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Surrender

I call upon the Source of Life,
the Power within and without,
the Power that makes for
Being and Nothingness,
joy and pain,
suffering and delight.
I call upon You to calm my fearful soul,
to open me to the Wonder of Truth,
the transience of all things.
In Wonder was I conceived
and in Wonder I have found my being.
Thus I call upon You, the Source of Wonder,
to open my heart to healing.
In You I discover the mystery of Life
and the necessity of Death.
In You I see all things and their opposites
not as warring parties
but as partners in a dance
whose rhythm is none other
than the beating of my own soul.
Denial may come, but so too will acceptance.
Anger may come, but so too will calm.
I have bargained with my fears
and found them unwilling to compromise.
So now I turn to You,
to the Wonder that is my True Nature.
I abandon the false notions of separateness
and embrace the Unity that is my True Nature.
I surrender not to the inevitable but to Surprise,
for it is the impossible that is Life’s most precious gift.
My tears will pass
and so will my laughter.
But I will not be silenced,
for I will sing the praises of Wonder
through sickness and health;
knowing that in the end,
this too will pass.

Written by Rami M. Shapiro in his book
Accidental Grace Poetry, Prayers, and Psalms

Does God Still Speak to Us?

My husband is a very good man. But he didn’t really “get” my kind of relationship with God. To him God was a judge, not a friend. Religion was about following the rules. As long as your “do right” list was longer than your “do wrong” list, you’d be okay.
But he sometimes envied me for my sense of God’s presence and the joy I experienced because of it.
So one day as he was driving to work, he decided to pray. He said, “God, Eileen says you talk to us if we listen. I’m listening. Say something.”
At that very moment he heard a siren and saw a blue light flashing in his rear view mirror. Then the policeman pulled him over for speeding. As the policeman took his license and went back to his car to write out the ticket, Julian thought, “Oh, boy. I can’t wait to tell Eileen about this answer.”
Then the policeman came back to him and said, “Mr. Norman, I am going to tear up your ticket. You were going forty-three in a thirty miles per hour zone, but while I was writing your ticket almost every car that went by here was going as fast or faster than you were. Try to be more careful from now on.” And with that he tore up the ticket.
Julian is a visual concrete thinker, not a words or theory person. What a perfect concrete visual illustration this was of the Scripture in Romans 3:23
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But they are now being justified by his free grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.”
Thanks to Jesus Christ, God tears up our ticket.

However we came to God, we have each in our own way given our lives to him. But I’m afraid that when I told God to take my life and make me into the person he wanted me to be, I was sort of hoping it was going to be the kind of person I wished I could be. Like maybe, thin. Thin is good. And certainly confident, instead of a wus. But God seems to have his own priorities and so far thin and confident don’t seem to be on his agenda.
Because of my preconceived ideas, I think I often miss what he is trying to do in my life. But there are some experiences that even I recognize as answers to that prayer.
When our five children were still young, my father-in-law gave us a side of beef for Christmas each year. One year we had friends who were starting a new business. They had seven children and money was in short supply. So, we decided to share some of our beef with them. I loaded a basket with hamburger, pot roasts, short ribs and even a couple of round steaks. But every time I started to reach for the sirloins and rib-eyes and T bones. I drew my hand back. I dearly love steak and there were many years in my life when I couldn’t afford the good ones. I rationalized that with seven children steaks just weren’t practical. The other cuts would stretch further. So I didn’t share any of the expensive steaks.
The very next weekend we were getting a work related free stay in one of the cabins Julian had designed for a State Park. I left the garage door up about a foot, so the cat could come and go to get his food and get out of the rain. When we returned two days later, all seemed to be just as we had left it, until I went to the upright freezer in the garage to get some meat for dinner.
The bottom two shelves, where all the expensive steaks had been, were completely empty. Everything else was still there.
Believe me. I got the message: Share your best, not just the things you value least.
I asked God’s forgiveness, but also admitted that I would really, really like to know how He did it.
A couple of days later, a neighbor who lived a block downstream on the creek that ran through our back yard, told me excitedly about all the mysterious steaks her dogs were happily devouring in her yard. She exclaimed in dismay, “My dogs are eating sirloins that I can’t even afford.”
Later that same day my next door neighbor casually mentioned that Michelle, the three year old from across the street, had been playing in our yard and crawling in and out of the garage while we were gone.
Evidently frozen steaks make great boats to sail on a creek and only the expensive ones were in her reach.
I was so relieved that she hadn’t gotten trapped in the freezer, that I no longer begrudged anybody, even the dogs, the best steaks.
Some years later the nuns at the rural school where I taught protested that I needn’t have given them such nice steaks in their Christmas basket. Hamburger would have been fine. I assured them that I really did need to give them some steaks with their hamburger.
Sometimes it takes more than just Scripture for me to get the message.
.

The Dance of Grace or The Force and Jesus

I often talk like I see God as sort of a powerful, benevolent Santa Claus. But actually, my pitifully limited human comprehension is probably more like Star Wars’ the Force outside and within us.

So, as a great fan of Jesus, how do I understand his description of God as Abba, ‘Daddy,’ and his frequent conversations with Him? And what is the role Jesus plays in all this?
First, I think Jesus ‘Got’ God. And tried to communicate to us that the creative force behind the universe was not only still alive and involved doing  the creating thing all around us, but also still nurturing an unfinished universe and unfinished humanity from the inside out.

All of the universe, including humanity, is one. And the Whole (God) is greater than the sum of the parts.  Whatever this creative force that we call God is, it is “on our side,” because we are part of it.  But when we see ourselves as separate from, better than, stronger than, richer than, safer than, in other words, predators of the rest of the universe, we are in civil war and the synergy breaks down.

When we watch Jesus grow in truth (understanding) and holiness (response), we see a dance between the divine and the human. God leads and we follow and Jesus not only told us how, he showed us how. The scriptures are the ‘illustrated’ word of God. And Jesus is the illustration.

He is the blueprint for human change from survival of the fittest to a love that makes us willing to die for the least. He also fleshed out the end that humanity was created to reach, oneness with God through surrender to God who is Love.

Watch the dance.
Jesus is humanly vulnerable from the very beginning: his family fleeing in the dark of night to Egypt to escape Herod’s search to kill Jesus.
Jesus  becoming an adolescent,  showing off  his new knowledge and sense of who he is in the temple, only to be reminded by his mother that kindness, considering others, is what he is being called to learn at this point in his life, then his responding by being obedient to his human parents and growing in understanding .
Jesus grows not only in knowledge, but in wisdom, as he recognizes the other side of knowledge and power: the willingness to respond rather than react (letting go of control of his life) and the vulnerability of a loving response. He’s now not quite so eager to leap into the public eye. Then circumstances and his mother’s challenge to kindness again push him out of his comfort zone. (The wedding at Cana.)

Watch the pattern in Jesus life and ministry:                                                                           Challenges to take his mission to a new level, beyond Judaism  – even to the enemy, responding with the healing power of Love, teaching love to those who were drawn by the miracles of healing and nurture, rejection by those without ears to hear, temptation to earthly power even from his friends, and time and time again seeking the grace of time alone with God.

Jesus snapping at Peter for being a Pollyanna about how his mission will end,  showed that Jesus himself was still struggling with his own acceptance of that reality. Like us, he did not move easily through challenges from stage to stage.  But he always reached a point where God alone was his source and his salvation, up to the very end when he moves from the very human “My God why have you forsaken me?” to the spiritual freedom of “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Ahh, that’s better!  Oneness with God.

What is Jesus role for us?  To flesh out the Love that is God.  A Love we can trust with our lives. A Love that saves us from our separation from the Whole. Accepting Jesus as the Love of God for us is our salvation. And Jesus illustrated step by step the dance between the love of God and our growing response of surrender to God (Love) to become the people we were created to be.  Jesus, as the Love of God, frees us to accept our role, however humble, as an inseparable part of the Whole. When we follow Jesus as our blueprint, he is our Lord.

His life and death and resurrection were not only proof that there is more than this life, but that it depends on our dance of grace that ends in trust, in total surrender to the creative power, the Love that is God, however we perceive God.  In His hands we are One.

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.