“…I need more of the night before I open eyes and heart to illumination.
I must still grow in the dark like a root not ready, not ready at all.”

Denise Levertov, “Eye Mask”

There are many reasons I love poetry – its ability to say much with so little, its deep spirituality, it intimacy and delicacy, to fill and to empty, to flourish and fire. Denise Levertov is another one of the reasons I love poetry particularly this poem; she has a way of capturing the deeper truths I am embodying without it being a Faulknerian novel; crisp, concise.

It is good meat for my spiritual life as well. I too must remain still and rest in the dark, like a root not ready for the world and all it contains. I must gestate longer in this womb of God, like the Christ child in Mary, I too need more time in the darkness before I am fruition.

I do not fear the darkness like some; many good and wonderful things happen in the dark, more than just things that go bump and boo. In the darkness, all manner of vegetation, flora and fauna take root and take hold of the Earth, clinging to her like a babe to a breast finding life in the suckling darkness; then so lovingly and compassionately turning from what they received in darkness and to fill and feed.

What I know is that darkness is a good thing. It is not something to be feared, to run from, or to see as negative. Far too often in western culture, and specifically “white” western culture all things darker are considered negative, from skin to spirituality.

But darkness is necessary for any authentic spiritual growth.

In darkness, come dreams, fantasies, hopes, inspirations…God spoke in the days of old and still does speaking in the dreams that come in the darkness (the prophet Joel reminded us that our young would see visions and our old would dream dreams).

I need to go deep into the dark like a root, so that God can water my soul, give me the tenderness of damp, earthy shadows where I can remove all pretense, drop my skin and shell to the floor like old rags, and lick my wounds and set them free to roam in God’s healing freedom. As a dark root, I let God touch my selfishness, my anger, my chards of rage, my fears, self pity and my resentments towards all. In the darkness, God heals me, feeds me, molds me, and breaks me, loving me back to my humanity.

So, like Denise Levertov, I am not ready for the illumination of the day. I am in need of darkness, the emptiness of gestation where the Divine Love that comes from nothingness, will be with me. I must still grow in this sacred darkness, a little holy root of God.

Catch me in my anxious scurrying, Lord
and hold me in this Lenten season:
hold my feet to the fire of Your Grace
and make me attentive to my mortality
that I may begin to die now to those things
that keep me from with You and with my neighbors on this earth;
to grudges and indifference,
to certainties that smother possibilities,
to my fascination with false securities,
to my addiction to sweatless dreams,
to my arrogant insistence on how it has to be,
to my corrosive fear of dying someday which eats away
     the wonder of living this day,
and the adventure of losing my life in order to find You.
Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace

Prayer is revolutionary.

Prayer is a seditious act against those forces that deem the material world is all there is; that what is seen is the final word.

Prayer is the doorway into the Infinite.

Prayer is what happens within us then slowly moves outward.

Prayer turns the world upside-down and inside-out.

Prayer is a sweet love song to God; soft whispers of tenderness and rage in the ear of the One Who is Love.

Prayer moves the mountains of hard hearts and thick heads.   Prayer transforms all things.

Prayer is an invitation to let God do wonders in and through us, if we are but curious.

Prayer changes the way we see the world, leaving behind the establishment of the powerful entering instead into the true power of surrender and the realm of the margins and the marginalized, the place where we see God in his most distressing disguise.

As Karl Barth once said, “To clasp hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”

 

There is that old adage that behind every good man is a great woman. And as sexist as it is, there is a truth hidden in there as well, except it is not gender specific. A more apt way of saying it is that behind all goodness, greatness, and success in any person’s life, behind all great acts, there is someone ‘back stage’ making it possible – a ghost, as it were.

No one succeeds on their own. No great event in a person’s life, no great literary work, no great feat of healing and recovery, no great discovery, nothing happens in a person’s life without someone else, in the shadows, helping them. Whether they be friends, lovers, spouses, donors, benefactors, prayer warriors, co-workers, strangers, fellow wounded souls, other people in recovery, there is always someone there to walk with, be with, open doors, pay bills, give a shot to, sway the course of a life. Always.

That is one thing that is 100 percent true in my life; behind every word, every victory, every day of sobriety, every chance I’ve ever gotten, there are at least 2 people in the background holding me up, feeding my soul, sharing their wisdom, putting money in my pocket, making a phone call, or whatever it is, allowing it to become my “own” victory.

So, I stand here in praise of the ghost, the unseen beloveds who have walked with me through this journey of my life. Some of them know who they are, some do not. I give thanks for some of you now by name because you are my greatest ghost:

There is Ian Chan Hodges and the whole Chan Hodges tribe, Monsieur Lanier, Anthony Cauterucci and all his beautiful children. There is Durty Jones, Priya Kale, my adopted Nana Leona Choy.  There is Hugh McGee, Joanne C. and her sweet angel Adrienne, and of course Artie S. There are those who are part of the Tribe of Wounded Angels.  There is Tisa S., Ashley S., Jim D., Misty, Glen Fischer, a NayNay, Greg B., Berit, and my brother Kevin. There is my real Mom, the late Sandy Comer James.  There is also a foster “Mama and Dad” – the Grantiers and their son Mark.  The entire Bishop McGuinness High School community in North Carolina, especially Father Frank Cancro.  There is also Carlton, Cathy, “Shelly Belly”, Tim Callahan, and John McMonagle. There is Ken Yamaguchi-Clark and W. Terry Beck (a most delightful Angel).  There are writers and artist like Frederick Buechner, Anne Lamott, Paulo Coelho, Neale Donald Walsch, Tom Absher and all the freaks affiliated with the now defunct Writers & Artist Workshop of Vermont College of Norwich University (where I finally finished by B.A. 19 years ago).  There is Megan, Quinn (my son), Lloyd Odell, Tony Campolo, Father Krempa, and Pastor Jack.  There is the entire Daniels tribe.

I also give thanks to all the “ghosts” in A.A. and N.A. and to my dog Juno. 

The greatest praise and thanks go to my God Whom I love more and more every day; Who gives me LOVE, Life, and Sobriety.

All of you help me stay on the path to wholeness and love.  There are literally hundreds more who moved mountains, opened hearts and doors, gave when they had little to give of their own, who have made my life all of what it is today.

So, to all of you (written here and not but who know who you are), I say thank you, bless you, and may you be given back all that you have given to me a hundred fold.  May God be praised for your love and faithfulness and may you be Blessed!

If you have any ghost in your lives who dance in the shadows, enriching all that you do, cheering you on, I challenge you to express your love, thanks and gratitude to them…for no one is an island, but all of us should stand in praise of the ghost.

  • For God so loved the world that He gave…
  • Love your enemies…
  • Love is from God…
  • Above all, love each other deeply for love covers over a multitude of sins…
  • Love must be sincere…
  • Love your neighbor as yourself…
  • Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
  • Bear with one another in love.
  • There is no fear in love. But [God’s] perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.
  • We love [at all] because God first loved us.
  • Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in…Jesus.
  • Herein is love, not that we loved God first, but that God loved us first.
  • And over all virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
  • Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
  • Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
  • Whoever does not Love does not know God, because God is Love.

All of the previous lines are Scriptures from the New Testament. And this is just a sampling. But it is amazing to see them all together, along with the “love chapter” from the book of Corinthians. All this talk of love, it’s so powerful that this divine love, should be overwhelming – overwhelming us inwardly and outwardly, overwhelming our communities, our world. Instead, what do I read, hear, and see all about me, but Christians NOT showing this type of Love.  Instead, I hear more talk of guns than this graceful love, hating President Obama, hating Republicans, hating Democrats, judging Atheists, and a litany of homophobic and Islamophobic dribble.

If you are not a believer, may you find hope and may you have your own personal experience of this God who is Love. If you are a believer, let these words guide your every action and belief, your understanding of your faith, your denomination, your Church, your political beliefs, your treatment of the earth and ALL the people in it –  let it be guided by THESE words on love.

This is not love as defined by one simple day called Valentine’s Day. This is not love as defined by political parties or Hollywood or even specific faiths. This is not cultural, nor is it political. It is not even religious per se.

This is about DIVINE LOVE…the unfathomable, and in reality indescribable, love of God (that I am doing no justice to by limiting it with my words and perspective).

So if God is love (which God truly is) then all of it (all of creation, life, existence) is summed up in the word LOVE. 

Okay, so I’ve gotten some feedback on the previous Love blog and I wanted to take this time to clarify and simplify. According to a garden variety of Christian scripture, it is stated that God is love, and that love is the law we are supposed to follow. And seeing as all around me I witness too many people of faith living their lives so far from what “love” is supposed to be (myself first and foremost), I wanted to use the same Scripture to spell it out again.

So, if we are wondering what does the whole “God is Love” look like and how are we to love people, we can follow the follow methodology. AND, if we are wondering Who God is then we can follow the same Scripture to understand how God responds to all people at all times.

God is love.  Which means that…

God is patient.
God is kind.
God does not envy.
God is not boastful.
God is not conceited.
God does not act improperly.
God is not selfish.
God is not provoked.
God does not keep a record of wrongs.
God finds no joy in wickedness.
God rejoices in the truth.
God bears all things.
God believes all things.
God hopes all things.
God endures all things.
God never fails.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Okay.  Now that this is out of the way and we now all know who God is and how God responds to each and every one of us, let’s all go out and have some delicious God Experiences in honor of the “love fest” known as Valentine’s Day!

In honor of the faux holy day of Valentines’ Day (Hallmark has hijacked it people) I want to muse on Love and push the envelope and our comfort zones.  The apostle John wrote often and was known for being the “love” guy, and he penned the Scripture stating that “God is Love.”

Well, now God being “love” is all pretty and such, but do we even believe that?  And what type of love is God? My love? Your love? Free love? Unconditional love? Conservative Love? Progressive Love?

Which love is God?

Is it even possible to answer that?  I believe so, and since I’ve done this before and the Love Holiday is upon us and being that my image of God is in the crapper these days, I thought I’d muse on Love and I do so by rewriting the “Love Chapter” of the Bible – 1 Corinthians 13.  So, read this with me and let us pray for each other and for all people that we can begin to experience God this way and live our lives accordingly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Godlove: The Superior Way

If I speak human or angelic languages
but do not have God,
I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy
and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith
so that I can move mountains
but do not have God, I am nothing.
And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor,
and if I give my body in order to boast
but do not have God, I gain nothing.

God is patient.
God is kind.
God does not envy.
God is not boastful.
God is not conceited.
God does not act improperly.
God is not selfish.
God is not provoked.
God does not keep a record of wrongs.
God finds no joy in wickedness.
God rejoices in the truth.
God bears all things.
God believes all things,
God hopes all things.
God endures all things.
God never fails.

But as for prophecies, they will come to an end;
as for languages, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
For we know in part,
and we prophesy in part.
 But when the perfect comes,
the partial will come to an end.
When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became an adult,
I put aside childish things.
For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
Now I know in part, but then I will know fully,
as I am fully known.
Now these three remain: faith, hope, and God.
But the greatest of these is God.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Take a moment and ask yourself: what IF we experienced God this way?  What if we lived our lives as if God was this way?  What would the world look like if ALL people who believe in God (whichever faith) lived as if God was this kind of Love?

The answer is quite simple actually: the world would be shaken to its very foundations, and human hearts (the most crafty of all entities) would begin to change and be transformed, and the world would never be the same.

 

David Whyte is one of my favorite Poets; he has a lush way with words and a gift for making them as utilitarian as they are delicious.  EnJOY!

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb
tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness

to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

There is a form of hypocrisy we rarely speak of, the hypocrisy of not being true to ourselves. Not being true to ourselves can wreak havoc, lead one to split off and lead to a dualistic life. Not being true to ourselves is likened to a person living one way during the day and as another person at night. A good example of that is me: I was a full blown addict and alcoholic abusing narcotics and alcohol to dangerous extremes all while I was still trying to be a ‘good citizen’ living a lie. I proclaimed to be a soulful spiritual person, loving God and neighbor, all while breaking the law, being in bondage and destroying the people in my life.

But when I proclaimed out loud to myself and to others in similar straits that I am an alcoholic, the shackles fell like curtains before my eyes and the world opened up when I embraced all of me and re-started my journey embodying all that God made me to be.

And that is the obvious truth – God created me to be fully me, to be true to that, true to the divine image and gifts waiting to be offered to the world. When I pretend to be someone else, I am living a lie. I am living in hypocrisy. True confessions, I do it too much. Far too often I surrender the truth of who I am in order to fit in, to not rock the boat, and most of all, to be accepted.

Here’s the kicker, that even being 47 years old, I am still suspect and subject to peer pressure. I can literally become someone else, afraid to show my true colors for fear of “what if you don’t like me?”

What if I give you my all, my true God given self to you and it’s really not enough? What if those inner fears of inadequacy are true? What if? But worse than being inadequate is not being true to me – acting like someone I am not in order to fit into someone else’s mold.

That is a grave error for me to live that way. I am one with God. I am made in the image of God. You are too. We are already everything we’ve ever wanted to be in God’s eyes, but journey we must to the day when it is truth for us. We must heed the wisdom of Shakespeare: “to thine own self be true.” Or else we are screwed; screwed up, screwed over, and left at the end of the day being only shadows, smoke and mirrors. When I am not true to myself, I stop being real, I stop living and merely exist.

I must be true to myself for in doing so, I am being true to God. And that is all that matters in the end. My life is a journey – a journey with God, into God, into myself and into you. But I must never forget this story of my life starts with and ends with God. And in this story of my life, I have learned that God sometimes writes with crooked letters.

Have you considered the possibility
that everything you believe is wrong,
not merely off a bit, but totally wrong,
nothing like things as they really are?
If you’ve done this, you know how durably fragile
those phantoms we hold in our heads are,
those wisps of thought that people die and kill for,
betray lovers for, give up lifelong friendships for.
If you’ve not done this, you probably don’t understand this poem,
or think it’s not even a poem, but a bit of opaque nonsense,
occupying too much of your day’s time,
so you probably should stop reading it here, now.
But if you’ve arrived at this line,
maybe, just maybe, you’re open to that possibility,
the possibility of being absolutely completely wrong,
about everything that matters.
How different the world seems then:
everyone who was your enemy is your friend,
everything you hated, you now love,
and everything you love slips through your fingers like sand.

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