You think you are better than me

tension

You think you are better than me.
Of course, you are not.
But that does not make me better than you, either.

We are one.

Ugh!
That must make you uncomfortable.
It certainly makes me squirm.

Amazingly, that oneness doesn’t make us the same, either.
The mystery is that we are both uniquely a part
Of the universal One.

Like the left hand and the right,
Like the ear and the eye,
Our difference is a gift to the whole.

Indeed, it is that difference that makes it whole.

Until I put away my need to be complete on my own,
I will always be incomplete.
(Why is that always such a surprise?)

[image modified from a photo by Luc Blain per cc 2.0]
[I send apologies to my English teacher friends, lest you think you are better than I (am). Of course, as friends, you would never think that. I just needed to follow the voice of the small child who still runs around on the playground in my head.]

honest encounter

contemplation

So, here is my quandary:
I want to come to you in honest embrace,
But honesty is so hard.
My nakedness is far too embarrassing.
Yet only naked honesty is worthy of your time … or mine.

It is not your mask I desire, but your dear face.
And your touch, not upon a fancied-up painting of myself,
But on my very soul.
I cannot send a proxy to encounter you.
I must come, myself.

And that is my deepest hope and greatest fear.
If I really come, will you embrace?
If you were to turn aside, my soul would die.
Yet, if I do not come … I’ll starve.

Holy one, you can see the mess I’m in.
What shall I do?

Shhh, my little one. Shhh.
I can see the mess, it’s true.
But I have embraced your naked soul from the moment I called it forth.
Never has it left my loving gaze.
Never have I turned away.
Never have I felt disgust or even mild disdain,
For you are precious to me.
Sometimes, though, I must admit, the silly costumes you try on
Can make me shake my head in wonder.

Know this – though the world may object –
You are my creation and bear the imprint of my love.
Relax in my embrace, and even the things within yourself that make you cringe,
Even those … can be redeemed, renewed, and reconciled.
All, all, all can grow luminous in my love –
And in that light, all will seem as a gift.

I do love you.
You, you, very you, I do love.

My love is the very essence of who I am –
the ground of your own creation –
and the undeniable reality of our every encounter.

It cannot be otherwise.

 8 21 13

[photo by Doc List per cc 2.0]

my reflection

reflection

They say I am made in the image of God.
It is true that I do have some beautiful feathers.
There is an iridescence in some of what I bring to the world.

Of course, there is also a strange awkwardness.
The image I present contains only the smallest hint of that Holy Three.
And when I study my own image, even that becomes blurred.

But none of that changes the gift of the creator
Which rests upon my being
And pours itself into the world.

Would that I could celebrate that gift and simply let it flow
Then, perhaps, I could turn my eyes from a static reflection,
Reflecting, instead, on the greater dance of love.

More than my own image is reflected in this pool.
Even looking down, I can see the trees, the sky.
If I look closely, I can see your smile.

[photo used with permission from Mike Bizeau’s beautiful blog – nature has no boss]

Unity with Ourselves

mirror image(A small talk given during Lent 2012 at FUMC Denton)

The focus of tonight’s gathering – my assigned topic – is ‘Unity with Ourselves.’  When I mentioned that to my husband, he laughed.    Isn’t that a given?

Well, for some people, more than others, I think.   Less so for me.

I know too well the mess that sits between my ears . . . and more between my head and heart.

I understand too fully Paul’s dilemma, when he says in Romans 7, “I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.”

Why does that happen? I’m not sure I can answer for Paul, but I have some sense of the seeds of my own predicament. Growing up, I wanted to be the good little girl – and from the outside, I think most folks would say I was . . . That set me up.

The first lie I can remember telling was to my Sunday school teacher. She asked me if I was a ‘daily Bible reader’ that week. I said, ‘yes.’   I told that lie more than once.    Good little girls should be able to say yes to that question, I thought. But, I was not a daily Bible reader most weeks, even though I often managed a few days each week.

Had I been honest – there would have been grace. But I wasn’t looking for grace; I was looking for honor.  I was trying to hold the ‘goodness’ within myself.    That’s not where goodness dwells.

So I began to create a pseudo self. The good girl, the competent one, the righteous one. It reminds me of an essay by Anne Lamott, who talks of her delight that on Halloween we get to see folks as they are – as rascals and heroes and divas and such – instead of all dressed up in the costumes of everyday life – the suits and uniforms that represent the roles we try to play – the power ties and high heels we wear to divert attention from our shaky knees.

You can feel pretty lonely and impotent, trapped behind that everyday cardboard mask. Yet you are afraid to put it down. People might really see you.

Not that they don’t already see you, of course. I’m really the only one fooled by the game. I’m the only one really surprised – and horrified – that I am not perfect – that the good little girl, herself, is a lie. And so I bear my cardboard shield . . . and all it does is keep me hidden from myself.

Well, that’s not actually all it does. It also robs me of the opportunities for grace and connection. By upholding a false sense of my own self-contained wholeness, it keeps me from finding the wholeness that is real – the one that comes through connection – with Christ and with each other.

Paul saw it, too. He says, from the midst of his quandary,

‘Wretched man that I am, who will rescue me?’ and then he answers,

‘Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ, my Lord.’

There is now no condemnation, but deliverance.

No need to stand on my own, but in the spirit.

So, here, during Lent, I find myself before the mirror of God – a mirror that will reflect only the truth.

Join me here, in your imagination, if you will.

We stand before that mirror, and the mask is gone. It’s pretty scary. When we lift our eyes we can see ourselves as we really are – but what we also see – in a way that washes all the fear aside – is the Christ, whose eyes are fixed upon us and filled with deepest love.

The me – the real me – is the one that Christ so loved. There is no ‘good little girl.’ There is, instead, a woman – full of aches and holes – but also gifted. Gifted in just such a way that my part fits with yours. That my words, through grace, might warm your heart and your heart, through grace, might move your hands toward justice – might hold a child, might feed a hungry one, might speak comfort to a friend, might work against the powers that oppress. That your lips might sing out a song of assurance. And when I see your love lived out, it warms my heart in turn, and moves my hands, my lips, as well, and shores up my resolve. There, before the mirror, there is, at last, a wholeness – a wholeness woven through us all by the love and grace of God.

It makes me smile. I don’t really like high heels anyway. Deep down I know that I’d rather be a part of a whole that pulls me into the bigger vision of God, rather than some small complete package on my own – even if that were possible.

So, as we round this corner of the year, as we live the season of Lent, let us look into that mirror. Let us realize that this season is not so much about eliciting some sense of mortification in ourselves – that was already there, behind our masks. It is, instead, about remembering to drop the mask and let the grace of Christ flood in. It’s about embracing the love that makes us part of the greater whole. It’s about the coming power of the resurrection, which, even as it is already here, is growing stronger in us all.

It’s realizing, with Paul, that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ – not even our masks. It’s realizing that the unstoppable power of God is on the rise – and that we are invited to be a part of that whole, wonderful, loving reflection of truth.

[photo by onn aka “Blue” Aldaman per cc 2.0]

my true self

imprint of a leaf on water

My true self –
The self I long to meet

The one where I fit nicely in my own skin
And equally well in my community,
As if we are suited to one another

The one where goodness is not fake
But a natural expression of a maturing soul,
And where continuing growth is the sure future

The one where I can embrace the flawed reality
That is both where I live and who I am,
And still find peace and beauty … and firm hope

The one where I dare to join the dance
That is the world’s becoming,
The very echo and response to the Holy Three.

This is the self you call me to be.
This is the self I will become.
This is the dance of life.

[photo by Karl-Ludwig Poggemann per cc 2.0]

[thanks to Richard Rohr’s daily meditations]

Rainsoaked

rain soaked
The coat my consciousness wears in the rain
Is not really waterproof.
It catches the drops and holds them,
Growing darker,
Melding the edges of what I think I know
With a commentary that can enrich or destroy.

Sometimes the rain beats hard,
Sending pellets of ice into my heart,
Telling me that my words take up more room
Than they deserve.

And I believe it.
In fact, it is often my own thoughts that bring the rain.

The wisdom to know when –
When to amend
And when to keep to my own messy vision –
That wisdom often evades me
And I am left with a simple choice:
Say it anyway or keep quiet.

To say it anyway exposes me to the rain.
It demands that I dance within the storm.
It offers to cleanse me
But the scrubbing often hurts.
And parts of what I say will – should – wash away.
Leaving a fresher insight than before.
That which remains is strengthened.

It may even be that I don’t know what I’ve said
Until it rains.

I look up.
The rain is mixed with tears on my upturned face.
And I reach for my words, once more.
It is all that I can do.

[photo by Special per cc 2.0]

Tthanks to Maria Popova and Anne Lamott for the seeds of this reflection, here.]

On Giving up Guilt for Lent

hands clasped in prayerTwo weeks into Lent and I’m still wondering what to give up.
I’m feeling kind of bad about that.
Maybe, I should just give up guilt for Lent.

Not, of course, that I’ve never done wrong.
Not even that I’m free of wrong right now.
But that the focus on what is wrong with me
Is a bottomless bog. Continue reading