Dear Ones,

I started a GoFundMe Campaign to assist me in moving back to Roanoke, Virginia to be with and near (and help) my brother Kevin.  Below is the GoFundMe link and the short story about me and my brother.  If this is a repeat, I apologize.  Anything you can give is welcomed and much appreciated, be it money, prayers, good vibes, or even contacts in Roanoke!

Much love,

Niles

https://www.gofundme.com/2pkqqu4

 

Moving to Care for Sick Brother

My brother Kevin is gravely ill.  He lives alone.  I have decided to move back to Roanoke, VA, where he lives and care for him.  Kevin needs a heart transplant but because other organs are failing the doctors cannot put him on the transplant list.  The doctors have said his time here is very limited, most likely less than a year, if not less.

When I was 16, right after our Dad died, my brother was there for me, a messed up teenager; now we are 30 plus years later and I want  to return the favor.

The money will be used to allow me to move back to Roanoke.  Most places I have looked at want 2 or 3 months rent up front. I also need to pay for the actual move and make sure I have enough to live on while looking for work and caring for and being there for my brother.

I want to set up the apartment for my brother and my dog.  Kevin loves my dog Juno.  She is great therapy for Kevin and we want a place that is Juno-friendly as well as Kevin-friendly.

I need to move within weeks.

So many people have been there for me before, I feel bad asking.  But I also happen to be a believer in the Power of Blessings – both giving and receiving.

I am grateful for all whom I love who will give and those who will pray, and those who will pass it on, and those who will walk with us.

Help spread the word!

 

Author’s Note: Every year I repost the only thing I ever could muster to write about 9/11/2001.  I wrote this poem a few months after September 11, 2001.  I have not seen a need to edit it, since we so often go back and edit history, I have felt content to let this Poem sit in its unedited rawness for 15 years.  I have made it a ‘ritual’ to post it every year on Sept. 11. 

“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” Jesus

 

The world is hemorrhaging…God has let the earth
Bleed                again.
The ground is soaked red with the cries and
Memories
Of many who have fallen,
Many who have flown.

Many are laden and weary,
Many have grown and stretched
Many have been planted deep in
The earth – our memories

Many are still
Here.

God has set the world spiraling on a
Beautiful Edge.              And I see the world spinning by
Out of my hands
Out of control
Out of kilter.

And out in the wilderness
To learn lessons of bittersweet confusion and love.

God has let us roam feral in our dark gardens,
Digging up the deepest places to find our home
Our truth, to learn that
Love is a beautiful chaos,
A spiritual homecoming
A poem in the making: logos at work.

It is now that we realize we merely scrape by
Along the edges
When we pray: children searching along
The fringes of our existence
To find words to bleed onto the
Pages of the flesh we still cling to
Trying to make sense, trying to make,                 just trying.

This ritual of poetic prayer is what the
Living do, a sort of bloodletting a sort of prayer.
Some days it is the only prayer that can be uttered these days.
Praying to be a letter opened.

The message: Live.

God has let the world bleed again
At the Borderlands so that we may
Find the words – the Word – to
Bleed truth on to the
Aging pages of our souls,
And live out our cries of anguish and joy to the Cosmos.

In the first chapter of the gospel of John the writer tells us that Jesus came to us as the Word – the Logos of God and that this Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  In the Cotton Patch Gospels translation, Clarence Jordon translated that phrase as the “Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.”  It goes on to say in this gospel that this Word Who became flesh – Jesus – was “full of grace and truth.”  What a lovely and mythic combination.  The very embodiment of grace and truth came as flesh, as one of us, to show us exactly who God is and how God lives: full of Grace & Truth.

Beyond the definitions of the words, I know very little about grace and truth, aside from the fact that I am desperate for the former and usually run from the later.  But when I look at how Jesus lived and acted and treated people as we have on record in the four gospels, I begin to see just what God’s grace and truth look like: love towards enemies; speaking truth to corrupt power and religiosity; mercy for the poor and the sick and broken – the perfect embodiment of compassion and mercy in flesh and action.

I have been told by Jesus that the Truth will set me free; and I have been told by others much wiser than me that the truth will indeed set me free but not until it is finished with me first.   The truth will not only set me free but it will also crush me as well.  In my reading, in my life, in being with others on their spiritual journeys, it has also been my experience that the truth is always about death and resurrection simultaneously.  I am set free by it, but ego and flesh are sometimes crushed by it as well.

Grace.  Well, grace is that disquieting and uncomfortable reality that God loves and accepts us as we are where we are.  And there is nothing (not one single thing) I can do that can ever add to or take away from God’s grace and love.  God’s grace is now as it was in the beginning – eternal and free flowing.

I have also learned that it is in that space, that creative tension between where I am (wounded) and where God’s grace is (healing) that the amazing gift and work of transformations begins.

So, today we have a guest blog writer whom we shall call Elpis.  He is by far one of the most interesting and intelligent friends I have in my ever widening circle of sentient co-conspirators.  Enjoy this Guest Blog in all it’s gentile beauty and rawness.

###

A Nudge from the Moon

By Elpis

 

So this monk first tells me that I’m long-winded. Then later, that I need an editor. Breathes at me every time I send him an email. And then he asks me to write for his blog on a subject I could talk about endlessly.

My relationship with God.

In the darkness of the summer solstice under the light of the strawberry moon, at 3:04 AM I avowed I had proven the existence of God’s intentionality. It was a lie.

A useful lie, however. One that may tell me the truth about my relationship with God. Because I don’t yet know what that relationship is. Is it one of mutual reciprocity, or is it an alliance? That’s the question I’ve been desperately trying to answer.

What I do know is that God is what is more. I refuse to reduce God to a more explicit definition. The word “more” quantifies God without qualifying God. But the word also necessitates there being something less. God can be many things, but for God to be more, God cannot then be all things. There are obviously arguments against what I’m saying, but this is the one that ended my internal war of questioning God’s existence. “Less” is all that which I think I know. God is what I do not.

I prefer it this way. It is the question that keeps me in the arena. It is the question that inspires beauty. It is the question that frees the soul to dive into the sea and breathe in starlight.

It is amusing to think in images like this, but breathing starlight doesn’t work when you are drowning. In times like this, it sure would be useful to know what my relationship with God actually is. Does God have the power to intervene intentionally? The moon last week gave me my first nudge towards an answer.

As to what that answer may be, I too must only nudge. And like my monk friend, I will do so with a quote.

If, in fact, the moral construct was as simple and as cogent as “unto the seventh
generation,” as conveyed in Native American traditions, then we would have a
liberating directive to end the injunction to make myopic choices based on the need
for immediate profit. I contend that we live in a moral universe and that moral
principles are axial templates within consciousness itself: they are the master
templates of wisdom; they are the codes for Nature’s abundance; they are the
latent possibilities for endless ingenuity and creativity; and they are design fractals
which guide the evolution of higher consciousness in human beings.

James O’Dea, in a blog entry about human wastefulness entitled “Entropy, Negentropy and Our Moral Imagination.”

 

P.S. Happy Birthday to 2 of the greatest females God has blessed my life with: My Mom, Sandy, would have been 78 years old today; and my divine grace-filled fur-ball Juno turned 12 today

Me Juno and Mom.png

 

Frederick Buechner is one of my favorite spiritual/religious writers in the world.  He is a pastor, an artist, a poet and to top it all off he spent many years in my favorite place in all the world – Vermont.  His words on the Incarnation are rich and challenging.  EnJoy!

“The word became flesh,” wrote John, “and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). That is what incarnation means. It is untheological. It is unsophisticated. It is undignified. But according to Christianity, it is the way things are.

All religions and philosophies that deny the reality or the significance of the material, the fleshly, the earthbound, are themselves denied. Moses at the burning bush was told to take off his shoes because the ground on which he stood was holy ground (Exodus 3:5), and incarnation means that all ground is holy ground because God not only made it but walked on it, ate and slept and worked and died on it. If we are saved anywhere, we are saved here. And what is saved is not some diaphanous distillation of our bodies and our earth, but our bodies and our earth themselves. Jerusalem becomes the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven like a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:2). Our bodies are sown perishable and raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:42).

One of the blunders religious people are particularly fond of making is the attempt to be more spiritual than God.

~ Written by Frederick Buechner and originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words.

There is a story in the Gospels about a man with a sick child, believing that Jesus can heal his child, comes to Jesus and says the most amazing thing, “Lord, I believe but help my unbelief.”  It is not the most read story in the Gospels, and is often overlooked.  But I love this story of Jesus, of the man, of the need for healing, of the fragile beauty of being human when the father says to Jesus, “Lord…help my unbelief.”

If that verse of Scripture were translated exactly as it was in the Aramaic, it would be more truthfully written, “Lord, I believe but help me where my faith falls short.”

In truth, I have found my faith and my freedom in this little translation.  This verse is what sustains me when I pray amidst my doubt.  When faith is called upon to carry me and I am weak.  When I am called to stand with and for others and I shrink back and tremble.  And when I have nothing left, and I cry out to God in anguish and anger, empty over the state of my life, hating every part of my existence, when THAT is all I have left, the man in this story taught me to pray: Lord, I believe, but help me where my faith falls short.

In those eleven words comes the freedom to be raw and real with my God; to bare my arid soul before my Creator all but begging for mere scraps of Divine Love and Presence.  In those words, I am reminded that even my faith is a gift from God; even the lack of my faith is a gift from God.  It is as if I am stranded on a cliff and my rope is a few inches too short to reach the top to pull myself up, and God is the extra few inches of rope, God is the ledge; God is the very space between the end of my rope and the hope of my rescue.

In these moments of life, when I cannot see salvation, when I cannot find love in my heart, when bitterness and rage strangle my spirit…it is then that I cry out in a voice raw and raspy from screams and sickness: Lord, I believe…but help me where my faith falls short.

And it is enough.

“God invites us, perhaps even challenges us, to become co-creators and co-collaborators in birthing fledgling dreams and in encouraging fragile seeds that have lain dormant within us.  When I finally acknowledged, honored and acted upon this truth that I perceived within, I experienced God’s presence as never before!   With this acknowledgement I began to recover a greater acceptance of myself and also deeper relationships with God and the rest of God’s world – relationships which are all interconnected.

As I became more aware of the presence of God in my life, I also became more attentive to the deeper promptings and leadings within my own being and began to look more honestly and objectively at my own gifts and resources.” (Introduction, p. i)

“To step out in faith is to experience risk and uncertainty, but it is also to experience God’s loving embrace and continued steadfastness.”  (p. iii)

By Ruth Halvorson, founder of ARC Retreat Center and quoted in Action Reflection Celebration: the ARC story

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

When asked what the greatest law was, the Law of laws, Jesus replied that it is to love God with all that we are, and to love our neighbors the same way, and ourselves as well.

This commandment is not the only one, but as the first and greatest commandment all other ‘laws’ and requirements must be filtered and interpreted through this one.  When I ask is it ‘lawful’ to do hate, to protest, to seek revenge, to discriminate, it must first be viewed through the standard of the Greatest Law: to love God, neighbor and self with our entire beings.

All other laws are judged by this one. 

So sexual laws, dietary laws, racists laws, cultural laws, and the like are judged – or should be scene, interpreted and lived out – through the lens of this great commandment.

So whenever I want to interpret other sayings in the Bible, like the writings of Paul or any of the Jewish laws, or even the laws that govern this land – as a follower of Jesus – I am compelled to interpret ALL of them through this Great Law Of Love.

I could say that when in doubt (about something) err on the side of Love.

When I hear or read any doctrine, dogma, or theology of any faith, I view it through the Great Law of love, and if it is found wanting, I must set aside for the greater good of loving.  When I read about Christians or people of other or no faith saying “hate this” or “hate that” I must ask, what would God’s love do?  How would God’s love respond?

As I peruse the news, the overwhelming saturation of hate and hateful deeds sickens me.  We have lost out way.  We have succumbed to our lesser demons and left out better angels out to die.

Love.  Love.  Love.

We must return again and again to this Great Law – the Law of love – and live our lives from that ‘legal system’.  If we do not we may be doomed to our darkness and misery.

The emphasis on God’s saving power is very orthodox, but is it serving love or efficiency? God is only a power source for grace, like a cosmic outlet we must plug ourselves into to achieve the ends we want. This is the God of foxholes, of despair, the God whose only purpose is to rescue us. There is certainly nothing wrong with seeing God as savior; it is just that God is and wants to be so much more than that. Many of us come to an awareness of our desire for love through our need for some kind of healing or recovery….

But this can only be the beginning of authentic spiritual life. As we grow in love, the source of love becomes more important than anything. Although the holy One continues to be deliverer and sustainer, love calls us beyond using God to satisfy our needs, to heal us, to get us out of trouble, or to enhance our efficiency.

Love calls us to gratitude, relinquishment, celebration, service, play, praise, companionship, intimacy, communion, and always to deeper yearning. In other words, love calls us to love.

,

“The Divine action may turn our lives upside down; it may call us into various forms of service.  Readiness for any eventuality is the attitude of one who has entered into the freedom of the Gospel.  Commitment to the new world that Christ is creating requires flexibility and detachment: the readiness to go anywhere or nowhere, to live or to die, to rest or to work, to be sick or to be well, to take up one service and to put down another.

Everything is important when one is opening to Christ-consciousness.  This awareness transforms our worldly concepts of security into security of accepting, for love of God, an unknown future.

“The love of God will take care of the rest of the journey … ”

Fr. Thomas Keating

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