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Note: this is old school, first thought writing. There has been no editing, so know that it is as raw as it gets.
I am a ragamuffin; worn-out frenzied, failing at being even human sometimes, so hard on myself I crush out the very candle wick Jesus said he would not.
I struggle to forgive and accept forgiveness. I am a one man band on a self loathing pity tour. I am loved and deeply known by a God I far too often FEAR.
I am clean and sober, no longer held by the vice of active addiction, but I still hold too many secrets and regrets about the pain I caused so many dear ones who were held hostage by my drinking and drugging. My ‘daily reprieve’ is sometimes not enough.
I am stitched together by the grace of Jesus. He loves me deeply, so much so, I shudder to think that he knows ALL the evil and suffering I have caused and been through, all the dark nights of the soul and body that are all woven together and held by his golden thread. Jesus echoes in my mind, in my heart, constantly asking me just one question: “Do you truly know how much I love you?”
“Niles, do you know I love you exactly as you are not as you wish you were?”
Some days I get it; some days I don’t. Some days I need it; others I delude myself thinking I got this thing.
Today I need it. A friend committed suicide, falling to the deadly cunning of the disease of alcoholism, his darkness too much for the still small voice of Love. My friend is free of his pain now, free from us. Now…he is dead.
I feel dead today. But Jesus keeps whispering, “ragamuffin child, come to me, lay your rage, your pissed off, ungrateful, unhappy, leery soul upon me, and I will sit with you as you seethe and sink. I will hold you up as you let My Love seep into the cracks and crevices of your shattered heart. I will bring my light to bear upon you in warmth and tenderness. I will be your sobriety. I will be your love. I will be your life. I will be your Hope. I will hold you when you can no longer hold on…”
Jesus says these things to me as I realize my eyes are too dry to weep for loss and death, my heart too cold for prayers, my faith too old today to run the marathon called life…
Today it does not matter. All I hear in the din of my storm is the simple words of the children’s song echoing in the empty chamber of my heart and today it is enough: Jesus loves me this I know…
I began to live as if there were not one in the world but God and me. I adored God as often as I could, keeping my mind in God’s Holy Presence and recalling it as often as it wandered.
I had no little difficulty in this exercise, but I kept on despite all the difficulties and was not worried or distressed when I was involuntarily distracted.
I did this during the day as often as I did it during the formal time specifically set aside for prayer; for at all times, at every hour, at every moment, even in the busiest times of my work, I banished and put away from my mind everything capable of diverting me from the thought of God.
Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God
Reasonable: Sensible, rational, practical, logical, evenhanded
God can be a bit unreasonable when you get down to it.
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 he tells us anyone can draw near to God, be a friend of God, if only we surrender and accept the grace of it all?
Jesus’ 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, women, blue collar types. It gets even better, Jesus decided to spit fire towards the pious, the righteous, the religious leaders and consistently show 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.
That is not my idea of sane or reasonable. Grace is the key to the doors of this upside-down Kingdom.
Jesus is just plain unreasonable and screws up all my preconceived notions, messes with my plans, confuses me and makes me uncomfortable. And those who say they follow him try and tame, deputize, and moralize him making him into an Uncle Sam savior or a Pinocchio wrapped in Levi’s, a goatee, hipster glasses and mod rock music. I am not judging just observing.
Try and tame a tiger and risk losing your hand; try taming God and risk losing everything that has no lasting value.
God is unreasonable. 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 is 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?
It is absurd that one must die for the many to live. But it happened and the prison doors have been flung open.
I will say it, plain and simple again, grace is absurd. 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.
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 knowing and learning (albeit 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 and discern the truth 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 listen and be clear, compassionate, consistent and loving.
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.