Recognition

Outside the church we attend in downtown Charlotte are benches, and on those benches sit the homeless, mentally ill, and really poor of Charlotte. I often say to myself as I pass them by “there but for the grace of God go I.” In so doing I am wrong, for on the benches I sit in spirit as well.

There cannot be two classes in this world — The house of have and the house of have-not. There cannot be two faiths one for me and one for the people who sit on the benches. I must recognize that those I pass by are not some “poor creatures” as I have heard them called more than once. The people on those benches, the people who sleep on the steam grates of DC, or stand on a street corner of your hometown begging for food are our brothers and sisters, our flesh and blood, children of God just like you and me.
Noble sentiment Webb you might say. Noble sentiment weakened and dulled by the materialism and selfishness of this century others may blame. Noble sentiment that only can be remedied into reality by a change of looking at the world in every one of our eyes.
God asks us to open our eyes, to see the world as one community, and to paraphrase Eugene Debs — “As long as one of my brothers or sisters is imprisoned by poverty, prejudice, or neglect than I (We) are not truly free.”

Progress Not Perfection

One thing I love about the Benedictines is the phrase “We Begin Again.” Perhaps because it mirrors my diet plan philosophy so much. Yet in our spiritual life it rings true as well.

Our goal is progress not perfection. If we find it impossible to love our enemies, perhaps we should begin by loving people who love us back and then move on to people we find suspect, and finally on to people we don’t like at all.
Our salvation begins to happen when we put forth love that overcomes self-interest. If we express love merely as an investment and hope for a good return we are missing the message. Real relationships with our “neighbors” don’t encompass accounting and spreadsheets as to who owes somebody a phone call, a note, a visit, or meal, or even an apology. True love is unconditional and doesn’t need a calculator or scorecard.
Consider this in your daily meditation — “Today I plan on loving wastefully and giving recklessly. It may frighten the heck out of you, but it will make you feel more alive than your ever felt. To coin a phrase — You will be resurrected.

Certainty

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their desires. — Susan B. Anthony

The quote above is what Suzy would call a “sweeping generalization.” I am certain in lots of cases there are people who feel “called” who are not doing what they would prefer to be doing. That said, Anthony’s sweeping generalization does have a ring of truth about it.
I think most of us struggle with what God wants us to do with our life. For most, I don’t necessarily think he wants us to leave our family and homes to follow a charismatic leader like the disciples. After all there is only one Jesus. I also don’t necessarily think he is suggesting you leave your job unless you are harming others or yourself in what you do.
Our life is not just our home, our family, and our job although it may feel like it sometimes. Everyone one of us has the time and the ability to feed the poor, care for the widows and children, fight injustice, serve our “neighbors,” etc.
My suggestion is pray about it, meditate on it, talk to others about it, and then start small. Find something you are drawn to and try it in a small way. The journey to God consists of small steps, occasional detours, doubts, getting lost, and backtracking. What’s important is you keep moving toward the light.

Why Bother?

Sometimes we hear from that cartoon devil on our shoulder,  “Why Bother?” Why bother with trying to be a better person, why bother with discipleship, why bother with our fellow man? The past is ancient history and the future is going to be a disaster.  There is a lot of fun out there to be had enjoy and leave seriousness and discipline to the boring.” I like to call this the grasshopper philosophy from Aesop’s fable of the ant and the grasshopper.

There is another voice we hear from time to time, that suggests that we must suffer to be alive. The voice tries to guilt us into doing good, and suggests that we alone are selected to everlasting glory if we will only follow strict tenants of a certain religion or philosophy. Selectivity is the carrot that is tangled in front of these mules who plow the fields enriching those with the whip, and a life of exhaustion and pain is their lot. The mule is to plow straight ahead listening to the commands of his master never questioning or doubting. Even doubt can lose your place in the group of the select, the voice whispers. I call this the mule philosophy.
There is third voice that recognizes life is a struggle at times and unmitigated joy at others, sometimes at the same time. We strive for perfection and excellence knowing each day we won’t make it, but we “begin again” the next day. We confront injustice, making sure our actions always embrace compassion. We go about our day with the modesty and patience of the Saints. This is the voice of those who know that everyone’s life’s journey is not a sprint but a very long race full of detours, hills and valleys, temptations and doubts, but in the end is worth living.
There will be times we listen to and follow all three voices, but I hope for all us that we learn eventually that winter always comes to the grasshopper, being a mule is slavery to a false God, and only the third voice offers completion and authenticity.
As you begin the week ask your self which voice am I listening to these days?