Sometimes I get frustrated
With how little my actions really do for good.
And then, when I screw up,
I’m grateful that I’m not so powerful.
I want ‘what I deserve’
Until I don’t.
It’s hard to step outside the mindset
Of quid pro quo and reciprocity.
I’ve been so thoroughly trained
In the framework of good versus bad
And the myth of my own superiority
Where my ‘goodness’ sets me apart.
Forgive me, oh Holy One.
Teach me, instead, to be a grateful, gracious part.
Help me not forget to live your love.
Mend my brokenness and the brokenness I cause.
Teach me how to live, even as I falter and fall.
Help me to accept and to pass on your forgiveness.
Help me to live in this world of scarred beauty
And give you room to make the scars sacred.
I release my mess to you.
It’s all that I can do.
[photo by Elba Fernández per cc 2.0]
Just when I think I can’t forgive that @#%&! one more time,
Just when I think that seven times seventy is way too generous,
Just when I wonder how to continue to forgive in the context of consistent offense,
I remember how I treat myself.
I passed the seven times seventy mark with myself eons ago.
Yet, I still give myself the benefit of the doubt.
I still look with grace upon my own actions, finding excuses for my misbehavior.
That must be what he meant when he said, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’
Just when I think it can’t be done, I remember that I’ve already done it for myself.
I’m the exception to my own rule
And the proof that one more moment of grace is not too many,
It is the only way to keep moving forward.
[photo by madstreetz per cc 2.0]
Yeah, I know there are lots of denominations … and non-denominations. I know that everyone of us holds life with different hands. But it seems to me, of late, that there are two main branches. One is worried about the sorry state of our souls and the world at large. One sees beauty and the imprint of grace in each encounter. One sees the foundational story of the world as ‘the fall.’ One looks a bit earlier to ‘God saw that it was good.’
My soul has gravitated … or perhaps fled … to the hope of beauty. It has fled to the assurance of God’s creative love, to a redemption that does not deny that things can get ugly – but knows that everything, everything can be turned to good – that ‘all things’ can be turned to work in that direction. In fact, that all things are in the hands of one who can do – is doing – that turning. That ‘all manner of things will be well.’
Is it my own state of privilege that allows me the luxury of that view? Is it that I have not suffered the abuse that makes the ugly so evident? Is it that I have not borne the scars of hate upon my soul?
The thing that mitigates against the conclusion that this hope is a privileged mirage – is the cross. There is no travesty that can keep God’s love at bay. God loves the world that murdered the son. The son promised immediate paradise to the one who hung beside him – and prayed forgiveness to those who drove the nails.
There are some basics, here – faith, hope and love – these three.
The basics do not include guilt or fear. In fact, the trio, above, works to mitigate the fears that would hold me captive. Perfect love, you know, casts out fear. Faith is counted as righteousness. Hope does not disappoint.
The starting point of my faith is not ‘all have sinned,’ as true as that may be. Instead my faith is born in ‘nothing can separate us.’
[photo by Rev Stan per cc 2.0]
What is the message of the cross?
Not that God needed blood in order to be able to forgive,
But that no amount of rejection, violence or hate
Could keep God from forgiving.
How sad that even this most loving act
Has been reinterpreted as the requirement of a blood-thirsty god
Who is bent on vengeance unless he can be placated by death.
It tells us more about ourselves than we can bear to admit.
God did not drive the nails.
God endured it
And, sweet mystery, still offers to love and forgive.
Would that we could learn such love.
It is my greatest wish.
That is the message of the cross.
[cropped from photo by Adam Selwood per cc 2.0]
When tragedy occurs, it seems we must hurry to find someone or something to blame, removing our own guilt and complicity, our responsibility for response, by pointing outside ourselves. What else are we to do with our anger and fear, but place it at a safe distance?
Unfortunately, and all too often, othering is what created the space for tragedy, in the first place – or, at least, what placed the most vulnerable where they will take the brunt of the impact.
Can we learn to respond first with compassion? Can we learn, when we must blame, to blame the othering, and not the other? Can we learn to see – within our very selves – both the victim and the perpetrator, as scary and disgusting as that may be?
Oh, Holy One, help us to learn to love all ‘others’ as ourselves – as, indeed, they are.
[photo by Isabelle per cc 2.0]
The deep roots of faith
Support the suffering, grieving souls
Who are redeeming tragedy with forgiveness
That mirrors the unfathomable love of God.
Honoring the beloved ones who are now held close
In the very arms of the One who conquered death
… for them and for us all.
[photo by Hannah Swithinbank per cc 2.0]
I guess I reveal my Church of Christ roots (where the liturgical calendar was not part of my year) when I wait till after Lent to spend time struggling with sin. But, like Jacob-com-Israel, my wrestling is more often determined by encounters that don’t follow a calendar.
Here are the rules of the game for me right now: I have to be as honest as I can be. I have to speak the questions that haunt my soul, even if it seems totally wrong to ask them. Only an honest encounter invites the Spirit. The Spirit can take it and, until I am honest, I am not really in the encounter at all. Continue reading