The Long Wait

The Long Wait

March 31, 2018

 

We “sprang ahead” three weeks ago and yet many are still waiting for spring-like temperatures.   For those celebrating the Easter weekend, today is Easter Even or Eve, known liturgically as the Great Easter Vigil, a time of waiting for the words of a man crucified to become true, waiting to see if he really could defeat death at its own game.  For those celebrating Passover, this is a period of eight days celebrating deliverance and freedom, something many in the Jewish faith are still waiting to become their reality.

 

It is always tricky to combine Easter and Passover.  Both are major holidays in two religions of the Abrahamic faith and yet, both represent times of trial and racial and religious discrimination.  We tend to gloss over the fact that the man known as Jesus of Nazareth was killed for being Jewish.  Many today try to combine the Passover Seder meal with the Christian Holy Week without acknowledging the guilt of the Roman Empire in carrying out the execution of someone simply for preaching the Jewish teachings.  Others simply sigh and continue their own great vigil in waiting for world peace.

 

David Maister, in his paper “The Psychology of Waiting Lines” believes that the actual length of time one waits has very little to do with how long the wait seems to be.  Maister lists eight factors that make our wait much longer than it really is. 

1. Unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time.  When you have something to distract yourself, time passes more quickly. This is why some hotels put mirrors by the elevators.  Many people like to look at themselves and this distracts them so they don’t realize how long they are waiting for the elevator.

2. People want to get started.  Restaurants give you a menu while you wait, and often doctors’ assistants will put you in the examination room twenty-five minutes before any exam actually begins.

3. Anxiety makes waits seem longer.  Perception determines our thinking.  If you think you’ve chosen the slowest line at the drugstore, or you’re worried about getting a seat on the plane, the wait will seem longer.

4. Uncertain waits are longer than known, finite waits.  People wait more calmly when they’re told, “The doctor will see you in thirty minutes” than when they’re told, “The doctor will see you soon.” Maister gives the illustration of a phenomenon that is very typical.  When we arrive someplace thirty minutes early, we wait with perfect patience because we know we got there early.  However, three minutes after the scheduled appointment time we begin to feel annoyed and wonder “Just how long am I going to have to wait?”

5. Unexplained waits are longer than explained waits.  Customers tend wait more patiently for the pizza guy when there’s a thunderstorm than when the sky is clear.

6. Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits.  People want their waits to be fair.  Crowded subway platforms are one example where there’s no clear, fair way to determine who gets on the next car. The “FIFO” rule (first in, first out) is a great rule, when it works. Often though certain people need attention more urgently, or certain people are more valuable customers. Then how long our wait is and how equitable who waits becomes uncertain and can be seen as being unfair.  

7. The more valuable the service, the longer the customer will wait.  As a general rule we will wait longer to talk to a doctor than to talk to a sales clerk. People will willingly stand in line longer to buy an iPad than to buy a toothbrush.

8. Solo waits feel longer than group waits.  The more people engage with each other, the less they notice the wait time. In fact, in some situations like buying a ticket or going through a security checkpoint, waiting in line is part of the experience.  The adage misery loves company certainly is true when we are waiting.

 

So can waiting ever be beneficial?  The spiritualist will answer a resounding yes and those in religion should as well.  Whether one’s deity is one of many or the single omnipotent deity of the Abrahamic faiths, the common factor is all is the essence of waiting and the lessons we gain.  Waiting is not something fate has put into the world to annoy us.  It can be the best thing we will ever experience.

 

Using the eight factor Maister lists, we can see valuable insights and lessons to be learned.  I am going to begin with number eight and work backwards.  Often taking an annoyance and turning it around is the key to gaining insight and growth.

 

8. Solo waits feel longer than group waits.  We all live on this planet together.  When we connect one with another, we are taking great strides towards world peace and a better living for everyone.  Kindness is the art of reaching out to others and when we connect we are showing benevolence and humanity to each other and to ourselves.

7. The more valuable the service, the longer the customer will wait.  Sometimes we find ourselves doing something simply because it is trendy or fashionable.  When we have to wait to do it, we have the opportunity to examine our motives and desires.  Waiting gives us the chance to question our faithfulness in being authentic to our goals and desires.

6. Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits.  Patience is often defines as being able to endure.  What really comes into play is our ego.  Are we too good to wait while another is being served?  Most of us would say no but do our actions really illustrate that if we become impatient?

5. Unexplained waits are longer than explained waits.  Self-control is discipline and sometimes it is harder to discipline ourselves than our children.  No one knows everything and we have no real knowledge of all the factors that might be affecting our wait.  Mastering ourselves is often the first step to not only peace in our own lives and community but success in our living.

4. Uncertain waits are longer than known, finite waits.  Trust – the one word that makes living so difficult.  It is hope and confidence, dependence and reliance, conviction and faith.  Waiting is often who we are put into action.

3. Anxiety makes waits seem longer.  Peace within will reflect peace in our actions.  How we overcome anxiety really speaks to who we are as a person, as a nation, as all of humankind. 

2. People want to get started.  Patience is required when one is waiting.  We often fail to realize that the wait might be our first step to the realization of our intentions. 

1. Unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time.  Joy can be found in each second.  Too often we are busy rushing from one place to another, one project to the next.  When we wait, we are given time to enjoy our world and our day.  Instead of counting the second, we need to count the smiles around us, the flowers in the window, and the sounds of life around us.

 

Those of the Jewish faith are still waiting to live completely in freedom without derision as are those of other faiths.  Many Christians have forgotten that the grace they seek is simply theirs for the praying.  As a world we have overlooked that the key to world peace is in our waiting upon each other with dignity and generosity, kindness and forbearance, honesty and respect.  The biggest vigil of all is waiting for each of us to explore the humanity within our souls and then live it.

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Calling All Others

Calling All “Others”

March 26-30, 2018

Maundy Thursday / Good Friday

 

Atheists and Non-Believers:  This post is for you.  I confess that when I began this blog over four years ago, I did not expect to write a post specifically for non-believers.  It is, after all, a lifestyle blog about incorporating faith and daily living, connecting our spirituality with our relationships.  During this time commonly known as Holy Week and especially on Maundy Thursday and the weirdly named “good” Friday, though, the story is really more about atheists and non-believers than about the faithful.

 

The last week of Lent is designated as “holy” because it depicts the final days of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth.  One cannot ignore the story.  It has changed the face of history, brought about world wars, been used as the basis for genocides throughout the centuries and still is the impetus for many works of art and musical presentations, the latest being NBC’s concert version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Sunday, April 1st.

 

As a child, I always connected the term atheist with the character in the story known as Caiaphas.   Caiaphas is one of the lesser characters who seemed to be pulling the strings and controlling the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, the one who gave the order for Jesus’ crucifixion.  There was very little separation of church and state in the Roman Empire since Roman law titled the Roman Emperor as the savior of all within the Roman Empire.  Succinctly put, no one – man or god- was higher than the Roman Emperor.

 

The faith of the Jewish people was insignificant to those in power within the Roman Empire.  Someone violating Jewish law meant nothing to the powers that controlled the land.  Caiaphas and his five brothers-in-law saw Jesus as a threat but knew Rome would not care that he cured the sick on the Sabbath or went about preaching without being an actual Rabbi or living what we might call a “kosher” lifestyle.  When John the Baptist, however, called his cousin Jesus the new Messiah…well, Caiaphas could take that to Rome and claimed treason.

 

The Jewish historian Josephus, a fist century historian and writer, lists Caiaphas tenure as a high priest as beginning in 18 ACE.  Caiaphas married the daughter of the previous high priest Ananus, the son of Seth, Caiaphas was known as Joseph.  We know very little about his life or other duties as a high priest.  In 1990 an ossuary was found that many claim contained his remains.  Another was found in 2011 and was declared to be authentic.  Because of this later find, Caiaphas has now been assigned to the priestly course of Ma’aziah which was instituted by King David.  It is thought Caiaphas (Joseph) served eighteen years as high priest so he apparently got along quite well with the Roman authorities.

 

It is written that Caiaphas and others felt Jesus posed a threat to their faith, its holy places, and would give Rome cause to destroy them all.  In both the gospel of John and the book of Genesis, references are made that it would be better for one man [Jesus] to die rather than the Jewish nation be destroyed.

 

The villain of the final days of Jesus to many is the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.  He in fact says he has no reason to charge Jesus with any crime and urges the priests to take their own action.  They tell him they have none and only Pontius Pilate can do so.  Pilate then gives the assembled crown a choice of which prisoner to set free.  Jesus is not their choice.  Caiaphas would go on to reign as a high priest longer than any other under Roman rule.

 

Maundy Thursday is the day many remember the last supper Jesus had with his disciples, the event which ended in his capture by the Roman soldiers.  The character Jesus knows what is coming and tells the disciple who points him out to the soldiers to hurry up and do what he must.  He then tells the others to be as servants to each other and purportedly washed their feet, placing himself in a servant role to them.  They eat and then sleep in spite of his asking them to stay awake with him.  They are awakened by the soldiers and watch helplessly as their leader is taken away.  Within the next twenty-four hours, the disciple peter would pretend not to know Jesus.  Good Friday ends with his torture and crucifixion.

 

We all live on this big blue marble called Earth one with another.  Whether we are believers or atheists, we must interact with each other.  To intentionally do harm to another does not benefit any of us.  The last advice Jesus gives to his disciples about helping each other are not just words for those who believed in him.  They are the key to successful living for us all. 

 

Whether your messiah is a man called Jesus, a political figure, or someone who has yet to come, the wisdom still works.  To help one another, to serve humankind …. This means successful living for us all.  Not everyone loves themselves so I am not going to say love others as you love yourself.  What I will say is this:  Please treat (love) others as you would want to be treated.  We truly are here to help each other.

 

https://youtu.be/kdmgpMfnjdU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March for Change

A March for Change

Palm Sunday 2018

March 25, 2018

 

 

The past twenty-four hours saw people around the world united in marching against gun violence.  Millions took part around the globe to protest senseless killing, to advocate for peace, and to speak of love for their fellow man.

 

Roughly two millennium ago a much smaller march occurred in Jerusalem.  The story has several versions.  It is written that the man known as Jesus of Nazareth rode on the back of a donkey into the city.  He did not ride a horse but a donkey and I like that.  Donkeys are often bred with horses.  A male horse and female donkey, also known as a jenny, produce a mule known as a “hinny” while a female horse and a male donkey, called a jack, produce a mule or, by some, a jackass.  The donkey was not pre-arranged.  Jesus told his disciples they would find it at the end of a lane tied up which they did.  They were given permission to use the donkey once the reason was made known.

 

Yesterday a national football team gave surviving students of Florida’s recent school shooting their team plane so students and their families could fly to Washington DC to participate in the March for our Lives being held there. 

 

No one would claim that those participating in yesterday’s march hold a claim to be a messiah but they did herald a more unified call for better gun control which, if enacted, will save lives.  Of that I am certain.

 

On this day, known as Palm Sunday, many read the written gospels telling the story of the march to Jerusalem.  It is characterized as a triumphant entry and yet, the story ends with the arrest and crucifixion of the man called Jesus.  Yesterday’s march was in reverse to the ancient story.  Students were shot and killed before the triumphant calls for better gun control were heard.

 

Today many carried palms, an ancient plant used to denote goodness and peace.  Just before his arrest, Jesus told his followers that one would betray him and another would deny him.  Yesterday, students and others told their legislators they felt betrayed.  Some politicians who use social media daily were strangely silent, almost as if to deny the existence of the marches at all.  One simply took a weekend vacation and played golf.

 

The moral of both stories is, in part, the same.  We must act and live according to what we profess.  If we claim that all life matters and is sacred, then we must fight for the protection of that life.  The greatest freedom of all is to have life.  Several weeks ago, palm trees gave shade as seventeen caskets held the bodies of those killed by a gun in the hands of a disturbed young man.  Today many carried palms as witness to their faith.

 

I really hope that one day our children can triumphantly and confidently march into their schools to learn and grow, to become educated and, in doing so, make the world a better place for all.  If we fail to make this happen, then we, like the crowd two thousand years ago, are chanting “Crucify!”

#MarchForOurLives

March 20-24, 2018

 

Today is Lent 39 but more importantly, it is the day in which Americans exercised their right to stand up for themselves.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/hundreds-of-thousands-march-for-gun-control-in-the-us/ar-BBKCX1Q?ocid=spartandhp

 

With thanks and apologies to songwriters ALAIN ALBERT BOUBLIL, CLAUDE MICHEL SCHONBERG, HERBERT KRETZMER, JEAN MARC NATEL ….

 

Do you hear the people sing?

Singing the songs of school children?

It is the music of the people

Who want no one killed again!

When the beating of your heart

Echoes the beating of the drums

There is a life about to start

When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?

Who will be strong and stand with me?

Somewhere beyond the NRA

Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight

That will give you the right to be free!

Do you hear the people sing?

Singing the songs of our children?

It is the music of the people

Who wish their friends were alive again!

When the beating of your heart

Echoes the beating of the drums

There is a life about to start

When tomorrow comes!

Will you give all you can give

So that our children may advance

Some will fall and some will live

Will you stand up and take your chance?

The blood of these martyrs

Will flow in the halls of schools!

Do you hear the people sing?

Singing the prayers of our children?

It is the music of the people

Who protest the risks again!

When the beating of your heart

Echoes the beating of the drums

Take a stand so they can live

When tomorrow comes.

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States, proclaimed December 7, 1941 as a “day that will live in infamy”.  According to the National Park Service, there were 1998 Navy personnel, 109 Marines, 233 Army personnel and 48 civilians killed at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. This comes to a total of 2388 Americans killed during this World War act of aggression.  

 

I propose that every day that the Congress of the United States and those who accept payment for their campaigns from the gun lobby are living each day in infamy.  There is no reason that this problem cannot be reduced and/or solved.  Our children are going to school, trying to obtain an education.  There is nothing about that which should make school shootings an acceptable effect of the Second Amendment.    

 

Since the first recorded school shooting in 1764 in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, 1546 children have been injured or killed simply because they went to school.  We need to take a stand so our children can be alive when the end of the school day comes.  Infamy means dishonor.  It is not honorable to let children and/or teachers die.

#MarchForOurLives

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EQr5nzSiTM

Mirror Image

Mirror Image

March 18-19, 2018

 

“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”   Mark Twain spoke golden words when he said that.  How often do we look in the mirror and think we are not as good as we should be?  What happens when we are too full of ourselves?  When are we being prideful and when are we practicing self-respect?

 

Many would say that pride and self-respect and the same thing while others have written that they are two different sides of the same coin.  I have no worldly wisdom here.  Let me say that before we go any further.  As stated many times before, I am on a quest.  If I was perfect and/or had all the answers, I would no longer being seeking.  I would have arrived.

 

In my humble opinion, pride is fine as long as it does not include a sense of betterness, of being on a higher plane of existence than anyone else.  I might even go so far as to say there are many times in which pride and self-respect can be synonyms.  However, pride that elevates one’s personal worth to being “better” than another is wrong.

 

Self-respect means seeing the value in one’s existence.  That existence will not be perfect and it will have its challenges.  It will be a journey and like most journeys, have its detours and delays.  However, the journey will have a purpose and value.

 

The Reverend Peter Marshall once said Americans should not look to their Constitution as carte blanche to do whatever they wanted but rather as an opportunity to do right.   When you live with intentions, you live with purpose.  Anyone who lives with a purpose has to have self-respect.  You cannot and should not separate one from the other.

 

The dilemma about self-respect and building it is not a new challenge.  In his “History of the Peloponnesian War”, Thucydides spoke of it.  “Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.”
 

When we look into a mirror, we see a reflection staring back at us.  That reflection is just an outer covering.  What we should respect is the deeper self the character within the outer shell.  Joan Didion explains:  “Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.”
Life is not for the weak or lazy.  It takes courage and it requires an intention to live.  When we accept those two gauntlets that being born shoves on us, then we can live and build our self-respect.  Author Adrienne Rich agrees.  “Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.”

 

The reward to really being the image we want to see in the mirror is the best prize of all.  We gain self-respect and control over our being.  No one can ever deny us that.  You will never be without yourself when you can respect yourself.  Happiness requires that we have some measure of self-respect.  Be happy and start building your own bed of self-respect.  Life is much easier when you look into the mirror and can smile at your own reflection.

Reflections

Reflections

March 17, 2018

 

Having recently had eye surgery I am reminded of a quote from Harper Lee about the value of reading:  “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read.  One does not love breathing.”  Breathing is an essential part of our living.  Without it, we have no life.  Harper Lee was correct, though, because we often overlook it.  It is so much a part of our living that we forget its importance.  Self-worth is much the same way.  Until we love ourselves, we do not allow ourselves value.  Unless we first love ourselves, we have no true self-worth.

 

Joybell C. is an author, writer, and community developer. She also sits on the board of the Scientific Journal editorial board. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she also is excellent at keeping the focus off of herself and very much on her work.  She is, I believe, a great example of someone who values herself and her work and knows the difference between the two.  “Life is too short to waste any amount of time on wondering what other people think about you. In the first place, if they had better things going on in their lives, they wouldn’t have the time to sit around and talk about you.  What’s important to me is not others’ opinions of me, but what’s important to me is my opinion of myself.”

 

During the liturgical season of Lent we tend to go back to our roots, so to speak.  This series is about cultivating a better self, growing a better being.  One of the best writers on this subject is Shannon Adler.  Shannon Adler is not some great scholar or a cosmopolitan literaturist from a distant continent.  She is a regular woman with the same challenges in life we all face.  What is so great about her is her ability to make lemonade from life’s lemons.  She knows her self-worth and that gives her the courage to see beyond the hurdle and stay on track.

 

What I have described as self-worth, Adler would probably call dignity.  She has quite a few definitions for this:  “1. The moment you realize that the person you cared for has nothing intellectually or spiritually to offer you, but a headache.  2. The moment you realize God had greater plans for you that don’t involve crying at night or sad Pinterest quotes.  3. The moment you stop comparing yourself to others because it undermines your worth, education and your parent’s wisdom.  4. The moment you live your dreams, not because of what it will prove or get you, but because that is all you want to do. People’s opinions don’t matter.   5. The moment you realize that no one is your enemy, except yourself.  6. The moment you realize that you can have everything you want in life. However, it takes timing, the right heart, the right actions, the right passion and a willingness to risk it all. If it is not yours, it is because you really didn’t want it, need it or God prevented it.   7. The moment you realize the ghost of your ancestors stood between you and the person you loved. They really don’t want you mucking up the family line with someone that acts anything less than honorable.  8. The moment you realize that happiness was never about getting a person. They are only a helpmate towards achieving your life mission.  9. The moment you believe that love is not about losing or winning. It is just a few moments in time, followed by an eternity of situations to grow from.  10. The moment you realize that you were always the right person. Only ignorant people walk away from greatness.”

 

Self-worth is not something we can purchase, no matter how many times we try.  It is not the latest fashion or snazziest vehicle.  It is neither the biggest house nor the most friends on Facebook.  It is not even guaranteed if you repost that blurb on Facebook or Twitter or share your latest and best snaps on Instagram.  It is, as Adler says, “the moment you realize that you were always the right person”, that “happiness was never about getting a person”, and that “no one is your enemy, except yourself”.

 

What do you see when you look in the mirror?  I did not ask what do you think you should see but what DO you see?  I think selfies are so popular because we are striving to see ourselves from the eyes of another.  We seek to see what the objective eye of the camera sees.  Of course, we are interpreting that vision through our own eyes so it still is blurred but we continue to try, taking picture after picture.

 

I recently came across a picture of our family pet taken when said pet was just a tiny baby.  It was his first day with our family and the picture was taken at the pet store as we purchased the necessary items to become his caregivers.  “Goodness!” I thought.  “If I had known I looked like that, I never would have walked out of the house!”  Needless to say, I thought I looked less than desirable.  Yet, we had been approached by an animal rescue group, an international group, to adopt said pet.  Clearly, regardless how horrible I thought I looked, someone thought I looked caring and responsible.

 

Perception is everything when we view a reflection of ourselves.  “You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away.”  C. Joybell C. speaks a great truth in these statements.  “It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.”

 

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert makes an important point that we often forget:  “Never forget that, once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you saw yourself as a friend.”  For most of us that time was when we were children.  Children have this undoubting talent for embracing life, embracing passion, and finding joy.  We need to tap into that part of ourselves we think we have outgrown and embrace it, reflecting a zest for life and ourselves.

 

“Let’s tell the truth to people. When people ask, ‘How are you?’ have the nerve sometimes to answer truthfully. You must know, however, that people will start avoiding you because, they, too, have knees that pain them and heads that hurt and they don’t want to know about yours. But think of it this way: If people avoid you, you will have more time to meditate and do fine research on a cure for whatever truly afflicts you.”  This advice, written by Maya Angelou in her “Letter to My Daughter”, is right on track but very hard to do.

 

Value yourself to live honestly and realize that if someone doesn’t share the value you bring to the world, you probably do not need them in your orbit.  Be yourself – honestly and joyously.  You have value.  You are worth having value.  Most importantly, in the words of Malcolm X, “We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.”

 

Stewardship of Prayer

Stewardship of Prayer

March 14-15, 2018

 

Stewardship is often defined stewardship as raising money, getting pledges of tithing from membership which creates a stream of income for the coming year.  Recently a friend was facing an upcoming surgery and mentioned needing to make certain church attendance was on the agenda, needing to have God on their side for the operation.   Many view their attendance at their house of worship as a stewardship of prayer, a type of “praying it forward” to earn brownie points for those times they mess up or do not live their faith.

 

Let me explain the term “brownie points” in case you are reading this and are unfamiliar with this popular slang term.  Like most slang terminology, there are several opinions about its origin.  In the 1960’s a system of brownie points was created in the Girl Guides/Scouts program.  In order to earn a badge, Brownie Guides or Scouts had to complete a certain number of tasks concerning the particular badge in question, usually six tasks.  As each undertaking was completed, they were said to have earned a “brownie point”.  [I was a proud Brownie Scout and yes, I earned all the badges.]

 

After World War II the practice of issuing stamps based upon the amount of purchase became prevalent in many retail businesses.  The stamps would be accumulated and then exchanged for household items that were often a luxury for the average household.  The first such stamps were brown in color so the consumer was said to earn Brownie points while supporting the local economy.  In New Zealand a utility company still uses what it calls Brownie points in their marketing. 

 

Although the earliest reference of brownie points in print is found in a 1960’s article in California as a man spoke about his wife earning brownie points, a sexist attitude I have to dislike, it is much more likely that the real credit for the term belongs to an American railroad superintendent, George R. Brown.   In 1886, Brown developed an innovative system of merits and demerits for railroad employees who worked for the Fall Brook Railway in New York State.   His system of rewarding and punishing employees was written about in business publications and it garnered great fame as other railroads began using it.  Railroad employees referred to the merits and demerits as “brownie points” and the slang term worked its way into our common vocabulary.

 

An important thing to remember is that brownie points are imaginary and are not free.  One earns them either through effort or by paying a monetary price.  Their imaginary existence is the result of action.  I am not a deity to which anyone offers prayer so I cannot speak with authority but I am fairly certain that the concept of “praying it forward” is far less effective than the generosity of spirit involved with “paying it forward”, a concept suggested by Lily Hardy Hammond in her 1916 book “In the Garden of Delight” in which a person does a good deed for a stranger instead of the original benefactor from which they received something favorable.  Paying it forward might be considered giving it back while praying it forward is more of a savings loan program.  Paying it forward involves at least two or more people and usually can become a bit contagious with others following the example.  Praying it forward is an idea predicated on the belief that one will need extra favor due to a mistake or intentional wrongdoing.

 

Many donate or tithe based upon the knowledge that they are not perfect and will need forgiveness from their supreme spirit to which they believe they are accountable.  This use or practice of giving money as a type of “fine paying” treats forgiveness and being blessed as something that can be bought.  Indeed, there are some denominations and religions that still purport this concept.  It is, in fact, the reason many suicide bombers detonate their bombs; they believe it is the ultimate payment for the ultimate resting place for their soul.

 

I will not even get into the theology or lack thereof of such concepts.  The fact is that stewardship has really very little to do with money or even earning favor.  How often have you visited a busy shopping mall or large office complex and seen someone mopping up a spill or emptying the waste cans?  While the majority of such cleaning is done by a custodial staff after hours when the general population is not present, there are those little mishaps that require constant attention.  This is the real definition of stewardship, the caretaking of the establishment.  Do we stop to thank those stewards, those custodians or do we simply walk around them, maybe acknowledging their presence with a quick nod or the briefest of smiles?

 

Almost every culture has a flood myth and during Pentecost one year we discussed several of those, the most famous of which is the story from the Abrahamic faiths of Noah and the Ark.  What we fail to realize is the stewardship required of Noah and his family in this story.  Anyone who has had a household pet or lived on a farm or ranch knows the efforts required by owning animals.  Imagine doing that on a boat in the middle of nothing but water.  The mucking out of cages and stalls, the sweeping up of shedding hair…you get the picture.  All of a sudden the mythology of this story takes on a very different meaning than simply a man saving his family and two of each species so they can repopulate the planet.  Providing sustenance, a source of staying alive, a healthy environment…these are the realities of stewardship.

 

What sustenance do we give our prayers and how do we keep our prayer life alive?  While many times there are those on-the spur-of-the-moment prayers, how do we provide for those deeper meditative prayers and do we create a healthy environment for those?  Do we make very necessary quiet pockets within our day to engage in a prayerful dialogue, one in which we can listen?  Before we start to worry about earning brownie points, we first need to really engage in prayer, real active prayer.  Regardless of our spiritual leanings or direction, we can go nowhere until we have stewardship of our praying. A vehicle without petrol or gas will go nowhere and even an electric car needs recharging after its first drive.

 

Literature is full of examples of the Devil, the ultimate evil spirit, the nemesis for most faithful people.  Before you tell me you are too busy to be a good steward of prayer, let me remind you that Milton’s Lucifer and Goethe’s Mephistopheles were considered the most interesting of all the characters in the plays they inhabited.  Delightful and witty, their evilness does not appear as repulsive but rather charming and charismatic.  Yet, they represent the most evil of all, that which separates us from God – “I am the eternal spirit of negation” Mephistopheles explains to Faust in Goethe’s play.

 

It is that “I haven’t the time”, the subconscious “NO!” playing in our heads that keeps us from actively taking control of our praying and our prayer life.  Anywhere can become a sacred space as we discovered last Advent 2014 with the series that explored all the different sacred spaces on earth.  It is up to us to create that sacred space in our own lives, that time no matter how brief and that place no matter where it is that allows us to be faithful stewards of our praying.  We have no need to pray it forward.  We simply need to pray.