22 April 2014

“Resurrection as Faithfulness” (Henri Nouwen)

Posted in Faith, God's Care at 10:58 am by Niles Comer

The resurrection does not solve our problems about dying and death. It is not the happy ending to our life’s struggle, nor is it the big surprise that God has kept in store for us.

No, the resurrection is the expression of God’s faithfulness….

The resurrection is God’s way of revealing to us that nothing that belongs to God will ever go to waste. What belongs to God will never get lost.


20 April 2014

We are an Easter People

Posted in Addiction & Recovery, compassion, encountering God, God's Care at 1:57 pm by Niles Comer

Happy Easter!

We have journeyed through another Lenten season, and been given another chance to grow more deeply in love with God and with one another, another season where finding the joy and comfort of God’s presence in rituals and the hope that Spring can bring.

Last night, Holy Saturday, I attended service at the Holy Cross Abbey with the Cistercian monks. Never having attended Lenten services at a monastery, I was not sure what the experience would bring. I felt like I had stepped back in time, in a wonderful way; the historical richness and the ever present reality providing a sacred collusion.  There was darkness, candles, prayers, chanting and singing in Latin and English, kneeling, bowing, and the Eucharist. It was delicious even as it was long – over two hours. The monks do not do anything quickly and in this world of immediate gratification, I was afforded the ‘time’ to slow down, breathe, and attune my being to the Divine Presence permeating the place.

All this pausing got me to thinking about the reality of this holy season and about living a committed and intentional spiritual journey. The shadowy, yet hopeful Saturday Vigil Mass reminded me that we truly are a people on the Way…in transition on this journey towards God and each other. We are a pilgrim people who must live between the tension of two days, Good Friday (suffering and death) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection and new life).

We are a Good Friday People; all we need to do is look around at all the pain and suffering in our world and in our hearts. But the glorious news is that is not the final word for we are an Easter people.  Some 25 years ago a friend of mine reminded me in so many words that we are an Easter People.  He said, “Niles, it’s Friday…but Sunday’s a comin’!”

We must all face the dailiness of life, the Good Friday moments, the smaller pains and frustration and the larger tragedies that can beset us. These Good Friday times are painful, no doubt, but they serve a purpose of molding us into the image and likeness of Jesus; they all but force us to deeper intimacy with God and a deeper reliance upon divine grace rather than human sensibilities.

Yes, we must go through (and not around) Good Friday for in our suffering, we somehow commingle with the suffering of others and with Jesus, bringing some sense of redemption to our pain, knowing we are not alone in it. We become more connected to Jesus and to those whose lives are permeated with suffering – the addicted, the homeless, the imprisoned, the poor – and we become in some way more human.

Good Friday teaches us some of the ebb and flow of grace. But we must hold out, we must remember that Good Friday is not the final word, Easter Sunday is. The cross is not the final word of silence, the Great Silence of the empty tomb is the final word and that Word echoes throughout human history and throughout our own personal histories with this truth: there is resurrection! 

Our emptiness, our addictions, our pain and sickness, our loneliness and poverty (even our death) are not the last word from the world; yes, they are indeed a word, but just a word. The resurrection of Jesus is the Final, all glorious, Word spoken to us. The living Word is our final statement. Hear God speak to you this truth: “Death is not the end…addiction is not the end…hopelessness is not the end. I AM the End that has no end; I AM the Beginning; I AM the Hope and Love for which you long.”

Let’s celebrate this Truth together, for we are indeed an Easter People – a people living in the creative tension of the already and the not yet of the Resurrection. So this Easter, I pray we all are deepening in our love for and experience of God and the power of Resurrection and new life.

So let us sing for Joy this sacred season for Christ is risen, risen indeed!

19 April 2014

Velveteen Grace

Posted in God's Care, God's love, messy grace at 12:22 pm by Niles Comer

I feel like the velveteen rabbit these days: stuffing falling out of me, my buttonhole eyes torn out, and my velveteen fur all rubbed away. Real is what I think this is called. But it does not always feel so ‘nice.’

I have days where I find believing in God and living close to Jesus next to impossible; days when everything feels like a faithless daze. But it is days like this that the experience and expression of divine grace becomes the most real…as the Scriptures say “when I am weak then I am strong.” For me that means when I am at the end of my rope, God makes up the shortcomings.

“Lord, I believe, but help me where my faith falls short.”

My spirituality these days is velveteen; ragamuffin grace in action. Something inside me, mostly cerebral, tells me God loves me in these moments – these moments when loving myself much less others is near impossible. That is when I need the Spirit reminding me that God will just love the stuffing right out of us, button holes and all.  God’s love will reach down into the wreckage of our lives and pull us right out of the proverbial crapper, placing us into the divine warmth of a blanket called grace. And this all occurs usually when I think I cannot handle another thing or in the so-called ‘Eleventh Hour.’

(self pep talk here) Make no mistake about it, grace comes, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but come it does. Grace comes in the gutters and in the guttural.

Grace is the moment when all the stuffing has been pulled out, when the dangling button formerly known as an eye finally breaks from the last fraying thread and the word comes to us, “I love you truly, madly and deeply.” Grace is God in flesh, pitching his tent among us, saying he is for us even when all else and all others fail us.

Grace comes, child, oh yes it does!

God’s grace is that surreal power that changes the imperfect into the “I’m perfect” thereby making all else perfect as well. And as we stand at the precipice of a time when resurrection is celebrated all around us this weekend, and all we feel is dead, know that this moment – this precise moment – is the Perfect Moment of Grace.

17 April 2014

The Promise of Shared Brokenness

Posted in God's love at 5:07 pm by Niles Comer

Niles Comer:

once again, Heather speaks so lovely and lovingly to the spiritual truths of those of us in recovery. But this wisdom is for all, so enJoy!

Originally posted on Heather Kopp:

shutterstock_158680922 I get a lot of emails from people who’ve read Sober Mercies , which means so much to me. But I keep noticing how one particular line from the book keeps coming up. Last week, after three people in a row quoted the same sentence, I went back to read it in context (italicized below):

 “The particular brand of love and loyalty that seemed to flow so easily here [in recovery meetings] wasn’t like anything I’d ever experienced, inside or outside of church.

 But how could this be? How could a bunch of addicts and alcoholics manage to succeed at creating the kind of intimate fellowship so many of my Christian groups had tried to achieve and failed?

 Many months would pass before I understood that people bond more deeply over shared brokenness than they do over shared beliefs.”

Aha! Clearly, a lot of you have shared my experience—felt…

View original 433 more words

13 April 2014

Apathy Addiction

Posted in Awareness, social justice, spirituality at 11:52 am by Niles Comer

“Religion is the opium of the masses.” Karl Marx

Karl Marx, like him or loathe him, was indeed on to something.  Opium doesn’t ask us to change or spiritually evolve, but only to grow thick in our spiritual tummies.

I have been feeling the apathy addiction: lethargic in my desire to even put words to paper; resilient to growing in self awareness; stubbornly resisting God’s tender mercies deciding instead to live in a small place called fear.

Opium, the drug, is highly addictive.  Many, many years ago I smoked some opium…it made me dreamy “happy”, lazing the day away on the couch with nary a care in the world – not for food, human company, nothing.  And my faith in God, if it becomes a drug called religion, is not much different.

If my religion is a drug, my so-called service to God becomes simple apathy.  And apathy justifies complacency, fears awareness, stifles the inner –and outer – journey towards God, others and self.  Apathy leaves a slimy, icky residue on the interior lining of my soul, leaving it good for nothing – neither God nor people.

If my faith in God becomes an opiate, it will only seek to preserve the status quo, all the while fearing change, ingenuity and the divine gift of day-dreaming for God.

Apathy addiction leads to the seven deadly words: “we’ve never done it that way before.”

My faith in God, my ever deepening love for God and from God is a journey called spirituality – and spirituality is just religion with its clothes stripped off.  Spirituality is a verb whereby I stand naked before my God – a God who is pure love, eternal compassion, perpetual loving-kindness, and infinite goodness.

Spirituality heals the apathy addiction of religion and moves me deeper into God, creates movement, and fills me with the very attributes of God.  Spirituality empowers me to love God and my neighbors with gentle vigilance, tender mercy, wisdom and compassion.


8 April 2014

“My Symphony” (Wm. Ellergy Channing)

Posted in God's love at 2:01 pm by Niles Comer

To live content with small means;
to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich;
to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly;
to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart;
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurrying never.

In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.

William Ellergy Channing

Source: Masterpieces of Religious Verse

7 April 2014

When Mercy Trumps Judgment

Posted in God's love at 10:39 pm by Niles Comer

Niles Comer:

Heather is a gifted writer and someone who has experienced first hand the Grace of God. As a fellow person in recovery, her words are vital to speaking truth and grace to the stigma of addiction. I encourage you to check her blog out and support her lovely and grace-filled ministry.

Originally posted on Heather Kopp:

Art by Angelina Rusin, click image to visit her on Etsy

Art by Angelina Rusin, click image to visit her on Etsy

In early May, I’m speaking at an annual fundraiser for a large women’s center in Texas. Their mission is to provide housing and services to homeless and addicted women who are trying to rebuild their lives.

As I plan what to say, I realize I’ll be speaking to a rare kind of audience: People glad to show up where they know they’ll be asked to give money to help addicts and alcoholics.

Typically, you see, we’re not a group that easily evokes sympathy. Our cause doesn’t tug at the heart—or purse—strings the same way child hunger or breast cancer does.

And I get why. To the casual observer, addiction looks more like selfishness at full throttle than a progressive disease. We addicts tend to be stubborn, manipulative, and in many cases, criminal. Some of us are known for squandering what help we…

View original 528 more words

5 April 2014

Going About…Doing Good

Posted in compassion, Jesus, ministry, mission, servant leadership, social justice, the poor & oppressed at 9:38 am by Niles Comer

“You know…what has happened all over Judea…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power [and Jesus] went about doing good and healing all those oppressed…for God was with him.” (Acts 10:37-38, NAB)

I’ve often realized that sometimes the sacred Scriptures get quite “dull” to me, and I think the reason is that for all the “this and that” over Scripture, it is and will always be a collection of stories about real people of people, and their interactions with each other and with God.

That is why I love the above mentioned Scripture; for it says that the love story of Jesus, and how he lived and what he did, was known all over Judea (so even back then ‘gossip’ and stories were afoot and the norm).

When I think about Jesus, I often forget or deny his humanness (back in the day that was a named heresy with punishment being excommunication and a hot party of one on a burning stake!).

Yes, Jesus was utterly and completely human, and he was filled with the Spirit and power. And what did he do with his Spirit-filled power: he used it to go about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed. Now, how many of us can say if we had “power” that this is what we would do? Be honest…

And when I look around at the self-proclaimed Christians, I am often left wondering and amazed at just how power hungry some God mongerers are. Wouldn’t it be grand if most of “Christendom” and the “true professed followers of Jesus” were known more for going around doing good and healing the oppressed rather than what most of Christians are known for now: gay bashing, gun-toting, reactionary close-mindedness, narcissistic self-help pedagogies promoting earthly riches. The list goes on…

Truly, I sometimes feel that if Jesus were alive today, we’d lock him out of our houses of worship: how dare he hang out with whores, drug addicts, money-launderers, and those people who smell funny and talk to themselves when they walk down the street.

Can you hear it? Just exactly who does this Jesus think he is? How dare him. Well, he’ll mess up my agenda. He’ll mess with my Constitutional Rights! He’ll come across as unpatriotic. He’ll offend the neighbors…

Blah, blah, blah. Damn right Jesus will mess with you! For going around doing good and healing the oppressed got Jesus killed! He did not win some local civic award, or the Nobel Prize, nor did he get 1 million hits on his YouTube viral video or have the most popular Facebook account.

He got strung up on a tree for following the leading of the Spirit and doing good and being with and healing the poor and oppressed. It is vital to remember that in the time of Jesus, much like today, the poor were maligned for being so because it was their fault; they had sinned or committed some heinous error that had caused God to punish and curse them.

Jesus screws all that screwy theology right to hell.

I’d like to be all pious and sanctimonious and say I want to be like Jesus. Well, I do, just without the cross. I do want to be filled with the Spirit and go about doing good and being a source of God’s healing for the oppressed. But I am afraid because those who love God and the poor often times suffer the same fate as the poor.

What will the stories be about me when I die? Will I be known for going about doing good? Will you be known about going around doing good? What legacy am I leaving?

The question is: am I out there going about doing good and healing those who are oppressed?

30 March 2014

An Ordinary God

Posted in poetry at 9:40 pm by Niles Comer

I shrivel, I expand, I grow weary from huffing and
puffing my chest out in anger and despair from
hearing hatred and hypocrisy
Fall like stones from the mouths of those who say
they speak for the Lord of Love;
words of war from those who claim the Prince of Peace
As their own.
I falter in my faith as I see this Rushing Wind
reduced to an impotent Breeze;
this Fierce Tiger gelded into submission.
This God, this One of Love to whom I surrender
will not be tamed nor taunted,
controlled nor cajoled by culture or flag, religion or Sect.
This God is NOT ordinary. The God I know to be
True is Love, fierce and relentless, tender and passionate.
This God is ExtraOrdinary, knowable yet unknown,
serene yet dangerous, friendly yet Lord.
How dare we adjust this God like he were
the settings of our brazen technology.
This God is beyond your walls or mine, above our
politics and our safe, sanitized flag waving patriotic religion,
dearth of wisdom as it is. This God is fire and seeks to
set aflame all who hunger for him.

29 March 2014

“Ask Me” (William Stafford)

Posted in Awareness, poetry at 11:04 am by Niles Comer

This is one of my favorite poems from one of my favorite poets.  EnJoy!

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

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