woe to you

accusation.jpg

 “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]

tangle of anger

GRRRR!GRRR! I am so angry at myself, at the system, at the continuing unfairness of work to reward, at my own inability to control my emotions about this. I need a gift of grace. ‘Seek first the kingdom,’ you say. I must not have been seeking the kingdom very well, because “all these things” seem to be going to someone else.

I know, I have no room to gripe.  I know I have been deeply blessed. What right do I have to be mad? Still, I must admit that I am mad. I have poured myself out on an altar whose god does not care.

The greater irony – that false god did not make me do it. Once I gave him the minimum, he stopped even looking. So, the waste I have made of myself is all my fault. Now, I can’t seem to gather myself back together enough to find what matters.

This world’s prince doesn’t care about fair. In fact, unfair suits his purposes much better. Fairness will never be achieved through his means. And from God, the true God, I do not want fairness. I want mercy. I want grace.

So, why can’t I shake loose from this burden of anger? I reach inside myself an try to pull it from my heart, but it is wrapped too tightly. I fear I will pull my heart out, as well, if I tug hard enough to dislodge it.

It is not just clinging to me, it is consuming me; feeding on my heart, crowding out all else from my mind and my spirit. It is a cancer which must be removed, even at the cost of my heart. So, I do pull it out, and, along with it, the unconsumed fragments of my heart, bleeding in its claws. I throw it from me as far as I can manage and then I slump to the ground in a heap. I am hollow inside. All my energy, all my effort drains out onto the ground in a puddle of red.

Then, the Holy One is beside me. She gathers me up in her arms, wraps me in a cloth and carries me to the well. She washes me, wraps me again in a clean towel and sets me on the ground before her.

“This is not a battle lost, she says. This is a fruitless battle ended.”

“Listen to my voice. I have a better struggle for you to enter in. Not a battle, but a dedication of effort to something better than the tasks that others have selected for you.  Do not despair the efforts you have made, but do not trust them for the building of your life. Your life lies not in them, it lies in who I have called you to be.”

“And do not look for confirmation in comparison with others. Their path is different from your own. When you measure yourself, your success, by other’s standards, you are not measuring yourself at all. Such measures will never satisfy.”

With this, from another small towel, she unwraps a new heart. It is not like my old heart. Instead, it is a piece of her own heart that she gives to me.

“Listen. I have placed myself within you. Listen. You will begin to hear, to know, and then to follow.”

She turns to go. Then, almost as an afterthought she says, “Don’t worry about letting go of your anger. Let go, instead of your misguided heart. The anger clings so tightly to that, that when you remove it, the anger will be removed as well.” She smiles. “Listen for my heartbeat, deep within.” Then she is gone.

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[image cropped from photo by Shawn per cc 2.0]

lists

checklistThere is a list of things I must do.
Then there is a list of things I should do.
And a list of things that it would be good to do.
And even things I’d like to do.

But contemplation does not work so well with lists.
Lists are handles – so I do not let things drop.
Contemplation is about letting go.

Something in me is afraid to just let go.
What if I forget? What if I neglect? What if …
What if I disappear?
What if, without my tasks, there is no need for me?

I find, at last, a momentary pause within my soul.
I slip into that corner and hunker down upon a small stool
I pull a sheet over my head to hide myself from my lists.

And here, fidgeting, fretting restlessly, I try to wait.
I breathe. I count. I try to still my soul.
It’s not working very well.
In my mind’s eye I lean my head back into your chest.
And whisper, ‘help.’
It’s not a loud, or insistent, or confident whisper –
It’s more like a whine than a plea.

I don’t expect an answer.
I’m not even sure I want one.
But – I realize this with a bit of a start –
My head is resting upon your chest.
My hope is resting upon your presence.
Which means, of course, that you are here.
You are here. I am here.

That’s a beginning.
Actually, that’s a completion.
Daily moment of contemplation … check.
What’s next on my list?

AAAUGH!

The only thing that makes me smile at the end of all this
is your chuckle in my ear.

[photo by Wendy House per cc 2.0]