Browsing the blog archives for October, 2010

Chilean Miners – What Matters in Your Life?

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

The story of the Chilean miners is breathtaking.  A global community joined in rooting, praying and hoping for their safety.  In this emotionally charged story, many of us asked, “What would I have done in their shoes?”  Their story invites our reflection on how we respond to the curves of life.

The thirty-three miners and their families each faced the ultimate question of what matters in our lives.  They did not have the luxury of reflecting on that question – they lived it. In the great wisdom traditions insight comes from experience and is later theorized, turned into a philosophy or teaching.  That is usually true for you and me.

I cannot know the experience of the miners or their families because I have not lived their experience but I can imagine walking in their shoes and I can empathize.  Their story fills me with hope.  The unexpected curves of life invite you to intuitively draw on the grounding of your life.

What does your life look like?  In life changing moments your life flashes before you like a high speed inventory.  Beyond all of the busyness your significant relationships remind you of those you feel at one with, those with whom you feel enlivened, those with whom there is a mutual nurturing of the spirit. It is a wakeup call about whom and what brings you fully alive. 

What inner resources do you turn to? In the curves or crises thrown your way, the values and spiritual truths that shape you come into stark relief.  Your life is not a solitary one.  Love, hope, compassion and courage are not abstract truths.  They keep reappearing inviting you to new depths of discovery.  The Universe or the Holy reminds you of the wisdom traditions alive in you, ready to be drawn on.

How do you stay centered? When you’re thrown off balance fear and anxiety kick in wanting to have their way with you. But this is not the only truth of your life!  You have practices to be centered about who you are.  Yoga, meditative walking, a labyrinth, prayer, mindfulness, meditation, prayer beads or exercise may be among them.  Negative energy wants you to be rattled but the good energy invites you to return to your centering with yourself, the Holy and life.

Who do you trust? The miners had to trust one another.  In the hairpin curves of life you and I are invited to trust and cultivate our intuition. It is part of our spiritual DNA.  Those whom you trust with your heart or life may not always be the obvious suspects.  Some of those closest to you may be unsettled or threatened when your intuition leads you to choices bringing you alive in new ways.  Be awake to those who appreciate your well-being.  Be aware that hairpin curves usually invite to become more fully alive.

Who and what do you love?  Your deepest values reappear on the surface.  “Remember me!” they seem to say reminding you of your sense of purpose and meaning.  They invite you to listen to your heart because what matters most in your life is who and what you love.  As your life flashes before you it expresses urgency about putting your energy into whom and what you love.

Active Hope.  Hope sustains us.  It is an active way of being.  It orients your actions and decisions toward doing those things which are important to the core of who you are. Your own hope joins with the hope of others as you work for what is life-giving and life-changing.

The Chilean mine workers and their families are a story of life-affirming courage.  One of their gifts to the rest of us is the reminder of what matters most profoundly in your life.  Crises or hairpin curves shift our lives.  The question is always how you chose to respond to them.

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Pets and Islam: Wisdom from Francis of Assisi

Robert V. Taylor

Is there a connection between the blessing of animals on St. Francis Day and raging debates about Islam? Francis’ wisdom from the thirteenth century is urgently relevant today. 

In churches around the United States people will bring their pets and animals to be blessed in honor of the October 4th celebration of his life. In decades of providing such blessings I discovered beyond the sweetness of a child bringing a rabbit for a blessing that something more profound was at play. 

In his writings Francis celebrated the fraternity between human beings and all of Creation.  It was a radical departure from the prevailing theologies of his time about human subjugation of the earth and its creatures.

Sentimentality about Francis shrouds his disruptive belief that love is the sole grounding of our lives.  He lived in an era celebrating the omnipotence of God.  Imperial images of Christ were shattered by a simple act of his.  In 1223 he created the very first crèche scene depicting an earthy, ordinary and vulnerable infant.  It was a seismic shift in rethinking the relationships between Christians and the Holy.

This vulnerability connected with the experience of ordinary people. Francis believed that vulnerable love was the grounding of his religious tradition. The religious authorities of his day generally despised him.  The Francis statues adorning gardens and car dashboards would be an affront to their understanding of religion and power.  How we love the world – including all of its creatures and people – is the ultimate question that Francis believed we faced.

Almost eight centuries later Francis would find a distressing, sad sense of déjà vu in the raging battles being fought over Islam and the building of Mosques.

Francis lived during the time of the Crusades waged by Christians against Muslims.  His understanding of loving the world and the interconnection of all things led him to denounce the war of his time against Islam.  He thought it was sacrilege.

Francis’ visit to Egypt met with strong resistance from one of the most powerful cardinals who pursued military victory and glory from the Crusades. Francis persisted, believing that love of the Holy was lived out in peacemaking as much as it is experienced among all people and creatures.

Returning from his visit with Muslim leaders Francis introduced a new greeting into the services of his monks – “May the Lord give you peace.”  It is thought that he adapted the traditional greeting with which Islam expects Muslims will greet all people – “Peace be upon you.”  We know that Francis was moved and impressed by the devotion of Muslims in their five daily calls to prayer.  Learning form this, he introduced the Angelus into Europe to be prayed three times a day.

The wisdom and ethic of Francis of Assisi speak as freshly today as they did centuries ago.  Like the Buddha who invites us to seek happiness for all people, Francis was driven by a passion for the oneness of all people.  Not a bland undifferentiated sameness, but the Holy revealed in his own tradition, Islam and Judaism as much as in Creation.

The blessing of animals will be celebrated with joy in countless places across the United States invoking and celebrating Francis.

Invoking Francis’ core message of our interconnection, of peacemaking and honoring the holy in all is an even more poignant celebration of this man from Assisi.

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