Last year, a large psychiatric hospital in Queens opened up a small bookstore a few blocks from my house. The employees are “severely mentally ill adult patients.” I initially began going to buy cheap, second-hand books for $2.00 or less. But I have found myself returning more and more. Why? I finally got it. I return for my soul. I love being with the staff. They are kind, unassuming, and unpretentious. I finally understood why Henri Nouwen became a chaplain for mentally and physically challenged adults at L’Arche. His words below are worth reading slowly. “The first thing that struck me when I came to live in a house for mentally handicapped people was their liking or disliking me had absolutely nothing to do with any of the many useful things I had done until then. Since nobody could read my books, they could not impress anyone, and since most of them never went to. Read more.
For the last two weeks I have been meditating/memorizing Isaiah 53:2-6 and the spirituality of descent of Jesus. Out of a desire to offer a “sincere gift of Himself,” Jesus chose a downward journey of ordinariness, obscurity, rejection and powerlessness. He chose crucifixion. It preaches well but my resistance to death (and thus resurrection) is deep. Contemplating the cross, however, has made me sensitive, at least recently, about the choices I make each day to follow, or not follow, the crucified Jesus. The following are three simple gifts God gave me this past week: 1. I visited one of our core church family members this past week. Their child has Lennox Gestaut Syndrome –www.lgsfoundation.org, a severe type of epilepsy. For the past four years, they have been in and out of hospitals, working with countless doctors and specialists to control their son’s seizures, and carrying full time jobs in the NYC school system. Their son, once. Read more.
The theme for what God is seeking to do in me can be summed up around the work grounded. I am so easily pulled away, seduced into what is easy and popular — like speaking, new projects, getting overextended, doing the easy (be active) rather than think and do the best. Today I am headed for 24 hours alone with God (something now in our Rule of Life as pastoral staff at NLF that we are all to do 1x a month) at a nearby retreat center. They have a hermitage that is both simple and lovely. I have taken it very slow this week, working minimally to compensate for the heavy previous week with the EHS conference. I am feeling refreshed physically and emotionally. Yet I can feel the weight of demands pressing around me — sermon on Eph. 6:10ff for Sunday to prepare, staff issues, running NLF, and the numbers of people. Read more.