Friday, July 25, 2014

The Birch Trees

I grew up in the Bronx until the 7th grade.  We moved to the suburbs with a house, trees and a lawn.  We had five beartiful birch trees in our front yard in White Plains, NY.  We did not know that birch does not have deep enough roots to keep them up when they grow big.  Within the first five years there we lost all our birch trees.  Our front yard looked so barren.  But behind many a disaster or disappointment, there can be a new opportunity.  My Mom and Dad became flower gardeners.  They had to learn the basics. They were City people, as in cement everywhere.  They learned.  The place of the birch trees became the most beautiful garden in our neighborhood.  It was always a pleasure to come home on visits and see the multi-colors of the flowers in the summer.  Stuff happens.  But it allows for something new.  Unless of course, you want to whine forever about loss and change.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

An Enemy Hath Done This

I was 23 years old with a semester to go for my Ivy League MBA.  I had a girlfriend, the love of my life.  I was a good boyfriend.  Come the following Valentine's Day, I sent her flowers and a card.  She lived in another state and I had not seen her since Christmas.  No Valentine response came my way.  What is up?  I called.  She had another boyfriend.  I was out.  My heart was broken.  Tears.  My life was over.  What did I do?  An enemy hath done this.  I got a job offer to move to Chicago.  I took it.  I had never been to Chicago, but I wanted to move away from New York and bad vibes.  In Chicago, I met the Paulist Fathers for the first time.  They were just around the corner from my office.  I used to go to weekday mass at times.  After two Chicago winters, I moved to San Francisco and another job.  Who is at the downtown parish near my office?  The Paulist Fathers.  Six years after the breakup, I joined the Paulists.  It took six years, so God did not get me on the rebound.  The rest is history.  I was meant to be a Paulist priest.  So when bad stuff happens, wait.  God is at work.  People dumped Jesus when he was crucified.  Should'a waited, no? Some of the best stuff comes after the most painful of messes.  Of course, some people wish my girlfriend had married me, so that they would not have to listen to my drivel sermons or see these blogs.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

First Things First

In the Twelve Steps of recovery, there is a specific sequence.  Thus they are called steps.  You take one before the other.  Step eleven says you pray.  Step twelve says you help others.  Notice that prayer precedes action.  This is the teaching of countless spiritual teachers for centuries.  Without a spiritual connection to God, in my case, I will not be really helpful to others.  Prayer puts me in touch with my faults.  Prayer diminishes the power of my faults to do harm to others, while I think I am helping them.  This is a prayer more of meditation and self-reflection, rather than talking with a lot of words.  It helps to know our faults.  Earlier steps in the Twelve Step process does that for the addicted person.  A daily examination of conscience is what I use.  I have my scriptures too.  It all helps.  Do less for others if you are doing little for your interior life.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Day At A Time

I met an alcoholic once who said that he might drink again someday, but it won't be today.  This has stuck with me.  The alcoholic was in a recovery program that gives him things to do today so as to stay sober today.  These efforts have little shelf life.  Tomorrow, the alcoholic will have to do some or all of the same things to stay sober tomorrow.  But this fellow was not thinking about tomorrow.  Today was the focus.  I think it is a good way for me to live.  I cannot drive safely today, with seat belt on, car maintained, so as to not have an accident tomorrow.  I drive safely today for today.  I may give up running someday, but not today.  Now some people take dope, just for today, to feel good or better than without dope.  That is doing something unhealthy on a daily basis, just like my friend who used to drink on a daily basis to gain some effect.  I guess the effect wore off, or turned on him before he died.  Apparently the buzz has little shelf life too and tomorrow you have to start all over again to maintain your insanity.  And people say I am crazy for running at my age.  Good grief!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lace Up

If I want to go out for a run, an essential part of the run is to lace up my shoes.  Now if the laces are completely off the shoe, it will take some time, patience and effort to get the laces on.  If the laces are on but loose from a recent previous run, then I lace up much more easily.  It is much the same way with prayer and the spiritual life.  If I am completely separate from a life of prayer, due to neglect, upbringing, lack of interest, I am unlaced spiritually.  I need to find a prayer that fits me at this particular stage of my journey, just like a runner has to find the shoe that fits.  Then I need to set aside some time.  I will need patience and effort as I begin this life of prayer.  A daily dose plus a log or prayer journal might help too, just like a runner records their workouts…a serious runner of course.  You are serious about your initiation into prayer, are you not?  You might then want to find a coach or mentor, someone who has been there and can give you some feedback.  Of course, when my running shoe laces break, I just get angry with God.  It is better to have a second pair of running shoes, than to get angry with God.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Love Affair

The monastery experience is a love affair with God.  Quiet, still prayer in solitude with God is making love, the experience of intimacy.  It can stay with me all day long.  God is always ready for me.  When I stop thinking about me and my miseries long enough, I can enjoy this love relationship.  I have to make room for the relationship.  It does not happen without effort and priority choosing.  I get up very early.  I give up some other things, that I count as less important.  I give time and space to God.  God is a lover, but sometimes a bit shy.  God waits.  Why do I put off this opportunity with God for some other trite choice.  Insanity?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blame God

One of God's jobs is to take the blame when something bad happens and a loved one dies.  It is very difficult to be angry the rest of your life with a dead person you love.  It is easier to blame God.  A child dies in a car accident.  Two other people were in the car who wore their seat belts.  They had minor bruises.  Your child did not.  Your child died.  You simply cannot go through the rest of your life being angry with your child for not wearing the seat belt.  Being angry with God is the short term solution.  The long term issue is that when we die, we will see God, who we have dropped due to some painful event in our lives.  We will also see all our loved ones…in God's embrace.  God loves.  God does not make car accidents, or job losses, or cancer.  Maybe I am a polyanna about the afterlife, but this is how I see it for me.  We can drop God, but that does not make God go away.