Friday, June 29, 2012

My Tikkun Daily Post :: The Temple of Want: What Do We Worship

image by samantha celera on flickr

The Social Experience of Coveting

Thinking about politics and wars and the big systemic problems always leads me back to thinking about human behavior, and social behavior. Maybe it is the psychotherapist in me — always analyzing the world around me from a psychological and behavioral stance. So, thinking about leadership and the things we bow down to lead me to think about the human psychology of want, envy, fear, and power and the spiritual and psychological question that comes when we pause to get a distance view of Western culture. Which I think, also, ends up being a spiritual issue of Western culture.
What do we want? What do we bow down to? What do we covet?
Even biblically the answers to these questions come up on passage after passage of scripture and in the parables of religious history, as well as social history, bowing down to things of power and decadence with little genuine authority always gets us into trouble.

The Temple of Want

A friend told me the other day that she had a professor in graduate school who called the nature of American coveting, “kneeling before the Temple of Want.” I love it — well I don’t love it, but you know what I mean. What a perfect way of paralleling how we live in this world aching for kingdoms, and in the process bowing down before many false “Kings.” The temples of our psyches are full of wants and haves which brings momentary ecstasy but no real satisfaction.
I once heard that when we get the “thing” we want (the bright and shiny new bauble) our moment of bliss lasts approximately 5 seconds. Our temple is made of paper-thin walls and the foundation is crumbling down; our “Temple of Want” tricks us by supplying us with an unquenchable thirst, an unending hunger for something never found within its walls. “The Temple of Want” is our cultural addiction — like heroin, the high is immediate but the life-span short, and the more we feed it, the more we want, and the harder it is to get sober.
Great cars, a new gadget, another vacation, some new clothes or shoes or hair cut, and even a better and bigger job, a bigger house. These are the things in our “temple of want” and these are the things we bow down to and spend our life working to attain (not always, but for a good portion of people a good portion of the time). But each time we bow down to this false idol our addiction grows, but our genuine joy diminishes. We find it impossible to enjoy a quiet day in a park, at the beach, playing in the yard with our dog, without the addiction scratching at our brain, keeping out of the bliss of what is and into the jonesing for the next big thing.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Travel Parable: Giants of the Mae Taeng Valley

THIS STORY IS A PART OF THE PRODIGAL MAGAZINE “Travel Stories” Prompt for this week. What a great catalyst for stories. Click HERE to read all the great stories already collected on their site.


The babies begin to squeal, maybe from excitement or anxiety but either way it sets in motion a great earthquake of movement. All of the families nearby surround the little ones in a tight circle of protection and then the call goes out, a trumpet in the jungle’s canyon, to call the rest of the family to the circle. There is something so profoundly beautiful about nature unfolding right in front of you and something unbelievable about the filial ties of these giants of the valley, like one large foster family, protecting their collective children.

The ground quakes as the irises of my five riverside companions begin to expand in fear and adrenaline. Shaken out of my awe, my survival mode kicks into high gear and I realize the predicament of my close proximity to “nature unfolding” in front of me.

Mae Pherm, one of the wise matrons of the herd is leading the pack towards the circle of protection, and my body stands squarely between the babies and their surrogate grandmother—her limp from the beatings she suffered while working for cruel masters almost unnoticeable as she leads the stampede. I barely have enough time to step back, nearly flush with the grassy end of the riverbed and almost falling onto the rocks and raging water below.

The trumpeting echoes through my ears, off the hollow center of the valley, as the reverberations of heavy feet match and expand the quake. Out of the way, barely in time, I remember to turn the video function on my camera for the last second of the stampede—as five full-grown elephants rush past me, stopping abruptly at the edge of the circle of protection and surround the two baby pachyderms. My camera catches the final few seconds where sound and motion meet, and trunks bellow up to the heavens.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weathering Storms + Finding Shoulders To Stand On

So, in my life and times…this month has been madness but mostly good. Apologies for a bit of a departure from blog posting and newsletter sending and all that jazz. This last week of June will be the catch-up week!

Pain has been down to a minimum and breathing at a leveled point until just recently–it seems that my lungs and my muscular condition are not partial to humid rains and tornadic forecasts. But that besides the rest has been good although definitely strenuous.

Crazy meetings and planning and website re-designing for the Worship Service I am starting September 16th. I had to totally overhaul the website and learn a bunch of html and css to strip a free blogger site of all its blogger-ocity so it looked like a real website, but I think I finally got it to a point of near satisfaction although I have some content still to add. I would love anyone who likes to check it out–I am always up for feedback and critique:

 I was reminded, per usual, in only that way that God does so well (better than the timing of a novel and more profoundly metaphoric) in the Gospel reading for today in the lectionary where Jesus sits with the disciples in the boat, in the storm, while they are all screeching in fear and doubting him. He calms the storm in one breath of words and calm and authority. And he turns to the men in the boat and says, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith.” I wrote to my SEEK{ers} today, in my weekly newsletter that this Gospel message reminds me of how we all (me included and often especially included) doubt God when he doesn’t intercede when we want Him to, only to find ourselves sheepish and guilty when he carries us through the storms when we need it.

We are such stubborn fragile creatures–and me most of all.

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Tikkun Daily Article: Nuns In America

File:Hope in a Prison of Despair.jpg
“Hope in a Prison Of Despair”, a Public Domain Image c/o Wikimedia
I have been watching the crisis between the nuns or “women religious” (as they are known) and the Catholic Church in Rome I am confounded–and I am not easily made to confound. It seems as though the people who have made Catholicism more appealing and friendly in the last couple of decades are the people being denigrated for those appealing characteristics of loving and caring for others. I kept wondering what I wanted to write my first Tikkun Daily post on, as the Huffington Post crowded my overstuffed mailbox day after day with of headlines containing the words “nuns” and “Vatican.” So with a smile and a shrug I said, “Ok, God, I get it. I’ll write this blog post.”

I am a born and raised Catholic (currently practicing Episcopalian) carrying the spiritual heritage of my namesake St Teresa of Avila in my passion for contemplative prayer, and as an orphan in a Colombian orphanage I was given that name by the Grey nuns–an active caregiving order. Additionally, my aspirations for living missionally in the world came out of a childhood experience in the height of Mother Teresa’s influence in the Catholic world and the world at large. I have a great affinity for the communal lineage of caring done by these saints in habits; some recognized as such, and many others just quietly doing the good work of God without any hopes for recognition.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Virtual Contemplative Prayer Survey + Prayers for My Pup

Hi all. How much has happened in a short period of time. A 6 day trip back to my hometown. Eating at a Dinner Church–thank you St Lydia’s for the hospitality. Meeting great new people north and south. A few new ideas percolating. A few new projects on my mind and the horizon. And many posts to catch up on all of it.

I am presently working on my belated monthly newsletter on contemplative prayer for June and I just finished crafting a survey on “Virtual Contemplative Prayer”. I want to get a feel for who, if anyone, this might resonate with. In a world where everything can be virtual and social media is king my hope is that the benefit of all this technology is that people who could not or would not have previously participated in things like communal contemplative prayer can do so in a way that is equally community-building and also allows for whatever version of anonymity a person is comfortable with. Also, in a time where schedules are packed and taking a trip to one more place on one more day  a week may seem impossible, virtual access to prayer–from the comfort of a person’s home, work, or local beach (wherever the wifi connection flows)–might bring contemplative prayer to many who otherwise would never use it or seek it.