Posted by: Ralph Starling | January 11, 2011

in times like these

“Everybody wants to change the world but nobody wants to change themselves.”This quote from Leo Tolstoy came to mind today as I was listening to the news regarding the tragic shootings in Tucson, Arizona. Someone has said that this is a good time for America to do some ‘soul searching’. Maybe so! It is so easy to place blame on others and forget to look at ourselves. I have been guilty of doing that very thing countless times in my own life. This awful tragedy has challenged me to once again re-think what it means to be a Christ-follower in such a world as ours. Will this be a transforming event for us? I do not know. But, we are all broken people. We know too well that hurting people hurt people. Blaming others without examining our own hearts only perpetuates a downward spiral. So, in times like these I have to look deep within my own heart at the darkness and fear that reside within me. Sometimes I have expressed my fears by the way I have treated others. At other times, my better angels seemed to have won out.

We do not have to look far to see that violence is in every arena of our culture. One might think that America loves violence! Look at what we produce in our television programs, video games, and sporting events, not to mention the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afganistan. Many of the movies we produce in America promote violence and are seen by millions of people around the world.

Sometimes when traveling on mission trips to other countries I meet people who tell me they are afraid to come to the United States because of the violent acts they hear or read about in the news. That always makes me feel sad!

Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, and one of my favorite writers, is founder for the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He says that each day he seeks to practice contemplation. “I try in every way, and every day, to see the events, people, and issues in my world through a much wider lens that I hope is ‘Christ Consciousness.’ I have to practice letting go of my own agenda, my own anger, fear, and judgments in very concrete ways and through daily practice. In that empty space, it seems that God is able to speak and sometimes I am able to hear. In that  space, I find joy.”

Rohr feels that his best gift to the world is to spend a good chunk of time every day in silence, solitude, and surrender to what God and the moment are offering. He considers this to be his home base and the place of deepest seeing. He says, “Without a daily contemplative stance, I would have given up on the church, America, many people, and surely myself a long time ago. Without a daily contemplative practice, I would likely be a cynical and even negative person by now, but by Somebody’s Kindness, I am not. With contemplative eyes, I can live with a certain non-dual consciousness that often allows me to be merciful to the moment, patient with human failure, and generous toward the maddenng issues of our time. For me, it is the very shape of Christian salvation or any salvation. My sadness is that so few have been taught this older and wiser tradition, although many still come to it by great love and great suffering.”

I want to be the kind of person with a contemplative perspective and have a ‘wide lens’ approach to each moment that life brings. I would like to be the kind of person who can live life in light of this passage from Romans 12: 17-21.

Grace to you!




  1. Thanks, Ralph, for this thoughtful and thought provoking meditation.

  2. Well said – this is a much needed word of direction. My thanks to you, Ralph, and to Fr. Rohr.

  3. You continue to inspire me….!

  4. I love to read your post. Atleat you get it right. Tucson, AZ tradegy was heartbreaking. It was painful moment for our nation. It was one of those time for prayer’s and for all of us to pause, and reflect God words. Sadly, It was disappointing that some media and news organization didn’t get it right. But I don’t mind praying for them too. Specially, my prayer’s is for victims of shooting, their family and recovery of congress women. Thanks, Ralph, your words are inspiring!

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