Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Finding Time

I keep thinking that I will find time to reflect well on the actions which fill my life these days, and to read, write, and to ride my bicycle. And here I am on the brink of the last month of the year and I have read relatively little. written relatively little, ridden sparingly (by my standards), and not engaged in a level of contemplation that moves me more than a few inches below the surface of appearances and conventional thought.

Of course, there is always plenty of time. If I have not had time it is because I have not taken time, made time, carved out the spaces for the reading, reflection, writing and riding that bring me both joy and put me uniquely in touch with creative resources. Time is not the issue. Choices and discipline is the issue.

We find time for what we want to do or feel we need to do, do we not? Over 2016, I have felt and responded to the need to respond proactively to the numerous community development opportutnities and challenges before the organization I lead, to respond to the opporunities and challenges of the congregation I serve, to respond to family opportunities and challenges, to respond to nonprofit community service opportunities and challenges of the causes I deeply care for, etc. The "free time" I have had is the limited marginal time between these primary concerns. Still, that represents a significant amount of time.

I am grateful for meaningful opportunities and challenges that call for my time. I am grateful to work in areas of my passion: community development, impacting the city I love and call home, cultivating a fragile urban community of faith, investing in social enterprises that change can change the trajectory of lives. I have thrown myself--and my time--into these over these eleven months. My investment of time and energy is much of my expressed mission and prayer.

And yet. And yet, I feel I am also called to reflect and to write. And the joy of cycling is somehow integrated into these callings. This part of my sense of calling has taken a back seat to the calling to what Parker J. Palmer and the Quakers call "the active life" thus far this year. But, on the eve of December, I feel strongly the call read, to reflect, to write, and to ride with renewed focus.

Will I "find time" for these disicplines, these actions over the next month? Will I forego time wasters and whatever idleness that robs my soul of these valued sources of soul sustenance and growth? I will if I so choose. This blog piece may well be the first expression of this dscipline.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
www.indybikehiker.com
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker
indybikehiker@gmail.com

WAKE-UP CALL OF ADVENT

Nazi resistor Alfred Delp saw in Advent a call for radical awakening from self-sabotage


WAKE UP, O SLEEPER.  Father Alfred Delp was condemned as a traitor for his resistance to the regime of Adolf Hitler and hanged in a Nazi prison in 1945.  Shortly before his execution, the Jesuit priest wrote a piece now titled "The Shaking Reality of Advent" (reprinted in Watch for the Light).

To one who was going through such fire, Advent was no serene welcoming.   It was a radical shaking to awake out of a self-sabotaging, illusory sleep.  At the same time, Delp points out that awakened ones should not now act anxiously or rashly.  Instead, live and act in anticipation of the next Advent and the surpassing value and new order it brings.  Here are a few excerpts:

TIME TO GO TO WORK. "If we want to transform life again, if Advent is truly to come again -- the Advent of home and of hearts, the Advent of the people and the nations, a coming of the Lord in all this -- then the great Advent question for us is whether we come out of these convulsions with this determination: yes, arise! It is time to awaken from sleep. It is time for the waking up to begin somewhere. It is time to put things back where God the Lord put them. It is time for each of us to go to work, with the same unshakable sureness that the Lord will come, to set our life in God's order wherever we can. Where God's word is heard, he will not cheat our life of the message; where our life rebels before our own eyes he will reprimand it."

THOSE WHO LOOK TO THE LORD.  "The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by him, even if they are hounded from the earth."

A TIME FOR RENUNCIATION.  "Advent is a time when we ought to be shaken and brought to a realization of ourselves.  The necessary condition for the fulfillment of Advent is the renunciation of presumptuous attitudes and alluring dreams in which and by means of which we always build ourselves imaginary worlds.  In this way we force reality to take us to itself by force -- by force, in much pain and suffering."

A TIME OF PROMISE.  "At the same time, there is much more that belongs to Advent.  Advent is blessed with God's promises, which constitute the hidden happiness of this time.  These promises kindle the inner light in our hearts.  Being shattered, being awakened -- only with these is life made capable of Advent.  In the bitterness of awakening...the golden threads that pass between heaven and earth in these times reach us."

WE HAVE RECEIVED A MESSAGE.  Delp describes three promises we receive in Advent: (1) the angels annunciation, "speaking their message of blessing into the midst of anguish, scattering their seed of blessing that will one day spring up amid the night, call us to hope...  Advent is a time of inner security because it has received a message."  Delp challenges each of us to be such an angel of annunciation wherever possible.

DO WE HAVE A READY HEART?  The second promise of Advent is (2) the blessed woman: "Advent's holiest consolation is that the angel's annunciation met with a ready heart.  The Word became flesh in a motherly heart and grew out far beyond itself into the world of God-humanity."  Delp compares Mary's readiness and bearing of a great truth, a great liberation, to our own lives: "We must remember today with courage that Mary foreshadows the light in our midst.  Deeper down in our being, our days and our destinies, too, bear the blessing and mystery of God.  The blessed woman waits, and we must wait too until her hour has come."

WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY.  The third promise of Advent is found (3) in the voice and message of John the Baptist: "These John the Baptist characters...cry for blessing and salvation.  They summon us to our last chance, while already they feel the ground quaking and the rafters creaking and see the firmest of mountains tottering inwardly...They summon us to the opportunity of warding off, by the greater power of the converted heart, the shifting desert that will pounce upon us and bury us."

JUST BEYOND THE HORIZON.  "Space is still filled with the noise of destruction and annihilation, the shouts of self-assurance and arrogance, the weeping of despair and helplessness.  But just beyond the horizon the eternal realities stand silent in their age-old longing.  There shines on us the first mild light of the radiant fulfillment to come... It is all far off still, and only just announced and foretold.  But it is happening..."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Moving Toward Thanksgiving

This holiday is for all that we
Take for granted,
Assume as a given,
Absent-mindedly overlook,
Claim as our God-given right.

This holiday if for all those we
Unnecessarily criticize,
Agitate with our demands,
Impatiently rush,
Regularly impose upon.

This holiday is for all that we
By-pass in our drivenness,
Go out of our way to avoid,
Carelessly forget,
Thoughtlessly leave out.

This holiday is for all things we
Receive as gracious gifts,
Share as common ground,
Express as transcendent grace,
Return in praise to God.



Poem Notes

My thoughts are moving toward Thanksgiving and its essential meanings. But boiling down the essence of a particular holiday is dangerous. By the time one distills it down to one thing, it has lost is savor--it's flat, one-dimensional. One will have a point, but have missed the larger, broader experience in the process.

Thanksgiving, like other holidays, is multi-faceted, a layered tradition with rich tributaries. But, like other holidays, commercialism tends to twist or bury primary meanings and overwhelm traditions. For example, who would ever have imagined eating Thanksgiving dinner in front of the TV, watching an NFL game? Two American traditions collide and the primary one yields. Or, they both morph into something new.

I will likely watch some of the NFL action on Thursday. I also hope we play a little backyard football. But I was thinking of the tendency to lose primary meanings and spiritual growth opportunities of Thanksgiving when I penned this poem.


John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 
www.indybikehiker.com 
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker 
indybikehiker@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Star Spangled Sit-Down

It's been a few weeks since San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick did not stand--astonishingly--for the National Anthem before a preseason NFL game. Everyone's weighed in by now. Sides have been taken. Presumptions have been made. Condemnations declared. Justifications defended.

At the next game, Kaepernick chose not to sit, but to kneel, prayer-like. More reactions. More punditry.

I've bided my time, for the most part. Now it's my turn, or at least the turn I'm taking.

In the form of Tweets (extended a bit), here's what I'm thinking, how I'm responding:
  • If one hadn't heard of 'cultural religion,' Kaepernick's choice to defy one of its sacrosanct rituals introduces its power. Worth Googling and digging deeper.
  • For many people, American 'cultural religion' more controls personal and collective behavior than Christian religion, or at least trumps it. Thus, routine capitulation to 'just war' and suspending Biblical precept for national principle.
  • Poets and protesters have long challenged American cultural religion, from Mark Twain ('War Prayer') to Langston Hughes. It's a tradition not to be taken--or dismissed--lightly. Not sure Kaepernick is in this league, but it IS a time-honored league.
  • Instead of blindly condemning or defending Kaepernick's choice, explore anew your own desire for a better America--and how you express it. Hopefully there is something about America you find worth protesting to correct or make better. Against the tide of apathy or ignorance, if you were called upon to take a stand (or a sit), what would you do?
  • For me, standing for the National Anthem is how we signal--regardless of deep injustices and with a long way to go--we are one, indivisible. It's about all of us in spite of some of us. It's our moment--perhaps the only moment--we have together as a ragtag melting pot trying express life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  • I may hesitate when I stand for the National Anthem, but I DO stand. My stand may not mean what it means to others. To me, it expresses my hope. For me, my hesitation is that since I learned as a child to stand for the National Anthem and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, I became a person of deep faith--a radical, if you please. My sense of faithfulness to what I now understand of authentic Christian faith eclipses and often runs counter to American doctrine and cultural religion. To be authentically Christian makes it difficult to be blindly American. Still, I stand for the National Anthem. As I stand, I pray in hope that "the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ."
So, Colin, sit, or kneel. You're in good company. I'm with you in your protest of undue law enforcement violence against black citizens. I'll stand with you in making changes. My Christian faith and the justice for the oppressed it stands for compels me to work for change. But please consider another kind of protest. This uniquely American moment, once it is diminished by one protest and cause after another, may lose its signal of hope to draw us together for higher purposes.


John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
www.indybikehiker.com
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker
indybikehiker@gmail.com

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Crash Helmets for God Seekers


“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return. ” - Annie Dillard

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
www.indybikehiker.com
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

When 'Pray For Orlando' Rings Hollow

In addition to being a community advocate, I also serve a United Methodist congregation  (East Tenth UMC, Indy). To this point, I have avoided using "prayer" in response to the massacre of gay citizens in Orlando. Don't count me with those who choose offer prayers and hope things get better somehow. They won't--not without nonviolently-focused anger and deliberate actions that bring change.

I grieve that "prayer" has come to mean, for some, a passive reaction or an excuse or cover up for inaction. As such, prayer rings hollow and is foreign to the heritage of Biblical faith.

But in the best tradition in the church, when we say "pray for... [a person or a financial need or a problem]," we know it means: "Respond! Become an answer to the prayer request. Help out. Open your wallet. Visit the sick. Share food. Don't acquiesce to injustice. Stand with those who are being persecuted. Make a difference."

We believe this is how God and people of faith have acted in the past and how we reflect God's mercy and justice today. To do less simply reflects functional atheism.

If you want to pray for wisdom in how best to act in response to tragedies like Orlando, do so (this is the essence of the practice of contemplative prayer). Just don't not respond redemptively. Don't just offer prayers. Make your life a prayer.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
www.indybikehiker.com
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker
indybikehiker@gmail.com

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Summer Blessing

Though the official start of summer is two weeks away, Memorial Day weekend was for most folks the unofficial kick-off. So, looking forward, here's my homemade blessing for your summer:

May summer warm your soul.

May you, like all plant life, flourish.

May you absorb life in these months.

May you find
work fulfilling,
play renewing,
relationships reconciling,
faith deepening.


May you return in your heart
to the beach,
to the campground,
to the drive-in,
to the garden;
to friendships
to sports fields,
to forests,
and far-off places
that fueled imagination
and freedom to explore.


May you once again be changed
in a season of life called summer 
and grow in response to the sun.


John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 
www.indybikehiker.com 
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker 
indybikehiker@gmail.com

Monday, May 23, 2016

Reclaim Memorial Day from Militarism

The shift from honoring our war dead to ogling death machinery and lusting after militarism is subtle but powerful


[My post has been published as a "Letter to the Editor" in the Indianapolis Star around Memorial Day in 2005, 2008, and 2012]

The National Medal of Honor Memorial in Indianapolis
I love how Indianapolis pulls out all the stops on Memorial Day weekend.  With the eyes of the world on our city on Sunday, there's plenty of pageantry and patriotic fervor to spread around.  No city has a greater responsibility, then, to accurately frame what Memorial Day honors.

As it is currently observed, however, the holiday appears to be mostly a celebration of American military prowess.  Military might is prominent at all our big events, from military bands and troops marching in parade to the latest military hardware proudly on display to a bone-rattling fly-over of military jets at the singing of our national anthem before the race begins.

Of all places, the praise of militarism is included and embedded in official public prayers offered at numerous memorial and spectator events. Ordained ministers of the Gospel, who should know better, routinely give thanks for and invoke God's blessing carte blanche on America's war machine. Do they do this sincerely?  Because they think it's expected?  Because they're mimicking others?  Have they even begun to think the implications through?

God, guns, and guts will together be praised.  In the eyes of our youth, a distinct and misleading impression will form: Memorial Day is about recognizing military might and honoring those who fight for us.  Secondary assumptions will be implanted: This is the primary way we preserve our freedoms and ensure democracy.  This is the way it's always been.  And this is the way it always must be.

But the intention of Memorial Day is to honor all who died in America’s wars, not to celebrate militarism or bless war.  It’s clear from the inception of “Decoration Day” in 1868 by General John Logan and its post-WWI promotion by Ms. Moina Michael that the focus was to honor our war dead, particularly by decorating their graves and graciously supporting the many widows and orphans war leaves in its wake.

Though routinely disregarded, the distinction between memorializing our war dead and celebrating militarism is critical.  Instead of letting the holiday be co-opted to perpetuate militarism, let us resolutely focus on honoring those who have given their lives in our nation’s conflicts.  Reverently consider the cost of even one soldier’s life and its impact in lost potential, relationships, creativity, and community contribution over a generation.


This Memorial Day is an opportunity to consider: given the cost in these precious lives, we must find a better way, not just repeat the past again and again.  War--and those whose lives are snuffed out or haunted by it--gives us every indication that we have not yet explored or employed our best intellectual, spiritual and material resources for preventing or addressing conflicts.  

The Memorial Day holiday affords us an opportunity to contemplate how far we have to go as a nation--and as a human family--in transforming our means of defending liberty, advancing democracy, and procuring justice for all.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
www.indybikehiker.com
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker
indybikehiker@gmail.com

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pentecost and Social Justice


"Pentecost laid the axe at the root of social injustice." - Phoebe Palmer Knapp

Kevin Austin leads a 21st-century effort to end human
trafficking around the world via the Set Free Movement.
TRANSFORMED AND EMPOWERED TO LOVE. Officially, May 15 is the celebration called Pentecost. An ancient Jewish holiday that follows fifty days after Passover, Acts 2 records the event that forever changed the context of Pentecost for the followers of Jesus. Now celebrated as the "birthday of the Christian church," Acts tells the story of God pouring out the Holy Spirit on Jesus' disciples in fulfillment of ancient prophesies and the promise Jesus had made (Acts 1:4-8).

FROM COWERING TO COURAGEOUS. Pentecost turned cowering converts into bold advocates. It transformed a rag-tag band of despairing disciples into people indwelled and overflowing with the love of God. Pentecost launched a movement that, for all its 2,000-year ebb and flow, has never quite ceased to transform people and challenge core human injustices in every generation through a burning love that overwhelms fear, paralyzing inertia, despair, violence, domination, pride, and corrupt power.

SELF-GIVING ACTIVISM. I am part of a Christian tradition that places Pentecost at the heart of spirituality, both personally and corporately. Wesleyan holiness folk think that every believer in Jesus Christ can directly and personally--in one way or another, at some point or another--encounter a Pentecost-like transformation that catapults one from initiatory and fledgling faith into maturing love and self-giving activism.

EVIDENCE IN LOVE. Our tradition considers the evidence that one is "filled with the Holy Spirit" and growing in Christlikeness will be found in a love that is notably self-forgetful, service-focused, and redemptively confrontational to the powers of domination at work in the world. We see in Pentecost not just a personal empowerment, but a collective empowerment both (1) to embrace and express the new eschaton--described in the Bible as the Kingdom of God--and (2) to bring the influence of this future-focused reality into every possible social relationship, structure, policy, and practice as a signal and sign of what Love wills for the world's future.

FREEDOM AND LIBERATION. That is the context of Phoebe Palmer Knapp's statement: "Pentecost laid the axe at the root of social injustice." To Knapp, a holiness teacher, speaker and advocate in the late 19th-century America, "social injustice" primarily meant human trafficking and oppression of women. She expressed her confidence in the radical change Pentecost called for by advocating vociferously for the abolition of slavery and for the suffrage of women in America. She saw in the gospel of Jesus Christ a clarion call for freedom for all human beings and the liberation of women from the age-old system of domination that reduced them to objects and possessions. She set a tone and standard both as a woman and as a Christian leader that fueled many in the evangelical and Christian holiness movements at the time. I would welcome her voice anew on these same, lingering issues in the 21st century.

Explore a 21st-century expression of the fight to end human trafficking that has reemerged from the Wesleyan holiness faith tradition: The Set Free Movement. http://setfreemovement.com/

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Lessons from my First Solo Bike Camping Excursion

Since riding the Great Allegheny Passage from Pittsburg to Washington, D.C. self-contained last summer with a small group, I've been itching to do some solo bike camping. I've ridden thousands of miles internationally and in the states, but rarely camped while doing so. My first opportunity to solo bike camp came the first weekend of April, an excursion that led me into Wendell Berry's homeland in Henry County, Kentucky.

On Friday, I drove my VW from Indianapolis to Columbus, Indiana, parked it at my cousin's house and struck out on my panniers-loaded Surly Long Haul Trucker for Madison, Indiana via State Highway 7. My panniers and seat saddlebag included a one-person tent, air pad, sleeping bag, cooking supplies, some food, clothing, toiletries, and tools--about 30 lbs. in all. It was a balmy 45-mile ride, with a break halfway in North Vernon. I arrived in Madison in the middle of the afternoon and set up camp at Clifty Falls State Park. In the early evening, I explored this quaint Ohio River town and had great pizza at the Red Pepper cafe.

Saturday morning, after breakfast at Red Roaster coffeehouse, I pedaled across the Ohio River bridge and started exploring Henry County, Kentucky. This is the home of one of my favorite writers, Wendell Berry. Berry describes and reflects on this simple country in his writings, from wooded hills to rolling meadows to creek banks and the Kentucky River. I rolled through Port Royal and tried to take in the essence of this place, which is at the same time remarkable and commonplace. From my experience of this day, I will read Berry with more clarity and understanding.

I cut my Henry County ride short because of a stiff and steady wind that kicked up. It must have been 30 mph with higher gusts. The ride north and west back to the Ohio River and Indiana was a struggle. I arrived at the state park campsite with my tent bending sideways in the gale. I re-secured the stakes and ropes. Temperatures dropped and the wind continued to howl until the early Sunday morning hours. My one-person tent would have blown away had I not been inside it.

By Sunday daybreak, the wind had died down but temperatures had dropped to freezing. I climbed out of my sleeping bag, dusted frost off my panniers, broke camp, and prepared to ride from Madison back to Columbus in the cold. Against a headwind, I arrived in Columbus around 3 pm, loaded the Surly on my VW, and drove back to Indy.

I covered about 140 miles over the weekend and had what I consider quite a nice little adventure. Here are a few lessons I learned and pass along from my first solo bike camping weekend:

1. Cold is not an enemy or a friend. It is a factor to plan for. Reduce cold’s impact with good gear.

2. Riding self-contained produces wide options and independence. But it’s a slower ride. I'm used to riding 18-22 mph, but with 30 lbs. of camping supplies, etc. in two panniers and a seat saddlebag, I managed about 15-17 mph. I can still pedal fast on flats, but climbing hills are much slower.

3. My bike shop (A1 Cyclery in Indianapolis) set me up with a perfect cross-country touring steed: a smooth Surly Long Haul Trucker, which I've ridden for four years. This is a no-worries, tough, dependable bicycle for riding long distances. I've had no breakdowns or problems in 10,000 miles.

4. Factor wind in your plans. 30-40 mph winds changed my distance and range of activity. No way around this; it's just ugly and hard.

5. A State Park base camp made a nice returning point. Keeping a base camp for a weekend of riding made day travel lighter. And, I met very helpful campers whom I talked to each day.

6. A 30-degree F rated sleeping bag works for 30 degrees F (and high wind). I stayed warm. Good buy. I purchased a sleeping bag that was also lightweight.

7. Enjoy local coffeehouses, food, and places. These are better than franchises in small towns. I like eating at local restaurants instead of cooking on my own, also. Except for making some coffee and soup, I ate at local places entirely.

8. Indiana’s Clifty Falls State Park gets a thumbs up for service, cleanliness, and scenic awe. Deep ravines. High cliffs. Beautiful falls. This place is worth a two-day visit. Plan on vigorous and rugged hiking.

9. Relax and you’ll enjoy the ride on the way to where you want to go. Be here now.

10. I need to find a lightweight, compact fuel cooking unit that defies windy conditions. Taking recommendations.


John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
www.indybikehiker.com
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker
www.instagram.com/johnfranklinhay
indybikehiker@gmail.com

Sunday, March 6, 2016

In Honor of Theresa Ann Branch

A tribute to a family friend who recently died

Theresa Ann Branch, 78, died on March 2. She and her husband George served as Children's Ministers at the church of my childhood (the era from which this photo is taken). I traveled to West Virginia to participate in her memorial service on Saturday. Early in the morning before the service, I penned the following reflection to share. I thought of Theresa as a pastor's spouse and of her life in Parkersburg for over 35 years after George passed away. She died far from her childhood home, but had made a home in the place to where she and George felt called of God to serve. This, to me, is profound and fascinating.


This is where the call of God ends,
or begins:
Here in a city far from home,
With a spouse preceding you 
in death by decades,
Among people you never could have
imagined knowing in your
beginning years.

When you said “yes” 
to the invitation of Jesus 
to a lifelong journey,
this is where it ends,
or begins.

“Come, follow me, and I will make you
fishers of men,” Jesus said.
“Deny yourself, take up your cross daily,
and follow me,” Jesus said.
“Whom shall I send, and who will
go for us?” God asked.
And you said,
“Here am I. Send me.”

So you followed.
And you were sent.
You journeyed—
in joy, in sorrow,
in laughing, in weeping,
in serving, in sharing—
over a lifetime in the name of
the call of God.


This is where the call of God ends,
or begins:
Here in a place you have made
a home,
With a spouse who from eternity
has blessed and beckoned,
Among people—friends, loved ones,
saints, characters—you could not
have imagined caring for you
in your beginning years.

When you said ‘yes’ to Jesus,
He promised to be with you
to the very end—and 
this is where it ends,
or begins.

The road has not been easy.
Its winding turns at times
baffled and startled and grieved.
The way has also been joyful--
as if you’ve been borne along
by grace, by love, by hope.

And, having walked the last mile
of the way, you hear the One
who invited you, “Come, follow me,”
now welcome you: “Well done,
good and faithful servant.”


This is where the call of God ends,
or begins:
Here in places we make our home,
With companions who dare to link arms
in love with us—for better or worse,
Among people who are given to us,
and to whom we are given—at the same
time rag-tag and wonderful beyond
our imagination.

We hear Jesus’ invitation anew,
“Come, follow me, and I will make you…”
We say, today, ‘yes,’ afresh.
This is where it ends
and begins.

Legacies of faith surround us.
In life and from eternity
they beckon:
“Jesus is with you,” they say.
“He is faithful,” they exclaim.
“Do not hesitate to follow—
to go with him, with him
all the way.”
“It will be worth it all.”

At this journey’s end,
so let us begin.


John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
www.indybikehiker.com
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker
indybikehiker@gmail.com

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Launching into Lent

I'm a hesitant observer of Lent, nevertheless, I'm on board for the turbulent journey

Obediently,
we saunter into
Ash Wednesday's service.
Kneeling,
we are marked--
as much a sign of
obligation as mild
intention.

Lent launches
as we straggle up
the gangplank.
Though winded,
we're on board--
a bit bewildered about
where this journey ends,
somewhat unsure of
the purpose of this
passage.

When inspiration flags,
discipline and duty
carry us.
Where vision is obscured,
the immediate horizon a fog,
soundings resonate
direction.

Others seem more
certain of this voyage--
sails are trimmed and
crew busy themselves.
But we aren't sure
whether we should
settle in to rest
or keep watch
at the bow.

We're asked to
give up something--
to lighten the load?
Have we not already
given up home and land
for this untethered vessel
churning through
inhospitable seas
to an unheard of
location?

After a few days at sea
we notice atop the mast
flies a flag--are those
cross bones?
What were we thinking
when we bought the ticket
marked "Destination Port:
Calvary"?


John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 
www.indybikehiker.com 
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker 
indybikehiker@gmail.com

Monday, February 8, 2016

Roots of Ash Wednesday: Spreading Humility Around

I'm struck by the sense of solidarity with all sinners that Ash Wednesday has come to reflect


ROOTS OF ASH WEDNESDAY. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the beginning of 40 days of prayer and fasting leading up to Holy Week and Easter. I came across a few paragraphs by Stuart Malloy that put the ashes we mark on our foreheads on this day into perspective. Malloy writes:

“Ashes marked on the forehead of worshipers were not always given to everyone, but only to the public penitents who were brought before the church. Much like Hester Prynne bearing her scarlet letter, these open and notorious sinners were marked publicly with the sign of their disgrace.”

IDENTIFYING WITH THE PENITENT. “As time went on, others began to show their humility and their affection for the penitents by asking that they, too, be marked as sinners. Finally, the number of penitents grew so large that the imposition of ashes was extended to the whole congregation in services similar to those that are observed in many Christian churches on Ash Wednesday.”

IF YOU ONY KNEW… Malloy continues: “We who will bear the ashes upon our foreheads stand with those whose sins may be more public, but not, according to the Scriptures, more grievous to the heart of God. And so we make our confessions. . . . If you only knew the secrets of my heart, if you only knew the sins that I am capable of contemplating, if you only knew some of the schemes I have considered – and of course God does know – then you would know that I, too, am a sinner.”

THIN LINE, EARNEST PRAYER. He concludes: “Ashes are signs that we are all in this sin business together, and that the difference between the good in us and the bad in us is sometimes frightfully thin. We so often fall short of the Faith we claim. We have treated people as things and we have treated things as if they were valuable people. And so we look into our hearts and make the ancient prayer of one notorious sinner our own: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me’ (Psalm 51:10).”

BLESSING OF THE ASHES. Here is the blessing often uttered just before foreheads are marked in ashes with the sign of the Cross:

“May these ashes be to us, O God, an acknowledgment of our wrongdoing and our acceptance of your forgiveness. In these ashes are our prejudices, our impatience, the times we have turned our backs on the suffering of others, our neglect of the environment, our indifference, our materialism, our greed, our hypocrisy, our envy…all of our sins. In these ashes of repentance are the seeds of our forgiveness and our transformation. For God always accepts us and forgives us. Through our repentance and forgiveness comes transformation. May God create within each of us a clean heart and a new and right spirit.”

Friday, January 22, 2016

Nine Years After India

Preparation for a cycling travelogue this week prompted me to consider the power of adventure.

This day in 2007, I was pedaling in the center of India and was mesmerized by this land of wonder and paradox, of the bizarre and ordinary, of great wealth and vast poverty, of modernity and antiquity. Today, that experience challenges me anew.

Carefully preparing for a one-hour presentation about my journey for the Central Indiana Bicycling Association's (CIBA) Winter Speaker Series at Central Library in downtown Indianapolis, I viewed and reviewed hundreds of slides, thousands of photos, numerous video clips and mementos and journal entries, along with the blog I developed for the event (www.bicycleindia2007.blogspot.com). The review and preparation experience brought all my senses and recollections of that life-changing event to renewed life in me.

At the distance of nearly a decade and half a world away, I have fresh observations and new questions about what I saw and experienced in those six weeks and 2,000 miles. Had I left these images and memories alone, perhaps they would have continued to calcify and fade way. But I have revisited and resurrected my experience in India and it breathes wonder in me. This is, to me, the power of contemplation. The original experience becomes a part of eternity when repeatedly contemplated and allowed to agitate thought and change behavior.

Maybe, more basically, my fascination is this: Am I--are we--willing to experience events, such as this six-week journey on a bicycle through India, in a way that somehow fundamentally alters us? Or, do we process such experiences--fascinating travels and rapturous adventures--so that, for all their possibilities for changing us, they ultimately become little more than framed photos on a wall that we occasionally admire while we go on through life unaffected by the existential challenges they presented at the time? How can we adventure and reflect on our adventures in a way that changes us?

I left India in February 2007 with a sense that I had experienced something that would--and should--reshape my way of thinking and approaching life and relationships at a rudimentary level. I wasn't sure what all that meant. I just felt that something had happened to me, in me, not that I had just accomplished something.

I had ridden 2,000 miles and helped raise funds to rebuild a hospital, and had helped raise awareness of that hospital. That's what I accomplished. That's what externally occurred. But what happened in me? What was accomplished--or beginning to be accomplished--in me? To what extent was my trajectory and pattern of thinking and choosing being shaped and changed?

In posts that follow, I will try to explore what changes I can observe and articulate nine years later. Whatever I can now articulate, I will have just scratched the surface.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
www.indybikehiker.com
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker
indybikehiker@gmail.com