Sometimes God is Useless

“At times like these God is useless…” – quote from a Minister at a church service in NYC held the evening of Sept. 11, 2001.

That statement may seem harsh, caustic, and even reminiscent of the once famous proclamation of God being dead.  But that is far from the truth.  Rather, to me, it speaks to a rawness of truth that people who have been through tragedy can relate to, and often need to hear.

One of the biggest obstacles – when we try to experience spirituality and a relationship with God (in recovery) – our images of God are sometimes the greatest barriers to the relationship. 

I have discovered that most people believe in a God who has an “EGO” – because only a God with an ego would get “mad” or seek revenge or rain down judgment or have his divine feelings hurt if I spoke some personal truth in anger towards him.

I have actually had people judge me and tell me I have lost faith all because I tell them that when I pray I sometimes cuss, that I rage at God when I pray because that is who I am; I am being true to the man God made, and yet somehow I am supposed to NOT be human towards God?  I am also being true to the depth of realness in my relationship with God.

Let me state this as simply as possible, this ‘thing’ that transformed my relationship with God making it more real and authentic than at any time in my life is this change within me: I came to understand and “know” that God does not have an Ego.

Ego is defined as a “person’s sense of self-importance or self-esteem.”  In psychoanalysis, ego has to do with the role the “mind” plays in mediating between the conscious and unconscious mind.  See where I am going with this?

God does not need or have a “sense of self-importance” for God is self-contained – utterly whole and complete – the Power Greater Than myself.  God does not need anything.  God does not need me to placate his feelings with trite remarks of praise.  God does not need anything from me, at all.  Nada.  God does not have a Mind that needs a mediating element.  God does not need a mind.  God just is.  God is the all that is and that is all.

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‘Dreams of Mercy’ and Four Other Poems

Dreams of Mercy

I dreamed of walking through
Emerald forest…hanging all
The worries and weights of my body,
My soul
Upon thick, uneven
I felt the wind blow the
Dust out from within this
Wounded temple. I heard the whimpering
Cries of (old)
Grief come to have a say.
This grief felt so laden, so familiar,
All the years of want and the scars of
Letting go, all came out of this
Unsayable said.
The trees dared me
To let this
Grief hollow out my bones with mercy,
To paint the walls of my heart, the colors of
White & black. I have failed this challenge
Before, these
Pregnant opportunities to be held
By an urgent compassion.
Too often I have walked away, full of myself
And empty of the Truth. But today,
Today I dreamed of walking through
Emerald forest
My fingers tracing poems in the
Worn flesh of their bark…




A monk once said to me:
your faith should be like tea served Ch’an style
– rough, warm, and loosely wrapped;
and your religion the same:
warm to the touch,
& hewn on the edges of life.




the mystics great gift is
feeding hungry ghost
along the Way.




An old Abbot leaned against his cane,
rambling on about being invited to sit at the table of the new emperor.
“imagine me,” the wrinkled old sage giggled,
“being there with the divine emperor
& all those rich people.”

But Abbot, I said,
“you are the rich people.”




I awoke from a dream…
feeling like a habit held together by
flesh & grace…
so filled with God even
the Emptiness brimmed over.


A Functional Atheist Who Loves God Comes Clean

I say it often and all the time – my faith is messier than most. And rather than make my faith seem like a laud of glories to God, my faith is more like a string of letters across the page when holding down the “shift” key on my laptop (#@!&*^) to be more truthful.

I do not write much anymore because of fear and laziness. There is much to write about – major life transitions of work and location – but I don’t feel much like being honest with people (since God already knows the truth).

I spend my days seeking certainty and clarity with an addictive bent, only to find that my faith must rest in trusting God more than the vicissitudes of certainty and clarity. I suck at trusting…God and most people.

I like Jesus though; he was unconventional, loving in spite of the odds, compassionate, disturbing, earthy, and human. That last part is more important to me sometimes than any other aspect of Jesus of Nazareth. I pray to Jesus a lot, but honestly, I am not comfortable with most anthropomorphizing of God and what ‘Churchianity’ has done to him. I know and confess Jesus as Lord but find the Church and most of the people in it to be more my adversaries than my family. I suffer from a bad case of Defiance, so I’m not so hot on religious rules and most spiritual do’s and don’ts. I love the rituals of Catholic Mass but find the boredom of religiosity and fundamentalism (catholic and Protestant) a boorish pain in my butt.

I find I’d cuss more in my writings if it wasn’t for the sweet and respectful love I have for my Catholic ‘Nana’ who acts as a grandmotherly editor in my blogs (Thanks Leona).

I have found that the spiritual principles of the 12 Step fellowships have afforded me the chance at a second chance, not only in finding recovery, but also in knowing and loving God as God is, not as all the voices and histories from my past dictate.

I say functional atheists because I profess with my tongue a certain faith – a deep longing for and love of God to be precise – but my actions speak more loudly to a lack of belief in a loving God Who pines for me and has me in his heart and hands. I say I trust. But I live in fear. I say God hears my prayers, but inwardly I dwell on doubt.

I am just being honest, words flowing from a softer, darker part of my heart, where perfection and false piety is no match for the towering warriors of truth and freedom.

These days grace is the place where my infidelity meets God’s fidelity. I still believe, so no panicking, but I flesh out my faith more as a functional atheist than someone who has been on a 25 year plus intentional journey and love affair with God. But today, that is where I am; that is my place of truth. And the truth I am told will set me free.

 A Post Script: I came across this quote about “Practical Atheism” as defined by the Episcopal priest Eugene Sutton.  He defined ‘practical atheism’ as “professing belief in God, but not acting in a way that makes it evident that one actually believes in God.”  So, I’m not the only one who struggles with this and ponders it often.  NC

“Another Way of Being” (Michael Leunig)

Dear God,

We pray for another way of being: another way of knowing. Across the difficult terrain of our existence we have attempted to build a highway and in so doing have lost our footpath.

God lead us to our footpath: Lead us there where in simplicity we may move at the speed of natural creatures and feel the earth’s love beneath our feet.

Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts. And lead us there where side-by-side we may feel the embrace of the common soul. Nothing can be loved at speed.

God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights of the pilgrim; another way of knowing; another way of being.

Amen [So BE it…].


Source: The Prayer Tree

“Abiding Spirit” (Kayla McClurg)

For Sunday, May 25, 2014 – John 14:15-21

I notice right away the bookends holding up this passage of scripture, the two reminders to love and obey. To love—from beginning to end—to love first, to love last, to love long, and then to love again. And to obey—to listen deep and wide, and to respond, always, from the home base of love. At the beginning is to love and obey, at the end is to love and obey, and in between is Spirit, the place of awe and mystery where we are given what we need, where we are never alone.

This Spirit is our Advocate, our Counselor, our Trusted Advisor and Friend. The Spirit of truth brings insight and wisdom, challenging our worldly ways, our superior opinions and clever strategies. We cannot see or know this Spirit with the mind of logic and reason. The Spirit abides. Only as we, too, learn to abide, only as we notice and heed what lies within us and among us, will we see this one who teaches and guides.

“I will not leave you orphaned,” Jesus says, and within us a tiny bird of longing flutters. We do not show up alone for our lives! Sitting in the audience at each little recital, looking in to be sure we are safe in the night, encouraging us and directing us, is one who loves just to be near us, to watch us, to abide. We are captured and held in a solid surround of love. With this awareness, I no longer need to abandon myself, or you. I no longer need to leave myself orphaned, angry and alone. I no longer need to escape disappointment and rationalize hurt. I can bring all of who I am into the family; I can endure the pain of being known. The path need not be littered by the debris of my hasty getaways. The Spirit of truth says, be honest about your life; abide in your life. I am with you. You can trust me to be here for the long haul.


Season and Scripture: ,

Apathy Addiction

“Religion is the opium of the masses.” Karl Marx

Karl Marx, like him or loathe him, was indeed on to something.  Opium doesn’t ask us to change or spiritually evolve, but only to grow thick in our spiritual tummies.

I have been feeling the apathy addiction: lethargic in my desire to even put words to paper; resilient to growing in self awareness; stubbornly resisting God’s tender mercies deciding instead to live in a small place called fear.

Opium, the drug, is highly addictive.  Many, many years ago I smoked some opium…it made me dreamy “happy”, lazing the day away on the couch with nary a care in the world – not for food, human company, nothing.  And my faith in God, if it becomes a drug called religion, is not much different.

If my religion is a drug, my so-called service to God becomes simple apathy.  And apathy justifies complacency, fears awareness, stifles the inner –and outer – journey towards God, others and self.  Apathy leaves a slimy, icky residue on the interior lining of my soul, leaving it good for nothing – neither God nor people.

If my faith in God becomes an opiate, it will only seek to preserve the status quo, all the while fearing change, ingenuity and the divine gift of day-dreaming for God.

Apathy addiction leads to the seven deadly words: “we’ve never done it that way before.”

My faith in God, my ever deepening love for God and from God is a journey called spirituality – and spirituality is just religion with its clothes stripped off.  Spirituality is a verb whereby I stand naked before my God – a God who is pure love, eternal compassion, perpetual loving-kindness, and infinite goodness.

Spirituality heals the apathy addiction of religion and moves me deeper into God, creates movement, and fills me with the very attributes of God.  Spirituality empowers me to love God and my neighbors with gentle vigilance, tender mercy, wisdom and compassion.


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”

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…

Called to Something Graceful

I am not only called by and covered in grace,
I am called to something graceful,
something beautiful, something strong and tender.

I am called by a Love so
Strong it surrenders control, but is
Filled with truth and tenderness.

And justice is sweet on her lips,
And fire from her fingertips, and mercy
Wraps her world when all else fails.

I am held by an urgent compassion,
And blessed with a burden.  Darkness does not scare me,
And shadows ever shifting are sacred

For this grace is so compelling that in the end
I know all will be enveloped in Love, and all that
Ever was & is & is to come will be set aflame with divinity.

“To Identify Me” (Thomas Merton)

If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for. Between these two answers you can determine the identity of any person.

“Boundaries” (Lynn Ungar)

The universe does not
revolve around you.
The stars and planets spinning
through the ballroom of space
dance with one another
quite outside of your small life.
You cannot hold gravity
or seasons; even air and water
inevitably evade your grasp.
Why not, then, let go?

You could move through time
like a shark through water,
neither restless or ceasing,
absorbed in and absorbing
the native element.  Why pretend you can do otherwise?
The world comes in at every pore,
mixes in your blood before
breath releases you into
the world again. Did you think
the fragile boundary of your skin
could build a wall?

Listen. Every molecule is humming
its particular pitch.
Of course you are a symphony.
Whose tune do you think
the planets are singing
as they dance?