Generosity is not measured by what is in our pockets, but rather what is in our hearts. It is quality and not quantity that makes for change. Even if we feel that our pockets are empty, that we do not have much to give materially, we still can give of our hearts. We can have an attitude of compassion, attention to others, kindness and time. Too often, do we not pray to have more in our pockets, our material stuff, than to have a change of attitude? I have the potential for riches of heart more than I have the potential for material wealth. It is all a matter of banking on Grace, outside help, or inside help, who I call God.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
The phrase, "Widow's Mite," refers to giving of what we got, or of all we have. Hold nothing back. If we give our all, then do we not give both the good and the not so good, or the bad? Yes. Some of us think that since we have not much to offer in terms of talents, behavior, or skill, then we offer nothing. We hold back. We leave it to others to do something. I rather like to think that it is better to do something badly, then to do nothing at all. If you think something is worth doing, then give your all, both the good and the bad. Your action may not be perfect, but don't let that stop you. There is a prayer is the recovery program of drunks, that says this exact thing. They offer their Higher Power, both the good and the bad. To do nothing is the slippery slope to dark depression. I bet the widow felt better after she dropped her last two coins into the poor box. Hope, trust, and a positive attitude overcame depressing inertia.
Monday, November 28, 2016
Addiction has two solutions: surrender and death. You who are not addicted would think that a sane person would go for surrender given the other solution. Not so. Very few addicted people go for surrender. They die by quick or slow suicide. By the time one is addicted, sanity has long left the scene. I think that surrender is a miracle. It seems to show up when least expected, and for reasons the insane addict cannot fathom, they grab on. With help they begin to recover some sanity and stop the addicted intake. They work on becoming a better person, facing their character flaws. But the insanity, like the addiction, is a subtle foe. It wants the person dead. How does the insanity show up again down the road of recovery? The addict thinks that they don't have to do all the things that got them well. "I am fine." Soon enough, the second solution to addiction shows up, often unexpected in overdose, car wreck, bullets. You know people in recovery? Keep praying for them.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Someone coined the phrase, "God of my misunderstanding." I like that. I believe in God, but I don't know God. I only think that I know God. When I think that I know God, I figure out how to ask for stuff believing that God wants for me what I want for myself. Then things don't work out as I wanted. God hates me? I asked wrong? God is not listening? None of the above. I simply do not understand the God in whom I believe. When I look at all the good things I do have in my live, i.e. gratitude, I realize that this God is at work. God's will and mine don't always agree. But that is often a good thing.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
I cannot run my life by myself. Self-management does not bring optimal results. I need help, advice, companions on the journey, a spiritual time of pray. Without these efforts at second opinions, the only thing that I do alone is self-inflict pain, resentment, judgment and a dose of irritability. Alone, I seem to suffer general discontent. So I don't try to run the show on my own. This of course goes up against rugged individualism, the self-made person, strong-willed person. I do have a strong will, but it is usually riotous when given full reign. This is one of the best reasons I have for early morning prayer, and evening examination of my day. In the morning I set my preferences, not "must happen" plans. I try to be open to the unexpected, the stranger, to get a sense that I am connected with all the world around me. I ask for help, knowing I well need it. Bad things can happen, and do. But I have found that a lot of the pain from them can often be diminished by my attitude and spiritual condition.
Friday, November 25, 2016
It is the day after Thanksgiving. Were you kind, caring and compassionate to everyone yesterday? I tried to be. I want some people to like me, not all, but some. I find that if I am kind and patient with everyone, including those who I find tedious, work, difficult and fault-filled, then I will be in a good and caring mood with the people I do want to like me. Being kind is like a train. You cannot make a train stop and go very easily. it takes a bit to get it moving, but then it is easy to keep it going. I find it is the same with behavior. If I practice good behavior all the time with everyone, then it is easier to practice it with people I want to like me. If I am grumpy with some people, I find it difficult to turn on the charm when someone I like comes along right after the grumpy episode. Avoiding everyone never worked for me either. Practice, practice. Today is Black Friday, a great chance for me put this advice into practice in LA.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
I remember my first thanksgiving in San Francisco in 1969. I was single, as were all my friends at that time. We were too poor to go travel to "home," for Thanksgiving. We all got together at Mimi's apartment for a Thanksgiving feast. Each of us brought something. The ladies cooked the turkey. We all stayed sober. My heart was grateful for these new friends, and a bit sad that I did not have my family thanksgiving with parents and siblings back in New York. No one cooked turkey like Mom, gravy and stuffing unique. What I have come to realize is that not everyone might have felt the same as me in that San Francisco singles thanksgiving dinner. Not everyone has good memories, or any memory of a family thanksgiving. Sometimes it was a lot of drunkenness and debauchery with poorly cooked food. Or maybe life was so dysfunctional there was no thanksgiving, no family. Walk around a city on Thanksgiving afternoon and see how many people are in bars. So I say "Happy Thanksgiving" to those who are having fond memories, or look forward to a day of friendship and sobriety and a good shared dinner. To those who see only sad memories or a sad today, resentment will not make for a bette day. On my worst of days, if I catch a bit of spirituality, I look for what I can be grateful for in my life.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Today was a first. I walked into a steak house restaurant in the suburbs. On our table was a computer screen. "What is this?" I asked, being of the computer Stone Age. Well, now you can pretty much avoid the waitperson and they you. You tap the "order" icon on the screen and place your order. When you want to pay, you tap the "pay" button and your bill comes up. You pay on line with your credit card. All the waitperson does is bring food and clean up the finished plates, refresh drinks stuff. I am OK with paying on line, but I prefer some interaction with the staff when I sit down. Specials? Food recommendations? How is your day, and stuff like that makes for a more interactive restaurant experience. We are all on this planet together or else we will isolate to our own destruction. I am not one to walk around with ear buds hanging from my ears connected to a smart phone I hold in my hand. Looking around my town, I see that I am becoming so "yesterday." The question is, "Will there be a tomorrow, and what will it be, if we ignore those around us?"
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
I am reluctant to tell people who have no clue of the Bible that "You should read the Bible." Why? Well, I might be their first contact with the Bible. If I exhibit messy behavior, bad habits, then why should they read the Bible? I am a product of that book. It is the same reason that I don't go around all the time in my clerical clothes. Any moment, I seem to be prone to acting like a jerk. In clerical clothes, I am someone's only contact or first contact with my church. There is a substantial number of people who have walked away from religious groups because of the members outward actions and words. If a Buddhist said I should read some sutra, I would first get to know the Buddhist. If he acts no better than me, why read the sutra? It did not do much for him, or so I would think. People in recovery often say, "Read the Big Book," to a newcomer. They might be some drunk's first contact with the Big Book. If the so called, "Recovering Person" is not drinking, but practicing judgmental, resentful, whining behavior, why would the newcomer read the Big Book? Until I walk the walk better, I will be careful about the "advice" I give to people.
Monday, November 21, 2016
There is a saint, a martyr, I believe, named Barbara. She had very long hair. She had been imprisoned in a tower, probably because she made some nobleman upset that she did not do what he wanted. Barbara is the backstory for the fairy tale, Rapunzel. Nice girl, unjustly imprisoned by some ugly person. Fairy tales may not be true literally, but they have truth in them for they are based upon reality. You might say, a fairy tale should be taken seriously but not literally. A fairy tale has truth in it, but not literal truth. Our modern world has made fairy tales into simple stories for children with no meaning for real world adults. Mystics know better. Oh, I pray to St. Barbara for parking places. In San Francisco this is a rare occurrence. We all need extra help.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Sometimes you will see a priest wearing a ring that looks like a wedding band. It is meant to signify that he is the bride married to Christ the bridegroom. It comes from the Song of Songs imagery in the Bible. I never did get a ring. I am still too flawed with selfishness and self-will. When I was ordained, I thought that maybe I would now become "good." It did not take. I stayed selfish. I am not ready to marry Christ. I see myself as still dating in my prayer and work. I am inconsistent in being good and doing good. Sometimes I can do good things, but I might be grumpy, or pray, but only to try and get God to change God's mind to give me what I want, or avoid what I don't want. I am still too much about me to be married to God. As I look around I see other people who said, "I do," but they did not change either. I dodged that bullet. God is at work still in my life.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
If you and your significant other have separate bedrooms, you are in what is called "A Victorian Marriage." In the 19th century, the Victorian Era, this marriage regarded privacy over intimacy. In many ways the married couple had their separate friends and lived very much separate lives, but had times each day, such as meals when they would come together. Nowadays, we still have many a Victorian setup in the home, but the common meal thing seems to have not kept up. If you don't worship together, eat together, or socialize together, then it might be the job of children and grandchildren to bring the couple together. I have found common meals to be important if there is to be any community among priests. If you value privacy and private space without a balance in intimacy or a shared life, you might have less community than a celibate religious order priest.
Friday, November 18, 2016
Something does not go my way. So I get angry. In anger, I take dishes from the kitchen and throw them against a wall. More things don't go my way. More anger response. More dishes thrown agains the wall. Eventually, I run out of dishes and the wall is trashed. Solution? Buy more dishes and repair wall. Then get angry and behavior is repeated. Now, you say, that is insanity. Yes, it is. It is not a solution to things failing to go my way but I repeat my solution. Don't judge. Rather ask yourself the next time something does not go your way, and you get angry, "Is this the first time I got angry over this situation?" Humbling, no? You may have your dishes and wall but you are no more in the solution than I am.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
What I find to be a gift in my life is a group of people who invite me back when I am at my worst behavior. So many groups want nothing to do with us when we are irascible, irritating, judgmental, narrow- minded, and discontented with life. "Go away, and never darken this door again," is what we might hear. Bosses fire us. Significant others dump us. Social clubs cancel our membership or don't renew it. A truly accepting group that might eventually help in healing someone is a group that keeps inviting you back even if you don't know you are a mess, or what to do about your mess. Are there such groups around? Yes. They usually meet in church basements. Upstairs in the sanctuaries, acceptance is a little more narrow.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
If you are hurting in some physical, spiritual, or psychological way, the body, including mind and soul or spirit can heal if I do two things. Remove things that cause illness and add things that are natural to healing. They body does the rest. If I smoke, I am constructing inner flow of vital fluids. If I drink liquor I am introducing a basic poison, alcohol. Eat sugar, and body breaks down. Too much of some things that are really foreign to my natural health will do me no good. Gluten would be one of these things. Jog when and where there is a lot of car pollution will mess with my lungs. Too much exercise will break me down. Lack of rest, isolation, bad posture, the list goes on. Sex without love and mutuality is debilitating. If I add rest, diet and exercise in moderation, the body will do a lot of healing. I add meditation and being in nature scenes. I have heard people say that eventually, some illness, cough, sore, went away. They took no pills or medication. Not everything responds to this way of living, but you might try it before undergoing more "modern medicine" scientific approaches.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
I have a group of friends who have something in common, a messy past, and not so past. What is unique is that they don't talk about their failures or successes, where they live or the car they own, or any crazy escapades. If any of this is mentioned in passing, it is to give context to their deeper self. We don't focus on deeds but rather on feelings, why we did things that were messy. I may not identify with a particular crazy action of someone's past, but I seem to easily identify with motives, and feelings. It amazes me how often the word "fear" comes up, especially in guys. Spiritual growth comes with knowing that I am not struggling alone. I am not unique in my feelings. When the group is only guys, there is a lot of laughter. I figure the only reason any of us have wives that stay with us is because we are wonderful in some way. Oh. Delusion is one of our issues too. Ladies, we men are work, no?
Monday, November 14, 2016
I am reading a lot about how we are supposed to make friends with nature, recycle our garbage, take care of the earth, and find God all around us in nature. The earth is our friend. We are in a covenant with the earth. Nice. But I was in an earthquake last week. Middle of the night there was a big thump and the house shook. Quake was nine miles away. Now I can love nature all I want, but if I am in a certain place at a certain time, and the big one comes, I am done. What happened to our nice covenant? Does a loving God crush nice people living on an Italian hillside in homes built hundreds of years ago? You might counter that if I slept under the open sky or in a teepee, I would not be crushed. But I don't. I live in San Francisco. God made San Francisco. It is to be lived in and enjoyed, though now only by rich people, but that is another story. If you check earthquake websites you will find that earthquakes are going on regularly all over the world. No escape from tech tonic movements. Loving God, friendly earth and earthquakes don't fit right. But I will continue to recycle while I ponder this and await your "anonymous" responses.
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Remember when you used to get a Percentage number or letter grades for subjects on the report card? It is changing. Now you get a number from 1 to 4 on many things that you "should know" or be able to do. I am not sure who the should know deciders are, but one of the should know is phys ed. Now I know a lot of guys who cannot throw a ball or run without tripping over themselves. It has nothing to do with being old. They never could do those things. It was OK in school since you were not graded on skill level in this area. A guy might think himself a failure but it was never an official record. Besides, he could just go do something else in which he had or developed a skill. Esteem would not take a public hit. Then there is the subject, "sociability." I know guys who will not give you eye contact, or exhibit any sociability if they are not in their right space or time of day. So what if the evaluation is given when you are in your non-sociability space? I am glad that I only had to know reading, righting and rithmetic: the three R subjects. Not too good in math. Thank God for my vocation to be a priest. Lots of "math dummies" in my profession. And all we had was a slide rule! Remember those?
Saturday, November 12, 2016
My Mom never left the house if there was an appliance at work. Dishwasher, dryer, oven, clothes washer, whatever. She came home once and the clothes washer has leaked all over the floor. Machines at work in your home are ignored at your own peril, so my Mom taught me. I think people are the same way. Ignore people and they will break down and mess up the world around them, which might be your world. At times people choose to be ignored, such as if they are jogging and think they are passing a mass murderer on the trails. Do I really look like a mass murderer? Back to Mom. She paid attention to people like she paid attention to working machines, which in a way we are. She would recognize the existence of someone when she passed them by or saw them. She did not appear to be in a hurry, though at times I know she was. Her first impression of people was not mass murderer. Mom lived to be 89 and had a great reputation for friendliness.
Friday, November 11, 2016
When you finish eating an apple, I was told that if you buried it, an apple tree might grow from the seeds of the eaten apple. The apple had fulfilled its purpose in the universe. It had become a fruit for some other part of creation to eat. In the earth now, it's matter will develop into something else. And that will grow, as long as there is an earth that breathes sufficiently for life to go on. I would not put the eaten apple into a pine box and bury it so that bugs would not get to it. We do that with humans. We put dead people into boxes, bones or ashes and bury them. Why? We have this theology, developed before we knew much about the story of the evolving universe, that says bodies will rise on the last day. To join their souls? And so it goes, but does not seem to fit our sense of an evolving universe of which we are a part. The theology says that people are sacred and the apple is not. Humans get boxes burials. Apples do not. This allows us "sacred" people to chop down the apple tree because it gets in the way of our view, or prevents us from adding more unnecessary square footage to our homes, to reflect our large egos. Then there are some people who are more sacred than others, or so the theology used to say. This permitted slavery. All is sacred. The human may be more evolved than the apple, though at times I wonder. The human is not more sacred. The matter, the stuff of the universe, that makes up my present body may have once been part of a star that exploded a long time ago. The stuff of my body can rot in the ground, be eaten by bugs or whatever. My job is to treat it with respect, help it to do what it is supposed to do in the overall story of the universe and my inner spirit. Something of me will live on with the Divine, but part will be reformed to become something or someone else. The box burial is to recognize body sacredness. But don't forget about the apple or the earth. All is sacred.
Thursday, November 10, 2016
Sometimes, an oasis is not such a good thing. If someone is living in a mess of their own making, and they realize they cannot escape their mess, they wallow in hopelessness and bad behavior. Then someone comes along who lives in the same mess. This person is an "oasis" for ongoing bad behavior, which will now be enjoyed with another like-minded person. I always found it uplifting to be bad with another person who liked my kind of badness. Bad behavior can be transformed into "fun" when shared with someone else who is just as bad. The shame, guilt and hopelessness give way to laughter and forgetfulness. Sick? Yes. It is the behavior of addiction. But then can the same principle work for goodness and transformation? Can one person, on a spiritual path, but not being preachy, help someone else who might lack the strength and courage left to their own weak powers? I say yes. We do not evolve alone. There is an "ecology" of goodness.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Even when my Mom was dying of cancer, terminal, under hospice visiting nurse care, she would want her two lotto tickets each week from the grocery store. I would go to the store to shop for some groceries and such. Mom was too sick to give much concern for a list of things to buy, but she always reminded me to "get a ticket" for her and for Dad. Each ticket cost a buck. The pot was pretty big in Florida. The winner would be rich. What would a dying woman do if she hit the right numbers? I never asked. Mom died without winning the pot. I never bought another ticket. Dad did not much care. I think Mom would have split it up with her family and others who she thought might need money. This is the way she was. She died a loser? I think not.
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Some religious traditions like to think of themselves as free of secular culture, or acting as a corrective to narrow secular views. I think maybe not. Martin de Porres was a Peruvian Mulatto. He had a black mother and Spanish (more white) nobleman father. The father had no interest in Martin. The father was Catholic. So Martin applies to the Dominicans. They are in Peru to do convert work. Become Catholic, but if mulatto, don't bother trying to become one of us, a Dominican. They take him in as a lay brother. He is not to be included as a full member of the Dominicans. Let him sweep floors and clean toilets. The Dominicans were very much a part of the culture of prejudice. But God is not so prejudiced in giving out talents. Martin had a talent for herbs, as in medicinal benefits. Plus, he seemed to enable healing by his touch and manner when in the presence of the in-firmed. So he gets a bump to running the infirmary. From there, he ministers to all those groups that were being put down by the upper crust Catholic nobility of Peru, the conquerers. This would be slaves, native Indians, the poor, and such. The biggest miracle is that Martin did not succumb to the culture, either religious or secular. Saints are Outliers.
Monday, November 7, 2016
I hear some people say that good Christians are ones who follow the rules, believe the creed and for Catholics, go to church on Sundays. This supposedly makes you a follower of Jesus. But Jesus came before creeds and rules. He wanted his followers to be doers of his way. But there is something else here. His original gaggle of men and women were people of flaws, some more flawed than others. John seemed to be pretty good. Peter, not so much. Most seemed to be somewhat clueless. Talent seemed to be buried and needed some excavation to bring it out into the open. Not a good start, huh? Now look at yourself and the people around you. Do you write some of them off because of their flaws or seeming lack of smarts/talent? School teachers do this at their own and the students peril. Everyone has something to bring to the table. The teacher, parent, co-worker, friend, fellow student, can be loving by trying to find a way to bring out that talent. Passing a test, a good grade, does not guarantee that someone will be a doer of good later. Report cards do not have a grade line for selflessness, kindness, patience, mercy and forgiveness. If they did, how many of us would be failures, but with correct answers to creeds and rules.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
If you know someone who "drinks too much" alone, here is what might be their history. At one time they felt uneasy in social situations. They found that drinking helped them to feel more comfortable with others, or with another person. Subsequently, they kept trying to have that comfortable feeling in social situations. They drank with others and at times drank too much, to where others felt uncomfortable with them. What was happening was that the drinker, now an alcoholic in behavior, had developed a craving for alcohol. They no longer drank to fit in. This craving is unknown to the normal drinker. This craving will lead the alcoholic to finally begin to drink alone. They have progressed way beyond the desire to fit into social situations. They just crave the alcohol. If they keep at the drinking, death will make them cease. One starts out wanting to fit in, or escape some feeling of being an outsider, and end up being an outsider. But by then it is all about alcohol. Craving always trumps will power.
Saturday, November 5, 2016
I am impressed and sometimes befuddled by people who believe in a God worth serving, after they have experienced tragedy and suffering. It is hardly faith to believe in a God who seems to give you what you ask. You find parking places, missing keys, good health news, and you say you believe. These good results support your faith. But for many of these same people, tragedy and suffering leads them away from faith. They stop believing or wanting anything to do with God issues. God did not come through for them. I read about a fellow, Alphonsus Rodriquez, whose wife died in childbirth and then his two young children died. Shattered, he did not give up believing, but decided to devote the rest of his life to serving God in others. He became a doorman at a Jesuit college. He was welcoming and caring for everyone who passed through the door. He was declared a Saint. When bad news transforms you, now that is a miracle. Still want to be a saint?
Friday, November 4, 2016
Lucifer means light. In mythology of evil, Lucifer was created by God as are all angels. Then Lucifer decided to rebel against God and go rogue. Thus we have evil. But Lucifer was created good. God is Love. So God still loves rogue Lucifer. In Christian scripture Jesus said that he came to seek and save what was lost. I like all this. God is not out to punish me when I go rogue with bad behavior. I did not lose God's love or have to do something to make God love me again. Many people feel that they have to do something to get God back to loving them or at least not punishing them. I think it is more productive to simply admit to myself, God and some times another person that I messed up, again. Then move on with how to avoid this bad behavior in the future. I know people who run off to confession to get God to love them again, but then go out and do the same stuff all over again. Confession is not a magic tool for negotiation. God's love does not change. What needs to change is me.
Thursday, November 3, 2016
I think my Mom was a bit of a saint. She had a friend who would call her now and again just to talk. Mom said the friend, Mary, got depressed or sad at times and just needed to talk. Mary seemed to know that Mom would listen to her. Mary always seemed to call at the right time. There was only a land line with no called ID. The phone call was usually a long one, but Mom felt that when Mary finished, things were good. I don't think that Mom had an elaborate prayer life of meditation or scripture reading, but she seemed to have compassion and empathy, that I, with all my prayer and priesthood still lack spontaneously. I have to be in "a good space" to be able to listen to someone who just needed to talk. Technology now helps people like me to be somewhat helpful to others as my mom seemed able to do naturally. If they call on my cell, I can see the name, and decide if I "am in a good space." You don't want to talk with me when I am in a bad space. I seem to have more good space times each day as I take care of my spiritual practice which includes taking a look at my shortcomings, alone or with friends who like me are trudging along. Nothing like other people to remind me of my humanness. I bet I am not alone in struggling for "a good space. Fess up!
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
I often wonder as I walk up stairs next to an escalator, why so many people take escalators, when there are stairs right beside the escalator, and then go off to the gym to work out on a stair master? People are wearing good walking shoes or gym shoes as they stand on the escalator. They have no heavy bags with them. We are strange people sometimes. I always take the stairs as part of my cardio, especially when I am traveling, or have no time for exercise otherwise. There are certain muscles that you use when you walk stairs, that you otherwise don't use. Try living in stairless Florida and you will see muscles atrophy. We do this in prayer too. We have our prayer time, like our exercise or gym time. Outside of that time, we don't think about praying. There are so many chances to pray as we go through our day. You can pray while walking stairs. Pray for the escalator people.
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Today is all saints Day. For guys, a Small way to practice saint ness is to take off your hat when you are speaking to a woman. You think this is so out of date that young women would not even notice? Wrong! And it can pay off in all kinds of ways. Women notice. I took my hat off in addressing a sales person in a store. She gave me an added $10 off the already great sale. I most like being a saint when I don't suffer. It encourages good behavior while I am still tinged with self.