20 August 2014
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.”
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
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.
14 August 2014
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
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.
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
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:
26 July 2014
There is this awful
bending towards God that
my soul takes of its own
a defiant motion set spinning
that like a swirling eddy
draws in – with gentle motion – all
the doubt, errors, frailties
This bending leaves me
aching and rent,
in heart and body.
But bend I must to this
Divine Love or
25 July 2014
This poem is from one of my favorite poets, May Sarton, whose clarity and authenticity were Inspiring. EnJoy!
Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before—”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted so by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!
18 July 2014
We pray for another way of being: another way of knowing. Across the difficult terrain of our existence we have attempted to build a highway and in so doing have lost our footpath.
God lead us to our footpath: Lead us there where in simplicity we may move at the speed of natural creatures and feel the earth’s love beneath our feet.
Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts. And lead us there where side-by-side we may feel the embrace of the common soul. Nothing can be loved at speed.
God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights of the pilgrim; another way of knowing; another way of being.
Amen [So BE it...].
Source: The Prayer Tree
12 July 2014
Meister Eckhart once said “theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language.” I believe that language to be Divine Love.
I find this quote tantalizing because the early followers of Jesus were known more for their radical love whereas today ‘Christians’ are known more for what we are against than for our expressions of unconditional (i.e. Divine) love. There is much talk amongst theologians and religious people in media about the nature of God and God’s love, but I confess, it all leaves me dry once we start pontificating on God’s ‘unconditional love’.
Because many speak and write of unconditional love in the abstract, but when it comes down to it, we humans interpret and express divine love through the lens of dogma and cultural bias. Do you believe what I believe? Do you subscribe to my particular finite branch on the Tree of Life? If you do, then you are a recipient of the unconditional love of God; if not, then you are danced around with trite phrases like “love the sinner but hate the sin.”
Let me state my ideas unequivocally: it is impossible for fallible humans to separate the “sin” from the sinner and thus we “throw out the baby with the bath water” – meaning when we despise the sin we are despising the very sinner that is loved unconditionally by God. And lest I forget, all have sinned and all are fallible, and all are loved unconditionally.
It would seem that we are quite uncomfortable with unconditional love. We need to codify it, commodify it, qualify it and regulate it. And in so doing, we put a fence around the limitless and all embracing love of God. We find it virtually impossible to just simply, lavishly and indiscriminately share and “throw” around God’s love with reckless abandon. God forbid…even though that is all God asks of us.
If we gave love so freely, without judgment or dogma, our faith would become dangerous like a feral lion but instead we are afraid to truly love and embrace everyone as they are without any reservations and thus our love becomes a domesticated, declawed house cat.
We blatantly disregard the words of Jesus (thereby placing nationalism, patriotism and politics above the love of God): we do not love our enemies (real and/or supposed); we cannot even show unconditional love to Christians of differing denominations; we show no love or compassion to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters; we hate Muslims; we ignore and patronize Buddhist and Hindus; we loathe atheists; we cannot even show love to our red state/blue stated neighbors and family members. ‘Christians’ rage against children coming across borders and even threaten politicians who speak of limiting access to assault weapons. And in all of this, the greatest power ever – the burning love of God – gets swept aside by religion viewed through the lens of whichever flag we hold dear.
In all truth, and this is my truth and experience, we have absolutely no earthly idea just how unconditional God’s love is. If I am honest, it scares me, it scares all of us.
I struggle and stutter, I stammer and falter in truly fleshing out God’s lavish and dangerous Love: a Love that emanates from God’s very Being; a Love that whispers perpetually throughout all of Creation, saying “All are loved. All is forgiven. All are welcome. All are brothers and sisters. All is well. And all the way to heaven is indeed heaven.”
P.S. 12 years ago today, my son Quinn, died. I grieve hard. I celebrate fully. I am grateful to his Mama and to God for the Gift that experience holds for me. I miss you every day and see you in the butterflies and hear your laughter in the breeze…