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Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning



Saturday, May 14, 2022

What Kind of Times are These?

"Not too long ago, a priest told me that he canceled his subscription to the New York Times because he felt that the endless stories about war, crime, power games, and political manipulation only disturbed his mind and heart and prevented him from meditation and prayer.

 

That is a very sad story because it suggests that only by denying the world can you live in it, that only by surrounding yourself by an artificial, self-induced quietude can you live in a spiritual life. A real spiritual life does exactly the opposite: it makes us so alert of the world around us, that all that is and happens becomes part of our contemplation and meditation and invites us to a free and fearless response."

Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out (1975), page 35

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what kind of times are these

when even in the midst of a fretful normalcy

disaster looms?

 

the creeping darkness

edges toward us

disaster

 

the empty reservoirs of drought

the smoldering ruins of bombed-out cities

the hot hate of racism

and the looming threat of authoritarianism

 

the proliferation of lies

the embrace of power over service

money over people

 

what kind of times are these?

 

these are times that try our souls

which is nothing new

 

there is perhaps nothing new under the sun

 

what kind of times are these?

what do we do with times like these?

 

do we simply hide?

avoiding as best we can, any contact with the harsh realities that surround us?

do we dump the Book of Faces, turn off our TV’s

close our eyes to the realities?

 

do we create our own reality?

a world in which climate change is just a myth

elections are stolen

where might makes right

and the wealth will surely trickle down?

 

do we respond to hate with hate and violence with violence

do we enter into the endless cycle of retribution

do we embrace the culture of open carry

voter suppression

the world of manipulation and coercion

 

do we seek a legislated theocracy?

 

or do we become people

touched by Love

who while painfully aware of the world and its woes

choose to accept that pain (acknowledge it)

carry it

and transform it?

 

my love of Jesus

makes me painfully aware of the pain of the world

the pain of the planet

the pain of Ukraine

the pain of those people around me

who are suffering

 

and I am called to enter into to it

not flee from it

I am called to face it fiercely

not with fierce hate

not with domination or manipulation

not with toxic patriotism or toxic individualism

 

but with

as much as I am able

with fearless love

 

Jesus said he was the vine

if Jesus is a vine, I am a measly twig

 

but if I am connected

if I abide

if I access the love, forgiveness, hope, and peace

of Jesus

 

I can love

 

I cannot stop the war in Ukraine

but I can encourage a friend

I cannot silence all those who minimize and marginalize

but I can welcome those whom others might exclude

I cannot stop haters from hating

but I can respond to hate in a way that will, perhaps, perhaps,

stop the cycle of hate and violence

 

what kind of times are these?

times that need people who are willing to

contemplate, meditate, study, pray

breathe

 

who are willing to be embraced by Love

and pass it on

to a suffering world

Friday, May 13, 2022

Go more deeply

sometimes it seems

as if we are all ‘hit and run” drivers

 

we go through life

hurried

purposeful

busy

 

thinking about what was

thinking about what is going to be

but never present

 

we are not present to ourselves

nor are we present to others

 

we may read the news

wander into the wilderness of the Book of Faces

spend moments with those precious to us

and engage with friends and coworkers

customers, clients patients, or parishioners

 

but all too often we are not really there

we don’t stop and breathe

we don’t pay attention

 

we don’t notice

what is going on in ourselves

what is going on inside the other

we accept the mask

the surface reality

 

and so we lack knowledge

about ourselves

about our own pain, our own joy

our strengths and our weaknesses

 

and we lack true knowledge of others

 

how can we truly be “in love”

how can we truly be people of compassion and kindness

if we do not understand

if we see only the external and superficial

 

sometimes we need to stop

breathe

listen

 

we need to take the time to go deeper

into our own heart

into the heart of others

 

only then can we be in touch with the complexity

that exists in our own hearts and souls

only when we notice a feeling

and say “where did that come? what did I just say to myself about myself”

can we begin to unravel the mystery of why

we do and say what we do and say

 

only then can we hear the pain

see the tension in the other person’s face

catch the hint of feeling in the other person’s voice

and respond to them, meaningfully

 

only then can understanding

healing

and love

emerge

 

for me, this is the Word of the Lord for this gloomy,

gray day

 

go more deeply

go more deeply

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

the soul keeps score

it has been said that the body keeps score

that if we go through life

carrying our pain and stress

 

eventually, it will all show up

in our body

somewhere, somehow

 

but I think the soul keeps score too

when we carry pain

it takes a toll

 

emotional, mental, and spiritual pain is always with us

we cannot avoid it

and be human

 

we want to avoid it!

our natural inclination is to move away from pain

 

to suppress it

 

maybe if we pretend it isn’t there it will go away!

it doesn’t

maybe if we medicate it we will feel better

we don’t

 

pain has a way of hanging around

building up

 

our moves away from pain

often bring us more pain

 

we trap our pain

we multiply it

it traps us

it wears us down

 

it defines us

and then it defines the way we live

 

it has been said that if we do not transform our pain

we transfer it

 

we pass it on

 

to children

to spouses

to friends

 

this week I have sat with pain

my own

and others

 

and I have felt the impact of pain

I have seen the impact of pain

 

and I know this

pain must be accepted

 

we must look at it in the face

we must hold it, gently

we must touch it with compassion, and forgiveness

and yes, love

 

we must allow ourselves to hurt

for ourselves

for others

 

we must hand our pain over

to a God who understands pain

and will suffer with us

and walk with us

and restore our souls

 

the pain will not go away

but it will no longer control us and determine us

it will still be a part of our lives

but only a part, not the whole

 

we will still carry a lot (too much) crap

but we will travel lighter

 

and there will be room in our baggage

for a little love,

a little hope

and a little peace

 

and we will have a chance

having accepted pain

and released pain

and handed over pain to Love

to do what we want to do

and be who we want to be

 

and love

how we want to love