While at the circus recently, I watched in amazement as 5 motorcycle riders zoomed around inside a cage doom. While the performance was going on I texted my son (along with a picture) and said, "these guys are crazy!" Obviously timing was essential. Each rider had to make his way around the doom at exactly the right time. I later asked someone, "how do they practice this?" I never got an answer to that question but one thing is clear: whether it is motorcycle doom riding or life in general, timing is important.
Finding balance is essential to almost every area of life. I heard someone once say, "It is easy to go off on a tangent, but finding balance is truly a challenge." This is true in many areas of life...
Spiritual disciplines, and the practice of spiritual formation in general, is a very personal thing. The types of spiritual exercises that benefit one are not necessarily the ones that nurture another. I have even found that in different seasons of my life different approaches to devotion and piety are often required. Still, there is an aspect of "ancient wisdom" that I keep coming back to: it is the "sandwiching" of my day between a time of morning and evening prayer.
I was in a state of panic the other day; I had just awakened from a nap and was preparing to take my daughter to work when I realized I couldn't find my wallet. I looked everywhere: living room table, stand next to the TV, reclining chair, couch, the car, desk drawer. It was no where to be found. About two hours earlier I had made a purchase at the Quick Trip in Broken Arrow. I was dialing their number to see if I had left it there when my wife exclaimed, "Oh my gosh! Your wallet is in the kitchen garbage pale." She had opened it to see if it was ready to empty and noticed the wallet setting on top of the rest of the trash. We have no idea how it got there but concluded that I must have inadvertently scooped up my wallet along with some papers I had picked up from the table and unknowingly thrown it away. The wallet contained a good deal of money (I had just gone to the bank that morning), a credit card, a number of debit cards, drivers license, and health insurance card. These were things that all could eventually have been replaced, but not without a lot of effort and grief. Still, they were on the verge of being thrown away with the trash.
Father's Day is always a little bit different since my dad passed away. He died 19 years ago but I still miss him (especially on holidays such as Father's Day.) He passed away in October and at the time I felt that I was coping with the loss fairly well. His death was expected and followed a three battle with cancer. I knew I had to be strong as my mother would need comfort and encouragement. But as Father's Day rolled around that next year I realized I was beginning to feel a bit ill. After eight months his loss was all beginning to "sink in." Father's Day, that year, marked the beginning of about 5 months of depression for me. It wasn't until I approached the anniversary of his death that I felt the depression beginning to lift. That whole experience was a new lesson for me in the process of grief.
I just can't help myself; when I see a turtle in the road (as long as it is safe for me) I almost always stop my car and help the turtle to the other side. "Why bother?" some would ask; and that's ok. You see I really don't care if someone else doesn't understand. For me, it is simply a way of being a friend.
I recently made some visits to area nursing homes and, to my surprise, came across an inspiring and encouraging scene. Often I find nursing home residents "looking sad" as they watch TV, sit by themselves, or simply "doze in and out." But last week I came upon a scene that was much different!
There is something appealing about the words "don't," and "no." Though intended to announce a restriction, to our human nature they frequently become an invitation. This phenomenon is not new; we've seen examples since the beginning of time. Adam and Eve could have enjoyed all of the fruit of the garden if they had only avoided one forbidden tree. The temptation, however, was too much: "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it." Together they choose to disobey God. The tragedy is that the rules are there to help us enjoy life. It is when we disregard the rules that we tend get ourselves in trouble.
What a terrible scene we witnessed last month as millions, from around the world, watched the Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames. Fire fighters, rescue workers, religious leaders, and local citizens sprang into action (to the degree that they could) to save the Cathedral. There is one report of a priest racing into the church to save relics and priceless paintings and treasures. Though, at that time, the cause of the fire was unknown; what was clearly known was that a part of history was "going up in flames" and that every reasonable effort should be made to save it. This scene caused me to ask myself some important questions: What is it that I value most? What is it that I would be willing to make heroic efforts to save from danger?
Several years ago my wife came up with the idea of making small "May Flower Baskets" and taking them to the nursing home residents of our church. The first year I think she made 6 but the word soon spread as to how meaningful these viists and small gifts were to each who received them. The next year her number grew to include nursing home and skilled nursing residents. The year after that the number grew to include our "home bound" residents as well. With each year's "gesture of love" her fame was spreading...
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.