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Have you considered the possibility
that everything you believe is wrong,
not merely off a bit, but totally wrong,
nothing like things as they really are?
If you’ve done this, you know how durably fragile
those phantoms we hold in our heads are,
those wisps of thought that people die and kill for,
betray lovers for, give up lifelong friendships for.
If you’ve not done this, you probably don’t understand this poem,
or think it’s not even a poem, but a bit of opaque nonsense,
occupying too much of your day’s time,
so you probably should stop reading it here, now.
But if you’ve arrived at this line,
maybe, just maybe, you’re open to that possibility,
the possibility of being absolutely completely wrong,
about everything that matters.
How different the world seems then:
everyone who was your enemy is your friend,
everything you hated, you now love,
and everything you love slips through your fingers like sand.
“Grace defies reason and logic.” – Bono
Suffice it to say, a rock star summed up my truest beliefs about grace, which could not be a better example of grace and it paradoxical nature. That is grace that a rock icon, not a pastor or prophet, speaks to the deepest truth of grace – namely that it so defies reason and logic. Truth is when it comes to grace is it best to just experience it and not analyze it. Bono goes on to say in the rest of this quote, that [paraphrased] “love interrupts the consequences of our actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.”
Good news indeed since I am a wounded whack job, a recovering alcoholic in need of grace daily, hourly, in order to live this life that I have.
Grace defies logic. Grace defies reason. As interpreted through human constructs, God’s grace is totally absurd. We need to create limits and things like prohibitive structures to grace, things like religious institutions, dogma, doctrine, denominations all with the express purpose of meting out this Reality called grace. We find it almost impossible to let grace alone, we need to fix it up with trappings, we can’t just let grace operate in God’s time and way.
And God, like grace, is also absurd at times; God makes grace available to everyone, no matter what their belief system or lack thereof. Since as George Bernard Shaw said that “all great truths begin as blasphemies,” let us expand that truth past the point of comfort: Grace is available outside of the Church and religion. I should know since most of the grace I have experienced in life has been in the basement of churches at A.A. meetings more so than in the sanctuary of churches on Sunday mornings.
Grace is available to all who cry out for it -sinners, saints, queers, straights, Catholic radicals, and Tea Party NRA’ers, Muslims and Atheist, drunks and drug addicts alike. Man, that is disturbingly beautiful isn’t it?
Someone once said to me decades ago that God had a penchant for drunks and fools (of which I am both) that is grace. Along the lines of God’s grace defying logic is the truth that God makes all “saints” out of whacked job sinners and fools. The most broken among us become the greatest mystics and purveyors of grace as it transforms us into godly/goodly people. Those of us who have drunk deeply of the bitter darkness are also the ones that taste deeply the sweetness of light and grace.
Grace is a comfort to the disturbed and a disturber to the comfortable. Grace turns the world upside down and therefore right side up.
Grace is an eternal ocean, one where we can wade in the shallow parts or dive into the deeps; so shallow we shall not drown, so deep we shall never touch the bottom (thanks Martin Luther for the use of your concept).
Grace is available to anyone who asks for it. I am repetitious about this in the blog because I am a forgetful person with a short memory when it comes to God’s truths. I am learning that all I need to experience grace is a willingness to be honest about my pain and brokenness and an openness to ask od for help – then the floodgates of God are unleashed.
“There are all kinds of different voices calling you to do all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God, rather than that of society, say, or the super-ego, or self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is the following: the kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you most need to do, and (b) that the world most needs to have done.
If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you’ve probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by your work, the chances are that you’ve not only bypassed (a), but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.
Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
I am a firm believer that God comes to us in ways that are unique and specific to us; ways that make our knowing the divine voice easier, clearer. Like many others, I have found God and grace more deeply in the basement of churches than in the sanctuary, experiencing radical grace surrounded by the salty saints who claim the title of ‘grateful recovering alcoholic.’ I have seen and felt God’s movements in subtle and not so subtle ways through the words and lives of men and women who are being transformed through the stories and struggles of sobriety.
Hearing and seeing God’s movement in those spaces has been one of the most powerful spiritual movements of my life.
God comes to each and every one of us in personal ways I am convinced for one reason: God longs for relationship with us and through us. And when God does come to us we are asked to follow in ways that are inviting, safe, and ever deepening. But far too often, I confuse “inviting and safe” with certainty and being comfortable. In my mind, certainty is a form of arrogance that stagnates my spiritual journey, closing me off to the essential ingredients of an earthy Journey: awe, wonder and curiosity.
Jesus said we are to come to him if we are burdened and weary, afraid and sacred. Far too often, I have seen and experience people (who in the name of God) wrought fear and terror, telling me of a God I should more fear than adore.
It seems however, that Jesus always points us to a God who is so much more than we could ever fathom or were taught. And I am not speaking of the “more” of addiction, that shrill voice that screams out like the Black Flag song, “Gimme, gimme, gimme. I need some more. Gimme, gimme, gimme…don’t ask what for!”
No, I am talking of the more of abundance – of joy, of embracing all of life, more of God. We are called to let God have more of us day by day, hour by hour so that we can co-create a life that is way beyond what we ever thought possible or imagined.
God always calls us deeper, always calls us to more, and always I believe to that one end of being in deeper relationship with us.
I wonder often why I write. I mean, I know I write because I need it and it’s a conversation I am having with God that is being overheard and documented. It is also a conversation with myself as I wander and fumble for clarity and healing.
But who cares? Who really cares what I have to say? Just today (January 13, 2015) there will be more than 1.8 million blog posts, so why in the hell would I think that anyone really cares what this little peanut has to say?
The truth is no one does.
I say that not in self pity or false modesty, but in clarity. At the end of the day it truly does not matter if anyone cares what I have to write or my perspectives on God and the like. I write because I must. I write because most of what is coming from my finger tips are the very things I am struggling and striving to believe, hash out, understand, and live out. Most of the time I do not write from a place of clarity or the comfort of 20/20 hindsight; most of the time I am in the muck, somewhere betwixt and between the already, the not yet, the maybe-never-will-be and the Eternal. Truth is most of the time I am writing I am in the dark; I rarely write when I am basking in the brilliance of it all sad to say.
And out that darkness hopefully comes some glimmer of light, some knowledge that maybe, just maybe, I am on the write, oops, I mean right path. I write because maybe just maybe I can be of service and live out my calling of helping people grow spiritually. And that is my calling – growing spiritually and helping others to do the same. I have known that for decades. I’ve also run from it as well.
I wrote a note to a friend who is struggling right now. So, I tweaked it a bit and decided to post it as a ‘Note to All of us.’ Personalize it, especially the last sentence. Blessings…
You do not need a ‘quote’ to live by.
YOU are the quote!
YOUR life is the Story, and it is being beautifully written by you and God with every step you take, whether forwards or backwards.
YOU are the Gift, and it is we who are Blessed to have you among us. And YES, above all else: Be REAL; for that is what “To Thine Own Self Be True” means to me.
Keep kicking the darkness til it bleeds Daylight, my friend. And above else remember the two great Truths: God is love and God is with you!
In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
If there ever was a singer/artist who could say what I needed to say (or not say), it is Bruce Cockburn (pronounced Co’burn). For those who have never heard of Bruce Cockburn, the gist is he has put out around 30 albums over 40 years; he is to Canada what Dylan and Springsteen are to America.
Bruce’s experiences of faith, spirituality, Jesus and living an authentic life following one’s heart are rich, textured patches that sewn together make for a disquieting yet comfortable Soulpatch Quilt; one where God is love and truth can bite you in the arse as much as it can coddle you in comfort.
That being said, the lyrics from his song, “Pacing the Cage” speak well to where I feel these days. The song can be heard at the following link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mN2uMVYwmqc – and the lyrics followed down below.
“Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it’s pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you live too long
Days drip slowly on the page
You catch yourself
Pacing the cage
I’ve proven who I am so many times
The magnetic strip’s worn thin
And each time I was someone else
And every one was taken in
Powers chatter in high places
Stir up eddies in the dust of rage
Set me to pacing the cage
I never knew what you all wanted
So I gave you everything
All that I could pillage
All the spells that I could sing
It’s as if the thing were written
In the constitution of the age
Sooner or later you’ll wind up
Pacing the cage
Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can’t see what’s round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend
Today these eyes scan bleached-out land
For the coming of the outbound stage
Pacing the cage.
I once dreamed of walking through emerald forest,
hanging all the weight and worries of my body
and soul upon thick, uneven branches.
I felt the wind blow the dust out from within this
wounded temple. I heard the whimpering cries of
old grief come to have a say. This grief so laden,
so familiar; it was as if all the years of want, the scars
of loss and letting go, came out of this Unsayable said.
The trees dared me to let this grief hollow out
my bones with mercy, to paint the walls of my heart
the colors of sadness and joy.
I have failed this challenge before, these pregnant
opportunities to be held by an urgent compassion;
too often I have walked away, full of myself,
and empty of the Truth.
But today…today I dreamed of walking through
emerald forest, my fingers tracing poems in the
worn flesh of their bark.
A monk once said to me in a dream
that my faith should be like tea
served Ch’an style –
and loosely wrapped.
And my spiritual disciplines the same –
warm to the touch,
steeped in God
& hewn on the edges of life.