Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reflections on Easter morning

It's Easter morning and I thought I would take a few minutes to ponder and reflect on the meaning of Easter. So what is the meaning of Easter? For many Christians past and present the resurrection story provides the hope of eternal life after death and is the basis for a relationship with God because Jesus death and subsequent rising provides the "atonement" for our sins once and for all. This morning I don't intend to dismiss or challenge the importance of this particular take on the meaning of Easter, nor do I want to get into the historical credibility of this story or the nature of the gospel texts themselves which is an ongoing and never ending debate amongst modern biblical scholars but I do want to explore some other potential implications of the Easter story.

I am fifty three years old and don't anticipate dying anytime soon so the life after death implications of Easter don't resonate with me at this particular time although I acknowledge I could die at any moment. As far as being a sinner I acknowledge I am not what I ought or could be but I trust in the nature of loving God to work out the details of "how" God actually works out the justice aspect of the relationship between our individual and collective sins and the Holiness of God. I don't mean to pick a fight with my Christian brethren out there who take their theology seriously but from where I sit these days I'm at the point where I'm trusting in the mercy of God rather than my intellect to figure out how this whole thing fits together...So, where does that leave someone like me who is currently "somewhat" indifferent about eternal life and the nature of the relationship between sin, the need for justice, and the Holiness of God. Is there any meaning of Easter left for someone like me?

As I look around the world, my community, my country, and my own soul I see death one digs deeper one sees the death of a marriage, the death of the hopes and dreams of a young person who has graduated but can't find a job, the death of a business adventure, the death of a happy retirement due to being ripped off by some greedy financial advisers, the death of a spouse due to a sudden unexpected heart attack, the death of a child, the gradual death of our ability to do what we love because of growing old, and the ever increasing death of the American dream for more and more Americans each passing day due to our serious economic problems. Death "is" a part of all our lives. As I reflect on my own life and soul I have experienced the death of a marriage and subsequent romances, the unexpected death of a brother from a heart attack last year, the death of my father when I was only 12, the death of my relationship with my sister, and the death of my ability to function as I wish I could in different areas of my life.

Christianity as I understand it doesn't promise that my life will be happy nor does it promise that things will work out as "I" would hope but the Christian story and the Easter story as I interpret is fundamentally about "hope". The hope for change and the "potential" for resolution and joy in this world and the next. I don't know if I ever be able reconcile my relationship with my sister or if I will ever function as I wish I could in some aspects of my personal life, but I hope I will. As I look around the world and reflect on my own life I do see examples in the world and areas in my own life where death has been conquered and life has returned. In our own history we have conquered the practice of slavery, and women and African Americans now enjoy a level of equality and freedom that they were not afforded for hundreds of years. In my personal life I have experienced certain emotions that were dead for decades and I have a renewed hope for my future as it relates to some areas of my life.

Easter is a story of hope and it points to the possibility in this world and the next that we might all experience the renewal of life in the world and our personal lives. But, sometimes we can't see or experience the renewal of life within and around us because our own expectations get in the help us all to see and experience the renewal of life that abounds in our world and in our lives and let's celebrate the meaning of the hope that is found in the Easter story today and everyday.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Art of Journaling

I started to journal after my divorce and I am still going strong. I don't remember how I got started but suspect I may have journaled as a coping mechanism to deal with all that was happening in my heart and head at the time. No one ever told me or suggested "how" to journal but over the years I have developed a number of ways to journal and I thought I would share a bit for anyone who might be interested in the subject. Here are a couple of different journal exercises I do on a regular basis for everyone's consideration.

1. Free association. This may be the most common and popular type of journaling. Free association involves just writing down what you are thinking or feeling about a particular issue/topic or situation at a particular moment in time. This kind of journaling can be very therapeutic and cathartic.

2. Journaling about the past. Because the present is so intertwined with the past this form of journaling can be very beneficial in dealing with a particular issue or problem. While I was working through abandonment issues I once sat down and journaled for hours identifying the numerous people in my past who had come to my aid and provided help and support. This practice helped bring healing to a difficult aspect of my past and it provided a reminder of the grace that was always present even when I wasn't aware of it. I later added these thoughts in another "special" journal and frequent what I wrote from time to time, especially when I feel flooded with certain feelings of rejection, neglect, or abandonment.

3. Copying down quotes. If you visit my blogs time to time you may have noticed that I use a lot of quotes. Over the past seven years I have spent countless hours copying quotes from the various books I read. When I read a book I generally highlight the book and then go back at some later time and copy the highlighted sections that are particularly meaningful and sometimes I take this practice a step further and type them. I now have a huge database of quotes at my disposal. I have found this practice very helpful because it helps move the words from my head to my heart. I have read a lot of books in which the ideas went in one ear and out the next but when I write or rewrite the highlighted sections in my journal it often moves the thoughts into my long term memory where it can be recalled later when I might need it. I also go back and reread the quotes from time to time and one can do this as a type of meditative practice.

4. Interacting with the quotes. I have another journal where I go back and read what I previously journaled and then write a response that applies to a particular situation I am currently going through. This practice helps bring to life what I have read and if we are not engaging ourselves with what we read then what is the purpose of reading?...unless, we are reading for entertainment or pleasure which has it's place.

5. Pictures...I have added some pictures to my journals. The pictures include some very special people in my life and some fictional characters that symbolize important aspects of my life that I wish to be reminded of from time to time.

In conclusion, I consider journaling a "spiritual discipline" that can enrich and nurture ones soul and provide an important resource that one can take with them any time. I take my journals to work and on vacation and read and write in them as often as needed.