true

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It is the experience of God that holds us true,
That truly holds us.
Doctrine merely opens the door, if it, indeed, is true.

The closer we can get to clearing the dross from our preconceptions,
The clearer we can see.
But seeing is not enough.
It takes the deep embrace to truly know.

For me, it is a bit of a catch 22.
I try to clear my head, to make way for my heart.
Yet, my head is not up to this too-big challenge.
I must learn to lean into the embrace from the start.

And that may be the heart of faith,
The faith of the heart,
Learning to trust God’s embrace, rather than my own.
It is God who does the holding.

I cannot grasp; yet, I am held.
True.

[photo by Timothy K Hamilton per cc 2.0]

woe to you

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 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!” – Matthew 23: 23-24

Woe to you, lawmakers.  You seek easy answers to hard problems and produce sound bites which trivialize our turmoil, placing blame and responsibility on anyone but yourselves.

Woe to you, self-righteous do-gooders, who make a show of what you give, who see money as the way to buy righteousness and avoid relationship.

Woe to you, silent watchers, who love to complain and lift not a finger to correct.

Woe to you, televangelists and false prophets.  You prey on the vulnerabilities of people who need God, offering them yourselves instead, and at a high price.

Woe to you, vain mirror-dwellers, who place all value in appearance and outward style and fail to reflect any inward substance, having none to offer.

Woe to you, spewers of religious fervor – all froth and uproar – and with no promise of peace, for peace belongs to the prince you do not serve.

and, that said,

Woe to me, filled with shiny plans and golden schemes, I leave undone the humble work before me.  Too easily, I drop a project when it first is marred by my inevitable mistakes, not willing to recognize those failings as innate to me.  So, dreams prevail but do not accomplish good for anyone but the dreamer.

To long for perfection on my own, to think that it is possible within myself to be perfect, is to usurp the place of God.

Woe to me. My particular risks and temptations are my own, sculpted from the clay I have wrested from God’s hands. I make a false self in a fancied image of goodness, as do all the woeful souls that shout and thrash around me.

Teach me to release myself, flawed and loved, into your hands.

Teach me that all other souls are there, beside me, held in those same loving hands.

 

[image edited from photo by M.V. Jantzen per cc 2.0]

A question for the struggle

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Whom does God love more
The mistaken, but earnest, heretic
Or the proudly intolerant orthodox?
Answer: both.
God loves us both, infinitely.

That is the place we must start.
That is the place I must start.
In God’s love.
In love with God.
In love (with God’s love) with you.

We may build walls with rules
Or circle our wagons in self-protection
But the rain falls on us all:
The just and the unjust,
The correct and the befuddled.

So, we must find a way
To live our best lives
In a world that contains us both.
Try as I might, I will not change you,
Nor you change me, with arguments.

Yet, I know I will change with time.
I know because I have changed, already, many times.
You will change too.
And when we lean into love,
The change is for the better.

The father waits for the prodigal,
Even if the big brother does not.
Even if the big brother was secretly glad the prodigal left.
Even if the big brother left the father, too
And just didn’t know it.

And the father wants us to party together,
When the prodigal makes it home,
When the big brother hears the music,
And wonders why it is not for him.
It is, really, for neither, alone.

The party is for reunion.

I have faith, I have hope, that love will win.
I just wish it would happen sooner rather than later.
I dare to think that is God’s hope, too.
That we would both come to ourselves
And come to the party.

Soon.

[Image modified from photo by Markus Goller per cc 2.0]

defiant joy

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Is it possible
To hold within your heart
A nugget of defiant joy?

It is.

To deeply know
God’s deepest love
For all the deepest parts of you.

To hold to love
Despite the angry shouts
And sadly shaking heads.

To welcome God’s love
So fully, so truly
That it spills out to others.

Even – though they cannot see it,
And don’t know how to receive it,
To those with sadly shaking heads.

That is the miracle of grace.
That we can offer love to one
Who cannot love us in return.

Father, forgive them,
For they do not know
What they are doing.

Let me be a conduit of grace
Let it flow to me and through me
To all creation.

It is. (amazing) It is.

[photo by Michelle Robinson per cc 2.0]

words

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sometimes, words won’t do
they are just too tiny
just too constrained
inadequate

but the absence of words
can leave an awkward emptiness
a sense of isolation
separation

so let us build
a tiny bridge,
a fragile conduit
with our words

let us reach
with faltering hands
to touch the cheek of hope –
the hope that we all share

the hope that we might be
both truly ourselves
and truly one
with all that is

such is the gift of God
selfhood and community
a mystery to be honored
with our tiny, hopeful words

[photo by Jennifer Fred Merchán per cc 2.0]

kludge

 

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When I encounter a problem, a conundrum, a quandary,
I want to fix it, as quickly as possible.
I work with what I know, and who I am, and what I have
To find a way around or through.

And that, sometimes, creates a bigger problem

My preconceptions get in the way.
If I could back off far enough, or shed my frame,
The problem might just be transformed.

Instead I build a kludge,
A work-around of convoluted wires and patches.
I solve one problem and create another.

Too often, it seems my theology is a mass of kludges –
My own and those of others.

The longer I stay in my head,
Requiring explanation or understanding,
The longer I delay delight.
For somewhere beyond what I can grasp,
You wait to gather me in.

I am bound by my own befuddlement.
But even in that moment,
You find a way to set me free.
Slowly, I am learning to release my questions
And, instead, be held by wonder.

 

[photo by Marco Assini per cc 2.0]

two different strategies for safety

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It may seem like the best way to stay safe
is to build a wall around ourselves,
keeping out all that looks unfamiliar.
That makes for a lonely and limited existence.

A better strategy may be
to build a strong and inclusive community,
where we can look out for one another
and learn from one another.

But, you must know that
neither strategy will shelter you from all harm.
Pain, suffering and death come to us all,
It’s just that they are harder to bear alone.

[photo by Tiziana Peressutti per cc 2.0]