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.

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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

Note form Niles: Today’s post is taken from one of my favorite online writers and sites, Internet Monk.  The live link to the site is found at the end of the article.

“Bearing (and Sharing) Burdens” – Chaplain Mike

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2

Sometimes as I deal with my patients and their caregivers, it’s the religious people that befuddle me most. One cliché I have heard repeatedly from caregivers who are people of faith is, “I just try to remember that God tells us he will never give us more than we can bear.”

I hate to burst your bubble, but God never said that. Never. Said. That.

I’m not sure where that cliché came from, but it is not in the Bible. Jesus didn’t say it. Paul said something like it in 1 Corinthians 10:13, but if you check you will see that he is talking about our common temptations and how God provides the means we need to escape them. The text does not say, “God will never give us more than we can bear.” Nope. Somebody made that one up.

The plain fact is that there are burdens in life that are too heavy for any one person to carry.

For some reason, many well-intentioned folks don’t want to accept that. So they try to handle challenges that are simply beyond their ability to deal with alone. The results usually aren’t good.

That’s when I direct them to another verse in the Bible that is clear and unambiguous: “Bear one another’s burdens…” Is not this verse telling us that everyone needs help sometimes? There are loads that are too heavy for one person to carry, and we can’t do it all by ourselves. So, help each other out! That’s pretty clear, right?

One more thing: I also won’t buy it if you tell me that since God helps you carry your burdens, you don’t need other people to assist you. This is the same God who said that it is not good for us to be alone. God created us to live in relationships, families, and communities for the very purpose of loving and supporting each other. God wants you to get help from others!

Instead of what I often hear, I’d love it if more caregivers would say, “God regularly gives me more than I can bear. That’s why I love and appreciate his gift of others in my life so much.”

 

By Chaplain Mike.  Original can be found at Internet Monk.

Mysticism is where religions start. Moses with his flocks in Midian, Buddha under the Bo tree, Jesus up to his knees in the waters of Jordan-each of them is responding to Something of which words like Shalom, Nirvana, God even, are only pallid souvenirs. Religion as ethics, institution, dogma, ritual, Scripture, social action – all of this comes later and in the long run maybe counts for less.

Religions start, [Robert Frost said] as poems do, with a lump in the throat – to put it mildly – or with a bush going up in flames, a rain of flowers, a dove coming down out of the sky. “I have seen things,” Aquinas told a friend, “that make all my writings seem like straw.”

Most people have also seen such things. Through some moment of beauty or pain, some sudden turning of their lives, most of them have caught glimmers at least of what the saints are blinded by. Only then, unlike the saints, they tend to go on as though nothing has happened.

We are all more mystics than we choose to let on, even to ourselves. Life is complicated enough as it is.

Written & copyrighted by Frederick Buechner (originally published in Wishful Thinking and again in Beyond Words)

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