Living Your Eulogy

Thank you


This morning I read an article by Arianna Huffington entitled Are You Living Your Eulogy or Your Resume? She begins by reflecting on President Obama’s remarks at the Memorial Service for those who were killed in the shooting at the Washington Naval Yard and how the President remembered those who were lost. She goes on to say, “Have you noticed that when people die, their eulogies celebrate life very differently from the way we define success in our everyday existence?”

The question is an important one.
While I think most of us want to do our jobs well and to be respected for the work we do, who we are and what is most important is found someplace other than Monday-Friday, 9:00-5:00. It is found in the relationships we form and the values which shape our character. It is found in the small things, that over time add up to be the big things. Tutoring. Coaching. Visiting an elderly neighbor. Being generous. Being a friend. Treating others with respect. Being conscientious.

Years ago I saw a bumper sticker that read: Live so the preacher won’t have to lie at your funeral. Good advice. When everyone comes back from the cemetery except you, what do you want those who gathered to remember and to say about you?
Live that way today.


With Eyes to See

fall leaves


The story goes like this…
Once upon a time, a preacher ran through the streets of the city shouting, “We must put God in our lives. We must put God in our lives.” Upon hearing him, a wise, old woman who spent much of her time sitting in the city plaza observing what was happening around her and watching those who past by said, “Sir, with all due respect, you are wrong. You see, God is already in our lives. Our task is to simply recognize it.”

Whether the word you use/the understanding your have is…
God or Spirit or Allah or The Holy or Ground of Being or Higher Power or whatever, the story is true. God is already here.
Already within you. Already among us.
All we have to do is to recognize it.

But, that is the hard part, right?
The recognition.
Taking the time…
Having the eyes…
To see.
In the midst of the busyness and the responsibility or the challenges of life as it is for us it is, sometimes it is hard to see what is around us or within us or between us. But, even if we don’t “see,” for whatever reason in the particular moment that we have right now, maybe we can remember the wisdom of old woman in the plaza and still claim the knowledge that God is present.

Remember When…

twin towers


This morning my Facebook News Feed is a stream of comments and pictures from 12 years ago. About this time in the morning (9:15) we had just heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Another plane would follow. Then the news of a plane crashing into the Pentagon and another into a field in Pennsylvania. That day was not all that different than today. Blue skies. Few clouds. Early fall. For those of us living in the New York City area it is hard not to remember where we were when we heard the news and what the rest of that day was like. All of us knew someone who died or know a family that lost a loved one.
But one of the things that is different today…
At least for me…
Is that the anger and shock of 12 years ago has been replaced by a sadness and an even deeper longing for a better understanding between people.

The front doors of our sanctuary are unlocked every day with an invitation for people to take a moment to walk in and to sit quietly, but today our doors are standing wide open as both an invitation and a sign of hope.

Confronting Syria

helping others


On of the quotes that is written on a file folder that often sits on my desk is by Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi for the British Commonwealth.  It reads:
“We cannot get to heaven by creating hell on earth.”
What is happening in Syria (and other places as well) is hell on earth.
Governments debate possible responses.
Most of which, it seems to me, only adds to the hell we are creating.
Most of us, weary of war and news from the Middle East, just want to turn away.

I can’t do anything about the Syrian civil war and the atrocities being committed by both sides, but rereading Rabbi Sacks quote I realized that I can do something. If we can create hell on earth, we can also create heaven on earth.  And, what I can do is to do my part to help create some small piece of heaven. Somewhere. Somehow. And, to do so with all of the awareness and conviction and intentionality I can muster. To purposefully create heaven in outright defiance of those who are doing their best to create hell.

A glass of water shared with someone who is thirsty may not seem like much in the face of nerve gas and bombs. But it is something. It is facing forward and not just turning away. It is grabbing hold of heaven and refusing to let go.

Bombs Away or Thinking About Syria



A moment ago the United States Senate Foreign Relations Panel approved a resolution to be considered by the full Senate which would grant President Obama permission for military action against Syria.  I don’t quite know where to begin to think about and to respond to what is happening.  At this point, all I have is a collection of somewhat random thoughts:

  • If Bashar al-Assad is crazy enough or desperate enough or sane  enough (see Thomas Merton’s essay entitled The Sanity of Adolf Eichmann) to use poison gas on the citizens of his own country what makes us think that some type of limited military action is going to change how he thinks or influence how he acts?
  • I wish there were the same press coverage about the growing humanitarian crisis that the civil war in Syria has created. And, instead of nations debating about whether or not to take some type of military action, we were debating how best to meet the overwhelming needs that the war has created and how best to support those countries who are shouldering the burden of hundreds of thousands of refugees.
  • Along the same line, I wish countries were tripping over each other to see who could offer the most help to those who find themselves in such desperate need.
  • If we want to have a long term positive influence in that part of the world, how do we best do that?  By bombing or by offering substantial aid that protects and serves and meets the needs of the most vulnerable?
  • And, what is the real moral difference between poison gas which kills the innocent and “shock and awe” bombing which does the same?  This way to kill innocent people is okay, but this way to kill the same number of innocent people is not okay. I am not sure I see the real distinction. Shouldn’t we be saying that the indiscriminate killing of innocent people is NOT okay?  But, we can’t say that, can we because we would then have to admit our own guilt and complicity, and we are not willing to do that.

As I said…
Disconnected reflections held together only by my deep sadness that we are so enamored by position and power that we refuse to find a better way.

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