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I'm Chris. Seminary student. Aspiring pastor. Creative-type/Adventurer/Goof-ball.

Nuggets from the Rabbi

Nuggets from the Rabbi today:
"A lot of people confuse sexual attraction or the desire to not be alone with love."
"Take it slowly when preaching. Let people digest. Let them breathe and swallow… or your message will be lost."
(Referring to the lineage of the Messiah) “He’s the descendant of incest, adultery, and deception. His heritage is not pure. It will make him sensitive to those on the margins of society. Redemption doesn’t come from purity. It comes from pollution.”
"Every Rabbi has one sermon and he preaches it all his life."

If we think the truth is too shocking, we find a skillful and loving
way to tell the truth. But we have to respect the truth. There are
those who verbally abuse people and make them suffer and then
say, ‘I’m only telling the truth.’ But they tell the ‘truth’ in a violent
and attacking way. Sometimes it can even cause the other person to
feel great suffering….
There can be goodness in suffering, but we don’t want to make the
other person suffer needlessly. We can minimize the shock and the
pain. We try to convey the truth in such a way that other people can
hear us without suffering too much. The important thing is that they
feel safe….
Sometimes you can begin by telling another story, the story of
someone else whose situation is similar to the person you are
speaking to, so that he or she can get accustomed to the idea. It’s
easier to listen to the story of another person…. Sometimes the
person you are speaking to will come to the conclusion
independently and learn from the case of the other person. It takes
a lot of practice to tell the truth in a way that the other person can
hear.

_

Thich Nhat Hanh, “The Art of Communicating,” p.p. 54-56.

This. 100 times over, I wish more people understood this.

Mourning and Night

I’ve been teaching an evening class every Monday at the synagogue where I’m interning (long story) and in the middle of our class we dismiss for 10 minutes to join the evening minyan. Minyan is a short prayer service and this particular congregation gathers every morning and evening outside of the Sabbath.

Tonight I noted a middle aged man and a teenage boy standing at the back of the room who had been to every service I’d seen. Now during each of these services, there is something called a “Mourner’s Kaddish.” This prayer is said only by those who have lost a family member in the last 12 months (or on the commemoration of their death). They stand and speak while the rest of us sit. 

Tonight I happened to glance back at the young man and our eyes met for a moment while he was standing and reciting the prayer.

And it hit me. 

The reason this teenage guy was there was because he had lost his mom.

Now in Judaism, after you lose a parent you’re supposed to say this Mourner’s Kaddish multiple times a day… for a year. The only problem? 

The Mourner’s Kaddish is only supposed to be said among community: Ten or more adult-aged (13+) Jews must be present. 

After the service and the resumption of my class, I asked about the father and son. My helpful class explained that not only did the man and his son come every day, they came every morning and every evening. 

This father had committed to taking his son to minyan for a year, morning and night, to help him mourn. To honor his mother. To pray. 

And they have to do it as a community. They aren’t allowed to mourn completely alone. Their grief is visible and their loss is remembered every single day. 

In such a sad circumstance, it was encouraging to see religion play an active role in guiding these men through their grief and loss. 

It’s these moments that make everything clear. It’s these moments that remind me why religious communities are so important.

We can’t do this alone. 

Our Rabbis taught: Deeds of loving-kindness are superior to charity in three respects: Charity can be accomplished only with money, while deeds of loving-kindness can be accomplished through personal involvement as well as with money. Charity can be given only to the poor, while deeds of loving-kindness can be done for both rich and poor. Charity applies only to the living, while deeds of loving-kindness apply to both the living and the dead.

_ B. Sukkah 49b

Stories from Japan

Back home from Japan and wanted to share a few noteworthy experiences:
1. Was late returning to a tour bus and so it left without me… with my backpack (AH!). So I found myself running two miles through the streets of Kyoto and arrived, sweating and huffing, just as the last agent was about to leave. They got me my bag.
2. Drank sake with new friends at a dive bar full of tired-looking Japanese business men in suits.
3. Borrowed a bike from a temple where I was staying, rode through a sleepy town at 6am to watch the sunrise from a local temple… which ended up not being open yet. Instead, watched the sunrise from a 7-11.
4. Meditated with Zen Buddhist monks in a temple on a holy mountain in a 1200 year old graveyard-forest.
5. Missed my 9-hour overnight bus back to Tokyo, begged my new Japanese friends for a place to sleep, and took a last-minute bullet-train ride the next morning to get to the airport.
6. Wasabi Kit-Kat bars.

Trip to the zoo in the snow. 

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people; first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy.

A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.

A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest -a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us.

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Only a life lived for others is worth living.

_ Excerpt from Albert Einstein’s “The World As I See It.” 

New Article: 3 Roadblocks to Happiness

If you’re feeling a general dissatisfaction, here are a few things you might not be doing.
Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/3-roadblocks-happiness

Got my reservation to backpack the John Muir trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains for 17 days this summer. Truth is these kind of things scare me, but this is the only life I’ve got. #lifeisastory

Got my reservation to backpack the John Muir trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains for 17 days this summer. Truth is these kind of things scare me, but this is the only life I’ve got. #lifeisastory

Whatever you do with your life—whatever you end up achieving or not achieving—the great gift you have in you to give to the world is the gift of who you alone are; your way of seeing things, and saying things, and feeling about things, that is like nobody else’s. If so much as a single one of you were missing, there would be an empty place at the great feast of life that nobody else in all creation could fill.

_ Frederick Buechner

There are many of us who are eager to work for peace, but we don’t have peace within. Angrily we shout for peace, and angrily we shout at the people who, like us, are also for peace. Even people and groups dedicated to peacemaking sometimes fight amongst themselves. If there is no peace in our hearts, there can be no harmony among the peace workers. And if there is no harmony, there is no hope. If we’re divided, if we’re in despair, we can’t serve; we can’t do anything.

_ Thich Nhat Hanh

Corporate Religion

I’ve just noticed a lot of parallels between historical patterns of vested religious organizations and modern corporations: Denial of facts, fear of education, focus on psychological brand loyalty, growth as bottom-line.

The “mom and pop” stores of religion will never be able to compete with the religious establishment, but we can create communities and relationships and ways of approaching religion that have more to do with the person in front of us than a self-serving anti-kingdom that conscripts people into it’s own purposes. 

I want to be part of a grass roots, mustard seed kind of movement with the revolutionary idea that people are more important than what they believe.

If you take the time to listen deeply, time and time again I’m incredibly amazed at the depth of soul people have and the depth of struggle they experience.

_ Rev. Erik Martinez Resly during a guest lecture. Check out his religious community.

Togetherness in this sense is the watchword of our times. It seems that it is more and more a substitute for God. In the great collective huddle, we are desolate, lonely, and frightened. Our shoulders touch, but our hearts cry out for understanding without which there can be for the individual no life, and certainly no meaning.

_ Howard Thurman (via thesanctuariesdc)