Trust (a Reflection)

I haven’t written or posted on my blog in quite awhile but recent events have caused me to reflect on the issue of trust. I heard this morning someone of a news program speaking about the loss of trust between the two major political parties today. This didn’t happen overnight, this broken trust has been slowly gnawing away at the very foundations of our society and now we are reaping what we have sown. Can we ever regain our trust? Can we heal what has been broken? My fervent hope and prayer is, yes, we can but only if each of us are willing to see that we need to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. So, what follows is something I just finished writing, it’s not complete, it’s still a rough draft, but it’s all part of my own process to recognize my own complicity in what we face today. It’s a start on a long journey towards bettering myself, and in turn, bettering my small section of this world.

Trust

Trust, it is something we all seek, to trust. We are born trusting, first in our parents, to take care of us, hold us when we are hurt, feed and clothe us and help as we learn to navigate the world. We trust that our friends will be there for us, when we need help, when we are going through difficult moments in life. We trust our partners, again as we live together, work, play and experience life with all of its ups and downs. Trust is earned and for many giving that trust is difficult, stemming from times when that trust was broken by people whom they thought truly cared for them. Trust is the issues we see today in our political, social and religious systems. People no longer trust our public servants to actually serve the needs of the people, in politics we are witnessing politicians being self serving and only serving the needs of the party. It’s about being in power, being held in thrall to the special interests. They use social media to help propagandize their political objectives and many, like those who followed Jim Jones, have drank the “kool-aid” and are blinded by their own self righteous attitudes. Our religious circles have nothing to brag about as we have seen in the recent revelations within the Roman Catholic denomination, with allegations reaching right up to and including the See of St. Peter. To be honest, in my life not only have I been hurt by those whom I trusted, I have also done my share of hurting those who trusted in me. It’s inevitable, we are after all human beings, at times we get tired, at times we are distracted, at times we are not fully engaged with listening. Our humanity gets in the way, we enter into relationships, many times without counting the costs of that relationship. Right now, it seems that trust is in short supply. This lack of trust in those places that we had placed on pedestals of honor have now become nothing more than tarnished relics of a long gone past, a past that in hindsight looks to be all sunshine and roses until we uncover the truth. There are no answers, there are no quick fixes to this issue of trust. No one, not a President, or Politician, no Priest, Bishop, Cardinal, Archbishop or Pope, have that deep wisdom needed to heal our brokenness. The awful truth for many, is that to heal this brokenness we need to fully examine our own complicity in what we are seeing today. Can we be honest and admit our own moments when we broke trust, when we, through a thoughtless word or a thoughtless moment, have hurt another person? Can we find it within ourselves to seek healing, not in blaming the other, but in reconciling with those whom we have broken trust with, by listening to one another? It’s not easy, we each come with our own hurts, our own darkness, our own deep feelings. Yet, that is exactly what we are called to do, to listen, to be fully present to each person. We are all made in the image of God, “Imago Dei”

albeit, a much distorted image, but nonetheless despite our brokenness, it is there. As an Episcopalian, as a Christian, as a human being, I am challenged daily to respect seek and serve the Christ that each person reflects, no matter how I may feel about them personally. We now face a time of great transition, our society, our world, our very existence as the human race, depends on each of us to take a good, hard look at ourselves and see where we have fallen short of truly listening, loving and caring. It’s way too easy to share social media postings that affirm our agendas, that feed our own needs, it takes courage to recognize that not all of them serve the good or build trust. A wise person once said that each day we awaken is also the first day of the rest of our lives. We don’t know what day or time we will no longer grace the world with our presence but until then, we can all strive to be a little more compassionate and willing to listen to one another. This doesn’t mean that we won’t be challenged, that everything will miraculously change in that moment, but what it does mean is that we will become ourselves a bit better, a bit more caring, a bit more like that image into which we all have been born.

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My Confession

I was young

I truly believed

that we were right

things were black and white

we flew Old Glory

basking in it’s power

our patriotism was boundless

feeding our desire to do right

but in the mud and blood

the cries of children

who did no wrong

still haunt my dreams

and I’m not so I sure anymore

of being right or wrong

as voices in the streets

scream at one another

each holding Old Glory

claiming their truth

to be the only truth

and I no longer am young

belief is an illusion

being right is not a badge

that one wears proudly

as black and white

merge into patterns of gray

where we all truly live.

The Train Home

Train wheels clatter

passing cities and towns,

fields and meadows

through the clutter of broken buildings

garishly painted by graffiti artists

past rolling hills

at one time family farms

white sand beaches

with ocean views

waves crashing on shore

white mist veiling the scene

people walk the sandy strip

some alone staring down

others hold hands,

children skip and play

life passes as we cling to one another

conversations overheard

a mother talking about her son

softly cries as she whispers

buzzing, beeping cell phones

sending and receiving

secretive messages

thumbs fly across mini screens

replying as fast as they are received

a young child sleeps

secure that her mother’s love will not abandon

on this train,

some get off

others get on

life on this train won’t stop

on the wall

JESUS

in bright colors

the promise of the rainbow

on a train heading home.

What I want to Give myself To: A new journey.

We pass through times of transition, of change. It is as natural as breathing and yet, we are still caught unaware when suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the change. Our world is not that stable place we thought it was as everything seems seems fluid catching us in the tidal flow. The old passes away and the new has yet to arrive and in between is transition. It is hard to shed the old skin and equally as hard to enter into the new, so we struggle in this in between time. Reaching out to the umbilical cords of political parties or worse, personalities we turn into a god, that prove to be nothing more than an illusion created by our minds.

One word, one quick thought and the journey takes a turn. Sometimes we don’t realize what happened until years later in a moment of clarity we are granted a brief moment of insight. The wise person understands that those moments are part of who we are and have become, our decisions are ours and the consequences, however they turn out, are ours also. I stand at a moment of change, transition is opening the gates once more and I am compelled to walk through them. The road ahead is dark, there are no signs, no guides, what I do, what I say, what I choose all will have a bearing on my future.

A favorite writer, Parker Palmer, writes this profound statement; “What do I need to let go of and what do I want to GIVE MYSELF TO?” As I age and prepare to move on to a new place I am taking this statement from Palmer as a way to envision my life. People keep asking me what I’m going to do when I retire and I point to my bicycle and say, “that” knowing full well there is more to my life than just cycling. I know I want to write, to let the stories I have accumulated over the years to just pour out onto the pages, I want to become a better poet, to not just see but to observe the world around me. I want to love, not just superficially, but deeply, love not just the people around me but everything that surrounds my world. To stare up into the heavens at night and count the stars, to listen as the birds sing and gather, to watch the trees go through their cycle of growth, the deep greens of summer to the burst of color in the fall.

What do I want to give myself to? Maybe what I want to give myself to is to the life that is all around, to get away from the negative, angry voices and to give myself to the love I share and to the grace that I surely don’t deserve but receive. As I prepare to weigh anchor and depart for a new shore, I take with me many memories and some unnecessary baggage. The next few weeks will be bittersweet, there will be tears, there will be laughter, there will be regrets, there will be joy. I am as ready as I will ever be for this new venture, by God’s grace and the love of my wife and family, I will find new ways to be and find that which I want to give myself to

The Dash Between

Walk through a cemetery, slowly. Gaze at the various grave markers, take note of the person’s name, the date of birth the date of death, look around, see what offerings have been left by others. The gravesite tells much if we are really attentive, we get to know who this person is, those bits and pieces of offerings give us a glimpse into their life, when they once roamed this planet, when they were fully alive and present. Between the birth and death there is a space or a dash, that small part represents all that person was and did, how they lived, loved it represents their hopes and dreams, the pain and joy, all that life brings.

I have done plenty of funerals, have seen many gravestones and read about those who lie beneath the ground. Some heroes, winners of medals and adulation from a grateful nation, some mothers who sacrificed so much for children and grandchildren, some husbands who once stood as the providers for their families, all once living breathing human beings. The space, the dash is where their story lies, it is in that place where we find discover their true self, it is in that space where we discover ourselves.

Memoir is mining the dash, going beneath its surface and diving deep into those memories that have made us who we are, and will be the legacy we leave. I am coming now to the end of another period of life as retirement lies out there on the horizon. I have been a priest in the Episcopal Church for over 26 years, I have served my current parish for 17 of those years. I have made many mistakes, I have suffered depression and felt defeated, yet, I have also felt great joy and love. I have experienced the full spectrum of the human condition, witnessed birth and death, held the hand of one facing great struggles, watched as others have turned their backs and walked away. My heart, has been filled to the brim with joy and broken also by great heaviness, a sense of failing not just the people I serve but the God whom I have given my life over to.

Vocation is a calling. It is answering the call to follow and follow I have done. Not the most perfect of followers and definitely not one of those bright shining stars that populate the universe of clergy. I have been the person whom God created me to be, I have tried, failed and tried again and through the trials and tribulations I have grown to love these people whom I have lived with. Last Sunday was Easter and it will be my last Easter here in the place I am. As I looked out at the congregation, knowing many only come once or twice a year, I saw so many stories and each one has touched my heart. The teens who I held in my arms so many years ago, pouring water over their heads as I baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, bringing them into the community of faith. The families who I sat with as we watched a beloved member die, as we stood at the edge of the grave, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It was hard, it will be hard, to say good-bye, to bid these people farewell, even now as I write this I feel the clutch in the throat, tears on the edge of my eyes, remembrances pouring out.

My own dash, the space between birth and death, is where I am now being called into, to write, however imperfectly, about this life. If anything, I write this for my grandchildren and those who will one day walk into some graveyard, stare down at a stone with my name engraved on it with a birthdate and death date, and that all important dash.

Coddiwomple

Coddiwomple

(v) to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.

It just had to be,

this journey we’re on

I can’t say it was meant

to be this way

but faith is about

the roads we travel

even when it grows dark

and doubts creep in

as we wonder

where it will all lead

it’s never been clear

no roadmaps, no guides

only our feelings

that are more like mist

that is at once there

and then gone

leaving us feeling full

and yet empty

so now we say goodbye

each on their own journey

toward a new destiny

holding onto the memory

of what has been

dreaming of what will be

realizing that faith, hope and love

the greatest being love

a treasure held within

our own fragility

is what we share

as we travel forward

into the unknown.