Archive for the ‘change management’ Category

Our world and our individual lives are in the process of evolving. It is not a question of rejecting the past but of letting the past flow into the present and letting this process guide us as to how to live in the future. – Jean Vanier, “Becoming Human”

Written by Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

Pope John Paul ll, speaking to church leaders about the mission of the church, once said, “We are not here to guard a museum, but rather to tend and nurture a flourishing garden.” These words, spoken by one of the most popular and influential popes in modern history, eloquently describe the importance of having a healthy, positive attitude toward the constant change that is part of our lives. Referring to the church, his words challenge those who want their church, temple, synagogue, or mosque to remain as they have always known it to be, believing that it should not change in any way.

Life moves. It is not the nature of life to be static. Think about it, has your life ever stopped changing? New things, people, and happenings are constantly coming in and out of our lives. We are personally affected by the continual movement and evolution taking place in the world. Sometimes these changes take place slowly, sometimes in the twinkling of an eye. Have you ever had the experience of looking at an old photo of yourself and trying to remember what you were thinking at that time? It is impossible, because you simply are not there anymore. You have changed and moved on from that place and time. And you will continue to change and to move on from where you are now. It is a good idea to come to terms with this most basic, inescapable fact about life: It moves. Whether you realize it or not, this is a very positive truth. Understanding it is crucial because so much of our struggle comes from our resistance to life’s continuous movement into the future.

Sometimes our response to this constant change is to cling inordinately to people or things, those we already know, those who are already a part of our life, the status quo. Fearing the unknown, which is inherent in all change, we try to hold on to what is familiar as we stand before and uncertain future. Doing this, however, comes with a price. In the words of Jean Vanier:

If we try to prevent, or ignore, the movement of life, we run the risk of falling into the inevitable depression that must accompany an impossible goal. Life evolves; change is constant. When we try to prevent the forward movement of life, we may succeed for a while but inevitably, there is an explosion; the groundswell of life’s constant movement, constant change is too great to resist.

In order to live peacefully in an ever-changing world, three things are essential: a healthy detachment, gratitude, and hope. Detachment can be seen as a decrease in our need to hold on to anyone or anything. It is a way of thinking and being that gives us the freedom to flow with life. Detachment gives us the freedom to be open to new possibilities and newness of life after something in our life changes or dies, even when we don’t understand how that newness will come to be.

Without gratitude, detachment is nothing more than indifference. To live with detachment does not mean that we simply forget and move on from the past as though everything old is bad. As stated in the opening quotation, it is a matter of allowing the past, with its enduring life values and principles – openness, love, wholeness, unity, peace, the human potential for healing and redemption, and most important, the necessity of forgiveness- to flow into the present and become integrated into what is happening today.

Likewise, we do not forget the loving people in our lives when they are separated from us by death, changes in circumstances, or when they can no longer serve our needs. Detachment does not mean that we cast aside material things without a thought when we no longer have use for them. Healthy detachment means that we look upon the people and material things of this life with gratitude. We realize that they are gifts received from a loving God, gifts that will ultimately return to God.

It is only possible to practice authentic detachment when we are in a real relationship with the Living God; and such a relationship is always grounded in hope. It is then that we are able to see and appreciate the people and the good things of this life for what they are. When we really believe that it is God who is leading us, it becomes possible to let go of people and things when the time comes to move on in our life’s journey. In this way, hope helps us to truly love and appreciate these people and things, without being possessed by them. As the words of Ecclesiastes teach us, “For everything there is a time.” The nineteenth-century Christian thinker Soren Kierkegaard, in discussing how hope forms the basis for Judaism and Christianity, described hope as “divinely sanctioned optimism, sheer promise for this life.”

Life will continue to move forward, taking us along with it, whether we like it or not. The point is that we need not be carried along kicking and screaming, fretting over and trying to control every change that comes our way. Through a healthy sense of detachment, with gratitude and hope in our hearts, we can choose to enter peacefully into the flow and evolution of life. Strive to accept life’s constant change, trusting in God’s promise and presence to guide you through all of the changes that you experience.

This article is an excerpt fromLiving at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time, by Charles W. Sidoti with Rabbi Akiva Feinstein.

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By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC, Blog: https://sidoticharles.wordpress.com/

The Wizard of Oz is widely recognized as a story which, on many levels, relates metaphorically to our own life journey.

I have experienced enough of life to realize that there are definite personal advantages to becoming a more patient person. I have made it one of my lifetime goals. I call it a lifetime goal because it may take that long for me to actually become patient. There is nothing wrong with that; it won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, I have made what I consider to be a giant step forward by realizing the great truth that patience is not passive. This powerful spiritual principal is contained in the words of sculptor Auguste Rodin who said, “Patience is also a form of action.” It may be one of the most powerful forms of action we can take. The statement “Patience is also a form of action” represents a radically different way of understanding the meaning of the word “patience.” When someone reminds us that we “need to be patient,” it can cause us to feel frustrated. Being told to “be patient” seems to force us into passivity, a helpless, hopeless desert of waiting. The desert of waiting is created from the erroneous belief that absolutely nothing will happen with regard to our situation unless we personally do it. If I believe this to be true and have reached the end of what is within my control to do, regarding something or someone that I care very much about, then frustration is a completely logical emotion to feel.

To understand how “having patience” can be a form of action, it is first necessary to realize that having patience is about being open to other possibilities regarding the outcome of events or situations in our lives as we stand before an uncertain future. It will require a letting go of the need to receive an immediate answer to our many questions. Patience, in a healthy sense, involves really believing in the existence of a power greater than me and trusting in that power enough to allow it to act upon my situation without my constant interference. To live patiently is to decide that you can live with the questions and let the answers come to you through the unfolding of events.

The classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz is the story of Dorothy Gale’s journey through the beautiful and magical Land of Oz. The purpose of Dorothy’s journey is to see the Wizard who will, hopefully, grant her heart’s desire which is to go home. The Wizard of Oz is widely recognized as a story which, on many levels, relates metaphorically to our own journey through life. If you have seen the film, you may recall the beautiful scene in which Dorothy, after just arriving in Munchkin Land, encounters Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Dorothy has just received instructions from Glinda on how to get to The Emerald City, where The Wizard of Oz lives. She is told to, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” Dorothy walks to the place where the Yellow Brick Road begins, and says aloud to herself, while questioning the strange directive, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road?” Turning to look at Glinda, she asks, “But what happens if I…?” At this point Glinda cuts off Dorothy mid-sentence and with a tinge of sternness in her voice says to Dorothy, “Just follow the Yellow Brick Road.” The Good Witch then floats away and disappears. Dorothy does indeed follow the Yellow Brick Road with her questions yet unanswered. She is able to set the questions aside for the moment. Dorothy is able to trust enough in the counsel she received from Glinda to place her feet upon the Yellow Brick Road and begin her journey through the Land of Oz. We know from the story that the answer to Dorothy’s many questions was given to her through the living out of that journey.

The dialogue between Dorothy and Glinda, especially Dorothy’s response, humbly accepting the directive from Glinda to follow the Yellow Brick Road, is worth further reflection. Dorothy’s response is analogous to that of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her response to the news of the Angel Gabriel that she was to become the mother of Jesus. Luke’s Gospel tells us that Mary was “perplexed” by the angel’s greeting, and further expressed that she did not understand how she could conceive a child in her womb, because she was a virgin. In the end Mary set aside her questions and trusted in a power greater than herself, a power that was beyond her ability to understand. “Mary said, ‘I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.’ With that the angel left her” (Luke 1:38). The answer to Mary’s questions came as she lived out her life’s journey, and in so doing became a central part of salvation history.

Mary’s patience toward getting the answer to her questions was also a form of action, a very radical form of action. Mary’s patience was an acknowledgment of the power of God to act in her life in an unimaginable circumstance. It was at the same time a most profound expression of trust that the word of God spoken to her would be fulfilled. In the same gospel, when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, part of what Elizabeth said to Mary included these words, “Blest is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45). Our lives contain a mixture of events, some of which are good and others that are tragic, that are beyond our ability to understand. God asks us to trust in the midst of these circumstances in the same way Mary and many other figures from Sacred Scripture were called upon to trust. When we choose to practice patience instead of insisting on receiving immediate answers to our questions or to know beforehand “how” God will work things out in our lives, our patience becomes a powerful form of action. The verse from the Book of Proverbs mentioned earlier also applies here, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The contemplative connection: Call to mind a situation in your life to which responding with patient-trust might be appropriate. Accept the anxiety of allowing your questions to go unanswered for now. Ask God to help you to move forward in trust, confident that the answers you seek will be given in the living out of your life. In this way your patience is also a form of action.

——

This article is from “Simple Contemplative Spirituality.” View it on the publisher’s website: http://vesuviuspressincorporated.com/simple-contemplative-spirituality/

The beauty of belief in the “Communion of Saints” is that it serves to remind us of our basic connectedness to one another as human beings, a spiritual connection that transcends death.

This is an excerpt from “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” written by Charles W. Sidoti

Life can be very lonely at times. It is also true, however, that we are never really alone. Something common to many religions is that they have certain men and women whose lives of faith stand out in such a way that they serve as examples for others. Some religions call them saints, while other religions do not, but most have their great men and women whose lives inspire those who read or hear about them. There are also people found in many faith traditions whose life stories, though less well-known than saints, whose lives nonetheless are an inspiration to the faithful. These may be authors, speakers, clergy or lay people. They may simply be caring, courageous people whose life stories serve to lead others on their own spiritual journey. There are people we have known personally, living and deceased, including family members, friends, coworkers and acquaintances, who have helped and taught us in the way of faith. The point is that the lives of others, the famous and the well-known, as well as those in our everyday lives, touch and influence us in deep and meaningful ways.

One of the things I find most beautiful about the Catholic faith is the belief in what is called the “Communion of Saints.” In this theological reflection I will simply share with you what the teaching means to me, and how I integrate this belief into my own spiritual life. The beauty of the Communion of Saints is that it serves to remind us of our basic connectedness to one another as human beings. The Communion of Saints, however, goes a step further by saying that this connectedness is not bound or limited by the power of death. The wonderful message of this teaching is that our love and unconditional regard for one another transcend space time, and even death.

This personal story describes how I found comfort in this teaching in my own life. One day I was sitting in the hospital chapel, praying about something that was worrying me. As I sat there, feeling kind of sorry for myself, I began thinking about the lives of such well-known biblical figures as Moses and Abraham. It occurred to me that they, too, had to live their lives by faith, just like me.

We tend to see such biblical figures as larger than life and living with some mysterious advantage that we don’t have. We may not see them as having the same human limitations with which we live. When we fail to see them as regular people, we limit how helpful their lives and stories can be to us. We sometimes see them as having an inside track to God, kind of like having “the God card” hidden in their back pocket to use when they need it. In reading about them in Scripture, it can seem like God broke through the clouds during their times of crisis to speak with them directly, giving them just the advice they needed. We ignore the fact that God has ways of speaking with us, too, offering the same guidance in our lives. What really set these biblical heroes apart is how receptive (open) they were to Gods message.

The value to us in the lives of the biblical people we look up to is that they were human, that they had to walk in our shoes, really walk our path. The realization that living a life of faith was just as challenging for them as it is for me caused me to feel a connectedness with them. I found myself calling upon “their faith” to come into my being. I literally said these words in a prayer, “Faith of Abraham and Moses, come unto me. Faith of Mary and Joseph, come unto me.” I immediately felt a connection that was both consoling and comforting and that has remained with me. It is a peace that transcends time and space and the separation of religions, a spiritual connection.

Many people, myself included, feel a connection with loved ones or special people who have gone on before us in death. There is a knowledge that comes to us, helping us to know that the love and guidance we enjoyed with these special people did not end with death. Because of physical death, however, the way we experience the relationship changes.

It is not uncommon when talking with people to hear them say that their deceased loved one lives on in their heart. In our daily lives we help, console, comfort, and pray for one another all the time. The teaching on the Communion of Saints acknowledges that the bonds of love, support and connectedness we have with others in this life are not limited in any way. The teaching on the Communion of Saints brings to our conscious awareness that in a transcendent and very meaningful way, we are all connected. We are already one.

Connecting Point: Is there a person, living or dead, young or old, whose life of faith you admire? Or is there someone whose life has been a source of wisdom and guidance that has provided you with direction? Realize and take comfort in knowing that they, like you had to truly live their life by faith. They had no special assistance from God that is not made available to you according to the unique circumstances of your life. Know that the God they prayed to is the same God that hears your prayer today.

Prayer: God of all the holy men and women who have ever lived, help me to realize that love never dies. Help me to feel connected with you and with all of your children. Help me to live in the awareness of the bond of love that exists between you and all people. Help me to know in my heart that we are already one. Amen.

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“With Open Hands” – Free me, Lord, from the inner bondage and endless cycle of what I think needs to happen before I can be happy. Free me, Lord, from my idea of the solution. Help me to wait with open ended, joyful expectation; and help me to experience your peace. Amen. (Charles W. Sidoti)

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

Ever wish you were more able to go with the flow? Have you ever wished you could go through the day without something upsetting your inner peace? It can be very helpful in this regard to think about how well you process the constant change that life provides. How well you process change has a direct relationship to the level of inner peace you experience.

If you’re like most people, you will discover that it is usually easier to talk or philosophize about change than it is to deal with it when it occurs, especially if the change is unwanted or unexpected. When the ground shifts, and life changes, our clear-sightedness and wisdom, so readily available when all is going well, evaporate, and an inner storm arises. For the moment, we may lose our footing, our sense of being in control.

I have begun to realize, however, that the inner storms we sometimes experience are usually naturally occurring events in the process of human growth. The transitional period of life commonly referred to as the midlife crisis is a classic example. Even the sense of losing control can be an important part of the growth process. This insight can be the beginning of a healing process, one that can help us to loosen our grip on the steering wheel of life. An ongoing personal transition can then begin to take place—a transition from fear to trust. If we can somehow manage to remain open, resisting the urge to panic, we will begin to realize that there really is a higher power that remains in control when the things we can do come to an end.

Famous American Catholic writer Thomas Merton, describes the need to feel that you are in control as “a need to see the future before it happens.” This is something many of us try to do even though we know that it is impossible. As we gradually learn to trust, our “need to see” starts to become less powerful in our lives. Merton goes on to say,

 Realizing that you don’t need to see—is seeing, and it can be a very clear form of sight (Thomas Merton – The Mystic Life).

This “realizing” can be a very slow process, but just knowing that an inner transformation is taking place is, in itself, healing. It is true to say that the healing each of us desires is being born out of the various struggles of our individual lives, out of the very ground upon which we stand. The more we are able to be attentive to what is happening in our lives in this present moment, the more we will be open and available to receive the gift of inner healing that God desires to bestow upon us.

Becoming a person who is better able to go with the flow is proportional to our level of trust. Trust that the changes that occur in our lives are not just random, chaotic events, as they sometimes seem to be. Trust that there’s more to life than meets the eye.

Connecting Point: Believing there is more to life than meets the eye opens the door to the personal realization that life is a sacred journey. It enables you to see beyond the outward appearance of things and to trust in what is yet to come. Trusting that there is more to life than meets the eye is a prerequisite to living a life of hope, making it possible to go with the flow.

Prayer: Lord, it is obvious that there is much more going on in life than what I am aware of. Help me to believe that “more” is you. Enable me to trust in your work in my life enough to not need to see today that which you are preparing for my tomorrow. Amen.

____________

This reflection is an excerpt from ,”Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” https://www.amazon.com/Living-Gods-Speed-Healing-Time/dp/158595831X

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The whole point of practicing a religion or of having a spiritual outlook toward life is to help us to connect spiritually with God, other people, and the world around us. 

This article is an excerpt from, Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Timewritten by Charles W. Sidoti and Rabbi Akiva Feinstein

My father, Charles B. Sidoti was one of the most peaceful people I have ever known; he was also one of the most hospitable. On good terms with everyone, he always greeted people with a friendly smile. Everyone liked my dad. I think it was because he made them feel comfortable.

I recall times from my childhood when we would be on an elevator together or standing in line waiting our turn to get into some type of event. Dad would often initiate a conversation with someone standing nearby. He felt comfortable enough to speak to a total stranger just to be friendly. He would make a comment about the weather or some current event. Often the conversation included a corny joke and laughter. Most people responded to him so well that I would eventually have to pull at his hand to get him away from the person he was talking to so we could get to where we were going. In his own simple way, Dad was able to achieve almost instant familiarity with strangers by breaking the silence that so often keeps us apart. It was a sincere and natural form of hospitality that I try to emulate in my own life.

Much of our time is spent in close proximity to other people. Things like going to school or work, shopping at the grocery store, or going to a place of worship. All of these things bring us into close contact with others. Yet much of the time, we only really engage with those we already know or happen to work directly with. We may greet a stranger, but often that is just in passing, a fleeting acknowledgment while we continue on our way to something or someone else. To a great extent, this is completely natural and perfectly fine. We cannot expect to actively engage and interact with every stranger we walk by or happen to cross paths with. But it is worth some self-examination as to how open or closed we are to receiving strangers into our life. There is a strong spiritual implication found in the way we relate to strangers.

The whole point of practicing a religion or of having a spiritual outlook toward life is to help us to connect spiritually with God, other people, and the world around us. Genuine hospitality is one of the keys to authentic spiritual growth in that it helps us to connect with other people. Practicing hospitality leads to the expansion of our conscious awareness beyond our own familiar environment, reaching out to others in their world and welcoming them into ours.

People respond to hospitality. Have you ever experienced a day when you felt so good inside it showed on your face? Maybe something really good happened to you, or something you had been looking forward to was about to happen. For whatever reason, on that day you had a smile on your face, a distinctive glow about you, and you cheerfully greeted others. On such a day, the world seems to be a friendlier place. It isn’t your imagination; there is a reason why you experience the world differently when you feel good. Recall the old adage “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.” Often dismissed as trivial or trite, most clichés actually contain a kernel of truth that can direct us to an important life principal. This one certainly does. When you feel good, you give off positive vibrations that people perceive, and they are therefore naturally drawn to you. When you are angry or otherwise feeling bad, you give off negative vibrations, and people are naturally repelled. Think about it; Do enjoy being around someone who smiles, is friendly, open and welcoming? Or do you like to be around someone who is often very intense, complaining, and frowning much of the time?

Important spiritual insights can come from all parts of life, even from the animal world. On my way to work one morning, I observed a bumper sticker that creatively focused on the importance of communicating positively with others. It said, “Wag more, bark less.” I instantly thought of a dog, as you most likely did. This simple statement contains a great truth that can be very helpful to us if taken to heart. Dogs have a way of winning people over. Not all people of course; there are some people who simply don’t like dogs, and it is okay if you are one of those people. But by and large, people like dogs. The reason is that dogs communicate unconditional love in the friendly affection they naturally give and so freely convey to humans. Dogs relate so well to people that they are used for therapy in hospitals and nursing homes. Petting a dog, or simply being around one, has been shown to lower blood pressure and lift the human spirit.

When a dog wags its tail in our presence, it is communicating with us in a visible and powerful way. It is conveying its inward happiness in a way that we instantly understand. Most often we respond by petting the dog or speaking kindly to it. The opposite happens when a dog barks or growls at us. It is conveying its displeasure, again in a way that we instantly understand. We react by moving away or by protecting ourselves in some way. As humans, we do the very same thing, just differently. We, like dogs, express our inner feelings in a visible way that others instantly understand. We do it through our facial expressions, body language, and speech; and they have the same powerful effect as the dog wagging its tail or barking.

In large part a dog’s hospitable nature is built in; they are hardwired, pre-programed, to be friendly. Compared to people, dogs are simple, uncomplicated creatures. But that does not mean we cannot learn a valuable lesson from them. For some humans, like my father, hospitality also seems to come naturally. The rest of us have to work at it. Learning to practice hospitality can be challenging.

One reason it may be difficult for us to reach out to others is that in our human brokenness, caused by past hurts or rejections, we may have come to believe that we have nothing to offer. We may believe that our attempts to reach out to others will be rejected. The truth is otherwise. This world is full of people who would love and welcome your expression of hospitality. It may take courage, and yes, there is always the risk of rejection. Not everyone responded favorably to my father’s hospitable nature, but most people did. There is certainly a risk involved in reaching out, but the benefits you stand to reap make it a risk worth taking.

God is hospitable. If it is true that hospitality is vital to human interactions and relationships, it follows that it would be an important part of how God chooses to relate to us. It is clear in many places in the Bible that God acts with incredible hospitality toward human beings. For instance, the book of Genesis (17:1-24) tells the story of Abraham, who at the age ninety-nine undergoes circumcision, and needless to say, has a very difficult healing period. Though he likely received many human visitors to help comfort him in his pain, the Bible tells us that he was visited by none other than God. In the story, God does not simply bestow a blessing, or even send a miraculous cure, but instead graces Abraham with a personal visit.

More than a moving story, this becomes the basis for the biblical commandment to visit the sick. Sacred Scripture is filled with examples of God’s hospitality toward humankind and all of creation. In Judaism, Rav Dimi Of Nehardea, in the Talmud, said: Hachnasat orchim, Hebrew for the welcoming of guests, “is more important than study, or even the worship of God.” The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy once commented on the command to welcome the stranger:  “Love the stranger and the sojourner, Moses commands, because you have been strangers in the land of Egypt.” In Christianity, Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of God-like hospitality for us to follow. We can draw enormous personal benefit by finding ways to imitate God’s hospitality, found so often in Sacred Scripture, in our daily interactions with others.

God’s hospitality is not only found in the pages of the Bible, but is readily visible in the way the world is created. Sure, life is difficult and full of challenges, but it is also filled with things that did not have to be made so good, so tasty, so enjoyable, for any other conceivable purpose than to show God’s divine hospitality to the world’s inhabitants.

So much in this world seems to have been tailor-made for human enjoyment. The way something is created (designed) often expresses the hospitality of the creator. Consider something as simple as a banana. The potassium, other nutrients, and the relatively few calories found in this fruit could easily be provided in a tiny, tasteless berry that you could pop into your mouth. But instead, God wanted to put a lot more into the package. It is made not only to be healthy; a banana has a lovely sweet taste that does not have to be there. Next, any eater of a banana would need to know when it is ripe, so included in its packaging is a “high-tech” color sensor that tells you, to the day, when it is ready to be eaten. If you don’t have a plastic bag to protect your food when you toss it into your knapsack on the way to work, a banana has a built-in carrying case. It can be eaten by anyone from a baby to an adult human or a hungry monkey, due to its ease in being mashed up our cut into bite-size pieces.

There is a beautiful Christian song, written by Dawn Thomas, called “That’s How Much I Love You.” It’s like a love song by God to us, about how all the beautiful things in creation were made out of God’s love for us: “The mountains fair, the beautiful oceans are there to remind you I can satisfy your every need. That’s how much I love you, that’s how much I want you to know that you are my child, and you mean so much to me.” Max Ehrmann’s great poem “Desiderata” explores the individual’s place in creation, but it concludes with advice about the need for happiness:

“With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Do the best you can to put this advice into practice by reaching out in hospitality to others, in your own unique way, even though you may be hurting inside. This won’t solve all your problems, but it will not add to them in the way having a bad temperament or openly displaying a bad mood often does. When we “wag more and bark less,” feelings of isolation and separateness slowly begin to lose their grip. People respond to us differently because we are more pleasant to be around.

Connecting Point: Nurturing a spirit of sincere hospitality within yourself can be very helpful in discovering the wonderful person God created you to be. Hospitality is very much an attribute of God. Growing to be more God-like, acting in union (more often) with God’s creative love and welcoming spirit, can only lead us closer to God, to others, and to all of God’s creation.

Prayer: Gracious God, Creator of all that is, help me to hear and respond to your welcoming call, your gentle embrace in my life, and to respond with that same love toward others. Give me the courage to reach out to other people, in their world, and to sincerely welcome them into mine. Help me to realize that everyone I meet is truly my brother or sister and you are God of us all. Amen.

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One of the greatest examples of pursuing the unknown end is the very existence of the United States of America.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

You may be old enough to remember the 1960s television game show “Let’s Make a Deal,” hosted by Monty Hall. A hallmark of the show was that people in the audience would dress in silly and outrageous outfits trying to get the host’s attention in hopes of becoming the next contestant. The person selected to be a contestant would win a small amount of cash.  He or she could either keep the cash or risk losing it for, “What is behind door number 1, door number 2, or door number 3.” Often the hidden prize was worth much more than what the contestant had traded away. At other times, however, a worthless gag prize, known on the show as a “Zonk,” was revealed. Receiving a Zonk prize ended the game for the unlucky contestant.

The same type of drama behind the success of “Let’s Make a Deal,” namely, the need to let go of something, risking what we already have for the possibility of obtaining something better, often gets played out in our real lives. It happens when we agonize over important choices. We may need to decide whether to leave our current job to take another that we have been offered. A husband and wife may ponder a question such as, “Should we risk the money that we have saved for so long to start a business? What if it fails?” The decision of whether to leave a current relationship or to enter into a new one is yet another example of how the “Let’s Make a Deal” scenario gets played out in real life. The struggle we often face in making important life choices is that we must let go of something, trade it away in the hope of trading up, with the ever present fear of getting “Zonked.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes’ words “Have faith and pursue the unknown end” does not mean that we should throw all caution to the wind. There is real risk involved in letting go of what we already have in order to take hold of something else; something that may or may not be better. Yet this is precisely how much of life works. We must be able to live and to act with enough trust to take reasonable risks from time to time, if our life is to be the adventure it is intended to be. Sometimes living out the words of this fortune will mean our choosing to actively pursue an unknown end. At other times it will involve allowing or simply accepting the fact that an event or situation has an end that is, at least for now, unknown.

The career decision to pursue board certification in professional chaplaincy meant my entering upon a path with an unknown end. I recall reading about the requirements for certification set forth by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC). They seemed so lofty, and the road to meeting those requirements looked so long. It even appeared unattainable from where I stood. When I took my first step toward certification I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t know if I will ever get there, but I am going to do this anyway.”

One of the greatest examples of pursuing the unknown end is the very existence of the United States of America. The founders of our nation in breaking away from British rule and establishing “a government by the people for the people” could not possibly have known if their dream would ever be realized. Establishing a nation in which individual freedom, liberty, and justice would form the foundation of government was a radical and dramatic act. It seems that the older I get the more authentically patriotic I become. I am proud to be a part of the great experiment of democracy that is the United States of America. The freedom from tyranny that its very existence represents, and which we enjoy, is the fulfillment of a dream of those that came before us. It is the fruit born of those who labored long ago and had the courage to pursue the unknown end; the end result was our country.

Jesus’ life on earth bears powerful witness to living out the words, “Have faith and pursue the unknown end.” He once said to some unsuccessful fishermen on a lake, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Luke 5: 4). They reluctantly did as he instructed. The result was that they caught so many fish that the catch nearly sank their two boats. These same fishermen became Jesus’ first disciples. Most of us are not fishermen or women, and yet the words that Christ spoke to them speak just as powerfully and directly to us today. The term deep water is often used as a metaphor to represent the unknown, the mysterious part of life. In our life’s journey, if we are to discover what God has prepared for us, we must sometimes prayerfully discern putting out into the deep water and casting our nets.

Putting the words of this quotation into action will require accepting the reality that most of life is a mystery. Of the many paths you have already trodden, how many ends were actually known to you at the outset? The truth is we don’t really know how most things in life will ultimately turn out. Our vocation, our job, our children’s lives, practically every pursuit in life has an unknown end. Nothing is guaranteed. The words “have faith” in Holmes’ statement make all the difference. Faith provides us with confidence to live secure in the midst of all of life’s unknowns. Faith reveals the real presence of God at work in our lives. As we continue to grow spiritually on our journey through life, the “unknown ends” will eventually become less of a problem and more a source of adventure.

The Contemplative Connection: We walk down many paths throughout our lives, many of which, at least for a time, have an unknown end. Ask God to help you to accept the initial anxiety that comes with not knowing the end beforehand and to eventually replace that anxiety with trust.

This article is an excerpt from my book “Simple Contemplative spirituality.”  – Click below to view and / or purchase on the publishers website: http://vesuviuspressincorporated.com/simple-contemplative-spirituality/ http://vesuviuspressincorporated.com/simple-contemplative-spirituality/

This book is “Traditionally Published

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Each one of us has our own personal Egypt.  We are enslaved by whatever negative power grips our hearts, preventing us from becoming the people God calls us to be.

This article is an excerpt from “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time,” by Charles W. Sidoti, BCC and Rabbi Akiva Feinstein.

One of the keys to a more peaceful life is learning when to allow oneself to be led and when to take life by the horns. Both of these inner-actions are necessary at different times. As we reach a point within ourselves where we are able to live in the middle, between the tensions of when to relinquish control and when to assume it, we will have reached a place where real spiritual growth becomes possible. We discover a kind of rhythm or dance of life in which we sometimes follow and sometimes seem to lead. In both actions we are active participants in life.

In my daily work coordinating a hospital spiritual care department, my job is to provide for the spiritual needs of all faith groups. The program serves patients, their families, and also the hospital staff. The hospital not having an official religious affiliation has been a source of blessing for me. Although I am Catholic, I have become knowledgeable about many spiritual traditions in order to serve each of them well. One of the most powerful insights I have learned involves the Jewish celebration of the Festival of Passover, also referred to in the Jewish tradition as “The Festival of Our Freedom.”

Through my association with Jewish friends and colleagues and in researching the significance of Passover, I have found great spiritual meaning in seeing Passover as a distinct action and gift of God in human history before the establishment of Christianity. Researching Passover has enabled me to see it from a different perspective, thus gaining a new appreciation for it.

The Jewish Festival of Passover is a joyful time, primarily retelling and remembering the story of the exodus of the Jewish people from both the physical and spiritual slavery of the Egyptians some 5000 years ago. The story is symbolically re-told in the Seder meal that is observed with the whole family during the festival that lasts several days.

The great Jewish phrase that captures the spiritual meaning is, “We were slaves to the Pharaohs in Egypt, but the Lord led us out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 26:8). I have learned that the message of Passover, “God leads his people”, is not only about what happened in Egypt 5000 years ago. The message for us is that “Egypt” is in our own hearts. Each one of us has our own personal Egypt. The inner slavery of loneliness, depression, anxiety, addiction, jealousy, lust, hate, anger, prejudice, violence, abuse, and countless other chains can hold us in bondage. We are enslaved by whatever negative power grips our hearts, preventing us from becoming the people God calls us to be.  The same God who led his people out of Egypt “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” wants to lead us out of the Egypt of our own closed hearts today so that we may live in the freedom of the children of God. With God’s help we can open up and allow ourselves to be led.

As a Christian I have found it helpful and interesting to observe that The Last Supper actually occurred on the first day of the Passover Festival. I feel a special connectedness with my Jewish brothers and sisters as I wonder if at the Last Supper, Jesus was observing the Passover meal, sharing the Seder Meal with his friends for the final time.

Opening my heart to the Jewish celebration of the Festival of Passover has been powerful and insightful. It has been and remains a tremendous source of comfort and healing in my own spiritual journey.

Connecting Point:  The same God that led the Jewish people out of the slavery of Egypt so many years ago, holding out “a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,” reaches out to you today. It is your responsibility to reach back (in prayer) to God in response. God wants to lead you into freedom from whatever grips your heart (fear, anxiety, anger, resentment), preventing you from becoming the person that God created you to be.

Prayer: Loving God, as you have always revealed your presence to your people, reveal yourself to me. Help me to reach out to hold the hand you offer to me. Lead me to the freedom of mind and heart that you desire to give me, and help me to accept it into my life.

 Traditionally Published

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