Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dudes being Dudes

Last Thursday most of the visitors to the Plaza Prayer Station were dudes.  Not skateboard dudes.  Just the regular kind.  I don't know why I'm surprised when the guys come by to talk.  One of them has stopped by on a number of occasions.  I asked him about a small group that he's part of.  He told me about their meetings - where they share what we at SpiritWorks call "highs and lows."  They call them "ups and downs" or "nopes and dopes."  I had never heard the latter term, and he had to explain that it means the same as highs and lows.  After their check-in, one of them shares something that he's been thinking about and the conversation goes from there.  I told him how wonderful I thought it was that this group of guys could sit around and have honest, open conversation with one another.  Do guys get to do that often?  He said, "It's great.  We're just dudes bein' dudes talkin' about dude stuff."  I laughed with delight.  Dudes bein' dudes.

The next dude who stopped by blew me away.  He told me that his bike had been stolen and asked me to pray for those who had taken it - that maybe they would have a change of heart and make different decisions in the future.  His words stopped me cold.  I just looked at him in shock, unable to speak, astonished at the maturity and wisdom of his request.  He looked back at me and gave a sheepish smile and said, "I know it's kind of cheesy." 

"No," I told him, dead serious.  "It's not cheesy.  It's powerful."  I told him that I would absolutely pray for those who had taken the bike, and I did.  I told him that I was glad he had stopped by and glad to have met him.  Sometimes God teaches us things so gently.  I'm sure I would have had a few choice words for someone who stole my bike - and they wouldn't have been words of prayer.  How grateful I am to that young adult for his understanding of Jesus' message - to pray for those who have hurt us. 

Another young man came by a bit later and said he didn't really have a prayer request but wondered if there was anything I'd like him to pray for at his prayer group meeting that night.  I asked him to pray that those who need the prayer station will find their way to it.  He said he could do that.  And then, as he lingered sitting in the chair next to me, I told him about my other job, working with people healing from addiction, and asked him to pray for those who are struggling with addiction.  He told me that was something near to his heart and that he would do it. 

When I had  arrived at the Prayer Station I was disappointed and grumpy, irritated with myself because I had gone to the ticket office to get our tailgate pass for the Homecoming game, only to find out that they had sold out.  It never even occurred to me that could happen.  Though I couldn't have known, I felt like I had let down both students and parishioners who were planning a fun Saturday afternoon.  It was hard for me to settle in to a posture of prayer.  Again I was grateful for the gift of the students who bless me at least as much I as bless them.  Thanks, God, for the dudes and dudettes, for the young men and women, for the staff and faculty and even guests to campus who stop by the prayer station. 

As I was getting ready to leave, President Trible (PTribs to the students) stopped by to say hello.  He thanked me for my presence on campus and asked me when I would be restarting my weekly Communion service.  He told me he would help me promote it.  Hopefully next semester.  But you know, in a way, the prayer station is its own form of communion, a sacrament by which those of us who come to it are fed and nourished.  The gifts of God for the people of God.  Thanks be to God!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Evening at CNU

Several people have commented about the quality of the light in a picture of the CNU clocktower I posted on Facebook Thursday night as I was walking around campus.  It was a beautiful night, cool, but not cold, the light from the setting sun illuminating various parts of campus.  This post is going to be more of a photo journal of my time.  I had decided to dine on a margherita pizza that I purchased from Hearth-Fire Pizza, a vendor at the CNU Farmer's Market.  Dessert was a Royale cookie from the Student Union - chocolate chips, coconut, macadamia nuts and more!  I called it the cookie with all the stuff until the lady who works at the register told me the official name.  Delicious! 

Shadow in front of doors on right is Violin Guy
After eating dinner and sitting in the Plaza for awhile, I heard a violin start to play.  I've heard it once or twice before.  Turns out a student practices on the front landing of the new Christopher Newport Hall.  Violin Guy is what some of my students call him.  (Apparently they also have Jurassic Park Guy who wears everything from Jurassic Park, Jedi Guy who wears a brown robe, and Matrix Man who dresses like a character in the Matrix.)  Listening to Violin Guy transported me back to late evenings in Sewanee, walking through the quad with friends, having spontaneous leaf fights, and being startled by the melancholy notes of a saxophone played by someone sitting on the Chapel side steps.  It was like having a soundtrack for the evening.

I bumped into a couple of students who were standing on the Great Lawn finishing off snow cones and soaking up the final rays of the sun.  They said they just had to get outside for a few minutes.  After chatting with them for a few minutes, I circumnavigated the Great Lawn a couple of times, getting in a few extra steps, stretching my legs, and savoring the sights and sounds of the CNU campus with the violin music in the background. Students walked and biked past me, and a few rode skateboards or scooters. I heard an "Eeek!" as one young woman almost ran into me. "Sorry ma'am," she said as she rolled by, teetering on a skateboard.  "I'm just learning."  I laughed and told her she was doing a great job.

The clocktower looked almost magical in the orange glow of the sun.  I passed young couples holding hands as they walked and an older couple who were using an out of date map to look for a fountain that has been moved.

I was surprised to notice a statue of St. Francis that I've never seen before.  Such an unusual representation.  Different from the old man in a monk's robe surrounded by animals in a garden.  Just past the statue of St. Francis, I might have seen a dawn redwood tree though I can't be sure. (By the way, scientific name of the dawn redwood:  Metasequoia glyptostroboides - one of the things I remember from my college Dendrology class.  Why is it that the less than useful information is what lingers in my brain while the more important things have disappeared as if they were never there?)  

I felt at peace as I strolled around the campus offering silent blessings as I went.  It really is a lovely campus, and it was a perfect evening to be out in it, just being.  Students seemed a bit more relaxed, having just returned from fall break.  One of the students who talks to me at the Prayer Station wheeled by on his bike and told me he had gotten engaged on Monday.  What a treat to be able to celebrate with him.  As I packed up my chairs and sign to get ready for the meeting with the Canterbury students, I noticed that most of the light had drained from the sky and a moon sliver hung over the campus buildings in the west.  Twinkle lights in the trees near the chapel gave it a holiday feel.  I walked around a little more, breathing in the night sounds and sights, watching the Big Dipper emerge, listening to the water in the chapel fountain, gazing at the play of light and shadow in the twilight.

What a delightful end to the day!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

CNU Labyrinth Walk

I took the SpiritWorks "Happy" Labyrinth to the Plaza at CNU this afternoon so that students could walk it during their midterms.  This labyrinth is also known as a Triune Labyrinth.  Turns out that the Plaza is a better location than the Chapel lawn if we want students to encounter it.  So many students came by and read the sign and stared at the labyrinth.  About 15 people walked it.  One student walked twice and another walked 4 times.  She said she had done a paper on the labyrinth but had never gotten to walk one before.  I was so pleased to be able to offer her the opportunity.

Since I began the Plaza Prayer Station, I have made the commitment that I wouldn't share the prayer requests or stories that I hear on this blog because they are personal, and I don't want anyone to find their story on the Internet, even if I don't identify the person.  But I wish I could share a few of the stories from tonight.  Suffice it to say, powerful things were going on in the labyrinth.  How privileged I am to get to hold the space for other people to encounter God.  How grateful I am for the ways that God showed up tonight.

I prayed for people as they walked.  One student practically ran along the path, as if it were a game.  She looked like she was having so much fun.  Three young men walked it together, all very slowly and prayerfully.  They called it a prayer walk.  It was mesmerizing to watch the three forms moving back and forth across the sacred circles.  Most got to the center and then just walked straight out, though I noticed that they wouldn't step on the lines.  One person rode his bike around the outside of the labyrinth a few times, not quite willing to dismount and take the walk.  A few students came up and asked me about the labyrinth but decided not to walk it.  Several clearly felt more relaxed after they had walked. 

I don't think the students get much contemplative time.  They're so busy with so many things.  What a gift some of them gave themselves today to be brave enough to come up and try something new - especially out there in front of everyone.  It was good to have the Canterbury students come and walk it, too - and especially wonderful that some of them helped me pack everything up and carry it to my car.  A group of us then went to see TheaterCNU's production of Noises Off!  I laughed so hard I cried.  I last saw that show in 1986 and had remembered it as one of the funniest plays I'd ever seen.  This cast did a great job, and the spinning set got applause, too!

What a delightful day full of love and laughter and labyrinth.  Bless them, God, as they finish this half of the semester and travel home for Fall Break.  Keep them safe as they travel and fill them with your peace.  Give them rest from their labor and the gift of laughter.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Kyrie Eleison

It's been a hard week.  Lots of people are in pain.  There's a hurricane churning, building strength, pummeling the Bahamas, and stumping the meterologists who have NO IDEA what it's going to do.  And today, while I sat in the student union of CNU praying for students, faculty, and administration, watching brightly colored rain boots pass by me, and chatting with a staffer about a grief group at a local church, a gunman on another college campus in Oregon opened fire.  At least 13 reported to have been killed with more having been injured. 

Kyrie eleison,
Christe eleison,
Kyrie eleison.

Lord, have mercy.  May their souls, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

"The United States makes up only 4.6 percent of the world's population, but consumes 80 percent of its opioids -- and 99 percent of the world's hydrocodone, the opiate that is in Vicodin." (source ABC NEWS

Why are we in so much pain?

We often ask that question at SpiritWorks as we watch the terrible cycle of addiction playing out over and over.  Why are we in so much pain?

We are a country addicted - to painkillers, to alcohol, to food, to sex, to guns.  We are addicted to entertainment.  We are addicted to our own thinking and opinions.  We are addicted to violence.  We are in so much pain, and we seek to soothe it in so many destructive ways.

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

I would like to rant about guns and the need to control them and the lack of will in the American people to value life over death.  I would like to rant about racism, poverty, and violence.  I would like to let out a primal scream in despair that we as human beings decree that other human beings are less valuable than ourselves, that other human beings are disposable.  I would like to raise my fist and shout at my fellow Christians, "Where does Jesus say that violence and weapons are part of the kingdom of God?"  Having more people with guns will not make this problem go away!!!

And yes, I know it's more complicated than that.  That is why my rant is so very short.  Underlying all of these issues is the pain. 

Why are we in so much pain?  What can we do to heal the pain?  I know the answer isn't more guns or more drugs or more violence or more food.  We can't soothe it away with substances.  We can't shoot it away.  We don't get rid of it by hurting others or judging others or having power over others.  If I understood him correctly, Jesus said we need to love others and surrender our lives to God.  Like he did.

Please, God, help us turn to you.  Help us to find healthy ways to deal with this deep pain that is swallowing us.  Please heal our pain. 

Kyrie eleison,
Christe eleison,
Kyrie eleison.