Tag Archives: spirituality

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Living In A Time Of Locusts And Lies

“Let’s just agree that one symptom of a weak character is a sick passion for making the same mistakes over and over.”

The novelist, Denis Johnson, recently deceased, wrote that remark in collection of essays he published as Seek.  It is a spot-on diagnosis of the President of the United States.

Over and over the President demeans and insults, tweeting like some Magicicada insect.  We are living in a time of locusts and lies.  The President illustrates by these repeated lies and assaults that he is a person of weak character. He is small.  And each day he diminishes himself by increments, tweet by tweet.  I suspect that we’ll awaken one day and he will have disappeared, becoming so small as to be utterly consumed by his anger.  The Christian novelist, Frederick Buechner, defines anger this way:  “Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back–in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself.”

The goal of spirituality or life-in-God is to expand one’s soul.  I wouldn’t spend time writing about such a shrinking grotesque were it not for the fact that what the President says –any President—has actual and direct impacts upon millions of people.  We have a President who spends more time attacking the FBI and its former director than addressing the assault on our elections by the Russians.  His venomous rhetoric has unleashed a hail storm of hatred across the country.  The aim of the spiritual person is to aspire to nobility and merciful grace. As I said, authentic spirituality is an aspiration toward an expansive character.

I hope and wish that the White House and its occupants would discover the prayer of St. Augustine found in his Confessions, Book I:  “Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that Thou mayest enter in. It is ruinous; repair Thou it.”

I’ll be praying this week, not for impeachment, but for redemption. Expansive spirituality, not belittling diminishment.  ~See you Sunday

 

The Metronome of Worship

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I have never taken piano lessons (or any music lessons for that matter) but my children did.  We bought an inexpensive Kurzweil digital piano (back in the ’90s) when a local university was clearing its stock.  I also bought a metronome.  Tick-tock, back and forth, consistently keeping time and rhythm, the instrument works to keep the musician tacked to the flow of a song.

Admittedly, I have trouble with rhythm.  When we sing, as we do each Sunday, “We Are Marching In The Light of God,” and all of us clap, I have to be sure to stay focused on the worship leader in order to keep clapping in rhythm.  Otherwise, I get lost.  It strikes me that worship is a kind of metronome.  And when you worship consistently, you are tacked to the flow of time–that seventh day of rest providing a timing and rhythm to everything else that occurs in your week.  Do that over the course of months and even years and you will find that for the most part, you don’t get lost even in seasons of loss; you discover a symmetry to life and your inner, spiritual life that otherwise evades people who are scurrying aboard the slippery deck of the Titanic.

Summer has ended. A new season has begun.  Make worship your metronome and enter into the delight of the symmetry of a well-lived spiritual life.  ~See you Sunday.

Church Rise

Church_Rise I snapped this photo one recent Sunday morning about eight o’clock.    The sun was rising and piercing through the blue Alpha-Omega window, its  light burst over pews, dusting them with red, blue, green, amber clots of color.  It’s a lovely and contemplative moment in the sanctuary.  I like getting there before anyone else, the entire silent sanctuary of peace all mine.  I’ll tell you what else I like in this picture even though at first, it seems to be that the pew edge is marred that runs along the right border of the photo. Look closely and I think those are finger and hand prints.  The faithful have been here. They have sung, prayed, cried, laughed and worshipped here.  So even though I had the sanctuary to myself that morning, I was not alone.  There was a Church Rise, a community of faith-hope-love that extends for more than a century in this community of faith but part of the church that extends into the far past, even into that upper room where Jesus told his disciples one last time to love one another.

My question to you is, in this first week of a new year, Why would you not enter such a place of peace and leave your prints, abide in the presence of both God and others who are dedicated to loving others as Christ loved us?  It’s time. Come on.  This Sunday will be another Church Rise.  I hope to see you.  ~Pastor Bledsoe

Summer Book Bag ~ Reading For Spirit

 

Jester reading a book (png version with transp...

Ah, summer.  Many of us not only look to summer as a break from the ordinary, rutted routines of the other seasons, but as a way to break away from our ordinary reading habits. Hence, we look around for best sellers and very often books we would not ordinarily have the chance to read.  We ask folks not only where they might be headed for vacation, but we ask, what are you reading?

Thanks for asking!  I finished recently reading July 1914 since this August marks the 100th anniversary of World War I.  Very informative read.  I also just finished Lawerence Wright’s, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & The Prison of Belief.  Very informative but not as great as his The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda And The Road To 9/11.  Currently I am in midway in I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For EducationAnd Was Shot By The Taliban.  She is such an inspiration!  I just began Jennifer Michael Hecht’s  Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It.  This is a stirring contribution to encouraging persons to not go through with suicide without making it a religious argument. And of course, I read Dan Brown’s Inferno for our Book Club and also we’ll be discussing this coming Sunday Annie Dillard’s, Holy the Firm.

You may not want to plow through several books and perhaps prefer a good read but not something that overwhelms you by page count or topic.  May I suggest something to you?  What if you could read a brief essay in less than half an hour that kindles your mind and lifts your spirit? What if you could do that and enjoy pondering contemporary issues, significant spiritual themes and do that simply over a brunch, a breakfast or at seaside? Sounds good doesn’t it?  I want to suggest that you read a book of sermons this summer. Yes, sermons.  Peter Gomes, formerly chaplain of Harvard University Chapel, has a collection entitled, Sermons: Biblical Wisdom For Daily Living.  He writes cogent, penetrating essays/sermons that will boost your spiritual IQ.  Or try Frederick Buechner‘s, Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons.  Buechner is a novelist and a very thoughtful Christian preacher whose sermons read like short stories.  Wonderful prose to beguile you while ambushing you with truth.  Finally,  consider your pastor.  I have three books of sermons that you can find on Amazon ( “Dr. Bledsoe’s Books.” )  Or if you have an iPad and prefer a novel, you can download my Rooster’s Table: A Multicultural Apocalypse at the iTunes and iBooks store.  After all, how much easier can it be to talk with both your pastor and the author at the same time?

Happy reading.  Happy Summer.  May the light of this season of sun translate into an enlightened mind!  See you Sunday~

Highlights and Blooper Reels

Ravensworth Baptist's VW Pride Van.

Ravensworth Baptist’s VW Pride Van.

I wonder if you are like me and enjoy watching highlight reels and blooper reels?  Sometimes highlight reels are blooper reals—I’ve often had that feeling after a film that runs some bloopers as the credits roll and think, “gee, the blooper reel is more entertaining than the movie.”  But think of those reels as illustrative of the spectrum of emotions in our lives.

We like, as a rule, to see highlights of games or speeches or other events because very quickly, we tap into the most inspiring moments.  So highlight reels can generate hope and courage rather quickly and powerfully.  We’ll say things like, “wow, look what s/he did, that is remarkable.”

Blooper reels allow us a chance to be human, to practice a self-deprecating humor that keeps our perspectives in proper balance about who we are.  In the course of a day or week, we spend a lot of energy trying to be the best we can be and that means inevitably that we present positive spins on who we are, all the while keeping hidden or at least under the radar our vulnerable side.  When we watch blooper reels, we end up laughing at persons who seemed perfect just moments prior to when their “malfunction” took place.

What has this got to do with anything? Well, how about a spiritual practice that could take place once a week in your life, say on a Friday at the end of the work week, or a Sunday as the week is about to unfold before you. Take a moment to run the highlight reel from the previous week and inspire yourself.  In church language that would be similar to “count your blessings.”  Instead of focusing all your energy on what went wrong in a week, take a few moments and name your highlights.  You just might renew your courage and inspire yourself toward living more fully in the week of days ahead of you.  And include in that practice a brief blooper reel. Take a moment to laugh at yourself, take yourself less seriously and rejoice –really rejoice—in being a vulnerable human being.  Your humanity will be deepened by doing that.

So my highlight reel from last week would include:  holding my sign at CapitolPride, made by Terryn, that colorfully had our church’s name written on it with the word INCLUSIVE and pointing to the word “Baptist” as some judgmental Westboro Baptist types were marching along the sidewalks, denouncing those who had come out to celebrate their liberation from hatred and second class citizenship.  Those in the crowd in front of me cheered and drowned out the megaphone ranting of the street preacher denouncing them.  Highlight.  Inspiring.

My blooper reel:  I was standing in the street at CapitolPride, ready to begin marching (after a two hour wait), holding my sign up when a lady in front of me looked at me and said, “your sign is upside down.”  I sheepishly turned it right side up.  I won’t bother you with the details of how cranky I was and how much I whined while waiting to get going in the parade.  Suffice it to say, the wonderful persons from our church who were there to march were very kind and patient with me.

Highlights and bloopers. Who knew this could be a rather practical way to practice one’s spirituality?  Have a week of highlights and a good laugh or two at your own expense.  We are both heroic and yes, embarrassing at times.  It’s okay.  Live deeply and joyfully. See you Sunday~

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Silence, Dark Sky: Spirituality

Snowy Lane

Recently I spent a couple of days and nights in the Catskills, remote and unlinked from the bustling matrix of the city.  Two aspects of that geography struck me (well, three if you count the mountains).

There was brilliant silence to the place.  It was as though someone had pressed the mute button on the remote.  No noise.  Birdsong rippling across wooded terrain, snow blanketed and frigidly cold, the place was just QUIET.  Then on the first night as I walked in the cold silence I peered into the dark ink sky and noticed how bright the stars were. They pierced laser sharp holes in the fabric. And I realized, there was no light pollution here like there is in the city.  

Let me make two points about spirituality or a life disciplined by the spirit. And these two points are, I would suggest, universal for religious traditions or thoughtful life. That is, these lessons are  not tied to a Christian doctrine of any sort. First, silence is requisite for hearing oneself and asking the right questions.  Noise from the entertainment consumer culture of which you and I are a part is an enemy of the spirituality.  And certainly, in a religious tradition like Christianity, where hearing the Word of the speaking God is simply essential, noise acts as a riptide, pulling us away from the shore.  Take deep breaths at some point in your day.  Deep, slow breaths in silence so you can listen to the mystery of your life pulsating at your wrists and in your chest.  The problem is not so much that you cannot hear God or your life but that you hear too well and the still, small voice of God goes ignored.  Second, the themes of night and day begin in Genesis and perhaps culminate in the Light of the World language used by the Gospel of John.  That is, night is a handy metaphor when things get to a point where we complain we cannot see God or see the handiwork of God’s love.  Something happens to us–an event, a betrayal or a diagnosis–and often our first reaction is that God has abandoned us.  But when I walked along that stretch of road in the Catskills that night and saw the illumination of stars so bright, I realized that it was the depth of the night which provided the opportunity to see.  So this second point boils down to this: even when you walk in a dark valley or a night of sorrow, even there and perhaps especially there, the Light of God is brilliantly offered to you.

Practice silence. Hit the mute button, I dare you, I urge you. Find a way to stop listening to the noise around you for at least one hour in the day.  Quiet. Listen.  When it is dark, look up.  Be illuminated.

See you Sunday~ PSTR

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