Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blessings Abound

as 2013 comes to an end, my thoughts turn to all the blessings in my life, and i am filled with a deep sense of gratitude.  in my morning meditation, i thought of my wife, of our children and their spouses, of our neighbors, of our many friends--especially of those in our church, of those whose blogs i follow, of local charities and international charities--of the Haiti Education, the Clinton, the Calvert Foundations, of Heifer International, of Solar Under the Sun and Living Waters of the World--of those who seek to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to give water to the thirsty as they serve in our government, of president obama and the good he has tried to do, of all those who seek to relieve suffering in the world.  there are so many who to do good in the world, and i am grateful to all of them.

how wonderful life is because of the efforts of those who live lives of lovingkindness and compassion.  as we begin 2014, may we all redouble our efforts to live so that others may look to us in gratitude, may we make it our goal to relieve suffering where we can and to assist others to lessen the burdens of others.  may we live each day gratefully for the air we breathe and for the oppotunity to enlarge our minds and hearts.  shalom.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Joy to the World

though this will be posted to my blog on christmas eve, i'm writing one day earlier.  on christmas eve, my family will be together to celebrate our christmas together--perhaps the last time we'll be able to do this, as my 95-year-old father will be moving into an assisted living facility about 12 hours away so his wife can be closer to her family--and i will play for two christmas eve services.  all that activity will leave no time for writing.

today, as i sit in my office at the church, i look back on how life has changed for me during the past year.  i realize that i am much more at peace with myself and with those around me.  petty irritations still get under my skin, but i now see that they are exactly that: "petty."  i am more aware of my kinship with others, more cognizant of how much more we are all alike than we are different.  i am not as prone to be offended by the speech and actions of others or as demanding for recognition.  when someone treats me badly, i can feel the first surge of anger subsiding to be replaced by a vision of that person as a suffering child or as someone dear to me who could easily be my sibling, my parent, or my own child.  i often find myself saying, "if this person were my mother or my child, would i become angry so easily?"

this realization of our interconnectedness has changed my outlook on life, and i know that much of this change in my heart and mind has come about because of the time i've spent in meditation.  the ability to put things in perspective has helped me to be more appreciative of others, to feel a deep sense of calm, and to be more kind.  i can see, too, that my change in point-of-view has had an effect on the behavior of others.  i feel much more loved and appreciated by those nearest me, and i sense that they act more lovingly towards me.

my prayer for myself and for each of you this day and each day is that we all perceive a deep connection to those around us, treating them, even when they don't deserve it, as we want to be treated.  may the joy of this season of love bring you and me a happiness that transcends the momentary sufferings we experience and a calm that doesn't waste time classifying live's events as "good" or "bad," but simply as part of the natural fabric of life.  shalom.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Go Thou and Do Likewise

while we've been traveling during the past couple of weeks, i've been unable to post to this blog.  i had every intention of keeping up my each-tuesday posts during our trip, but somehow this didn't happen--jet lag, internet availability, erratic schedules, and just plain fatigue all interfered with my good intentions.  now that we've returned to the states, i'll do my best to return to my weekly schedule.

there are many things i want to write about, but as i reflect back on our trip, one thing sticks in my mind:  the amazing kindnesses of strangers in other lands.  this has been true on every trip we've taken outside the united states, and this trip was no exception.  as we traveled on a local train outside salzburg on our way to oberndorf to visit the "stille nacht" church, a kind austrian lady picked up on our uncertainty about where to disembark and where to go once we did get off the train.  in flawless english she answered every question.  with her help, we left the train at the proper stop, and, as we stepped down, another austrian couple introduced themselves and offered to escort us to the church, as they were making their annual pilgrimage there.

as we walked along, they explained that they live near vienna and come to salzburg every december for the christmas markets and concerts.  they always make a trip out to oberndorf to visit this little chapel built to commemorate the creation of the world's best-loved christmas song, and it was our good fortune to choose to make our pilgrimage on the day they had chosen.  we had a wonderful time visiting with them and learned through them that we could cross a bridge over the salzach river into the town of laufen, germany, and cross another bridge back into austria on the other side of laufen.  we four made this long trek together, and this time with these former strangers, now friends, is one of our fondest memories of our trip to germany, austria, and switzerland.

there are many other instances of such kindnesses that i could tell, but this one serves to illustrate how much we are all the same and how there are always others along our paths that are ready to help us.  my prayer today is that you and i can be one of those who find ourselves on the side of the path
 when another needs our help.  may we be the "good samaritan" for another this day.  shalom.