Welcome

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

_________________________________________________

 

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

seeds and more

I keep thinking about seeds

I was cleaning out a church closet

(OMG)

And found a bag of seeds

 

Unlabeled

Mysterious

 

I planted them anyway

In a piece of empty ground crying to be used

 

clover!

who buys a 2lb bag of clover?

 

Jesus talked a lot about seeds

and a lot about soil

 

we think most of the soil

in our murky earthy thinking, we believe

it is mostly about us

our receptiveness

 

and that matters

I live on glacial rubble

sand and gravel and rocks

lots of rocks

where things struggle to grow

 

but it is also about the seed

what grows is what is planted

 

good seeds, good fruit

bad seeds?

 

Sacred plants bear only good seeds

not seeds of hate, or fear

not seeds of judgment and retribution

 

but seeds of love

all the beautiful gifts of God

are subsets of the kingdom of love

 

forgiveness

grace

generosity

kindness

sprout from the one kind of seed

God sows

 

Love

 

the great sower sows only love

 

we too are sowers

we walk through this earth like

demented Johnny Appleseeds

 

leaving behind us a trail of seeds

 

what kind of seeds do we sow?

 

I shudder to think of what is sprouting behind me

I would like to think

I have scattered love and hope

 

but I suspect that is not always true

alas

 

there are weeds among the flowers

thorny briars among the wheat         

 

it seems that those seeds I allow to take root in my soul

are the seeds I then scatter

 

this day

as I cross the fertile ground of life

may I scatter good seed

 

the same good seed that Sacred has scattered in my soul

 

knowing that good seed only blossoms

when rooted in the good soil of grace

and nurtured by the ever-flowing stream of Sacred presence

 

Only then am green and alive

and bear the fruit of love

 

Sunday, May 8, 2022

God is in the death

God is in the death.  Neither a genie nor a life insurance policy.  God is in both the living and the dying.  You and I don’t have to choose, we don’t have to pretend that we are not crushed to the ground with grief when we are.  We don’t have to lie about our fears, insecurities, and despair.  We don’t have to rush to the light when the darkness is safely holding our tears, our sorrow, our anguish. We can hang out with ourselves, our posse, our Higher Power (if we have one) in between life and death.  We can hover there knowing in the liminal space there are gifts for us in between the now and the now yet

          Jacqui Lewis, Fierce Love

______________________

 

I remember as a child

I was always anxious for Easter to arrive

I loved the hunts for the gaily colored eggs

scattered around our huge yard

 

I loved the chocolate

(for easter was one of the few times we got candy)

seeing my mother and sister dressed up

hearing the songs

and the story

 

ah, the story

of victory

light over darkness

life over death

do not be afraid

why are you weeping

 

we are always anxious for Easter

for its resolution and its victory

 

and yet this is not an easter world

this is a world stuck on Good Friday

mired in the bleak emptiness of Saturday

when love appeared dead

 

caught in the great silence

the great absence

 

we sometimes forget

I think

 

Love was on the cross

Love was in the tomb

Love was there in the long silence that

seemed to stretch on forever (until the first day of the week)

 

that God (Love) is in the chaos, and pain, and death

love is standing in the rubble of Mariupol

love is in the cancer ward

love is in the anxious hearts of that watch the planet die

 

Love does not magically end authoritarianism

or banish greed

love does not take away the fear or the pain

but love stays

 

death is hard

life is at times unbearably difficult

we are left beaten

and breathless

 

but love stays

and we walk

painfully at times

hopefully at times

left foot, right foot, left foot

 

toward life

Thursday, May 5, 2022

patterns, patterns

If anger is coming up, you become aware of your anger.  If fear is coming up, you become aware of your fear.  You are always there for yourself.  “Good morning my little anger, I know you are there.  I will take good care of you.” “Good afternoon, my fear, you just manifested.  I know you are always there, you are my old friend, I will take time to care for you.”

                     Thich Nhat Hanh

____________________________

 

Sometimes I am surprised by joy!

all of a sudden, without warning

my heart sings

 

it might be a glimpse of the mountain on a clear day

or the first crocus of spring

or a cat sleeping in the way that only cats can sleep

 

but there it is!

Joy

 

but I can be surprised by other things too

by insecurity

anxiety

fear

anger

 

I don’t know why I am surprised

because the reality is

we are all creatures of habit

 

we have our patterns

mental and emotional

 

that stuff that comes up?!

it has been coming up our whole lives

and our responses?

those too!

 

we know where we want to go

we know who we want to be

we try

oh we try

 

but then suddenly

stuff comes up!

 

I’m not enough

I can’t do this!

I am going to be rejected

I am not valued

“They are going to control me”

 

Fear comes up

Anger too

Maybe even hate

 

and that stuff that comes up pushes us into patterned

responses that allow us to hide

to avoid

those things that make us uncomfortable

 

we might isolate

we might drink

we might carry a gun

we might shut down

 

but too often our attempts to avoid our pain

lead us only into more pain

as anger begets anger, and hate, hate

and violence, violence.

 

we have to welcome

(in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy we say “accept”)

the stuff that comes up

 

Thay has it right

“Welcome my dear little fear

Let me take care of you

Let’s talk, about where you come from,

Let me accept your presence,

Let me shape my response to you.

 

You get to come here for a moment and say hi,

But you don’t get to lounge on the couch

and you don’t get to redecorate my mind and soul.

Sorry!  It was a nice visit, but, goodbye”

 

When we greet those things within

when we address them, enter into them, accept them

we can calm them, transform them

let go of them

 

having greeted

we can also say goodbye

 

the fact is we are not trapped by our old patterns

we can see them, face them

address them

and then let them go

 

moving on to new patterns that allow us to do what we want to do

and be who we want to be

 

when we take the time to deal with all that is going on within

we do not have to invade a country,

storm on a stage and slap another,

abuse a spouse,

take that next drink,

or hide from life.

 

instead, we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds

and be surprised by joy

 

 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

One Person

"one human being can do more evil than all the other species put together."

          Thomas Aquinas

 

To make the same point differently, people like Jesus and Paul were not executed for saying, “Love one another.” They were killed because their understanding of love meant more than being compassionate toward individuals, although it did include that. It also meant standing against the domination systems that ruled their world and collaborating with the Spirit in the creation of a new way of life that stood in contrast to the normalcy of the wisdom of the world. Love and justice go together. Justice without love can be brutal, and love without justice can be banal. Love is the heart of justice, and justice is the social form of love.

          Marcus Borg, Dominic Crossan,  “The first Paul”

__________________________________

 

one person

one person who is not reconciled to Love

and not reconciled (awake) to their true self

can do so much damage

 

whether it is Putin with his weapons of destruction

killing innocents

and reducing cities to rubble

 

or Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham

posturing and spewing lies and hate on the Senate floor

 

or an angry person

abusing their spouse and their children

 

or a resentful person with a gun

 

one person can do more evil

than all the other species put together

 

we see this

we feel it in our bones

we see it in the rubble of Mariupol

in the battered bodies of children in the ER

 

so what do we do?

 

are we hopeless and helpless?

can we do nothing more than stand by and lament?

 

Sometimes it feels that way!

for sure

for sure

 

and yet

we are reminded by Paul

and we see this truth lived out by others

by Martin Luther King Jr.

Nelson Mandela

Desmond Tutu

Gandhi

and more

 

we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us

 

this is not a meaningless platitude

 

we can stand

we can resist

 

Jesus did

Paul did

 

others to have stood against the domination systems that

all too often rule the world

 

Spirit-filled

They used love and compassion

energy and intelligence and imagination to fight for a new way of life

that is in stark contrast

to the way of domination and wealth

 

we can too

we can overcome

we can overcome evil with good

 

we can refuse to vote for those who peddle hate and lies

we can stand against oppression and suppression

we can choose service over domination

we can include rather than exclude             

we can respond with compassion rather than anger

 

it is not easy

it will not always look as though we are effective

it will not always go well

we will often pay a price

sometimes a very dear price

 

Jesus died on a cross

Paul experienced many a tribulation

Gandhi and King and Mandela and so many others

lost position, power, freedom

and even life

 

but they persisted

and so must we

 

not just loving

not just fighting for justice

but using love to push the world toward justice

 

for

“Love and justice go together.

Justice without love can be brutal, and love without justice can be banal.

Love is the heart of justice,

and justice is the social form of love.”

Monday, May 2, 2022

I will go down loving

Hard times require furious dancing

          Alice Walker

 

Fight the worst with the best

          Wendell Berry

__________________________________

 

let’s face it

life is messy

 

all around us, empire is roaring,

greed is devouring,

and we are left standing in the rubble

 

while the smoke rises from Mariupol

and innocents die

and we hear the sound of lament echoing

across the globe

 

others wail over minor inconveniences

and the rich

“who oppress the poor, who crush the needy…”

say “bring us another drink” (Amos)

 

it is enough to drive us to despair

it is enough to make us ponder

where is God?

does love really win?

 

and we wonder

how do we respond?

 

we feel so helpless

it feels so hopeless

 

and yet

 

words linger in our hearts and souls

words that feel untrue

and yet we know

somehow

are true

 

all things work together for good (Romans)

never tire of doing  (Galatians)

 

yes we grow weary

yes we do stumble and fall

 

but those that wait upon Love(Isaiah)

will renew their strength!

 

times call for boldness

I will not go down despairing

I will not quit

I will not be silent

 

I have a voice

I cannot, perhaps, do much

but what I can do I will do

 

I will worship

I will pray

I will hold fast to the truth

I will care

I will give

I will serve

I will fight against the forces of hate

 

not with the tools of hate

not with violence and hate returned

 

but with the tools of love

 

in the short term, the forces of dominance and greed may prevail

but still, I will persist

 

I may be a fool,

but

I  WILL GO DOWN LOVING