Blog Archives

The Last Season

The last season of life
is not meant for pleasure
but for letting go of everything
of getting freed for joy
letting go of delusions
of importance
of great success
even perfect love
letting go of illusions
about life’s purpose
and rewards
letting go of dreams
of angels close at hand
of reaching
the promised land
until all that’s left
is the present moment
and no matter how hard
it may seem
to forget self                                                                                                                                            and focus on others
not as an achievement
just a choice
accepting that love
is full of pain
no happy endings
promised
no jeweled crowns
or streets of gold
long awaited as
just rewards
for persevering
through suffering
all this lost for the bliss
of  finally seeing
The Glory of God –                                                                                                                                      perfect love.

Darkness before Dawn

If this quote is too obscure, read on down to my translation.

When you get hooked into emotional reactivity, an opportunity has come to cleanse your perception.
From the perspective of wholeness, triggers are a special form of grace. Not the sort of grace that is sweet, peaceful, and calming, but the kind that is wrathful, fierce, and reorganizing.
When it gets tight, claustrophobic, and you are burning for relief, the invitation is laid before you. To lay down a new pathway. To turn into the disturbing energy and flood it with presence. To infuse the vulnerability underneath the storyline with warm, empathic attunement.
And with the earth as your witness, to commit to the radical path of non-abandonment.
These triggers are not obstacles to your path, but are the very path itself. While they may disturb you, they are eruptions of creativity and aliveness, and guardians at the threshold. In this way, they are worthy of your honor, your care, and your holding.
While it may appear otherwise, they are only love in disguise, appearing in infinite forms to guide you home.
~Matt Licata   From the Blog: Make Believe Boutique

My translation:  When life throws you down and defeats you and you are reeling in pain and railing against fate, go with the suffering.  Enter it and feel it. Curl into a fetal position and weep bitterly, if you need to, but accept the grace of the pain. Don’t run from any part of it.  Don’t project blame on others.  Don’t use anger as an escape. Don’t sink into self pity or self justification. Don’t seek revenge. Don’t play “what if….?” Because this is a doorway to rebirth.  This is a cross you die on, so that you can become a new person, with new wisdom, new strength, and a new ability to love more deeply, both others and yourself.

 

 

We Are Not Called to Just Love Others as We Love Ourselves or to Do Unto Others as We Would Have Them Do Unto Us.

An area I disagree with many Christians about is that Jesus’ ultimate call to love is summed up in, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” and “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” I think these are fundamentally limited ways to love. I have found from experience that, one: I often don’t love myself, and two: how I am able to accept and experience being loved is quite different from a lot of other people. I think at a later time in his journey, Jesus caught on to that too. Then he said to love others as He loved us. That greater love had no one than that they lay down their life for another. He laid down his desires, his gifts and ministries, his power, his limited vision of his purpose, his followers, even ultimately His awareness of God’s presence, as he hung on the cross. He gave up his self- hood. That’s a call most of us avoid hearing. Dying to self involves letting go of pretty much all of our preconceived ideas and natural inclinations in order to get outside of our own self and become able to hear/see/ respond lovingly and appropriately to those different from us. This dying to self is very very hard to do. It was so hard for Jesus that he literally bled in his anguish and then experienced deep despair in his feeling of abandonment by God.
Today, I think we get so nervous about something sounding like we are saying Jesus isn’t God, that we miss what we can learn from his life about our own journey. His life, God or not, was human. He didn’t spring forth fully grown, fully mature, completely understanding his mission, or knowing his future. He came as a baby, vulnerable, innocent, and ignorant. There are some obvious learning events in His life story, and there are also more subtle ones we often miss. Watch him as a twelve year old learn to wait on God’s timing and to consider his parents’ feelings and guidance. Watch him get pushed out of his comfort zone by his mother’s caring about a young couple’s embarrassment on their wedding day, watch him escape from his angry neighbors in Nazareth, but three years later, fully knowing the outcome setting his face toward a hostile Jerusalem, watch as he let’s a gentile woman convince him of his call to minister outside his own religious group as he recognizes the faith of even unbelievers, watch him weep as he recognizes that his own people will not accept his love and salvation, watch him test his power on a fig tree, but then recognize his own servanthood as he washes his disciples feet, watch him struggle in the garden with his realization that he must die young, watch him accept the agony of feeling abandoned by God on the cross, and yet still move to “Thy will be done.” Consider the difference in the difficulty of the moral code of the ten “Do Nots” and the spirituality of the “Beatitudes.” There’s way more to loving than most of us want to know.

Compassion or No One’s Playing with a Full Deck

From when I was quite young, I stayed stressed night and day over the possibility of being scolded for anything. Unfortunately, even if a fellow student was scolded, I also hurt for them, literally. My stomach would ache.  As an adult when a friend was going through a painful divorce, it seemed almost like I was going through it myself. In many ways this made me compassionate and I tried always to relieve others’ suffering in any way I could.

But, my life became controlled by an underlying need to relieve suffering of any kind, my own, my friends’, the world’s. This sounds like a good thing, and at times it undoubtedly was. But suffering is an inevitable part of life, everyone’s life. And a lot of suffering is self inflicted and perpetuated by attempts to escape it, rather than experience it and learn and grow from it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Compassion and fear of our own suffering may be two sides of the same coin.

Over the years I learned that I could not protect my children from suffering. And after a couple of friends, that I tried to give emotional support, ended up committing suicide, I gradually accepted that I am not God and cannot control life for anyone.

Eventually, I also recognized that some people become addicted to being victims and are bottomless pits of needs and wants that no one but God can fill.  I can be kind. I can share insights I’ve gained through my own struggles. I can bring a little laughter into the lives around me. But ultimately, each person’s journey is uniquely tailored to the process of making them into the people God created them to be…no more and no less. We can all only play the hand we were dealt and no one other than God can judge how well we are doing that.
Each person is born with their own set of genetic strengths and virtues. The thing we often overlook is that each strength has a corresponding area of weakness. Our pattern of growth will build on the strengths, but also will involve facing our weaknesses and allowing for them. We can develop survival skills in those areas, but they will never be our gifts.
That means we need one another. That means at times we must set aside our strengths and avail ourselves of the opposite set of gifts of other people. This is a dying to self of sorts. It involves suffering and humility. Not an easy task, but definitely part of becoming a couple, a family, a friend, a community, a nation, a world.

In other words, none of us is playing with a full deck! And we can help one another in partnerships, but not in dependency relationships that keep us from growing.

Compassion calls for not only kindness, but the capacity to accept suffering as part of our own lives and of life in general for everyone.
It comes down to the age old prayer: God help me to change what I can, accept what I can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference.

The Gospel of the Poor

From Simplicity: The Art of Living by Richard Rohr
Jesus says he has come to preach the Gospel to the poor since, in fact, they’re the only ones who can hear it. They don’t have to prove or protect anything.
We always have to ask: In what sense are we ourselves rich? What do we have to defend? What principles do we have to prove? What keeps us from being open and poor?
The issue isn’t primarily material goods, but our spiritual and intellectual goods……my ego, my reputation, my self-image, my need to be right, my need to be successful, my need to have everything under my control, my need to be loved…….
The words of the Gospel never let us live in self-satisfaction. Rather they always make us empty. They always repeat the truth of Mary’s “Let it be done to me according to your word.” They allow us to keep our wounds open so we can receive Christ in us.
It seems we are quite incapable of welcoming Christ, because we are so full of ourselves. The real thing we have to let go of is our self.

I Weep for Jesus

Spirituality is personal faith based on an ongoing, growing relationship with the source of life and love.

Religion is faith shared by a group. Unless religion is based on spirituality, it becomes a  country club, or worse, a desire for power over others, rather than the power to love others.

Jesus wept for his people, the Jews, because they could not hear the Good News of being loved, because they feared the cost of loving.

I think now, he weeps for those who gather in his name.

And I weep for Jesus, this awesome God filled, human expression of God’s Love for all creation, who the Scripture’s tell us grew in truth and holiness.

I weep for Jesus, who was even able to allow the lowest members of his society to challenge him to see that his mission was to share the Love of God with the whole world, not just one race, nation, religion, or economic group.

I weep for Jesus, who was able to grow into accepting that before life is over, not after, Love demands letting go of everything, our lifestyle, our image, our religious security blankets, our power,  our self-centeredness, our very self on the cross of Love.

I weep for Jesus who died to teach us how to love.

I weep for Jesus and I weep for us, who claim to be his people, but do not hear, because we fear the cost of Love.

Amateurs at Being Human

In the first stage of spirituality, many of us run from God.

In the second stage of spirituality we seek God,  but often in unlikely places.

In the third stage of spirituality, we discover God.

In the fourth we discover, develop and use our gifts mostly or at least partly for the glory of God. (No one has absolutely pure motives.)

In the fifth stage we gradually move into empowering others, at least partly for their sake and the glory of God.

And in the sixth stage, we are called to let go and become open to the Spirit working through others.

Jesus tells his disciples in John 16:7, ” Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” Jesus accepts His dying, so others may live and grow.”

And in Philippians Paul says it this way,  “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

The paradox is that if we don’t recognize and value our gifts, we cannot die to them. But even those of us, who are late bloomers, will find it very difficult to let go, once we discover our gifts.

But,  just as Jesus had to die to His power to heal, teach, feed, and spread the Good News, we too are called to follow Him through the cross of dying to self,  dying to that which we value most about ourselves, so that “we no longer live, but Christ lives in us.”

Some of the concrete challenges different ones of us may face:

As a physical action oriented person, finding purpose in life from a wheel chair or a hospital bed.

If  our gifts are intellectual, accepting  the exhaustion and drudgery of being a full time caregiver.

If we are a change agent by personality, sitting helplessly day after day at the foot of the cross of a loved one dying by inches with Alzheimer’s.

In his later years the intellectually gifted spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, chose to live in a community of the mentally handicapped, learning to hear and experience the love of God through them.

The humility, that comes from being emptied of our very selves, frees us to hear God through the simple, the uneducated, the young, the old, the failures, the handicapped, the foreigner, the stranger, the ill, the poor.

Until we recognize that we are all amateurs at becoming fully human, we will miss the voice of God all around us.

An Ebenezer Isn’t a Biblical Geezer or The Rosetta Stone of Our Ebenezers

An Ebenezer is a reminder or symbol of God’s presence at a particular time and place. It’s a reminder to ourselves and a testimony to others traveling the same path.
In 1 Samuel 7:12 Ebenezer refers to a memorial stone set up by Samuel to commemorate Israel’s victory over the Philistines. But, it also refers to the place where Israel had been defeated twice and even lost the Ark of the Covenant to the Philistines. 1 Sam 4:1, 5:1.
So an Ebenezer is not only a witness to Israel’s ultimate triumph with God’s help, but a testimony to the presence of God even in their defeats.
Having been an agnostic at one stage of my life, there was for me a specific conscious moment in which I risked asking Jesus to be my Savior and Lord. I can, in hindsight, see God’s footprints in my life during my time of searching, so my moment of decision appears to me to be part of a process. It has also become obvious that letting Jesus actually be Lord of my life remains an ongoing challenge that involves being freed of idols.
At seventy-five I have collected a serious accumulation of both kind of Ebenezers, the victories and the defeats. I have come to the conclusion that the defeats are how we are stripped of our idols of self-sufficiency, so that the Kingdom of God can take root and grow within us. In fact, without the defeats, probably most of us would never die to self enough to accept our dependence on God’s grace, so that He can bring about spiritual victory in our lives.
Dying to self seems to be a protracted and recurring struggle in the spiritual journey.
I remember a local production of Agatha Christy’s play, Mouse Trap. It was my friend’s first part in a theatrical production. Unfortunately, her character was killed in the first scene. On opening night the killer was strangling her as she fell back onto a couch. But, caught up in the thrill of having her few minutes of fame, she simple refused to die. Each time she went limp and he started to let go, she revived, dramatically gasping and struggling to sit back up, prolonging the scene, until even the audience began to snicker.
I’m pretty sure many of our own dying to self scenes are similarly prolonged and oft repeated.
Our Ebenezers are our personal experiences of the presence of God in our life stories. We are different people, with diverse backgrounds and personalities, so in our relationships with God, He meets us however we are open to grace at any particular point. It’s a wonderful experience to find others with Ebenezers similar to ours, but sometimes we are disconcerted when we encounter people with very different experiences. Remember that God is not through with any of us while we are still breathing, and only God knows how to bring each of us to Himself. When we listen with open minds and hearts to each other’s Ebenezers , we can begin to create a Rosetta Stone for understanding each other’s spiritual languages. Then we can focus on opening to the grace of God in each challenge of our own journey, instead of wasting our time insisting that our way is the only way.