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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

SnowShoeing & Spiritual Companionship

Who Knew? Snowshoeing provides many insights for the Spiritual Journey! Well, at least 1 minute and 56 seconds worth.

Question: Whose tracks do you follow?

by Tiffany Montavon

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Meaningful Action

Ahhhh here we are, so soon, in the discussion of contemplation versus action.  This has been the crossroads for people of faith for millennia.  Since Doug invited the importance of the Pause in the last blog, I'll invite the importance of Action.

What I love about the for-profit company Green Mountain Coffee using "A Revelation in Every Cup" as their marketing slogan is that it's actually true.  Potentially true, I should say.

If coffee farmers the world over were paid a fair wage for their effort and product, it would indeed change the world.

If every person sipping a cup of coffee became aware of the entire chain of relationship for that one cup, from growers tilling the soil to community members bringing beans to market to coffee buyers and sellers to the roasters, to the marketers, to the trees grown to make the disposable cup, instead of simply focusing on that one cup and their own price and satisfaction, that would be QUITE a revelation!

And finally, the hope is that such a revelation would change how that one cup of coffee was produced, for the good of God's world, if in fact change was needed.  To be a just world, change is indeed needed. 

Green Mountain Coffee and Ashoka's Changemakers are actually looking "for the most innovative ideas to inspire community action, " hosting a competition to do just that.  They are hoping the moment of revelation with your coffee can be turned into action that "motivates local citizens to strengthen communities." The deadline for idea submissions is April 21st - what an interesting Lenton practice that could be!  "How can I make my community a better place?"

Certainly it is important to stand at the crossroads, pause and reflect, and turn away from busy-ness. Now, I'm wondering if a different crossroads to explore is busy-ness versus action.  Busy means distraction; my attention is fractured, divided up and scattered.  Action means conscious awareness; focused attention with awareness of how everything is connected. So that every choice does indeed matter.

Resources for this exploration:
Just Coffee.org: We met these great folks on the Everything Must Change Tour with Brian McLaren. REALLY good coffee, delivered right to you, and everyone along the way makes their fair share.  No, it's not expensive, either!

Spirituality and Practice: they provide excellent classes, resources, and discussions on action and reflection.  Right now they have two excellent series going on: "Watching the Olympics as a Spiritual Practice" and a Lent series with the writings of Catholic Priest Edward Hayes, who views Lent as a time of expansion and growth instead of restriction and sacrifice. Great stuff!

Center for Action and Contemplation:  "a place of discernment and growth for activists and those interested in social service ministries—a place to be still, and learn how to integrate a contemplative lifestyle with compassionate service." They have events, resources, and is another place for action/reflection conversation.

Charity Focus.org. These folks have many ways of sending out good information in the world, and encouragement for the Faith Journey.  I get a dially email with a quote and a story of GOOD ACTION in the world, with a "how to live this" invitation to ACTION at the end.

Today , the quote was "Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you." --Augustine of Hippo.  The Good Action story was of a coffee shop owner who asked clients to consider setting aside their laptop for a certain amount of time to actually interact with the people sitting in the coffee shop.  The Be The Change invitation was to "budget your computer time, and use your newly freed time to connect with someone face-to-face."
by Tiffany Montavon
(to comment on this blog - which we WELCOME - click the title of the blog and scroll down - a comment box will be there)

Monday, February 15, 2010

In Praise of the Pause

Sometimes stopping is the best way to start.

Stopping can take many different forms.  I know busy people who have gone on 30 day Ignatian Retreats.  I also know a parent who has committed to simply breathing three times before disciplining her children.  Both are examples of stopping before starting. 

The prophet Jeremiah was a fan of the pause.  He says   “Stand by the crossroads and look; and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”  According to Jeremiah, pausing at the crossroads seems to be a good idea before heading down one path or another. 

No doubt pausing can be an excuse for inaction.  Clearly there are times to act even when the way forward is not clear.  But for the most part I think that we in this culture are addicted to movement.   “Don’t just stand there, look busy” is our way of being.

It is ironic that marketers of beverages seem to get the idea.  Coke’s old tagline was “the pause that refreshes.”  Currently Green Mountain Coffee boldly states that there is “a revelation in every cup.”  If we can get all that from a drink, imagine what might happen instead if we paused and asked ourselves a few meaningful questions about what all this busy-ness is about anyway. We will talk about that next week.

At their best all the great world religions invite us to slow down, reflect, pray and take stock.  There is a call to action, but to what?  How will you know which path to take if you do not first stand at the crossroads?

Barbara Brown Taylor makes the point that if Moses hadn’t been willing to stop and look more closely at something (a burning bush in this case), he wouldn’t be the Moses we know:

“What made him Moses was his willingness to turn aside.  Wherever else he was supposed to be going and whatever else he was supposed to be doing, he decided it could wait a minute. He parked the sheep and left the narrow path in order to take a closer look at a marvelous sight.
   ~ Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World.

Question:  How could you build a pause into your life this week?

by Doug Wysockey-Johnson

(We welcome your comments too.  Simply click the TITLE of this blog, and comment!)

Friday, February 12, 2010

The moment of "Keep on Marchin'"

Here's the beauty of communication.  Moments after I sent out this morning's blog, staff member Bill Johnson sent me the youtube link to the beautiful singing of Dr. Reagon. I love her strong, willful, positive "YEAH's" at the end!  YEAH!  Keep on walkin'!  When at the crossroads, take heart in those who have gone before.

Here is a video link of Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon singing at the White House, if you can't see it above.
This blog is a continuation of our "What is the Good Way" discussion. To comment, click on the title of the blog, and the comment box will appear.
by Tiffany Montavon

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"You never know when you're gonna need that song"

She’s standing in front of the President, the First Lady…everyone is glitzy…  Morgan Freeman announces her, the music starts, and Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon begins to sing a spiritual.

     Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ‘roun’
     Turn me ‘roun’
     Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ‘roun’
     I’m gonna keep on walkin' keep on a talkin', 

     Marching up to Freedom Land.

In between each verse, Dr Reagon tells a brief story of an amazing moment in the civil rights movement, when a person stood at the crossroads, and chose what was right, albeit the more difficult path.  She then changes the words to the next verse according to the story just told: “Aint gonna let no injunction turn me ‘roun’” “Aint gonna let no fear tactics turn me ‘roun’…”

Then, right there in front of the President, the large dignified audience, the television cameras, the other performers, Dr Reagon stops the song.  She says, “Now I know this is a show, but you all got to SING this song.” (Polite, willing laughter in the audience.)  Dr. Reagon pauses… a long pause, and says as she looks at President Obama, “You never know when you’re gonna need it."
And then everyone all together is singing:
     Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ‘roun’
     Turn me ‘roun’
     Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ‘roun’
    I’m gonna keep on walkin' keep on a talkin', 
     Marching up to Freedom Land.

Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, just stood at the crossroads while performing at the White House in the televised PBS show “A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement.” In a brief moment, she chose to use her gifts, her abilities, her presence, and her power to encourage the President.  I find that truly amazing.

She is right, of course.  You never know when you are gonna need a song to pull out of your back pocket, and sing it to yourself for strength and courage.  At the crossroads, I wonder what inspires people to step forward.  To encourage others.  To stay the course. To choose “the Good Way,” as we are exploring in this blog series.  (see The Good Way blog).

I have learned a new spiritual  - in case I need it. I hope the President has too. And I encourage you to watch the PBS special “A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement” when it airs again during February, “Black History Month.”  In addition to the amazing music, it’s worth watching that crossroads moment of encouragement, regardless of politics.

When you are at the crossroads of life, what inspires you?

by Tiffany Montavon
(We welcome your thoughts and comments in this exploration of the Good Way.  To comment, click on the BLUE title of the blog, and a comment box will appear at the bottom of your screen.)

The prophet Jeremiah said this: “Stand by the crossroads and look; and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Example 5,343 on the Importance of Relationships

A few hours ago on ESPN, the winner of the Super Bowl MVP award reminded us again that it is about the relationships.

Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints was asked by Hannah Storm what the most memorable moment of the game had been for him. His response?

*Not the singing of the National Anthem, moments before playing in his first Super Bowl;
*Not hitting Pierre Thomas for the go ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter;
*Not tying the record for the most completions ever in a Super Bowl.
*Not being named the MVP of the game.

Brees said that the moment he will always remember was standing on the podium after the game holding his one year old son.

Most of us live lives that are not quite as dramatic as Super Bowl quarterbacks. We are not handed the trophy in front of thousands of fans with confetti strewn about us. But the same principle is true. Even in our mundane, ordinary, “We are not going to Disney World” lives, it is about the relationships.

Achievements and “Personal Bests” are great, but it is the sharing of our lives with one another that really matter.
by Doug Wysockey-Johnson

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Good Way

All of life is standing at the crossroads. We face questions, decisions and choices, both large and small. We stand at the crossroads, and look for the road that will bring us happiness or meaning. At the very least, we look for a path that is “less bad” than the other options.

My friend Jason in Phoenix is standing at such a crossroads. His mother in law has early signs of dementia, possibly Alzheimer’s. Until a spot opens at the local retirement community, she will be staying at their house. He knows this is the right thing to do and supports it fully. This is not his crossroads.

A week into this new arrangement, it is clear that it is not going to be easy. Jason has other crossroads questions:
• What’s a good way to balance both supporting his wife and his own needs and stresses?
• How much can he expect from his children as their lives are disrupted, too?
• When does Jason serve others, and when does he take care of himself?

The prophet Jeremiah said this: “Stand by the crossroads and look; and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

These are helpful words from an ancient text. There are things we can do when we come to crossroads, things that can help us find a way that is good. And with this good way comes rest for our souls.

For people who are busy, conflicted, distracted, and stressed out, a restful and soulful way sounds like a pretty good way.

In the next few weeks I will be exploring what it means to stand at the crossroads and find the good way with my colleague Tiffany Montavon. Early in the week I will offer a thought on standing at the crossroads; Tiffany will respond later in the week. And we’d love you to join the conversation too.

What are your "crossroads questions" these days?

Meet you at the crossroads.

“Whether the crossroads and the choice come early or late in the journey, they always bring a revealing of who and what we really are.” Herbert O’Driscoll, Crossroads

(To post a comment, either write it below, or if you are reading this blog in an email, click on the blue title of this blog, and you’ll see the “post comment” box below.)

by Doug Wysockey-Johnson

Crossroads image by Martin Liebermann