I’ll never forget driving from Massachusetts to Iowa to return my car to the college I was attending (in the mid-70’s), and then hopping on a plane to connect with four of my buddies in Montana to drive to our friend’s wedding in northwest Washington state. I had allotted three days to get to Iowa, including a stop for another friend’s wedding in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Then, an additional three days to camp and drive to the Pacific Northwest.
When I left home my mother cautioned me, “Stephen, I’m concerned that you haven’t left any time for an emergency.” I responded, “Don’t worry, mom, I’ll be fine.”
A spiritual direction session is to be graced with a hospitable freedom to share whatever is on one’s heart or mind. When a trusting relationship between director and directee is established, there may come a time when a directee needs to confess a sin or sinful pattern in their life. In confession, we are invited to “agree with God” about the truth of our lives in light of the truth of his gospel… both of which will always set us free.
Monday, April 15, 2013. 2:49pm. The Finish Line of the 117th Boston Marathon had just seen the 17,580th runner successfully cross the bright blue and yellow painted signature of the world’s most famous 26.2 mile run. It was a glorious spring day, with the sun shining brightly over the city. An international phenomenon. A spectacle for runners and athletes, fans, family members, and a city beaming with pride. All seemed well in the world.
One minute later, 2:50pm, and the mood instantly shifted to fear. The first of two bombs would detonate in front of the Marathon Sports store. Moments later a second bomb ignited a few hundred feet away. Shock and sadness. Disbelief and doubt. Turmoil and confusion. Frenetic and fantastic response: Shutdown the race. Detour the remaining 5,742 runners. Dial 9-1-1. Attend to the victims. Don’t worry about the mess. Race to the hospitals. Close down all subways in and out of the city. Suspend cell phone service. Close off Boylston Street. Call the FBI. Work as a team. Time is of the essence. Lives are in danger. Confusion reigns.
It all happened so fast. Initially, the race was a photograph of Americana, filled with children on their dad’s shoulders and family members grinning from ear to ear. In an instant, a glorious day of citywide splendor turned to memories of 9/11, and the world’s focus was back on Boston once more. Not because we were looking for attention. But, simply because we were the target of a plot that unfortunately succeeded.
Three were confirmed dead. More than 260 were injured. Some were clinging to life, many have lost limbs, and all will certainly be scarred for the rest of their lives. It was a horrible day for Boston, but a remarkable day for Bostonians, especially those who showed the world our collective grit, savvy, wisdom, and courageous action in a time of need. For those of us who live here, there’s no place like Boston in a crisis.
It was 8 p.m. on Friday, after a long week of ministry, when our phone rang. Fran, an 87-year old friend from church, had called because she needed a listening ear, some pastoral encouragement, and prayer. Fran is the mother of four grown children, all of whom are facing traumatic health issues, including spinal fusion surgery, lupus, breast cancer, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, and cataracts. Spending most of her days ministering to others, she now took her turn to receive some support at a crucial time of need. She admitted she was weary from her days spent cooking laundering, visiting, and caring for her extended family.
In the midst of our phone call, she mentioned that one of the hardest parts of living alone was that no one was there to sing with. After chatting about her favorite hymn, “Be Still, My Soul,” I suggested we sing it together before we prayed. The excitement was palpable through the phone lines as I heard the sound of her feet briskly walking to another room to grab her hymnal.
We sang all the verses with passion, she leading the way, and I following along. Thankfully, I didn’t stumble too much on the words, knowing that she had them in front of her. We prayed and hung up the phone, both fully satisfied that our souls had been refreshed and our weary bodies renewed by the Spirit’s obvious presence and power.
Is there anything more countercultural or counterintuitive than spending a day—or a few days in a monastery? And yet, when I arrive and get settled in my spartan cell, I come to realize how much I actually yearn to be here. Why? Because my culture and my intuition continually pull me in opposite directions, toward priorities that are in conflict with what a monastery embodies. (more…)