Advent Day 1 – Stand up and be ready

Dear Friends,

If you’re new to this Advent blog,  I recommend reading Welcome to Advent 2009 to get a sense of why we want to spend four weeks preparing for our Christmas celebration and how it can help you deepen your (our) spirituality whether you are a Catholic or even a Christian.

Sunday, November 29th begins the Advent season for the liturgical Christian churches.  Funny enough, we begin at the end — thinking about THE END – the end of the world.  The early Christians believed Jesus was coming “soon and very soon.” The early generation of Christians thought the end would come soon.  Jerusalem fell in 70 CE but Jesus didn’t come.  And funny still, there’s a movie out this weekend that has its own take that it’s gonna happy very soon  — in 2012. Some think the world will end in 2012 because that’s when the Mayan calendar ends.  It probably won’t.

Nevertheless, the movie and the gospel message at hand have a powerful point to make.

The Gospel (Luke 21:25-36) has Jesus say:

Be vigilant at all times

and pray that you have the strength to escape

the tribulations that are imminent

and stand [erect and raise your heads]

before the Son of Man.”

Now here’s my reflection:

Vigilant / prepared / watchful / alert / aware / awake

knowing what’s happening

. . .  but so many of us are asleep, Lord.

We tend to not recognize the signs of the times.

We often dull our senses / stay in our own little worlds.

Choosing not to care.   Complacent.

Many don’t want to be bothered pondering or praying about the real issues

And thus, we go like lemmings over the cliff.

Tribulations. Fear.  Threats

. . . of losing our job / having a lump in our breast /

losing health insurance because we lost our job

global warming

corruption on Wall Street and government

swine flu / chemical warfare/ cyber war

Stand erect. Face our fears with courage.

Be strong!

Do not fear the terror of the night (Psalm 91.)

That’s what Advent faith is all about:

Being vigilant.  Being prepared for anything life throws at us.

Standing proudly humble or humbly proud no matter what.

That’s the kind of faith in life — in You, my God that I seek.

I want it. I ask you for it.

Today I consent to it.

Amen.  So be it.

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Yours respectfully, dear readers,

Bob Traupman

priest / writer

Change for the better

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mission of nombre de dios / st. augustine, florida / (c) 2006 bob traupman.  all rights reserved.

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

It’s 6 AM here in Fort Lauderdale on this Ash Wednesday morning.  It’s still dark. Shivvy, my 11 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever devoted companion is still asleep.  This is the time of day I love the most. Reflecting.  Praying. Studying.  Allowing my soul to float out and embrace those I am thinking about and praying for this morning.  The only sound is the white noise of Shivvy’s fan. I hate white noise.  The silence “sends me” as we used to say in the 70’s.  Silence is the language God speaks.

And I’m thinking of you, my readers, and what I want to say about Lent.  This is an important time for us Catholics because it’s a time of grace, an opportunity for us to CHANGE what’s necessary in ourselves to live a better life.

Learning how to reflect. For me, reflection is being aware, being conscious of what is happening inside of me and around me is the key to life.  The other day I said I think many of us let life happen without directing it, without asking the question WHAT DOES MY LIFE MEAN? What is its purpose?  Is it just a series of unrelated happenings?

Eckart Tolle in his best seller The New Earth last spring observes that being conscious is the most important dimension of life.  Not what we do or what we achieve.

Lent is a time to reflect on the meaning of our life.  To realize that we have an opportunity to make our own meaning.

The key to that is reflection. Look at yourself, look at your day to day life in a mirror.  What do you see?  What do  you like? What needs changing?

Lent is a time to do a little soul improvement. I get irritated with Catholics who think that Lent is about giving up candy.  Yeah, self-discipline is important.  We’ll get to that when we go visit Jesus in his wilderness-experience.

We’ve got to go deeper.

Last night President Obama called us to that.  He has called us to CHANGE.  That’s always what life is about.  You rock buffs correct me but I think it was Arlo Guthrie who said, “He who isn’t busy being born is busy dying.”

The President called us to rebirth America.   And we have to rebirth our Church too.  We are very stuck in the church as well. Another word for change is conversion. Conversion is a process by which we root out of ourselves old behavior patterns that don’t work anymore.

That requires self-discipline, which is traditionally a part of the Lenten process.  More tomorrow on the need for self-discipline.

The greatest sin of Americans is complacency. On the list of the seven deadly sins, it’s sloth; i.e., laziness, spiritual laziness.  And the culprit is our pursuit of the good life.  Having the latest tech stuff to make life more entertaining or pleasurable.  We go shopping when we feel blue.  All the ads are saying, “You deserve this latest gidget;  you’ve got to have it.

But we pay a price for our consumer mentality. Consumerism — cajoling, prompting, deceiving people to buy stuff they don’t need is just plain wrong.  It is sinful.  It has nearly destroyed us as a nation.  We’ve got to root it out of our lives — individually and as a nation.  I suggest we look at this very carefully this Lent. And it’s sinful for us to buy into that.

We’ve bought a big lie here in America:  Material things will make you happy.  You’ve got to have Calvin Klein underwear and Polo shirts and a bigger pool  than our neighbor’s.

The mega malls are temples to materialism.  But we don’t see this because we’re unaware.   Capitalism has become as atheistic as Communism.  And now we’re paying the price for our wanting more and more (read: GREED) and being satisfied with less and less.

It makes us stuck in a pile of debris of our own making behind a log jam in the river of our life.  So stuckness is the sin we need to look at in these times here in America.

Our life is supposed to keep flowing because consciousness keeps flowing.  Each moment should be new.  Each bend of the river should find us in a quiet wood or hurtling toward some rapids.  Yes, sin is being stuck and not even realizing we’re stuck.  That’s what addiction is: Being stuck in destructive behaviors.  So ask yourself this Ash Wednesday:  In what areas of my life am I not growing?  Where am I stuck?

The President audaciously called us to hope last night.  I was amazed at his ability to inspire and to call us to be our best selves.

But we have to be willing to enter a process of transformation — each of us — for our country to be transformed.

We have to be willing to face up to what’s wrong with us first.  What’s wrong with us is our focus on things. We have to change our ways and our economy so that we’re not consuming more and more stuff but instead serving more and more people.

So, let me make a suggestion for our Lenten reflection each evening.  Today was I more focused on people and how I can hel them be better persons or power or possessions and how to can manipulate and control people.

Mr. Obama called us to that.  He is re-directing our economy toward renewable energy, health care and education.

He is calling us to rebirth America.

This Lent, let us be willing to reflect on our lives so that we can change what is necessary that we get flowing again.

God of our understanding,

we come to you acknowledging that we stray from our true path,

we use people for our own purposes rather than encourage them,

we are rushing around so madly that we don’t stop and think: What’s it all about?

Grant us the grace to walk this Lenten journey of reflection and renewal

so that we are open to the grace you will give us to get unstuck

and enjoy the green pastures and refreshing waters along our life’s journey s you provide them.

Bob Traupman

priest / writer

Tomorrow:  The Jesus I know and love.

Transforming America – one smile at a time

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Dear Sisters and Brothers,

The other day I commented that our country was won because our founding fathers

pledged “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor” to bring it about.

I remember John Kennedy’s inaugural address nearly fifty years ago in which he said,

“Ask not what your country can do for you,

but what you can do for your country.”

The first thing we can do for our country  is to start at our front door.

I have heard a couple of people say that the only time they talk to their neighbors is  during a hurricane and people are out of their homes because it’s too hot inside and they have to  cook on grilles.

Let’s change that isolation.  We can wave at our neighbor across the street when we put little Suzie in the car seat.  We can thus spread a little positive, um (pardon the word loving energy around.  And maybe Mr. Alinsky will send a bit back to you to make our day as well.

That’s how it could work, you know.  Us making each others’ lives a bit easier and they doing the same for us.

I know what a pick-me-up it is when someone acknowledges me, when a young black dude with dreadlocks gives me a nod.

A wise friend of mine has commented that since World War II Americans have become more and more isolated.  We’re into our own little worlds.  My vision for transforming America is that we join together and help each other. This year is going to be rough on many of us, if not most of us.

We can smile at people who are different from us.  We can acknowledge the person behind us in the line at the 7/11.   A friendly word may be just the lift they need.

Let’s just spread a little positive energy around all day long instead of rushing around oblivious to our surroundings.  Instead of responding to Sartre’s “Hell is other people” perhaps we can try Jesus, “Love your neighbor.”

I take time every day to stop and notice the many positive lessons, simple messages of God’s love (or the exuberance of the universe all around you, if you prefer not to speak of God.)  When I walk Shivvy I often stop to admire a little wild flower emerging from a crack in a sidewalk  He’s got guts and determination.  The message this little guy gives me is an important one:  “Hope springs eternal.”

Let’s not live in the hateful, angry, grasping  thoughts in your head.  See the beauty around you.

Now that’s how we will transform America, one smile, one kind word at a time.

We don’t have to scowl at homeless people.  You’d be surprised how a smile or a kind word can give them the lift they need to get through their difficult day.  If you lose your home and/or your job you might be joining them.

The awesome young man in the picture above I met in St. Augustine last spring.  His name is Joshua.  He was — and maybe still is  — in difficult circumstances but look at the light and joy in his face and eyes.  I admire homeless people who can still love and care and stay positive in difficult circumstances. That afternoon he cheered me up and takes care of his homeless friends.  If he can do it, so can we!

By spreading  the loving energy that is ours to give. And receive even from a lowly wild flower. It doesn’t cost us anything to smile or say good morning.  But it could be worth the price of a $240 for a 50 minute therapy session.

Peace,

Bob Traupman

priest / writer

january 13, 2009 / one week before the inauguration of President Obama


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Hope for all of us in 2009

img_0118 Holy Cross Abbey, Berryville, Virginia, October 2007  / © Bob Traupman 2009

2009

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

May the new year bring hope and renewal
and transformation to you, to your family,
and to our beloved country and peace to all the world.

This was my greeting at the beginning of 2008. I have just adapted it a bit  because it is still my prayer and my hope.
So let’s think forward a bit to the end of 2009:
How will the year end?  Will we experience a transformation of our     country?                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Will we transform hate and isolation into love and hospitality?
Will we decide to serve God instead of money?
Will we bury our heads in the sand and hope this crisis will go away?                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Or expect our leaders to solve it while we sit back and complain?
Will we settle for less than absolute integrity in the one’s who will lead us?

O good and gracious God,
be with us in this time of uncertain, instability, crisis and worry.
Help us to turn back to you
and away from the idolatry that is everywhere.
We worship the almighty dollar, sexy bodies, war machines.
We worship “the things we create rather than the Creator of all things.
Forgive us, Lord.
We let courageous and honorable young men and women and their families bear the burden of our wars
while we are unwilling to have our comfort zone disturbed.
Forgive us, Lord.
Forgive us, Lord, for our complacency, our indifference, our denial, which is the greatest sin of all.
Help us enter into personal conversion and recognize our hypocrisy.
Help us get down on our knees, to renew and restore and transform our lives where that is necessary.
Help us restore ourselves to the greatness that once was America and can be again.
Instill hope in us. Lord.  Help us to learn to trust that You and only You can get us out of this mess.
But help us realize that authentic hope will come only if we have the courage to face our reality.
Help us have the courage to take a long, loving look at the real.

(Back to 2008 when his was first posted;) Now look at this glorious sunset again.
It is my sense that the end of the year when we’re ready to inaugurate a new president
will have the hopefulness and promise this image symbolizes

Dear Lord, may it be so!

Amen!

Dear brothers and sisters,

I hope to have new post several times a week before the Inauguration of Barack Obama
to offer some practical ideas of how we can transform our country
and restore us to our wonderful heritage.

Also I would like to know who my readers are who I am resonating with
If you are reading my reflections just insert a phrase or so in the comment bar.

May the Lord strengthen you and give you and yours peace of mind

in the midst of the difficulties of the year ahead.

Bob Traupman
priest / writer