Speak gently in my silence.
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings
and the loud inner noises of my fears
keep pulling me away from You,
help me to trust that You are still there
even when I am unable to hear You.
Give me ears to listen to Your small, soft voice saying:
“Come to Me, you who are overburdened,
and I will give you rest…
for I am gentle and humble of heart.”
Let that loving voice be my guide.
There are those who give little of the much which they have–
and they give it for recognition.
Their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life,
and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy,
and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain,
and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving,
nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes
its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks,
and from behind their eyes God smiles upon the earth.
Source: from On Giving
Cosmic change is not cosmetic change. It is radical, meaning ‘to the root,’ and it will mean the upheaval of our cherished customs and the disposal of stories that have provided the basic framework for our lives.
We must not underestimate the enormity of what is being asked of us, even as we celebrate with joy the new and salvific. In its initial moments resurrection is indistinguishable from death.
At first we are unable to see the great turning that has taken place. All that has been comfortable, all that has held us in place is gone, and there is nothing recognizable to stand on. Everything on which we have planted our feet is swept away.
Source: Field of Compassion
Prayer is revolutionary.
Prayer is the doorway where we the finites enter the Infinite. Prayer is what happens within us then slowly moves outward. Prayer turns the world upside-down and inside-out.
Prayer moves the mountains of hard hearts and thick heads. Prayer changes the way we see the world, leaving behind the establishment of the powerful entering instead into the true power of surrender and the realm of the marginalized (for that is the place where we see God in his most distressing disguise).
As Karl Barth once said, “To clasp hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”
Blessed are the cracked and broken, for it is we who are filled with God’s grace.
If there is one thing I have learned in my life it’s that everyone is wounded in some way, shape or form. There simply are no people in the world walking around scar-less. In fact, I’ve learned those who project a greater sense of wholeness, or an “I’ve already arrived” mentality, are in fact the ones who are the farthest away from the very wholeness and perfection of which they speak – and unfortunately this seems especially truer among people of faith.
But who wants to be “perfect” anyway? I don’t. As a person of deep faith, someone who loves God deeply, I am reminded by the comforting truth that Jesus did not come for the ‘perfect’ rather he came for the sick, the cracked, the poor and the screwed up.
God loves our cracks and wounds. Our scars are reminders that God has come to us and shown us sacred love and brought us some level of healing.
And the truth of it all is that it is only through the cracks and woundedness of our lives that the profound mystery of God’s love and grace can enter into our hearts and lives bringing tender mercies. In our myth of perfection and achievements, we lose the truth of our brokenness by believing that we are already perfect and whole. In that ‘lie’ we become “sealed shut” and the elements of God’s abundant grace have no opening with which to enter our hearts.
It is a comforting and disturbing truth that grace enters our hearts by way of a wound.
We are a broken and imperfect people. And thanks be to God for that! Yes, Jesus did say, “Be perfect as [God] is perfect.” But the word perfect there does not mean without flaw, error or blemish. In its original meaning, “perfect” means to be “mature, complete, and healthy.” And with this definition in mind, I truly hunger to be ‘perfect’ in God: growing in maturity; complete in God; striving towards wholeness through the Spirit.
So we, who are broken, are called to a God Who enters us through the very brokenness we often run from and deny. It is the lovely mystery of God: that the Holy One enters that which is not so holy. God loves the broken and cracked among us!
And when I speak of the wounded and broken, I am speaking of all of us, but especially those who are wounded and vulnerable on the outside. I have said it before and will say it again; God does indeed have a preferential option for the poor, the broken and the oppressed, not because they are better or more loved, but precisely because they are more vulnerable. Truly, God loves all equally and perfectly. But those that are the most broken, those who cry out in their brokenness, are the ones who are the most open to God’s messy grace.
We who are broken know that we need grace. Those who find themselves to be whole have no need of grace or forgiveness or healing…or even God for that matter.
In truth, without God’s grace and love, I am just an alcoholic hungry for another drink, chasing an illusion. But with the love of the Messiah poured out into my heart and soul, I am whole. And it is this truth – living between the Already and the Not Yet of wholeness – which I must embrace.
So my friends, blessed are the cracked and broken, for it is we who are filled with God’s grace.
We must gradually recover the conviction, not just the feeling, of the Divine Indwelling, the realization that God…is living in us. This is the heart of the spiritual journey.
Source: “A Contemplative Vision for Our Times,” Intimacy with God
When we breathe, we do not stop inhaling because we have taken in all the oxygen we will ever need, but because we have all the oxygen we need for this breath. Then we exhale, release carbon dioxide, and make room for more oxygen.
Sabbath, like the breath, allows us to imagine we have done enough work for this day. Do not be anxious about tomorrow, Jesus said again and again. Let the work of this day be sufficient.
AUTHOR’S WARNING: the following musing may step on your toes, anger you, disgust you, challenge you, make you give off a sigh of relief…or you may merely shrug your shoulders and say ‘big deal, get original.”
We do not find God in church.
Before anyone starts sifting through stones to see which ones is best for casting, pause and permit me a moment to expound on what I see as the truth that we do not find God in church.
For you see, in truth, it is the other way around. We ‘find’ God (a misnomer) and out of that flows a living incarnation called church. For no “model” of church will produce God or God’s life in us. It is in fact our life in God – when shared together – that becomes the building blocks of the expression called ‘church.’
Because we have gotten it backwards (thinking we find God in church) has led us to become dependent, or codependent, upon church – both the building and the denominations – as well as church leaders for ‘creating’ God’s life in us. We have done this so much so that we become passive in our own spiritual growth. When we rely upon others to “impart” God’s life to us, we become spiritually lazy – religious couch potatoes. We end up waiting for others not only to show us how to grow spiritually but we even expect others to do the work for us (as if spiritual growth can be imparted magically with no effort or desire on our part). And to top it off, we then end up complaining about the lack of “fruit” or growth and as a result of our spiritual passivity we tend to give up on the most important relationship we will ever have: the one with God.
But we must become active in our spirituality; we must hunger for and desire to experience what it means to live deeply in God’s great love. And the great work that we do is the mere desire; for grace comes and draws us closer to the One Who is closer than our own skin.
I can tell you about my experience of God, but I cannot impart my experience of God into you; you have to have your own experience of God. Others can offer guidance, but the truth be told, there should be 8 billion spiritual experiences happening, namely each and every person in the world must have their own personal (and therefore unique) experience with God.
In our modern age, it seems everything has become too easy, too fast to obtain that we have surrendered the daily, lifelong journey of a life with God. In short, we have settled. Our relationship with God becomes an historical event instead of what it has always been meant to be – what Jesus showed us it could be – a dynamic, living, breathing, loving, intimacy with God!
This relationship is about God sorting things out within us. God transforms us and by God’s grace and doing (not ours), we learn to live content in God’s providential love instead of in the realm of worry, hurry, and religious structures. But to have this life, to be this type of people, each of us must be having our own friendship with God. Reading spiritual giants, reading about spiritual giants is all good, but at the end of the day, I am held accountable for my own spiritual growth and my intimacy with God.
Paradoxically, I cannot do this alone, but I do this within myself. Community of some sort nurtures our connections to God and all that is divine, but we must as solitudes come face to face with the God of our being. And rest assured, God longs to have this dynamic intimacy with each of us.
Remember this: God starts it; God sustains it; God waters and nurtures it; and God completes it. Our role is, well, our role is to just “show up”…and surrender to this Sacred Love.
Forget the rules, the rigidity, the exclusiveness, the holy roller club techniques, the loopholes that allow the church to reject me because I’m a democrat, a republican, an anarchist, queer, black, white, yellow, red, brown, poor, rich, addict, all tatted up, whatever. If we seek God, God will reward us with an intimacy that is beyond comprehension, beyond words, beyond being.
But we must make the leap and surrender to God, plain and simple.
Failure is a gift from God.. And the longer I live and journey, the more I realize I need spirituality to teach me that truth for it seems religion only speaks to the shame of failure and not to its Giftedness.
Spirituality teaches us how to deal with, and accept, failure as a gift and a needed tool for our journey with (and towards) God. Failure is the twin sister of ‘success’, much the way doubt and faith are inseparably linked.
One of the foundational ‘tenets’ of Alcoholics Anonymous states that the journey of sobriety is about “progress not perfection…[for] we are not saints.” Imperfection and failure are two of the tools God uses to draw me in closer; for by embracing imperfection and failure, I am reminded of the glorious truth that I am indeed human and I remember that all of us were created in the image and likeness of God. In my being human, nothing is drawn away from God and his relentless love, in fact, I find that if I embrace that truth, I am more so fully alive.
My failures prove only that I am not a saint, they do not take away from any goodness that God has placed within me. I am fond of saying if there is anything in me you find good, then you can give thanks to God and my mother, but if you find anything in me that is not good, well for that I apologize.
As I look over my life I see a wreckage of pain, failure and broken hearts and trust strewn across the path. I feel regret, and rue some of the poorer choices I have made. But God is eternally good, forgiving and loving so that in his hands my past wreckage becomes malleable clay to be remolded into a shining example of divine love blended with my utter humanity.
And like or not, that is indeed good news.
I am but a jar of clay, cracked but valuable when surrendered fully into God’s hands. My failures become familiar scars, gentle reminders of the power of forgiveness and choice all held by the urgent compassion of God.
Here is the point of this and what makes it a Gift is that God does not judge my failures; only I and other people do that. God’s love is a merciful cauldron burning away the dross of my failures turning them instead into divine gifts meant for service, compassion, healing and justice.
God’s grace is greater than any failure I have ever done or experienced. God’s love is greater than any human perspective, judgment, religion, or persuasion. In truth, God embraces my failures as a vital part of me and my journey back Home to him. And if God embraces my failures, I can do no less.
So today, I embrace all my failures – all of me, surrendering them over to the hands of God, asking not for them to be removed but rather to be transformed into the living gifts of a merciful God.
This is a sermon from one of my favorite Jesus Irascibles, the Pastrix Nadia Bolz-Weber from October 7, 2013
2013-10-06 nbw hfass sermon 2 <—-click here to hear a real, live preacher.
When I was a little girl, I was given a small necklace. It was a Christian necklace, see, but it held, not a little gold cross or a silver Jesus fish symbol-thing. No. Hanging from this gold chain was a small, clear, plastic orb – that contained within it a tiny round seed. You might see where this is going…it was a mustard seed. If you have faith the size of this tiny mustard seed, Jesus said, you could uproot a huge tree and throw it in the ocean.
Um, maybe you guys could help me with something here: I have never understood why, if given such vast power over physical objects, one would, out of all the options available, choose to uproot bushes and throw them into the ocean. I have no idea what good that does.
And regardless of the relative merits of mulberry bush drowning…this text has often made my faith feel inadequate. Because I’ve always heard it as this syllogism: With only a teensy weensy amount of faith, Nadia could perform miracles. Nadia does not perform miracles, therefore Nadia has so little faith it’s not even as big as that mustard seed around her neck.
Well, for the record, that necklace was super cheap and always turned my neck green so, you know, I didn’t wear it much anyhow.
This week while on the road, I had a really interesting experience around how some people struggle with what they think it means to have faith.
See, I’m basically boring myself to death out there. I mean, I’m saying the same things over and over which is downright monotonous for me, so what I really love, is doing Q and A – or as my friend Brian Calls it: Q and R Question and Response. This Thursday I spoke to about 11 hundred people on the UND campus in Grand Forks North Dakota, which I think may also be the actual population of Grand Forks North Dakota. Anyhow, it was too many people to be able to do a proper Q and A where people stand up speak and so we asked people to write down their questions instead.
And reading these questions, I realized how different it is to write something anonymously than it is to stand up and say it out loud in a room full of people. I think that’s why the prayers of the people here at House are so raw and vulnerable – in a way they wouldn’t be if people were standing up and saying their prayers out loud.
What I was struck by were the sheer number of questions that were so similar – no, not “what do your tattoos mean?” but things like, is it ok to feel distant from your faith when you are going through a really hard time in life? And… What does it even mean to have faith? And…What if I am not sure what I believe? And.. Is doubt ok? And one was really a statement and not at all a question: someone wrote: Sometimes I wonder if there really is a God because of all the hurt and suffering in life.