At the Table

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM   November 16, 2018

Showing up is a good start.

A pastor who engaged in quite a bit of marriage counseling often remarked that he believed many challenges and problems in a relationship could be resolved if he could get the struggling couple to come together and meet in a room with a fireplace—warm, welcoming, designed to provide the ambiance to thaw and soften differences. The real challenge, he acknowledged, was getting people to the point of showing up.breakingbreadfragments copy

I’m reminded of his words as many of us here in the United States and beyond prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Beyond the questions of menus, traditional family favorites, and customs is also one of the practical details of any family or group gathering: where to seat everyone, how to find the optimal place for those who do show up. In my family, Aunt Mary always expected a place at the table with the light behind her (“More flattering,” she insisted.) Then there had to be end or corner seats for those  of us who were left-handed so that there was no knocking of elbows as forks were raised during the feast.

In some families or groups, consideration must be given as well to who sits next to whom. Story People’s “Rules for a successful holiday” humorously describes what sometimes can occur where deep-seated political, religious, or relationship issues come to the table:

“1. Get together with the family.
2. Relive old times.
3. Get out before it blows.”

The table illumines questions of belonging and fitting in, questions of boundaries,  priorities and values. Yes, there may be the annoying relative or the sibling who knows just how to push everyone’s buttons. But the table invites us to embody, if not genuine spaciousness of heart, at least an effort to accommodate differences, to be open to the other. Showing up and making it to the table is a promising beginning.

What Henri Nouwen says about the table of the Eucharist is also true of other tables in our lives:

“When we gather around the table and eat from the same loaf and drink from the same cup, we are most vulnerable to one another.  We cannot have a meal together in peace with guns hanging over our shoulders and weapons attached to our belts.  When we break bread together, we leave our arms—whether they are physical or mental—at the door and enter into a place of vulnerability and trust.”

Richard Rohr echoes this sentiment in describing the Eucharist as “the place where a vulnerable God invites vulnerable people to come together in a peaceful meal… Somehow, we have to make sure that each day we are hungry, that there’s room inside us for another presence.  If we’re filled with our own opinions, righteousness, superiority, or self-sufficiency, we are a world unto ourselves and there’s no room for another.”

So let us enter Thanksgiving with an awareness of how our coming to the table mirrors “eucharist with a small e.” Let us reflect on our circle of acquaintances, colleagues, loved ones, friends, neighbors, and ask how we might cultivate living most inclusively.

Because much more happens at the table than satisfying hunger and quenching thirst.  A meal together is one of the most intimate and sacred human events. At the table, we become and are becoming family, friends, community in the ways that Joy Harjo describes in “Perhaps the World Ends Here”:handstogether

“The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table.
So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it.
Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human.
We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children.
They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table.
It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
We pray of suffering and remorse.
We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.”

Takeaway

Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Reflect on the different tables at which you’ve gathered and on what has happened around them.
At what tables have you most clearly experienced the presence of the Holy One?
Give thanks for those who fill the tables of your life and add a leaf for those yet to come.

NOTE:
In this season of gratefulness, I’m giving thanks for your following of Mining the Now and wishing you and those you love every blessing of this season of giving thanks.  

To automatically receive a new blog as soon as it’s posted:

Go to the beginning of this current blog.
As you scroll down slowly, you will see the word, “Follow”, in the lower right hand corner.
Click on “Follow” and a form will appear for you to fill in your email address.
After you do that, you’ll receive an email asking you to verify your address.
Click on this link, and you’ll receive a confirmation that you’re now automatically subscribed.

Please note that if you’re reading the blog on your phone, you may not see the word “Follow.”  Try reading it on a PC or laptop and you should have no problem subscribing.

Thanks for signing on and Following!

 

 

Readying for the New

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM  November 4, 2018

At this time of year in the Northern hemisphere, we’re surrounded by reminders that it’s time to prepare for change as an integral part of life. Landscapes of solid green are gradually giving way to the spectacular farewell of autumn in brilliant yellow, flaming orange, fiery red. The trees, it appears, are preparing to welcome the next phase of life, fall leavespexels-photo-355302 copyletting go into barrenness, into dying, into decay. Along the rolling hills of farmlands,  fields are being plowed and hay bailed and stored for winter reserves. Squirrels are digging for, then burying, acorns. People are winterizing homes and preparing cars for cold weather and icy road conditions. Yes, it’s clear, change is coming and we need to be in a state of readiness.

Having recently experienced total hip replacement surgery, I’ve been struck by the parallels between getting ready for a change of season and getting ready for a new hip. In my last blog pre-surgery, I remarked on how we writers are shameless to the point of feeding on just about anything, so here I am, asking you to indulge a reflection on my own limited experience and my attempts to extract some meaning from it.

A month in advance of surgery, I was advised to begin a regimen of vitamin supplements and exercises so that my body might be optimally primed to welcome the elements of a new hip. In the nearly three weeks since surgery, I’ve had a front row seat to observe how I’ve responded to accommodating something new, adapting to a foreign body, and responding to its presence with pain, swelling, and bruising. As with any change, some days moving forward are uncomfortable, stretching, frustrating. Some days, encouraging and full of hope. But all days have provided an invitation for reflection on how we prepare for and welcome the new.

We can experience the newness of change gradually, wondering when those gray hairs or hard-earned wrinkles appeared, when our pace and energy subtly slowed, when our child started to look more like one parent than the other. Change can also be abrupt–a sudden profound insight or a truth about who we are. Or violent—the arrival of a brutal storm or a diagnosis that upends our world in a matter of seconds. What seems a constant is that change often brings with it an invitation to accommodate the new, to adapt and adjust, to do deep inner soul work and widen the space of our hearts. We may be ushered into a foreign landscape where the old maps, signposts, and landmarks no longer work and we’re called on to improvise and discover untapped reserves of creativity, imagination, fresh thinking. We may be invited into profound and deepening trust in the Holy One whose loving accompaniment of us is the one constant in a sea of change.boyplaying inleavespexels-photo copy

As creation prepares for a shift in temperature, sunlight, and stillness, perhaps we’re also being invited to ready ourselves already now for whatever might be part of God’s plan awaiting us. These autumn questions might help in assessing where we are and in discerning our readiness for the unknown:

  • What is nearing a harvest of completion in you?
    Where might you feel a sense of fulfillment, of God’s grace and action become visible in you?
  • What do you need to gather into your barns and store in reserve?
    What sustains, supports, and nourishes you?
    What qualities or attitudes will you, with God’s grace, depend on in the days ahead?
  • What fields are still unexplored and inviting a fresh imagining?
    What future possibilities grab your soul? excite you? energize you? stir your imagination?
  • What untended or fallow pastures call for your attention and speak to the deepest longing of your heart?
    What do you desire for yourself and others at this time in your life?
    How do you experience Spirit moving within you?
    Where are you being led now?

May the ongoing and outward change of seasons invite us to deepen an inner spaciousness of heart. May it call us into profound and growing trust in the Holy One whose faithful accompaniment is the one constant in a forever changing universe.

Takeaway:

Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Pray the reflection questions above and stay with one that speaks to your heart.
Close with the words of the psalmist: “My heart is ready, O God. My heart is ready.” (Psalm 57:8)

NOTE:
Thank you for your prayer for my successful total hip replacement surgery. I’m delighted to be back with you in Mining the Now.

I’ll be on the road again offering retreats and presentations in just a few weeks and hope to take with me any wisdom I’ve mined from the slow work of God in healing and recovery. Thank you for your prayer and words of encouragement. You have mine always. 

To automatically receive a new blog as soon as it’s posted:
Go to the beginning of this current blog.
As you scroll down slowly, you will see the word, “Follow”, in the lower right hand corner.
Click on “Follow” and a form will appear for you to fill in your email address.
After you do that, you’ll receive an email asking you to verify your address.
Click on this link, and you’ll receive a confirmation that you’re now automatically subscribed.

Please note that if you’re reading the blog on your phone, you may not see the word “Follow.”  Try reading it on a PC or laptop and you should have no problem subscribing.

Thanks for signing on and Following!