Dalai Lama and Me – A Year Later

At the start of 2013, I shared a rather odd thing that I would include as Number 11 on my “Bucket List.”  It is “meeting the Dalai Lama.”  (If you really need to know why this United Methodist Pastor would desire such a meeting – well, read the original post here.)  For the purpose of this post, a year has come and gone and I have not met him.

The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama

I have, however, been reading little snippets of wisdom from a calendar “Insight from the Dalai Lama.”  It’s one of those “page-a-day” calendars that I often times found myself reading a week at a time in order to get caught up.  So much for my ability to be in the moment.

Despite my less than methodical trod through this year’s wisdom from a Buddhist monk, I found many gems along the way.  I would have to say that two from the last week have spoken to me in ways that made me think about my Christian life in very different ways.

The first was the offering from the day after Christmas [marked as Kwanzaa begins (USA), Boxing Day (Canada, NZ, UK, Australia – except SA), St. Stephen’s Day (Ireland), Proclamation Day (Australia-SA) – who knew the day after Christmas was anything but “Holiday-Merchandise-Is-Now-50%-Off Day!”].  That day’s offering is a prayer that I have found myself praying each day since I first read it:

“May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those that have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.”

I read that and was reminded of a story that Eugene Lowry once told about doing a children’s sermon.  He asked all the kids to sit down with him and said, “I have a special friend.  I have a special friend that lives in my back yard.  I have a special friend that lives in my back yard and likes to eat nuts.  I have a special friend that lives in my back yard, likes to eat nuts, and has a bushy tail.  Does anyone know who my friend is?”

One tentative hand went up and a child said, “I know that the answer is supposed to be Jesus, but it sure does sound like a squirrel to me.”

I read the Dalai Lama’s prayer and I knew it was supposed to be Buddhist, but I couldn’t help it, it sure sounded like Jesus to me.

Maybe it has been because of that prayer that when I read today’s offering – the final one on the calendar – I found myself becoming both reflective about the past and extremely hopeful about the future.  I think that is a good way to be on New Year’s Eve.  Here it is.  I hope it says something to you.

“Time passes unhindered.  When we make mistakes, we cannot turn the clock back and try again.  All we can do is use the present well.”

Hmmm…sound like another squirrel to me.

Happy New Year!  Thanks for reading!  “Live in the present well” with me in 2014!

On Words Dying

Yesterday, I read a haunting post from a pastor I follow on Twitter, Jonathan Martin.  You can find the post here and you may well wish to read it first.  It made me think for a long time and made me wrestle with some of my own demons about words.  Not all of them are worked out in this post, mind you, but it is a start.  Thanks, Pastor Jonathan Martin.  I think.

He sat as his desk and listened to the cats fighting three rooms away even as he listened to the voices inside him argue over the need to write.

“Practice,” the old, wise voice that had read masters and novices alike said.  “Put the damn pen to the paper.  Tap away at the crud covered keyboard.  Fill the empty space with some of those things floating around in that jumbled mass of nerves you call a brain.  Get something down so that mess of nerves can at least sort out what is good and what is trash.  Practice.”

“Nah, just wait for your muse to arrive,’ the other voice growled from the depths of the man’s belly.  The man never knew the age of this tormentor but he knew from the rumbles and discomfort where he had taken residence.  The gut.  “Wait for the muse to arrive.  That is, if the jerk ever decides to truly show up.  In the meantime you’ve got plenty to occupy your hands and mind.  For crying out loud, it is almost a New Year and leaves still need raked.  Cookies need baked.  I love the cookies, you know.  Besides, you will be pouring out words in a sermon or two soon enough.  Be content with what they will do.  (Or more likely, what they won’t do.)”


“Just wait.”

He walked through the house aware of the war that raged between heart and soul, between blank space and filled lines.  He looked upon two cats, one stretched out in a windowsill batting eyes at the roaming person disturbing an important nap, the other, stretched out upon the recliner and oblivious to the footsteps of the man.  Stroking the fur of the undisturbed cat, he heard the restful sound of sleep.  He listened to the silence of words dying.  Again.


“Therefore you must also be ready…”  Matthew 24:44a










Those who follow me on Twitter might well recognize this photo.  It’s not a new one.

Getting ready for any day can be a challenge and on the day this photo was taken, well I was apparently more challenged than others.  The fact of the matter is that I found one black right shoe and one black left shoe and put them on.  Granted, these two shoes feel quite different from one another when I am wearing them but it took me close to five hours to realize my fashion mistake.

Oh well…my feet were covered.  I made it that long.  So I guess I was ready.

I think that sometimes I believe being ready for Christ’s presence has something to do with how I might “look” or “appear” to him.  Most of the time, I know better.  I know that he loves me regardless of what I look like at any moment.

Being ready for me is more about remaining in a state that allows me to see Jesus even as Jesus is present in the everydayness of life.  Shoes don’t matter nearly as much as noting the possibility that Christ could meet me in any person or situation that I face as I walk through my day.

I pray during Advent that matching shoes or not – I am ready!

Looking Around…Again

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Bluefield Daily Telegraph photo of the Sunday afternoon work team.

The dust coming off the building as the hammers and chisels worked away at the painted cement on the brick surface made it difficult to look around much at all.  However, the sweat coming off of my forehead and rolling into my eyes made it necessary to stop every once in a while and wipe.  (At home later that afternoon the sand and grit that had stuck to my sweaty face gave me a free exfoliation as I washed it away.  But it felt good.  It felt really good.)  During those little breaks, I could look around – even if it was a little blurry.

I looked around and I saw at least four generations represented in the work crew.  Youth, young adults, middle age adults and even some into retirement were all working away together to help make a way for a local artist to turn a building into a canvas.  There were people on ladders and people working at just one level.  There was laughter and there were groans.  There was the roar of a bucket truck motor and shouts as people tried to talk over it.  There was and eerie silence when the motor stopped and I could hear car horns honking as people drove by, encouraging us in our work to make our city a little brighter.

I looked around and I saw history repeating itself and prepare to repeat itself yet again.  The man who led the project said to me, “My dad and I planted those trees across the street thirty years ago.  I still remember it like it was yesterday.  Now we are getting ready to cut those trees down as part of this project so everything can be seen better; so the whole town looks a little brighter.”  If I were standing on this same lot thirty years from now, I am sure I could look around and see one of a number of youth who were working that day tell someone, “I remember the day we worked to clean off this wall so this painting could be done. I still remember the dust like it was yesterday!  But now it’s time for a new building so that the whole town can seem a little brighter.  I’m just glad I can be a part of this new day.”

I looked around and I saw one of our youth offering a cold cup of water to a person standing on the street.  She started to give him a piece of pizza from the lunch we shared before the work began and then thought better of it and gave him the whole box.  He took it gladly and humbly and walked away to some of his friends “from the street” to share.

I drove by that lot on my way to the hospital later that day and stopped for just a minute.  The work wasn’t complete, that was certain, but I looked around at what we had completed to see what I could see.  I looked around again and saw…well, I saw that the Kingdom had come near.

Ask Almost Anything (Leftovers Again…)

One question that came up during the Ask Almost Anything sermon series – where I received text messages and emails from the congregation during and after worship and answered those questions during the sermon time – was a question that I believe is very basic to our understanding and living of the faith: What is the definition of a “Disciple”? 

Now, when I first saw this question, I didn’t notice that the word had been capitalized.  My immediate (and as usual, sarcastic, response) would have been: “I don’t know…why don’t you try looking in a mirror!”  🙂

However, I think the person askikitten-or-lion-which-is-itng this question is looking on two levels.  First, I think that they want to know what the definition of a “Biblical Disciple” was in the days shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  There has always been some interest in identifying the “Twelve” and distinguishing them from others who followed Jesus and giving further distance to those who made up the “crowd.”

This first part of the question can be answered fairly briefly: a “Disciple” is one of the Twelve, was  one of those  Jesus called to follow him and who were witnesses to his resurrection.

A second a deeper part of this question, I think, has to do with what makes one a disciple of Jesus today.  And the answer begins in the same way…those who are called by Jesus to follow him and who are witnesses to the power of the resurrection in their lives.

There does need to be a sense of “calling” for someone to be a disciple.  Those callings come in many ways.  Some hear or feel the presence of God leading them to some deeper relationship to him that is found in Jesus.  Others feel some sort of void or absence in their life that only the presence and calling of Christ to become a part of something bigger than themselves can fill.  Either way…a person is called.  (I guess in United Methodist circles, we would call this the grace of God at work in our lives even before we are aware of it – something called prevenient grace.)

A disciple also should be able to show that they are witnesses to the power of the resurrection.  (The original “Twelve” did the same, however, they were also physical witnesses to that resurrection.)  I like to think about it like this…As those who have heard some call from Jesus and answered it to follow him, we discover that this man chose to give up the power of heaven to become human while remaining the very Son of God.  As that person who walked, talked and taught among other humans, Jesus found himself constantly on the outside of both religious and political power by introducing us to a new way of seeing the Kingdom of God being present with those around him.  Eventually, Jesus was arrested and killed on a cross for the sin of humanity – failure to see the power of God at work in the humbleness of the servant Jesus, the servant God who wants to be in relationship with each and every one of us.

In a very real and powerful way, Jesus showed his love for all human beings by allowing himself to become this sacrifice for us.  God accepted that sacrifice and resurrected Jesus to show that death – the ultimate price of sin – would no longer hold power over anyone who followed Jesreflections-in-mirror 1us.  We become witnesses to the power of the resurrection not when we talk about the glory of heaven or about the gift we will receive for following Jesus, but when we do the very same thing Jesus did – love one another as he loved us.

So, the brief answer for the second way of looking at this question can be found in John 13:31-35.

You can know a disciple…by the way she or he loves.  Short and simple.

Until the next question…keep heading towards home!!