Remembering Kevin Coats
|A picture from Kevin's FB Account.|
This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.
|A picture from Kevin's FB Account.|
[10 Minutes More Please]
To know what it means to US, NOW
We have to know what it meant to THEM, THEN.
If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in holy matrimony, you are to declare it or speak with the pastor, or board of elders.
We sat and talked after class for an hour or more, talking about all sorts of things, but the next time I saw her, she walked right past, like we had never met and I thought we were friends. Americans can be so rude.
Steve visits an ashram in Pondicherry, and his prayer life changed.
I had gone to the ashram skeptical, but wanting to experience the part of a devoted follower, praying to the part of God that is worshiped in this place, and hoping for something in return; a revelation from that place. Part of my concentration was praying through each item from my list: my brother Rod who is dying of liver cancer, for my children, for Suzanne and our marriage, and a few other situations that have since dropped off my prayer radar. My list is usually a list of 3-5, and since I did not know how much time Sanjay had allotted for concentration on this part of the tour, the prayer request flew by historical markers on an interstate highway.
Highway speed prayers should have felt unfamiliar, but looking back on it; I realize I had been praying that style for some time; a habit of setting the cruise control and praying from a time when I felt busy. Now I was less busy, but my prayers had not downshifted; they were still fast food prayers of obligation.
Read about the Ashram in Praying to the part of you that is worshiped.
Walking away from the ashram, I casually ask one of the young people on the tour if God had revealed anything. While thinking about her answer, she asked:
“What did God reveal to you, Steve?”
I was not begging to be asked, and didn't even know there was a revelation waiting for me until she asked. When God wants to reveal something to me, it usually is not complicated, or complex. God just hides it in my consciousness until something triggers me to look for it, or I trip over it like a stray toy in the dark.
You pray too fast.
Those words did not form in my brain, they were just there, like they had always been there, waiting to be seen, or in this case uncovered when I tripped over them.
I could have answered, “I pray too fast,” but didn't. On this tour, few travelers knew I was a pastor; the rest knew me to be a teacher, and I did not want to blow my cover. I was enjoying the anonymity; the break from people's expectations. It was good to just be a regular person, and relate to people like that.
In seminary they taught us a pastor can NEVER take off the pastor hat, even if you think you have taken it off, people still see its shadow (unless you're on a G-Adventures Tour, and don't tell anyone). Ha! Take that Austin Seminary!
If she told me about her revelation, I am sure I was not listening; I was too absorbed in my own revelation about praying too fast. I knew it was from the Lord; I knew it was true, so I asked, slowly, what needs to change?
Come into my presence. And with that, my prayer life changed.
I started to pray without asking God for anything.
There was still plenty, plenty (as we say in Ghana), to ask of God but those things were not driving the reason I was praying and that changed everything.
Maybe this is why I visit sacred places that other faiths designate as holy, I learn about my experience of God by seeking to understand theirs.
“Has anyone ever had more faith in you than you had in yourself?”Has anyone ever had more faith in you than you had in yourself? Fast forward almost two years, and… WE DID IT! And by WE I really mean WE: the faculty at Ashesi who already had a first draft of the curriculum and had already consulted local industry; the faculty at Ashesi who helped me as I coordinated moving the project forward; the administrative staff who gave us the resources to plan and coordinate the work; the international engineering advisory faculty who looked at drafts of the curriculum and gave feedback, and came to a face-to-face meeting almost a year ago at Olin for an intense two-day review; faculty and administrative staff from our mentoring institution, The University of Mines and Technology, who also gave good and timely feedback and were willing to work with us on areas in which there were differing views; the National Accreditation Board (NAB) and the faculty panels who came as part of the NAB review teams to review the curriculum and facilities and ultimately gave their approval; and supporters who have helped fund me being here to coordinate the efforts. It may seem trite to also credit God, but truly, this task has had so many hurdles that were overcome, there
“Suzanne, we can’t fail at this.”When I got to Ashesi and took over leading the efforts, I was scared, to say the least. It didn’t help that Patrick would occasionally say, “we can’t fail at this.” No pressure! I quickly became at least conversant, if not an expert, on the state of the art of engineering education. Thankfully, I already knew Ashesi’s educational model very well. I was never very knowledgeable about our lab equipment needs, but worked hard to rope in others who did, both at Ashesi and internationally. I discovered a lot about myself, and other’s trust in me: I am not perfect, omniscient, or a
“When God expects big things, comfort isn’t part of the equation.”One of my daily devotions recently was reflecting on Mark 6:35-44 in which Jesus and the disciples feed the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. In the past year and a half, some of you have heard me lament that I didn’t have the credentials or experience in engineering to feel comfortable attempting to pull off the audacious goal of bringing the engineering program to fulfillment. But when God is expecting big things, comfort isn’t part of the equation. The Reflections author writes, “Too often when we can’t imagine how to do all that needs to be done, we never start…” Thankfully, I had the audacity to start, and God helped turn my five loaves and two fishes into an engineering program!
“A deep seated principle of Ashesi boils down to this: when the going gets tough, everyone pitches in!”
Steve was in India to teach at a training event. Before the training started, he joined a G-Adventures tour of South India.
I hadn't thought of her in years, my voice teacher from Berklee College of Music. The last time I spoke to Jessica it was the early 90s, and I learned she was following a guru. In fact she had just returned from that guru’s tour across the United States, where she had been his assistant. Thinking about Jessica makes me feel old, that was several lifetimes ago, and now back to the here and now, it is this ashram which brought her to mind. The tour has come to gawk at a large utopian golden golf ball, and I'm wondering could Jessica be here?
Officially this golf ball is called “The Matrimandir” and is for "those who want to learn to concentrate," which sounds like their word for praying. In Sanskrit, Matrimandir means "Mother Temple", which according to the literature, "is what helps the humanity to overcome their limitations to the supramental consciousness". I expected to be weirded out and cynical, but instead I feel curious. Not so much with the golden golf ball, but with the reaction of my fellow tour-ists. The Matrimandir is off limits to tourists, and even those who live in Auroville, the community surrounding it, can wait years to be allowed inside for concentration. On the walk back, I try to engage anyone in a conversation, but they go nowhere. Tour etiquette requires us not to speak much about our lives back home. I can know where people are from and what they do, or did, but speaking on matters of faith is as protected as The Matrimandir.
[Sign to the Viewing Point]
This region of former French India is Pondicherry. The architecture could be reminiscent of New Orleans but for the occasional Hindu shrine. Three story red brick buildings with wrought iron grill work, markets with elephants waiting bless you, priests blessing new cars, and then suddenly an absurdly quiet street. No honking, or hooting of horns. So quiet in fact I see twenty or more very mellow dogs in various stages of rest scattered on the street like rose peddles from a flower girl. Normally aggressive Tuk-tuks slow down, and swerve around the reclining dogs like tires on an obstacle course. Like tires, the dogs do not flinch nor move.
[Car Blessings] – I’ve prayed over cars, motorcycles, vans, trucks, and homes, but never used fire, nor flowers and dry paint.
The source of this intense mellowness is Sri Aurobindo Ashram, of Auroville. Its the outfit that lau – I’nched The Matrimandir and if the street outside was mellow, the inside is nearly catatonic. Hundreds of of devotees or maybe jet lagged tourists sit in forms of the lotus position, meditating toward what I assume is the guru's grave. There are flowers everywhere, and their smell is maybe what the poppies smelled like in Wizard of Oz, promising eternal peace and slumber or apathy and complacency. I’m not sure which.
[the grave people seemed to be praying toward, from http://indiantoursandtravels07.blogspot.in/] – sorry cameras were not allowed.
I join in the prayers, I mean concentration, but feel like an imposter. I go through the motions of praying Lord, I worship the part of you that is worshipped in this place, and appear to be in deep concentration until I look up and see someone watching me, and she winks. Busted, and my concentration is gone. I get up and poke around the bookstore until the everyone else is done doing whatever they are doing.
Descriptions of this place promise to transport your mind to a heavenly abode...to feel as if the eternity is here, but pretenders like me can’t reach that level of concentration, but maybe my old voice teacher had reached that place of heavenly abode. I wish her well.