Friday, February 18, 2011

Saying Thank You

Tuesdays in the Chapel
February 15, 2011

Be Thankful
Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don't know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you're tired and weary
Because it means you've made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.
GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.
~ Author Unknown ~

The Power of Saying Thank You
So as I contemplated what I might say today I reflected on Bobs charge of talking about the things in our lives that make us Whole, like the , family, work, friends
So like any modern person I turned to Google for inspiration.
My search for being whole led me to links on, “Prepare and Believe – Gods words makes us Whole - to Whole foods makes us lazy cooks.
So having my inspiration somewhat jump started by the internet I turned to the next best thing my own thoughts
Recent incidents made me begin to think about gratitude and in fact the act of saying “Thank You” as important elements in making our life whole.
With this inspiration…. I tried Google again and found that saying thank you is indeed powerful. The links I found this time ranged from “fulfilling yourself and those you praise”, to becoming a more powerful sales person”.
Needless to say my comments today will be around how saying thank you helps us become whole
For this moment I want to make the distinction between being grateful and saying thank you. Again for this moment , the act or art of being grateful has profound effect on how you live your life day to day.
Gratefulness ranges from being thankful for what you have and what you don’t have both views can lead you to contentment. Being thankful for peace as well as adversity can lead to contentment, and wholeness.
But saying thank you is both self fulfillment as well as an empowerment of others which in turn helps to make you whole
I have been struck lately by the simple acts of kindness that I have seen in traffic letting another driver navigate a snow drift and then letting them move “ahead” in Boston no less, and the return of a “thank you waive” is, Amazing.
Since I have been thinking about this topic of thank you I have taken the time to listen to my own “thank yous” and to those who thank me rather than just letting it disappear in the normal discourse of the day.
I often would tell my teams, and my children that if someone gives you a complement you must say “thank you” (humbly) because it takes great strength, energy and commitment to give a compliment and as you take that energy in you want to give it back balance.
They become whole you become whole.
So my message today is that wholeness which is a journey and not a destination can begin with grateful contemplation and saying “thank you”
I suggest that we all take a moment today to think about who we may not have thanked most recently and maybe begin with our family members and work out from there.
because it is those who are closest to us that we all too often take for granted but if we believe in the power of thank you we must begin with those that mean the most to us.
Then look outside your family circle and find that person who says hello every day that performs every day , day in day out that we hazard to take for granted let them know how they make a difference in your life.
We all have a person in our life like that, find them tell them thank you.
And remember…The power that is given……….. is also received…………..
So it is impossible for me to end this morning without sharing a sporting quote or two of inspiration
My first is from John Wooden who said about gratitude–
Things turn out best for people…………. who make the best
of the way things turn out.

And finally an anonymous quote that I like very much –
People don’t care how much you know……………..until they know how much you care……….
Show someone how much you care today………….tell them ………Thank You

Thank you for joining me today.
John Benedick
Assistant Director of Athletics

When we face the fact that every life worth living has its discouragements, its own “unfairness” if you like, we have then taken a giant step towards happiness.
We are no longer crushed or consumed by the injustices and discouragements of life. We expect them. We learn not to let those discouragements distract us from focusing on the great goals we have set for our lives. When I asked a varsity football player this fall if he was discouraged by a nagging injury, he said to me, “Yes, sometimes it gets to me. Then I think, well, this is football, you have to expect that you’ll be hurting a lot of the season, and then I think about getting up for next Saturday’s game and it really doesn’t bother me that much.” In any life worth living, we will be hurting much of the time. But as we mature, we acquire the faith, the perspective, that the discouragements, the injuries, cannot break us, cannot make us lose sight of the great things we are determined to achieve. With our minds on the goal of winning Saturday’s game, we are able to endure the injury. That faith grows stronger and stronger every time we overcome discouragement and pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and go on. That’s why Sanderson could write at the end of his time as headmaster of Oundle School: “Faith is the belief in the ultimate triumph of right-doing, [faith is] not a formal assent, but a living belief acquired by endurance, by ‘hardness’ of life. It is belief which is forced slowly upon the individual; it is the result of experience, of actions tested in the past. It becomes the basis of his future.”

~ F. Washington (Tony) Jarvis, former Headmaster, Roxbury Latin Academy, from With Love and Prayer: A Headmaster Speaks to the Next Generation ~

Thursday, February 10, 2011

//Wholly (Holy) Presence//

Tuesdays in the Chapel
February 8, 2011

Opening Reading

Occupation and not empty space is what most of us are looking for. When we are not occupied we become restless. We even become fearful when we do not know what we will do the next hour, the next day or the next year. Then occupation is called a blessing and emptiness a curse. Many telephone conversations start with the words: ‘I know you are busy, but…’ and we would confuse the speaker and even harm our reputation were we to say, ‘Oh no, I am completely free, today, tomorrow and the whole week.’ Our client might well lose interest in a man who has so little to do.

We indeed have become very occupied people, afraid of un-nameable emptiness and silent solitude. In fact, our preoccupations prevent our having new experiences and keep us hanging on to the familiar ways. Preoccupations are our fearful ways of keeping things the same, and it often seems that we prefer a bad certainty to a good uncertainty. Our fears, uncertainties and hostilities make us fill our inner world with ideas, opinions, judgments and values to which we cling as to a precious property. Instead of facing the challenge of new worlds opening themselves for us, and struggling in the open field, we hide behind the walls of our concerns holding on to the familiar life items we have collected in the past.

~ Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out, pp. 50-51

Defining the term culture is a lot like defining the term “love”. Definitions are varied, complex and sometimes personal. So, at the risk of oversimplification…I offer a couple of broad definitions to anchor what it means to speak about “culture”.

Culture, as a body of learned behaviors common to a given human society, acts rather like a template, shaping behavior and consciousness within a human society from generation to generation.
University of Washing Dept of General Education

Culture is a shared, learned, symbolic system of values, beliefs and attitudes that shapes and influences perception and behavior -- an abstract "mental blueprint" or "mental code.
Eastern Oregon Dept of Education

Though thorough and academic I prefer the more evocative definition offered by Philip Bock, Prof. Emeritus, NM Univ.
Culture is what makes you a stranger when you are away from home.

Culture is the framework, or the mental blueprint that makes one place familiar and easy to navigate and another place that almost holds us out…keeps us at a distance. The first we feel at home, like we are belong, like are presence is welcomed. The latter we feel like a stranger, and often unwelcomed.

Which brings me to an intersection of our topic this morning.

What does it mean to be wholly/holy present?

The Gospel writer, Luke, chronicles a story of Jesus visiting the home of a woman named Martha and her sister Mary.

It is a relatively quick story…so, I’ll read it to you from Luke’s gospel in chapter 10.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

That the template of our modern Western world is one that values production and commodies is reflected in an experience I had as a young minister serving in my first church. (And, I found this church is not the only one.)

Churches, appreciating the work ethic of Martha created “Martha’s Meetings” to attend to the hospitality work of the church. It tells us something that these churches did not have Mary’s Meetings.” I don’t mean that as a criticism of great people, but a reflection of our cultural template. Valuing production and commodity over presence.

Hospitality and presence become jobs of the head and hands…problems to solve and things to do, which quickly becomes a service to offer.
Hospitality, presence, helping someone be at home when they are a stranger, is no longer a way of orienting our lives, it is an industry. And once there is money to be made, once a virtue becomes a commodity doesn’t it change the way we think about offering it?

Now, Martha does not have money to make…but a reputation to uphold…much like Nouwen describes. What would happen if I spent the next week answering the phone saying I had nothing going on and nothing to do?

Having worked as a chaplain for 14 years, I’ve witnessed students lives dramatically changed when professors and administrators go beyond providing a service for students and allow themselves to be present WITH students.

Often conversations about life/meaning/vocation/family/depression are relegated to the counseling center or spiritual care-givers who have a limited amount of time and are being present as part of a system of care rather than out of a virtue of presence.

It is easy for us to be somewhere and not be present.

Often, I’m in one moment but thinking about the next meeting. Often while I’m with people I have access to text messages, emails and Facebook messages and Tweets from others. I do believe social networking can increase the quality of presence, but they are often a diversion from presence.

Jesus emphasized the holiness of our presence with others when He says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

This is a compassionate and personal presence.

To talk of the spirit, the heart or faith in a science and technology context…may not always be the language of currency in the classroom…but our lives are not lived within the confines of the classroom or lab guarded by formulas and equations.

Eventually, we will face issues of the heart and soul that cause us to ask whether or not the head and the hands can solve all of the world’s problems without the heart.

Will global justice prevail, will compassion prevail, will mercy or peace prevail because we have stumbled upon an algorithm for them or because, (even in academia) we begin to create a culture of personal presence that celebrates solidarity over production?

Closing Reading

We cannot truly care for those who are oppressed without being moved by their suffering. But mercy as a principle also requires closer proximity to those who suffer. We must struggle alongside of the suffering in the pursuit of justice-making, knowing that by being in closer proximity relationally and physically more may be asked of us than we had anticipated.

~ Brita Gill-Austern, Injustice and the Care of Souls

Tim Hawkins,
Chaplain, SojournCollegiateMinistry

Thursday, February 3, 2011


February 1, 2011


A friend of mine wrote the other day to tell me of an illness he was dealing with. We have known each other for over 50 years and our parents had been friends before we were born. My life has been enriched by his friendship and I can remember several times when his wisdom and thoughtfulness has had a qualitative impact on actions I have taken.

I am sure you all have had similar experiences and I invite you to think about them this morning. With my own sensitivity to the topic heightened, it seems recently that every time I turn I have been touched by comments and insights about friendship. Weather and cold has given all of us a bit of time inside and as a result I have watched more than my share of new and old movies. In Kevin Costner’s film Wyatt Earp (1994) the occasion of his meeting with the legendary dandy, gambler and alcoholic, Doc Holiday is framed by Holiday asking Earp, “Do you have any friends?” and Earp responds, “Not many.” Holiday tells him he will be his friend and a thread in this dark retelling of a legend is that whatever else he may be, Holiday, is a friend to Earp.

But over the holiday break we also go to movies and see a few films before they go to Netflix. One of the films we saw was The King’s Speech a tale I had never heard about the travails of George VI dealing with his stammer. The threads are many: the relationship of fathers and sons, the burdens of leadership, the love of family, the developing friendship between Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) and the King (Colin Firth).

“What do I call you?” asks Logue? “Your Highness, “ says the King, “then Sir.” “What about Bertie?” asks Logue. “Only my family uses Bertie”, says the King. “Bertie it is then” ,says Logue. His notion is that for the treatment to be effective they need to be equals working on the same problem. The treatment is effective, friendship grows despite travail and the power of relationships is clearly depicted. It is an inspirational tale in the time of The Social Network.

The Social Network is, as many of you know, about the founding of Facebook. It may well make you think twice about friending anyone. Both The King’s Speech and The Social Network are nominees for the best film of the year. As a tale of how to make money, as a story about randy escapades up the street, the film succeeds brilliantly. But would you want to be friends with any of the main characters? We probably all know folk like the characters in the film. My favorite scene is when Mark Zukerberg learns he is being sued by his friends.
The take away from the tale is that friendship is fragile and costly and finally that it can be bought if you have enough money. But in fact it is clear that such friends do not have your back nor your best interests in mind. It is a cautionary, if entertaining tale.

Emily Dickenson wrote: "True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island….to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing."

It will not surprise you that I find Dickenson compelling. My best friends are folks with whom I can begin conversations in mid-sentence where we left off the last time we visited. Life it seems to me is made whole by good friends who both watch our backs and enrich our futures. Good friends tell you what you do not want to hear and what you need to know. May you be blessed with such friends.


by J. Barrie Shepherd from Diary of Daily Prayer

Friends were with me today, Lord,
people I love,
and who love me,
people I trust,
and who trust me,
people I enjoy being with,
no matter where, or how, or why.
Friends were with me today.

I thank you for my friends
and for all they bring to my living.
For the way they give of themselves to me,
for the way they help me give of myself,
and even be myself, and more than myself,
I give you my deepest thanks, Father.
I thank you, Lord, for the simple
but real kinds of support,
and comfort, and strength I can draw
from my friends.
But most of all I thank you
for the ways in which you reveal yourself
to me through friendship,
for all of the moments in which,
through frail but wonderful human instruments,
you sing to me of grace and mercy,
of the risk of commitment
and the challenge of response,
of the strong, sure knowledge of acceptance
in the heart of a true friend,
in the heart of a true father,
in your heart, my God and my Redeemer.

Grant me now a restful night,
that grace to rise refreshed tomorrow,
and the faith to be a friend to all I meet.

Robert M. Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute
at Tuesdays in the Chapel