Messy Life, Merciful God

“I have had to accept the fact that my life is almost totally paradoxical. I have also had to learn gradually to get along without apologizing for the fact, even to myself. . . . It is in the paradox itself, the paradox which was and still is a source of insecurity, that I have come to find the greatest security.  I have become convinced that the very contradictions in my life are in some ways signs of God’s mercy to me: if only because someone so complicated and so prone to confusion and self-defeat could hardly survive for long without special mercy.”

Thomas Merton

 

After all these years, I am still afraid of the dark.  Oh, I talk a good game, stating proudly that I love the dark that I am okay with it, with not knowing, with the unknown.  But that’s a load of crap.

I hate the dark; specifically, I loathe the reality of “not knowing.”  I find no comfort in that sacred place.

I have found that the words of Dorothy Day ring true, reminding us that it is best to travel light through the darkness.  I say it is good to do so because I need my hands in the darkness, groping for security, feeling my way through it the way a newly blind person fumbles through Braille.

The darkness of my heart – the anger, the fear, the lack of trust in God, in Love itself – makes my life ‘feel’ messy.

When my life feels messy, there is this thought that rattles around my head with jarring significance: sometimes I feel that God is this pervasive Reality I have yet to actually experience, much less “know.”

But then that noise subsides, and above the din I hear the repetitive whisper, “mercy, mercy, mercy, all is enveloped in Mercy…”

One thing is certain, the messier my life gets the more merciful God seems.  I sense the reason that is due to this truth: the messier and more mistake prone I get, the more I am in dire need of the Mercy that is available always and forever.  The more I am ‘human’ the more I need and therefore am open to Divine Love.  When I am at my lowest, it is ‘easier’ to look up and ask for mercy.

It’s easier to surrender when I run out of bullets.

It’s a shame that it takes my increased messiness and mistakes to be the catalyst provoking my need of God’s divine mercy, but I am human.  I am trying daily to put myself in a position living conscious of and present to God’s infinite mercy rather than waiting for fox holes and disasters.

Spiritual crisis prevention is far better than crisis management.  In prevention mode, I am more aware of God in all my dealings rather than my usual state of forgetfulness.  And as I grow in a deeper daily awareness of God, the self made messiness seems to give way to a mercy filled life; still messy, but steeped in the ever-present reality called the mercy of God.

 

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Four Thoughts on Grace

Gratitude is a doorway to Grace. Gratitude takes me from being closed to being open, and opening up leads me to see just how blessed I am and how much I have been given so that I can be a blessing to others.  Gratitude leads me away from resentment, arrogance and judgment into a place of forgiveness, acceptance and tenderness. The attitude I must have is one of gratitude for in every circumstance, every encounter, and every person is an opportunity for me to see God and share God.  Every opposition, taken with gratitude, becomes an opportunity to meet God and give his love away.

Grace is a moment when we learn (sometimes painfully) that anyone can be used by God as a messenger. Anyone. It is not my place to judge the ‘quality’ of the messenger; it is my place only to listen, discern, and receive the grace given.

I am learning that the people God has placed around me do not need me to correct or validate their feelings; they need me to love, listen and accept them.

More and more each day, I am understanding that God’s grace is like an ever-flowing river and all I need do is come to that river and drink to my fill. I need to understand that is the Reality for others as well: God’s grace is always available to them as well.  I cannot block, dam or clog up this river nor can I drink it for them. They must drink from the River themselves and I must never block passage to this ever-flowing river.

 

More on Grace: the messiness of it all

I love grace.  I need grace; and desperately so.  But most of all, I rarely understand grace.  So permit some random musings on it.

One explanation I try and use for grace is that it is the place and space where the tenacious madness of God and the seemingly never-ending woundedness of human beings meet. Frederick Buechner says that this meeting place between us and God is almost “always a matter of life or death and usually both.”

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Grace is the reality that God meets us where we (wherever that is), as we are, and begins the transformation process at that precise spot. Grace is NOT “I’ll get a bit better, more whole, wiser, holier, etc., and then God begins to transform us.”

Not at all. That is the letter of the law kind of thinking, not the Spirit of Grace.

That still involves me doing the work, and God does the work. I ask for help, surrender, become open and wait upon the Spirit to breathe new life into these old bones.

That is grace.

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Grace is not just talking about God, or admiring Jesus, or even trying to follow his way. Grace is being down on the floor, all curled up, sobbing over the pain and confusion of it all, and knowing, experiencing the Truth that God is down on the floor with us, sobbing, being present to all of us, with us.

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Grace is God’s complete and total love and acceptance of us as we are NOW, the whole kit and caboodle, and not at some distant point in the future when we arrive or get to some heavenly place.

Grace is almost always a NOW thing, a movement of God that removes the stain of the past and the fear of the future and brings radical acceptance in the here and now.

 

 

 

Space for Grace

“Gratitude prepares a space for grace to reside.”  A.A. old timer

I am a firm believer that there are two primary ways that God’s grace comes to us, there are unfathomable ways for that to occur but these are the two prime ones in my life: they are through a wound in our hearts and/or when space has been prepared.

You see I know God is in the “Grace Business” for I am a wounded sinner who has experienced divine grace more than I can even recall.  But I am learning that grace does not force itself into me, rather I must open myself up to it, empty myself of all that is ego, then and only then does grace come rushing in.

I must be intentional in preparing a space and for me that space is created through gratitude.  Gratitude is a reality that claims that God IS and therefore all is well.  Gratitude knows that all things, moments, and experiences can be and become blessings when seen through the eyes of ‘thank You.’  Gratitude understands that nothing lies outside of God and God’s will for if anything did stand outside of God’s hands then God is neither omnipotent nor omnipresent.

Gratitude understands that in truth all things are present now, that I do not need to beg God for them, and that trust and thankfulness are the keys that open us up to the blessings of grace in all things.  Gratitude is about fleshing out my “thank You” to God.  It is about knowing I am only what and who I am because of God’s grace.  And let me tell you, I need grace, daily, sometimes minute by minute because the world wants to ensnare my heart, strangling it with fear and dread.

I have to empty myself out and make some space for grace and the space I need to empty out is where the ego resides, for my ego takes up a great deal of space.  But empty I must if there is to be any room for grace.  I am called to be like Mary, who in order to be so full of grace, had to be emptied of herself…as in when she said “be it done to me according to Your Will.”

I am rarely in the head space for grace, but when I shift into gratitude, I am always in the heart space for grace to come and come it does: in ways unexpected, messily, tenderly, forthrightly, surprisingly, but always, always does God’s grace faithfully come.

Defying Logic

“Grace defies reason and logic.” – Bono

Suffice it to say, a rock star summed up my truest beliefs about grace, which could not be a better example of grace and it paradoxical nature. That is grace that a rock icon, not a pastor or prophet, speaks to the deepest truth of grace – namely that it so defies reason and logic. Truth is when it comes to grace is it best to just experience it and not analyze it. Bono goes on to say in the rest of this quote, that [paraphrased] “love interrupts the consequences of our actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.”

Good news indeed since I am a wounded whack job, a recovering alcoholic in need of grace daily, hourly, in order to live this life that I have.

Grace defies logic. Grace defies reason. As interpreted through human constructs, God’s grace is totally absurd. We need to create limits and things like prohibitive structures to grace, things like religious institutions, dogma, doctrine, denominations all with the express purpose of meting out this Reality called grace. We find it almost impossible to let grace alone, we need to fix it up with trappings, we can’t just let grace operate in God’s time and way.

And God, like grace, is also absurd at times; God makes grace available to everyone, no matter what their belief system or lack thereof. Since as George Bernard Shaw said that “all great truths begin as blasphemies,” let us expand that truth past the point of comfort: Grace is available outside of the Church and religion. I should know since most of the grace I have experienced in life has been in the basement of churches at A.A. meetings more so than in the sanctuary of churches on Sunday mornings.

Grace is available to all who cry out for it -sinners, saints, queers, straights, Catholic radicals, and Tea Party NRA’ers, Muslims and Atheist, drunks and drug addicts alike. Man, that is disturbingly beautiful isn’t it?

Someone once said to me decades ago that God had a penchant for drunks and fools (of which I am both) that is grace. Along the lines of God’s grace defying logic is the truth that God makes all “saints” out of whacked job sinners and fools. The most broken among us become the greatest mystics and purveyors of grace as it transforms us into godly/goodly people. Those of us who have drunk deeply of the bitter darkness are also the ones that taste deeply the sweetness of light and grace.

Grace is a comfort to the disturbed and a disturber to the comfortable. Grace turns the world upside down and therefore right side up.

Grace is an eternal ocean, one where we can wade in the shallow parts or dive into the deeps; so shallow we shall not drown, so deep we shall never touch the bottom (thanks Martin Luther for the use of your concept).

Grace is available to anyone who asks for it. I am repetitious about this in the blog because I am a forgetful person with a short memory when it comes to God’s truths. I am learning that all I need to experience grace is a willingness to be honest about my pain and brokenness and an openness to ask od for help – then the floodgates of God are unleashed.

Grace is Not Reasonable (ReVised)

Reasonable: Sensible, rational, practical, logical, evenhanded

God can be a bit unreasonable when you get down to it.

God is not always rational, practical, sensible or within the bounds of reason. How reasonable and rational is a God Who chooses to use the wounded, the broken, the fallen, the fallible and even the wicked to do the divine bidding? I mean becoming flesh, walking among us, telling us we are God’s children and that God cares for us better than the best parents? Then he tells us anyone can draw near to God, be a friend of God, if only we surrender and accept the grace of it all?

Jesus’ resume would not have gone too far in the corporate or religious world today, if we judged by reason, rationale and appearances. God’s ‘business plan’ was (and still is) completely maniacal: hang out with the poor, the rejected, the unclean, women, blue collar types. It gets even better, Jesus decided to spit fire towards the pious, the righteous, the religious leaders and consistently show disdain for the emperor time and again through stories, healings, and parables proclaiming to both that there is a new way, a new Leader, and a new Kingdom where all are welcome if they but ask.

That is not my idea of sane or reasonable. Grace is the key to the doors of this upside-down Kingdom.

Jesus is just plain unreasonable and screws up all my preconceived notions, messes with my plans, confuses me and makes me uncomfortable. And those who say they follow him try and tame, deputize, and moralize him making him into an Uncle Sam savior or a Pinocchio wrapped in Levi’s, a goatee, hipster glasses and mod rock music. I am not judging just observing.

Try and tame a tiger and risk losing your hand; try taming God and risk losing everything that has no lasting value.

God is unreasonable. And if God were not, we’d all be doomed. For grace is the outflow of God’s unreasonableness. So therefore grace is not reasonable either.

Grace is absurd. God’s love is absurd as well. Why would Jesus of Nazareth live a life that he did: loving the unlovable, defying social convention and norms, threatening the state simply by the love he showered upon people when he healed them?

Why?

It is absurd that one must die for the many to live.  But it happened and the prison doors have been flung open.

I will say it,  plain and simple again, grace is absurd. And way too many of us spend too much time trying to ‘figure’ it out rather than experiencing it; far too many try and control it foolishly, like gripping sand tightly hoping to prevent it slipping from their hands.

 

 

SnapShot Musings: Four Thoughts

Gratitude takes me from being closed to being open, and opening up leads me to see just how blessed I am and how much I have been given so that I can be a blessing to others.  Gratitude leads me away from resentment, arrogance and judgment into a place of forgiveness, acceptance and tenderness. The attitude I must have is one of gratitude for in every circumstance, every encounter, and every person is an opportunity for me to see God and share God.  Every opposition, taken with gratitude, becomes an opportunity to meet God and give his love away.

Grace is knowing and learning (albeit painfully) that anyone can be used by God as a messenger. Anyone. It is not my place to judge the ‘quality’ of the messenger; it is my place only to listen and discern the truth given.

I am learning that the people God has placed around me do not need me to correct or validate their feelings; they need me to listen and be clear, compassionate, consistent and loving.

More and more each day, I am understanding that God’s grace is like an ever-flowing river and all I need do is come to that river and drink to my fill. I need to understand that is the Reality for others as well: God’s grace is always available to them as well.  I cannot block, dam or clog up this river nor can I drink it for them. They must drink from the River themselves and I must never block passage to this ever-flowing river.

 

“A Letter to the Church of Abbotsford and Beyond” (Ward Draper)

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.

Original Link at Huff Post

SnapShot Musings: Love

Meister Eckhart once said “theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language.” I believe that language to be Divine Love.

I find this quote tantalizing because the early followers of Jesus were known more for their radical love whereas today ‘Christians’ are known more for what we are against than for our expressions of unconditional (i.e. Divine) love.  There is much talk amongst theologians and religious people in media about the nature of God and God’s love, but I confess, it all leaves me dry once we start pontificating on God’s ‘unconditional love’.

Why?weeping angel

Because many speak and write of unconditional love in the abstract, but when it comes down to it, we humans interpret and express divine love through the lens of dogma and cultural bias.  Do you believe what I believe? Do you subscribe to my particular finite branch on the Tree of Life? If you do, then you are a recipient of the unconditional love of God; if not, then you are danced around with trite phrases like “love the sinner but hate the sin.”

Let me state my ideas unequivocally: it is impossible for fallible humans to separate the “sin” from the sinner and thus we “throw out the baby with the bath water” – meaning when we despise the sin we are despising the very sinner that is loved unconditionally by God.  And lest I forget, all have sinned and all are fallible, and all are loved unconditionally.

It would seem that we are quite uncomfortable with unconditional love. We need to codify it, commodify it, qualify it and regulate it. And in so doing, we put a fence around the limitless and all embracing love of God. We find it virtually impossible to just simply, lavishly and indiscriminately share and “throw” around God’s love with reckless abandon. God forbid…even though that is all God asks of us.

If we gave love so freely, without judgment or dogma, our faith would become dangerous like a feral lion but instead we are afraid to truly love and embrace everyone as they are without any reservations and thus our love becomes a domesticated, declawed house cat.

We blatantly disregard the words of Jesus (thereby placing nationalism, patriotism and politics above the love of God): we do not love our enemies (real and/or supposed); we cannot even show unconditional love to Christians of differing denominations; we show no love or compassion to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters; we hate Muslims; we ignore and patronize Buddhist and Hindus; we loathe atheists; we cannot even show love to our red state/blue stated neighbors and family members.  ‘Christians’ rage against children coming across borders and even threaten politicians who speak of limiting access to assault weapons.  And in all of this, the greatest power ever – the burning love of God – gets swept aside by religion viewed through the lens of whichever flag we hold dear.

In all truth, and this is my truth and experience, we have absolutely no earthly idea just how unconditional God’s love is. If I am honest, it scares me, it scares all of us.

I struggle and stutter, I stammer and falter in truly fleshing out God’s lavish and dangerous Love: a Love that emanates from God’s very Being; a Love that whispers perpetually throughout all of Creation, saying All are loved.  All is forgiven. All are welcome. All are brothers and sisters. All is well. And all the way to heaven is indeed heaven.”

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P.S. 12 years ago today, my son Quinn, died.  I grieve hard.  I celebrate fully.  I am grateful to his Mama and to God for the Gift that experience holds for me.  I miss you every day and see you in the butterflies and hear your laughter in the breeze…