Lumunos helps you Reflect ~ Connect ~ Discover your gifts to find your call in life, through these stories and observations here, through our website, and through retreats. Help us help you continue to discover your calling in life. Donations are accepted through our Website.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Prayer for the Shooting Stars

by Angier Brock

When I was young, I used to see lots of shooting stars. One summer in particular stands out. My family was spending the month of July in the Vermont countryside, and my brother, some friends, and I spent hours lying in a field on blankets looking up at the night sky. As I recall, we saw shooting stars all over the place, dozens and dozens of them. In addition to that summer, I remember random other times when I looked up and glimpsed a meteorite streaking across the sky. What a glorious sight, and what a thrill!

Star-gazing depends, of course, on being able to get away from city lights. It also depends on finding the heavens free of both moonlight and clouds. Last weekend, I was in the mountains of Virginia, far from city lights and with an unusually clear sky. The only problem was the waxing gibbous moon, which was bright enough to wipe out many of the stars in its path. Not to be deprived of a possible star watching opportunity, my almost ten-year-old granddaughter consulted an astronomy chart and determined that the moon would set behind Yellow Spring Mountain about 1:30 a.m. All we had to do was set an alarm clock for The Middle of The Night, when the sky would be dark, and get up to see what we could see.

What we saw first was the Milky Way, vast and sprawling above our heads. Over the next quarter of an hour or so, we also picked out the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, and Cygnus the Swan. We think it was the tail of Draco the Dragon we saw plunging behind North Mountain, and as we turned again to the East, a very bright Jupiter was rising.

And then it happened. Just as I was thinking it was time to go back to bed, one lone meteorite blazed overhead in a long and beautiful streak. It was the only shooting star we saw—but it was a beauty, one made all the more glorious for being the first one my granddaughter had  seen.

It turns out to have been part of the Delta Aquarid shower, which is, like most meteor showers, an annual event. Probably the shooting stars I saw in Vermont in July of 1964 were also Delta Aquarids. Other such showers—some smaller, some larger and much showier—also occur regularly and predictably. There are, for instance, the Lyrids in April, the Orionids in October, the Geminids in December.

In fact, there are shooting stars every night, whether the moon is bright or not, whether the sky is clear or not, whether or not I’m awake and paying attention. That summer in July, I was lucky: I had time and opportunity on many nights to lie in a dark field and watch the heavens. Last weekend, I was lucky again, that time to be with a granddaughter who wanted to get up in The Middle of the Night to look for beauty in a dark sky.

But the point is, shooting stars are there every night—even though, like many of life’s good graces, they are often obscured by other things and so mostly go unseen. May they always be there, for each of us, at any age, whether we are looking for them or not. And may they remind us of all the surprising beauty that can happen in the dark, whether we see it or not.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

No Need to Fear

By Tom Pappas

I would describe it is this way. When I feel helpless I get scared, then I get angry. Here are two examples that play out in slo-mo and super high speed.

A few years ago I discovered a tree emerging from my compost pile. On inspection I discovered that it was a mango seed that had sprouted. (There’s no mistaking a mango seed!) I potted it and have kept it indoors in the winter and outdoors in the warm months. (Climate change has shifted Nebraska’s planting zones from 4 to 5 but we’re not tropical yet.)

A companion mango was discovered and these two have traveled with their friend the kumquat for at least five years. Inexplicably, one of the mangos is collapsing. The leaves are drooping. Watering experiments have not made any difference. I am helpless, scared for the future of the 6 foot tree, and on the verge of being mad about all the wasted time and care.

Our twin granddaughters are having a visit and last night during the calm of “bedtime accomplished”, Brett’s voice called out, “Grandma  .  .  .   .grandma.” Grandpas world-wide will know how this plays out.  Helpless, scared, mad.

I’m not proud of it, but that’s the reality. Until grandma showed up, I was helpless and unacceptable.  When my helpless mind goes from blank to scared, courses of action are not going to be found.  I can, however, swiftly move to anger at myself for being inept, and at Brett for not being asleep like she’s supposed to be.
Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I am your God. I’ll   give you strength. I’ll help you.  I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.  Isaiah 41:10, The Message
In all my years when I have taken a moment to remember God, I don’t recall ever being disappointed in the result.  I don’t mean to say the result is always what I expected. Thank you God for the joy of finding that awesome surprise in your miracle – compost. Thank you God for the resource of your calm and peace when it’s up to me (but not me alone). 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

II. Connecting Love & Labor

by Mary Catherine Bateson

What is the connection between Adam’s work and Eve’s labor?  And how is each connected to God’s call?

There is an ancient division of labor in human societies that goes back before the invention of agriculture and before human beings were able to live in permanent settlements.  In this division of labor, women were responsible for all tasks that could be done simultaneously with bearing and caring for children, while men were responsible for those activities that required leaving the children behind, mainly warfare and the pursuit of large animals.  In  some hunting and gathering societies, the work of the women as gatherers,  with infants carried on their backs, accounted for up to 70% of the diet, including nuts, roots, and other edible products of plants, as well as occasional small animals or eggs.  Women also gathered firewood and collected and carried water.  These tasks are rarely celebrated. Men hunted sporadically, but when they made a significant kill, the game was shared and greeted with celebration.  

Most theories attribute the invention of agriculture to women who returned repeatedly to harvest the same resources, while men did not get seriously involved in agriculture until the domestication of large animals that need to be taken to pasture and guarded.  When draft animals began to be replaced by machines, they too became part of the male sphere.  Thus we see the work of the women defined by child rearing and multitasking, and the contribution of the men treated as more significant.  

As humans shifted to permanent settlements, women have often tended vegetable gardens and kept small animals near the home, such as chickens, while men took charge of the field crops.  This was probably the pattern familiar to the authors of Genesis, so we have to imagine Adam engaged in fairly primitive agriculture under the hot sun of an arid climate, which did indeed bring forth thorns and thistles and weeds, and was threatened by locusts and by drought.  This is the model of “work” that is still with us today, and that still applies to many kinds of work, the work done by migratory laborers, builders, and so on, work that is minimally mechanized, done outdoors in all kinds of weather, depending on steady physical exertion, and subject to uncertainties. On the other hand, workers are less likely than in the past to be bringing home game or crops that would feed their families – instead, their work provides a paycheck to take home – the translation of work into love has become far more remote.  Still today, we tend to assign the jobs that involve danger or sudden exertion or travel away from home to men, and give them a greater value.  And we have only just begun to notice that where women used to say, “I don’t work, I’m just at home with the children,” they too are describing work, but work that is unpaid.  Often the love is recognized more readily than the effort involved, while skills may be thought to “come naturally.”

But how about the “labor” of childbearing?   

One of illuminating aspects of so-called “natural childbirth” (an approach invented by Grantley Dick-Read in the 1930s) is that the experience of pain is closely related to context.  When women are trained to engage with and assist the delivery process, to work with the process, their experience changes and the pain becomes manageable, especially when the process is shared by husband and wife.  Part of the benefit is due to breathing techniques, part is due to an understanding of what is happening and how the sequence unfolds, but the biggest difference is that pain becomes meaningful by being associated with effort and directed toward a loving and shared goal.  This is true of other kinds of pain as well, athletic effort for instance, as in running a marathon – which is something many people do for pleasure.  Indeed, many people work harder at their hobbies than at their jobs.  In “natural childbirth,” passive suffering is converted to loving effort – hard work – and becomes meaningful, and lonely effort becomes shared.  The availability of anesthesia also means that the pain involved in child bearing has been chosen, often with an understanding that the child will benefit.   

There is at present a consensus that anesthesia should be available to alleviate the pain of child birth, but in centuries past anesthesia was sometimes regarded as immoral because it “interfered with the will of God.”  Whatever the form of delivery chosen by the mother (or necessitated by medical conditions), an effort is made to support the mother’s positive engagement in the process, which also supports her ability to bond with the infant and to succeed in breast feeding.  In this sense, “natural childbirth” is a way of linking love and work.  But we still have traditions that suggest that work should be unpleasant, just as we have traditions that suggest that education (and exercise) should be painful and that medicine should be foul tasting. Perhaps the same imagination that Grantley Dick-Read applied to childbearing should be applied, to the extent possible, to all work.

Read Part I here: Connecting Love & Work

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

by Doug Wysockey-Johnson

The great philosopher Jimmy Buffet sang “Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, nothing remains quite the same.”  I can’t say I know what was inside his mind when he wrote those words, but they ring true for me. It is true in all realms of life, but today I am thinking in particular of our work in the world.    Latitude changes are outside things, external things.  Changes in latitude involve things like recessions, new bosses, and Supreme Court decisions about health care. Things happen in the world that impact our work from the outside, moving us to a new latitude.

But Buffet also speaks about changes in attitudes, and those are internal things.  Sometimes the change comes from the inside out.  Just yesterday I spoke with a lawyer who is revisiting her sense of calling to her work.  Mary is clear that her work is ministry, but something is welling up from the inside that needs attention.  She has a good job that she enjoys, but there is a kind of unsettledness that has emerged.  She is going to make it a focus of her prayer life, and schedule intentional conversations with a few good friends.

 Changes in latitudes and changes in attitudes are related.  A latitude change can alter our attitude; an attitude change can lead to a change in latitude.  Either way, “nothing remains quite the same.”

What to do and how we respond to the many changes around us is a matter of call.  Is this external change (e.g. a new policy at work) something I need to support, fight, or accept?  Is this internal feeling important to listen to, or just last night’s burrito that isn’t digesting quite right?    What of all this deserves my time and energy?  How will this impact others around me?  What will it do to my physical, emotional and spiritual health?  How will it impact the checkbook? 

Sometimes I find it helpful to return to the famous “Serenity Prayer,” written by Reinhold Niebuhr:

       God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
      Courage to change the things I can,
      And wisdom to know the difference.

There is so much change happening around us all the time.  I think I could pray this prayer every day and still find someplace in my life where it is relevant.  The words are simple and true.  But beyond the words, the prayer points to Someone solid in the midst of the changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 2012 e-News: Summer Vacations & Courage

I am a big fan of summer vacations.  Not just because they are good for your health, although they are: Those who take vacations have a reduced risk of heart disease.  Not just because they are good for relationships, although they usually are: Spending more time together with fewer techno-gadgets available tends to help relationships. And not just because I am about to take one, although, as soon as I finish this article on summer vacations, I am going to leave for one.

I am a big fan of summer vacations because they remind me that my identity is not in what I produce.  Staring out at the waters of Lake Michigan, I usually get the message (again) that there are larger forces at work in the world.  That God is still God, no matter how many emails there are in my inbox or how many things I have checked off my to-do list.     
As usual, Wendell Berry says it best:

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace.  That we may reap,
Great work is done while we're asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.
                        Sabbaths, X

I hope you get some summer vacation this year.  If not for your heart, then for your soul. 

 In God's Peace, 
  Doug sig


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Prayer for the 4th of July

By Angier Brock

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, a day that is a big deal in the little community of Yorktown, where I live. This small and now mostly quiet Virginia village was the site of a 1781 siege that ended with the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. It was here that the British General Lord Cornwallis ultimately surrendered to the American General George Washington. A great hubbub has accompanied preparations for tomorrow’s events. Portions of the battlefield have been mowed for parking. Banks of lights have been installed so that, after dark, people can find their way back to their cars. Orange cones have sprung up to aid the flow of traffic, and rows of port-a-potties have been established. The day’s festivities will include an 8K run, a 5K walk, a parade, appearances by both the U.S. Coast Guard Band and the Fifes and Drums of York Town, a bell-ringing ceremony and, of course, fireworks.

At my house, which was built in the mid-1970s on land where Lord Cornwallis’s large cannons and other heavy artillery were once located, two grandchildren have already arrived. Three more will join us soon, along with their parents; and friends will come tomorrow to spend the day. The refrigerator is loaded with food, the equipment for croquet and ladder toss has come down from the attic, and coolers full of bottled water and canned beverages await their bags of ice. The shed door is festooned with strings of red, white, and blue lights—rope lights and stars and lights that twinkle—in a small display of patriotic color.

There is much to celebrate. During the Revolutionary War siege almost 231 years ago, those on both sides suffered, and the battlefield here—like any battlefield—was the scene of great physical and psychological anguish. Just over 150 years ago, during the Civil War, a second siege of Yorktown was also accompanied by pain and destruction. Today, however, the Americans and the British are friends, our nation is one nation, and the Yorktown Battlefield is part of a national park—a beautiful, peaceful place to walk, bike, or drive. If I did not know the history or pause to read signs along the tour roads, I would have no idea so much pain, suffering, and bloodshed had occurred here.

And yet, if you know history and pay attention to the signs of our current time, there is much that is sobering. Though we are not at war with the British, we are at war in other parts of the world; and though our nation remains one nation, it is a nation polarized by complex issues, not one of which is adequately addressed by election-year rhetoric. Words such as “liberty” and “freedom” are easily bandied about. But whose liberty do we mean? Of what kind of freedom do we speak, purchased by whom, and at what cost?

As I think about the Fourth of July, I give thanks to God for the peace that has come to the battlefield where I live. I rejoice that it is now a place where family and friends can gather to celebrate, have a picnic, and play. I am grateful that healing can follow violence, and I cling to the hope such healing offers. I pray that, as a nation, we have the heart and will for further healing, and that we may come to relinquish violence in all its forms.

I pray also that those of us who celebrate the Fourth of July will live into our liberty and freedom claiming not only the rights and benefits those things bestow but also the service and sacrifice they require. May God’s greater truths and God’s timeless sense of justice govern and direct the leaders—and we the people—of this land.