This post hit me square and moved me surely. Many of my friends and family know that my dad is currently battling stage four brain cancer and that the name of our fundraising team (Angels Among Us 5K to raise funds for research at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University) is: TEAM JIM – “…one foot in front of the other…” The quote is philosophy on this journey. It has translated into my own growing love of running as I better my health and strengthen my determination for the sake of him, my wife, and my kids. But, after reading this post, I shall pray that all my runs and my work be dedicated to others. I found this blog through the blog author’s association with my favorite author Brennan Manning and I will certainly be continuing to follow its new posts.
That I might be a beggar
Content in nondescript clothes
Freed from hallow distraction
To breath through blessings and throes
In recognition that all
Life springs forth and out from you
We’ll revel in each blessing
Each storm you’ll carry me through
To acknowledge that our Father is the source of all life and holiness makes gratitude the most characteristic attitude of the child of God. The petition “Give us this day our daily bread” expresses our creaturely dependence and the acceptance of all of life as God’s gracious gift. It strikes down possessiveness and makes us conscious that we are beggars.
And yet how reluctant we are to receive the gift! We stake out our piece of turf, claim it as our own, become grasping, anxious, and care0ridden about the security of our baubles, trinkets, golf balls, and immaculate lawns. “We gather into barns, insure the barns and their contents, buy a German shepherd or hire a security guard, and try to see to it that Blacks do not build barns in the same area.” We sell ourselves to the gods of security, and power, and a sickness enters the very heart of our existence. We grow competitive rather than compassionate, make others our rivals, stepping stones to our enthronement in a palace overlooking Malibu, part of life’s expense account, enslaved in the Babylonian captivity of the modern world.
One does not find an attitude of gratitude in the slave market.
-Brennan Manning, A Glimpse Of Jesus: The Stranger To Self-Hatred, Pp. 48-49
fog between us still
veneer that covers
that rolls atop well
in the riverbed
once daylight burns through
vapor once gathered
a vision of grace
Sitting there by
my side steadfast
The glow of
a new morning sun
Stretched across your
I find that as a fifth grade teacher and as the father of a three-year old and a seven-year old, I am often at odds with myself with regards to my divergent tendencies to want to be loose and care free and my knowledge of the fact that clear guidelines, expectations, and procedures consistently maintained is often a major ingredient in maintaining a productive classroom and, hopefully, loving, well-raised kids. I sometimes second-guess myself when I’ve followed through with administering a consequence and end up with a dejected fifth grader or a crying toddler on my hands. This is largely because I know that every single interaction that I have with a student or my own children is one more step in forming their perception of the world around them and of myself. It is my prayer that, as I’ve seen in many students of mine over the past eleven years of teaching, the structured environment that I provide is the firm foundation that the children that I interact with need to feel safe in applying themselves toward making good decisions and finding success.
But, I also know that some kids, due to various circumstance sometimes within and sometimes outside of my control, just aren’t going to respond regardless of my attempts to redirect and guide them in the right direction. In such cases it must, then, be my prayer that I have spoken enough affirming words and put forth enough good will toward them that, by the time my role as a teacher or a parent has wound down, they come out on the other side having benefitted by my presence in each of their lives.
It should also be recognized that such a goal would apply to my interactions with other adults as well. Too often my mood, my self-centered focus on what is most convenient for me, and my sheer laziness lead me to belittle others around me by either the way I talk to them or by the indifference displayed in my activities while around them and these are surely not the signs of someone who has been given the gift of grace. It when I turn toward myself at various times throughout each and every day that I, simultaneously, end up turning my back on others and on the Abba that didn’t turn His back on me. Forgive me Abba, and help me to grow, I pray.
Jesus says to us: “Either you give life to others in your relationships with them, or you drain them of it.” Life can be taken out of others in rivulets and drops, in the small daily failures of inattention, that bitterest fruit of self-absorption, as surely as by the terrible strokes to their hearts.
Writes Frederick Buechner: “Sin sprouts, as banana trees on the Nile, whenever the effect of your relationships with others is to diminish rather than enlarge them. There is no neutral corner in your human encounters, no antiseptic arena in which ‘nobody else is hurt’ or ‘nobody else knows about it.’ You either make people a little better, or leave them a little worse. You define your faith and moral posture in the ordinary stuff of your daily routine. The Kingdom belongs to those, as artless as children, who love others simply and directly, without thinking about anything but them. The inheritors of the Promise are those unsung folks who lend others a hand when they’re falling. That’s the only work that matters in the end.”
-Brennan Manning, from Devotions For Ragamuffins, Pp.117