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

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Spiritual Arthritis

“… when my anger goes on and on without my learning or changing anything then it is not plain anger anymore.  It has become bitterness instead.  It has become resentment, which a friend of mine calls ‘arthritis of the spirit.’  So there is another motivation for learning how to forgive – not only because we owe it to God but because we owe it to ourselves.  Because resentment deforms us.”
                                                              Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine, p 10

I wonder at times
How people get into the places they are in

Where they define others simply by negative stereotype
Where they are so quick to believe the worst?

Where they can disregard the basic humanity of the other
Disregard the fact that the person they so detest
Is a child of God
A carrier of the Sacred?

The judgments flow freely


How can people look at
The person who is
a refugee
struggling with mental illness

and shut down their hearts

and attack
and exclude

It has something to do with resentment
It has to do with being crippled with spiritual arthritis

It is not a new ailment

Perhaps it is even a pre-existing condition

And it goes back to one’s sense
That if one does not have everything one wants
It has to be someone else’s fault
It has to be a matter of injustice

I should have a better job
I should be paid more
Women should like me
Men should adore me
My house should be nice
My car better

I should have all of this

Except for them

It deforms us
It shrinks our hearts and shrivels our souls
It turns us in upon ourselves
It makes us small

What it steals must of all
Is our sense of gratitude
And our sense of generosity

Someone once said that suffering is the gap
Between what we have and what we want (or think we should have)

Resentment is a form of suffering
And God knows, we suffer

The antidotes?
Gratitude and generosity

Gratitude for what we have
There is always a reason for gratitude (at least I believe there is)

I remember once, lamenting the fact
That due to my own errors, my own stuff, I needed to step
Away from a job
In my head I also felt like I was stepping away from my future
From the respect of others

And then my neighbor lost a child to disease
And I was reminded of many small gifts that still remained
My own children, healthy and happy

We need to rediscover gratitude
We need to look for what is good in life
In our lives

Because gratitude leads to generosity
If I am grateful, and see my blessings, I am then freed
To give out my own abundance
(Even if that abundance is a simple as time
Or the ability to lend a helping hand)

I personally don’t want to be deformed
I don’t want to suffer with spiritual arthritis

So I am prescribing myself
Heavy doses of gratitude

Followed by the therapy of generosity

Because I have profound respect
For what resentment can do

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

And so I wait

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
                      Friedrich Nietzsche
“I felt very still and empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in
 the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.”
                      Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
“I accept chaos, I'm not sure whether it accepts me.”
                      Bob Dylan
“I would like to see anyone, prophet, king or God, convince a thousand cats to do the
 same thing at the same time.”
                      Neil Gaiman

Sometimes I am in the eye of the storm
Sometimes I am not

Sometimes, I am gone with the wind
Driven, whirled, tumbled, impelled

Helplessly carried by the urgent
the evolving

they say it is out of chaos
that amazing, wonderful newness comes

but I am not so sure
it feels at times as if I am unraveling
becoming so fragmented that the pieces may never reunite

it is partially all there is to do
sermons to write
a Presbytery to administer
people to visit
classes to teach
curriculums to revise

it is partially the storm within my brain
the fears
the memories of failure

those little bursts of PTSD that leave one sometimes shaken
and sometimes ashamed,
and sometimes hopeless

it is partially a slowing body
and a slowing brain

it is too many things forgotten
too many balls dropped
too many conflicts

too many dreams just out of reach
too many ideas I can simply not implement

I feel like I am herding a million cats
And all the cats
Are facets of myself

And so I strive and strive
And plan and plan
And hope and hope

And I look down searching for the breadcrumbs of God
To lead me forward

But the trail disappears
Into the forest of confusion
as time
and people
and politicians (who might be people but…)
and circumstances
and demands

roll in like fog

and so I stand
and breathe
and wait
and wait

I wait upon the Lord
to renew my strength
to help me soar (on wings like eagles)
run and not grow weary,
to walk and not be faint.

I wait
And hope

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

dealing with trauma

In response to threat and injury, animals, including humans, execute biologically based, non-conscious action patterns that prepare them to meet the threat and defend themselves. The very structure of trauma, including activation, dissociation and freezing are based on the evolution of survival behaviors. When threatened or injured, all animals draw from a "library" of possible responses. We orient, dodge, duck, stiffen, brace, retract, fight, flee, freeze, collapse, etc. All of these coordinated responses are somatically based- they are things that the body does to protect and defend itself. It is when these orienting and defending responses are overwhelmed that we see trauma.

The bodies of traumatized people portray "snapshots" of their unsuccessful attempts to defend themselves in the face of threat and injury. Trauma is a highly activated incomplete biological response to threat, frozen in time. For example, when we prepare to fight or to flee, muscles throughout our entire body are tensed in specific patterns of high energy readiness. When we are unable to complete the appropriate actions, we fail to discharge the tremendous energy generated by our survival preparations. This energy becomes fixed in specific patterns of neuromuscular readiness. The person then stays in a state of acute and then chronic arousal and dysfunction in the central nervous system. Traumatized people are not suffering from a disease in the normal sense of the word- they have become stuck in an aroused state. It is difficult if not impossible to function normally under these circumstances.”
                                                                         Peter A. Levine

“When you have a persistent sense of heartbreak and gutwrench, the physical sensations become intolerable and we will do anything to make those feelings disappear. And that is really the origin of what happens in human pathology. People take drugs to make it disappear, and they cut themselves to make it disappear, and they starve themselves to make it disappear, and they have sex with anyone who comes along to make it disappear and once you have these horrible sensations in your body, you’ll do anything to make it go away.”
                                                                        Bessel A. van der Kolk


The slow intentional destruction of the planet
Dead children
Arrogant leaders
Abused power
Willful ignorance
Entrenched racism

Too much fear
Too much pain
Too much hate
Too much greed
Too much
Too much
Too much

My soul feels the threats
Coming in from everywhere

And all too often it is traumatized

And I want to

I try all the common remedies
I read
I breathe, slowly
I meditate

But still my soul is vigilant
On fire

My entire spiritual system is on alert
Chronically aroused

And I cannot rest

My heart cries out, echoing the Psalmist
Railing against the prevailing evil

I want to believe in Love
In grace
In justice and truth

But then I see “the people
At the top, ….the wicked who have it made,
Who have nothing to worry about,     not a care in the whole wide world.
Pretentious with arrogance, they wear the latest fashions in violence,
Pampered and overfed, decked out in silk bows of silliness.
They jeer, using words to kill they bully their way with words.
They’re full of hot air, loudmouths disturbing the peace.
People actually listen to them—can you believe it?
    Like thirsty puppies, they lap up their words.
What’s going on here? Is God out to lunch?
    Nobody’s tending the store.  (Psalm 73, The Message)

And I am overwhelmed

my soul is tired
frayed at the edges
and my resolve weakens

I want to slip into vindictiveness
And anger
I am tempted to prayer for God’s wrath to descend

I slide to spiritual pathology

And then
I remember

All the stories of deliverance
God with a mighty hand, bringing people out
of slavery

even a slavery of their own making

I remember
How on the night he was betrayed
Jesus took the bread
And took the cup

And said,
I will be with you always

I cannot dodge what is happening
I cannot make it disappear

But awake to Sacred Presence
I can engage it

I can respond to it
A different way

it is no longer a matter of

but of
strength (not my own)
and Love (not my own)

When I am in touch with the Sacred within
I can discharge the tremendous energy of evil

I cannot escape the trauma
But I can heal from it,

And find my way
To hope and peace

(May the peace of God, which passes all understanding
keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of our Lord, Jesus Christ)  Phil. 4:7