Friday, October 3, 2008

Endings and Beginnings

"They shall perish, but you will endure;
they all shall wear out like a garment;
as clothing you will change them,
and they shall be changed;

But you are always the same,
and your years will never end.

The children of your servants shall continue,
and their offspring shall stand fast in your sight."

Psalm 102:26-28

This morning I am contemplating taking my final picture for my "365" project on Flickr (you can see it on my flicker site here,

Projects and our lives illustrate some of the principals mentioned in the Psalm verses: The project has a definite beginning and ending, but our life came before the project and continues after.

It will be an interesting day, since there are many projects in my life not ending, and others just beginning.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Trouble and Peace

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea;

Though its waters rage and foam,
and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Psalm 46:1-4

You rule the raging of the sea
and still the surging of its waves
Psalm 89:9

Verses from two different Psalms speaking to our Lord's power to calm us and keep us. I have been attempting to read from the Psalms near the beginning and end of each day recently. Last night, as I attempted to end my day I started the Psalm readings assigned. I was feeling anything but close to God, I only opened the prayer book because I have, recently, made it a habit. Two Psalms were listed, and I read the first with little, if any, enthusiasm, and started the second, Psalm 46, and was greeted with "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble". I could only laugh. Here is God speaking to me from the pages of a book as I am sitting on my bed and stewing about life.

This morning the assigned reading was from Psalm 89. The Psalm starts with the line "Your love, O Lord, for ever will I sing; from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness." Certainly a great line to start Monday morning on. Being typically human (or at least so I think) I had not forgotten both the my discomfort at the end of the day, nor the wonderful response from God, I read verse 9 about God ruling the sea and stilling the surging waves.

Can I remember to listen?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obedience, A Timeless Choice

Hear my teaching, O my people;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

That which we have heard and known,
and what our forefathers have told us,
we will not hide from their children

We will recount to generations to come
the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord,
and the wonderful works he has done.
Psalm 78:1-4

As I started my day today, I looked out on my balcony and saw the moon and morning stars. I had already read from a portion of St. Benedict's Rule a continuation of his chapter on Obedience: "This very obedience, however, will be acceptable to God and agreeable to people only if compliance with what is commanded is not cringing or sluggish or halfhearted, but free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness."

"Compliance" and "obedience", ancient concepts still used. It seems they bring a negative resonance all to often. It's not what we want to do, most especially when we are told we must be compliant, that our obedience is required. Perhaps we don't use the word obedience very much, but I expect many of us are issued rules, expectations, directives, policies, and regulations so often we simply want to crawl under the desk (or tractor, fishing net, or oil rig) and have the rest of the world deal with it all.

St. Benedict reminds us of our free will, our choice. We will always struggle with both our wanting our own way (read the next 35 verses of Psalm 78 for a vision of human desire in the face of God's gifts) and making a choice to obey.

Obedience by choice, the generations that have said and lived the Psalms, and God's gift of light, or more surely God's gift of our world, remind me (perhaps each us?) how I am in the company of many both here and now, and throughout time, as I struggle to freely choose to be obedient in God's call to me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

To be formed in God's good time

From Sister Joan Chittister's commentary on the daily Benedictine Rule reading for September 21 we read "A willingness to be formed is the basis of formation", and in Chapter 5 of Benedict's Rule itself (in a portion commonly read on September 22) we read "Such people as these immediately put aside their own concerns, abandon their own will, and lay down whatever they have in hand, leaving it unfinished".

These two passages ask something of me I find quite difficult: To be formed in God's good time. I am quite willing to give up the hard and boring activities required of me at work. I am more than happy to have an excuse to skip the household chores when I think of something "more important" to do.

In Sister Joan's commentary for today (September 22) we read "This voice of God in the demands of community life is not something to be dallied with or contended with or speculated about or debated". So there it is, God calling me when I don't want to listen.

I have been in quite the "tizzy" of not listening (at least some of the time) in the past few weeks, attempting to force my spiritual life or spiritual path into some vision I have, adjusting my support group meetings to match "my" schedule, getting new and more work assignments, joining a photo club. All of this and I catch myself in the troubling habit of comparing how successful I am feeling inside with all of the apparent "success" of others I see, read, or hear about.

God, I DO want to be formed, please give me the willingness to accept your advice, and the patience and insight to do all that is needed, rather than all that I want. Thank You.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Photography or Info Sec - Oh Wait I CAN Have It All!

A couple months ago on my Flickr stream I mentioned I had created a "sketchbook" and I intend to create a formal photography portfolio. I did this after a discussion with a photographer friend and the realization that I really do love photography.

I am having a great time at work as well. I am working for my employer as the in-house Information Security professional, have successfully achieved industry certification in that field, and enjoy working on projects and further study in the field.

I find it interesting how my mind works with things I do. Having made the photography statement I proceeded to run a couple different scenarios in my head imagining my life as a "photographer", thinking how much better it would be to do something I love for a career. While I was happily imagining myself making money with photography I also found myself taking fewer pictures and not always getting very excited about picture possibilities.

And, as it has a habit of doing, "Life" invaded my mind as well. This spring and summer Patty and I have spent a little time thinking about The Future and taking stock of where we are and what our resources are. Do we have any? Well, yes, of course. Do we have everything we want? No. (Does anybody?) Do we have most or all of what we need? Yes. But working, for more than a few years, is definitely part of our future.

So, you ask, where is all of this going, anyway? (If your not asking I sure am...)

Well, here is what I realized in the past couple of weeks: I CAN have it both ways! I have many wonderful examples of professionals successfully enjoying both professional careers AND significant artistic lifestyles, living all around me. A month or so ago I ran across an article in The Washington Post about a very well respected local Jazz combo that was playing one last gig at the club it had been playing in for the past twenty or more years. Why the breakup? Three of the members are all retiring from successful professional careers and moving out of town. Add the amateur choruses, church choirs, and other groups. And that is just the musicians. When I am visiting work sites there are wonderful collections of paintings, photographs, sculpture, and other art on the walls and in display cases, created by full-time employees, people that love art and love working.

So here is my new plan, a new scenario: Go to work, take pictures, and enjoy life a whole lot! I DO plan on becoming a better photographer, and I DO plan to improve "Information Security", and no, I don't currently have a plan to give one up and only do the other. (But I will most likely always think the "other" is "so much better" when I am in the middle of a long, boring, assignment in the first, no matter which I am in.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

All That God Asks

"in doing the best that we can for today, we are doing all that God asks of us."...From a daily meditation guide

Saturday, January 12, 2008

friends and Friends

Today my friend Donna commented about "Capital F" friends on one of my Flickr photos. Her comment is there are "friends and there are Friends". I tend to agree, and Donna (and John) are definitely Friends. I am not sure what magic turns friends into Friends. As I compose this "Flickr is having a massage", as the message says when I try to review the pictures, so I cannot quote her directly. I do know the Friends are the ones I always feel comfortable with.

What are some of the aspects of Friends?

I think it has something to do with:
  • How long we have known each other
  • Meeting them in person
  • Seeing each other regularly
  • Sharing growth together
  • Sharing a common view of the world
But there are exceptions to each one of these:
  • I have a number of Friends I went to elementary school with, others I met in College or when I first started work after college; but at the same time I have met some Friends as little as two to four months ago. And I expect each of us has had the experience of spending an afternoon or an evening with someone new and knowing they are definitely a Friend.
  • True, most of my Friends I have met in person, can give them a hug, or watch as they laugh or cry as we talk; but I have at least one friend I have met online on Flickr and have never seen in person.
  • Seeing each other regularly may be, for me, the least common. Patty and I see Donna and John a couple of times a year; some of my closest Friends from elementary or high school I am lucky to see every few years, but they are still Friends. Others I see more regularly.
  • Now, if seeing each other regularly is not as important I am thinking that "sharing growth" together may well be one of the more important aspects. Parenting, going to church, and potography with Donna, dealing with being different in high-school, learning about God, family and Flickr. Yes sharing growth is important. Come to think of it I am not sure I can think of an exception for this one.
  • Nor can I think of an exception for "sharing a common view of the world". We are not all alike by any stretch of the imagination, but it does seem my Friends and I share at least one view of the world similar. Shared views on how important it is to love and care about our children, care about mutual friends, making pictures, or our relationship with hour "Higher Power" are but a few examples of this sharing. I don't mean we all share the same view of who will make the best political leader, or how much money a family should make, or so many of those other "hot button" issues we hear about on the news or learned about in Social Psychology, either.
So, four elements of what makes a capital "F" Friend. I bet I will find exceptions almost as soon as I post this. Do you have exceptions? Great examples? Just a comment? If so please don't hesitate to add it.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Jan 3 - Life is not a collection of asceticisms

366 Day 92 - Life is not a collection of asceticisms
Originally uploaded by Seton Droppers

The full text from Benedict's rule for today is:
Seeking workers in a multitude of people, God calls out and says again: "Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days (Ps 34:13)? If you hear this and your answer is "I do," God then directs these words to you: If you desire true and eternal life, "keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim (Ps 34: 14-15)." Once you have done this, my "eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers; and even before you ask me, I will say" to you: "Here I am (Is 58:9)." What is more delightful than this voice of the Holy One calling to us? See how God's love shows us the way of life. Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see the Holy One "who has called us to the eternal presence (I Thes 2:12)."

The portion of Joan Chittister's reflection I found I was responding to is:
"In Benedict's mind, apparently, the spiritual life is not a collection of asceticisms, it is a way of being in the world that is open to God and open to others. We struggle, of course, with temptations to separate the two. It is so easy to tell ourselves that we overlooked the needs of others because we were attending to the needs of God."
I am called to live this spiritual life not running from responsibility and hiding out by myself but helping others and sharing with those in my community. In my case my community is my family and setting out a meal for my wife, who was running late and feeling cross this evening, is certainly responding to the needs of others.