21 November 2014
I define a Blessing as a Grace that helps us grow closer to God, to our true selves, and to each other. Some Blessings are pain free, some are not but Grace and Growth is always a part of it and the key.
15 November 2014
“[And] all the other commandments are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)
“…love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:9-10)
It’s all summed up in one word: love.
Even Paul, the oft portrayed angry zealot more accustomed to social purity than hippie love, clarified it emphatically by saying that no matter what laws are written and spoken; they are all summed up in the command to love our neighbors as ourselves. Period.
More importantly, Jesus unequivocally spoke to exactly who are ‘neighbors’ are: anyone we see or know of in need, whether those who are like us or those who are not. Remember, in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25), Jesus said the only difference between the sheep and the goats was what they did and did not do lovingly to the poor.
Neither Jesus nor St. Paul mentioned love our neighbors if they are of the correct politics, heterosexual, Christian, white picket fence, etc. In truth, it would be more divine and godly to love our neighbors if they were an African-American lesbian couple or a devout Muslim family from Gaza than if they looked and thought the way I did.
You could say that love is the Executive Summary to all the words ever written about God.
I do not believe in my heart of hearts that God cares much about my theology or my politics (unless they are used as justifications and weapons of hate); I do get the sense that God only cares about love: do I love God? Do I love all people equally? Do I make my choices in life from a place of Love? I think God is ‘concerned’ about things of that nature.
So, I truly do think that it is all summed up in the one word love. Some quick etymology: the word “sum/summed” comes from the feminine Latin word meaning “highest.” That is poignant, the sum of life is not love reduced to the lowest common denominator but rather to its Highest.
It should go something like this: Love is our ‘doctrine’ and our calling (vocation) is found in becoming the Beloveds of God and treating all others and all of creation as if they are the Beloveds of God. The Scriptures are clear and concise: God is love and to love in God’s name is to imitate God.
The actor Jeremy Irons said it best in the movie “The Mission” when he was challenging Robert De Niro and he said, “you gave your life to God and God is love!”
For you see, love is the highest summation of how God responds to us. And love is ideally the way we are to respond back to God and to each other.
And make no mistake about it, love is an action verb, much like God (yes, God is a Verb as well as a Noun). This relentlessly loving God is a God Who proactively seeks us out, seeks to express divine love to us in word and deed. The Creator created this world out of love and because of love, there is no other reason for you see God has no need of anything created or otherwise. The only rational (sic) reason that God creates is out of love – love for the creative act and love for the created and for all of creation itself. And all of this creative love is dynamic not static. That is the very nature of God’s love: dynamic in nature rather than static and rote.
Far too often, if I am honest, my friendship with God is sometimes more of an historical fact than a dynamic, living relationship based on love. If I am even more honest, the way I love is that way as well. When it comes to loving my neighbor, I will often point to what I have done, or how I used to live rather than how I love God or people today, right now.
But I am learning to live more from a place of divine love because what I have learned (especially in the Rooms of A.A.) is that love is a baptism of fire and water. One that burns away the dross and washes and cleanses the brokenness, the resentments, the little angers and self-righteousness I so often cling to because they are safe, giving me a false sense of control rather than letting go and letting God’s love tenderize them into pure, divine love.
I am learning, albeit slower than I’d prefer, that if the love of God abides in my heart (which it does because God dwells there) then love will become my response to the world around me. Love becomes the question. Love becomes the answer. Love becomes the reason.
So, I practice turning it all over to the love of God. When in doubt, turn it over to God’s love; when in anger, turn it over to love; when in fear, turn it over to love; when in pain, turn it over to divine love; when in darkness or joy, and turn it over to God’s love. I try and let divine love become both the movement and the motion.
So…in a word, LOVE.
7 November 2014
Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason,
you sing. For no reason, you accept
the way of being lost, cutting loose
from all else and electing a world
where you go where you want to.
Arbitrary, a sound comes, a reminder
that a steady center is holding
all else. If you listen, that sound
will tell where it is, and you
can slide your way past trouble.
Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path—but that’s when
you get going best, glad to be lost,
learning how real it is
here on the earth, again and again.
5 November 2014
Random: without definite aim, reason, or pattern.
There is no rhyme or reason, aim or pattern, just words falling from my fingertips glossed over in prayer, prayers that you draw near to the God Who draws near to you and loves you no matter what church or state says. Words. Simple enough to be understood, strong enough to make a heart break, or make a heart blossom.
Life begins at the point where my comfort zone ends.
God’s greatest gift is unconditional love. God’s greatest promise is eternal Presence.
If I am unable to see God in the profane as much as I do in the profound, then I am missing half the story.
Worry is the activity of a mind (not heart) which does not believe or understand its’ connection to God.
Remember this every time you meet someone, especially someone you do not like or agree with: everyone has a past (everyone!); everyone has a story; and everyone is on a Journey. And at the end of the day, what I do not like about you is just a reflection back to me of what I do not like about myself.
God is present in all circumstances…all of them. There is divine purpose behind everything, all things, and therefore Divine Presence in everything. So as painful and hard as it is to grasp, all things and all circumstances stand with the will of God. It is hard to grasp that when looking at the pain of loss, death, violation, poverty, abuse and violence. But in truth, God has given us all the power, presence and perseverance we need to prevent and end these, but we have not employed these gifts to their higher purpose. Remember, there are no victims and there are no villains and in the end of all time, everything will be swallowed up in Love and Mercy.
Prayer is a conversation with God which leads to a friendship with God which in turn leads to deeper communion with God which ends in total union with God.
Still random. Still musing.
Here are three things I have surmised in my 47 years of life on earth:
- God rarely operates with my (or any person’s) frame of reference;
- God does not operate under any timetables, because God is infinite and eternal and time is a human construct to try and capture and quantify time and space, here and there.
- God operates in the place and space of ‘no time’ so every time is the perfect time, all time with God is Now.
That one hurt my brain.
And finally, God’s ways are not our ways; and, God is way more comfortable with chaos than we are, because we experience chaos as the subjects of it, and God experiences chaos as the Object of it. So, to think that God is going to do anything within the neat confines of finite flesh and blood, limited capabilities, understanding and comprehension, and do so within a scripted frame of reference using societal norms is simply preposterous, asinine and absurd.
Done for now.
P.S. Grace is Absurd.
31 October 2014
Something is very gently,
pulling at me—a thread
or net of threads
finer than cobweb and as
elastic. I haven’t tried
the strength of it. No barbed hook
pierced and tore me. Was it
not long ago this thread
began to draw me? Or
way back? Was I
born with its knot about my
neck, a bridle? Not fear
but a stirring
of wonder makes me
catch my breath when I feel
the tug of it when I thought
it had loosened itself and gone.
Source: Poems 1960-1967
23 October 2014
I say it often and all the time – my faith is messier than most. And rather than make my faith seem like a laud of glories to God, my faith is more like a string of letters across the page when holding down the “shift” key on my laptop (#@!&*^) to be more truthful.
I do not write much anymore because of fear and laziness. There is much to write about – major life transitions of work and location – but I don’t feel much like being honest with people (since God already knows the truth).
I spend my days seeking certainty and clarity with an addictive bent, only to find that my faith must rest in trusting God more than the vicissitudes of certainty and clarity. I suck at trusting…God and most people.
I like Jesus though; he was unconventional, loving in spite of the odds, compassionate, disturbing, earthy, and human. That last part is more important to me sometimes than any other aspect of Jesus of Nazareth. I pray to Jesus a lot, but honestly, I am not comfortable with most anthropomorphizing of God and what ‘Churchianity’ has done to him. I know and confess Jesus as Lord but find the Church and most of the people in it to be more my adversaries than my family. I suffer from a bad case of Defiance, so I’m not so hot on religious rules and most spiritual do’s and don’ts. I love the rituals of Catholic Mass but find the boredom of religiosity and fundamentalism (catholic and Protestant) a boorish pain in my butt.
I find I’d cuss more in my writings if it wasn’t for the sweet and respectful love I have for my Catholic ‘Nana’ who acts as a grandmotherly editor in my blogs (Thanks Leona).
I have found that the spiritual principles of the 12 Step fellowships have afforded me the chance at a second chance, not only in finding recovery, but also in knowing and loving God as God is, not as all the voices and histories from my past dictate.
I say functional atheists because I profess with my tongue a certain faith – a deep longing for and love of God to be precise – but my actions speak more loudly to a lack of belief in a loving God Who pines for me and has me in his heart and hands. I say I trust. But I live in fear. I say God hears my prayers, but inwardly I dwell on doubt.
I am just being honest, words flowing from a softer, darker part of my heart, where perfection and false piety is no match for the towering warriors of truth and freedom.
These days grace is the place where my infidelity meets God’s fidelity. I still believe, so no panicking, but I flesh out my faith more as a functional atheist than someone who has been on a 25 year plus intentional journey and love affair with God. But today, that is where I am; that is my place of truth. And the truth I am told will set me free.
A Post Script: I came across this quote about “Practical Atheism” as defined by the Episcopal priest Eugene Sutton. He defined ‘practical atheism’ as “professing belief in God, but not acting in a way that makes it evident that one actually believes in God.” So, I’m not the only one who struggles with this and ponders it often. NC
16 October 2014
Rainer Maria Rilke said, in one of my favorite books ever Letters to a Young Poet:
I want to beg you as much as you can, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within yourself the possibility of shaping and forming as a particularly happy and pure way of living; train yourself to it—but take whatever comes with great trust, and if only it comes out of your own will, out of some need of your innermost being, take it upon yourself and hate nothing.
Jean Vanier, Founder of the faith-based L’Arche Communities, said about CHANGE in his great book Becoming Human that:
Change of one sort or another is the essence of life, so there will always be the loneliness and insecurity that come with change. When we refuse to accept that loneliness and insecurity are part of life, when we refuse to accept that they are the price of change, we close the door on many possibilities for ourselves; our lives become lessened…. Life evolves; change is constant.
28 September 2014
Note: this is old school, first thought writing. There has been no editing, so know that it is as raw as it gets.
I am a ragamuffin; worn-out frenzied, failing at being even human sometimes, so hard on myself I crush out the very candle wick Jesus said he would not.
I struggle to forgive and accept forgiveness. I am a one man band on a self loathing pity tour. I am loved and deeply known by a God I far too often FEAR.
I am clean and sober, no longer held by the vice of active addiction, but I still hold too many secrets and regrets about the pain I caused so many dear ones who were held hostage by my drinking and drugging. My ‘daily reprieve’ is sometimes not enough.
I am stitched together by the grace of Jesus. He loves me deeply, so much so, I shudder to think that he knows ALL the evil and suffering I have caused and been through, all the dark nights of the soul and body that are all woven together and held by his golden thread. Jesus echoes in my mind, in my heart, constantly asking me just one question: “Do you truly know how much I love you?”
“Niles, do you know I love you exactly as you are not as you wish you were?”
Some days I get it; some days I don’t. Some days I need it; others I delude myself thinking I got this thing.
Today I need it. A friend committed suicide, falling to the deadly cunning of the disease of alcoholism, his darkness too much for the still small voice of Love. My friend is free of his pain now, free from us. Now…he is dead.
I feel dead today. But Jesus keeps whispering, “ragamuffin child, come to me, lay your rage, your pissed off, ungrateful, unhappy, leery soul upon me, and I will sit with you as you seethe and sink. I will hold you up as you let My Love seep into the cracks and crevices of your shattered heart. I will bring my light to bear upon you in warmth and tenderness. I will be your sobriety. I will be your love. I will be your life. I will be your Hope. I will hold you when you can no longer hold on…”
Jesus says these things to me as I realize my eyes are too dry to weep for loss and death, my heart too cold for prayers, my faith too old today to run the marathon called life…
Today it does not matter. All I hear in the din of my storm is the simple words of the children’s song echoing in the empty chamber of my heart and today it is enough: Jesus loves me this I know…
24 September 2014
I began to live as if there were not one in the world but God and me. I adored God as often as I could, keeping my mind in God’s Holy Presence and recalling it as often as it wandered.
I had no little difficulty in this exercise, but I kept on despite all the difficulties and was not worried or distressed when I was involuntarily distracted.
I did this during the day as often as I did it during the formal time specifically set aside for prayer; for at all times, at every hour, at every moment, even in the busiest times of my work, I banished and put away from my mind everything capable of diverting me from the thought of God.
Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God
6 September 2014
Reasonable: Sensible, rational, practical, logical, evenhanded
God can be a bit unreasonable when you get down to it.
God is not always rational, practical, sensible or within the bounds of reason. How reasonable and rational is a God Who chooses to use the wounded, the broken, the fallen, the fallible and even the wicked to do the divine bidding? I mean becoming flesh, walking among us, telling us we are God’s children and that God cares for us better than the best parents? Then he tells us anyone can draw near to God, be a friend of God, if only we surrender and accept the grace of it all?
Jesus’ resume would not have gone too far in the corporate or religious world today, if we judged by reason, rationale and appearances. God’s ‘business plan’ was (and still is) completely maniacal: hang out with the poor, the rejected, the unclean, women, blue collar types. It gets even better, Jesus decided to spit fire towards the pious, the righteous, the religious leaders and consistently show disdain for the emperor time and again through stories, healings, and parables proclaiming to both that there is a new way, a new Leader, and a new Kingdom where all are welcome if they but ask.
That is not my idea of sane or reasonable. Grace is the key to the doors of this upside-down Kingdom.
Jesus is just plain unreasonable and screws up all my preconceived notions, messes with my plans, confuses me and makes me uncomfortable. And those who say they follow him try and tame, deputize, and moralize him making him into an Uncle Sam savior or a Pinocchio wrapped in Levi’s, a goatee, hipster glasses and mod rock music. I am not judging just observing.
Try and tame a tiger and risk losing your hand; try taming God and risk losing everything that has no lasting value.
God is unreasonable. And if God were not, we’d all be doomed. For grace is the outflow of God’s unreasonableness. So therefore grace is not reasonable either.
Grace is absurd. God’s love is absurd as well. Why would Jesus of Nazareth live a life that he did: loving the unlovable, defying social convention and norms, threatening the state simply by the love he showered upon people when he healed them?
It is absurd that one must die for the many to live. But it happened and the prison doors have been flung open.
I will say it, plain and simple again, grace is absurd. And way too many of us spend too much time trying to ‘figure’ it out rather than experiencing it; far too many try and control it foolishly, like gripping sand tightly hoping to prevent it slipping from their hands.