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Dreams of Mercy
I dreamed of walking through
Emerald forest…hanging all
The worries and weights of my body,
Upon thick, uneven
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 felt so laden, so familiar,
All the years of want and the scars of
Letting go, all came out of this
The trees dared me
To let this
Grief hollow out my bones with mercy,
To paint the walls of my heart, the colors of
White & black. I have failed this challenge
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
My fingers tracing poems in the
Worn flesh of their bark…
A monk once said to me:
your faith should be like tea served Ch’an style
– rough, warm, and loosely wrapped;
and your religion the same:
warm to the touch,
& hewn on the edges of life.
the mystics great gift is
feeding hungry ghost
along the Way.
An old Abbot leaned against his cane,
rambling on about being invited to sit at the table of the new emperor.
“imagine me,” the wrinkled old sage giggled,
“being there with the divine emperor
& all those rich people.”
But Abbot, I said,
“you are the rich people.”
I awoke from a dream…
feeling like a habit held together by
flesh & grace…
so filled with God even
the Emptiness brimmed over.
Ministers and congregation both, they came to church year after year, and who is to say how if at all their lives were changed as the result? If you’d stopped and asked them on any given Sunday, I suspect they would have said they weren’t changed much. Yet they kept on coming anyway; and beneath all the lesser reasons they had for doing so, so far beneath that they themselves were only half aware of it, I think there was a deep reason, and if I could give only one word to characterize that reason, the word I would give is hope…
I think it is hope that lies at our hearts and hope that finally brings us all here. Hope that in spite of all the devastating evidence to the contrary, the ground we stand on is holy ground because Christ walked here and walks here still. Hope that we are known, each one of us, by name, and that out of the burning moments of our lives he will call us by our names to the lives he would have us live and the selves he would have us become. Hope that into the secret grief and pain and bewilderment of each of us and of our world he will come at last to heal and to save.
~ published in Secrets in the Dark
You never know what may cause tears. The sight of the Atlantic Ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you’ve never seen before. A pair of somebody’s old shoes can do it. Almost any movie made before the great sadness that came over the world after the Second World War, a horse cantering across a meadow, the high-school basketball team running out onto the gym floor at the start of a game. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure.
Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.
They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next.
~originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words
“Humility as the early monastics describe it has nothing to do with passivity, nor anything to do with deliberately cultivating a poor self-image. Being a doormat is not being humble, nor is giving up the self in order to serve the needs, desires and whims of another person who is not God.
Humility is not sniveling, nor is it daydreaming gentle thoughts while the world’s violence goes on around it…[Humility] calls for the renunciation of all deep attachments to what the world holds dear: goods, social advancement, the satisfaction of appetites at the expense of others, the right to dominate others in any personal relationship.
But if humility is hard, it is also powerful. Humility has to do with taking and accepting radical responsibility for the things that happen in life.”
I used to look at the world in black and white, extreme black and white at that. It went something like this: “either you were or you weren’t; either you did or your didn’t; either things (or you) were good or bad; black or white; in or out. Fill in the blank at the end but the meaning is still the same: life was made rigid; exclusive self-righteously all bundled up in neat, little packaging (socio-cultural/economic/political/religious MREs if you will).
It seemed to make life safe for a twenty something who was new to faith and scared of almost everything in life.
Now…well now my view of the world is more an appreciation of the entire kaleidoscope colors of God’s being reflected and deflected in, through and off of all of creation – us included.
But…and there’s always a but. But there is one area of my life I am still a bit “black and white” with and that is about the dance between fear and faith. The way I look at it either I live in fear or I live in faith; I live by fear or I live by faith. Now granted, I know it is not so neatly packaged, far from it.
But it seems to me those two choices are the existentially paradigmatic choices of our lives.
And depending upon which one I choose, determines in all likelihood the quality and maybe even the quantity of the direction my life takes.
If I choose to live (mostly, say 51%) by faith, then the world is just more beautiful. God is more present in all things and in all Ways and I feel connected to all that is – the Creator, the creation and the created.
But if I choose to live by fear (let’s stick with the 51% option again), the scales of life and my perception therein seem to tip and tilt towards the darker, sadder, painful parts of living – the “less” ness of life (as in there seems to be less of everything I desire if I perceive and experience life through the lens of fear).
By choosing (and yes, I do feel at the core, it is a CHOICE) to live by faith – faith in God, faith in myself, faith in other people, faith in love and service, and even faith in the process – a miraculous metamorphosis begins to take place within me and in all those with whom I share life.
Life gets bigger.
Life gets more abundant.
Life gets fuller of joy, suffering, emotions – the veritable messiness of it all.
Life doesn’t necessarily get easier, or prettier, or more neatly packaged. In fact, it’s quite the opposite because looking and living life by faith involves such things as crazy leaps, pain, heartbreak reckless abandon and ruthless trust. Living by faith involves fearless looking at the person I am, all of me, and embracing it as I am not as I want to be. For that is how God does it.
And here is something I am learning slowly and deeply: not only is living a life of faith all of the aforementioned, a life of faith means living with the ever growing knowledge that God actually has faith in me!
That may seem like heresy to some, but if we all step back and look at the gifts, miracles, roles and responsibilities we are blessed with, those things that we seek after and get and those things that seemingly fall into our laps throughout the days and years of our lives, Someone must indeed trust and believe in us to endow us with such abundance!
So, today I am a bit more relaxed, nestling rather than wrestling into this life of faith over fear, hoping against hope, trusting even as my eyes are still getting accustomed to the Light, that in the end (and at the end) that by choosing a life of faith, my life becomes a valuable gift both given and shared to this wonderful wounded world in which I live.