Thursday, May 21, 2020

SEPERATED BUT NOT ALONE


Dear All of Us,

So, how's it going?
As John Wesley used to ask:
"How is it with your soul?"

Let's extend that outward 
from soul center 
to your social life,
your moods and emotions, 
your finance, family,
work, mental health.

All of the above, 
and our whole social order,
have been hammered by
the Pan Problem.
That varies for us 
who gather here weekly at
"frankly speaking". 
We live all across the USA 
and around the globe.
The current, 
and likely recurrent crisis,
has and will reach 
most all of us
to one degree or many.

In some regions 
people are moving out 
of quarantine.
In other areas the pandemic 
is just ramping up.
Whatever the current mood and mode, 
we are in danger and it is not going away.

The hard fact is that 
we have not defeated the enemy.
We have dodged the enemy.
We have hidden from the enemy 
by separating from each other.
As that ceases
the enemy will strike, 
the pandemic will increase.

So it's separation no matter what.
Either separate from each other 
or separate from safety. 
Yes, someone has to milk the cows,
bake the bread, deliver the goods.
We sure are straddled 
in the horns of a dilemma.
It's a Pan Problem.
It means a significant
degree  of separation
no matter which way we turn,
painful separation,
with lots more to come.

So, how's it going?
Not only how are you doing,
but how are you "being"?
How are you way inside
and then all the way out 
to doing the dishes
and paying the bills?

We hear a lot that
"We're all in this together".
We also know that 
so many feel 
so terribly isolated,
painfully alone.
Both deeply effect 
our spiritual lives 
right now.

So, over the next weeks and beyond,
let's take time and soul with the
recourses and reflections
that follow in 

  FOR PRAYER AND PONDER. 

They build on the paradox that
  

WE ARE SEPERATED BUT NOT ALONE.



Grateful for support from you
and committed to support for you,
your brother,

              John Frank

                       *****


        FOR PRAYER AND PONDER


The goal here is to clarify and to encourage,
"to equip the saints" Ephesians 4:12

Alone or with others in spiritual focus
we ask 
         - what's the inner meaning,
           the deep truth in what 
           we ponder here?
         - how do I/we deal with it?
         - how do I/we pray it?
         - what does it look like
           as we live it out
           in the pain to ecstasy of 
           our right now, right here  
           spiritual lives?

There's a plentitude and variety of offerings here.

One way or more we are in for a lot more separation.
Let's see and accept how we can be

              Separated But Not Alone.

                         *****

She's a twenty five year old elementary school teacher 
now full time in a Master's of Counselling degree program.
She is at home quarantined with her parents.
Monday through Friday she goes live with a fifteen minute 
online experience for little children.
With great exuberance and feeling she reads a story to the children 
while showing them each page. Then there is a picture to draw,
or a song to sing, a dance or craft. The segment is called "Sparkle".
It is, she is and the kids do!
Separated but not alone.

                                    ******


The very last recorded words of Jesus:
      " And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
                                                                        Matthew 28: 20

     What kind of openness and soul sensitivity does it take to hear this
     all the way inside, to take it to heart - better, to let it give us heart?

    "Always" is a stretch of time, to the very end of time. 
     It is also a promise of presence in ALL WAYS?
     What "ways" in me right now crave the presence and power promised?

    What are some non-preachy ways I can incarnate, 
    put some felt flesh on this for others? 
    
    Separated but not alone.

                                     ******

What do you make of this:
    
    "What you need most is what you should give most."
                                                             John Frank

    What does that have to do with being 
    Separated but not alone?

                                    ******

How About:

   every day connecting with one or two people on our Christmas Card List,
   especially those with whom we only connect at Christmas?
   Separated but not alone.

                                    ******

"I, Paul, the prisoner for Christ..."  Ephesians 3:1 

    Paul was isolated in jail a lot of times 
    They were his 
                 "Quarantine"
                 "Lockdown"
                 "Sheltered in place"
                 "COVID - CONFINEMENT"
     Rather than go stir crazy, he wrote a lot of letters.
     They were so inspired, they became part of the Bible.
     Hum!
     Rather than go stir crazy, what can I do in my COVID - CONFINEMENT 
     for others?
                  - paint them pictures
                  - write them poems
                  - record our family history for future generations
                  - video "How To" segments for YouTube.
                  - catalogue our family pictures
                  - be a weekly pen pal for a senior adult living alone
                  - learn a new skill I can use for others, if not now, when...
                  - develop a Call Care Line for my neighbors, 
                    co-workers, church members
                  - sew garments for children in refugee camps
                  - organize a ZOOM Reunion with schoolmates, 
                    distant relatives
                  - invite others to a weekly book discussion 
                  - use Zoom for a small Home Church
                  - add five more possibilities here:
                             _________________________________________
                             _________________________________________
                             _________________________________________
                             _________________________________________
                             _________________________________________
   Separated but not alone.
                                        
                                          ******


 "If you want the light to come into your life, you need to stand 
  where it is shinning."
                              Guy Finley
                   
                   - where is "the light" shinning right now?
                   - what kind of move do I need to make to stand there?
                   - how be in  the dark but brightened, 
                     Separated but not alone.

                                           ******


If you're given a lemon, rather than go sour, make lemonade.

Johannes Quasten sure did. He was a an outstanding theologian.
Part of his standing was to stand up to the Nazis in his native Germany.
That forced him to emigrate to America in 1938, thus separating him 
from his homeland, family and friends. He joined the theology faculty at 
The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC,  
teaching there (and me) until his retirement in 1970.
In his exile he wrote the classic four volume series "Patrology", 
the standard text in the field to this day.

                       -in whatever way The Pan Problem exiles me from 
                        the accustomed, how do I make lemonade here for others? 
                        Separated but not alone.

                                             ******




                     "Friends, life is short, 
                      and we do not have much time 
                      to gladden the hearts of those 
                      who make this earthy pilgrimage with us. 
                      So let us be swift to love 
                      and make haste to do kindness!"
                                                Henri Frederic Amiel

In this Pan Problem we have been shorted in time and a lot of other ways.
Given the diminishments and separations of the times,
                          - what are ways I can "gladden the hearts" 
                            of others short on such just now?
                          - who are those for whom I really need to get a move on, 
                            be swift to love?
                          - how can I make haste to do kindness 
                            so that those suffering the pain of isolation 
                            may know that yes they are
                            Separated but not alone?
                            

                                              ******


Bishop Francis X. Ford was an American missionary 
put in solitary confinement by the Chinese communists 
in the late 1940's. Rather than go mad, he made love.
He would escape the aloneness, the confines of his cell and time, 
by picturing wonderful people and events in his life, 
moments and occasions of goodness and grace. 
He not only pictured them, he noticed every detail 
he could to be present to them and the timeless goodness of it all. 
An example was his First Mass as a newly ordained priest. 
He would notice the time of day, the weather, the church, 
the music, his family and friends, the vestments he wore,
his awe at the consecration of the bread and wine, 
the joy of offering his first priestly blessings, 
the meal that followed, tasting still the goodness 
of all that was served, seeing the children playing outside, 
the cars parked near the hall.
He felt, he was present to all the love given him, 
all the love that he gave, 
all this a sharing in God's Timeless Lavish Love
Separated but not alone.

                                       - what people and events 
                                         can I be with in my enforced isolation 
                                         and experience the timeless love of God 
                                         in it all?
                                         Separated but not alone.

                                             ******


"Abide in me as I abide in you...I am the vine. You are the branches."
                                                                                 
                                                                                John 15:4-5

                            
                           - Jesus invites us in, into Him, into his life,
                             asks us to live with him, to share life, 
                             to "abide" in Him and tells us He "abides" in us.
                           - in this time of so many and much separation 
                             are we "right at home" in and with Jesus?
                           - how do we feel about "staying home" with Jesus
                             in times of isolation?
                           - how intimate are we with Jesus sheltered in place?
                           - better yet, how intimate are we allowing Jesus 
                             to be with us - how much intensity, intimacy 
                             are we prepared to accept  from This Great Lover??
                           - does the sense of separation we experience
                             cause us to feel like a branch "cut off" from Jesus,
                             or do we sense security in our adhesion to Jesus, the vine?
                           - while feeling all sorts of separation from others, 
                             do we feel that in Jesus we are not at all alone
                             in the deepest sense and at our Center?

                                                  ******




  "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."

                                                                           I Corinthians 12:27

This body of Christ has often been co-opted, 
encapsulated, in denominations.
At times denomination predominates over 
the "body", the church -  
the container more valued than the contents.
Denomination and Church get flipped and confused.
A denomination is an organization.
It is not the Church.
Denominations at best are delivery systems 
for the church and way too often    
not the best or close to it.
  
Our current Pan Problem is purging denominations.
It's not business as usual.
That's good because it should never be a business 
in the first or any place.
Rather tellingly and sharply 
Richard Rohr in a recent podcast noted 
that the Jews had a direct experience of Jesus.
The Greeks got a hold of that and philosophized it.
The Romans took it and formed it into a tight organization.
The Europeans turned it into a culture.
The Americans have made it a business.
Ouch!!
No business doing that!
Back to and forward with a more direct experience of Jesus.
  
I love great cathedrals for their beauty and majesty -
classic  art in stone and glass.
For the life of me, though, 
I just can't see Jesus "pontificating" there.
The Love Who Is God, 
was incarnated as a lower class workman,
taught and lived the Sermon on the Mount,
gathered a group of simple, 
rather ordinary people, 
modeled a profound union with his Abba,
concentrated on the needy and hurt,
and mentioned that 
"The son of man  has nowhere to lay his head."
                      Matthew 8:20
Jesus definitely wasn't into real estate or finance,
elaborate rituals, compounded doctrines,
or policing a polity.

I don't doubt, though, that we can find Jesus right now
and touch the Body of Christ in a lot of local "churches",
in a Syrian Refugee Camp, in a young adult Bible Study, 
in a poor black church in rural Mississippi, 
in prayer groups, with disciples coming together 
as Home Churches, as neighborhood churches 
that have more disciples than members,
that are seven days a week hubs 
of spirituality, community and social service. 

Our current Pan Problem has disconnected 
a lot of the current (and currency)
in contemporary "churches".
It is forcing us to go spiritual or go.
Trying to put together a hot shot Sunday Service 
and live stream it doesn't really enliven all that much.
Its' like trying to squeeze orange juice through a toaster.

We are forced and blessed to use media.
Performance no!
Experience yes!
Simple, sincere sharing of Jesus yes!
Address felt needs as Jesus did 
and respond as he did and needs us to do.
Share his word.
Apply it, contextualize it.
Do people prayer -
few, slow, sincere sentiments from the heart,
not running at the mouth as the Pharisees did
and too many pastors still do ( this one included!!)
Find ways that separated people can be
united to God, as the Body of Christ,
sharing a real Holy Communion.
Don't fuss over concept.
Jesus used what was available at the Last Supper.
Do likewise.
Let Jesus make it a real presence.
Even though limited, often in lockdown, 
find ways to connect and personally support and help.

A gripping, pleading prompt for that
would be prayerfully viewing together
the mutual suffering and life giving
of a group of teenage boys "separated"
and yet not alone in a Greek Refugee Camp.
It is part of an article and video published 
Saturday, May 16, 2020.
It is available on YouTube.

"We Are Kids Who Remember Only War",
The agony and anxiety of living in a migrant camp

"Container" produced by Concordia Studios for 
The New York Times Op-Docs, 
Daphne Matziaraki, documentary filmmaker,
Josephine Livingstone, writer.
The boys are church without the name 
and probably awareness, but "livingly" so.
Separated but not alone.
Many levels of meaning.
Grist for prayer, common cause and action.

Well, all this is m
ore than a bit intense I know.
But I'm an old man.
I don't have a lot of time.
I care a heaven of a lot.
We need a lot more of a Reformation 
than we got in the 1500's.

So, may this Pan Problem purge and free.
It is separating us from a lot 
we should have jettisoned long ago.
May it be the time and way 
to let The Holy Spirit free us up to be, 
not a preferred or privileged denomination, but 

               THE BODY OF CHRIST

                  a very and truly 

               LOCALIZED CHURCH

               May separation unite.


                    Let Us Pray

            in the words and rhythm 

            of a simple folk hymn

            of our time and for our time.


            WE ARE the CHURCH

Refrain:
         
             I am the church! 
            You are the church! 
            We are the church together!
            All who follow Jesus, 
            all around the world! 
            Yes, we are the church together!


            The church is not a building, 
            the church is not a steeple, 
            the church is not a resting place, 
            the church is a people.

            We're many kinds of people, 
            with many kinds of faces, 
            all colors and all ages, too, 
            from all times and places.

           Sometimes the church is marching, 
           sometimes it's bravely burning, 
           sometimes it's riding, 
           sometimes hiding, 
           always it's learning.

           And when the people gather, 
           there's singing and there's praying,
           there's laughing and there's crying sometimes, 
           all of it saying:

Refrain:

               I am the church! 
          You are the church! 
          We are the church together! 
          All who follow Jesus, 
          all around the world!
          Yes, we're the church together!

          At Pentecost some people 
          received the Holy Spirit 
          and told the Good News 
          through the world 
          to all who would hear it

      
      The United Methodist Hymnal   

                     1989 
                   
                    #558

Words and music: 

Richard K. Avery and Donald S. Marsh, 1972

Hope Publishing House 1972

                   ******


This past week we were joined by new participants
from the USA and from Malawi. Welcome to

                 frankly speaking

            spirituality for the street

-it is posted online Thursdays before evening
             east coast USA time at
         johnfrankshares.blogspot.com

-it is available by automatic email delivery
      each Friday - sign up above

-past postings are available from Blog Archive
               lower right column

Please do invite family, friends, associates to join us.

              HAVE A BLESSED WEEK

**************************************************





               











   
   
  
                                                              
                                                                     
                           

                    



   

     






















Thursday, May 14, 2020

CONSPIRE


Dear All of Us,

So, how about all these conspiracy theories from the crazies making us crazy??
You know, attacks in Europe on 5G cell towers because they are emitting 
Covid-19 infections. Will someone ever be able to come up with a vaccine  
for that and allied illnesses of the head?
If not, before we know it the media will buzz with warnings that anyone who has two Skippy peanut butter sandwiches in a row will develop a four to five foot long monkey tale? How's that for swing from the trees??
Then we'll see the spooks spike more insanity saying that every other person who visits the birth place of Howdy Doody in Ozone Park, Queens will develop 
a face full of freckles.  O"Zoned Out" rageous. (Yah, that takes a bit of work!!).                                                                                                                                                  
OK, I admit it. I'm having fun with this.  But then it's altogether possible 
that in a former life I kept them loose and real as the court jester.

Whatever I am or was, in the craziness of our culture just now 
we all need to loosen up and take a deep breath, to breath in and out
the real and the good. Instead of sniffing out conspiracy theories
and other pollutants like fear and anger, we really need to share 
the very Breath of Life, The Holy Spirit and do that together. We

                                      CONSPIRE 

                                     
The word from the Latin means just that:  
                                     con = with 
                                     spiritus = breath, spirit, wind.
We breathe together, share  a spirit.

                    
Margaret McFarland and Fred Rogers did that every week 
for over twenty years right there in "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood". 
She was a preeminent child psychologist. He a gentle, creative pastor.
Together they worked out the approach, manner and content of every program. 
They breathed life and love into each other, shared a wonder filled spirit. 
Together they shared that spirit with millions of children, 
breathing life and love into them. 
                                        
                                     CONSPIRE
    
    Underpinning all of Margaret's mentoring and Fred's creativity 
              were two fundamentals as they conspired:
                        
                       Attitude isn't taught. It's caught. 
                            
                             Show what you love.

That's what was in the air there in "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood".
                                         
                                     CONSPIRE

May it be the air we breath together in the neighborhood of our here and now.
It will resuscitate people overwhelmed by the atmosphere of fear.
It will refresh people choking in the pollution and haze of uncertainty.
It will renew people out of breath because of constant, unending adjustments.

Our neighborhood needs the good and real, not in proposition or platitude,
but in person - in you, me. all of us together "showing" what we love,
living that approach, that "attitude" toward all.

                   
                  ATTITUDE ISN'T TAUGHT. IT'S CAUGHT



Our now neighborhood needs us actually living and breathing 
the eight attitudes of Jesus on how to be blessed,
have and share bliss and happiness.
Happy are those who...
      - keep it simple and open to God (poor)
      - in loss are open to fullness (mourn)
      - gentle to enrichment (meek)
      - find that right sure is (righteousness)
      - experience forbearance given and received (mercy)
      - clean it up inside and see clearly outside - God inside and out (purity)
      - help put the pieces together and be pretty together yourself (peace)
      - take it on the chin for God's sake (persecuted)
                                Matthew 5:3-11

These kinds of attitudes on how to be (be attitudes) 
are what others need, and need to catch from us in this troubled time.

Attitude is how we approach. It's our trajectory, stance, the angle of our living.
Little kids and puppy dogs get it right away. The rest of us take a bit longer, 
but we all catch on, we catch it the way a sail catches the wind (spiritus). 
No explanations needed. We breathe it together, we breathe into each other. We


                                    CONSPIRE
              
          " Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead."
                 
              " Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had."
                                                                          Philippians 2:3 and 5

                               "That's the attitude."
That's how we want to approach, every person, place and particle in all creation.
We can't teach it, but others sure will catch it if we live and breath it.
                                 
                          
                             SHOW WHAT YOU LOVE
         

         The "attitude that Jesus had", and we want to have, 
         is to be the sexiest lover ever, red hot, full bore, passion plus. 
         We want to be loving full time, "All Out" because we're "All in".
         Together we 
                                     CONSPIRE

by showing what we love and loving the socks off, passionately caring for, 
going deep with everybody and everything: 
babies, ancient of days like me, those fat, those skinny, 
summer roses, a fine wine paired with a noble cheese, nerds, lookers, 
a Van Gough, the beach, a scientific discovery, a Susan Howatch novel,        
horseback riding, a mountain vista, that cranky boss, singing a song, 
sinking deep into scripture, helping the hurting - ALL ALWAYS!!


Love is what we fall into. We get lost in it. It's union.
It's the energy of the universe and whatever is beyond that. 
It's the Fullness, the Mystery we call God.
                                      
                                     "God is love." 
                                                         I John 4:8  

And Jesus, that Love Incarnate, shows us how to live and breath it, to show it.
                 " You shall love the Lord your God 
                   with all your heart, 
                   with all your soul, 
                   with all your mind. 
                   This is the greatest and first commandment. 
                   And the second is like it: 
                   You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 
                   On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets"
                                                                              Matthew 22: 37- 40

Yes, "ALL OUT" because we are "ALL IN".

In these days, and probably years, of Pan Problem we are like a team 
on the field of life playing football. All of a sudden football is gone 
and we are forced to play soccer. The field is the same, we are the same, 
but what's going on and how we go about it has thrown us for a loop. 
Right now people are stumbling, fumbling all over the place. 
Our attitude and love, our willingness to 
    
                                    CONSPIRE

is vital to a people that has had the wind knocked out of them. 
So, we share and show what we love, we live that attitude.

  - we go for broke with God, accept God as God is 
    and not as we want God to be, let God have us, 
    are completely passive to God and at the same time
    are passionately vigorous in our embrace of the embrace 
    as we are enfolded one in One.

  - we reverence and love all our neighbors - every particle, place and person
    in all of God's Presence and Creation. 

  - we love ourselves with that same completeness and passion, 
    joining in God's love of us.

With that attitude we show what we love in unending,
immediate, practical and personal ways.
Depending on local circumstances:

  -we ware a mask away from home 
   (even though it will hide our ferocious good looks!!)
  
 - we practice social distancing, but when possible,
   acknowledging others with a nod or wave -
   social defying distancing

 - we daily reach out to others by phone, Zoom, email, etc.,
   especially those alone one way or too many -
   Digital Holy Communion

 - we are patient with those closed in with us

 - we enter into love making with God frequently and fully

 - we give genuine attention and affection
    to those with whom we are in place -
    no distancing close up

 - we rearrange our schedule and preferments to favor others -
   stretching in care for union

 - we focus and comment on the times, but in a disciplined manner -
   no obsessive 24/7 fixation dominating our consciousness 

 - we give financial support to those in need.

   I know a young, professional couple working from home.
    They continue to pay the single Latina mother of four 
   who weekly cleans their home, but forego her help 
   and clean their home themselves instead for the safety of all.
    Now that's "Show what you love" 
   and what a blessed attitude on how to be,
   truly a "be attitude"

  - each day we find and share a belly jiggling joke

 - we are careful of our noise level and its impact on our neighbors
   during these close, closed in times

  - we find new and needed ways to show what we love,
    to share an attitude of real and good.


Society is gasping for air. 
There's a lot of death dealing in the air right now.
We don't have time for the crazies 
and their spirit stifling conspiracy theories. 
Out here on the street of Real at the corner of Peril 
we're "ALL IN" to
                              CONSPIRE 

          to breath together the Oxygen of Love.

                            John Frank

                             ******


This past week large numbers of new folks from the USA  
and from Turkmenistan joined in with us. 
Great to be together and share here at

                      "frankly speaking"

                  spirituality for the street

- it is posted each Thursday before evening
  east coast USA time
         johnfrankshares.blogspot.com

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- past postings are available at Blog Archive
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                     HAVE A GREAT WEEK!

                             ******

                          















  



                        





            









There's a lot of death dealing attitudes in the air right now.

And attitude can only be caught.







  Our neighborhood needs the oxygen of Love Itself, not in talk but by embrace, in person, .