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From the Pastor’s Heart, Sept. 25th
In difficult times, carry something beautiful in your heart. – Blaise Pascal
I never thought I would understand much of Blaise Pascal’s work. After all he was a mathematician, an area where I have no natural abilities (my brother got all those genes). He did, however invent the mechanical calculator, something I certainly would have needed in his time.
But the words he wrote that are quoted above, resonate with me in these days. We are all making our way through-the disappointments of trips and visits cancelled or deferred; life events that had drastic modifications or were also cancelled or postponed; the time spent on back patios with friends or even going to a movie- much less attending in person worship. We have all had to reorient ourselves to find meaning in new ways-in FaceTime and Zoom gatherings, in phone calls and cards, in being with others masked and socially distanced. It is hard work, reshaping our lives, adjusting our daily routines. And sometimes we are just weary of it all.
But for me, anyway, then something beautiful happens. A card or call comes. Someone reaches out. The breeze is gentle and cool. A pepper is ready to pick and eat. A flower blooms. The sky is clear and blue. To hold these beautiful things in our hearts is not hard work at all. We just have to remember to do it.
One thing I have held in my heart for days now, is the phone call I received when my grandson said, “Gamma? Gamma?” for the first time. When days are long or hard, when the uncertainty of this time overwhelms, I pull out the sound of his voice, and I am reminded of all the beauty that is still around me.
Look and listen for what is beautiful in this time. Hold onto it. For each of you are part of what I am holding onto as well.
Serving Jesus with you,
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger…
Recently, I was in a Zoom meeting with our faith leaders here in Rio Rancho, and we were discussing ways that we could be proactive together in making our city a better place than it already is. As you might guess there we as many thoughts and opinions and ideas about this as there were participants. But as we talked, we started sharing more of our stories, more of our lives, and by listening to these we began to understand one another better. I believe that in this group, the more we listen to each other, the more common ground and common purpose and direction we will find.
It is amazing what happens when we listen. Not listening for what we want to hear, or listening in anticipation of disagreement, or waiting for our turn to talk. But really listening to understand. Thanks to the internet and 24 hour news cycles we are inundated, not only with news, but with analyses, opinions, and all the comments that follow. It can be hard to listen…at times we may wish our ears would fall off.
But, when we listen to each other as people as individuals, hear their stories, their experiences, something extraordinary happens. Our world opens to things we might never see or experience on our own. We begin to understand how people become who they are, why they view the world in the way they do. And then we begin to find our common humanity.
Lest you think we all just need to join hands and sing Kum Bah Yah, no, this is not easy work. It means setting ourselves to one side, so that we hear everything someone has to say. Even if it isn’t the same as our experience; even if it might be hard for us to hear. But when we love, one of the greatest ways we can love is to truly listen to one another.
Listening to and with you,
Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together.
-Ephesians 4: 2-3, Good News Translation
We’ve all seen the videos: someone going off on someone else about something. Lately it has been around wearing the protective face masks. In some ways, it is understandable. This have been going on for six months now, with the ending time uncertain. And none of us are patient with uncertainty. Which is why, when this verse came up in my daily prayer discipline, I stopped. I asked myself- are these gifts I am nurturing in myself? Humility? Gentleness? Patience? Tolerance (actually, more than tolerance-seeking to understand)? And my honest answer is yes, but certainly not enough for what these days ask of us all.
To seek the growth of these gifts is to build up the church. Even when we are dispersed. Especially when we are dispersed. The unity we share in Jesus Christ, given to us by the Spirit can be strained when we are not physically present with one another, when our lives are limited by circumstances beyond our control. We cannot stop the work of strengthening and supporting the body of Christ just because we do not see each other each week. And every part of the body is needed for us to remain strong.
So, I have worked to be mindful of these gifts within me that need to grow and be shared. Still, some days are better than others. But this work allows God lead me in this time, and that has been a help to me.
Then I am reminded of these words from Isaiah 40: 28: but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Waiting with you,
Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill thelaw of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Every once in awhile this verse gets stuck in my head. When it does, I have come to learn to listen to it. Because more often than not, when it comes tome, it is a time when I am pretty self-absorbed or have what we have come to know as compassion fatigue. I’m weary and feeling sorry for myself.
And what is God’s answer? Carry other people’s burdens? When I’m already worn out? When I’m busy thinking about me and my problems? It’s a pretty harsh thing to not commiserate, but rather call me out on my attitude.
But the other truth of this is, when I am putting others’ interests ahead of my own, listening to understand, helping a neighbor however I can, my weariness is less. My pity party seems pretty unnecessary. And then along comes someone, who will do for me what I’ve been doing for someone else. We bear one another’s burdens. It’s about mutuality and interdependence.
I can come to realize that Galatians 6:2 is God’s way of telling me to get out of my own head and look around, listen, be attentive to the precious people call or email or text, or even at times show up in their mask. For when I do that I am really living.Is there a verse that really speaks to you? I’d love to hear about it.
Walking this road with you,