Archive | September, 2013

Restaurant love

26 Sep

For the past three to four years, beginning with a dining experience at New York City’s ‘The Fatty Crab’ on the Upper West Side, (now defunct) I asked waiters and waitresses to order food for me. I did not want suggestions. I wanted them to order for me. I said, ‘What would you eat today-not yesterday or on a Friday-but today, in the here and now.’ I tell them to bring, to order anything-I had no dietary restrictions; but do NOT to tell me what I was going to eat TILL they bought the item(s); and to surprise me.

I have rarely been disappointed. Meals have been fresh and tasty; wait people excited and engaged in describing why they have chosen as they did. And people around and with me always ask me ‘why? They ask, Why with their eyes or their words, Why I order with such total openness. What if you get something you don’t like? But I never ever have. And I got something else. Trust. And for me, trust leads to love. But before I to get to love and trust, I need to go to the start, the genesis of how I ‘order…’

Ultimately, I think it all goes back to the word ‘order.’ Waiters wait for ‘orders.’ In a sense we are all ‘Waiters.’ People are either giving or responding to ‘orders.’ (Their own or others) I know that is what I listen to: voices that move me to a ‘to do’ or an ‘order’ list. I deeply want to satisfy people, satisfy and fill orders. But… then I catch myself ‘appearing’ to listen as people speak about their lives and self; their passions and hates….but…. I don’t want orders, or to be the ‘orderer.’ I want a type of love, a serving love, a memory of food and surprise and people that will last and not fade.

Generally, I faded out relatively quickly with people. I judge all almost them instantly; I judge words and actions. Them.  How?  I want to jump in when they speak; add my ‘two-cents,’ my two pence. My stories. And when I do this jumping and judging, speaking and storytelling, I am ‘ordering.’ Unconsciously, I am telling them what to do; second guessing them. I am the waiter from hell. You ordered this life for yourself? Wow. What a poor, poor choice. I am giving advice, orders, not listening. What I really, really need to do is not to ‘order’ but to receive, to listen. Wait on others. Like when Jesus tells his disciples before sending them out for ministry, (Matthew 10:8) ‘Freely you have received, freely give.’  For me this means: Freely receive, listen without judging, or thinking. Wait. Now give. Before you can give, you got to know ‘how to receive. Receive with thankfulness; with love; with a listening heart. So how do I practically teach myself how to receive? I made a choice: don’t order food in restaurants anymore. And this choice looks like I am really valuing Wait Staff. And I am. But I am also valuing another. Me. How? Why? For what purpose?

I have been badly hurt in the past. In ‘order’ to heal, I needed to reconnect with others; I needed really to hear, to listen deeply. To the strangers around me; to my ‘other.’ The self I can’t hear when I am talking too much. The little Charles, the hidden Charles, few, the very few, ever listened to .Including my Charlie, big personality self.  I need Charles.

So I now and always ask wait people to order for me. What have been the results for the past three years?

First, great food. Tasty, different and surprisingly about 40 t0 50 % of the time food ‘off the menu. ‘Surprises.’ Wait staffs eat stuff they like and create with kitchen staff. Surprises, like tuna seared lightly on one side in Cape Cod. Or a white chocolate sweet crepe with sweet alcohol in Hampstead. Second, I have had great conversations with the staff and the people with me. With the wait staff, they passionately tell me what they love. And more than the food they choose, they love, really love, to have someone listen and receive from them. And they go over the top to explain ‘why’ they have chosen as they do. It’s great. Third, I get to talk to the people with me-those who are sharing time and food with me- about trust. I have had soo many disappointments in my life that I have trouble trusting. (That’s the little Charles’ experiences)  How do I combat this desire not to trust, to protect my self from disappointments??? I do it by trusting Wait People. Waiters and Waitresses. All the time and all the way. This trusting holds me accountable to others-the friends with me; the Wait Staff; people watching me order (trust me-they watch!) and my ‘other’ me, my other self. (Are you feeling listened to Charles? You will!) That other self that wants to trust, but is afraid to speak because he will be judged, rejected, thought stupid, not heard… So, I am ordering freely, openly to build trust: with others and especially rebuild the ability to trust in/with myself. This is the final result I see: people do feel valued by someone trusting them. Me. They feel loved, trusted. And I feel loved and I am surprised by how strangers can deeply love. And I am learning to trust again. Relearning. Deeply. That’s the real reason I let Wait staff order food for me: so I can trust and love again. It’s working by the way. Slowly.

Try to order, freely, openly. Maybe not all the time. But try it. Once. You may feel loved. You certainly will be surprised.

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final mediation 14 part, 2 on: love, spirit fruit

23 Sep

Galatians 5:22-23

New International Version (NIV)

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

 And the fruit of the Spirit is: Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith,

 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law;

The Message

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

23-24 Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

How do I know the Bible is truth? How am I certain it is the Word of God? Not a way, but the way? Theses mediations have been true to how God speaks to my heart, mind, spirit and soul. That is how I know. In May I wrote as I began these meditations that they would be, prayers in thoughts and scriptures on biblical characters; images; principles; people; Word and feelings.’ I am aware that they may appear disjointed, and unconnected. How can I write about ‘Breaking Bad;’ ‘Real Zombies;’ the Bible and Caravaggio and expect others to understand, read, and continue reading? Simply put-I don’t. But some of you have. Thank you. Marcus Aurelius’’ ‘Meditations’ was just an idea model for these posts. Jesus and His Father, and especially the person of the Spirit, are the source of all these meditative posts. They are prayers. Spirit filled and lovingly shared. Prayers.

Thus, two points in the last post on spirit fruit. First, ‘spirit fruit’ is written here with a small‘s’ because it is the multiple, small and small in size and shape. sprit fruit is before our eyes each day. I just need to see it.  Where? When? It is the child I don’t see, or see too much; the wish of a loved one that whispers our name; the birthday, the person forgotten. spirit fruit is mediation. And if I am fortunate, spirit fruit is, as Psalm 77 states, memories of ‘the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds’ (11-12) Who is the meditative Psalmist saying ‘yes ‘to? He has to be saying ‘yes’ to himself, to spirit led meditation, remembrances of past and present and , yes, even future moments. He is saying ‘yes’ to listening.  And then the Word re-enters his being in the form of remembrances.  The Psalmist hears, sees the remembrances. Then he sings. For me. For us. He shares fruit. Me? Now? I just have to sit with the Word, listen and meditate on it. My writing is part of my mediation.

Second and final point: prayer is speaking to God; mediating is listening to Him. In order to listen, you have to stop speaking. Then memories will flood in from Him, from the person of the Spirit. These images, principles, feelings, thoughts are ours and His. They are spirit fruit. Mediations. I know the Word is true because I listen; it speaks; and what I hear, feel, write, think, is not of me.  As long as I read His Word, it is His. Him spirit fruit. Never me. And that frees me to understand.

I placed three translations, three paraphrases of the Word at the beginning of this post. Read them again as you close this time with me. spirit fruit is the gifting He brings into our lives. Live with it; hear it; see it. Touch and taste, see that He is beyond ‘good.’ He and His Word is Truth and love. spirit truth; loving fruit.

 

 

 

 

Generous community: ‘joy in giving’

13 Sep

12 October I will be teaching a Seminar on ‘Generous community’ in London. Information to register is here-

http://joyingiving.eventbrite.co.uk/

Enrollment is limited and followers of this blog and my Twitter feed (along with St. Luke’s members and attendees) will have first opportunity to register before the public on Tuesday 17 September.

Cheers

 

Jesus wept.’ (John 11:35)

12 Sep

Lord Jesus Christ, the good steward

Centuries ago, some anonymous monk who was busy numbering verses decided that these two words should form the shortest verse in the Bible. I suppose you could say that he was a good steward. The verse is such a great one to repeat to ourselves. In just two words it captures the entire mission of Jesus, to seek and save the lost – to seek and save by His tears. John is a master storyteller. Having walked with Jesus as they travelled to Lazarus’ home, he is clear about where he wants our focus to rest. Where? On the tears. We read how Jesus is deeply moved in spirit when He sees Mary (verse 33), how He weeps (verse 35) and is again ‘deeply moved’ at the tomb (verse 38).

It reminds me so much of the way the book of Hosea describes God’s affections for His children:

 I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love;

I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.

 But the story does not end there. Despite God’s love and care, His children wandered away from Him. Hosea 11 closes with these painful words:

 How can I give you up, Ephraim?

How can I hand you over, Israel?

…My heart is changed within me

All my compassion is aroused.

 Hidden within that word ‘changed’ is the sense of the God weeping, of God being moved by the slow decay of faith within His children. It perfectly foreshadows the tears of Jesus over the death of Lazarus. Both Father and Son are deeply moved – changed, if you like – for the same simple reason: they love us.

 The monk who chose those two words to form John 11:35 may have been a good steward, but this passage reveals the lengths to which Jesus – the ultimate good steward – went to in order to seek out and save.

 Remember that a steward is both a ruler and a servant, one who exists to please his master. A good steward is a paradox. A good steward – like a good parent – gives life and shares pain.

 Nobody hates death more than God. Yet Jesus chose death Himself just so that we might escape it.

 Jesus entered the tomb, so that we might walk out.

find more blogs like this over on my other blogging space: www.stewardship.org.uk/blog

Meditation 14 part one, fruit

11 Sep

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.  Galatians 5:22-26

As I finish this blog series on fruit of the Spirit, I can’t stop thinking of a friend who recently shared how she dances Salsa. As an experienced Salsa dancer, she tries to dance with beginners who already know the basic steps. Debbie does not dance with novices. She is not dancing to teach the elemental basics. She wants to lead by example; dance with someone who plans and desires to grow. She wants to ‘keep in step’ with a generous principle: dance with all type, all levels, of Salsa dancers. But they need to know the basics first.

As a trope to end the series, the analogy of ‘salsa dancing’ to fruit of the Spirit clarifies. There is one dance, yet many aspects, many steps, to the dance’s fruit.  Joy can result.  Peace can come from a dance well done; goodness in honouring the effort of another. Dancing has to be under the self’s control, in gentleness.  This is a basic, and the only qualities in Paul’s list that are join by an ‘and’ step. Control then is gentle. It cannot be forced as a method of expression. And a good Salsa dancer may enter a competition and need to forbear in the face competition in order to grow.

But one has to first love to dance. Love is the first fruit quality mentioned because love is a first fruit.  Love is not ‘the’ fruit; it’s ‘a’ fruit. A step.  A first step. Love is part of all that follows… But there are other steps, other fruit, which follows this first step.  And as joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness follow, they all deepen love. Deeply.   And deeply coloured fruit tastes different.  Looks different.  And is different.

Real Zombies were referenced in a previous blog in this series. My point in meditation 8 is that zombies are Real. They are the flesh eating figures all around us. They can grow inside, as the real life people of ‘The Bling Ring’ and ‘The Act of Killing’ illustrate.  They are the Walking Dead, the unthinking, reacting desire controlled solely by ‘the’ flesh, by any overwhelming desire. Cain was the first Real Zombie. In Genesis 4:7, as God speaks to him: ‘If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.His was the first murderer. Others have followed in his steps. Desire needs control. Spirit control. Flesh desires… what? Simply put, more flesh.  More bling. More killing. More sex. More love. Yes, if one aspect of Spirit fruit, such as ‘love,’ is desired solely, it can also become ‘the flesh.’  Love needs self-control, peace, gentleness. All aspects of the Spirit.  And if I don’t dance steps by the Spirit, I can become a Real Zombie. Permanent. Like Cain, I walk as a zombie; not in Spirit steps.Then I can grow conceited and only dance with like minded dancers.  I can provoke others by dancing so beautifully I purpose to draw attention only to myself; I can   envy the others’ joy in their good Salsa dancing. Then I am out of step. Becoming like a zombie. A Real Zombie. A Cain.

But if the Spirit leads, I step with Him, gently, under his control. In love. I dance with Him, Spirit led. The Spirit is my, our, lead dancer. He leads. I follow. We dance.

 

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how to dress as a Brit @ the Prom’s last night

9 Sep

Brits dress from the top up; bottom down: USA jeans

Brits dress from the top up; bottom down: USA jeans

how to dress as a Brit @ the Prom's last night

at Royal Albert Hall, I ‘suited up’ for the Prom’s Last Night. But according to a Brit there-a little too much-too sharp. He dressed up from the top up; bottom down? Levi American jeans.
Why? Cameras only film from top up, so live their dream there. Yours?…waist down, like a Bottom’s Midsummer dream.

meditation 13: Caravaggio, the ‘peace’ of open hands, fruit of the Spirit

2 Sep

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Of the number of Caravaggio’s in Rome, three specific works illustrate peace, and all at a moment of a death. First, above, the Calling of St. Paul. Paul’s eyes are closed; his hands open and empty. His old self, his fleshly self, is dying. His face is peaceful; no grimace. He is open to God’s call; the Lord’s being; not his old, flesh:Saul.

Second,is the image of the deposition of Christ. Here, Jesus’ hands are open, a receiver of death, and a death on the cross. He is empty, Yet -and yet- soon all will fill with the hope of a bodily Resurrection.

Finally, there is the three piece work, It is a three piece altar work, not pictured here,’The Calling of St. Matthew’. Imagine. In the first and last panels of the Call, Matthew, in death, his left hand now opens. Initially, in the first panel, it was closed on his coins from his tax collecting. There, he was a young man, head down, not looking at Jesus’ call, Jesus’ hand beckoning him. Openly, now in peace, a receiver of eternal life. He is receiving. What? ‘(A better resurrection.’ Eternal community with the Father, Son and Spirit. ( Hebrews11:35) With open hands, Matthew, in death, has peace. Peace, a fruit of Spirit.