormously.  i try to recall that there will be ample time to accomplish those things that are important and that everything can't be done at once.

my prayer for myself and for you is that we each rejoice in the work we're given, learning to appreciate the joy that we find in doing work that is important and fulfilling.  may we each relish each moment we spend in tasks that contribute to the well-being and happiness of others and make our work a joyful offering of service.  shalom.