God’s Will? Fugetaboutit (repost)

I am learning it again, one of those lessons that I think I know (as in, “I got it Lord, now you can stop”) but then I’m reminded that I am due for a serious ‘refresher’ course.  And the lesson is this: God’s specific will and plan for my life will not be given beforehand.  And in trying to discern it, I fall into the trap of perfection: that I must be whole, perfect, arrived, etc., before God will ever use me or reveal to me his plan.  Nope.  Sorry.

I am learning, once again through God’s disturbing grace, only those who have fallen down, can ever truly know what “up” is; only those who have failed miserably can ever truly know what “success” looks like; and only those who are cracked and wounded can ever really know what healing truly is.

And part of this truth involves something I have struggled with for over 25 years – namely, God’s will for my life.  I am learning something that I want to share with you: forget about ‘knowing’ God’s will for your life.  Very few people in this world, in the Sacred Scriptures, or those who have come before us, have ever received the full blue print plan for their lives…much less even the 5 year plan!  So give it up.

Now, there are some things about God’s will I am certain of: that I stay clean and sober; that I pray and seek God; that I practice love and compassion; that I do no harm to any living creature.  Those I know.  What I am speaking of ‘letting go’ of is the actual plan, the down-to-the-specifics.

Example: God called a man and woman named Abram and Sarai, to pack up everything (their entire lives) and to set out to a strange land!  God did not say to them, “so, here’s your itinerary, here is where you will stop, here is what you will do, here is the specific plan.”  Nope.  And do you really think if Abram knew he was going to have his named changed through trial, error and circumstance, do you really think he would have done it?  OK, Abram, I’m going to finally give you a son in your old age, then I’m going to ask you to murder him.  Right God.  I’ll jump right on doing that (God’s will).”

Knowing can in certain ways be deadly, because too much knowledge makes us too self-reliant (and we are called to be God-reliant) or we will be filled with dread and run from God’s loving will.

So instead Abram and Sarai listen to God in that moment; they listen to their God say, “pack your bags, start walking and trust Me!  Stay close to Me so that when the next thing occurs you will be intimate enough with Me that trusting Me and listening to what I say and following that word will be easier.” Continue reading

Through the Cracks (repost/revised)

Blessed are the cracked and broken, for it is we who let in the grace of God.

If there is one thing I have learned in my life, it is 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 accomplishment, or an “I’ve already arrived” mentality, are in fact the ones who are the farthest away from the very perfection of which they speak – and unfortunately this seems even truer among people of faith.

But who wants to be “perfect” anyway?  I don’t. And 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 the cracked 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.

Grace enters our hearts by way of a wound.

We are a broken and imperfect people.  And praise God for that!  Yes, Jesus did say, “Be perfect as your Father 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; and striving to health and 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, rejoice!  For we are the blessed.  And Blessed are the cracked and broken, for it is we who let in the grace of God.

In Search of a Bigger God

I have a confession to make: I am in search of a bigger God.  Mine is too small.  I have made numerous attempts to write this God out of my life, this God who is petty, pithy, pedantic at best.  The God that resides in my heart is an idol, one made up of fairy tales told by my drunken fathers’ presence and absence.  This God is narcissistic, needy, omnipotent and tyrannical and a drunk…just like my father was.

I thought that decades ago I had been loosed of this divine schizophrenic through some heavenly and earthy moments with Jesus of Nazareth, but circumstances as of late have left me reeling in disbelief at the very core of my beliefs and just how small my God has become as of late.

Doctrine, dogma, stigma and stain all have left the remnants of a child-like faith based in innocence and turned it into a full out frontal assault of FEAR.  I am scared of my “oh so small God.”

This God is too small; he cannot handle my pain, my emotional outburst, my constant neediness.  Nor can this God handle my questions and queries, leaving hope suffocated by the minutiae of daily life, questions big and small.

In fact, this God is too small precisely because He IS a He.  Why can’t this God be a She?  Or have Feminine qualities?  My mother was such a strong, lovely, regal woman who had wits and wilds about her…why can’t she be the source of my image of God instead of my alcoholic dad?!?

How about this truth: one of the most oft used words to describe God’s wondrous glory in the Jewish Bible and the Christian Old Testament is the word “Shekinah” – a feminine Hebrew word.  And much like the French language and other Romance languages, gender is ascribed to words rather than leave them neutral and therefore neutered.  Shekinah, to be more specific, is the English spelling of a grammatically feminine Hebrew name of God in Judaism. The original word means the dwelling or settling, and denotes the dwelling or settling of the Divine Presence of God, especially in the Temple in Jerusalem (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shekinah).”

In Judaism, and Islam, your name denotes not only your character, but can denote your destiny as well.  So, Shekinah, a word implying the very dwelling Place of the Most High God is a feminine word.  So, my small God can be She.  So my too-small-God can have the great traits of my mother: strong, loyal, creative, beautiful, tender, and compassionate, a mama bear not to be reckoned with when one of her cubs was in danger.  For as Genesis 1:26-27 states, “then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’…in the image of God he created [humanity]; male and female God created them.  But I digress…

The search for a bigger God continues.

I can cash in this Peon-like God for one much larger than me, or you and definitely a God with NO EGO!

It is for this reason I love the 2nd Step of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous when it says “we came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  A Power greater than me…a Power greater than any limitation or fear I could ever fashion a Deity to be.

I am truly searching for a bigger God: not a health and wealth, life will be pie in the sky God; not a Polyannish never see the darkness of life God; not a Santa Claus God who gives me my wish list.

I am in search of a God whose love is beyond being meted out and human restraint.  I am in search of a God who is holy – wholly other – yet dwells within me.  I am in search of a God Who is beyond dogmatic and doctrinal delineations; a God Whose very Being and strength is pure Love, infinite Mercy and radical Compassion.

In short, I am in search of a God Who is in search of me…

“Calling a HALT” (Kayla McClurg)

For Sunday, March 9, 2014 – Matthew 4:1-11

The 12-step movement suggests an acronym, HALT, to remind us to pay attention when we become Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. Unheeded, these natural human conditions can make us vulnerable to temptation. As ridiculous as it sounds, many of us try not to notice our needs. To admit that I get hungry, angry, lonely, tired—and the list goes on—is to acknowledge that I am a contingent being, leaning on a Power beyond me. No, not just leaning, but inexorably linked, totally dependent on currents beyond my own. HALT gives me permission—in fact, orders me—to stop and notice who I really am, fragile and limited, with awesome potential for connection. I will not overcome temptation through placing greater restrictions on myself, a common Lenten mistake, but by following my deeper intuition to embrace the disciplines that will help me “let go and let God.”

Jesus is driven into full HALT mode when the Spirit leads him into the wilderness. He experiences the whole pathetic chaos of the human condition. Our raging thirst for power, prestige and honor, our ravishing hunger for material goods and lives of ease, our desire to go it alone yet never be alone. It seems significant that Jesus, who certainly was no loner, who was known for sounding the call, “Follow me,” makes this sojourn without human companionship. All of us will face such times, when the crowded life must be left behind, when we must peer into the dark well of our own need, our lust for what we do not have, our weariness with what we do have, our temptation to do and be and possess far beyond our capacity, beyond God’s callings for us.

Maybe our temptation is to rise high above our plain existence, or maybe we are scrambling to win last place. Neither is the humble path. Kneeling in secret on stones and barbed wire will not prove our devotion any more than leading prayer groups on a luxurious Lenten cruise. The way is much harder and simpler: Call a HALT to life as usual. Say no to the sweet, sweet sounds of temptation, and yes to the One who made you and loves you still. Lose your idea of yourself in order to find God’s idea of yourself; become anonymous for the sake of learning your true name.