Keep death before your eyes daily.”
This instruction is found in the Rule of St. Benedict (chapter 4) which provides direction for monastic communities of the Benedictine order. Why so morbid? Aren’t Christians to be hopeful?
Snow globes are mesmerizing. Peaceful. Hypnotic . . . until a five-year-old comes, picks up the globe, and SHAKES IT!
Sometimes life feels like a snow globe shaken. We are cozy in our "silent night." Family gatherings at Christmas. Sentimental music. Comfort food. And then something happens and life is SHAKEN. A loved one is sick. The family can't get along. The child is lost. The account is empty. Life is disrupted.
Last summer I stopped by St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN. Like most monasteries, St. John's has a guesthouse that is open to any visitor, Catholic or otherwise. In the entryway is a wall hanging of chapter 53 of The Rule of St. Benedict.
"All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say, 'I was a stranger and you welcomed me.'"
In this rule, Benedictines bind themselves to welcoming the stranger as a guest, as if Christ himself. What would it look like for all Christians to adopt this rule, especially in the frenetic holiday season?
The impeachment proceedings have me thinking about power. Who has power? How are they using it? The characters are before us. Donald Trump. Nancy Pelosi. Mitch McConnell. Adam Schiff. And so on.
We tend to think this is an exceptional time in history, but the struggle for power is a repetitive story. Same plot, different characters. Caesar Augustus. Herod the Great. They were the power brokers of their time. Today they are mere footnotes in a history book.
Trump. Biden. Pelosi.
Even if I knew that tomorrow the whole world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." - Martin Luther
Is it worth all the work?
How much difference does it make?
What do I do when I want to quit?
Thanksgiving is in two weeks. We all have our rituals.
Turkey cooking and pecan pie baking.
Passing out in a tryptophan-induced food coma.
Vegging on the couch while watching the Cowboys or the Lions lose.
Another admirable Thanksgiving Day ritual is to “count your blessings.” Allow me to put a spin on that. On November 28th, count your curses.
I was on a date with my nine-year-old, Emily. Over ice cream, I quizzed her with a number of questions. I came to, "If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?"
"With you, Daddy."
Cue the "dad tears." For now, I'm better than Disneyworld and the beach.
Too often, we hear that the stated goal of Christianity is heaven. It's not.
Restless. That word described how I had felt for months.
“Where should I go? What should I do?”
“Am I supposed to be somewhere else?”
It’s common, even for non or non-practicing Christians, to “give something up for Lent.” Fasting during this somber season is an ancient Christian practice. What is fasting? Why should (or shouldn't you) give something up for Lent?
Last year I walked in Armstrong Woods, a redwood forest in northern California. It is home to Colonel Armstrong, a giant tree estimated to be 1,400 years old. It’s a humbling experience to stand before a living tree that makes our nation's history seem infantile. How do these trees come to be?
A little further is a sign about redwood forest regeneration. It states:
"Redwood seeds cannot penetrate the thick layer of decomposing plant material that covers the forest floor. Crisis, such as a forest fire, allows the tiny seeds to reach the layer of mineral soil required for germination; overall the best way for redwoods to reproduce."
If things go on as normal, the seeds will never get below the duff to the soil. Redwoods only regenerate in crisis, by severe disruption.
Disruption is a popular word today. It is used to describe forces of change in economics or technology. I've been pondering Scripture and life through this word recently. What role does disruption play in the life of faith? What do you do when you experience it? Let me suggest five responses to the disruption you may experience.