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

Monday, February 17, 2020

short-hand religion

“It’s short-hand religion without a deeper theology,” he said. “If you don’t have a theology of empathy, there is no Jesus there. Even if you look at someone who is gay [greedy, dishonest, hateful, racist] and you believe that’s not what God wants for people, Jesus encountered people throughout his ministry that would be doing things God wouldn’t want for them. And he always leaves them with more dignity than he found them.”
                                                              John Pavlovitz

Why bother with faith?
Why bother, to put it more bluntly
With religion

I mean really, what a pain
You’ve got to give up part of a weekend
To go listen to some dude or dudette talk
And talk
And talk

you’ve got to give up not just time
but money
and perhaps
if your faith system has really got religion

things like
depending on your brand

coffee and coke
swearing (I mean WTF?)

and you’ve got to behave
or not

but seriously

what is it that moves a think adult
to embrace a religion

a lot of thinking adults aren’t, anymore

and so we have the “none”

As in I’ll have none of that!

But for those that remain….

Honestly it seems that for many it is a matter of….
Wait for it…..

I participate in this faith thing
And I get blessed
I get prosperous
I get happy
I get saved
From eternal torment

Its turn or burn!

I ran across a song the other day
That might well be the national anthem
Of much of American Christianity

'll be so happy (Lord I'll be)
I'll be so happy (yes I will)
I'll be so happy (when I see his precious face)
I'll be so happy (When I see Jesus inside of me)
I'll be so happy (All my heartaches, they will be over)
I'll be so happy (All my sorrows, they'll be over)
I'll be so happy
(All my tears and my pains, it will be over, yes it will
Oh I won't have to bear noo, won't have to bear no more burdens
I'll be so happy
They'll be nothing but joy and peace over there
Every day will be Sunday
So Happy, Jesus and Me

Jesus and me
We are like “this”
And all is well with the world

I wonder

Is that really what it’s all about?

As I think about my choice
To engage with a God who is love

There are of course “Jesus and me” moments
Oh yeah

I want to be in communion with the Sacred
Drawn into a swirling vortex of Love

I want to be filled to overflowing
With Sacred Presence

But there is the critical point
Filled with sacred presence not just
So that I can “be so happy”

But so full of God’s love
That I leak love
So full that it oozes out of me
And transforms

The way I see
The way I treat
Other people

All other people

Not just the easy people
The beautiful people
Rich people
Smart people
Kind people
Clever people

But all people
All meaning all

Even that dirty and drained soul lying on a park bench
Even that greedy and shriveled soul sitting in chairs of gold

My religion (I prefer spirituality)
Should be about how I interact with those people
Who I encounter
Each day

And I should be about one thing

Building a bridge between myself and the other
So that the Sacred can cross over
And do for that person
As much or more as the Sacred has done for me

What I want from my “religion”
Is to become human
To be drawn out of my subhuman
Selfishness and greed
Out of my need for power
And my need to put others down

Into the fullness of my humanity
Into my divine heritage
Into the image

So that I can work with God
To help others
Find themselves
Their true selves
That precious, amazing self
That reflects the very nature of the Sacred

What I want my religion to do
Is to make me a person
Who leaves other people
With more love
More hope
More joy
More peace

With more humanity
With more dignity
Than when I first met them

And that
Is why
I bother

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Defy the darkness

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”
                                                              Anne Frank

Endure the injustice and take the opportunity to put the extravagant love of Christ’s Kingdom into practice; bring the audacious and everlasting love of God into the daylight and dazzle those whose eyes have never seen or imagined such overwhelming and sincere love. This is how we change the world. This is how we transform our enemies into friends. This is how we end the violence. This is how we push back the darkness – not with more darkness – but with true, undeniable light; the light that only comes from God.  If the best we can do is take an eye for an eye, we will never escape this world of blindness.
                                                              Keith Giles (Our Christless Christianity)

What do we do in times like this?

We know the litany of ills
The exclusion of the needy from our shores
The neglect and oppression of the poor and vulnerable
The proliferation of lies
The rise of hate
The destruction of the earth

We know them all to well
They are encroaching darkness
That threatens to smother us
And rob us of sight
And sound
And feeling

Leaving us
With nothing

Our hearts pound
Our heads scream with a thousand voices
As we are consumed by it all

And yet
And yet
And yet

We believe
Not in the power of the darkness
But in the power of the light

And we
Beloved children of God
Spirit carriers
Precious souls

Are the candle
We defy the darkness

For blown by the Spirit
Consumed by the flame of Sacred love

Through us sacred love
flames out (like shining from shook foil)  (Hopkins)

and we
by how we live
By how we accept and welcome
By our kindness and caring
By our generosity and service

By our love
Reveal the darkness for what it is
We define it as small
Empty and ugly
Powerful but powerless to defeat

And we shine on
Pushing back the darkness

Bringing “the audacious and everlasting love of God
into the daylight”

destroying the darkness with overwhelming and sincere love.
Bringing sight to the blind
Giving voice to hope
Thawing the frozen heart

We do this
One by one

We shine on
With the “true, undeniable light; the
light that only comes from God”

and darkness define
and darkness defied

the kingdom comes

Friday, February 7, 2020

Do not be afraid

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
                                                   Corrie Ten Boom

“I've spent most of my life and most of my friendships holding my breath and hoping that when people get close enough they won't leave, and fearing that it's a matter of time before they figure me out and go.”
                                                    Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

“A psychiatrist once told me early in treatment, “Stop trying to make me like you,” and what a sobering and welcome smack in the face that statement was. Yet somehow, every day of my life is still a campaign for popularity, or better yet, a crowded funeral.”
                                                    John Waters

I don’t know when it started
this endless litany in my skull

you are not enough
you are not enough
no matter what you do it will not be enough

but I cannot remember a time when my stomach did not hurt
and each day
as life assailed me

I chewed an anti-acid
Even my grade school body
Revealing my anxiety

I know I wanted to please
I know I wanted to be liked

And the judges were out there
Real and imagined
My father
My classmates

That cute girl in 7th grade math

And soon my life became
A test

Of value
Of worth

An examination in worthiness

And all too often
I failed

Not perhaps in other’s eyes
But always in my one

Do they like me?
Am I “in”?
Will she admire me?
Will he respect me?

And life was shaped
by my attempts to be
what I thought others wanted me to be…

and the voice in the head
that bully brain
continued the refrain…

“how am I doing?”

And still today
As I write my blog
Or give a sermon
Or work with a Mental Health client

I worry
And I want to make everyone happy

Just try that these days !!!

I suspect there is plenty of evidence I do just fine
but then that comment comes

and it all floods in
the doubt,
the anxiety,
the pain
that I carry, carry, carry
in the aging body

and still at 68
as at 8
my stomach hurts
and my heart hurts

and I am haunted
by failures real and imagined

and then there is nothing to do
but to turn to the One
who always loves
always accepts
always sees me as a precious soul

there is nothing to do but to breathe
and sink into the depths
where love lives

and in that deep place seek God, and seek, perhaps myself
St. Francis of Assisi would spend whole nights praying “Who are you, my most dear God, and who am I . . . ?”

It is a good question

But who God is love

And in that love one experiences
the absolute safety of God
one finds a God who is “always and forever larger than we expected” (Rohr)

and in that Sacred space, one finds one’s True Self,

I have become a fan of self-compassion
And there are standard phrases (metta phrases)

But here is mine

“As I wander deep within
May I find myself again
In the context of Sacred love
May my body be healed
May my mind be healed
May my heart be healed
May my soul be healed
May I be at peace”

It is in those moments when I find that peace
That I can quit trying so hard to please
Quit trying to make people like me

And just be

An agent of reconciliation
So that others
Do not have to be afraid

And do not have to wonder

Am I enough?