down is up

via dolorosaThe way down is the way up. – Richard Rohr

I don’t want to follow you on the way down.
I don’t want illness, weakness, failure, or sadness.
And I don’t think that you want me to want such things …
The goal for my soul is not mortification, any more than it is glorification.

The goal is you.

The trick seems to be that the elements of pleasure –
Fullness, satisfaction, acclaim, power, capacity –
Feel so good, that they quickly divert my desire.
‘The pursuit of happiness,’ is a siren song.
It is like sugar for my soul – empty calories that leave me wanting more.

On the other hand, loss is not a distraction for my desire.
Instead, the experience of loss drives me closer to you.
It is at those moments when my soul desperately cries out for you.
So, I must admit that there may be something to Rohr’s contention
That the way up is down.

The Via Dolorosa, the path of sorrows, is not to be sought,
But neither is it to be avoided at all costs,
Especially since even ‘all costs’ will not keep it away.
Even Jesus did not choose suffering
What he chose was to give himself to God.

[photo by Racineur per cc 2.0]

too much armor

Harness by Seamus Moran

At what point do you become so self-protected that you can no longer do the thing you were created to do?  How much protection do you need—and how much can you bear before you stop being able to grow, or fly? – Quinn Caldwell

What is God’s will for a wing? Every bird knows that. – Saint Teresa of Avila

What will our children do in the morning if they do not see us fly? – Rumi 

I wanted to write that this rich conversation between artists helped to fortify my soul … but fortification is the problem, isn’t it?

Freedom is a scary, precious thing, calling life to life in all its tender vulnerability.

May we all be brave enough to fly into the face of fear with thundering wing and gentle feather.

 

[The photo is of the sculpture “Harness” by Seamus Moran, as posted to his  Facebook page.  You can also view his work at www.seamusmoran.com. Used with permission.]

 

 

 

the question

reachingSo, God …
If you are not depending on me to save the world,
What then?

If I am not the one who must uphold your honor,
If I am not the one who must proclaim what is true,
If I am not the one who will make all things right,
What good am I?

Funny how it seems I either think that I am God,
Or presume that I must do the work of Jesus.
Either I must tell you how to make (or fix) the world,
Or I must save it.

On second thought, it is not really so funny.
At best it is sad and delusional,
And sets me up for utter failure.
At worst … well …

Jesus, himself, says, ‘No one is good but God.’
Perhaps this is not a differentiation
On a scale of goodness.
(God is good. You are not.)

Perhaps it points to a difference in role.
In fact, all the stories in Luke 18
Might be read as a suggestion of this difference.

The unjust judge grants the woman’s pleas just to stop her pestering.
It is the tax collector, not the Pharisee whose prayer does its work.
It is in becoming like a little child that you enter the kingdom.
The rich young ruler, who has fully obeyed the law, is unwilling to give up his money, his power, and simply follow and rely on God.
Jesus tells the apostles of his coming crucifixion, which they cannot understand.
The blind man begs for sight, and though they try to quiet him, he continues to beg and is blessed.

None of these stories make sense when measured in terms of ‘goodness’ and ‘deserving.’

I must admit that, at first, I was not sure I liked this arrangement.
If it were about deserving, and if I were good enough, I could demand certain actions from God.
Then, after sixty-some years of trying to be good enough, I am slowly recognizing that there really is a better way.

So … What good am I?
Not good enough.
Good thing that’s not what matters.
That’s not even the right question.

When I’m reaching for assurance,
I don’t have to depend on me.

Whew!

[photo by Valerie Everett per cc 2.0]

bullseye

bullseyeThey say that the word for ‘sin’ can be translated as ‘missing the mark.’
But what do you call it when you make a direct hit – on the wrong mark?
What do you call it when you strive for ‘rightness,’ rather than relationship?

What happens when I delude myself into thinking that the way to God,
Is right living, right acting, right believing?
Somehow I miss the insight that the road to rightness takes me far away
From the God who is right here, aching to embrace me, just as I am.

The bullseye of my faith is not doctrinal correctness, but love.
Or, perhaps, it is not a bullseye at all, but a sacred center.
What if I’m not supposed to strike it from afar,
But to lean back into its enfolding?

What if I have been taking aim with a bow made for strict accuracy,
With straight arrows of good intent,
When archery, itself, is not what I am here to learn?

What if I’ve not so much been missing the mark, as missing the point?

[photo by Emily Moe per cc 2.0]

Intersectional natives

 

come togetherI was born into a world of hierarchy, bureaucracy, and linear logic. To get anything done, someone had to be in charge. Things had to be intentionally built under a leader’s direction. The process was carefully controlled. So were the people. You needed ‘strong leaders’ and minions. We had no eyes to see emergence.

But the generation coming to the forefront, now, was born into a very different world. Some call them digital natives, but that term seems to focus on the facility with digital tools rather than on the capacity to imagine the deeper realities that the interconnectedness of the internet and big data have revealed.

It’s not so much a new skill set as a new world view.

Perhaps ‘intersectional natives’ might be an alternative term for those who were born into a world focused on and enlivened by the intersection of cultures, disciplines, ideas, and opportunities. They were born outside the box. Indeed, many were born into a reality that understands that the walls of those boxes where often intentionally fabricated to keep things separate – to emphasize difference.

Now, the essential focus has shifted from categories to connections.

Those of us who are not born intersectional must take care neither to try to stuff them back into our boxes, nor fear that their souls are ‘lost’ because they do not live there. We must, instead, encourage them to hold to the path of love, rather than rules. The rules may shift with the context, but the foundation of love is the essence of life. Love is life’s purpose, its path and its glorious fulfillment.

And, of course, love is about connection.

Indeed, this generation may be the one that can lead us to a better understanding of the Trinity – the reality of a God outside the box. They may help us understand that relationship is the source of reality. It is not about separate ‘persons’ but a bigger, more inclusive ‘one.’

Perhaps this will be the generation that builds bridges rather than walls.

I do hope so.

[photo by Miles Kent per cc 2.0]

no magic

magicThere is no magic.

There is only mystery.

Magic presumes a mastery of the mysterious, where certain incantations will constrain the outcome. But mystery will not be constrained.

That is good news, when mystery is the very heart of goodness.

I want to release myself to the embrace of mystery.  I just don’t know how. So, I keep trying magic. Until I give up my attempts at control, I keep the mystery at bay. Such is my quandary.

I’d pray about it, except that I keep turning prayer into an attempt at magic, an Aladdin’s lamp. Three wishes will be granted for the rubbing.

Just like to me mess up a blessing.

Aauugh!

Why won’t I learn? When you bargain with a loving God, you only cheat yourself.

[photo by Linus Bohman per cc 2.0]