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“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment.” 1 John 4:18 (CEB)
I feel like a broken record these days (you remember records don’t’ you?) – music playing and then it hits a little scratch and gets stuck, repeating the same sound at the point of stuckness over and over and over again; to the point of agitation. That is how I feel about fear these days; so much of my life is based on choices out of fear rather than love.
Fear acts like a drug in my world – altering my consciousness, distorting my perceptions, leaving me wanting for illusion that have never existed, except in the darker recesses of my mind.
I feel uncomfortable sharing about how fear rules and ruins my life for…fear of looking stupid. I want people to see me and lean on me as a spiritual director, a shepherd to the shepherdless.
But if I am so damn scared, how can people come to me for anything?
I also have a hard time sharing this reality of fear with other people of faith because the hobgoblins of religiosity come out: quoting Scripture; trite expressions something along the lines of “if only you had more faith…”, blah blah, blah.
But then it happens, this sort of awakening. No, fear does not miraculously disappear from my life, but what does happen quite quickly is that giving a shit about what other people think of me dissipates into thin air. I am called by God to be real and authentic, and if my realness is more velveteen rabbit and ragamuffin than saintly, then so be it. Screw the naysayers, hobgoblins and the pedantic screaming voices in my head telling me otherwise.
I am real. I am ‘entheos.’
And I am scared to death to take risk that involves stepping out in faith. I do not believe God will magically catch me if I take a leap of faith (as the old adage goes). I do not believe I will sprout wings if I leap. Truthfully, I have more faith that if I took a leap of faith most likely I would fall flat on my face…
But how to counter act this fear poison thingy that ruins my faith.
What would happen if fear dies? What would my world look like if I truly allowed God’s all consuming Perfect Love to sink into my being so deeply that I made choices from that space/place rather than from fear? What would my world look like if I realized in my deepest being that there is nothing, not one thing, I can do to gain more of or lose any of God’s love (no matter what I do or do not do)? What would it feel like to live my life with nothing to lose and nothing to prove because I dwelt in the infinite love of God?!?
That, well, that would be a world worth inhabiting.
I want to live my life as if I believe God is in my midst,
not as theory but as a Living Presence.
I hunger for God.
I pine for my life to be a living reflection of the God I believe in.
I want my life to be a fount of God’s love –
limitless, lavish and lushly poured out for all.
God is not to be out done in giving or benevolence.
God pines for us, waiting for us until we are ready to taste and see the
great goodness and truth that surrounds us – the truth that God indeed is in our midst.
Nothing is more practical
than finding God,
falling in love in a quite
absolute and finite way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed
in the morning,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you will spend your weekends,
what you read,
who you know,
what breaks your heart
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love.
Stay in love.
And it will decide everything.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this [expression of love] everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
The most visible proof that Jesus is real and the ‘proof’ that I am – that we are – following Jesus is revealed by the answer to this one question: how we love one another.
It is not about how well I love the pretty, the well off, the ones just like me, or even how well I love the poor and wounded.
I believe the “calling card” for our faith is revealed by how well we love everyone.
The litmus test of my intimacy with God and the integrity of my friendship with God is shown to be abundant or lacking based on one proof: how well am I giving and receiving Divine Love.
So, on this journey, I ask myself daily, “am I allowing God’s love to flow into me and through me out into the world?”
The answer to that Question is my spiritual litmus test.
I first saw God when I was a child, six years of age.
the cheeks of the sun were pale before Him,
and the earth acted as a shy
girl, like me.
Divine light entered my heart from His love
that did never fully wane,
though indeed, dear, I can understand how a person’s
faith can at time flicker,
for what is the mind to do
with something that becomes the mind’s ruin:
a God that consumes us
in His grace.
I have seen what you want;
it is there,
a Beloved of infinite
“Praying is not only listening to but listening with.
The discipline of the heart makes us stand in the presence of God with all we have and are: our fears and anxieties, our guilt and shame, our sexual fantasies, our greed and anger, our joys, successes, aspirations and hopes, our reflections, dreams and mental wandering, and most of all our people, family, friends and enemies, in short all that makes us who we are….
We tend to present to God only those parts of ourselves with which we feel relatively comfortable and which we think will evoke a positive response. Thus our prayer becomes very selective and narrow. And not just our prayer but also our self-knowledge because by behaving as strangers before God we become strangers to ourselves.”
Wallowing in shame, remorse, self-hatred and guilt over real or imagined failings in our past lives [portrays] a distrust in the love of God.
Preoccupation with our past sins, present weaknesses and character defects gets our emotions churning in self-destructive ways, closes us within the mighty citadel of self and preempts the presence of a compassionate God.
Author’s Note: I wrote this poem a few months after Sept. 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 14 years.
I have made it a ‘ritual’ to post it every year on Sept. 11. Enjoy
The world is hemorrhaging…God has let the earth
The ground is soaked red with the cries and
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
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.
Also titled as: Simple Suggestions for Those Who Call Themselves ‘followers of Jesus’ as Well as All People of Any Faith & People of Conscience & Good Will
Live closely to God, as a Friend. For God is the Vine and we are branches, the deeper our connection to God, the more life is abundantly full. And be with God as you are with a friend, sharing all of life’s ups and downs, living together as one.
Follow the Nazarene closely (Jesus set a pretty good example on how to live).
Pray Often. Pray for the people you love, pray for the people you don’t love.
Don’t build a big church (or religious structure). Because if we do, then we will need to protect it and use up time, taxes, and treasure to maintain it. Instead of a building try Being Church – and rather than building a new building, start by sharing your life with people as they are, where they are and they will undoubtedly see Jesus.
Share the Good News. For what Jesus did is, indeed, Good and truly Newsworthy.
Make serving the poor the Gospel mandate it is (instead of treating it like a superfluous add-on)…make charity and justice for the poor a personal, close-up thing and not a ‘program’ in the church.
Give Relief to those who are suffering around you and those far away (for we are all in this together).
Visit the Sick, the locked up, those in prison, and the shut in.
Sit with the dying…just be with them as they transition into the next part of life.
Comfort the Broken, the bruised and the bereaved.
Be Generous & Lavish with those in need and do so with your time, your talents, your money, and your stuff. Share your house with someone in need like a teenager in a bad situation or a person coming out of the system. Share your car, your tools, your garage, your apartment, your books, etc., because we are merely stewards of what God has given us.
Be Reckless in giving and receiving God’s grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness.
Practice Kindness...to animals, the Earth, and all living creatures. God is the loving Creator so all of creation is divine and worthy of kindness. And when we are kind to all of creation, we are being kind to God.
Practice Hospitality and be hospitable to strangers and those different from you (not just your friends and family).
Love Your Neighbor…and yes, I do mean the one right next door, as well as the one down the street, across the country and across the world.
Live your life as a fully alive, self-aware human being. Practice being real and transparent and watch people see Jesus in and through your unique personality. No stuffed shirts, smug piousness or the need to be superior over people. Just Be Real.
Love ‘sinners’ (because all of us are wounded)…and love all of them, not just the ones you feel most comfortable around. Befriend people not like you, people of other faiths, and people of no ‘faith’ and don’t do it just for the sake of converting them. Jesus loved all people – truly, madly and deeply – with no motive other than to reveal to them how loved they are by God. Jesus passionately loved those who walked away from, betrayed and even killed him. Jesus had no other motive but to love people into the Kingdom, so put away your “Four Spiritual Laws”, your missals, and your Bibles and just start being real (i.e., human) around people for you’ll be amazed at how much God’s love will flow from you to them and vice versa!
Practice Common Grace (whether you’re a Calvinist, Catholic or Atheist). For all people are made in the image of God and God sustains everyone regardless of their faith or lack thereof (Matt. 5:45; Acts 17:25-28; James 1:17)
Practice Common Graciousness as well. Don’t be a spiritual bully, smug, self-righteous or mean-spirited. Just because we think we have found the Truth does NOT mean we are the truth or always right. So, stop being an ass about your faith. Only Jesus is Lord and only God has the ‘right’ to judge, so save the judging for God and God alone.
I can break down my own personal faith journey into one of two camps whereby faith is either treated like a farm or like schooling. Neither one is better than the other, but my faith has evolved from the latter into the former; and I have spent years learning to become more and more comfortable with the growth process of faith as farming rather than schooling.
The farming metaphor of my spiritual journey into and with God tends to see the spiritual life through the lens of what farming looks like: ploughing earth; planting seeds; cultivation; seasonal; ritual; laborious; filled with both droughts and deluge; feeding; sustaining; rewarding; plenty; scarcity; menial; painful; boring; joy-filled. But above all life giving. Farming involves co-creation, partnership, and is less hierarchical. In this farming metaphor, the earth (or God in this instance) has its place and I know mine in relation to it.
The schooling metaphor (and schooling is not to be confused with ‘education’ from the Latin word, educare meaning to “draw forth from within”) was one that I framed my spiritual life in early on in my intentional faith journey. I looked at faith and even God as like a schooling metaphor which included seeing faith like this: compensatory, laborious; ubiquitous standards; something I dreaded doing, had to do, and was told would get me ahead more quickly the more of it (schooling) I got; it also included cramming; caring only about what is on the test; and overall not be able to wait to graduate from it so I could get on with life.
You can see by these metaphors how the farming one has been a richer one for my life than my schooling metaphor. Farming involves being on partnership with that which is greater than me, allowing things to grow wild sometimes. Schooling always involved being told in Kindergarten to ‘color within the lines.’
School is a great deal like that – drawing lines and teaching people to stay within them..or else our grades will suffer.
But I think faith, and God, are more like farming – not always so neat and tidy, messy, hard work, seasonal, organic rituals that are organically connected to the natural order of things. Farming is cyclical, but it evolves and changes from season to season, yearly as well. One year, corn is planted, the next soy, the next, the fields may be left to grow wild in order for the nutrient rich earth to replenish itself. My faith is like farming in that way.
It can be summed up maybe something like this…God as Creator (THE grand farmer) fallows out the dry ground of our souls, planting this seed or that one, watering all in Divine Love in order that our life might be abundant, grow deeply and upwardly, out into this world as a gift and find harvest so as to feed and be fed.