Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Out Loud Prayers

I think that worship services could be like a 5th step in the 12 step spiritual path of recovery.  How? In the 5th step you say out loud your faults, character defects, and shortcomings.  Embarrassing yes, but it does the job of “Recovery” from a messy, short-circuited life.  In a worship service, I think we need to go beyond simply saying out loud, “Mercy Lord!”  Mercy for what?  Say out loud, for others to hear, what you want mercy for.  It makes you reflect and list your shortcomings and say them so others will hear them.  “Mercy Lord for I am selfish, self-centered, jealous, envious, lustful, prejudiced, self-pitying, etc.”  We don’t want to do this, because we tend to put on our public face when going to public worship.  But we don’t change for the better any more than a drunk gets better if they skip the 5th step.  When I tell people in a homily, out loud, a shortcoming of mine, they may think me a bad priest and want me to go away.  I call it my 5th step way of preaching.  Or maybe I am really a bad priest?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Doing Time

We refer to people in prison as “doing time.”  They do the same old things everyday, the same routines, fearful of breaking a rule, lest they be punished even more.  Some people in organized religion are “doing time” insofar as they keep following rules to avoid punishment.  Addicted people, following their addictions are enslaved, imprisoned in their addictions.  So are people who are all focused on appearances. Recovery programs break free of addictions.  Mediation can help people of religion get free from routines, fears, and dualities, that separate themselves from one another.  Some things we have to do daily to survive, but many things we do daily simply build prison walls that take away the sunshine of the spirit that can set us free.  Sadly, many people prefer “doing time.”  They might fear the unknown.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Resurrected Addict*

The risen Jesus and the recovering addict are a lot alike. “Heresy?” You say.  I think not.  When Jesus rose from the dead no one recognized him.  People who had known him thought that he was a fellow traveler on the road to Emmaus, or the gardener to Mary Magdalene, or a ghost to his cowardly disciples.  When he called out to them from shore while they were fishing, they did not know it was him.  Jesus risen was totally unrecognizable.  But he was still Jesus.  When a person gets deep into recovery from an addiction, you can hear their old acquaintances say, “We don’t even recognize you.”  This is what we call a spiritual change.  I call it resurrection, eternal life, a new person, but in fact it is the same person whose spiritual insides have changed their outsides.  Recovery meetings are filled with resurrected people.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Easier Way*

It is a lot easier, in some ways, if you don’t believe in God.  Why?  Well, you won’t be bothered with the question, “What does God want from me?”  My old belief in God was quite self-serving and self-centered.  My question was, “What do I want from God?”  Give me this and that, or keep this and that away from me.  My religion was all about what God could do for me or what I wanted from God.  The more self-sufficient I was, the less I bothered with God stuff.  My outlook and focus began to change when I said, “I give myself to you, good and bad, to do with me as you want.  May I do your will.”  Since I am naturally selfish, I have to say this prayer everyday, or I am in peril.  This prayer then asks what does God want from me.  I don’t know, unless I meditate or have contact with others who might be self-destructing.  When I am of service, I am more sure that I am doing what my God wants than what a selfish or fear-based ego wants.  It is not easy.  It is not the softer way.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

A Lost Soul

I remember looking for something that I thought I had lost.  I think it was my chain of keys, car, house and office.  My life was in ruins.  Why does God abandon me!  For what am I being punished? And so on.  I looked everywhere.  I backtracked where I had been and what I had done.  Nothing.  I gave up.  My life was over.  Then I tried to put something into my pants pocket.  There were my keys.  They were inside my pants while I looked for them outside.  Dummy right?  But don’t many of us look for our soul, our spiritual life, a god or power outside of ourselves?  We go to nature scenes, parks, churches, temples, gurus, classes, self-help books and so on.  Only to eventually stumble onto the reality that it is all inside of ourselves if only we keep looking.  If there is a God or soul, or spirit it is within us.  It is part of our DNA.  And that stranger you see near your space. They have soul too.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Consequences*

I recall a time or many a time,  in which I was going to do something not good, and said, “I will deal with the consequences later.”  For one, I assume there will be a later.  If I were going to jump off a cliff, or play with explosives, or drive while on heavy pain meds, a “later” is  bit of an assumption.  Second, I have found consequences tend to deal with me.  They take control.  If I steal, the consequences might be jail.  I don’t deal with jail.  I just suffer the consequences of loss of freedom.  If addicted to something the consequences are guilt, depression, shame and loss of self-esteem.  That can be a jumping off point and there is no later for jumping off.  Most of us don’t really deal with these feelings.  We bury them beneath some diversion like shopping, exercise, eating treats, or entertainments such as movies, music or just more bad behavior!  Often, I avoid bad behavior by saying to myself, “I will feel worse later, or the same ole same old.”  Bad behavior is not a solution for me.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Cana*

Some of you think that my stuff about the twelve steps of AA having nothing to do with you because you are not a drunk.  So let me tell you that if you are in a relationship, like marriage, the twelve steps can be a great help.  Say what?  Bill Wilson, the Co-founder of AA had a friend and advisor named Fr. Ed Dowling, a Jesuit.  Dowling's day job was his active ministry with Cana Conferences. These were conferences, gatherings, for married couples.  Dowling used the twelve steps to help married couples.  So if you are having issues in your relationship with your partner or want to better the relationship, don't sell short the twelve steps.  Maybe a recovering drunk could be of some help to you?  Now, if you like the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, and Jesuits do, since he was their founder, Fr. Dowling noted a surprising resemblance between the exercise of St Ignatius and the twelve steps.  The twelve steps are a perennial wisdom, put together in a fashion that is useful to many a modern person and our modern problems.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Spiritual Experience*

Why do people think that a spiritual experience or awakening must be like a white lightening event or a deep sense of Godness close to them?  Some people don’t have that happening in their life, but they can still have a spiritual experience.  Like What?  Well, think of someone who is self-centered, who only thinks of themselves and acts in compulsive, self-destructive ways.  Yuck, right!  Then they follow some instructions that help them to grow up, such that they become people who try to be of use to others in a selfless manner.  This to me is a spiritual experience.  I can think of women who were all selfish, self-destructive, putting bad stuff into their bodies.  Then they began to follow a much healthier way of life, and became fine wives, partners, and parents.  That is a spiritual awakening.  It is never simply and only private.  Proof is when the experience becomes communal.  Gotta go and be of service to someone.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Insanity

I know problem drinkers who say that the 12 steps are silly.  They point to step number 2.  It says some power will return them to sanity.  They don’t think they are insane, so they don’t need the steps.  They point out that they might make bad decisions but no different from other people.  They take a job that is all wrong.  They move to another place that is not a good fit for them.  They marry the “wrong” person.  Well, I point out that these examples are all under the category of “mistakes.”  They are not considered insane.  Insanity is when you compare and contrast yourself to others who don’t have your problem, your lack of power, and say, “See, we are all alike.”  Like what? Like saying, “I can drink like a normal person.”  Though normal in other flawed ways with “mistakes” you are insane in thinking you can drink like a “normal” person.  This is why step 2 is early in the process.  Oh, today, I am ordained 42 years.  I had to admit insanity along the way.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Inside And Outside*

I don’t try so much to change the outside world as to change my inside world to meet the conditions of the outside world and not get crazy.  A flat tire is an example.  Sure you can change the tire or get it changed.  But what attitude did you bring to the discovery that you had a flat tire?  Rage, whining, self-pity, and blaming someone else?  This is all the inside stuff that no tire changer can fix.  And you will take these moods and feelings into the rest of your day which will make so much more drama that changes nothing of the outsides.  So I work on my insides, with meditation, sleep, healthy food, so that I will be able to meet the outside world as it presents itself to me, ever so suddenly.  My daily plans move from “must” to “preference.”  It works for me.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Past*

The past bad behavior can lock me in, be a prison for me, repeating itself over and over as habits tend to do, no matter how much I promise I “won’t do it again.”  Or the past can be a key that unlocks a brighter future of better behavior.  A lock or a key: it all depends on whether or not we are on a spiritual path.  This is not dogma or religious affiliation, but rather an energy to which we connect that propels us into a new way of living on a daily basis.  Meditation is key for me: it is often my connector practice that links me to the power I need daily to change for the better.  I see the past as a great teacher of what not to do and why I acted that way.  On the spiritual practice of meditation I seem to find tools and direction for better behavior.  I have a better attitude.  Like what?  Acceptance replaces resentment.  Service, being useful to others, replaces whining and self-pity.  And fear no longer manages my life.  I hold the key today.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Ego

A too big ego is unmanageable.  When I am in this state, I tend to try or think I can do things that I cannot do, that are beyond me.  So I need to get a second opinion from someone who knows about big egos.  I cannot manage things that are beyond me.  Failure, and the expending of wasted energy are the results.  Another reason that big ego is unmanageable is that when I act on it, the impetus is to get the approval, and esteem from others.  I end up trying to do things that in fact I do not enjoy, simply for praise from others.  But I cannot guarantee that praise, much less that I will be noticed.  So this goal cannot be managed either.  Daily, I try to keep a right size ego that is useful to others and does not beat myself up.  If my resentment list remains empty, this is a good indicator that I am staying right-sized.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Spinning Ballerina*

How does a spinning ballerina keep her balance and not get all dizzy and lopsided?  She focuses on one thing.  So every time she makes a full turn she looks for that one thing to keep her balanced.  What a great way for me to go through the day.  I often am spinning around and losing my way, metaphorically doing this or that, thinking crazy, so maybe the way for me to get a balance, stay on the path of spiritual growth is to have one thing I keep returning to as my focus.  Maybe a bit of a mantra that I return to as I am in whatever mode of activity or emotion.  Keep my day sober.  “Acceptance,” or “This too shall pass,” or “Live and let live,” or “Life on life’s terms.”  These phrases have helped me as I spin through me day.  They keep me from getting dizzy from life, and losing focus.  As Elton John sings, “Tiny Dancer,” I think of myself as a tiny dancer going through life, on this spinning planet.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Cooking Christ

Why don’t we Christians see images of Jesus cooking, as a sign of holiness, goodness, godliness?  So many times people can think of cooking as a drudgery, mundane, non-spiritual, and a chore, while they think going to church, praying, is when they are being holy.  Well, in the gospel of John, 21: 1-14, it shows Jesus cooking and feeding his wayward disciples.  Not only is he cooking on a fire grill, he feeds them, not as a reward for good behavior and loyalty, but in spite of bad behavior.  So I think of cooking as an act of holiness, saintliness, and service and even more so when you do it for people who are not very nice and certainly have not “earned” your cooked food.  Think of wayward children,  and other family members or community members.  So maybe less time in church and more time grocery shopping and in the kitchen or at the grill will make you holier.  The people who cook for me and feed me are very holy.  And I am bad.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Spiritual Experience*

What if you don’t have a spiritual experience when you try to meditate?  If you are practicing the 12th step of the 12 step process of recovery from addiction, it says, “Having had a spiritual experience...”.  Are we all doomed if no spiritual experience?  Did we do the steps wrong?  Is there no god?  Well, as someone remarked, maybe what we need is “spiritual growth,” rather than a spriritual experience.  I may not be too certain what a spiritual experience is but I can tell when I am acting better and not in my old behavior.  Or moving from vice to virtue one might say.  If I am being more of service to others, selflessly, kinder, forgiving and accepting of others, less all about me as the center of the universe, then my higher power is at work.  I don’t need to have a spiritual experience to prove it.  I can be delusional about a spiritual experience, but cannot fool myself about behavior, and even if I try, others will somehow remind me.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Hide And Seek

I played hide and seek with my grandniece and nephew in Miami.  I "found" them before I could see them.  I heard of sensed their presence. This reminded me of God and mediation.   Sometimes God likes to hide and be sought.  But God wants to be found just as the children wanted me to find them.  God is just obvious enough to be sensed by someone who seeks to find.  I think of mediation as the seeking time and effort.  We sense the presence even though we do not have direct sight of God.  God is always a little bit hidden so that we will make some effort if we want to find the Divine Presence. God is moving about in my life though not so obvious as to take no effort on my part.  God moves about in the silence and stillness of my prayer.  God is hidden but active.  If my niece hid so completely that I could not find her, then I would have given up and the game would be a dud.  God is not a dud.  But when I make no effort to search, I become a dud.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Kitchen Spirituality

HOMILY NOTES
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
JOHN 21: 1-14
MAY 5, 2019

Why don’t we ever have holy pictures of Jesus cooking, grilling food, baking bread, being in the kitchen fixing a meal?  When we think of Jesus saying, “Follow me,” we think of walking on water, crucifixion, raising the dead to life, multiplying food for the crowds who are hungry.  So we think, “That is not anything I can do.”  So this “follow me” can be kind of off-putting if not confusing.  

In today’s gospel we have a very clear scene of Jesus preparing breakfast for his wayward “followers” who did not follow very well when he was being executed.  Though they lied, were cowards, ran away, he still cooks for them.  He offers them bread and grilled fish.  Bread takes time to make.  It is not store bought.  So Jesus has been busy through the night preparing to feed these guys.  He does not complain.  Rather his feeding them is an act of forgiveness.  They certainly did not earn this breakfast from good behavior.  Jesus cooks with boundless love and acceptance.  

So cooking, being a kitchen person for people who may have done your wrong, or ignored you, is a way to “follow me.” How many of us see cooking for others as beneath us, or a drudgery, or unfair.  We might then do it with resentment and self-pity.  I suspect that we would have fewer vocations if all these priests had to cook for others on a daily basis.  We prefer, many of us,  to be waited on when it comes to food preparation.  


Why not think of cooking, baking, food shopping and preparation, as being right up there with raising the dead and walking on water.  It is not a lesser task, but one that can keep our egos right-sized if we can do it with acceptance, then joy, and finally with love.  My Mom was this way with us wayward kids.  Well, my sisters were wayward.  I was perfect!😇

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Call Box Prayers*

Someone reminded me that God is like a Call Box.  When I feel stressed, afraid, lost, alone, forlorn, God is here for me.  Call boxes are those phones that are, or used to be, on highways, especially in more remote places, like mountain passes.  You can call for help.  If we get too panicky we might not notice a call box along the road.  We tend to forget or not notice that God is with us on our spiritual journey.  The Third Step Prayer of the Twelves Steps in Recovery Programs asks that God relieve us of our difficulties so that we can be of use to others.  There is a lot of trust in such a prayer.  When we feel lost we can be found.  Most of our prayers are really call box prayers, especially when we feel in really dark places, the tunnels of life when we see no way out.  God, the Call Box, is there with us.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Mixed Table Fellowship

If I always try to eat with people who are just like me, then I think I miss a chance to grow.  If I eat with people who are different than me, I get to practice tolerance and patience.  Plus, I might learn something from their different opinions or ideas about religion, politics, society, and the culture.  I think it is good to have my personal opinions challenged, otherwise how do they get tested?  I am supposed to be a Christian, so Jesus is supposed to be my mentor.  Well, he did not eat with people who were just like him.  And I don't see him telling these people to shape up and be like him.  If I ate with prostitutes and greedy bankers/finance people, I would be following the example of my mentor.  After recovery meetings, addicts sometimes have "fellowship" which is going out to eat together.  In the meeting they appear to be alike in their focus on recovery.  But in the fellowship afterwards, people tend to bring out their differences as the conversation shifts to multiple topics.  This is when tolerance, patience, listening skills, and openness to learn can be practiced.  With this attitude you can talk about anything...and become a better person for it.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Cosmic Christ

What is the "Cosmic Christ?"  More importantly, am I going to become a better person because I believe in a Cosmic Something?  I think not.  Why, you ask?  Well, I think I might feel ashamed, or guilty about doing bad stuff.  I might be disgusted with myself, which is really an ego trip.  But I won't change if I think the offense is against a cosmic something or an amorphous power out there.  I will just go on doing the same bad behavior over and over.  Change will only come when I realize I have offended some person.  The offense has to be personal.  It is between me and the offended one.  For Christians that would be Jesus Christ who is not cosmic.  He was and still is human.  He has a humanness about him.  Recovering addicts in 12 step programs know this when they do their 4th step and look at their side of the street.  When they realize that they offended persons, that is when the energy for change comes.  That change begins with an apology to the offended person.  I don't apologize to the cosmic universe.  I get the theology, and the Oneness idea, but I am into me changing, and that is a one on one realization.  If my God is too big to be offended, then what is the point in me being sorry and wanting to change?  My God is too big to be angry, and judgmental, but plenty small enough to be hurt by the mess of my self-will run riot.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Sudden Need*

An alcoholic in recovery and a normal drinker may be the same in one sense.  Neither may want a drink when sober.  But once they each take that drink, the difference shows up.  The alcoholic in recovery does not need a drink until they have one.  Then the craving sets in.  The normal drinker does not have the craving for "more."  The 12 Steps will not keep you from that first drink.  Only a relationship with a power greater than yourself will do that.  So what good are the steps and all the AA stuff?  They are to deal with alcoholism which is a lot more than drinking.  It is a whole personality, damaged with flaws and character defects, living fear-based lives and being clueless.  The steps don't show up until Chapter five in the big book.  All that goes before chapter five is about that first drink and a Higher Power, whatever that might be.  It is not the alcoholic left to themselves. So I suggest to the newcomer that they simply keep coming to meetings, don't drink and read the Big Book up through chapter four.  I don't make it like a lot of institutional religion which loads you up with too much stuff too soon, lots of rules must do stuff.  Keep it simple.  Don't drink today.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Forgiveness*

Do you forgive others so that they will like you?  To make them feel better?  When I forgive, I have no control over how the other person will feel or respond.  So my act of forgiveness is not about them.  My forgiveness is selfish.  It is about me.  Say what?  Well, selfish is not always bad.  I forgive so that my peace and happiness will not be in the hands of someone who hurt me in the first place.  I don't want to be hostage to another person's feelings or opinion of me.  I will feel better if you will feel better?  It  does not really work.  It is an attempt at control that can prove fruitless.  I forgive others because I need to be healed of the damage done to me by others.  Some of the damage has been done by people who are dead.  My wanting them in hell, should there be such a place, does not heal me.  I get people off my resentment list by forgiving them their wrongs done to me.  This kind of forgiveness is not weakness.  It is wisdom on the spiritual path.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Uncomfortable Can Be Good*

When you stop using the crutch that helped you to feel comfortable in social situations you have to find new ways to be social, to fit in.  A crutch might be status, money, title, job, physical appearance, drugs and alcohol to name a few.  Without your crutch you feel uncomfortable walking into a social occasion or group.  My fall back position to feel OK, or comfortable, less afraid, is to isolate.  I go stay off by myself though I am in a group.  I don’t sit next to anyone or introduce myself, much less ask how someone else is doing.  That would be way too social.  Isolation is my comfort zone at times.  So I have learned that in order to become a more adult person in a social situation I need to do something new.  This makes me uncomfortable at first.  But here, being uncomfortable is the path to growth.  I sit down next to someone I don’t even know.  Or I walk up to someone and say hello.  I introduce myself.  I never assume that people might remember me from some other occasion.  At first, this is way uncomfortable, but in a moment or two, I feel part of the room or group or occasion that I am attending.  I move from discomfort to comfortably fitting in.  I feel a part of, rather than apart from.  And it might help the uncomfortable person I just sat next to, or met, to feel more comfortable too...after they get over the fear that I might be a crazy person.

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Redwood Tree

In Brookings, Oregon there is a redwood tree, called the “Bombsite Redwood.”  During WW II, the site was bombed by the Japanese.  Nobuo Fujita, the pilot of the bomber, felt remorse after the war over what he did, so he traveled to Brookings to ask for forgiveness.  The town accepted his apology.  He came back several times and in 1992 he planted a redwood seedling.  So when you are thinking about making an amends or saying you are sorry, let Nobuo be a good example.  He had courage, took a lot of time out to go to the people, and did more than say, “I am sorry.”  Sorry is a start, but we are about more permanent change for the better in oneself.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Being Found*

I hear people in and out of recovery programs tell me that they cannot find God, and therefore they do not meditate or say verbal prayers much at all.  They say, “It doesn’t work for me.”  Well, maybe they are looking at mediation from the wrong side.  Say What?  Meditation is not so that you can find God, or a God of your understanding.  It is so that God can find you.  Mediation keeps us free from running away from something.  We stop staying busy and active in accomplishments to escape ourselves, at least for a few minutes.  We allow, permit, let something happen while we stay somewhat quiet and still with little noise around us.  If we stop running away, we might be able to be found.  It is not God who is hiding.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Common Sense*

We avoid a lot of things because of common sense.  This is not always a good thing.  Common sense never scales mountains.  It never runs a marathon.  And it will never become a lover.  On the one hand it seems to offer protection, but than on the other it can offer mediocrity.  I think that a spiritual path of some meditation, silence, solitude and checking in with a second opinion can be a great help in ascertaining when we are avoiding something out of fear, or help us to know our passion that makes us all we are meant to be.  Some people would say they are on a spiritual path, such as a church membership but for second rate motives.  They want to escape hell.  But they are not really in love with their God.  There are people in recovery programs to avoid pain, but they have no passion for service to others.  The road to perfection is about having a passion for it, becoming a lover of the interior relationship, whatever that might be.  Then again, the ecstacy of the lover repels many people.  If you are following your healthy passion, people will call you strange.  Ask anyone who has tried to scale Everest.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Baby And Bathwater

I find that many a Westerner rejects Western Religion based upon some experience in growing up, or some recent events.  But many of these same people love the Upanishads, the Tao and the Dharma.  Westerners did not grow up in these spiritual paths, so they can come to them with some openness. All these Eastern paths have great wisdom.  If you are open then the wisdom will shine forth.  I suspect that many people who grow up in these Eastern spiritual paths, don't find that wisdom.  You might find some intellectual belief or some vague identification as Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, but not really much of the wisdom shines through in daily living with one another.  The West has no monopoly on bad behavior, prejudice, selfishness and the like.  All spiritual paths have wisdom.  What they lack is witnesses of the wisdom.  Spiritual paths are meant to be lived one day at a time.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Fear*

A lot of people would agree that Jesus of Nazareth was a rather spiritual person.  Did you know that he had fear?  His home base of operations was Galilee where he grew up.  He felt safe there going around and doing his spiritual teachings.  But there was a big feast in Jerusalem, where he did not feel safe, because some people there were trying to kill him, or wished him dead.  His family went down to Jerusalem while Jesus stayed safely behind in Galilee.  Fear controlled him at the moment.  But he had a sponsor who he called "The Father."  Jesus checked in with the Father.   His sponsor gave Jesus a second opinion, a different look about things. So Jesus went down to Jerusalem but in secret, undercover.  Once he got there, he began to teach as his fears began to lessen more and more.  Jesus moved into action and away from the power of fear that kept him inactive.  So it is OK to feel fearful.  Being on a spiritual path, in recovery, meditative, does not mean you won't feel fear.  It is what you do with fear.  Keep it to yourself, and it will control and paralyze you from becoming your best self.  Tell someone in all honesty, some trustworthy person, like a sponsor or someone on a spiritual path like yourself, and get a second opinion. When I do this, I find that the power of the fear begins to fall away.  I go from paralyzed or self-centered behavior, to becoming my better self.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Charles Freer Andrews

C. F. Andrews was a minister in the Anglican Church in England.  He decided to become a missionary and that is how he met Mohandas Gandhi, in South Africa, where Gandhi was working on civil rights.  Andrews felt that Gandhi was a wonderful example of the spirit of Christian love and Gandhi felt that Andrews was a missionary who bore witness to the Gospel through deeds.  Western religions seem so often to emphasize articles of belief, dogmas, and internal rules, while the witness in action is less important and often not lived much at all by its believers.  Various prejudices would be an example of this.  I find much more attractive a spiritual path that attracts through deeds rather than through promotions that emphasize beliefs or a system of hoops one must go through.  AA, Gandhi, and Andrews would be examples of the emphasis on action and witness.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Being Ready*

If someone asks me for help in becoming a better person, developing a better spiritual connection, or work on some personal problem, I try not to freak out with the thought, “OMG, I don’t want to mess them up with bad advice,” or “I am not good enough, or smart enough, or knowledgeable enough to help.”  I have learned from others that if the person asking me for help is ready, there is nothing I can do wrong, and if they are not ready, there is nothing I can do right.  I am not God or a Higher Power.  I don’t make someone sober, or keep them sober or make them spiritual giants.  So I do the best that I can, and that is enough.  It is a Power much greater than myself with which they will cooperate if they are ready.  But no one can get what they don’t want.  On my good mornings I ask myself, “Do you want to be the best you can be today, Terry?”  Prayer, mediation, reading and talking with other people on the journey to growth, all help to make a weak or ambivalent “yes” I much stronger and more positive, “YES!”  How is your “yes” today?

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Messenger In The Darkness

AN EASTER MESSAGE
LUKE 24:1-12

I would like to be the messenger in the tomb.  Be available to someone when they enter the darkness, bewildered, disoriented, searching, their world all torn apart.  This is the case of the women with the spices who come to anoint Jesus.  Like many people who are in darkness and even shock, they do the irrational.  Why bring spices to anoint a body that is buried behind a stone too big to move?  But at least they are searching for something to do.

I want to be the person who has known the darkness and found hope, who has found a “yes” to all those who say “no” to life.  I think of all the people who were killed by church bombs in Sri Lanka in the last few hours.  The survivors are bewildered and shocked, in darkness.  The bombers said “no” to the victims. Persons can say “no” by shooting children in schools, Can the survivors say “yes” to going on with some quality of life?  Who will bring them hope?  

I think of all the addicted people, living in a darkness, searching for a way out.  Suicide seems like an option.  Then they come into the recovery rooms of 12 step programs.  Someone is there for the newcomer, someone who has known the darkness, and searched for light and life and found it from others who were there for them when they came all perplexed.  

Not everyone will respond to hope offered.  Many an addict leaves and dies miserable in their darkness.  The messenger of hope is not responsible for the results, but only for being there with the message for another. The disciples of Jesus thought the message to be nonsense.  Many today will say the same thing.  Nonsense to a God becoming human and dying selflessly on a cross and then rising from the dead. 


When someone loses a parent, a spouse, a child, a lifelong friend to death,  they can feel a certain darkness.  Their old life is gone, like a broken dish.  It can never be recovered.  But hope says that there can be a future, different from the past, but a future with light in it.  Someone who has gone through a similar loss and learned to live on in hope and service, can be the messenger.  My darkness, followed by a “yes” is new life.  I am risen.  

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Resurrection

Happy Easter.  Why is it that pictures of the Risen Jesus most often have him all buffed, no pimples or facial blemishes, looking like he just had a good shower, with his beard trimmed and hair all clean?  Is resurrection all about lookin' good?  At least the Buddha is fat.  Happy, but fat.  In Boulder, Colorado fat is a misdemeanor.  I will never look like Jesus.  I have a very imperfect body and it is made more imperfect by age.  Should I get blessed to be raised up, whatever that might be, will I be given a body I never had?  Do we even have bodies in heaven?  Only Jesus, Mary and Elisha seem to have gone "up" with bodies.  Come to think of it, Mary looks pretty good in all the visions of her.  A lot of us don't believe in afterlife, but we try real hard to look buffed and blemish-free through exercise, cosmetics and such.  For me, looking good takes away from what is really important about resurrection, and that is "being good."  I would prefer Jesus depicted as someone more normal.  Was he not a Jew?  He never looks like a Jew.  I can relate to Jews.  Buffed gods do not do it for me.  I makes me feel I have no chance.  I think of resurrection as a normal, everyday body being raised, that shines with happiness.  Happiness that comes from within and from living a good and loving life, is what makes us beautiful, and most perfect.  Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Judgment

Many of us are kind of ambivalent about "judgment."  We don't like religion that is judgmental, nor do we like others who we think are judging us.  But we seem to love reality TV.  These shows about who is the best singer, dancer, best looking or whatever "best" is all about judgment, with a winner and lots of losers.  We don't seem to mind participating in the judgment of others.  We might tend to get real upset if we found out that someone was lying on these shows in order to better their chances of winning.  But we don't seem to mind lying ourselves to get out of a loser situation and better our chances of looking good in the eyes of others.  I have found that rigorous honesty about myself and being non-judgmental of others works best for me.  I think my God would approve.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Being Found*

Some people tell me that they cannot find God.  They wonder if they are atheists or are just looking in the wrong place, but there is no God in their lives.  I suggest that maybe God, if there is a God, does not always want to be found by our active efforts or search.  Maybe God wants to do the finding, and we should just wait and be found.  So how to do this?  Meditation is a way.  In meditation, you do less and you let God or some Energy or Power find you.  Meditation usually means being still in one place, letting go of your focus on thoughts, and words.  Be still and try to be open.  To what?  Good question.  As long as you do not try to know what the what is, you will be open to God being who God wants to be for you.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Last Place Holy Thursday

No one seems to like being in last place or the bottom of the heap.  No one except the Christian God. Christians are supposed to follow this God of theirs when he became human and washed feet.  Yep.  Their God washes feet.  It is a stretch to get a Catholic kid to make their bed or take out the garbage or hang up their clothes, much less wash feet.  But that is what the Christian God did when human.  Today is Holy Thursday in Christian circles.  It only happens one time each year, so only one time are Christians reminded in their Bible that God washes feet.  Only a slave, a last place person, the bottom of the hierarchical cultural heap, washes feet.  Christians seem to be more interested the Holy Communion aspect of their religion.  They don't have to humble themselves or be of much service to receive communion.  Communion comes from the Last Supper which Jesus only did once, just like the washing of feet.  But Christians picked up big time on the Last Supper, not so much the humbling servant washing feet.  So the next time you finish last in something or think you are at the bottom of heap of recognition, just know, if you are a Christian, that you are closer to God than all the people above you or ahead of you.  So you Christian runners, no need to train hard to be a success and look good.  Be last.  Train less.  Eat chocolate.  Be closer to your God.

The Coin*

Do you know the origin of the coin idea in recovery meetings?  People are given coins or medallions for length of sobriety.  This idea came from a nun, Ignatia Gavin, an Irish immigrant, who joined a religious order of Sisters here in the States.  In 1934 she began work at St. Thomas hospital in Akron, Ohio.  The hospital did not admit alcoholics.  But at the urging of a local doctor in recovery himself, Bob Smith, Sister Ignatia began to admit alcoholics under the diagnosis "acute gastritis."  Eventually the hospital opened a wing for alcoholics.  On a patient's discharge day, Sister Ignatia presented each of them with a medallion of the Sacred Heart on it.  She told them to return the medallion before taking another drink.  You hear a lot of bad stuff about my church in the press lately, so here is something to remind you that we do good stuff too.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Trail Blazers*

Trail Blazers refer to the signage or symbols along a trail, so that you know where to go next.  The blazers are put there by people who went before you.  If you have not been on the trail before or not in a long time, you need to look for these blazers and follow them so you don’t get lost.  This is a great metaphor for the spiritual journey.  It is about growth from where and who you are, to where you go next and who you will become.  The future is unfamiliar, so we have to trust and hope in the blazers put there by mentors who have gone before us.  In recovery programs these would be sponsors, steps and home groups.  In religious paths they would be spiritual directors or gurus.  Self-will run riot is where you decide to ignore the signs and bushwhack it yourself where you will stumble around, get lost, scratched, frustrated and get nowhere of use.  And if I am coming back to a path I have not been on in a while, I especially need to follow directions, the blazers.  I may think I know where I am, but I need help to get to where I am supposed to go, to become all I was made to be.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tune Up*

If you practice on a musical instrument like a guitar it pretty much stays in tune or is easy to tune up from one day to another.  You also find it easier to play the guitar as you practice daily.  The spiritual road is like a relationship with a guitar.  You have to practice on a daily basis to keep an improvement or ease of play/prayer/lifestyle.  If you neglect the practice, you become like the guitar, out of tune.  And it is not easy to get tuned up.  One does not pick up where one has left off in playing a neglected musical instrument.  So I think of my daily spiritual practice as my way of staying tuned up.  I know both the out of tune and in tune life.  I try not to bash myself about too much.  When I am into my spiritual practice, I am in tune with the world around me.  Middle C.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Ecdysis*

Ecdysis is not a misspelling of a word.  Ecdysis is what a snake does when it sheds its entire outer skin all in one piece.  We think of the snake only as something yucky that can kill us with its venom.  But ecdysis shows the snake as a sign of rejuvenation.  So it can be a symbol of healing which is why medicine has as its symbol, the snake wrapped around a pole.  The pole is the walking staff of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine.  Asclepius used the staff as he walked around from town to town to treat patients.  It is why Moses’ deity told him to make a statue of a staff with a snake wrapped around it.  The snake that had been killing people can also be an agent of healing in the right hands.  Alcohol can kill you and heal you. Pour some 90% proof on a wound and it can heal you by killing the germs.  Drink it and well, bye bye.  Recovery or spiritual enrichment is like trying to shed old skin, to reveal a new skin underneath.  Patience, since it does not happen all at once.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Happy Easter and Passover

For me, it is sad that my country seems to trivialize Easter, a date of great significance for Christians. This year it is also within the week of Passover, a Holy Week for Jews.  Passover is not trivialized.  But you might see Easter cards and sale advertising with the “Easter Bunny” and lots of Easter candy.  It is a chance for business to try and sell stuff for the “Easter Sale.”  There is no Passover sale or Ramadan sale.  Now some people will say that the bunny and the eggs are signs of new life, but I don’t hear anyone connecting it with Jesus and resurrection.  Now we Christians might have ourselves to blame for this since we did rule the Western world at one time and tried to make people focus on our religion or else.  For those of you who are celebrating the Holy Days of Jews and Christians this week, I hope you have some good food.  The Jews taught us Christians that food is important when celebrating religious feasts, or at least looking forward to good food if fasting.  That is why it is called a “Feast.”

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Dead Plant*

So you think that drinking alcohol is rather harmless if you have just one shot? Well, if you have a potted plant around the house why don’t you pour that one shot into the potted plant.  Then check the plant the next day.  It will be dead.  So you are not a potted plant and one drink won’t kill you.  The
 only difference between you and the plant is that you and the human species has built up a tolerance for that shot of alcohol.  We are able to poison ourselves slowly on a daily basis.  At one time, I was trying to kill myself, but slowly, so that I would not have to say I was suicidal.  I am nice to potted plants and to my body now.  And I fertilized myself with meditation.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Dry Not Enough*

Someone said that they lived like an alcoholic, though they had stopped drinking.  They thought that they were in control because they were not drinking.  However the rest of their life was drama and chaos.  Eventually, the control not-drinking program fell apart.  The reason that people in addiction recovery go to meetings, work steps, meditate and help others, is so that they do not want to live a life full of drama and chaos.  I have found it so.  It is important to accept how little I really do control.  I need daily reminders so that I make a sane response to what shows up in daily life, in events, relationships, emotions and my morning plans for the day.  I am lucky to have a way of life that saves me from myself.  I sweep my side of the street as best as I can.  Fixing others is not in my league.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Change In Life

Homily Notes
Fr. Terry Ryan, CSP
John 8: 1-11
April 7, 2019

I am coming to believe that the reason many people leave the Church is because their connection to church is mostly from doctrine, rules, rituals and customs.  Occasionally, in religion training they did a service project.  The impetus for worship might be mediocre, that is, fear of hell.  As they grow up and all this seems to make little sense or be of little use in their life, they drift away.
The ones who stay, assuming some spiritual maturity, have more of a focus on a passion for Jesus.  Love draws them to wanting the Eucharist.  For whom would you inconvenience yourself, surrender yourself, suffer some?  It would be for someone you love with a passion, such as a child.  Someone you like, a relative, occasional acquaintance, someone you might admire, you would not call this a deep love, a passionate love.  Some people get this relationship with Jesus on a regular basis, some on a less regular basis, and some not much at all.  A person might believe the dogma but it moves them not at all.                                          
In the gospel Jesus faces the adulterous woman, one on one, a direct encounter.  She is guilty no matter the circumstances.  That is how it is in that law.  In this encounter, the woman experiences unconditional acceptance and love, for Jesus does not judge her.  She has nothing to offer, no bargaining chip, and gets Jesus’ love expressed in his attitude toward her.  It is only then that he tells her to sin no more.  She must have this passionate connection, feel this love that replaces her shame and guilt and maybe her anger, before she can change her life.  This is why Jesus faces her alone.  He hopes she will connect with him personally, from the heart. 
In the Eucharist as well as Confession, the sacrament is trying to give us and sustain in us this type of encounter such that we will in fact become “followers” and not just catechism believers of Jesus.  But the sacrament is not magic.  We have to bring some of our passion to it.  We have to need it as much as the adulterous woman needed a reprieve from execution.  People whose life fell apart and then found the unconditional love of God through Jesus in the sacraments, generally stay church connected.  The self-sufficient don’t need Jesus all that much.  Their passion lies elsewhere.  Daily, I struggle to climb out of mediocrity.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Sibyllina

Once there was a woman who became blind.  One day, in a dream, she realized that she was not to recover her eyesight.  She could have committed suicide or gone into deep depression, or became super needy and self-pitying as partial responses to this realization.  She did none of those things.  She had a rather she response to being blind.  What was it?  That her life was no less meaningful for her disability.  She became a woman who dispensed advice to all kinds of people who sought her out. She did a lot of prayer and meditation.  She did what she could and did not focus on what she could not do.  My disabilities do not diminish the meaning or usefulness of my life.  I may have limitations, things I can no longer do.  But I can still be very useful and of service to others.  I can still meditate and enjoy some solitude.  One door closes and another opens up.  Have not all recovering addicts discovered this?  And people recovering from divorce, death of spouse, loss of job, career and home? Dementia might be a loss that diminishes.  I will be as useful as I can be while I have some working brain.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Sole or Soul*

I might be able to sit at a table with other people, all of us on our cells while listening to one another. I notice in these situations that no one is talking about anything of substance.  We are reporting information or opinions about various situations such as politics, or who was with whom.  What is worse, is that gossip is a sure way to get us to stop looking at our phones.  In short, we are not so much connecting with one another, as accumulating information.  Whatever is on the screen is at least as important as the person across from me.  Good grief!  This is “sole” seeking.  I need “soul” seeking.  At times, the cell can become another form of isolation for me.  Oops!  Gotta go.  Cell is buzzing.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Limitations*

Limitations can be quite uplifting when you think about it.  If we don’t live within our limitations, we will surely die by them.  If you are into your senior years, you don’t try to do things that are no longer possible lest you destroy yourself.  There is a point wherein high mountain climbers stop trying to climb high mountains.  If you are an alcoholic or addicted to opioids, you limit your intake to zero.  But you live, sober.  If you have some physical limitations, you live within them.  A broken limb limits you, but you rest and heal.  If you have neither the brains or money to get into some elite school, you live with it, rather than cheat to get in.  Rich people think that money can bypass such academic limitations.  Stay with limits and avoid jail or fines.  Th life I have now is a gift, with limitations.  Had I ignored my limitations, I would not have this life now.  I would have death.  And no blog.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

All Saints*

People who are trying to grow spiritually from some not so spiritual bottom are all saints. Why?  Because they are like the recognized saints who have gone through a conversion experience.  There is no saint without a past in which things were not going quite so well, and maybe even going dreadfully downhill.  That is the past.  But there is their future, and that is where all the growth happened.  They continued to grow day by day into better people.  Levi, in the Bible, was a tax collector with a dreadful past of extortion and self-centered greed.  Jesus said Levi should “Come follow me.”  I guess this was Levi’s white lightening experience, because he got up and followed Jesus.  Then Levi had a future better than his past.  He even received a new name, “Matthew.”  So I like to think of myself as a saint in the making.  I have a past, not so good, very embarrassing, but I have hope in a future better than the past.  My problem is some of my past keeps dribbling into the present.  Whoa is me!  The spiritual effort is often trying to keep the past in the past.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Through Others*

A friend of mine said, "I don't see no god working in my life!  God has abandoned me."  Now my friend used to be a mess of misery and social failure.  But today he is living a much more balanced and useful life, noted by an increase in patience, acceptance and compassion.  He told me he tries to pray but feels nothing of a god there.  He sees a messed up world and where is god in all that?  In a nutshell, he has no direct experience of god in his life.  Just a blank.  I said, "You seem to be more at peace now than when I first met you.  How did that happen?"  He said, "Oh, I get together with some people several days a week and listen to them.  They give me some good advice and wisdom."  Ah!  I thought.  Maybe God is acting in my friends life through others.  I told him so.  A light went on for him.  Even if we have no faith, God can work through others for our benefit.  Just find the right "others."  

Friday, April 5, 2019

Immediate Reward*

Some people try to live good lives, do the right thing, be productive, for the sake of a future reward.  In Christianity it is to go to heaven after you die.  For a worker it might be for a future promotion or a future bonus.  In a relationship it might be for some later response from you partner that would please you.  People exercise, beat themselves up in hot yoga, running hills, Orange Theory, and other such exacting workouts for the sake of feeling better later or being skinnier.  It is all about delayed rewards.  But in recovery programs the reward can be much more immediate.  As someone said, "The reward for living a good and sober life, is a good and sober life.  If you are trying to be sober and you are miserable, well, that is what those steps and meetings are all about.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Second Drink*

People who are sober speak about the “first drink” as the one to avoid.  So why do so many sober people go out and drink again?  As someone said, “The first drink is not caused by alcoholism.  That is the second drink.  The first drink is caused by sobriety.”  Say what?  Sobriety is so bad or miserable that the person has to drink.  This tells me that sobriety has to have some solid footing in the recovery program with a spiritual and communal dimension.  Otherwise, we are simply “dry.”  When simply dry, you cannot live without your medication, alcohol or drug.  The steps of AA are to treat the disease.  Otherwise, we cannot adjust to reality.  I am working on a sober response to the world areound me.  I will be helpful, and prayerful.  How about you?

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Feelings*

My feelings don’t always tell me what is really going on in the outside world.  I have learned, at times, to tell the difference.  For instance, I may be feeling fear.  My spiritual progress on a good day, tells me, “I am afraid,”. But I don’t have to act on this feeling.  I pause and often find out that whatever I seem to be afraid of, is not really dangerous or life-threatening.  So why might I be feeling fearful?  Often it is because I am not going to get what I want, or am going to lose what I have.  In these situations it is all about me and my universe.  In these fearful moments described, I am the center of my universe, grabbing or holding on to stuff.  As someone told me, “Why try to be the center of the universe?  It is a very crowded place.”  Yes, we who are into self are not unique.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Old Ideas*

I find that when I am trying to let go of or overcome some bad habit or lifestyle, I often need to let go of old ideas.  My old ideas got in the way of change for the better.  An old idea might be: “I can do this myself.  I don’t need outside help,” or, “I will do bettr tomorrow.”  If someone has a problem with alcohol, drugs, cheating, stealing, lying, rage, and they cannot stop on their own, they may have to let go of “old ideas.”  One of these old ideas is “There is no god.”  This non-belief has not helped make a positive change in addictive behavior.  So maybe it would be good to let go of that old idea.  It is a form of surrender.  Before I can surrender an old way of life, I may have to first surrender ideas I had in the old way of life.  Just sayin’

Monday, April 1, 2019

Fake News

Today is April Fool’s Day.  It used to be the one day a year that you told a lie, or a fake truth, and then when everyone believed you, “April Fools” was shouted out.  Nowadays everyday is like a April Fools Day because of fake news.  And no on tells you that it is a joke.  Belief is encouraged in what is not true.  So today has lost it specialness as April Fools Day.  Some people like news that agrees with them and do not question its veracity.  I tend to read people who have a different philosophy or economic understanding or political view than I do, so as to test my own sense of what I think is so.  It helps me to stay connected with the “other” and not to get too tribal.  Truth wears no mask.  But I need to make sure I am not in my own way that blocks that truth from my view or understanding.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Log-In-Eye Disease*

I am reminded that Log-In-Eye is a disease of the ego inflation.  It results in hypocrisy and judgements of others.  Each day, I need to do a self-examination early on to see how I am doing with my character defects and ask God to help me not fall over them.  I trip over myself when I focus on the faults, as I see them, of others. I see the speck in their eye, so to speak.  I get resentful and angry.  Maybe whine a bit too.  Do they change?  No.  Do I?  No.  I find that often when I focus on someone else’s faults, these are really my faults, the log in my eye, that I want to avoid.  Why damage my ego or self-esteem?  Better to be right and miserable?  I am a long way from ‘gently admonishing” other people.  Working on myself is quite a full time occupation.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

GPS*

Someone said that for them GPS stands for Gratitude, Prayer, and Sevice.  I like that.  GPS is supposed to tell me where I am and how to get to where I say I want to go.  It keeps me on track or gets me back on track.  I get off track when I think the world is unfair and I am not getting what I deserve.  Gratitude is the answer rather than whining and resentment.  When I feel that I can do everything myself and don’t need any help, support, communnity, then prayer is the response.  Check in with my God and get out of my self-will and isolation.  When I think that I am too busy, or doing so very important projects that I am cannot be helpful to others, service is the answer rather than ego trips, self-centered fear and more resentments at the demands of others.  A step by step spiritual program is what powers my GPS.  Are you on track today?

Friday, March 29, 2019

Ground Control*

The spiritual life of prayer and mediation is a bit like ground control.  What does airport ground control do?  It tells the pilots where they are and where they are heading.  If necessary, ground control gives course change directions based upon stuff about which the pilots may not know.  So God is like ground control and when we check in during our flight through the day, God will direct us.  God will tell us where we are as opposed to where we think we are.  God is the second opinion and is more accurate than our unaided self.  Then God gives us direction.  I try to check in with ground control God each morning before I try and take off for me day.  I have had enough accidents and disasters when directed by my unaided will.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Birthday

Today is my birthday.  I look forward to this day.  I don’t dread aging.  It could be worse.  So, what to do for a “Happy” day?  My plans, which sometimes don’t work out, is to meditate and read some good spiritual daily reflection.  Then I will go and run myself into the ground on a beautiful morning trail alongside a creek in Boulder, with the Rocky Mountains in view.  I will do my stretching exercises, and then go to breakfast with a friend. Then I will meet with friends to talk about how we trudge the road of happy destiny.  For dinner, I will be with some other friends, and hope there is a chocolate cake.  A day in which my body can still run, my soul pray, and my whole self be with friends is a “Happy Day.”  I hope you celebrate with me with your own happy day.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Your Creation

So you have problems with a god who might have created this world that is such a mess of volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and floods.  So you lose faith that such a creator god even exists.  Well, say that you were God, the creator.  Would your make everyone look just like you, in skin color, language, and culture?  If you say no, there should be lots of diversity, then ask yourself how you respond to diversity, in your neighborhood, your work, your school, and stores and places you go and choose not to go?  The God I know of, and it is personal to me, challenges me to be open to more diversity and surprise.  You have tornadoes because warm air and cold air come together.  They like to meet in Kansas.  We have hurricanes because the world spins around, and some ocean water is warmer than other ocean water.  Air moves.  Platelets are not all the same and run into one another or get caught up in one another and then pull apart.  San Francisco is waiting for one or the other to happen.  Anyhow diversity is what creation seems to be all about.  So I try to get onboard the reality train.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Gratitude*

Sometimes I dwell on the one thing that won't be happening in my life and ignore all the other good things that I have happening in my life.  I whine about not being young anymore, but forget that I am alive in spite of past bad behavior that could have had me dead.  I am not an important priest with a big title and lots of power.  I forget that I am an active priest, with good ministry opportunities coming my way each day.  I focus on the one (OK maybe more than one) person who does not like my odd craziness, and forget all the people who love me in my whimsey.  I focus on being such a slow runner now, but ignore the fact that I can run at all.  On my saner days I am grateful for all that I have.  How is your sanity doing today?  Whining is a good way to measure sanity.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Oxytocin*

Did you know that you have oxytocin in your system naturally?  It gets elevated when you help others.  Say what?  Well, oxytocin is the feel good hormone in the body that gets a natural boost when you are helpful to others.  This is why we often feel better when we get out of ourselves and be of service.  For addicts who are always looking to feel better, being of service is highly recommended rather than some outside drug/alcohol.  But what if you are selfish and self-centered?  When I am into these moods of self-implosion, I do not get a hormone boost when I am helpful.  I get resentful, complaining, whining, judgmental and grumpy.  So it is best that I try to keep away from character defects that keep my oxytocin low.  My birthday is this week, March 28, and you get a chance to elevate your oxytocin!  😇

Sunday, March 24, 2019

How Do You Feel?*

Sister Blandina was asked once in her elderly years, "Sister, how do you feel today?"  Blandina answered, "Just as God wills."  Wow.  I always pray that my God make me feel better or different than whatever I am feeling, at the moment, that I don't like.  I think I could avoid whining, complaining, and resentment, if I had more of the attitude of this woman.  Just because God is not doing what I want, does not mean that God is not involved in my life.  It is just that God and I do not always agree on the daily agenda.  Guess who needs to change?  Adversity can help me to know myself if I concentrate on my side of the street.  What was my part in the the adverse situation in which I find myself?  Often I find that I had quite a bit to do with whatever the adversity is.  When I then try to work on me, rather than focus on God changing the situation while I do nothing to change me, I can grow into a bette person.  So, “How do you feel today?”

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Coin Prayers*

Sometimes I treat prayer like a coin.  I call them "Coin Prayers."  God is the spiritual vending machine.  I want to get something.  I look at the choices that God might provide.  God cannot provide all my wants.  I will never be taller, younger or handsome.  Those slots are empty.  So I choose something that is more reasonable, like a parking place, a good seat at an event I want to attend, a cold to go away, enough gas to get to my next destination, my team to win, someone to like me, and so on. Then I say my prayer of petition.  This is the coin prayer dropped into the god vending machine.  I wait for what I want to come out.  Didn't you used to get upset when the wrong stuff came out, that which you did not choose or don't really like?  Me too.  I blamed the stupid machine, the malfunctioning machine for not doing its job.  And I don't get my coin back.  I sometimes just want to kick god for not giving me what I want when I want it.  Many people drop out of the prayer business and religion because their vending machine god did not come through for them.

Friday, March 22, 2019

X-Ray Spirituality*

Someone mentioned that in an x-ray, everything not essential disappears, like clothes and muscles.  The essential stuff is highlighted or literally, lights up.  This is a great metaphor for the contemplative practice of silence and solitude.  Silence does not mean no noise, and solitude does not mean you are alone.  It is more an interior attitude that comes with a method and practice.  Anyhow, in the deepening meditation the essential you shows up, is revealed to you.  You get to know yourself better, and see what might need some attention just like in an x-ray.  Think of it as shining a light on you.  Doesn't Elton John have a song, "Shine the Light on Me?"  I digress.  Anyhow, I try for some x-ray prayer time each day to see what is gong on inside me beneath the busy mind that is quite unessential at that moment of prayer.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Vero Beach

I am just finishing up my short stay in a little bit of fullness.  It is Vero Beach, Florida.  Now the weather has not been the best, but Vero has things I cannot find in other places.  It has “Ocean” radio station.  That is the name of the station.  It plays oldies from my past.  It now plays newer oldies than it used to play.  No more Frank Sinatra or Perry Como, so I guess the radio figures that people like me must be dead.  Here at the Paulist house where I stay while here, we have the Wall Street Journal newspaper which is my favorite, as well as the NYT which is OK and the local paper which gives me all the news of what is going on around here where I used to live.  At the local “Publix” supermarket, I can buy Entenment New York Crumb Cake.  I cannot find this in Colorado or California.  And I can get the closest thing to New York Pizza at the Italian restaurant, “Vincent’s” here in Vero.  There is a local park a few minutes drive from the house, or a jog, which has trees for shade and a dirt path for jogging.  Good bye Vero Beach.  See you next year, God willing.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Blind Spot*

I found out that we have a blind spot, or hole, in our retina.  The brain fills in the missing parts that the retina does not see.  But the brain fills in from its history living in our head.  Different brains see different things, or rather interpret what is missing.  This is why two people don't see the same thing when they look at a common scene.  So the brain alone would not be good for telling us what is reality.  We need some spiritual dimension to our life to fill in what the brain obscures or denies.  For instance, two people look at a beggar on the street.  One sees a dirty person, who is too lazy to work, is into an addiction that destroys his health, weak-willed, and is generally worthless.  The other person sees a child of God, a fellow traveler on this journey called life, who might be in need of some acceptance, attention and compassion.  Do they both see the same person? No.  We get narrowed by our prejudices, our fears, insecurities and damaged egos, as well as a starved spiritual practice.  Religion at its best can heal our vision.  At its worse, it feeds our narrowness.  So I try for a spiritual practice each day to fill in the hole in my retina, as well as the hole in my heart.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

St. Joseph

In my world, today is the Feast of St. Joseph.  If you bought your present home from a Catholic, there is a fair chance that a statue of Joseph is buried in your yard.  The Catholics forgot to dig it up after they sold the house to you.  Or they just left him buried there upside down. Typical for some Catholics. They get what they want and forget to say thank you.  Joseph was baby Jesus’s Dad and a traveling guy who always got the tough jobs to do with Mary and baby Jesus. Selling a house means you are traveling and some houses are tougher to sell than others at the price you want.  Anyhow, if he is out there in your yard you are in good hands.  Joseph is one of  my favorite guys and I ask him for help every day.  I need lots of help.  And I am a traveling man too.  Happy St. Joseph’s Feast Day!

Noah*

In the famous story, “Noah and the Flood,” it seems that the God in charge of creation got fed up with  the bad behavior of humans.  There were no recovery programs back then, so when a person started down the road of being bad, they just kept going and getting worse.  So God decided to do away with all humans and animals.  I guess even God can get carried away since I don’t know why birds have to be exterminated because of our bad behavior.  But then again, we are doing exactly that today with our bad behavior.  But I digress.  Back to Noah.  He was the one person who found favor with God.  So God decided to keep a few of everything around in the Ark.  See, one person can make a difference in a world of bad people.  So the next time you think you cannot make a difference, think of Noah.  Be the best you can be and work at it on a daily basis.  Why? Well Noah got drunk after the flood ended, when he got onto dry land.  Good behavior takes daily effort.  Well, at least for me it does.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Enough*

Lately, I am thinking of “sin” as an attitude that there is never enough.  Enough of what? Never enough of what I don’t need in the first place.  It is an attitude that is followed by an action.  If I were to have one drink, I would say, “It is not enough,” and I would want lots more, none of which I need. If I open a bag or box of some treat, I might say, “I will just have one,” but after eating the one, I want lots more that I don’t need.  Do you hoard things or have too much of something that you don’t really need?  Whenever I feel that I am not satisfied with what I have, I tend to go into the direction of “more,” which is a slippery slope.  Sin is when it all ends in too much of what I said I needed.  My needs are quite simple and small.  My wants are quite a lot.  Spiritual principles keep me from the slippery slope.  Wisdom figures call this “more” stuff, the leaven.  It starts small but then expands rapidly.  A good blog for Spring Cleaning.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

St. Patrick’s Day

Everybody is Irish today, or loathes all things Irish even if they do not know what it means.  They ask what is the big deal?  Well, the Irish got kicked around when they immigrated here big time in the mid-18th Century.  Some people thought they were barely human.  Lots of discrimination.  But the Irish are inventive of fun things when life seems bleak.  So they came up with “St. Patrick’s Day” in this country.  They came up with corn beef and cabbage, neither of which makes me celebrate.  But then there is the partying and yes, a little to a lot of drinking.  I went from a little to a lot.  I got too Irish.  The Irish are very tribal and so there is a club of us who went from a little to a lot.  So today we are wearing of the green but drinking water, sparkling or not.  We are not a grumpy lot, but rather happy to be able to say today, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!”

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Dad

My dad died on this day back in 2004.  I was with him when he took his last breath.  I got a chance to say goodbye.  I think about that today because I cannot speak to my parents in the flesh anymore.  I am glad that when I could be with them I was.  I have never been good on the phone, but I would visit and always answer a letter from my mom.  If you have parents who are still alive, you might ask yourself when was the last time you contacted them?  Maybe you think that one or the other is or was terrible and life was traumatic with that parent.  But they did give you life and long after they are dead you might wish you had been more in touch.  You never know.  And if you have adult children who have moved out, are you in contact with them?  I think that even parents we might call “crazy” are still doing the best they can.  It might not have been enough for you, but it was all they had, burdened with their shortcomings and character defects.  Parents die.  Resentments tend to linger.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Bread And Wine*

For Catholics and Lutherans who believe in the bread and wine being changed on the altar into God, it is a great metaphor for everyone.  For me, I know that I need a cure for self-centeredness.  The world is not all about me, nor am I its center.  This delusional self is like the bread, the ordinary and everyday way that I try to nourish my soul byself-interest in getting what I say I need.  But I can become like God, and filled, only when I allow myself to be transformed into the person who practices surrendering love.  This would be at least as great a miracle as what happens on church altars.  The church mass ritual is trying to teach me about change which is more than watching what goes on up there, and then going to get a host for me, to make me feel better.  If I do not become a sacrificial gift for others in selfless love, than what would be the point of Communion?

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Hard Life*

Why is life sometimes so hard?  One reason is that we try to be someone we are not.  Jealousy, fear, self-esteem, are energies that lead us to do this “impersonation.”  Sometimes people take substances like alcohol to change their persona at a social event.  In the Adam and Even myth, they tried to be someone they are not, God.  I think I have been guilty of this myself from time to time.  I find now that if I just give of what I am, be myself, then it will be enough.  If it is who I am, then it is never too small.  If I am sick, I try not to make believe that I am not sick.  I prefer to effect and not infect other people with my presence.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Don’t Believe Solution*

I am very open to people who don’t believe in a god, except when they offer it as the reason that they cannot stop some addiction or bad behavior.  My question is, “Has your non-belief helped in any way to get you out of your addiction?”  Or, “Has your non-belief helped you to keep your spouse from walking out on you, your boss from firing you, your home from leaving you?”  If it looks like you are on the way to losing everything you think is important and valuable, then why keep a closed mind?  It is better to lose the closed mind and attain some freedom from your messy life.  My suggestion is that such people keep an open mind or find one, and let go of the closed mind that has done them no good in their downward spiral.  Desperation can give us a more open mind, and a willingness to learn.  What we “know” up to now lacks enough power to bring about any transformation.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Listen First*

I am not much for meetings with people that are all “open discussion.”  To me it would be like going to a religious service that starts out with “does anyone want to say anything?”  I prefer to listen to solutions, wisdom that is tried and true from some book/scripture/literature.  I am attracted to Jesus the wisdom figure who comes upon a person who can neither hear nor speak (Mark 7: 31-37).  Jesus first heals his hearing.  Then he loosens his tongue to speak clearly.  Many of us, and I count myself among them, don’t always listen.  Yet we might be quick to speak and what comes out is a messy jumble.  I like to hear some wisdom first, from a book, and then open up for discussion.  I have been to gatherings where people simply talk about their problems.  I have enough problems.  I need solutions.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Unimportant Me*

I went through a bad patch in the last couple of years.  I lost a job title, something that identified my important and necessary work.  I am on no parish staff.  I have no specific job responsibility in the corporate world of institutional religion.  I used to be a pastor.  Then I was a "missionary."  But I don't do missions so I guess that title is out the window.  I teach about prayer, but not at the behest of anyone.  I make up the topics and times to teach, but if I did nothing, the world would go on fine without me.  My problem with all this was that if I do not have important, necessary work, the world will abandon me.  I will be a failure.  I did not see this at the time, but now that my unimportantance no longer bothers me, I can see more clearly where I was stuck.  Ego and fear seem to go hand in hand.  So whenever you feel like I did, know that your important work, whatever that is for you, only feeds the ego.  The soul will starve.  I have found that people love me even when I am nothing in the job world.  Their love helped me to find my true treasure.  Me!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The So Not Solution*

Sometimes I have low self-esteem issues coupled with feelings of loneliness.  Ugh!  Well, I know what NOT to do.  Do not try to escape into unrealistic thinking.  Though it won't make me bodily unhealthy, like sugar and drugs/alcohol, the world of fantasy is a dead end.  I have found that I get nothing out of it, but a brief respite from boredom.  Fantasy life ignores the real me.  I am my own worst friend when I live in fantasy.  Would I not try feel badly if someone were to reject the real me and try to make me be someone I am not for their own pleasure or comfort?  But I do exactly this to myself whenever I go into fantasy.  Boredom, loneliness, and low self-esteem can be a doorway to some creative activity or some outreach to a healthy group of friends.  Fantasy goes nowhere.  Fantasy has me becoming someone I will never be.  Creative moments are when I come up with something that makes me a better me.  First things first.  Be real.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Garden Of Eden

In the Genesis creation story of the Bible, God planted a tree called "The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil."  Then he tells Adam and Eve not to eat its fruit.  Why plant the tree in the first place, and to top it off, say we cannot eat it or else bad stuff might happen?  The answer that makes sense to me is that God wants to be loved freely.  God wants us to CHOOSE to love God.  This would be an act of the will on our part. You choose freely not to eat the fruit. The truest and best love is when it is freely chosen.  Some of us at one time or another don't trust that we will be freely loved, so we try to manipulate things to get love from someone.  We act "nice" in order to get love.  We use money, power, looks to get love.  At times we are afraid that if you truly have a free choice you will not love us.  I guess God did not have self-esteem issues or control issues.  There was another tree in the Garden, the Tree of Wisdom.  This could be eaten.  Wisdom brings us to love ourselves just for being alive, and then to love others for themselves and not what they can give us.  We don't need their affirmation to love ourselves.  But it would be nice!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Worry*

I read this wonderful metaphor.  Worry is like a rocking chair.  It keeps you busy, but does not get you anywhere.  I find that worry does not lead to solutions that make much sense.  There are people who drink alone at home and sit there in a drunken stupor, worrying about running out of alcohol.  This is not not your issue?  OK, lets move on to traffic.  You sit in your car or on public transportation with lots of stop and not so much go traffic, and you worry about not getting someplace on time.  Will worrying make the traffic go away?  You are cramming for a test and worry that you will fail.  Will worry make you learn more or faster or give you more time before the test?  You worry that your child will grow up to live in your basement playing on video games.  Will worrying make them successful enough to move out and get a life?  Rather than sit in my "worrying rocking chair" I ask myself what realistic, productive action I can take now.  Sometimes mediation is the best thing I can do.  It beats worrying.  Or I play Elton John music and have happy feet.  😊😊

Thursday, March 7, 2019

On The Way

Hyprocrisy is when I deceive people into thinking I am what I do not intend to be.  Intention is the key.  You might do something that you intend to do, such as be of service to someone, but you do not feel like doing it.  Your intention does not match your feeling.  But that is not hypocrisy.  You may feel hopeless, and negative, wanting to help no one but yourself.  Yet you go against these feelings because you “INTEND” to be helpful and positive.  You are true to your intentions rather than your feelings.  If I waited around until my feelings matched my intentions, not much positive would be done for anyone, including me.  Feelings can be a great teacher, a warning, a protector. But they can get in the way of doing the greater good.  How many meetings did you skip because you did not feel like going?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday.  You may see some people walking around with dirt on their forehead.  Those are the ashes.  Anyone can get ashes at church or wherever they are being distributed.  I knew a priest who gave ashes at a subway entrance.  You don’t have to believe anything about any deity or dogma.  It is one of the few times that religion gives us something for nothing.  So why bother with the ashes?  It might be a good way to stop and in a tactile way, ask yourself how you are doing on becoming the best person you can be.  What might be getting in the way?  What change might you make in your life to bring about more joy, happiness and freedom of your spirit?  If you then want to do the Lenten journey it would be like having forty meetings in forty days with yourself to check in on your growth goals, and maybe to meet with some others who are on the same path.  OH, and don’t wear white shirt, blouse, or sweater in case the ashes fall down onto your nose and then your clothes.  It happens even with the best of the ash-givers.  Good day for dark colors.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Lenten Recovery*

I think that Lent, which starts tomorrow, and recovery programs match up quite well.  Each has a sense  of regret for past sins, faults, behaviors and failures to be better persons.  But it cannot be simply a regret for the past, or a confessing of past bad behavior or faulty thinking.  Lent and recovery programs are also about a complete reorientation of one’s own life.  We want to turn over a new leaf.  But wanting is not enough.  We need a plan of action.  Let’s put recovery into the forty days of Lent for the moment.  What do we intend to do and how are we going to do it over the next forty days?  Lenten people should ask their God what is the Divine will for them or else their plan for Lent might simply be an ego trip or a desire to get someone to like them better or hate them less.  The recovery person needs to check with their sponsor and higher power before committing to some action.  Otherwise their will alone is self-will run riot.  The how of whatever we decide to do requires some grace or energy that we do not have alone.  So each of these forty days needs a prayer of asking for help to do what we say we are going to do.  No plan?  No energy? No change.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Tap

HOMILY NOTES
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
LUKE 6: 39-45
MARCH 3, 2019
This weekend I took my first tap dance class.  Please don’t tell any church officials, as it is difficult for a priest to get work if he is tap dancing instead of getting holy.  Anyhow, I was dreadful, and it was a beginner class.  My brain, eye and feet were not working together.  But I am not giving up.  I have wanted to learn for a long time and time may be running out.  I even bought a DVD, though I have no DVD player, so I could watch the steps and try to practice them, over and over.  

Now what if someone asked me to show them how to tap dance, and I said, “Oh, sure, I will teach you.”  Would this not be a disaster, the blind leading the blind?  We would both be disasters together.  This is what the gospel is saying.  The blind cannot lead the blind.  I have to work on myself each day in dance before I can teach anyone anything in the distant future.  It is the same way with the spiritual life.  I have to be working on me each day, in prayer and behavior, so that I can become a better person to be a light for others.  I don’t want to fake it or be a hypocrite.  So I have to work on me before I can lead others.  

You can tell a rotten or good tree by looking at it and its fruit.  Nature does not fib.  But we humans can fib a lot, trying to show a good outside that hides a not so good, or ignored inside.  Our gossiping, judging, and complaining about others hides our own unattended faults and character defects.  If I am supposed to be teaching about contemplative prayer, then I had better be a daily practitioner.  


It would not be a good thing for me to become a good tap dancer, while giving up the time and energy for all those other things that could make me all God wants me to be.  I hope God is with me on this tap dancing thing.  I do know that I enjoy it so far, even if I am dreadful at it.  Break a leg?

Gargoyles*

Think of yourself as a Cathedral built beautifully by your creator.  I know it can be a stretch, but let the imagination reign for a moment.  Now the old cathedrals of Europe had roofs with demonic figures on them facing outward and with wings.  They are demons, or gargoyles, that are fleeing the cathedral, a place of holiness and grace.  The cathedral is a sacred space just as you are.  You are God’s sacred cathedral.  Lent is coming in two days.  It is a good opportunity to reflect on what gargoyles are needing wings and purpose to fly away from you.  Each of my character defects, faults and stinking thinking is a gargoyle.  I will be asking God to give them wings and be rid of them so that I may better be a sacred space for others to find comfort when they encounter me.  Don’t forget those ashes this Wednesday.  Anyone can get them, gargoyles and all.