For many Christians, the late winter/early spring signifies a time of stepping back and examining how we are practicing our faith. It is a time of assessing our failings and sins: how have we strayed from God as the center of our lives? How have we forgotten the needs of family members, friends and strangers? How can we come back home to God?
The season of Lent
In my Roman Catholic tradition, this time of assessment is known as Lent. In my childhood I recall purple cloth (signifying penance or, being sorry for your sins) all over the church, covering the statues. It was a time to give up chocolate or some other treat as a symbol of penance.
Lent is so much more
As an adult, Lent can offer so many wonderful opportunities if we can get beyond our preconceived childish notions and misunderstandings. The words “penance” and “sacrifice” and even the color purple can denote negative thoughts and feelings when in fact, they offer chances for healing and purification. The word “repent,” often misunderstood, brings reconciliation and wholeness. Just as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)
The true meaning
I like to think of the Prodigal Son, despairing and destitute, falling into the loving arms of his Father. Coming back home prompted merrymaking on the part of his father rather than judgment. This is such a beautiful illustration of turning around and coming home, the true meaning of repentance. It is a moment of sorrow that leads to celebration.
Searching your soul
The Prodigal had to do a lot of soul searching to humble himself and come back home to his father. After all, in essence, he told his father to “drop dead” by taking his inheritance money early. We can learn from his example.
Tools for soul searching
Keeping a journal, whether you are a writer or not, is a wonderful way to search your soul. I took up the practice again a couple of years ago and find it especially helpful for sorting out confusing times in my life. A block of quiet time and a notebook can help you connect the past with the present in powerful ways. It can even be life-changing.
Tough times make for good soul searching
Since writing things down was not done in the Prodigal Son’s time, he had sort out his life without that tool. He had the other essential tool however: time. As he was feeding pigs and longing to eat his fill, he had plenty of time to recall his past life (which he realized had been quite good), his past behavior (taking his inheritance and squandering it) and his current situation. He realized in the end it was worth the price of killing his pride to come back home to his father.
My soul searching
We are lucky because we can write things down. Of late I have been exploring in my journal why I feel the way I do about losing my singing voice and music in general (a series of posts for another day) and have made some important discoveries about how I have treated (or mistreated) this special gift that God gave to me. It has shone a glaring spotlight on past sins which I am now bringing before God, asking for forgiveness.
I am using my Lenten journey to focus on how I can too return home to my heavenly Father, make peace with past actions, and learn again to embrace my gift for his people and his glory. Through taking the time to be quiet and write down my thoughts, I have been able to navigate through murky waters and come to understand what I did, how I feel, and how everything can be made right again.
Connections and healing
More than one author I know has told me they see writing as a spiritual experience, even as prayer. I am beginning to see this too. I do know it helps me connect the fragments of my life, bring them together and make sense of them. This is the beginning of wholeness and healing.
Eighteen months ago I started Be As One with the idea of chronicling my life in my attempt to pull all the various pieces together and live as a whole and integrated person. It has occurred to me that I used a flawed approach. As a result what I see is a random collection of posts about things I am interested in but that are not connected to each other in any obvious way.
I am wondering if you see that too.
I thought I was doing the work by sharing these various posts but in fact I was asking you to do the work:
I expected you to know what was going on in my head.
I expected you to do the work of connecting all these random pieces together.
I expected you to put aside what you care about in deference to what I care about.
In the end, I have a blog that may not be terribly hospitable to you.
If I want to demonstrate living life in a single flow rather than in a bunch of fragments or compartments, then I need to show connections.
Connections between the civilized world and the natural world
Connections between the earth below and heaven above
Connections to what is outside of us and what is inside of us
For me, this post was an eye-opener about the necessity of stepping outside of myself and writing about what I see around me. Writing about you. Making you feel welcome in my little corner of the virtual world. Considering things that both you and I feel are important.
I won’t hit the mark every time, I am sure. I hope you will let me know when I have hit it or not. This blog has been evolving and will continue to evolve. But I want you to know that I will consider you every time I write a post. This will no longer be a dumping ground for things that concern just me.
I’ve changed my tag line from “Living life in a single flow …” to “It’s all about connections.” Because it is! We are not meant to live as little islands; we are created to be social beings. This, coming from a notorious introvert who jealously guards her solitude. But I understand the need to stay connected even as I pursue my solitary interests.
People are important. You are important. Be As One will no longer just be about me. It will be about you, too.
This blog is supposed to be about making connections.. Lately it’s felt more like a hodgepodge, just a collection of unrelated posts. This blog is certainly challenging me to live out what I preach: living life in a single flow.
It ain’t easy!
This weekend however, it suddenly got a lot easier. I was blessed to attend two extraordinary events which practically shouted “Connections! Connections!” to me. The pen couldn’t move fast enough across the page of my notebook to capture all I was hearing so I could share it with you.
I will begin with this past Sunday night.
I teach CCD to high school students and needless to say, it is a challenge. Instead of our normal class last night, the students were treated to a one-man play about the Gospel of St. Luke. It was written and performed by Frank Runyeon.
Frank is a successful actor in television and movies. His bio reads, “He starred for seven years as Steve Andropoulos on As the World Turns opposite Meg Ryan, a storyline that garnered the second highest ratings in the history of daytime television. He next appeared for four years as Father Michael Donnelly on the Emmy award-winning Santa Barbara, and as tycoon Simon Romero on General Hospital, opposite Emma Samms. Frank has also guest-starred in recurring roles on L.A. LAW as talk-show host Brooks Tapman, on Falcon Crest as chess genius Jovan Dmytryk, on Melrose Place as Father Tom, and on All My Children as Forrest Williams.”
But Frank would rather be associated with the art closest to his heart: spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ through his vibrant performance of the Gospels.
He debuted his latest one-man play, “Luke, Stories on the Road” at the parish to which I belong, St. Luke the Evangelist in Westborough, MA.
Ah, the first connection!
I came with low expectations. I’m not a big movie-goer nor have I seen a lot of live plays. I had had a fight with my husband, was blown-out from a weekend of endless activity and just wanted to crawl under the covers.
So it took a bit of time to warm up.
About a half hour into the performance I felt a sudden urge to whip out my notebook and write. Frank spoke and I’d write. His performance became riveting.
The camera soon followed. As a former girl scout, I am always prepared!
Dressed in a simple robe, Frank wove stories from the Old and New Testament, focusing first on the story of King David and his disastrous affair with Bathsheba and moving into the stories of Jesus as recorded by Luke the Evangelist.
In each story, he shared a similar and striking insight: the stories, in many cases, had open endings.
The reason? WE are the ending to the story.
How can that be? These stories are thousands of years old. But inspired by the Spirit of the Living God, their truths are as pertinent today as they have ever been.
And Frank made the scriptures come alive with his talented way of weaving a tale.
Past and present – another connection.
Frank made an important association between the story of King David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11; 2 Samuel 12) and the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus found in Luke 16:19-31.
In the story of King David, Bathsheba found she was pregnant after their affair. To cover up their relationship, David arranged to have her dutiful warrior husband killed in battle (2 Samuel 11). Nathan the prophet was sent by the Lord to point out David’s sin (2 Samuel 12) and he did it through a heart-wrenching tale of a rich man robbing a poor man of his only lamb who had been a member of the family so that he could roast it for his friends.
David was incensed. Who was that man? He should be punished!
It was then that Nathan turned the story around on David, using it to accuse him before God of his sin.
Frank put out the palm of his hand: the story was a mirror clearly showing David’s guilt.
David listened, made the connection and repented of his sin.
The rich man did the same with poor Lazarus, committing evil against him by not offering him food or comfort as the poor man suffered outside the door of his home.
When both died, Lazarus, in the bosom of Abraham became the mirror to the rich man in agony in Hades. The rich man listened but too late: he must suffer the consequences.
The rich man had Moses and the Prophets, but he didn’t listen.
He failed to make the connection.
Frank shared many such stories from the Gospel of St. Luke, the most powerful being The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and The Publican and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14).
In both cases we are most definitely the end of the story. And it’s not the character that you would imagine.
Frank beautifully conveyed the deep emotion in the story of Prodigal Son, showing the arrogance, ignorance and finally, redemption of the younger son, the deep, generous love of the father, and the bitter resentment of the older son.
The so-called “good” son.
The father and the younger son reconciled. The older son, faithful in service to his father, complained, feeling entitled to better treatment.
And as Frank pointed out, the ending with the “good” son was open-ended.
The “good” son is us. We have to create our own ending.
The same was true with the Publican and the Tax Collector. Both praying in the temple, the Publican pontificating before God about how much he tithed and how much better a person he was than the wretched Tax Collector.
The Tax Collector, knowing he was an outcast in Jewish society, never raised his eyes to God but begged forgiveness.
He was justified. The “good” Publican was not.
And the mirror shines back on us – are we that Publican?
Do we consider ourselves as the “good guys?”
Frank Runyeon, through his vibrant, deeply emotional performance, demonstrated the deep connection of the Living Word of God to our daily lives. We at St. Luke’s were fortunate to have him tell these stories, opening our ears and eyes, helping us to listen and make those connections.
Bring Frank to your church
Frank is available for bookings throughout the country with “Luke: Stories from the Road” and other biblical one-man plays, all written by him. Visit his website at frankrunyeon.com.
I loved this post that my husband sent me yesterday!
It is written by author Anne Strieber, well known for her thrillers An Invisible Woman and Little Town Lies.
She is married to Whitley Strieber, best known for his horror novels The Wolfen and The Hunger and for Communion, a non-fiction account of his perceived experiences with non-human entities.
In this post, Anne draws an analogy between hummingbirds who love to pick a fight, and people of the same ilk. It proves yet again how much we can learn by drawing upon and make connections.
John Donne in 1624 said it so well in his famous poem,
“No Man is an Island:”
No Man Is An Island
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
He speaks of the need for human connectedness. Anne extends that connectedness to the entire natural world.
Here is a teaser from her post:
” … I’ll see a hummer [aka, hummingbird] land on our feeder, take a sip of sugar water, then immediately put his head up and look around, searching for a rival. I used to think this had something to do with guarding the food source, but now I’ve realized it’s because hummingbirds really ENJOY a good fight.
Soon two (or three) hummers are buzzing around, darting at each other, feinting and threatening, sometimes even telling each other off with that little “cht, cht” sound they make.
I’ve written before about why we humans are designed to make love, not war (even though we seem to be starting a new battle, somewhere, almost every day). But SOME people are more like hummingbirds–they relish a good fight and actively look for one … ”