Greetings to All in the Kaffeeklatsch!
There seems to be a thread running through recent entries in this “Stump the Chaps” series: Where are we individually, in relationship, in community [familial, local, national-political, and – with respect to the Higher Power that we either acknowledge or dismiss]? How did we get here? If we don’t like where we are, how do we either find our way back, or move forward to something new?
As we’ve seen, a focus on personal, individual, self- defined identity -which may or may not connect to shared group expectations, can make us feel either empowered or isolated. The isolation in this personalized focus can be a force for harm; to self or others. In our last conversation, I put it forward that “the other f-word” (faith) in God – or gravity – can help us begin to step out of self-containment into awareness of others.
That awareness can open doors to encounter, person-to-person, that can change us. A fill-in assignment as a pastoral care volunteer at my local hospital ultimately led to my training, certification, and employment as a chaplain. This work wasn’t just “what I did”, it called forth who I am. It became a true gift.
A sense of calling/vocation in what we do can insulate us somewhat from one of the hidden costs of material prosperity: an unrealistic sense of self-sufficiency that may blind us to the interconnectedness that often accompanies the ‘self-made’ man or woman. St. Teresa of Calcutta used to talk about the “spiritual poverty” of the West; the inability to connect with others in love, that stems from a lack of connection to God. This spiritual disconnect can be lived-out in a lack of gratitude, too.
Those of us who consider prayer as part of our spiritual lives are probably familiar with a trajectory that includes:
-Placing oneself in the Presence.
-Petition (self) and/or
I starred the last element as a reminder to myself. The gospel reading for my faith community this weekend was the account of Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers in Luke, chapter 17, verses 11-19. Jesus heals them all back into family, livelihood, and community: but only one – reckoned a half-breed by fellow Jews – returns to give thanks in faith. Jesus’ remark about this hit me in the heart – where it counts. How often do I take the gift of life, supported by family and friends on a daily basis – living in this great experiment of a constitutional republic – for granted? One of my mentors-in-print, Fr. Henri J. M. Nouwen [1932-1996], in the daybook, Bread for the Journey, offers some sustaining thoughts about cultivating gratitude as a first response:
To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes, as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections — that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you for all that has brought us to the present moment.
As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as gift of God to be grateful for.
Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”
Nouwen, Henri J. M. Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (p. 13). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition, 1997.
With thanks for the chance to ‘think out loud in pixels’ with you again,
Until next time…Peace to all!