Category Archives: a Jesus kind of love

Earthen Vessels

Accepting Our Imperfections

Richard Rohr shares how the teachings of Thérèse of Lisieux have supported his own spiritual journey:

French Catholicism in Thérèse’s time emphasized an ideal of human perfection, but Thérèse humbly trusted her own experience and taught the spirituality of imperfection instead. Thérèse is one of my favorite saints, perhaps because I’m an Enneagram Type One. The trap for the One is self-created perfectionism, which makes us dissatisfied and disappointed by nearly everything, starting with ourselves.

Thérèse has helped me to embrace imperfection—my own and others. When her sister Céline was upset with her own faults, Thérèse instructed, “If you want to bear in peace the trial of not pleasing yourself, you will give [the Virgin Mary] a sweet home.” [1] If we pay attention even for an hour, we observe how hard it is to be “displeasing” to ourselves! Often, this is the emotional snag that sends us into terribly bad moods without even realizing the origins of these moods. To resolve this problem, Thérèse teaches us to let go of the very need to “think well of yourself” to begin with! That’s our ego talking, not God.

Worthiness is not the issue; the issue is trust and surrender. As Thérèse understood, “Jesus does not demand great actions from us but simply surrender and gratitude.” [2] Let’s resolve this once and for all: You’re not worthy! None of us are. Don’t even go down that worthiness road. It’s a game of denial and pretend. We’re all saved by grace. We’re all being loved in spite of ourselves. That’s why I can also say, “You’re all worthy!” But your worthiness has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with the goodness of God.

Brené Brown, a contemporary teacher who extols the gifts of imperfection, writes:

It is in the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts: courage, compassion, and connection. . . .

When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness—the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. . . .

There is a line from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem” that serves as a reminder to me when . . . I’m trying to control everything and make it perfect. The line is, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” [3] . . . This line helps me remember the beauty of the cracks (and the messy house and the imperfect manuscript and the too-tight jeans). It reminds me that our imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together. Imperfectly, but together. [4]

Living with a Grail Experience

by Richard Rohr

(Eileen: This captures the effects of my own experience. At the age of thirty, I recognized and admitted with great shame to others in a counseling group that I was incapable of loving anyone, even my wonderful loving husband and my five young children. When they tenderly accepted me without judgement, it began tp free me of my self hate and it opened my heart to a healing experience of the presence of Jesus as the expression of the unconditional love of God for me and all others.)

A powerful spiritual experience challenges us, like Parsifal in his quest for the Grail, to find a way of holding the paradox of living in the everyday world while knowing there is something beyond it. Richard explains:

Once the Grail experience is over for Parsifal, he finds himself back in the forest, back in the world as he knows it. He has been touched by God in such a way that only God will do for him from now on. He has experienced the Absolute, and the relative will never again totally satisfy him. He aches for God, and the aching now becomes the seeking.

After our own Grail experience, our lives are characterized by some measure of perpetual dissatisfaction. Nothing lives up to our standards: not the church, not ourselves, not our country. There is a radical, aching longing: Ordinary life will never again be good enough, yet it is not meaningless either.

After the Grail experience, the ordinary forever becomes extraordinary. God is both perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed in everything. Once a paper cup becomes a Grail, even if it looks like a paper cup to everyone else, we know it’s also a golden cup. What frustrates us is that we can’t tell anybody. They all think it’s just paper!

A peak experience can be disconcerting. Sometimes we might even be ungrateful for it. We don’t fit in anymore. We live the rest of our lives at a tilt, wandering like Parsifal. We might feel a bit off-center. We can’t get excited about things most people get excited about. We just don’t believe they’re important anymore.

Life’s not about being perfect. It’s about getting involved in this great wrestling match. We get wounded in the hip, like Jacob (Genesis 32:26), and we limp the rest of our lives, but we’re not worried about the wound. We’re utterly confused, but we’re not confused by our confusion. We can live with our confusion now because, behind it all, we know.

Does that sound like double-talk? When one gets into Grail language, it’s all paradox. Everyone wants to pull us back to the first language of logic, law, and ego-tower building. But we can’t go anywhere with that. We have jumped off the ego tower. Once Parsifal has seen the Grail—even though he returns to the world—he is radically different ever after.

Once we have experienced the Grail—our soul, our True Self, God-in-us—we still fall short. We betray others and ourselves. We fail to live our own truth. We act contrary to our values and beliefs. We are hypocritical, lazy, lustful, and all the rest. But we are also trapped in the truth. As Jeremiah says, it burns within us (20:9). We know it’s the truth, even though we can never live up to it. Henceforward the only sin would be to deny that it is the truth. Trying to live up to it is the rest of the Grail journey.

Now the quest is real because the Grail is real. God is real.

Love Fleshed Out

Most of us need Love fleshed out, not just an abstract concept.  That’s why Jesus means so much to many.  We not only see the crucified Jesus as ultimate Love, in fact the Love of God made visible for us, but we see him showing us the WAY for us to also become love. 

We watch him walk through the Scriptures: learning kindness from his mother, outgrowing making law into a God, outgrowing thinking his group had a monopoly on God, outgrowing loving just neighbors who are like himself, but even the enemy, struggling to outgrow human fears to make the choice to not only accept physical suffering, but the loss of everything that made him who he was, and forgiving not only his friends who abandoned him, but even the enemies who tortured and killed him, and finally even when he felt abandoned by God, choosing to trust.

Whether we like it or not, this is not only his WAY, it is also the WAY for us, just as it was for his first disciples. This is the WAY of giving, growing, healing, forgiving, letting go of pride and power, accepting suffering, loving even enemies, and trusting God in the darkness of the unknown at the end of life.

Control or Love

John Roedel 

Me: Hey God. God: Hello, My love. Me: The world is completely out of control. God: I know. It’s such an adventure, right? Me: No! It’s like being on a runaway train! I need to feel like I am in control of my life. God: You want to be in control? Me: Yes! God: You are living on a spinning wet rock of a planet that resides next to a constantly exploding fireball in the middle of an ever-expanding universe that is filled with mysteries beyond your wildest imagination. Me: Um, okay…. God: And on this planet that you are hurtling through the great expanse in – you are coexisting with billions of other people who have free-will and their own experiences that shape their perspectives and beliefs. Me: Yeah…? God: And while all this is going on your soul is residing in a physical body that is such a miracle of delicate engineering that at any given moment could produce its last heartbeat. Me: Right… God: What is it about your existence that you think you have any control of? Me: Um… God: Come on – you know the answer to this. What can you control? Me: How kind I am to people? God: Yep and one other thing. Me: What’s that? God: How kind you are to yourself. Aside from that – most of everything else is a bit outside of your design. Me: That’s a bit terrifying… God: All great adventures are!

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Eileen Norman

   Puts things in perspective, but doesn’t take away the call to learn how to love and to love effectively…..not safely from a distance, but up close and personal where we can’t ignore the nitty gritty that’s hard to love. Loving at a comfortable distance is pretending. Loving requires hearing and understanding others’ reality. It doesn’t change your own, it expands it.  

  More and more I realize how ignorant every single one of us is. And all put together from Einstein and the rest of us, there is more that we don’t know than our combined understanding about anything from the cosmos to our own mind and body. Nobody knows enough to feel superior. Our ignorance is to the millionth squared more than our knowledge and understanding!

I have learned more about loving from my grandchild with disabilities than anywhere else in my 85 years. And to me loving is the ultimate goal of life. And Jesus grew in understanding that took him from “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” To: “Love your enemy as I have loved you.”

“Pride goes before the fall.”    Sadly, it seems we are all having to learn that the hard way.

The Challenge of Change and Labels

My recent responses to:
1: A conflict situation between an adult sister and brother over the brother’s angry defense of his trans teen-age child’s need for sensitivity in a particular situation.

I’m 85 and my trans grand was very offended that I couldn’t get the pronouns right. When my son says “They” enjoyed the concert., I think he means all his kids. I also have to go through all the pronouns when trying to refer to one as “them.” “They” have finally accepted that it’s not me trashing “their” need to be “them,” after I admitted that when I saw a friend at the grocery store and they asked me where I was living now, I couldn’t remember the name of the complex or the address, though I’d lived there five years and I could describe how to get there! Life is hard. The young are sensitive, but also self-righteous. The middle-aged struggle to change with the times, sometimes failing. And the old are simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume of extreme life changes all around us.

2: Someone with Autism sensitive to the hazards of labels such as high function/low function. . None of us knows the silent private struggles others go through. I think Jesus said not to judge others for at least 4 reasons: 1.  God didn’t create “cookie cutter” people.  2. Nobody’s perfect. 3. We have no clue about what another person is battling to just stay functional. 4. Labels often sound like judgment. And judging creates a false dichotomy that creates an US vs THEM attitude that cripples our ability to love like Jesus told us: “love your neighbor, love your enemy, love all others as I have loved you.”

We all struggle with what we don’t understand from personal experience.  And these days, please, on all sides of issues, do consider how much we ALL don’t understand. So, let’s all cut each other some slack.

 

It’s Not Either/Or. It’s Not Them or Us. It’s We.

The Zealots and the Pharisees

Richard Rohr expands upon the Center for Action and Contemplation’s Third Core Principle: “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Oppositional energy only creates more of the same.”

There seem to be two typical ways to avoid conversion or transformation, two diversionary tactics that we use to avoid holding pain: fight and flight.

“Fight” is what I’ll call the way of Simon the Zealot. It describes people who want to change, fix, control, and reform other people and events. The zealot always looks for the political sinner, the unjust one, the oppressor, the bad person over there. Zealots consider themselves righteous when attacking them (whoever they are at a given time), hating them, even killing them. When they do, they believe they are “doing a holy duty for God” (John 16:2).

Zealots often have good conclusions, but their tactics and motives can be filled with ego, power, control, and the same righteousness they hate in others. They want to do something to avoid holding pain until it transforms them. Such people present Christianity as “a cult of innocence” as opposed to a movement for solidarity.

As long as they are the problem (whoever they are), and we keep our focus on changing them and correcting them, then we can sit in a reasonably comfortable position. But it’s a position that the saints call pax perniciosa, a dangerous and false peace. It feels like peace, but instead is the false peace of avoidance, denial, and projection. The Peace of the Crucified comes from holding the tension.

This brings us to flight, the second diversionary tactic. This is the common path of the “Pharisee,” the uninformed, and the falsely innocent. Such people deny pain altogether and refuse to carry the shadow side of anything in themselves or in their chosen groups. They allow no uncertainty nor ambiguity as they scapegoat and project their own wounded side somewhere else! There will be no problems. It is a form of narcotic, and at times probably necessary to get some people through the day.

Both fight and flight people are subject to hypocrisy, projection, or just plain illusion: “We are right; you are wrong. The world is divided into black and white, and we alone know who is good and who is bad.”

“Resurrected” people are the ones who have found a better way by prayerfully bearing witness against injustice and evil—while also agreeing compassionately to hold their own complicity in that same evil. It is not over there—it is here. It is our problem, not theirs. The Risen Christ, not accidentally, still carries the wounds in his hands and side. The question becomes: How can I know the greater truth, work through the anger, and still be a life-giving presence?

That is the Third Way beyond fight or flight, which in a certain sense includes both. It’s fighting in a new way from a God-centered place within, and fleeing from the quick, egocentric response. Only God can hold such an act together within us.

To the Woman Who……You Are Loved Beyond Measure. That’s Jesus’ Kind of Love.

Melissa Mayberry

Just because I feel like no one has said it….

To the woman who is pro-life, you are loved beyond measure

To the woman who is pro-choice, you are loved beyond measure.

To the woman who is on the fence, you are loved beyond measure.

To the woman who is heart broken from being told she is unable to have children, you are loved and created for a purpose.

To the woman who is excitingly pregnant with her fifth child even though her family says it’s “irresponsible” you are loved and created for a purpose.

To the woman who found out the child inside of her would cost her her life and chose to abort, you are loved and created for a purpose.

To the woman whose world has been turned upside down when her child’s heart stopped beating inside her womb, there is endless unconditioned love for you.

To the woman who is on the bathroom floor looking at two pink lines after running from their abusive partner. There is endless unconditional love for you.

To the woman who has to make an impossible decision when she was told her child was not forming properly and was in extreme pain. There is endless unconditional love for you.

To the woman whose abortion haunts her every day, there is grace and incredible love for you.

To the woman who was raped and found out she was pregnant and decided to not carry the child, there is grace and incredible love for you.

To all of the women who had to make a choice to bring life into the world or to end it and to the ones who were not given a choice. I hope you know that His grace and love is endless for you.

Whether people say your choice was “right” or “wrong” and with all the hatefulness on both sides. I hope you know that you are loved by the savior of the world. He understands your pain/grief/worry/doubt/ and every other thing you had to go through. And you are priceless and endlessly loved in his eyes. And mine. (I apologize for those who told you different)

You are loved beyond measure.

I join my Amen! to this. Eileen Norman

Loving the Other

Kinder Days?

Upper and middle-class whites remember kinder days. But they were not kinder to many who were disenfranchised. Many judges in the South simply refused to accept black vs black cases and left them to fight it out. There were many ways the white power structure forced others to resort to violence. Our white upper and middle-class view of how kind it was “back then” didn’t apply to either minorities or the very poor whites. Some of our problems are the results of the blindness of those days. It’s going to take more than going back to undo the damage. Particularly with so much of Christianity being hijacked by those whose God is about control, more than love.  Much of our violence comes from fear of anything or anyone different from us. Fear blinds us and turns us to seeking power whether by laws or guns. Most of us haven’t recognized that many poor whites’ only power for a long time has been their guns. It’s more complicated than we can see with privileged eyes.

“Judge Not, Lest You Be Judged.”

Probably no more than 25% of people of each generation can see beyond the culture they were born into. The majority simply aren’t born with minds that question. That’s why it takes so many generations to change cultural blindness. And many of the blind are extremely kind to individual people different than themselves that through circumstances they get to know first-hand in youth. But they don’t generalize beyond those people, because of what they were taught by family, friends, and the culture. If they do manage to grow beyond their limited world view, usually by the love of someone who sees differently, they can be the ones that take the greatest risks to change the status quo. Those people deserve our admiration. We, who either were not taught prejudice or whose minds naturally question everything, were blessed and can’t really take credit or judge those born with different minds any more than judging those with different color skin. We work for change, but we have no right to judge. That becomes a prejudice itself and draws lines in the sand. It turns everything into “them” vs “us.”  Jesus “got” this!!!

Love of God is Love of People

As long as religions teach that God doesn’t let unbaptized babies into heaven (a technicality it seems to me), then many moms, not taking-into-account the number of miscarriages that God allows early on, will oppose abortion.  I understand that on a feeling level. But my logic questions what kind of God would do that. Not the God of the Jesus I know. Some religions have taught that birth control will send you to hell.  And a woman can’t refuse her husband sex even if another pregnancy endangers her life and their other children will be motherless.  You can bet your sweet bippy that religion’s rules were written by men who had never truly loved a woman.   

Hope Is the Seed of Change

A Forty-three year old woman:

What a dark, dark season for our country.

I don’t feel like using my voice. Everything I would say is already being SCREAMED — online, in articles, in the halls of government — and with better phrasing than I could ever put together.

Nobody is listening.

They:

* Expanded gun rights.

* Removed Miranda rights enforcement.

* Removed women’s reproductive rights.

* Funded religious schools, while also saying they’re untaxable.

* Reworded our history textbooks to hide bad deeds.

* Removed parents’ choice about their own children’s biological therapies.

* Are actively drafting now to revoke equal voting rights.

Minority rights and remedies are the next target, and then gay marriage, and then probably gay existence.

Like pre-war Germany. There were document-able steps to that, and we are currently more than halfway through that list. In the same order. We learned nothing. We didn’t remember the past, and we are doomed to repeat it.

We sit here and pretend our country cares about freedom. It doesn’t.

Meanwhile, other nations have actual travel warning alerts declared on the US because of abnormal violence levels. I’ve downloaded and read them; they sound like you’re going as a tourist to 1970s Vietnam. Those outside our borders can’t believe we don’t all have healthcare covered, or that we’re still even debating equality. They don’t look upon us as a goal; we are internationally mocked as being backwards, uneducated, and very limited in individual freedoms.

I don’t recognize this country.  This isn’t where I thought I lived, and what the military men in my ancestral line fought for.  Today, I don’t see any hope whatsoever.

An eighty-five year old: Eileen Norman

History repeats itself. Both the bad and the good. We are a relatively young country. We still have a lot to learn the hard way. Sad for our progeny. But if we have instilled values and concern for others in them, we’ve done the best we can for the future. They will have to be the revolutionaries for their era. My struggle is trying to open the young’s eyes to the difference between Jesus and his “so called” followers. Christianity has over and over been bought by the powerful and then corrupted. But people with values, who experience the love and wisdom and ability to change His world view of Jesus, rise up over and over and renew it. Nothing is perfect and never has been and never will be. It’s a fallible world of fallible people. As a country we have not suffered like the countries we fled. We don’t recognize the seeds of self-destruction. Your voice is important. Every voice is heard by some. Though mostly we are “preaching to the choir,” every now and then if we are not attacking people rather than movements and laws, a few more will question enough to at least not add to the hate. It’s humbling to feel so ineffective and makes it hard to persevere. You are not alone. Speak your truth just as you have in this post. Thank you for keeping on keeping on when there are no ego rewards in it. Love you.

My Pentecost

Happy Birthday Christianity!  Birthdays are for celebrating and receiving gifts.  Pentecost is when the first Christians received the Holy Spirit. So, today let’s pray, “Come, Holy Spirit.!”

In today’s Scripture from Acts, Peter calls it the last days. And these are the last days after Jesus ascended into heaven, whether it’s two days or 2,000 or 20,000 years. Jesus had told his disciples that he had to leave so they would receive the Holy Spirit and do even more miraculous things than he did.  And Peter affirms that the day has come when the young, the old, the men, the women, the slave and free would experience the Holy Spirit in many ways.

Last week, our pastor talked about the older members of our families telling their memories.  Well, I definitely qualify as older, so here’s a short trip down my memory lane.

In my twenties I became disillusioned with myreligion. And since I had pretty much made religion my God, I stopped believing in God and the Bible. Even without religious faith,  I was active in politics, andworking for Civil Rights, because I thought humanity was on its own and we had to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

When I was thirty, I experienced a joyful conversion to belief in God and Jesus through friends working for a non-denominational Christian ministry. I began reading the Scriptures with new eyes and went from believing nothing to believing everything in the New Testament. I joined a prayer group of women from the major Christian denominations along with one Jewish woman.  All, had experienced a new level of faith. We focused on how to become more loving rather than on doctrine. We prayed about our and others’ concerns and read the Scriptures for guidance. When we were praying for one of the women’s mother, I suddenly knew  she was being healed. I shared that and we praised God, but when I got home, I panicked!. What if it wasn’t true? My positive conviction had faded. But it did turn out to be true. So, I asked the Presbyterian woman who seemed to know more about the bible and prayer than the rest of us, how that had happened.  She said that I had experienced one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and there were more. Would I like her and another woman to come the next morning and pray over me to receive the rest of the gifts? That sounded good, so I said yes. But that night I began to worry that I might get off track again, so I prayed for a sign that the Pentecostal experience was for our times and right for me. By midnight I hadn’t received any sign, so I went to bed thinking this was not for me. At around

two in the morning the phone rang. I rushed to answer it, worried that it was an emergency. But when I answered, a man’s voice asked, “Is this the Pentecost’s?” I sort of stammered, “I beg your pardon?” He responded, “Is this the Pentecost’s residence?” I hesitated, but told him “No,” so he hung up. But I decided that had to be a positive answer, so the women came and prayed for me and told me about a  Charismatic prayer group at the Sister’s of Mercy convent. I became active in the Catholic Charismatic movement and witnessed and experienced many miracles.  Not every heartbreaking illness or problem in my life was cured or solved. But after experiencing so many miracles, I knew God was with me and I’d seek God’s grace and guidance in the hard times. There is one experience that I do want to share now. I soon attended my first Charismatic Conference with twenty-thousand people of many denominations in the Notre Dame football stadium. During the worship service people spontaneously began to sing in different languages with  different melodies. Now I can’t sing on key unless I listen to the person standing next to me. So, as beautiful as it was, I didn’t see how I could join in. But suddenly, words with a melody just bubbled up and I was singing in a language I did not know to a melody I didn’t know or hear anyone else singing.  It’s hard to describe how all those languages and different melodies could come together so beautifully and then soften and stop simultaneously.  We CAN all sing together in perfect harmony.  As broken as our world is, the power of the Holy Spirit within everyone of us, is stronger. This memory is my sign of hope that I cling to when the violence and hate all around us, even in Christianity, threaten to overwhelm me.

Pray with me if you wish:

God our Father, we cannot become the people you created us to be or bring your Spirit of love into our broken world, without being filled to overflowing with both the Love of Jesus and the power of your Spirit within us. Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on us. Speak to us through the Scriptures. Stir our hearts and empower us to become like your first followers. Free us from whatever holds us back from being completely yours.