I used to look at the world in black and white, extreme black and white at that. It went something like this: “either you were or you weren’t; either you did or your didn’t; either things (or you) were good or bad; black or white; in or out. Fill in the blank at the end but the meaning is still the same: life was made rigid; exclusive self-righteously all bundled up in neat, little packaging (socio-cultural/economic/political/religious MREs if you will).

It seemed to make life safe for a twenty something who was new to faith and scared of almost everything in life.

Now…well now my view of the world is more an appreciation of the entire kaleidoscope colors of God’s being reflected and deflected in, through and off of all of creation – us included.

But…and there’s always a but. But there is one area of my life I am still a bit “black and white” with and that is about the dance between fear and faith. The way I look at it either I live in fear or I live in faith; I live by fear or I live by faith. Now granted, I know it is not so neatly packaged, far from it.

But it seems to me those two choices are the existentially paradigmatic choices of our lives.

And depending upon which one I choose, determines in all likelihood the quality and maybe even the quantity of the direction my life takes.

If I choose to live (mostly, say 51%) by faith, then the world is just more beautiful. God is more present in all things and in all Ways and I feel connected to all that is – the Creator, the creation and the created.

But if I choose to live by fear (let’s stick with the 51% option again), the scales of life and my perception therein seem to tip and tilt towards the darker, sadder, painful parts of living – the “less” ness of life (as in there seems to be less of everything I desire if I perceive and experience life through the lens of fear).

By choosing (and yes, I do feel at the core, it is a CHOICE) to live by faith – faith in God, faith in myself, faith in other people, faith in love and service, and even faith in the process – a miraculous metamorphosis begins to take place within me and in all those with whom I share life.

Life gets bigger.

Life gets more abundant.

Life gets fuller of joy, suffering, emotions – the veritable messiness of it all.

Life doesn’t necessarily get easier, or prettier, or more neatly packaged. In fact, it’s quite the opposite because looking and living life by faith involves such things as crazy leaps, pain, heartbreak reckless abandon and ruthless trust. Living by faith involves fearless looking at the person I am, all of me, and embracing it as I am not as I want to be. For that is how God does it.

And here is something I am learning slowly and deeply: not only is living a life of faith all of the aforementioned, a life of faith means living with the ever growing knowledge that God actually has faith in me!

That may seem like heresy to some, but if we all step back and look at the gifts, miracles, roles and responsibilities we are blessed with, those things that we seek after and get and those things that seemingly fall into our laps throughout the days and years of our lives, Someone must indeed trust and believe in us to endow us with such abundance!

So, today I am a bit more relaxed, nestling rather than wrestling into this life of faith over fear, hoping against hope, trusting even as my eyes are still getting accustomed to the Light, that in the end (and at the end) that by choosing a life of faith, my life becomes a valuable gift both given and shared to this wonderful wounded world in which I live.

 

Heather Kopp is one of the most inspiring soul feeding writers I have read; she’s up there with Annie Lamott for Warrior Writers who HEAL.  Check out her BLOG at Sober Boots.

Here is a reprint of one of her blogs that fed me, and still does, so I hope you enjoy it and support her.

A friend recently told me, “I keep praying under my breath, ‘Lord, your will not mine,’ but I don’t think I really mean it.”

Her honesty sparked a conversation about how we both come from Christian backgrounds where we got the wrong idea about God’s will—in short, that it is probably gonna suck. Or hurt. Or be way too hard.

In my case, I also learned that the only thing harder than doing God’s will is figuring out what it is. And woe to you if you miss it. Get one degree off track today and in a few years you’ll find yourself deep in the boonies where God can’t bless you.

This belief led to the kind of silliness wherein I ignored God’s clear will regarding the big stuff—like love, honesty, and compassion—while I treated random twitches of the universe like spiritual Morse code meant to help me decipher God’s will on important matters—like which car to buy.

But I’ve been learning a new approach. To my surprise, a lot of people in recovery talk a lot about doing God’s will, not ours, but minus the hand-wringing, confusion, and fear. Many of them operate on the radical assumption that God is good, wants our best, and if we just do the next right thing he puts in front of us, we’ll be fine.

Crazy stuff, huh?

Some time ago, Dave and I went for a hike in the Front Range near where we live in Colorado Springs. The trail followed a creek up a steep canyon. Mostly it did, anyway. Actually, the trail split, disappeared, reappeared, and crisscrossed the creek so often that it was impossible to tell if we were following the “right” trail.

It also didn’t really matter. The entire hike followed the creek. Follow the water and we’d be fine.

Later this week, I have a big decision to make regarding a project that’s close to my heart. And it’s got me wondering: What if God’s will for me—or for any of us—is as wide and deep and roomy as that canyon?

It would mean that regardless of which rock I step on, or which path I follow, if I stay near the creek, I’m still in the middle of God’s will. It would also mean that to miss God’s will, I’d have to leave the creek and start huffing it up the side of the canyon—and I couldn’t accomplish that without noticing what I was doing.

I find this metaphor deeply comforting. It also matches up pretty well with what I believe about God today. I think he wants me to seek his will for me, but not because he’s hiding it. I think he asks me to want what he wants—not so I can suffer, but so others and I won’t.

So this week, I’m praying for guidance. And yes I’m telling God, “Your will not mine,” and meaning it. But I also feel like I’m rambling through a wide-open space with God’s Spirit running through it, and there’s no place I’d rather be.

And if I spot an appealing rock ahead—one that looks friendly, put there just for me, and steady enough to hold my dreams—I’m free to leap.

Or not.

Either way, how much you wanna bet I land smack dab in the center of God’s will?

Source: http://soberboots.com/2012/04/04/smack-dab-in-the-center/

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

Hebrews 13:3 (NIV)

Moses committed murder and was never brought to (human) “justice.”  And Moses was still called by God after his crime to lead one of the greatest liberation/freedom movements the world has ever recorded.

King David set up a plan to ensure the death of one of his closest, beloved, and most faithful generals because he, David, had had an extramarital affair with the generals’ wife, even impregnating her. He did all that premeditated to cover his own arse from getting caught.  And even after all that God called David the “apple of His eye.”

Jesus spent time in prison during his trial for sedition and was crucified between 2 thieves.

The Apostles served time in prison. John the Baptist was incarcerated. Joseph did time at a juvenile detention facility.

The Book of Acts is often celebrated for being the book that introduced us to the early Church and what the earliest followers of Jesus lived like BUT did you know it’s also the Book of the Bible that mentions the word prisoner more than any other Book in the Bible?

Though most ‘Christians’ and followers of Jesus take a “lock them up and throw away the key” mentality and also support capital punishment, it would do us well to reflect upon this truth: that God has used prisoners and criminals time and again to bring “salvation” and healing to various communities. And this God also mandates that we remember and care for the prisoner (saying nothing about doing so based on acceptable and unacceptable crimes).

God only states that when we visit the imprisoned we are visiting the Lord Jesus.

Not a sermon, just a challenging thought.

For more on this check out the Gospel of Matthew 25: 34-46 and www.captivefaith.org.

“God’s call is mysterious; it comes in the darkness of faith. It is so fine, so subtle, that it is only with the deepest silence within us that we can hear it. And yet nothing is so decisive and overpowering for a human on this earth, nothing surer or stronger. This call is uninterrupted: God is always calling us.”

– Carlo Carretto, Letters From the Desert

 

“The mystics invite us to remember what we all too often forget: God is everywhere present in the world, suffusing creation with the being of God. Once in a while, if we keep our eyes open, if we look closely enough, something amid the familiar reveals itself, offers itself to us in a new way. What we know, what we have learned, is taken apart. Is remade. Remakes us.”

– Jan Richardson, In the Sanctuary of Women

 

How is God calling us to love this day?

Most likely it is to and through something wounded and pained, something in need of God’s love and mercy. And it will certainly be something that is more than we can handle on our own.

The Good News is that we don’t have to. God’s love will see us through our acts of divine love if we will just say “yes” to the sacred invitation to serve.

Anonymous

 

Gratitude is a doorway to Grace. 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 a moment when we learn (sometimes 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, discern, and receive the grace 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 love, listen and accept them.

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.

 

I love grace.  I need grace; and desperately so.  But most of all, I rarely understand grace.  So permit some random musings on it.

One explanation I try and use for grace is that it is the place and space where the tenacious madness of God and the seemingly never-ending woundedness of human beings meet. Frederick Buechner says that this meeting place between us and God is almost “always a matter of life or death and usually both.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Grace is the reality that God meets us where we (wherever that is), as we are, and begins the transformation process at that precise spot. Grace is NOT “I’ll get a bit better, more whole, wiser, holier, etc., and then God begins to transform us.”

Not at all. That is the letter of the law kind of thinking, not the Spirit of Grace.

That still involves me doing the work, and God does the work. I ask for help, surrender, become open and wait upon the Spirit to breathe new life into these old bones.

That is grace.

~ ~ ~ ~

Grace is not just talking about God, or admiring Jesus, or even trying to follow his way. Grace is being down on the floor, all curled up, sobbing over the pain and confusion of it all, and knowing, experiencing the Truth that God is down on the floor with us, sobbing, being present to all of us, with us.

~ ~ ~ ~

Grace is God’s complete and total love and acceptance of us as we are NOW, the whole kit and caboodle, and not at some distant point in the future when we arrive or get to some heavenly place.

Grace is almost always a NOW thing, a movement of God that removes the stain of the past and the fear of the future and brings radical acceptance in the here and now.

 

 

 

When you get right down to it, God can be a bit unreasonable.

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 we are told anyone can draw near to God, be a friend of God, if only we surrender and accept the grace of it all?

Absurd.

The bottom line is – grace is absurd and even downright offensive.

Jesus was not so reasonable or practical; his 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, the blue collar types.  It gets even better, Jesus decided to spit fire towards the pious, the righteous, and the religious leaders, consistently showing 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 and surrender.

That is not my idea of sane or reasonable and grace is the key to gates of this upside-down Kingdom.

God incarnate is just plain absurd and offensive, screwing up all my preconceived notions of grace – who deserves it, who gets it and who does not. God messes with my plans, confuses me and makes me uncomfortable.

And then there are those who follow Jesus – those who would try and tame God, sanitize him, even deputize and moralize him, making God into an Uncle Sam savior or a Pinocchio wrapped in Levi’s, a goatee, hipster glasses and mod rock music.

Hmmm…try and tame a tiger and risk losing your hand.  Try taming God and risk losing everything…and gaining even more.

God is unreasonable.  God is absurd. And God is offensive.

And thank God for that! 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 can be 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, only to be executed for sedition. Why?

It is absurd that one must die for the many to live.

I will say this as plain and simple as I can, again and again: grace is absurd and offensive.  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 rather than just sink into it like a soft, warm blanket on a crisp Winter day.

 

Originally written and posted December 24, 2014

“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”   (The Good News of Luke 1: 67-79)

“God became one of us and…pitched his tent in our midst.” – Clarence Jordan (taken from the Cotton Patch Sermons)

Since Christmas Eve is actually the last day of Advent, I thought I would muse a bit about the spectacular nature of this Sacred Season. So, this morning I received an email and in it this pastor was saying that no words can adequately convey God’s love for human life. I thought to myself that he may be right; no mere words can truly express God’s desire to be so close to us and to love us. My first thought was well the Incarnation is as good as it gets in describing that truth.

Think about it: God wanted to be so close to you and me that God put on flesh and became one of us! Pause for just a moment and really ponder that truth, the truth of what Christmas is ALL about. Ponder and personalize it:

God wanted you to know how much you are loved, wanted to be so near you, so much so that God put on flesh and became just like you.

God spared NO expense to be close to us, to love us, to show that love to us! Now even if you do not believe in the virgin birth or that the Incarnation is real, still ponder the notion that God would do such a thing to prove his love to you and me.

That truth to me makes this a time of true hopefulness – a kairos moment pregnant with God.  Kairos, the Greek word for time, is unlike the human concept of time, chronos, meaning “chronological time.” Kairos has to do with a divine visitation, a rending of the veil of human time when God comes to dwell among his people in an extraordinary way. The Incarnation is a Kairos moment that happened at a specific chronological time…an Infinite Moment held delicately within a finite one. It’s downright scandalous.

The Incarnation is both mind-boggling and paradox. Mind boggling in that almighty God would actually limit Godself by becoming flesh; paradox in that God comes to us through the fragile vulnerability of a helpless, newborn child who is Messiah. And the paradox of the Incarnation continues: God did not choose to come as a powerful military King Messiah ready to liberate the Jewish people with force from the brutal and ongoing occupation of the Roman Empire.

God, it seems, had different plans.

Instead, God chose to come to us as a naked, helpless baby born to a poor, unwed disenfranchised teenage mother in a land under the oppressive occupation of an Empire. That fact alone defies all logic and reason. Who would be more marginalized and dispossessed than Mary? Who could be farther from the seat of power? But it within this zeitgeist that the Incarnation happens; God did not come as a warrior God with a large army, a boon of gold, and a taste for control.

No, God came to us, as one of us, choosing to make himself known in fragility and poverty – a far cry from how most people thought Messiah would come.

Every year at Advent we are offered the chance for reflecting on how God came to us then, and how God continues to come to us now: in helplessness; in the tenderness of new life given during a dark time; in the promise of hope when all seems lost.

And let us remember too that Advent is an opportunity for us to remember during darker days that God is asking us again to allow our very lives to become, like Mary, a sacred womb where Hope can be born anew within us and indeed within the world.

 

 “Advent is a season of the secret of Divine Love growing in Silence…” Anonymous

Advent, from the Latin word adventus, means “a coming.”  In the busy days of the Christmas season, it seems Advent has become more of ‘a coming and going and rushing about’ than a pregnant pausing to celebrate the birth of Divine Hope.

One of the things that bothers me the most about this time of year, more than the blatant and rampant consumerism, is the edgy “busy’ness” of it all.  Like hamsters on a treadmill going nowhere fast, we run from store to store, party to party, event to event, never taking the time to pause and reflect upon the momentous occasion of the true “Coming” that this season is based upon.

Advent was and is meant to be a time of pausing, a time of seeking the Great Silence away from the rush and temptation of every little thing that tugs at our attention.

Advent is about taking the time to ‘stop’ time: to reflect upon the miracle of the Infinite rending the veil of time, thereby making all that is finite holy and sacred.

Advent is a time of deepening spirituality. And rather than some highfalutin concept, spirituality is more of a Velveteen rabbit-like experience of sensing God’s movement and Love in our lives in ever deepening ways, especially when things seem darkest.

Advent is also a specific “liturgical time” that gives us a chronological space for sensing God’s movement in our lives and in the world around us. It is an intentional time of pausing to look for the Holy in all the ways it is embodied around us. During Advent, we are reminded to allow the Spirit to transform our lives into “living mangers” – places where Christ can be born anew and afresh in us and in a world crying out for divine love.

This time of year is a time for seeking and seeing all the ways God comes to us, in tenderness and smallness, in ways and places that we may not normally look for God: places like a manger (a feeding trough to be exact) or the distressing disguise of the homeless; or the numerous people waiting in line at the soup kitchen or the forgotten and lonely or those struggling with addictions or the person next to us in line at the store. All of these are moments when we can both see and be Christ.

In these last days of Advent, may this be a time when God comes to each and every one of us in deliberate ways, ways known only to us, special ways that afford us the opportunity to renew our faith, discovering the depths and richness of God’s love and compassion for us and the world.

So as we continue to journey on into these days of Advent, let us all pause…

and reflect…

and take time…

to recognize the Holy Presence that surrounds us.

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