Tuesday Chapel Service

Peace in the midst of chaos

This is the homily I presented at one of our weekly Chapel services on campus on February 22nd. I decided to post it, just because…..

I have a cat that I adore. He’s orange and white and a Maine Coon Cat. One day I arrived home, after a wonderful day where I made 250.00 extra and was reveling in my new found wealth, to find that this adorable cat had knocked over a vase of flowers in water onto my 32” TV that was a birthday gift from my brother. It was toast. I then went to work the next day to discover that someone had stolen my license plates off my car, the screw came out of the hook on my favorite purse and it broke, and my answering machine stopped working. That same week a leak sprung up in the condo I own in Southern CA which I’m trying to keep as my pension retirement if I ever get it paid off, and my tenant called in a panic as water was leaking from the upstairs bathroom to the kitchen below. He even took a video with his phone that he sent me showing the dripping water falling from the ceiling. This was the relaxing week right before the spring semester began.

I had looked forward to my break. I had thought I would have a nice relaxing month in between semesters. This was my triumphant return to school after 28 years, my newfound career, my calling. I left Los Angeles to embark on this new adventure, leaving half my possessions behind and entering a brand new arena, with a bit of savings and some hope. It was an 11th hour miracle to be admitted to Starr King and actually become a seminarian. I was laid off 3 days before major surgery last April and during recovery I thought, I was going to take an online class, why don’t I just enroll? So I called admissions, discovered it was the last day of application, frantically began the next few days gathering materials, letters of recommendation, writing my history and mailing or emailing everything and lo and behold I made the extended deadline, was admitted and became a seminarian. It was obviously all meant to be. Even though in the midst of that chaos, I wasn’t sure it would happen. The day before all materials were due, I realized that I had not requested my transcripts. I awoke in a panic and went online to discover that they did not take requests for transcripts online. So I called the Midwest, reached admissions and the woman there said, we don’t really fax transcripts, but let me send you to the transcripts department. I gave the transcripts woman my social, she ran it and said, I know you, hi it’s Ellen. Now I hadn’t been on campus in 25 years, and I didn’t have the foggiest idea who Ellen was. I replied, you do? She said, yes, You’re Cindy Kaman’s friend! Cindy had been my best friend in college. Oh yes, she said, here they are, you know what, we don’t really fax transcripts because they’re so difficult to read, but let me go ahead and fax these for you – they’ll at least be able to see you attended here and get in by the deadline. They’ll get the hard copy next week. Miracles out of chaos. What are the odds of me running into a person I haven’t seen for almost 30 years who is the exact person I needed at that moment to help me. That one kind gesture completely changed my chaos.

Now, I know intellectually, that my own thought patterns are my responsibility and that I control my thoughts, so that theoretically I can change my own chaos. That doesn’t always happen. When someone does a kind deed for me or shows gentle compassion, it does for me what I can’t momentarily do for myself. So I thought, why not do a kind deed for myself or show myself gentle compassion. The day I discovered my license plates missing, I was going into the hardware store to find a new screw for my purse that was broken. If I hadn’t gone to the store that night after work, I may not have seen the missing license plates on the back of my car. I hadn’t seen it when I left work, so maybe that needed to happen to discover the plates.

We don’t know why things happen as they do. And I’m the first one to chastise myself when something doesn’t go as planned. I’m not one that believes in fate, but I do believe in synchronicity. The handyman that came to fix my bike shed took away the toasted TV without charge, I’ve got insurance, this is America you know, so they are in the process still of fixing the leak and repairing the kitchen ceiling, so that is getting fixed. I put one foot in front of the other with gentle compassion and things seem to right themselves. I didn’t do this alone. I had help from repairmen, friends, my advisor and the spirit I believe in that I call God. That’s how I get peace in the midst of chaos.

As I write this, my BFF in Sacramento has called to take an unscheduled visit to see me so I can help him buy a new computer. I haven’t cleaned the bathroom, taken out the kitty litter or even finished a paper that is also due on Tuesday. Chaos is never ending. It’s our approach that determines the peace in our lives.