Thursday, June 22, 2017

Change

We had a terrorist event in a local airport yesterday. This morning I watched a live news feed on facebook of a press conference releasing updates on the event. There was a running feed where people could comment. It was really sad to see what took place. I'm not a Pollyanna rainbows and unicorns person (ya think) so for me to be saddened by what I saw means something. First it started out with the usual fear and hate mongering, racial and religious slurs then it turned to fighting with each other, name calling, violent threats and on and on. In the meantime there's a press conference going on about the officer who was injured and follow up to the attack but by now, for some, they're too wrapped up in getting their point across and convincing people how bad it is that they're oblivious to the real concern. I finally got sick of seeing it and posted "don't really need to worry about terrorists, just look at whats going on in this feed". It got real quiet, then 2 or 3 just kept hammering on each other but with a softer approach. Some people will never get it, you won't change that, accept it and move on.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred, hatred leads to violence. Yoda said this. Not sure what the source of that line was but it's true. Behind every nasty thing I saw you could smell the fear, the whole situation just smacked of it. We live in a world where we hear about everything before it even hits the news, I searched, this event wasn't on our news at the time this took place this morning and it's 3 hours from my house. We're overloaded with every negative thing that threatens us and in an effort to keep up we have to draw some quick boundaries for self-defense. In a hasty effort to get those defenses up we formulate a profile, people of this belief, descent, look, action, whatever, are possible threats. If I keep them all away I'm safe. While there's an element of truth we over generalize. We stew about the violence and injustice and the fear turns and clouds our judgement and it grows into this monster.

The fact is there are bad things going on all around us, perpetrated by people who do bad things that are from every walk of life. We can't find them all, we can't mitigate every instance, we can't make the world right. Peace comes from one Source. We all have the capacity for peace and it takes work. Gandhi said "be the change you wish to see in the world". You can only bring peace into the world if you are at peace. Trust in God, find that peace, be the change. You will bring one of two things into the world, love or hatred, life or death. "This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live" Deuteronomy 30:19  It all starts with the Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Pounded

The chaos started to build. I was just finishing up the hourly status checks when with out warning out of nowhere a roar and explosion, followed by another, then another, the roar continued and another explosion than another. I hadn't been able to raise the front gate for a check-in and as I looked at the Chief I could see it in her eyes. She suffers from PTSD after multiple injuries from war. Smoke and fumes flooded the comms trailer as we scrambled to secure the door and windows. Then it was out the door for me as the explosions continued shaking the trailer and everything around us,
the shock waves continued to pulse through my body. As I headed in a rush towards the front gate I saw  a group of fellow soldiers huddled over someone rolled in a ball between 2 cars. I already knew it was my squad leader as we'd been through this before. She has severe PTSD. I went over to the medic and others and asked if they wanted to try to get her in the trailer but it was too far away. Eventually they decided to evacuate her from the area all together. The entire time the roar of jets and pounding explosions just continued. I stayed focused to get to the front gate to check on the troops.

This event that happened over the weekend is a parable for my life right now. It seems I've been getting pounded with devastating news. None of it's unexpected but it is life changing, not just for me but for many. There are others that are more closely effected, but we're all going through it together, each of us with our own issues. When the shelling starts there's not much you can do. They say the best way out is through. So that's what we do.... together. We're community. We do what we can to shelter, encourage, care for and assist each other knowing that when it's us on the ground paralyzed with fear there'll be our brothers and sisters to care for us. This is one of the lessons learned from the Cross. There's really only so much we can do for each other but knowing that there are those who care about us that stand with us at the foot of our cross somehow makes it bearable. The Resurrection gives us the certainty that this is not the end of us and the Eucharist is the realization that Christ is always with us and we remember that with yesterdays Feast of Corpus Christi.

After the chaos quieted down and my fellow soldiers gathered back at camp to talk and relax I approached my squad leader and she just squeezed my hand. She was doing much better. While we weren't at war it sure felt like it, and the sights and sounds took some of our best right back to when they were. The front gate was fine, everyone was accounted for, tired, hungry, wiped out from heat and stress, but no worse for the wear. While it sounds like Armageddon it was only a local air show and we had been tasked with security for the military aircraft, first aid, crowd and traffic control. The rest was all part of the show. But that just goes to show you, we can't always judge what someones going through based on our own perception. Jesus focused on the individual not the circumstances. In all that life throws at us, this is what we are about.... being there for one another. We are all in this together and no matter what uniforms we wear or don't wear we are brothers and sisters and being there for each other is an integral part of who we were created to be. There's no distinction, we are all called to serve in some form. This is in no way to endorse war, but rather to pay tribute to those that are willing to bear the burden for the many and risk the scars, picking up arms only as a last resort. This is for all the Citizen Soldiers by 3 Door Down.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Note To Self...

I was just thinking about food (it's almost dinner time here and I'm getting ready to go eat, but I do think about food a lot...) anyways I thought of my favorite veggie market. I live in a rural area and we have a farm market of sorts, more like a farm market on steroids. I don't think I've seen the whole thing because I usually make a beeline for the deli counter where they make me my very own, special, deluxe wrap. It's not just for me but you can custom order it. Anyhow, I got my wrap and as I went to pay I realized I had left my wallet in the car. There was no one waiting in line so I just left it with the cashier and told her I'd be back after I got my wallet. I already had my debit card out when I got in the door but she was standing there with my wrap in a bag and handed it to me and said "someone bought this for you" MAN!!! I'm telling you this is the hardest thing in the world for me, it's worse than accepting a compliment! I looked at the man who was standing at the cash register I was at and I said "who? Was it him?" He looked down almost embarrassed. I scanned the small area looking for the culprit. I had to thank whoever did this! I just couldn't accept it! I don't deserve this, I haven't done anything to merit this gift!! (Sound familiar, any other gifts we get that we haven't earned? I hope I don't have to spell it out) I just said loudly "Thank you, I really appreciate this!" to no one in particular but more to everyone in the whole place. Ok now I just was looking goofy so I put my head down and left. I still feel awkward. I've had people buy my meals before but usually I'm in uniform, I was just being me, I don't get it, why buy MY lunch. Anyways I'm obsessing now.

When I got home my wife said "now you have to pay it forward". We'll I know that!! but why me? Anyways I almost forget that I have to pay it forward, I just have to figure out how and who and when. I try to do nice things for people but I'm not sure I've ever bought someone lunch. Anyhow here's a video you need to see about some friends who are off the chart when it comes to helping others and being kind, they don't need a reminder to do it either. Do some research about them, get involved, figure out who you're supposed to be reaching out to if you don't already know. You are where you are for a reason. The organization is called Team Rubicon and they've got the service, mission, love thing down pat. Now I'm going to write my sticky note to remember to pay it forward. Team Rubicon

Friday, June 2, 2017

Repost

Here's a repost from nearly 2 years ago to the day... First Holy Communion and Confirmation season is here and I've got a special group of angels that will be receiving the Sacraments this weekend. Perhaps I'm reposting this because I need to be reminded, but it fits with Pentecost. I have to say I have a unique and amazing opportunity to work with people and forming new warrior saints and leading them to sacrifice it all and lay their lives on the line, the two lines that intersect. Anyhow praying for all...

Clear and Present Danger
I was watching the Johnny Depp movie Transcendence last night and something occurred to me during the previews... I love sci-fi, life and death, appocalyptic movies and I had to ask myself why. The answer I came up with is a bit revealing. The danger is clear and present. There's no doubt about the source of the threat and every fiber in our being screams "run!!!". If life we're only that simple.

We live everyday with a clear and present danger, but unfortunately in our fallen state, even though we know the danger and when it's present we're blinded to it. The presence of sin and evil does not come in a giant mountain sized lizard that destroys everything in it's path, rather it comes as a cute, cuddly, fuzzy that slowly gets under our skin and poisons us from the inside out. Rather than a swarm of ginormous space ships that come bolting in from outer space it's a small, foreign alien that comes to life from our inner space and we're left to ask "what was that and where did it come from?" Rather than fight and face down the evil that threatens to obliterate the human race we try to ignore and keep hidden the ferocious monster within that threatens to devour our soul. Often time we don't face it, we try to overcome it by sheer willpower, we try to keep it hidden away from polite company, but every once in a while it rears it's ugly head.

There's part of a Native American prayer that asks for help defeating our fiercest enemy, ourselves. St. Paul said in Romans 7:15 "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."  Romans 6:23 says the "wages of sin is death" and so it is. The devil doesn't wear a name tag and sin doesn't attack from some unknown, questionable source. It oozes up from somewhere deep within promising to fulfill a basic, primal need - security, identity, appetite, survival and it's always easier to see in someone else rather than ourselves. Someone says or does something that threatens our security or identity and we attack claiming self defense while we point out every flaw and evil thing they've ever done. We gorge ourselves on food, drink and sex because it tastes good or feels good and it doesn't really effect anyone else or does it? When we live in such a state we become a drag on humanity, we're not living up to our God given potential and we suck the life out of all around us. When we come to our senses then we become aware of who we've become when we ignore the Word He speaks to us constantly through Scripture, family, friends and creation. We lose our sense of identity, we rely only on ourselves and start making decisions based on our own judgement. Simply put when we sin we supplant God's will with our own. We basically make ourselves God. We decide we know better and we start free falling as we continue to move our lives and will away from His.

There is only one antidote. We must each day surrender our will to His. We must be transfused with His blood and take on His life. Bishop Fulton Sheen once said that when we live according to God's will dying becomes easy because we've practiced dying to self each day. But when we die to ourselves we become more alive than ever because we become the true person God created us to be. The Spirit of God, the Ruach, the Breath of God sustains us instead of the false lies and cravings of our fallen nature.

Ask God each moment to Breathe Into Me.... by Red

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Manchester

I don't know what to say anymore. What can be said to make sense of our world aside from the usual regarding evil, the devil (not capitalized on purpose, the slime's not worth it)  at work in our world, etc. The scenario I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was presented with in my disaster life support training, the one that played out in my nightmares a couple of nights ago, the one I had to try to wrap my head around, essentially this was it, involving youth and children.

Every day is a battle, to make the world a better place, to bring light into the darkness, to bring order out of chaos, hope to hopelessness, joy to sorrow. It's a tiring battle and at times downright depressing. I don't know how to win. I used to think I knew but victory is fleeting and hope is precious. Persistence, at least for me, is all I can cling to. Persistence in faith, prayer, hope and love and with it comes more bloody battles, assault from all sides and lots of time in the mud. I'm actually getting to the point where the dirt is starting to taste good but as long as I'm on face, what better position to pray.

That's all I can do anymore is pray. Pray for an answer because I don't have any. Prayers for all the victims of Manchester, for the families, friends and community. We're lost. I'm lost. I don't see a way out. Because the prayers and the olive branch seem innocuous  part of me wants to rid the earth of all those that bring death and destruction ...  but I'm reminded of the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew. I'm not the only one who's lost, so is the "enemy". We all need saving, we all need to be found so while I'm longing for great silence I hope to hear the voice that breaks that silence, breaks the hatred and the suffering and the violence. We need to hear the voice that says I'll Lead You Home by Michael W. Smith, We need to hear Him say I Will Carry You.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Balance, Breathing, and All Things Survival

I'm a Secular Third Order Franciscan. The First Order are priests, the Second Order are Nuns such as the Poor Clares and the Third Order is made up of priests that are not part of the Friars Minor or Capuchins, sisters that are Franciscan but don't live in the cloisters like the Poor Clares and those not making vows of poverty, chastity and obedience but rather living in the world in our present state of life (married or celibate) according to the Franciscan Rule to which we make our solemn profession.

A recent question by a young student about discerning a vocation is the catalyst for this post. Years ago before I professed as a Franciscan I spent a lot of time in discernment and prayer. I knew I was called to make a commitment. To say I'm "drawn" to silence and prayer is an understatement. Sucked, driven, compelled, hurled... these are more accurate than drawn. But as you can tell by this blog my life is far from silent so when I looked into various relationships with monasteries such as an Oblate or joining a lay order that is monastic in nature, while appealing, the fit was just not right. The Franciscan Spirituality hit it right on the head. In the world, but not of the world, finding God through engagement in creation and relationship not seclusion from it.... like a blind beggar trying to help the other blind beggars find the Life Giving Water.

See my life is a delicate balance between prayer and service, silence and chaos, inhaling and exhaling, expanding and contracting. My survival hangs by the thread of "a little to much" and "not enough." I'm going to share one of my all time favorite stories from a book that aside from the Bible would be the one book I'd want with me if stranded on a deserted island and could have only one book.... Tales of a Magic Monastery by Theophane the Monk. The story: A Creature of Expansion and Contraction.

I'm a monk myself, and the one question I really wanted to ask was, "What is a Monk?" Well, I finally did, but for an answer I got a most peculiar question: "Do you mean in the daytime or at night?" Now what could that mean?

When I didn't answer, he picked it up again, "A monk, like everyone else is a creature of  contraction and expansion. During the day he is contracted - behind the cloister walls, dressed in a habit like all the others, doing the routine things you might expect a monk to do. At night he expands. The walls can not contain him. He moves throughout the world and he touches the stars."

"Ah," I thought, "poetry." To bring him down to earth I began to ask "Well, during the day, in his REAL body..."

"Wait," he said, "that's the difference between us and you. You people regularly assume that the contracted body is the real body. It IS real, in a sense. But here we tend to start from the other end, the expanded state. The daytime state we refer to as 'the body of fear.'  And whereas you tend to judge a monk by his decorum during the day, we tend to measure a monk by the number of persons he touches at night, and the number of stars."

Where God has placed me in life at the moment is a place I never thought I'd be. When He called me to my current situation my response was "Are you sure? Are you really sure? Are you sure you're sure? Ok really who is this?" My daytime, contracted state is much what you'd expect from a lay person working in Faith Formation in the Church, but at night I move around the world touching those who've been wounded and broken from the effects of war and disaster and are in various stages of healing. They've committed themselves to a life of service not all that different from my own but on the opposite side of the mirror, seeing things they wish they'd never experienced. Through discipline and training we strive together to become better persons and do the most good for those we're committed to serve with the hope of making their life a little better and healing our own wounds as we work to heal theirs.

Working side by side to overcome adversities of every kind, which we choose to continue to face, I am surrounded by things that threaten to throw me over the edge, out of balance with that delicate rhythm of prayer and action, quiet and chaos, and the deeper the sacrifice and challenge is, the deeper the quiet and prayer that is required to maintain that balance. And so is this expansion and contraction and in this current mission of mine I invite you to join me, somewhere between awake and asleep, out there among the stars to go further Into Great Silence.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Fight or Flight

I have two M.O.'s (modes of operation). One applies to when you're with me and the other applies to when I'm by myself. One is in play when your safety is in jeopardy and the other is in play when it's only my safety in jeopardy.

My flight reflex has only kicked in a couple of times in my life, I think both were in the face of catastrophic storms, one many years ago and another a couple of years ago. The first time involved multiple tornadoes at a well known theme park with a group of 30 plus people scattered all throughout the park. My instinct was flight but I couldn't, not at the expense of everyone else. I locked my arms through a bike-rack type fence surrounding a merry go round as the twister was about to hit a roller coaster 100 yards away. Instead the miracle I'd prayed for occurred as the twister jumped over the roller coaster and receded a bit. I stood up as it passed over my head and I literally stared in awe up the funnel. I felt like my breath was being ripped from my chest as I watched this gargantuan pillar of wind. The funnel reformed another 150 yards away down the main aisle of the park and I watched as it came roaring down the aisle at me, this time it veered off to my right 50 yards from me and blew itself out. I spent the next hour gathering youth, adult leaders, dodging 3 more twisters forming around the park and praying as I searched for my people. It was a nightmare. I found 6 of my youth and as we made our way to our rendezvous point an electrical storm hit. You could hear the air crackling all around us and smell the ozone in the air as bolt after bolt slammed the ground throughout the park. We had no where to go so I lined my 6 youth up under the overhang of a snack booth that was elevated enough to get them out of the water. There was just enough room for the 6 of them. I told them to stay out of the water, not to touch anyone or anything including the building and told them to stay there until the storm passed, no matter what! I then told them not to look at me as I wandered off a safe distance from them and stood in calf deep water. As I stood there in the torrential downpour I could here the electricity crackling through the structure of a roller coaster less then the length of football field away. I hollered at the youth to close their eyes and stay there. I was sure this was it.

A few years ago another major storm I found myself in was the same thing, fight or flight. I had my wife with me and we were right in the bulls-eye. We had just enough time to get to safety, flight saved our bacon and our car as a tree crashed down where our car had been minutes before.

In my last post I mentioned a disaster life support training I'd attended. After that post I mulled over a few scenarios we were presented with, one was particularly challenging for me. I figured I might as well do the work now before presented with it so I played it out in my mind, unwisely right before I went to bed. I finally fell asleep, sort of, but it wasn't a good night. I don't remember the dreams but I know they were bad. The fight or flight kicked in again. Should I willingly put myself in this situation? Again the two M.O.'s, who's safety is at stake? Fight not flight.

There are situations everyday that we deal with that trigger the fight or flight. In our dealings with coworkers, bullies at school, peer pressure, money issues and on and on. Do the work ahead of time, know yourself and your limits, what are you willing to compromise and what are you willing to struggle with to maintain your integrity. Perhaps the most important question.... where or rather Who do you draw your strength from? If you decide to fight where do you get your strength to fight? And if it's flight Who do you run to? You Decide by Fireflight.