Archive | Vicar’s Voice

Living the Life of the Overwhelmed

Dear St. Stephen’s Family and Friends,

The book is called THE SHAPE OF LIVING:  Spiritual Directions for Everyday Life by David Ford.  His premise is simple; we live in an age in which the experience of being overwhelmed occurs more and more.  Some of that has to do with the constant onslaught of information through various social media outlets and tools of the trade as in cell phones, laptops, television and more.  Yes, we can all hit the off button.  But, frankly, most of us don’t.

But being overwhelmed isn’t just about input.  Other ingredients can include work demands, family demands, personal struggles, financial pressure, health concerns, political anxiety, and the list goes on and on.  Increasingly we see more and more of what we do or don’t have any control or power over in our lives.  Ford’s belief is that the measure or sense of being overwhelmed isn’t going to go away and because of that reality we are called to develop a different way of living spiritually that takes this reality into account.  I’ll come back to this topic and this book over time but for today simple the question:  Have you ever been overwhelmed?

A friend asked me this past week if I was Ok?  She said I looked frazzled.  I said I was fine and by the time I got back to my apartment realized that her perception was accurate.  I’m overwhelmed.  Many of you will have advice for me once you read on, but I’m not looking for advice.  I’m fully aware that taking on too much and needing to let go are two spiritual practices in constant need of attention if I’m to find a creative and spiritual way to live the life of the overwhelmed.  Unpopular practices like discipline become, nonetheless, critical if you or me plan to find the necessary balance for the full life that Jesus promises us (full not meaning a full calendar of activities).  Jesus seeks us in order to help us find the balance.  More on David Ford’s thoughts on living the life of the overwhelmed after Easter!  Until then, bring your whole self to Church on Sunday and bask in the love of Jesus for you.

Love and blessings,

Alvin+

Drawers

March 24, 2017

Dear St. Stephen’s Family and Friends,

“Things” don’t often draw tears but when the kitchen table, (a table where Vickie and I had enjoyed her family and coffee for decades), was removed from her parents house, the tears flowed. Last week my thoughts were on my Mom and basements. This week I’d like to share some thoughts on drawers and my Mother and Father-in-Law, Tix and Jimmy Arnold of Corning, Arkansas.

Vickie’s Mom died in 2005, her brother in 2007 and her Dad in 2011. Not only did that leave her an orphan, but also without any siblings. She’s shared there is a loneliness to that reality that no one can transcend and that only God understands. I believe her. We struggled to figure out how to handle all their “stuff” after her Dad died. We decided to have a house sale inviting people to come and buy whatever they liked.

That meant we had to clean out everything. It was like an anthropological dig. Each drawer we explored told the story of the past 50 years of the Arnold Family. It was a fascinating experience. The first part of a drawer contained current items. When I reached back into the recessed parts of the drawer, out came the pictures of their son Steve who had died, pictures of Tix, and further back, all their mementos of our son Nicholas who died in 1989. Further back were pictures of their children, their parents, their siblings, houses, cars and their businesses. Every time something happened they added it to the drawer. Trust me, those drawers all over the house were packed. It took hours to sort them out because of the story they told, the memories evoked, the feelings experienced, the joy and grief revisited.

Sometimes we need to put things in a drawer for a while. Some times we need to open the drawers and reach inside and see what there is to behold. Tix and Jimmy knew every item that was in each drawer. Some they took out and looked upon, some not. Some memories were too painful for this life and now are healed in the life to come. Like our lives! Lent is a time to explore opening the drawers of our keepsakes and taking a look. We often begin thinking that this “stuff” has to go. And then we remember and admit that some things can go and others must stay even if we never look at them again because it isn’t that they are located in a drawer in a desk, but they are located in a drawer in a room in our hearts.

Love and blessings,

Alvin+

Spiritual Basements

March 17, 2017

Dear St. Stephen’s Family and Friends,

Basements were standard in the houses of my youth.  The two flat where my grandparents lived on the South Side of Chicago had a basement; a real basement with dirt walls, piles of coal and coal dust, narrow stairs to walk down, a healthy musty smell, and two bare electric lights.  Our family homes on the South Side also had basements, as did both our homes in Hinsdale.  My Mom was an ardent cleaner of basements.  Whenever she was stressed, blew her top, or felt overwhelmed by life, (I see this now; didn’t see it then), she cleaned the basement.  If I was the cause or recipient of her unhappiness, her move to the basement was sweet relief.  There was no telling how much time she would spend down there.  My guess; it all depended on precipitating causes.  She certainly had many to balance.  The metaphor didn’t strike me until many years later in life.

Psychology and spirituality both refer to the house as a metaphor for the self.  If your “house” has a basement, then going down to clean the basement was going down into those recluse and hidden parts of herself where she could be alone and address them in her way.  You know why I think this?  Because, fundamentally, the basement didn’t change very much!  There might be the occasional bag of items for Goodwill or a slight reorganization, but the actual cleaning fell to me.  The basement was her place to sit within those places of herself where only she and her God would be.

Lent is time to have courage to sit in our spiritual basements, which only we know.  Perhaps it’s time to give away a few items that are no longer needed and gather dust?  Perhaps it’s time to clean up some old gifts and find a new expression for them?  Perhaps it’s time to wipe clean the slate of sin, guilt, shame and resentment and prepare for walking back upstairs on Easter Day?  I don’t know.  You’ve got your basement and I’ve got mind.  Our spiritual houses are built upon them.  Jesus tells us in scripture that God built them and lives in them also so we have nothing to fear.  Time to clean the basement!

See you on Sunday.

Love and blessings,

Alvin+