April 11, 2019
When Events Come Together – Is it chance!
According to cliché masters and Christian bumper stickers, there are no “accidents” or “coincidences.” It is Saturday morning, and I’m sitting at my desk and catching my breath. Among the “close calls” and “dumb luck” of life, I was just driving through the grey and foggy mist on Rt. 123 earlier this morning, when out of the fog came a group of cyclists who seemed determined to clog the entire lane heading in the opposite direction. Then suddenly came a truck going much too fast that swerved into my lane to pass them, honked his horn at them, and I am virtually certain, never noticed that he was speeding right at me until I swerved, missed the ditch to my right and held my breath as he sped by me and missing me by the breath of a shadow of a hair! (There may even be tire tracks in my trunk – I haven’t looked yet).
I’ve had my share close encounters since I moved here to the “country,” where proper lighting and even sidewalks are considered the Devil’s spawn by some. This is but one more. But do I hold that my loving God may have decided to take Saturday morning off (to go fishing?) or was with me! Was it mere chance that put the cyclists, the road raged trucker and your humble servant at that one point in time and space? Was God against me or with me or neither or both? Was this a manifestation of: divine protection, superior urban even if anciently honed driving skills or sheer dumb luck!
I think God gets way too much blame for bad human choices and not enough credit for guiding us to make the right ones. Is God to blame because the person with decades of poor eating choices dies of a heart attack? I once wrote that I saw our dog Abby pick out the one parishioner (in a group sitting in the lobby) who was suffering from cancer, and sit by him. How could she possibly know? (or was she guided?) I recall many years ago going one evening to visit a parishioner in the hospital, but she was no longer there because, unknown to me, she had been discharged that afternoon. However in that room was now a person who wanted to speak with a priest – and so might one argue that I was “guided” to be where I should have been even if it was not with the person that I thought I was supposed to visit?
In my decades of ordained ministry, I have experienced too many “chance” events that make me question the notion of “chance.” I have also made more than my share of stupid decisions leading to inappropriate comments and questionably intelligent actions. Was there no proper guidance from above or was I just not listening?
So was I meant to be on the road that road this morning with others who seemed bent upon creating the conditions for an accident? Or should I have left the residence one minute earlier and avoided the entire encounter? Was I guided? Did I make a bad choice? Or a good one? Only God truly knows the answer to these questions, but I do believe I ought to listen more attentively.
April 4, 2019
“Being At Peace with Where We Are!”
With the sun and warmth of spring now within smelling distance, I am dealing with a different new experience at this time. As I’ve previously written (and you all know), springtime conveys all the imagery of new life. All is fresh and young and beautiful. From a new baseball season, the rites of passage of high school proms, the ability to walk with Abby with only a light jacket or drive anywhere with the car window open, all about us are signs of nature and life being renewed. In a few weeks, we liturgically enter into a celebration of not only the Lord’s passion and death but more importantly his “being raised from the dead unto the glory of the Father.” Oh to be young again!
But for reasons that I am only gradually coming to comprehend, I am having to acknowledge that, at least physically, I am never going to be young again. Try to RUN with the dog, and my knees and lower back will relentlessly remind me of what I am no longer! Ask the church office staff: rare is the moment when, leaving the office, I remember to take coat, phone and keys without forgetting at least one of the above. But it’s more than no longer being able “to hit that fastball.”
On Holy Tuesday each year, at the “Chrism Mass” at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine where we priests renew our vows, as we gather by year of ordination, I cannot help but notice that each year, my era of clergy grows smaller and smaller – and the reading of the names of those who have passed into life eternal grows longer and longer. It’s one thing to know that you’re going to be the oldest in the room when you are teaching teens in their Confirmation Class or teaching theological students when they study canon law at General Theological Seminary, but it is more humbling to also be the oldest in the room when “older” faculty (even mere adjuncts like myself) come together for a meeting.
My mentors warned me that the day must come when I would be “…in the autumn of my life…” (to quote the great Sinatra). Can I be at peace with this? In response to that question, “What is God calling me to do,” how must I answer this within the limits of body, mind and spirit? Will I be wise enough to acknowledge my limitations and not try to keep with the pace of my 20 year old self? Will I be humble enough to let others show kindness to me? (A young women on the subway a few months ago actually wanted to give up her seat for me! I was horrified! Would that I had been more grateful to allow her to show kindness!)
Learning to share the wisdom gained from experiences (good and bad) but without intruding or sounding “preachy” is a skill that now must be acquired. I believe that this is a call to which I must respond. I wonder what the Lord is asking in whichever chapter of life you are living?