scapegoat

scapegoat.jpg

We have sent the scapegoat into the desert.
It fled from our abuse.
We thought we had rid ourselves of the unholy.
But the abuse, itself, left its stain upon our hands.
The rejection of the other is, itself, the unholy.

The temporary expulsion of what we abhor
Only, finally, reveals that it has made its home within us.
When we are the source of what we hate,
No sending away, no huddling in isolation, will suffice.
There really is no fragmented purity.

Besides, the search for purity is only one path, and not the destination.
It starts with a sincere effort to focus on the good, the true.
But, that focus simply works to keep us yearning for the more,
Until we discover a deep and wonderful surprise.
Until we find that the whole is the Holy.

The Holy, far more powerful that purity, itself,
Can encompass all of who we are.
The mess, the muddle … and the yearning for more
Are all woven into the tapestry of love.
All we offer to the whole can be redeemed.

Only that which we hide,
Only that which we banish,
Only that which we deny,
Only that fragmentation of our perception,
Delays our embrace of your embrace.

But when we, at last, melt into your grace,
And leave the purification process to you,
And leave the labels and the othering behind,
And let you heal the fragmentation of our common soul,
Only then do we find the Holy wholeness that is you.

[photo by Carl per cc 2.0]

dusty gems

packagesAAAAugh! I am fighting desperately to dig myself out of the heaps of responsibility and dread and guilt which I feel. Too much, too much and no relief. All the burdens I pushed away yesterday, to make it through that journey, come tumbling down around me, today.

I am trapped in an aisle of the warehouse, buried on all sides by parcel, books and papers. There is no order to my life and, more than that, no hope. I juggle tasks like people juggle their checkbook when they don’t have enough to pay all the bills, selecting in turn which project to neglect, so that all are behind, dragged along with strings of apologies and regret.

In fact, as I extract myself from the pile and make way down the aisle, they follow me, tied to me with ropes and strings, thumping and bumping along. I pick up one or two to carry as they get stuck in crevices and up against the shelves, but I cannot carry them all. I am haunted by their presence, oppressed by their weight. I use all my effort and it is not nearly enough.

I have tried resolve. I have tried list making and inventory taking, but I cannot find relief. My deep and hidden fear is that in the midst of my confusion I will neglect those things that really do matter and fill my arms with the bundles of irrelevant effort that someone else has decided would be good.

My eyes fill with tears and my chest aches with grief and disappointment in myself. I am only a whisper of what I need to be. I am only fading ink upon a page, a thread and not a cable. I have no strength to do what I must do. I am leaning against the tall metal shelving of the warehouse, crying listless tears, with not even enough energy to cry aloud. I feel no desperate rush of strength and fury, for that, too, has been spent.

I crumble to the floor into a heap of dust, no substance left.

A wise Narnian dwarf comes down the aisle. He has a broom and dustpan in his hand and begins to sweep my rubble into a pile. He scoops it up, and singing to himself takes it off to the trash. “Wait!” I cry, “Don’t you see me here? Don’t you know that this is all that is left of what am trying to do, what I am trying to be? Don’t throw away the ashes of my effort so lightly.”

“They are trash,” He says. “You have declared them so.”

“But they are all I have.”

“And so you have nothing.”

“Don’t confirm my fears in this way,” I beg. “Don’t relegate me to nothingness.”

“It is not my doing, but yours. You created the heap of ashes, you pronounced yourself worthless. I am only responding to our words.”

“But is it true?” I whisper “Is it true, what I feel? Is there no hope? I do not wish to be useless.”

“Much of what you feel is true,” He says. He has set the pile of ashes and rubble back on the floor and sits crosslegged before it, speaking to it, to me, in earnestness. “But you have not seen all the truth. You must look beyond your narrow vision. All you have used to judge yourself are measures which you cannot meet. You, yourself, have set the measuring sticks and you have marked them far beyond what you can do. There is no way to win when you have set the goals at such a distance.”

“What can I do?” I grieve. “What now for me?”

“You must look to other truths. The measure of yourself is not the vessel, but its contents. You have stretched your wineskin so tight that it has torn, trying to gather up all you see into yourself. Now you spill yourself upon the floor. Let go, let go, the whole world is not your charge.”

“Help me to let go. Help me to find the wisdom to release what is not mine to hold.”

“If anyone needs wisdom, let them ask. He promises to answer. But you must be willing to listen. He has not promised to rescue all your little projects. Yet you are still looking to them, hoping to find ways to create time — that is beyond you. Give it up.”

I shift within my pile of dust and sigh. “Okay, I let go my tight grip upon this rubble. I ask for wisdom.”

The Dwarf jumps to his feet, grabs the dustpan, scoops me up and strides away. I stifle a protest, swallow down my fearful grief and prepare to meet humiliation.

But he stops on the way to the trash heap beside a large drum with a wire mesh cover. He pours the ashes of myself upon that cover. Then he shakes the drum and flakes of me fall through the wire to the refuse heap below. The charred remains of good ideas and grand schemes tumble through the grid. Secret plans of my own glory, ones that I have even refused to acknowledge, fall through as well. Noble aspirations, they go too. But when he is finished shaking, there is something of me remaining on the top of the sieve. A handful of gems, dusty, but true. He reaches out and gathers them up and wraps them in a velvet cloth that he has pulled from inside his waistcoat.

“What is there?” I ask. “Can you name the gems?”

“Oh yes,” he says, “I can name them all.” The voice is no longer that of the dwarf, but the voice of the Holy One. “I know these gems, for I have been mining them, crafting them within you. They include your love for me and, greater still, my love for you. You can see the red drop of my own blood with this diamond, here. Your relationship with Tim is here, and with your children. Your family and your friends are among your gems, the treasures of your soul. And they will remain regardless of the outcomes of your projects, large or small. They have true and lasting value.”

“I know and love those gems. I have been richly blessed.” But I cannot keep the next question from rising to my lips. “What of my work? Is it all to be trashed? Is it all dust and rubble?”

“It is not meant to stand on its own. Without other supports it crumbles into useless refuse. Built upon relationships, it can provide expression for the truth. Seek not the form, but the substance.”

“Your sayings are hard,” I reply. “I do not know how to live them. I do not know, when I turn from my meditation, how to pick up my day with discernment. I cannot see the difference between rubbish and treasure. Help me to pull your reality into my working day today, so that I can see, with your wisdom, the choices I should make.”

Suddenly we are beside the well of joy. He reaches to the well and brushes it surface with his hand, he dips out a palm-full of its water. With his other hand, he touches a finger into his palm and a single drop of water, he places on each of my eyes. “May the light of your body bring light to our soul. May My very Spirit, which grows within you, answer that light with light of its own, until you truly see.”

This blessing he pronounces over me and then is gone.

I’m not sure that my vision is fully altered yet. But today I vow to look at what I do with eyes that are being renewed. “Help me, Lord to see.”

He whispers, “You shall see.”

1/31/95

[photo by Tim Ellis per cc 2.0]

 

Mother’s days

mother 2.jpg

How does a baby know
Just what it takes to grow
From a tiny seed of love
Into a new embodiment of God?

Hubris, it seems, to think
That God, herself, might be held
In such a tiny hand.
Except that the gift of God, herself,
Is surely that – the offer of deep embodiment.

How does a mother know
Just what it takes to love this new life
Into deeper being;
Two weave a love between them
Strong enough to grow them both?

Love, itself, seems to draw the answer forth
Not in words or rules or dictates
But in quiet and joyful responsiveness
To the interplay of coos and cries
And mutual nourishing.

How is it that an old woman knows
Just what it takes to grow into a warm and welcome maturity?
How to let go of previous strengths and struggles
In order to find new channels of life within?

How does she learn the rhythms
Of a loving universe
Even in a season of growing frailty or loss?
How is God, herself, reflected even there?

It is the mystery of universal love,
That leads the way –
The love of all the universe,
The heart, the hope, the truth,
Of all that is.

For God, herself, is mother to us all,
Even as She is born anew in each of us,
In all of us, together,
In all the infinite span of life in Life.

[image modified from photo by Irina Patrascu Gheorghita per cc 2.0]
I was reminded that last Sunday was Mother’s Day in the UK.

A question for the struggle

together under the umbrella.jpg

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]

what I am not

measuring up.jpg

I am not Carrie Newcomer
I am not Rumi or Hafiz
I am not a brilliant prophet or great philanthropist
I am not even a good little girl
At least, not any more,
Not even on the surface.

So, what am I?

I am yours.
(and here a wry smile crosses my face)
I guess you are stuck with that …
With me.

But you are not stuck
And neither am I.
(and here a sweet chuckle rumbles your chest)
We are not stuck.
Deep within your embrace, there is movement.

Here, after your kiss
Exploded in the big bang;
Here, after your brooding spirit
Formed this blue marble in your hand;
Here, after my daddy’s eye’s twinkled
And my mom sighed;
Here you are: calling, calling me to be in you.

Not just me, of course,
You call us all.
Rock and tree
Sky and sea,
Even dark matter thrums in response.
And, somehow I know, we are coming.

We are all coming,
Every one.
In the end, love will win.
Love will melt the stubborn resistance
Of me, me, me.
Melt it into the quiet insistence
Of we, we, we.

The call … is irresistible.

Thank God.

[photo by Irish Typepad per cc 2.0]

 

defiant joy

irrepressible.jpg

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]