Monday, September 26, 2016

What America Really Needs: Less Debating, More Civility.



In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas…Unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things."
-- Archbishop Marco Antonio de Dominis, 1617

Before you ask me, the answer is “no”. I won’t watch any of the Presidential debates this year.  Unlike the 100 million or more of my fellow Americans who are estimated to have viewed the first of these partisan slugfests, I stuck with “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, one of my all time favorite TV shows. For one night Captain Picard was my candidate of choice.

It’s not for lack of interest. I’m not civically disengaging. I’ve probably read more and talked with others more and thought more and written more about this election, than any other Presidential competition in my lifetime. I’m a news junkie. Normally I’d eat this stuff up and yet, I pass for one simple reason.

Civility, and the lack thereof in our 2016 election cycle. Civility: the virtue of being able to respect and be in community with your opponent, while still disagreeing.  Civility: basic politeness, manners, the kind of stuff we were taught as kids: by our parents, our teachers, our elders.  Wait your turn to speak.  Watch your language.  When you win, don’t gloat. When you lose, show grace and accept the results.  Civility: the social glue that binds us together in community, especially when we live and work side by side with folks who do not share our beliefs. 

But this hope for civility: basic human decency in how we treat one another across the political and social divide? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it more absent than right now in our country and this conflict is embodied in the debates. Debates: politics as blood sport. Politics as Wrestlemania.

Candidates wait to pounce.  The audience gleefully hopes “the enemy” will make a gaffe or a goof or a mistake.  The media, play by play announcers, analyzing not the weight of substantive policy, but the fluff of appearance, as if they are calling a beauty pageant.  Did he roll his eyes again? Did she have that fake smile again? Who “won”? Who “lost”? 

WHO CARES!

Because here’s a basic truth about November 9th, the day after the election.  That morning 45 percent or so of American voters (if current polls hold true) will be very disappointed because their candidate, cause, ideology, lost.  Yet still we’ll all have to live together, going ahead. Figure out how to be America and Americans in community.  Still we’ll have to face our mutual problems, regardless of ideology.  Neighborhood crime and violence and poverty. A national opioid crisis.  An economy leaving behind millions of our neighbors.  Terrorism at home and abroad. A changing national demographic: some groups grow, some groups shrink. 

We can debate all we want, yell all we want, post our opinions on Facebook all we want about the rightness of our beliefs. Go for it.  But then remember: we share a common home, all 319 million of us.  A debate, a vote, does not change that reality. 

That’s why we need civility. As a person of faith I learned the central rule of civility from Jesus. Once when asked what the most important law was in his tradition, he simply answered, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Pretty basic stuff. It appears in almost all faiths and philosophies. Treat “the other” as you wish to be treated.  You don’t have to agree with them on everything. Your beliefs are not diminished when you honor the humanity of your opponent.  

Civility.           

There was a great photo that went viral on social media last week, a snapshot taken in Washington, D.C. at the dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Pictured are two Presidential couples, the Bushes and the Obamas, natural enemies, right? Separated by race, politics, geography, life experience.  Yet there they are, standing together, smiling. In the center is President Bush, a relaxed grin on his face, leaning back into Michelle Obama’s embrace. They looks like four old friends, sharing an inside joke.  Will such rapprochement save the republic? No.  But it teaches us that civility can work, if we choose to work it. One relationship at a time.

To be civil: in all our interactions, political and personal.  It pays off. On this I pray that there is no debate.  Now back to “Star Trek”.



 

Monday, September 19, 2016

One Ordinary Man. One Extraordinary Act of Heroism. Thanks Again Sully.


“Heroes are ordinary people who make themselves extraordinary.” --Gerard Way

What makes a hero, a hero…heroic?  After a recent trip to my local theater to see the new Clint Eastwood directed movie “Sully”, starring Tom Hanks, I may just have to rethink my answer to that question. 

The film tells the story of “The Miracle on the Hudson”. On a frigid January morning in 2009, USAir Flight 1549, with 155 souls on board, was forced to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River in New York City. The aircraft was brought down by the most extraordinary of circumstances: a bird strike, resulting in both of the plane’s engines flaming out and stalling. In the 208 excruciating seconds after the accident (less than four minutes), Captain Chesley Sullenberger (“Sully”), and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles somehow safely brought the plane down for a water landing.

The miracle, of course, is that all 155 passengers and crew walked away from that disaster, alive.  Not one person lost. Not one major injury or casualty.  Every one survived because two ordinary people did their jobs, acted extraordinarily, in a moment when any panic, any mistake, any slip up, any hesitation could have resulted in death for some, many, even most of the people on that plane. 

In watching the movie and remembering that story again, what most impressed me was how very ordinary Sully was: in how he is portrayed in the movie, and still is, in real life, almost eight years after that amazing day.  Sully doesn’t look the part of hero, at least not like the heroes and heroines our culture so loves to lionize, idolize, and worship.  He’s not a muscle bound athlete or an over coiffed pop singer.  No: this hero is tall and thin and white haired, and sports a decidedly unfashionable eighties mustache. Sully could easily pass for an insurance salesman, or a bank manager, or the low key neighbor next door who lends you his lawnmower. 

His act of heroism isn’t the stuff of cliché drama either: no overheated swashbuckling exploits or over the top dramatic speeches to save the day. As the incident unfolds, with everything hanging in the balance, he’s cool and calm: giving orders in a steady voice, making multiple decisions, one right after the other, following procedure. After the plane splashes down, he wades through the plane’s interior as it slowly fills up with icy water, making sure that every last person is evacuated safely, no one left behind. Only then does he save himself. 

Strange how we as a world have come to think of our heroes, the ones who inevitably grab the headlines, fill up the twitter feeds, and dominate our cultural conversation.  Now a hero is the politician who struts and blusters across the stage, clothed in the language of shameless self promotion, and all against a backdrop of red, white and blue.  Or a hero is the sports icon who hits a ball or makes a touchdown and then flips his bat or spikes the ball to make sure that every one in the stadium knows just how awesome he is. We deify the business titan who makes hundreds of millions of dollars in the bare knuckled game called capitalism, the singer who tops the charts. 

But to me a hero is someone more like Sully.  An everyday often anonymous person who summons the strength and courage and character to do the right thing when life demands it.  Not for adulation or economic gain but because this is their job, their call. Like my friend who for more than twenty years has faithfully and lovingly cared for his spouse, who suffers from a chronic, debilitating disease.  With grace and tenderness he cares for her, day in and day out.  Or the neighbor I know who visits a nearby women’s prison every single week and tutors the inmates, helps them prepare for life on the outside.  Her “pay” comes in the satisfaction of helping someone in need. 

Heroes like this actually abound in our world. We just have to look for them, beyond the spotlight, beyond the warped and weird ways we so often define heroism. Real heroes do the right thing because their faith in God compels them; because they could do no other; because they have decided to use their one God given life in the service of others and not just to serve themselves alone. 

Real heroes have a job and then just do their jobs.

As Sully wrote in his autobiography “Highest Duty”, “Everyone's reputation is made on a daily basis. There are little incremental things - worthwhile efforts, moment you were helpful to others - and after a life time, they add up to something. You can feel as if you lived and it mattered." 

So here’s to the Sullys, the real heroes and heroines in our world.  And who knows? Maybe you or I: we can be heroes too.






  


    


Monday, September 12, 2016

Just What Does It Mean to Be a Patriot?


Patriot (noun) 1. A person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.   
--Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

It was the biggest American flag I have ever seen, a gargantuan flag, a sea of red, white and blue fabric. It covered the entire field in a 9/11 remembrance ceremony held before the New England Patriots football game this past Sunday evening in Arizona.  How big was that symbol of America? Try 300 hundred feet long by 160 feet wide, so huge that it took more than a hundred people to unfurl and then hold it still, as Kristen Chenoweth, sang “The Star Spangled Banner”.  As the music swelled and the 80,000 plus folks assembled there stood for the anthem, it made me wonder.

Is that what it means to be patriotic and a patriot, to really love the nation you call home? Is one a patriot because you know all the words to a song and then sing it out loud at a sports game? Or if you take off your hat and stand up and then cheer loudly at the end?

Is that patriotism?

Earlier that day I was blessed to visit a little known but amazing private museum in Natick, Massachusetts, the Museum of World War II. It houses one of the largest collections of WWII memorabilia in the world.  I spent two and half hours roaming through the halls of that place, saw some amazing and breathtaking items, all lovingly preserved, from the greatest social cataclysm of the last century.  I touched a pair of binoculars salvaged from the USS Arizona, a ship which went down on December 7, 1941, when America was attacked at Pearl Harbor.  It gave me pause, made me think about the men and women who died that day, trying their best to defend their homeland and protect their fellow citizens.  Millions and millions of American soldiers and civilians and citizens all somehow came together in the war years, defeated fascism, defended freedom.

Is that patriotism? To put one’s life on the line for others, in courage and in service?

Earlier in the week I worked at the polls on our statewide Primary Day, checked local voters in. From 7 to 11 am I sat behind a table and crossed folks’ names off a voter list, then handed my neighbors a ballot.  The turnout was low but next November 8th it will be a different story as our nation chooses a President.  On that day and night, if past trends hold, more than 90 percent of my neighbors here in town will vote.  Go into a private booth. Choose the man or woman who will guide our ship of state and have the power to wage war or to seek peace, to unite or divide us.  All because we as citizens will give one of those candidates the power to do so.  We vote because they work for us.

Is that patriotism?  To exercise this civic responsibility to choose our leaders?

Lately our culture has been caught up in one of our periodic debates about just what it means to be a patriot and patriotic, sparked by the refusal of a professional athlete to stand during the playing of the national anthem at a football game. For a few days it was all the talk on social media and the airwaves. Some labeled him a traitor to his country for that act, declaring he is anything but a patriot.  Others have defended the protest, declaring that his freedom to dissent is what makes a patriot, a patriot.      

But it begs the questions. What is patriotism?  Who is a patriot? Who is not? And who gets to decide?

Is patriotism about symbols and rituals?  Like the flag I fly outside of my house. A lapel pin I sport on my suit.  A red white and blue peace bumper sticker on my car.  Watching fireworks on the 4th of July, and then cheering when the veterans march on by in a parade. When I rise at Fenway Park and sing along with 40,000 other folks that “our flag was still there.” Is that it?  Can I claim the title of patriot if I do no more than cover myself in the appearance and trappings of patriotism?

Or is patriotism about something more substantial, more concrete, more sacrificial even?  Like serving in the military, or at the least, as a citizen, supporting those women and men who defend me. Thanking them. Making sure that when they come home they have all the services and resources they need to pick up their lives again.  Paying my fair share of taxes: maybe that’s what a patriot does.  Recognizes that part of our national covenant with and to one another is taking the fruits of what we’ve earned in freedom and then sharing it with those who have less or need a hand up or help. Is patriotism found in those who push back against the government, who protest in sincerity and non-violence? Maybe patriotism happens when we volunteer in our communities—build a Habitat for Humanity house, coach Little League, tutor an inner city kid, serve a meal at a homeless shelter. Is patriotism somehow connected to affirming the truth that we are all in this experiment called democracy together, and that we need each other.

What does it mean to be patriotic and a patriot? 

I don’t claim to have a lock on just how to answer that question; nor do I feel I have the right to say just who is a patriot and who is not.  I can only speak for myself. But this I do know: a patriot’s job is to constantly ask one’s self: “If I really do love my country, then what am I doing to embody and act on this devotion?”

So I’ll keep flying my American flag in gratitude, but for me, there has got to be more than just this, to being a patriot and to being patriotic.



                       



                    

    

          

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Is It Election Day Yet? PLEASE??!!



Interminable (adjective) 1. incapable of being terminated; unending 2. monotonously or annoyingly protracted or continued  3. having no limits     --Merriam-Websters Dictionary

Election? What election? You mean there's a Presidential election going on? Really?  Seriously? Why…I hadn't noticed.

NOT.

And so even as the summer begins to end and turns to autumn and we trust in this definitive seasonal conclusion; even as hot temperatures give way to cooler air and the weather will change, guaranteed; even as the Red Sox make their final push for the playoffs and we tearfully realize that David Ortiz will soon not be around for us to cheer him on any more….

Still: one truth, one reality, one stubbornly unstoppable force will not let up or go away soon or fade to black or just get the hint that enough is enough, already.  It is this interminable Presidential election. I don’t know about you, but me? I am done with it. Done with the noisy daily coverage that dominates the culture.  The blaring headlines in print.  The scrolling stories on the web. The jousting social media news feeds that smugly declare “he is right and she is wrong” or “he is the devil and she is our savior”. I’m done with the way the election now seems to creep into far too many of my daily conversations.

“Did you hear what she said?!”  “Did you hear what he did?”

In years past the Presidential election used to kick into high gear only after Labor Day. There was even a time long ago when it was considered gauche if a candidate stooped to desperately pressing the flesh and begging people to vote for him or her.  Then a candidate just sat on the front porch of their home and welcomed the press and supporters.  That was it. Now our candidates are pre-packaged and sold to us like laxative or worse, they are branded like a product to be consumed by the masses.  “I’m with Her!” “Make America Great Again!”  

Ugh…

It’s not democracy I have a beef with.  I usually love Presidential elections. This year as always I’ll be an election worker, checking in voters at the polls, helping folks cast a ballot.  I’m an election baby, born on the November Tuesday in 1960 when Massachusetts own John F. Kennedy won the Presidential race.  My folks were so excited by his victory that they gave me JFK’s name for posterity. 

Elections matter.

These can determine the direction we will take as a nation for the next four years. The best elections engage us as citizens to do our civic duty, become informed and vote. Elections educate us about the issues of the day and introduce us to our potential leaders.  Elections empower us to do the work of freedom. Unlike a Russia or a China, where free elections are a façade, in the United States elections actually reflect the hopes and dreams and desires of the electorate.         

But this election?  It’s just too much for me now.  It’s sucked all the air out of the room. It’s stifling. 

If the election were an illness, it would be of the zombie creating virus type.  NOTHING CAN STOP IT!  RUN FOR THE HILLS! If this election were a person, it would be that friend of yours who fails to get the social cue a discussion is actually over. You can go home now.  If this election were a TV show, it might be “Law and Order”. Click around the channels long enough and you can always find an episode, 24/7. If this election were a Bible story, it would be the woeful tale of Moses and the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years. Are we there yet?

Because some other things have actually been happening in the world other than “the Donald” and “Billary” taking pot shots at each other every day.  A flood in Baton Rouge that destroyed 40,000 homes.  Maybe we should pay more attention to and respond to this crisis.  Or the awful war in Syria. Or the drought and unprecedented summer without rain we’ve faced here in the Bay State.  Or the fact that on November 8th we’ll also be considering some other very important questions, like the legalization of marijuana.  But you’d never know this by listening to the interminable gossip and “gotch'ya!” chatter of this election.  

The election that never ends.

Yet there is some good news. It is t-minus a little over two months and counting until November 8th.  On that great day we will finally be able to vote for someone and then put this far too often ugly, unending election behind us.   Thank God.

Until then?  I plan on watching as many episodes of “Law and Order” as I can.  At least with that show, I can always count on seeing two of the sweetest words in the English language.

The end.


     

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Looking For America, Finding America: One Citizen's Road Trip


“A man went looking for America and couldn't find it anywhere.”
--from the film “Easy Rider”, 1969

I looked for America this past spring and summer and I couldn’t find it anywhere. 

It wasn’t for lack of trying. Because of work and vacation plans, from April to August, I visited thirteen states and traveled more than 10,000 miles, by air and on the road. I flew in the skies over the United States and drove on its highways, from the west to the east coast, from the heartland to the heart of the northeast and I got to see a lot of America in the past five months. 

And so I decided to look for America. 

I tried to find it. Tried to figure out just what makes America, America.  What makes America, at least for me, a precious and even sacred place, unlike any other country on the earth. My home. Our home. No: not in a triumphal way, with over the top flag waving or in your face chants of “USA! USA!” Instead, with a joyful and curious and grateful spirit, I tried to find America. I made this cross country pilgrimage at a time when it can seem as if America is coming apart at the seams, socially imploding somehow. America. Trapped in the midst of an often ugly and interminable national election, where politicians and pundits certainly seem oh self righteous about the America they claim that they’ve found.    

So what better time to look for America?

Maybe America is in a specific place I visited. Like the wide and white sandy beaches of Santa Cruz, California, where wetsuit clad surfers frolicked in the waves among the seals and the sun, an endless summer.  Or at a rural camp in suburban Connecticut, where a young couple made lifelong God-blessed promises to each other on the hottest day of the summer—100 degrees at 12 noon---then danced away to Grateful Dead tunes with family and friends cheering them on. Or is America in Rochester, Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic, one of the best hospitals in the world, where compassionate doctors and nurses worked to make sure one of my best friends can beat cancer?  

I looked for Americans, too, on my trip. 

Maybe America is embodied in some specific person or peoples I met. The leather clad Harley riding biker, with a “Make America Great Again” bumper sticker on the back of his jacket, who passed me on I-80 in deep woods Pennsylvania, and gave me a hearty wave and smile.  The pink haired young women in a yellow Volkswagen Bug, dancing away in her car to a full volume song, a “Feel the Bern” bumper sticker on the back of her vehicle. She pulled up beside me on a sweltering stretch of highway near Akron, Ohio. Is America found in the faith of an earnest pastor in Cleveland, who drove me through the mean and hard streets of that inner city? He talked to me about how much he loved the folks he served, how determined he was that his church would make a difference for the better in his neighborhood.

Is America at the Starbucks in a trendy Minneapolis neighborhood, where a pony-tailed barista made me coffee? Or is it at a gritty truck stop in DuBois, Pennsylvania where the coffee was just ok but a tattoo covered clerk wished me a safe trip home. Her graceful benediction stayed with me for so many miles.  Is America a so called red state or blue state or purple state or battleground state?  I drove through them all.  Is it small town Cooperstown, New York with the old school Baseball Hall of Fame?  Or big city Oakland where I watched a ballgame on a muggy April Sunday afternoon with a fellow fan from Detroit. 

I looked for America and I couldn’t find it anywhere. Instead I found it everywhere.   

In tiny tucked away villages and broad shouldered urban enclaves; seemingly abandoned towns far off the interstate and brand new McMansion developments, springing up like sunflowers, by the side of the road. There was nowhere where America was not evident on my journey.

I found America in every one I encountered too. All of them Americans and America: blue and white collar, black and white, all colors; gay, straight, families of all shapes and sizes too.  Saw lots of faith. Houses of worship were every where. But I also saw lots of Sunday morning folks who “worshipped” at the Waffle House on the Sabbath.  And here’s the miraculous truth: every last person I met was an American.  No one left out. No one uncounted. No one unseen. 
 
I learned in my ultimate American road trip one lesson that America and Americans seem to forget and therefore need to relearn again and again and again. America is me. America is you. America is always all of us, together. That “E Pluribus Unum” thing. From many, one. Even if we don’t always get that right. We are America: a beautiful and broken land, so wonderful and so hurting at times too.  We have such great hopes for ourselves and our nation: that’s why our disappointments and frustrations are so great as well.

But America?  No worries. I looked for it. Then I found it. I just had to open my eyes and my heart.  How about you? Have you found America?


Monday, August 22, 2016

Advice for September Students: Make and Be a Friend...For Life


Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh!" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you.”
    --A.A. Milne, "The House at Pooh Corner"

As the temperatures begin to get chilly at night and the days shorten and September’s siren song calls out; as moving vans clog the streets of the city, with harried parents and anxious students; I remember….

Thirty years ago and the beginning of my graduate studies, three years of books and lectures and tests and serious higher education, all for an advanced degree.  Grad school was “serious” for me because I did not take my undergraduate studies, well—very seriously. At college I hit the parties too hard and the books too soft, loved my extra curricular activities much more than my actual classes. 

By the time I got to Boston University School of Theology in the fall of 1986, I was ready to really learn. I can still hear the deep and wise voice of my favorite professor, Doctor Beck, who made the Old Testament come to life with gravitas and drama. Still fondly recall my walks down busy Commonwealth Avenue, Green Line subway cars rushing by with “clicks” and “clacks”. Still remember how excited I was just to be there and begin the rest of my life.

But three decades on I cherish one amazing God-given gift from that time in my life, more than any class or knowledge or training or smarts I found at school. It is this: the friends that I made then. Friends. Barb and Kathy and Barb and Mitch.  Friends for life. Friends in life. Friends who began their walk with me three decades ago and are still with me. Friends I cannot imagine living without.  Friends I trust I will grow old with too.

If I were asked for advice by an undergrad about to set off for college or a young adult about to plunge into graduate work, or any young person, I’d offer this. Seek out good friends. Make good friends. Surround yourself with friends, but only the ones who both want the best for you and see the best in you.  Be a good friend too. Loyal and kind. Dependable and compassionate. Slow to anger and quick to forgive. 

Because one of the most important tasks of growing up and into whomever the person is that God made you to be, is to undertake this work of friendship. Real friendship. The kind of friend you’d call at 2 a.m. if you were stuck at a party and really needed a ride home or were stuck on the side of the road with car trouble and really needed help.  Who always remembers your birthday.  Who would help you move from one apartment to another even if you didn’t provide pizza and beer.  Who you’d call first with the best of news or worst of news.

Friends. Friends for life.  Put that on your “to-do” list as you pack for school.

We live in an odd time for friendship in our world and the young know this better than anyone else. Facebook tells us we have hundreds, even thousands of “friends” in our cyber circles of virtual community. Technology makes it possible for us to connect instantly to almost any “friend”, any time, any where, with a text or Snapchat or Instagram or tweet.  Yet there is something unreal about such “friendships” that often exist on a screen and give fleeting, ethereal bursts of connection. A poke. A “like”.  A smile emoticon.

Yet the truth about true friends?

Most of us can count that number on one hand. These are the friends who somehow make us more than we would ever be alone. The friends we are called by God to seek out.  To cultivate with care.  To claim, and then maybe never let go.  Friendship then is not a transaction but is instead transformational.  It is a relationship that brings out our best selves. As Ronald Sharp, a professor of English at Vassar College, who teaches a course on the literature of friendship, said: “It’s not about what someone can do for you; it’s who and what the two of you become in each other’s presence.”

Friends.

In the days ahead, many of us and our loved ones will prepare for school and prepare for life. My prayer and hope is simple: that all of us might find a true friend and be a true friend too. Life is good, that’s for sure.  But a life with friends, old friends, good friends, longtime friends? That is a miracle. 

Thank you God, for friends.








Tuesday, August 16, 2016

One Last Chance for a Blessed Summer Getaway


"A life without a quiet center easily becomes destructive.”     --Henri  J. M. Nouwen

There is something about life on an island. 

The last sixteen summers I've been blessed to spend one week on an island off the New England coast.  And so every August I pack up my bike and my books and head out.  Boarding the ferry, I stand on the back of the rocking vessel as it slices through whitecaps and salt-tinged air, and watch as the mainland fades away.  It is always a bit startling as a flatlander to find myself in the middle of the ocean, as home fades into the distance. From horizon to horizon is now only water. 

Then slowly, after an hour or so, a diminutive spit of land emerges in the midst of a vast blue pool. The buzz on the boat builds as we get closer and closer to the dock.  We land lubbers then jockey to get off the ferry and finally feel our feet touch land again in the sweet knowledge that, at least for awhile, we’ve left, gone, departed, exited, vamoosed.  There are no quick jaunts over a bridge to get back.  No quick turnaround. 

It took awhile to get here. We’ll stay now. 

For the next seven days and nights my world is contained in a grey-shingled ranch, set back from the road, with Adirondack chairs scattered on a shady back porch and a bike path right out front. A special place where my cell phone doesn't always work, or better yet, I turn it off.  Where the newspaper gets delivered by boat, and by the time it arrives I may not care for the latest headlines--just save me the crossword. Where there is no TV (except for the Red Sox) and only one landline phone.  Where a sea breeze can cool down even the hottest of afternoons.  Where a lighthouse in the distance is the most beautiful nightlight I've ever seen.  Where a stack of books awaits me.

Days are filled with bike rides and beach walks and browsing bookstores. Evenings mean dinner off the grill or a fancy meal out. Later there’s time for raucous board games with friends and family around an ancient dining room table.  No set time to go to bed or awaken either.       

I am away.

That is what I love most about island life: being really, truly, fully, away.  All humans desperately need these "away" times: regular and consistent “white space” to sleep and to pray, to sit and to be silent, to listen and spend time with loved ones, to finally just rest and just be. My away escape is an island.  What is yours’?  A lonely cabin in lush green mountains, a tent by the seashore, a hotel room downtown, a hammock in the back yard, or centerfield seats at Fenway Park? 

Place matters less than space: whatever we do or where ever we go away, we just need to give our brains and bodies and spirits a break.  In summer, it is as if we breakneck paced northeasterners finally wake up to this spiritual truth. Remember we all just need to chill out, wind down and so we go away. We must go. 

And then when we gaze up into a jet black night sky with twinkling stars, or hug our kids on the blanket as the sun goes down, or do whatever it is we must do to relax, we  might actually encounter God and the stillness necessary to remember our connection to this big place called Creation.  

 “Be still,” the universe whispers. “Just for awhile.”   

There is something about life on an island.  In these closing days in the summer of 2016, may all of us find our islands, quiet centers in the midst of our far too often cacophonous and crazy lives.  Get away. You’ve still got time.

There, God may be waiting just for you.