Nothing is more practical
than finding God,
falling in love in a quite
absolute and finite way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed
in the morning,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you will spend your weekends,
what you read,
who you know,
what breaks your heart
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love.
Stay in love.
And it will decide everything.
If most of us are honest, we would say we prefer having a decaffeinated faith: it tastes like the real thing, but it is guaranteed to not keep us awake.
I don’t want decaf faith. I want a faith that wakes me up – fully human, fully alive – prepared to be Present to all of life, good, bad, ugly, beautiful, pain and joy.
I pine for a faith that is more “red eye” than decaf, an extra caffeinated faith that hinges on these two truths, that God is Alive and God is Love! And therein lies my faith standard of measurement: does my faith in God wake me up and does it lead me to Love?
It is no secret that I am a verdant seeker and searcher of all that is mystical and practical, addicted to more of God and all that is Sacred. I am not easily quieted or quenched by safe answers. As a teenager, I would walk around my church youth group with a homemade t-shirt that said, “you know the Answer, but do you even know the Questions?”
As is often the case with me and God – the hand held Mystery, the Unsayable Said – Wisdom comes through fragments of papers, random Google searches, strange emails, etc., questing for deeper and richer experiences of all that is Holy and profane.
And today this Message came to me, from The Message (a modern day translation of the Bible) written by one of my favorite people, Eugene Peterson. This comes from his translation of Ecclesiastes, one of the least appreciated books of the bible precisely because it is not pretty, packaged or pedantic with gentle answers.
So, read it with me with rage, passion, love, pounding fists, and sweating palms. Read it as prayer, as mantra, as fodder for your Greater Life and the larger angels that inhabit your heart!
A right time to lament and another to cheer.
A right time to hold and another to part.
A time to search and another to count your losses.
One handful of peaceful repose is better than two fistfuls of worried work-
More spitting into the wind.
It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.
God’s in charge, not you – the less you speak, the better.
Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift!
God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.
But against all illusion + fantasy + empty talk
God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Each day is God’s gift… Make the most of each one! Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
Be generous! Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns. Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others.
Just as you’ll never understand the mystery of life in a pregnant woman, so you’ll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does.
Life as we know it, precious + beautiful, ends. The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
The Spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.
It’s all smoke, nothing but smoke.
The words of the wise prod us to live well. They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd. But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy.
There’s no end to the publishing of books…
The last + final word is this: [Be in awe of] God. Do what He tells you.
Source: The Message (MSG)© Eugene Peterson
NOTE: this blog is raw, no editing, first thought, first word. And since it involves the rawness of realness, I felt OK with leaving it be.
My life has a funny way of having moments of “embodied Irony.” A moment like that crossed my path earlier this week. I had written the post about being in search of a bigger God and had set up my blog to auto post it. Well between the writing of the blog and the posting of the blog I had a miraculous experience: I survived a serious car accident.
A 4:30 p.m. on Palm Sunday, I was heading out from a friends’ house to get to evening Mass. I am far from a good Catholic or even a faithful follower of Jesus, but the events of Holy Week and Sacred Rituals of Easter and Passover are vital and important to my own spiritual l journey. So, I was pulling out of the gravel road onto a state highway. I looked left, then right and for some reason decided to go left to stop by a convenience store for an afternoon cup of Joe. I pulled out and there it was – a 1990 black Honda Accord traveling at about 60 miles per hour.
Time stopped or at least felt like it slowed down. I knew Juno and I were going to get nailed by this car so I reacted the fastest way I could: I simultaneously slammed the gas pedal to the floor (hoping to only have only the tail of my car hit) and I used all my strength to reach around and move Juno from behind the driver’s seat, pressing her against the rear passenger door (thereby putting her as far away from impact as possible). All of this occurred in 2 seconds or less…
The car slammed into us, never even hitting the brakes before impact. Then it became surreal: metal twisting and bending; pain and searing fire erupting through my body; the shriek of a terrified dog; spinning around and around with dizzying force; then a second or two of pure stillness.
Then I heard the voice of a young person, “holy shit that is a lot of gas….get out, get out, man!” I only remember scrambling to get my seat belt off and nothing happening. I was stuck and in blinding pain. The door had me pinned in. I just remember screaming out to God, “Give me strength NOW, help me, Lord, save Juno. I don’t give a shit about me but save HER!!”
The seat belt unclasped.
I flipped over into the back of the car, grabbed Juno by her harness, and we literally fell out of the car stumbling about 30 feet away from the car. I could not breathe and pain was setting my body and soul on fire. The rest is a blur. All I remember is asking a bystander to call my friend and have him come and take my dog to the ER vet hospital.
I also remember Juno being right next to me, tight up against what I would learn were my fractured ribs. She did not move. When the paramedics approached me she growled but then let them touch me. My friend Hugh came and did what he is great at: exhibiting grace under pressure and jumped into the Solution. He just said, “I’ve got Juno. The paramedics have got you.”
Then the pain took over…all over; searing, fire like, pained breathing, burning on my face and arms. Later I would learn it was the air bags and a few fractured ribs, one vertebrae fractured (L4) and another compressed (L3), bruised lungs, scrapes, cuts, and soreness all over, covering me like a blanket.
Out of all of this too, I learned I have a “shaded area” in my lungs that appears not to be affiliated with the accident. So, the accident afforded me the chance to learn that I need a biopsy on a shaded lump in my lung.
As I said before, my life is Embodied Irony. Continue reading
“There are all kinds of different voices calling you to do all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God, rather than that of society, say, or the super-ego, or self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is the following: the kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you most need to do, and (b) that the world most needs to have done.
If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you’ve probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by your work, the chances are that you’ve not only bypassed (a), but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.
Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
If there ever was a singer/artist who could say what I needed to say (or not say), it is Bruce Cockburn (pronounced Co’burn). For those who have never heard of Bruce Cockburn, the gist is he has put out around 30 albums over 40 years; he is to Canada what Dylan and Springsteen are to America.
Bruce’s experiences of faith, spirituality, Jesus and living an authentic life following one’s heart are rich, textured patches that sewn together make for a disquieting yet comfortable Soulpatch Quilt; one where God is love and truth can bite you in the arse as much as it can coddle you in comfort.
That being said, the lyrics from his song, “Pacing the Cage” speak well to where I feel these days. The song can be heard at the following link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mN2uMVYwmqc – and the lyrics followed down below.
“Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it’s pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you live too long
Days drip slowly on the page
You catch yourself
Pacing the cage
I’ve proven who I am so many times
The magnetic strip’s worn thin
And each time I was someone else
And every one was taken in
Powers chatter in high places
Stir up eddies in the dust of rage
Set me to pacing the cage
I never knew what you all wanted
So I gave you everything
All that I could pillage
All the spells that I could sing
It’s as if the thing were written
In the constitution of the age
Sooner or later you’ll wind up
Pacing the cage
Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can’t see what’s round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend
Today these eyes scan bleached-out land
For the coming of the outbound stage
Pacing the cage.
I am called to be a little re-Incarnation
of the Messiah:
in the Spirit,
goes about doing good;
who is known for living
and proclaiming this
all consuming, all inclusive Love
Someone who, like Jesus, loves…
(Inspired by Isaiah 58; 61. Luke 4.18. Matthew 11.1-4; 25. Acts 10.34-38. Galatians 5.14)
Random: without definite aim, reason, or pattern.
There is no rhyme or reason, aim or pattern, just words falling from my fingertips glossed over in prayer, prayers that you draw near to the God Who draws near to you and loves you no matter what church or state says. Words. Simple enough to be understood, strong enough to make a heart break, or make a heart blossom.
Life begins at the point where my comfort zone ends.
God’s greatest gift is unconditional love. God’s greatest promise is eternal Presence.
If I am unable to see God in the profane as much as I do in the profound, then I am missing half the story.
Worry is the activity of a mind (not heart) which does not believe or understand its’ connection to God.
Remember this every time you meet someone, especially someone you do not like or agree with: everyone has a past (everyone!); everyone has a story; and everyone is on a Journey. And at the end of the day, what I do not like about you is just a reflection back to me of what I do not like about myself.
God is present in all circumstances…all of them. There is divine purpose behind everything, all things, and therefore Divine Presence in everything. So as painful and hard as it is to grasp, all things and all circumstances stand with the will of God. It is hard to grasp that when looking at the pain of loss, death, violation, poverty, abuse and violence. But in truth, God has given us all the power, presence and perseverance we need to prevent and end these, but we have not employed these gifts to their higher purpose. Remember, there are no victims and there are no villains and in the end of all time, everything will be swallowed up in Love and Mercy.
Prayer is a conversation with God which leads to a friendship with God which in turn leads to deeper communion with God which ends in total union with God.
Still random. Still musing.
Here are three things I have surmised in my 47 years of life on earth:
- God rarely operates with my (or any person’s) frame of reference;
- God does not operate under any timetables, because God is infinite and eternal and time is a human construct to try and capture and quantify time and space, here and there.
- God operates in the place and space of ‘no time’ so every time is the perfect time, all time with God is Now.
That one hurt my brain.
And finally, God’s ways are not our ways; and, God is way more comfortable with chaos than we are, because we experience chaos as the subjects of it, and God experiences chaos as the Object of it. So, to think that God is going to do anything within the neat confines of finite flesh and blood, limited capabilities, understanding and comprehension, and do so within a scripted frame of reference using societal norms is simply preposterous, asinine and absurd.
Done for now.
P.S. Grace is Absurd.
Rainer Maria Rilke said, in one of my favorite books ever Letters to a Young Poet:
I want to beg you as much as you can, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within yourself the possibility of shaping and forming as a particularly happy and pure way of living; train yourself to it—but take whatever comes with great trust, and if only it comes out of your own will, out of some need of your innermost being, take it upon yourself and hate nothing.
Jean Vanier, Founder of the faith-based L’Arche Communities, said about CHANGE in his great book Becoming Human that:
Change of one sort or another is the essence of life, so there will always be the loneliness and insecurity that come with change. When we refuse to accept that loneliness and insecurity are part of life, when we refuse to accept that they are the price of change, we close the door on many possibilities for ourselves; our lives become lessened…. Life evolves; change is constant.
In this broken city teeming with hurt and frustration a looming tragedy approaches. This tragedy is not new; we have seen it before and will most assuredly will again. On the horizon injustice and oppression are bearing down on some of Abbotsfords most vulnerable residents again.
An eviction notice has been posted for July 31, 2014 at 9 a.m. to displace dozens of hurting, sick, and forgotten humans who have sought fragile safety and community along the Gladys corridor. It is a street drenched in pain, exploitation, despair, and numerous other woes. Regardless of the conditions and behaviors, these are humans who need the Church of Abbotsford to respond and engage. The Church needs to walk down into that darkness and let its light bring the healing so desperately needed. Do not let more suffering come.
God asks His children, lovers of Christ, to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, and to set the oppressed free. We, the Church of Abbotsford, must rise united to halt the cycle of tyranny which decimates so many precious lives. We have an opportunity to bring the Kingdom to bear upon misguided and futile hostilities that cause great pain and misery on so many lost and hurting human beings.
It is true the Church of Abbotsford has stumbled many times when facing the challenges of the marginalized within her walls. However, it does not have to be this way. This does not have to be. It is our calling, our responsibility, our privilege to face these daunting challenges together as family of believers. Sisters and Brothers – our King calls blessed those who feed the hungry. Those who quench the thirst of the parched. Those who welcome the stranger as family. Those who wrap garments around the naked. Those who bring healing to the sick. Those who visit the prisoner locked in cages of steel. Jesus calls us blessed when we do for the least, for it is there that He is found. Christ is served when we offer these courageous loving gifts. The Kingdom is found in these simple acts of love, grace, and mercy. The King says if we do not love in these ways we will face punishment.
The time is now, today, to put aside empty self-gratifying activities and seek justice. Lend your voice, your hands, your heart, your possessions to reach out to the lost in our community and on our streets. July 31 is such an opportunity to serve our Lord. Pray, listen, and seek practical ways you and the Church can rise up and face these challenges that burn within our city. Together we can let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream.