Jesus Was Jewish!

I attended a clergy meeting at which our Bishop led a Q&A with pastors from across our Conference. It took a turn for the nasty when somebody asked why so many non-Christian organizations rented space at one of our church conference centers. The woman who asked was quite alarmed that yoga groups rented space. She pointedly told us that yoga had its roots in the Hindu religion. She suggested that we should not allow Hindus or other non-Christians to use our camps and conference centers. After all, God “saves” only Christians and those who believe in any other religion are destined to be judged negatively. They are worshipping the wrong God!

My experience is that it is utterly useless to argue with such narrow-minded people. They have already made up their minds. I did, however, have the urge to confess my “sin” of permitting two yoga groups to use our church. I also wanted to shout out, “For God’s sake, woman, Jesus was Jewish!” In her way of thinking, Jesus would not be permitted to hold a meeting or visit one of our conference centers. After all, since Jesus was Jewish, he was not “saved” and was clearly worshipping the wrong God.

For the record, Jesus was never Christian. He never had any intention of founding a new religion. I would argue further that Jesus had a strong dislike for religion in general. He was not interested in such human inventions. What motivated Jesus was the odd notion that what really matters is that we love God and love each other. Those who do yoga can love God. Those who confess the Hindu religion can love God. Even those who do not embrace a particular religion can love God. And those who are religious, non-religious or anti-religious can also love each other. Forget religion and live love! Our world would be a much better place if we did!

Religion is taking a beating today. It deserves it. When any group of people suggests that they have exclusive access to God, they are arrogant and delusional. The tragic result of such exclusivist thinking should make us nauseous: People fear God and struggle to love themselves. Even worse, a multitude of murdered souls sleep in the earth due to “it’s my way or the highway” religions. The only good reason for any religion to exist is to create what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the “beloved community;” a community in which God’s love is given and received. If a religion cannot manage to give and receive such love, it ought to liquidate its assets and give the proceeds to take care of those who are lonely, lost and in need. After all, that is the “how and the why” the Jewish Jesus lived.

John E. Holt, Cotuit, MA

Paris: Help Us In Our Unbelief

Back in August, I prepared for our music staff a schedule of sermons, songs and scripture readings for every Sunday from September through November. Every week, I refer to that schedule and create the program for the upcoming Sunday. Of course, sometimes I change things, but most of the time the essence of the plan remains in tact.   

Last Tuesday, I sat down to prepare the program for Sunday. I referred to my schedule and found the scripture reading for the week. I looked it up and refreshed my memory. Back in August, I planned to talk on November 15th about standing up against an unjust status quo. I entitled the sermon “Taking Offense.” When I re-read the scripture last Tuesday, however, it struck me differently, so I made a change. I re-titled the message and kept everything else as it was in August. I finished the program Wednesday morning and e-mailed it to the office. Done! The program was printed on Friday morning.

            Friday night.

            Evil struck.

            Bombs and gunfire.

            Death.

            Glued to the TV.

            Heartsick.

            Mad.

            Tears.

            No words.

Then a revelation invaded my space like a lightning bolt. I had changed the title of my message on Tuesday to “Disruption.” The opening song that I picked in August and did NOT change was entitled, “Wounded World That Cries for Healing.” 

I am not a spooky person. If God prompts me to pick a hymn and change a sermon title, it is rare (Never…?). If Tuesday night was one of those rare occasions, I still wrestle with an incurable cynicism.

Late Friday night, still no words. Then a prayer once prayed came to mind: “I believe! Lord, help me in my unbelief.”   

            In Paris, a wounded city cries for healing.

            Our world is disrupted.

            We need some light to shine in the darkness.

            For the sake of the people of Paris,  O God…

                        …let hope emerge from despair,

                                    …healing come to broken hearts, 

                                                …love rise above hate and violence.

            For the world’s sake, O God, if you do intervene in human affairs,

                        ….now is the time.

                                    …we believe

                                        …help us in our unbelief.

John E. Holt, Cotuit, Massachusetts

He Slept

There once was a very successful man. He had, as Paul Simon put into lyrics, “everything a man could want, power, grace and style.” He lived in a toney suburb of New York, drove a high-end Mercedes and had a beautiful wife and family. On the outside, he was living the dream. But as it has been said, “A roller coast looks flat from a distance.” The man was profoundly troubled and confused. He had achieved more than he ever thought he could. He had exceeded his wildest expectations, so why did he feel miserable? At night when he went to bed and engaged in a quiet and honest moment, he would ask himself, “Is this all there is? Is this what my life is all about?”  Sleep evaded him.

As the years passed, nothing changed. His confusion deepened. He went to psychiatrists who prescribed medication and, when that didn’t help, he sought refuge in alcohol. He lived a double life. He was one thing on the outside and something completely different on the inside.

One night while traveling on business, he finished his day’s work, changed into jeans and a T-shirt and headed for the nearest bar. He sat down on a bar stool and hammered down a few martinis as he engaged in a meaningless conversation with a guy sitting next to him. Then, nature called and he went to the men’s room. The bar was not exactly high class. This was evidenced by the fact that the mirror over the bathroom sink was not made of glass, but of poorly polished metal. A muddled reflection in that mirror, however, stopped him in his tracks. He saw a man who was bloated and red-faced, a man he didn’t recognize. He looked again and was shocked when he realized that HE was the man staring back at him from the mirror. At that moment, he passionately hated himself. He wanted to die. After looking at himself in the mirror for a few more minutes, he said to the man in the mirror, “Who are you? I don’t know you.” Then, he went back to the bar, paid his bill and returned to his hotel room.

He went to bed, but this time in that quiet moment prior to drifting off to sleep, he had a hint as to the answer to his previous question: “Is this all there is?” He knew there must be something more, but what? With an unconfused determination, he “sort of” prayed: “My God! I don’t know who I am anymore, but for God’s sake help me to find ME.”

In the silence that followed his “sort of” prayer, a voice whispered to his soul, “You are mine.”

In the words of an ancient song-singer, those three words became “ a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path.”

From one reflection in a mirror and three whispered words, the man saw and perceived, heard and understood. His confusion gave birth to peace.

And…he slept.

PARK IT!!!

Sitting alone at a Starbucks Cafe located inside a Barnes and Noble, I was checking my email and text messages. While I sat there, I noticed a woman sitting at a table a short stone’s throw away from me. A cup of coffee sat on the table in front of her, but was sadly neglected as she held her cell phone six inches from her nose and stared at whatever was on the screen in front of her. Every 30 seconds or so, she would lower her phone and type a message with her two thumbs. I don’t know if she was texting or answering an email, but no matter what she was doing, it does not have any bearing on the rest of this story.

As she held her cell slightly away from her nose, two teenage girls entered stage right. One of them sat down at a table next to me, while the other made a beeline for the woman staring at her phone. I overheard only a few words of the first words spoken, but it was clear that it was a mother-to-daughter exchange. The exchange, however, went only in one direction; the young lady spoke, the Mom kept staring at her cell, barely responding to her daughter’s flurry of words.

The daughter began to get agitated as her Mom ignored her or, half-heartedly, gave her a non-committal shake of the head. That agitation quickly turned to anger as the teenager asked again and again for permission to walk around the mall with her friend.

The Mom gave no audible response. She only lowered her phone and thumbed out a message, after which her cell went right back up to its “six-inch-from-the-nose” position. This resulted in a serious case of adolescent anger. The young lady screeched, “Why don’t you ever listen to me?”

No response.

The teen was now furious and I texted my wife that I thought I was going to witness a case of Starbucks Cafe Rage. I truly thought that the girl was about to slug her Mom.

At last, her mother lowered the phone, looked at her daughter and asked dispassionately, “Why do you always yell at me? Why are you so angry?”

The now out-of-control adolescent screamed her answer, “Because you never listen to me!”

Heads turned to see what was happening not only in the cafe, but also all over the bookstore. A couple of the Starbuck’s employees watched what was unfolding. The look on their faces suggested that they did not know what to do and, even if they did, it was beyond their pay grade to intervene.

It turned out that nobody needed to get between the two, because the woman ignored her daughter’s answer and put her cell phone back up to her nose. The teenager slammed her fist on the table, almost knocking over the neglected cup of coffee, and said with disgust, “To hell with you!” She then grabbed her friend and stomped off.

I have no idea why God created adolescent behavior or why God thought it a good idea for the hormones to go in and out whack during the teenage years. I also do not know what might have precipitated this exchange. Perhaps there was a backstory that led to that mother-daughter confrontation. What I do know is that, especially during the adolescent years, if a kid wants to talk, we should LISTEN! Our teenagers, despite their seeming disdain for adults in general and parents in particular, need and want adult attention. And if we listen, we might also learn a few things from our kids that we want and need to know!

For God’s sake and our children’s sake, let’s park the cell phones and give our kids our undistracted attention. Please?! PLEASE??!! PLEASE???!!!

John E. Holt, Cotuit, Massachusetts

It’s Not Fun To Get Old

As Mom said repeatedly, “It’s not fun to get old.” Mom turned 94 last Monday. For her age, her health is not too bad, but as a neurologist once told me, “We can do a lot to fix the body, but we cannot stop the brain from aging.” This is Mom’s reality. She is outliving her brain.

We spent three days with her. I would be less than honest if I said the visit was fun. It is very tiring to answer the same questions and hear the same stories or complaints over and over again. She also struggled to remember the names of her children and grandchildren. It was painful and very emotional to witness Mom’s dementia up close and personal, because, though our relationship has had its ups and downs, I love my Mom. I will forever appreciate that she was the glue that held our family together when my Dad died at 49 years old. Like so many Moms, she continues to live her life for her kids, grandchildren and recently for her new great-grandbaby.

Samantha is my granddaughter and, of course, she is PERFECT. She is 9 months old and only gets more and more A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E! Her awesome Mom, my daughter Julie, made a special effort to bring Sammy and join us in Pittsburgh to celebrate Mom’s 94th! Julie burned a lot of calories to transport Sammy from Newark to the ‘Burgh. When I picked them up curbside at the airport, Julie was managing singlehandedly a car seat, stroller, a suitcase and a baby bag, while carrying Sammy in a front-facing baby carrier attached to her chest. Amazingly, Julie was in great spirits. It reminded me as to why it is a good idea to have children when we are young. At my age, if I had to lug around all that stuff, my body would quickly rebel and I would collapse in exhaustion.

When we arrived at Mom’s apartment, the effort Julie made to bring Sammy to see her great-grandma was rewarded. Mom does not have too much to smile about these days. She spends hours alone and is not able to get around as much as she would like, but the minute Samantha arrived she broke into a smile, a smile that returned every time Sammy was in her presence. She also was able to show Samantha off to her friends in the dining room and watch with delight as Julie and Sammy played on her apartment floor. When the baby was napping and Mom and I were alone, Mom would REPEATEDLY remind me that Sammy was “such a good baby.” Then, she said, “She never cries.” Samantha, however, did cry, not too often or for very long, primarily because Julie was so attentive to her needs, but she did cry. Mom just forgot.

Samantha and Julie made my Mom’s 94th birthday extra-special. It was a celebration we will always remember, even if Mom does not. The day after we arrived home, I called Mom to check in. As I suspected, she did not remember much about the previous three days, but the minute I mentioned Samantha, she recalled every precious moment she had with her. The same thing happened again just a few minutes ago. I called Mom. She did not remember we were with her in Pittsburgh, but she repeated joyfully her “Sammy” memories. I guess there are some memories that simply do not “age” away. Thank God!

John E. Holt, Cotuit, Massachusetts

Make It Official

The phone rang in my second floor office. It was my secretary. “There is a man here who wants to see you,” she said.

“What does he want?” I asked.

“He will not tell me. He says he needs to talk to a pastor,” she replied.

Reluctantly, I told her to send him up. Why reluctantly? Because everyday people came to the church door, not really looking for the pastor, but looking for money. Most of the time, my secretary told them that we had no cash to dispense. Even if we did, we probably would not have given it to them. What would they spend it on? Drugs? Alcohol? Who knows?

As the man came up the stairs, I wondered what his story would be. I was busy. I hoped he would get to the point. He knocked on my door. I invited him in and he plopped down on the chair on the opposite side of my desk.

I asked rather impatiently, “What do you want?” Then, I sat back and waited for his pitch.

He sat very still for a long minute and then said, “My name is Fred. I am dying of AIDS. I guess I want to know if there is a God and I thought a Reverend might help me find out.”

Now it was my turn to be quiet for a “long minute” before saying, “I am sorry to have been so abrupt. Why don’t you start by telling me your story?”

Over the next several weeks, Fred would show up periodically. We had long conversations about life, God and death. Even with all our talks, I was still surprised to look out at the congregation one Sunday morning and find Fred seated in the front row. From that Sunday on, Fred never missed church.

Several more months passed and clearly Fred was beginning to fail. One morning when he stopped by the church, we prayed together. Fred’s prayer was honest. He wanted to know why he had to die and, if he did, would God accept him?”

Not long after that, Fred asked to be baptized and to join the church. He said that he now “believed in God enough that he wanted to make it official.” It was a moment that I will never forget. Before he left, however, he threw me a curve. “When you baptize me, shouldn’t you say that I am dying of AIDS?”

It was another “long minute” before I replied, “Yes, I will tell them.”

Two Sundays later, it was Fred’s big day. He came to church dressed in a new suit. I was a bit nervous. After all, it was 1989. In those days, people were freaked out about AIDS. The newspapers were publishing all kinds of wild stories about how the “innocent” could catch it. Some TV Evangelists even suggested that AIDS was equivalent to the “leprosy” prevalent in Jesus’ day. Nevertheless, after Fred came forward for baptism I said, “I know many of you have met Fred, but he wants me to tell you that he is dying of AIDS. He also wants you to know that he has found God at our church and wants to be baptized so he can make it ’official.’”

After Fred responded positively to the ancient baptismal questions, I baptized him and introduced him as a child of God. Instantly, the congregation rose to its feet and broke into applause. Tears poured down Fred’s face. He was “official,” accepted and a very happy man.

After the benediction, we left the chancel together and walked to the back of the church to greet folks. Most Sundays many people scooted out the side door in order to get home for Sunday dinner, but on Fred’s Sunday everybody stood patiently in line to wait their turn to hug Fred and welcome him into God’s family.

A few weeks later, Fred “officially” passed into the arms of his Creator.

Fred’s story is not unique. Despite what you read and hear, most faith communities are places of acceptance, not rejection, love not judgment. And…just to make it “official,” Fred’s story is one big reason that I “officially” love what I do.

John E. Holt, Cotuit, Massachusetts

A GUIDED MEDITATION

Because many of you asked, here is an edited version of the “Guided Meditation” that I shared with you recently. It is edited so my friends of other faiths and also those in recovery might find it more meaningful. To begin, downshift from thinking to feeling, relax, close your eyes and be quiet for a moment before beginning to name your personal demons and asking your Higher Power to free you.

The name of the first personal demon is “Past Paralysis.” This demon is insidious. Far too often, we find ourselves stuck in an old story, paralyzed and unable to put the past behind us. Some of our paralyzing pasts are stories of deep pain, abuse or rejection. Other times, we may perpetually long for a past that no longer exists and cannot be re-created. Regardless of the script, we cannot re-live the past. We must not ignore the creative potential that resides is each new moment. An Apostle once pointed to the possibility of becoming new creations, “behold the past is gone and the new is come.” Now, bring to mind a demon from the past over which you are powerless and that is preventing you from living fully in the present moment.

SILENCE

IMAGINE the Higher Power’s LOVE touching your heart as the demons of your past are cast out. With your Higher Power’s loving touch, the “old is gone and the new has come.”

The name of the second demon is “Shame.” Shame has no worth. It is only evidence that you are not only unwilling to accept your Higher Power’s grace, but also that you are not able to forgive yourself. No matter what you have done or what you have failed to do, true healing begins when you take to heart the words of a carpenter’s son from Nazareth, “Is there no one left to condemn you? Then neither do I. Go and sin no more.” Now bring to mind any shame or residual shame that has kept you from forgiving yourself and experiencing the grace of your Higher Power.

SILENCE

IMAGINE the Higher Power’s LOVE touching your heart as the demons of shame are cast out. With your Higher Power’s loving touch, the “old is gone and the new has come.”

The name of the third demon is “Anxiety and Fear.” Far too often we live with an anxiety that keeps us from fully living in the present or we live in fear of what we think may happen down the road. Perhaps that anxiety and fear is rooted in our need for security, the security of having enough money or control over our lives. We can change what we have the power to change. We struggle much more with letting go of that which we cannot change. Anxiety and fear destroys our quality of life and leaves us restless and resentful. Now, bring to mind the anxieties and fears that are keeping you from experiencing the joy of living. Give them to your Higher Power and pray St. Augustine’s prayer: “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.”

SILENCE

IMAGINE the Higher Power’s LOVE touching your heart as the demons of anxiety and fear are cast out. With your Higher Power’s loving touch, the “old is gone and the new has come.”

There are many other demons, some that we can’t name, but here is one more that we can name. Its name is “I do not like myself.” For 45 years, when I looked in the mirror in the morning, I did not see a child of God. I did not like what I saw. I did not like ME! I felt dirty and unworthy of the Higher Power’s love. Do you like YOU? Yes, it is more than OK to say, “I love ME”, if for no other reason than your Higher Power loved you first.

SILENCE

IMAGINE the Higher Power’s LOVE touching your heart as the “I do not like me” demon is cast out. With your Higher Power’s loving touch, the “old is gone and the new has come.”

SILENCE 

Now open your eyes, breathe in God’s peace and enjoy your new freedom: “The old is gone. The new has come!”

John E. Holt, Cotuit, Massachusetts

Won in a Landslide!

The vote has been counted! The winner won in a landside! Who won? Before revealing the winner, here is a snapshot of the losers. The losers are all those candidates or holders of public office who specialize in angry, vindictive and judgmental rhetoric. On the right are those who call anybody who believes in climate change delusional and everyone who supports abortion a murderer. For them, if you believe in gay marriage, you are going to hell for messing with God-ordained family values. If you support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in this country illegally, you are feeding a flock of demons that are ravaging the soul of our nation. On the left are those who demean someone’s intelligence, if that person does not believe in climate change and that anyone who is pro-life hates women. If you do not support gay marriage, you are homophobic. If you believe that the laws against illegal immigration should be strictly enforced, you are clearly a racist. Even some who are stuck in the middle get nasty as they take shots at both the left and the right. Sorry children who make a living demeaning one another, you lost this election.

There are other losers in this election. There are Christians who suggest that you either profess your faith their way (which is the ONLY way) or you will surely burn in the fires of hell. Muslims who kill each other and anybody else who does not fully embrace their particular Islamic brand (Sunni or Shiite?) are losers, too. As a matter of fact, any religious person who claims to know the spiritual “heart” of another human being lost this election.

Now for winner! Can I have the envelope please? The winner is Pope Francis. Here is man with whom I have profound disagreements, but I am certain that if the Pope and I had lunch together, even though we would most likely cling to our fundamental differences of opinions, we would still listen to one another and conclude our meal by embracing and accepting one another as brothers. Pope Francis understands and lives what a certain 1st Century man from Nazareth taught: “Don’t judge or you will be judged, love God and love one another, go out of your way to love kids and reach out a helping hand to those in need.” This good, not perfect, Pope understands that encouraging words trump angry, judgmental rhetoric any day of the week and twice on Sunday. He is man who does not demean those with whom he differs, but listens and tries to understand their point of view. Pope Francis leads with love and is quick to dispense grace. He is a winner, a breath of fresh air blowing against the stale, smoggy, suffocating air of hatred and condemnation.

Most of us are not idealists. We are quite certain that Pope Francis saved our collective souls only briefly. Sadly, as soon as the Fiat Pope-mobile drops him off at the airport and Pope Francis flies away on “Shepherd One,” the ugly voices and hated-filled actions of the LOSERS will, once again, fill the airwaves. The exhilaration we felt will fade into a distant memory. But, then again, maybe not! Those who lost will only win, if we let them. We can continue to embrace the spirit of Pope Francis, at least in the little corner of God’s world that we inhabit. To the degree that we are able, which can be very human and frail, we can put judgment aside, love our Higher Power, love those who walk this earth with us and even love those who test us. We can stop and pay attention to our kids as we travel the roads of life and we can do our best to reach out a hand to lift up someone who has fallen by the wayside. And…this is hard…we can listen to those with whom we disagree and, if our points of view cannot be reconciled, we can get up from the table and embrace the one with whom we disagree as a brother or sister. We can lead with an encouraging word, a little love and a whole lot of grace.

The cynic may ask, “What does it matter? How we live will not change a thing.” I disagree, because the last time I looked, a small pebble thrown into a still pond, disturbs the whole pond!

John E. Holt, Cotuit, MA

Building Bridges

Maybe I should stop reading newspapers. Too often, they depress me.

A little girl’s body was found in a garbage bag on a Boston Harbor island earlier this summer. The baby became known as “Baby Doe.” A composite sketch of the little girl went viral as the authorities did everything they could to find out who she was and what happened to her.  Last week, the composite picture as well as the picture of an almost three-year old little girl stared at me starkly from the front page of the Boston Globe. “Baby Doe” was identified as Bella Bond. Her mother’s boyfriend was arrested and charged with murder and her mother is under arrest on a charge of accessory to murder. The boyfriend allegedly repeatedly punched the little girl to death, because he said Bella was “possessed by demons.”

Such horrific crimes shake me to the core of my being. They test my faith in a good God. How could ANYBODY hurt a child? For that matter, how could ANYBODY hurt another human being? I have no words, no satisfactory or meaningful explanations. However, we cannot let the unfathomable tragic paint a dark picture of ALL of humanity. The few cannot and must not mitigate the truth that the vast majority of people who walk this great earth are good people who want to do the right thing. We must not let the acts of an evil few degrade the reputation of the many. To prove my point, all we have to do is think of the family of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who was killed in the Boston bombing.

The same week I read about “Baby Doe” in the Globe, I read about an initiative supported by Martin’s family, Hasbro, GenerationOn and Points of Light. It is called “The Martin Richard Bridge Builder Campaign.” The campaign calls upon children and youth, ages 5-18, to carry out Martin’s wish for a more peaceful world by promoting peace and positive change in their schools and communities by “engaging in simple acts of kindness or service projects.” You can read more about it on www.GenerationOn.org.

Sunday in church, I challenged our kids to take up the Campaign’s challenge, but why just our kids???? Why can’t we all commit to putting people at the top of our “to do” list by engaging in simple acts of kindness? Can we join in the spirit of Martin and Martin’s family by “building a bridge” to someone who needs a friendly ear, a warm embrace or a word of encouragement?

We must not allow evil to win or the tragic to defeat us. It is our acts of kindness that need to “go viral,” not news and pictures of murdered innocents. In memory of both Bella Bond and Martin Richard, can we join together and “overcome evil with good?” O God, I hope so!

John E. Holt, Cotuit, Massachusetts

A Begging Bowl

Too often I go to meetings at which one of two things happen: Either nothing gets said of importance or whatever is said is repeated ad nauseam. As I grow older, I find myself avoiding as many meetings as possible, particularly if they are clergy meetings. Far too often, clergy gatherings turn into a “my church is better than your church” contest. Last week, however, I went to a clergy meeting at which I received a valuable reminder of an old truth.

A wise, woman pastor shared the opening devotions. She placed on the conference table a beautifully crafted, wooden bowl. She asked if we remembered the monastic tradition of a “begging bowl.” Like everybody else, I nodded my head in the affirmative; even though the truth was that I had no idea what a “begging bowl” was. It would, however, impact my theological reputation to appear ignorant of such an obviously well known monastic truth.

I think our leader intuitively knew that some of us were not up to speed (truthful!) about “begging bowls,” so she proceeded to give us a remedial lesson. In the monasteries centuries ago, monks were given a bowl in the morning and sent out into the streets to beg. Whatever was put into their bowls, whether food, money or other stuff, was all that they had for that day. They had to be satisfied with whatever ended up in their bowl. Our teacher went on to tell us that we might do well to approach each day as if it is an empty “begging bowl.” As each day begins, we have no idea what will end up in our bowl. All we really know is that the next morning we will get a new bowl to fill.

This was, of course, a reminder that every day is a new day. What is past is past and the future will be what it will be. Better to live in the present moment. Therefore, in the words of Jean-Pierre de Caussade, we should live as if the present moment is a “sacrament,” as if every moment is Divinely blessed.

I have no intention of hitting the streets to beg, but I can decide what to put in my “begging bowl.” I can fill it up with painful moments or old resentments from my past that are best left in my rearview mirror. I can fill my bowl with all kinds of essentially meaningless stuff, like fretting over the ups and downs of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I can also fill it up with concern for what will happen tomorrow, a future over which I have little or no control. Thanks to one wise pastor, however, I am going to try to start each day with an empty “begging bowl” and do my best to fill it with what really matters most; my relationships with family, friends and the awareness of the Divine presence in human life. Furthermore, I am going to stop my resistance to meeting with my clergy colleagues. Like at last week’s meeting, there is always the possibility that a nugget of Godly wisdom will be placed in my “begging bowl.”

John E. Holt, Cotuit, Massachusetts