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giving life to all life,
moving all creatures,
Root of all things,
washing them clean,
wiping out their mistakes,
healing their wounds,
You are our true life,
awakening the heart
from its ancient sleep.
I am learning it again, one of those lessons that I think I know (as in, “I got it Lord, now you can stop”) but then I’m reminded that I am due for a serious ‘refresher’ course. And the lesson is this: God’s specific will and plan for my life will not be given beforehand. And in trying to discern it, I fall into the trap of perfection: that I must be whole, perfect, arrived, etc., before God will ever use me or reveal to me his plan. Nope. Sorry.
I am learning, once again through God’s disturbing grace, only those who have fallen down, can ever truly know what “up” is; only those who have failed miserably can ever truly know what “success” looks like; and only those who are cracked and wounded can ever really know what healing truly is.
And part of this truth involves something I have struggled with for 25 years: God’s will for my life. I am learning something that I want to share with you: forget about ‘knowing’ God’s will for your life. Very few people in this world, in the Sacred Scriptures, in the Communion of Saints before (and those that will come after us) have ever received the full blue print plan for their lives…much less even the 5 year plan! So give it up.
Example: God called a man and woman named Abram and Sarai, to pack up everything (their entire lives) and to set out to a strange land! God did not say to them, “so, here’s your itinerary, here is where you will stop, here is what you will do, here is the specific plan.” Nope. And do you really think if Abram knew he was going to have his named changed through trial, error and circumstance, do you really think he would have done it? OK, Abram, I’m going to finally give you a son in your old age, then I’m going to ask you to murder him. Right God. I’ll jump right on that.
Knowing can in certain ways be deadly, because too much knowledge makes us too self-reliant. And we are called to be God-reliant.
So instead Abram and Sarai listen to God in that moment; they listen to the Lord say, “pack your bags, start walking and trust me, stay close to me so that when the next thing occurs you will be intimate enough with me and trust me enough to hear and do.”
In 2012, most of us would call that absolutely crazy and downright asinine. But I call it sane. And so does God. Because most of my life I’ve had two occurrences: one is the ‘notion’ that I am called to be a servant-healer and two, it is to be amongst those at the edges of life – the poor, downtrodden, the neglected, the invisible. No blue print (although I do have a Dream planted by God in my heart called Rez Farm). No road map saying: go here, go there. Oh yes, I am taking issue with people who say the Bible is a road map…it has some road map-like qualities to it, but it is so much more: it is a love story between God and God’s people; it is not some picture perfect blueprint. And if it is, then let’s not forget about all the adulterers, sinners, thieves, whores, orphans, weaklings, connivers and murderers that God used to change the course of human history and those same ones God called friend, apple my his eye, his beloved.
I have more often than not fumbled my way into grace and stumbled upon God’s will through the messiness of it all more than I have through having some angelic heavenly revelation. It’s true. I have discovered more of God’s will for my life when I’m on the ground after falling headfirst and tending to my bloody knees than I have in some safe place, surrounded by the frozen chosen.
It is precisely in the times of so-called failure, darkness, despair, and even misery that I have been in a place to actually hear God’s voice saying to me “I love you, now come over this way.” Or “Keep doing what you are doing…I know it hurts, but all growth involves some element of pain.”
So I fumble forward into the grace of God and I fall ‘upward’ into his will and desires for me. It ain’t always pretty and I am so far from any sense of perfection. But I am seeking: God’s face, God’s heart, his grace and mercy. I am asking God for the sense of place and purpose and the strength and openness to receive and give his tender mercies to others. I am a messy, bumbling fumbling channel for the love of God found in Jesus…but still no “Plan.”
We don’t get “the Plan” in advance, beloved.
In order to “get” it at all, one thing we must do is stay close to Jesus, (so we learn to love and trust him more and so we can actually hear his voice). Although not necessarily a blueprint, we do however get promises and some loving commands: Jesus is always with us whether or not we see or feel it; we are to take up our cross’; we are to love our neighbors and our enemies; we are to become servants; intimacy come with and through prayer; etc, etc.
It is vital to remember that Jesus never said don’t make mistakes, in truth, trusting him and taking risk for the Kingdom are steps of faith and with faith mountains can me moved and God Dreams can come to fruition. And forget being perfect in following Jesus. Oh yes, I know the Scripture that says “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” but the word used for ‘perfect’ is often mistranslated because the word Jesus uses means “mature” rather than to be without error. So that particular Scripture could be written “be mature as your heavenly Father is mature,” which means don’t be childish, selfish, petty, rude, etc.
So when it comes to knowing God’s specific will and plan for your life: Fugetaboutit!
As the Spanish proverb so says: “the Way is made along the Way.” So, pack your bags, say a prayer, and start walking…and never forget this truth: as long as you are following Jesus, although you may not know exactly where you are going, you will never be lost.
Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.
Gardening is an instrument of Grace.
The garden door is always open to the Holy.
Source: Gardening by Heart
“Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ‘trick’, whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.
‘But how?’ we ask.
Then the voice says, ‘They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’
There they are. There we are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to faith.
My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.”
“Think of God in a very big way. And if you do, that’s too small!
You can’t think of anything more wonderful than this God. And you can’t figure out anything about God without a special grace…God is so marvelously good, there is no word for it. So gentle. So considerate. So kind, so tender – so everything marvelous. That is God. And whatever you say is far less than it is.
As Paul says ‘It hasn’t crossed the imagination of any human being what God has prepared for those who love him.’”
Thomas Keating, at the annual conference of Contemplative Outreach, Snowmass, Colorado, October 2012
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Below is an archived article from one of my FAVORITE Blogs – Internet Monk – about the late Michael Spencer. Read it…and subscribe to Internet Monk if you are hungry for some Jesus-shaped Spirituality and some camaraderie on your faith Journey.
If you are anything like me, your Journey with Jesus goes something like this: a few steps forward, an eternal step backwards…one huge step forward, three tiny steps backwards. At least that’s what experiencing my Achilles Heel feels like as it trips me up on my Journey into God. One moment I am in this deep feeling of connectedness with Jesus and grace saturates me and the world around me…so immersed in God even the emptiness brims over. Then the next moment I’m so steeped in my own ego and pain, screaming and raging all over the place as my past, pain and addictions rear their ugly heads, I can’t even muster a feeble prayer.
Stepping forward, stepping backwards…stepping stones.
And then the anger and self-judgment come rushing in, pouring over the softened stones of God’s grace and then low and behold, I am slipping and sliding all over the place, into a darkness that appears all-consuming. Sometimes, anger is a gift, but only to those who recognize its potential and potency to drop us to our knees seeking God’s ever-present grace. Anger does indeed destroy, and cause destruction; but not all destruction caused by anger is bad (if I need an example then think of almost every single social and political movement that has occurred in the last century…they started out of anger at apathy and injustice).
It is times like this I need to remind myself that emotions are not right or wrong, they are just REAL. Emotions are like the Caboose on the train called Faith: they do not run the train but they are a necessary part of it. If I live my life of faith and grace led by my emotions, well, that is a recipe for utter disaster and insanity. My emotions over my utter humanness and my seemingly perpetual screwing up become a god, an idol that replaces Jesus and his grace.
But these emotions of anger and self-judgment are also incredible opportunities for increased Awareness. And awareness is painful, my friends. There is much peril in reality and our increased awareness is beneficial two-fold: it smashes illusions and delusions and opens us up to God’s grace in ever-deepening ways.The old song says “breaking up is hard to do” but I re-coin that as “WAKING up is hard to do.”
Waking up to reality can be a painful thing. Seeing things, people and situtations for as they are not as we want them to be is a butt-ugly process. But thanks be to God that where pain abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more. Or as I am fond of saying, “where Niles abounds God’s grace abounds all the more.”
Stepping Stones…three steps forwards and one step backwards, one giant leap forward, four small steps backwards. In moments like this I feel like a habit held together by flesh and grace only.
Every time I think I am further along my Journey than I really am, invariably some angel (fallen or otherwise) comes along and distracts me just enough for me to run headlong into a wall.
And as I sit, dazed and confused on the floor, I hear the tender voice of Jesus saying to me (to you) ever so softly: “It is not the falling down that is the ‘sin’, my child; it is in NOT getting back up. Now let Me dust off your knees and off we go!
“Blessed are the cracked and broken, for it is they who are filled with God’s grace.”
If there is one thing I have learned in my 45 years of life, it is that everyone is wounded in some way, shape or form. There simply are no ‘perfect’ people in the world. In fact, I’ve learned those who project a greater sense of accomplishment, or an “I’ve already arrived” mentality, are in fact the ones who are the farthest away from the very perfection of which they speak (especially among Jesus followers and people of all faiths).
In truth, it is only through the cracks and woundeness of our lives that the profound mystery of God’s Grace can enter into our hearts and bring tender healing. For in our myth of perfection and achievements, we lose the truth of the cracked by believing that we are already perfect and whole. In that ‘lie’ we become “sealed shut” and the elements of God’s abundant Grace have no opening with which to enter our hearts.
For grace enters our hearts by way of a wound.
We are a broken and imperfect people. And praise God for that! Yes, Jesus did say, “Be perfect as your Father is perfect.” But the word perfect there does not mean without flaw, error or blemish. In its original meaning, “perfect” means to be “mature, complete, and healthy.” And with this definition in mind, I truly hunger to be ‘perfect’ in Abba: growing in maturity; complete in Him; and striving to health and wholeness through the Spirit.
So we, who are broken, are called to a God Who enters us through the very brokenness we often run from and deny. It is the lovely mystery of God: that the Holy One enters the unholy. Or written another way, the God of Wholeness desires intimacy with us and enters us His Un–whole creation in tenderness and love.
God loves the broken and cracked among us! Can I get an “Amen” to that Truth!
And when I speak of the wounded and broken, I am speaking of all of us, but especially those who are wounded and vulnerable on the outside. I have said it before and will say it again; God does indeed have a preferential option for the poor, the broken and the oppressed, not because they are better or more loved, but precisely because they are more vulnerable. Truly, God loves all equally and perfectly. But those that are the most broken, those who cry out in their brokenness, are the ones who are the most open to God’s amazing and grace.
We who are broken know that we need Grace. Those who find themselves to be whole have no need of grace or forgiveness or healing…or even God for that matter.
In truth, without God’s grace and love, I am just another addict ‘jonesing’ for a high, chasing an illusion. But with the love of the Messiah poured out into my heart and soul, I am whole. And it is this truth – living between the Already and the Not Yet of wholeness – which I must embrace.
For as the scriptures say, “it is not longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” And the very wholeness/holiness of Christ fills my entire cracked and wounded being with divine love.
So my friends, blessed are the cracked and broken, for it is we who are filled with God’s grace.