6 September 2014

Grace is Not Reasonable (ReVised)

Posted in encountering God, Faith, messy grace at 3:02 pm by Niles Comer

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?

Why?

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.

 

 

1 September 2014

SnapShot Musings: Four Thoughts

Posted in Addiction & Recovery, messy grace at 12:23 pm by Niles Comer

Gratitude takes me from being closed to being open, and opening up leads me to see just how blessed I am and how much I have been given so that I can be a blessing to others.  Gratitude leads me away from resentment, arrogance and judgment into a place of forgiveness, acceptance and tenderness. The attitude I must have is one of gratitude for in every circumstance, every encounter, and every person is an opportunity for me to see God and share God.  Every opposition, taken with gratitude, becomes an opportunity to meet God and give his love away.

Grace is knowing and learning (albeit painfully) that anyone can be used by God as a messenger. Anyone. It is not my place to judge the ‘quality’ of the messenger; it is my place only to listen and discern the truth given.

I am learning that the people God has placed around me do not need me to correct or validate their feelings; they need me to listen and be clear, compassionate, consistent and loving.

More and more each day, I am understanding that God’s grace is like an ever-flowing river and all I need do is come to that river and drink to my fill. I need to understand that is the Reality for others as well: God’s grace is always available to them as well.  I cannot block, dam or clog up this river nor can I drink it for them. They must drink from the River themselves and I must never block passage to this ever-flowing river.

 

29 August 2014

“The Avowel” (Denise Levertov)

Posted in poetry at 7:54 pm by Niles Comer

 

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

Denise Levertov

20 August 2014

Broken & Loved

Posted in Addiction & Recovery, Awareness, compassion, forgiveness, healing at 7:10 pm by Niles Comer

I feel that this re-posting of something I wrote a few months ago speaks to where I am today…but just today.  May you be blessed and broken so that you may be filled with ALL that God longs to fill you with, namely, himself.

“In each one of us there is such a deep wound, such an urgent cry to be held, appreciated and seen as unique and valuable. The heart of each one is broken and bleeding… An experience of being loved and accepted in community, which has become a safe place for us, allows us gradually to accept ourselves as we are, with our wounds and all the monsters. We are broken, but we are loved.”

Jean Vanier (Source: Community and Growth)

I was listening to one of my favorite shows on the radio the other night (yes, I still listen to the radio!), the deliciously soulful NPR show “On Being” and the host was interviewing one of my favorite Christian Irascible, the Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. She was speaking at the Wild Goose festival and the topic happened upon her depression and how she dealt with it: she named it Francis I was struck by the hilarity and compassion that naming her depression afforded her. When asked a direct question about does she preach and teach about her depression she smacked it out of the park and left my mouth agape. Nadia said, “I try and preach from my scars and not my wounds.”

How raw and authentic, how utterly insightful, and how true for those of us in recovery…”I try to preach from my scars, not my wounds.”

She essentially sums up Jean Vanier’s quote, the essential message of what it means to be a human being seeking God; the journey from our own wounds to others wounds and the healing experience of scars.

I love my scars, almost perversely so. Some of them are physical, on my arms, some covered up with kanji tattoos of sacred text, and some have been rendered almost invisible due to the aging process. And some, well, they are invisible and only show themselves in holy moments of intimacy, prayer, and community

I am wounded, no doubt. But I am loved. The point is do I spend more time focusing on the truth that I am wounded or on the amazing truth that I am loved, beyond words, by a God Whose loved is infinitely faithful and present? The answer to that question reveals a great deal about where I am spiritually (true dat!).

Our scars are the perfect reminders of this creative tension in which we must live – that creative tension of living between the “already and the not yet.”   I am whole, but not yet. I am perfectly human but not perfect. I am indispensible yet divinely unique. I am loved by God, but I forget. I am a shining example of God’s love taking place but I am broken and wounded and wound others as a result sometimes.

The truth is I am not my wounds, but I am my scars.

My scars are reminders of the place where God entered my wounds, entered my life. And each scar I have is a blessed reminder that God is right now, and always has been, with me. Our scars are reminders that God is with us in the pain and the healing, in the suffering darkness and the tender light. God comes and sits down on the floor with us in our darkness and reaches out to touch us and to simply BE with us. Our scars remind us that even though God may not have delivered the trial or tribulation from us, God did indeed come in Love and be with us in the darkness. I have experienced this Truth many times: when my father died; when my son died; when my mother and brother died; when all hope seemed lost and I thought the only obvious answer was death God came.

Our scars are God’s calling cards, reminders of his faithful Presence, enduring love, patient tenderness, and infinite wisdom and power.

So the next time we glance down at our physical scars or feel the pang and tug of the unseen scars, whisper a prayer of Gratitude in remembrance that you may be wounded, but you are loved.

17 August 2014

“The Gift of Disagreement” (Kayla McClurg)

Posted in Awareness, community, lavish mercy at 10:11 am by Niles Comer

For Sunday, August 17, 2014 – Matthew 15:10-28

We can look almost anywhere in the world and see the consequences of one of our greatest failures as human beings—our inability to disagree. Yes, that is what I meant to say. We are suffering today not so much from our inability to agree as our inability to, peacefully and respectfully, disagree. Opposing opinions threaten us. We feel judged and disrespected when others do not align with us, and instead of considering their views with an open mind, we set out to prove how wrong they are. Our local, national and international governments, our religious and civic bodies, all give evidence of this pervasive inability to disagree in good spirit. It takes humility to hear each other, let alone work with each other, while seeing things differently. What are we afraid of—that we might learn something new, and have to change?

A woman comes to Jesus seeking a crumb of mercy for her daughter. She is a nobody among nobodies. The disciples want to send her away, and Jesus himself compares her to a dog scrounging for scraps under the table. Yet she is remembered still today, not because she and Jesus hit it off so splendidly, but because she dares to disagree creatively. She is put down and spoken to dismissively, but she does not let this deter her. She has a vision bigger than the evidence at hand. She has her own sense of God’s wide, wild mercy, and she recognizes this mercy within Jesus. If he is not yet ready to stand with her, so be it. She is ready to stand with him.

This is what it means to disagree with an open mind. We hold in our hearts our sense of what is right, and we also hold those who oppose us. We refuse to accept the same old worn out stories, and we also refuse to blame. We know the old bigotries and hatreds have harmed us all, and that we of opposing opinions are not the real enemy. We also know that keeping quiet is no longer an option. When she asks Jesus to heal her daughter, her beloved, her future, he says no. Can you believe it? What happens next makes all the difference. Does she erupt against him? Does she remain quietly agreeable? Or does she find a third way, allowing her expanded vision to stretch his? From this woman we see what a living relationship with Jesus and each other can look like. We see the healing mercy that can come from disagreement.

By:
Season and Scripture: ,

14 August 2014

Trust is a Four Letter Word

Posted in Addiction & Recovery, Awareness, compassion, encountering God, Trust at 12:01 am by Niles Comer

Trust (v.) -from Old Norse treysta “to rely on or to make strong and safe.”  Trust (n.) – “reliance on the veracity, integrity, or other virtues of someone or something; religious faith,” from Old Norse traust “help, confidence, protection, support and/or comfort.”

“Many people pray as though to overcome the will of a reluctant God, instead of taking hold of the willingness of a loving God.” From Came to Believe

Trust.

One little simple word that strikes both fear and at the heart of my spiritual reality.

It is one simple word and yet my entire spiritual foundation, and journey, rests on those five letters. Without it I am lost to the chaos of a random universe leaving me unattended and directionless in a world filled with anxiety and anger.

If I am really honest, I mean honest in the way that raises eyebrows and strains the freedom I have in Christ, my faith is a mess, my trust is a joke, and I do not have me shite together.

But…

I am surrounded by grace: a grace that says, you are not your yesterdays; grace that says all is forgiven and the cross proves it. I must trust that God pours out his grace on me because God is trustworthy, ever reminding me that I am perfect when I am weak because grace seeps into us through our cracks and wounds and is perfected in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

So, I am not called to clarity or certainty nor perfection but trust. Scriptures echo this truth – the Psalms going so far as to say that I am blessed when I trust God…not when I am perfect or have the right theology or am working a perfect program of recovery, but blessed when I trust God.

I am feeble, weak, arrogant and angry…but I am loved and called by One named Faithful and True, worthy of my trust and worthy of the wreckage known as Niles. In growing in my trust of God, I am invited to ease into a life of “progress not perfection” knowing that trust is not only historic but must be dynamic, animated daily through prayer and encounters with God and with the beauty’full people that cross my path.

13 August 2014

SnapShot Musings: Dorothy Day

Posted in God's love at 11:32 am by Niles Comer

Dorothy Day (co-founder of the Catholic Worker houses and farms) is one of those salty saints whose entire life has inspired me and my mission for over 20 years.  And whether it is about me living my recovery or following Jesus, her words simplify it best:

Dorothy_Day_Action

1 August 2014

SnapShot Musings: Thomas Aquinas

Posted in compassion, social justice at 11:56 am by Niles Comer

Aquinas Quote

29 July 2014

“A Letter to the Church of Abbotsford and Beyond” (Ward Draper)

Posted in Addiction & Recovery, Calling, messy grace, servant leadership, social justice, the poor & oppressed at 6:19 pm by Niles Comer

In this broken city teeming with hurt and frustration a looming tragedy approaches. This tragedy is not new; we have seen it before and will most assuredly will again. On the horizon injustice and oppression are bearing down on some of Abbotsfords most vulnerable residents again.

An eviction notice has been posted for July 31, 2014 at 9 a.m. to displace dozens of hurting, sick, and forgotten humans who have sought fragile safety and community along the Gladys corridor. It is a street drenched in pain, exploitation, despair, and numerous other woes. Regardless of the conditions and behaviors, these are humans who need the Church of Abbotsford to respond and engage. The Church needs to walk down into that darkness and let its light bring the healing so desperately needed. Do not let more suffering come.

God asks His children, lovers of Christ, to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, and to set the oppressed free. We, the Church of Abbotsford, must rise united to halt the cycle of tyranny which decimates so many precious lives. We have an opportunity to bring the Kingdom to bear upon misguided and futile hostilities that cause great pain and misery on so many lost and hurting human beings.

It is true the Church of Abbotsford has stumbled many times when facing the challenges of the marginalized within her walls. However, it does not have to be this way. This does not have to be. It is our calling, our responsibility, our privilege to face these daunting challenges together as family of believers. Sisters and Brothers – our King calls blessed those who feed the hungry. Those who quench the thirst of the parched. Those who welcome the stranger as family. Those who wrap garments around the naked. Those who bring healing to the sick. Those who visit the prisoner locked in cages of steel. Jesus calls us blessed when we do for the least, for it is there that He is found. Christ is served when we offer these courageous loving gifts. The Kingdom is found in these simple acts of love, grace, and mercy. The King says if we do not love in these ways we will face punishment.

The time is now, today, to put aside empty self-gratifying activities and seek justice. Lend your voice, your hands, your heart, your possessions to reach out to the lost in our community and on our streets. July 31 is such an opportunity to serve our Lord. Pray, listen, and seek practical ways you and the Church can rise up and face these challenges that burn within our city. Together we can let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream.

Original Link at Huff Post

26 July 2014

Bending…

Posted in poetry at 10:53 pm by Niles Comer

There is this awful
bending towards God that
my soul takes of its own
accord,
a defiant motion set spinning
within
that like a swirling eddy
draws in – with gentle motion – all
the doubt, errors, frailties
and humanness.
This bending leaves me
aching and rent,
in heart and body.
But bend I must to this
Divine Love or
break
I will.

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