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]

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]

A L on liberty

Abraham Lincoln

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name — liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names — liberty and tyranny.

— Abraham Lincoln

The tyranny of self, of course, leads to the tyranny of others.
When self rules – at least the self that wants it all –
There is no freedom.

Once again the mystery –
Giving is receiving.
An open hand liberates.

[photo by Thomas Hawk per cc 2.0]

Attempt at a Creed

faith's small boatI believe that God is love, that love is the path and goal,
That Jesus brought it close and made it more clearly visible,
That the Holy Spirit stirs it up within us and among us,
That community is the place it is practiced and grown,
That it is stronger than hate and stronger than death.

Circa 2011

[image by Joe 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]

a monopoly on reality?

monopoly gameI am the small tin dog in the Monopoly game, caught in the circuit of the board. Pass go, collect $200, buy a house, market and trade, weather the bad cards, revel in the good ones and then… go to jail. I sit for a moment concentrating on the board in front of me when suddenly the “jail corner” grows to envelope the whole board. There is noting there but jail.

I turn and trot on my little tin legs to the edge of the playing surface and, without warning, I jump. I tumble through the air off the edge of the board, off the edge of the table, falling into nothingness. Panic strikes my heart – maybe the game is all there is. Maybe I am wrong to believe that truth lies elsewhere.

But just as these thoughts enter my head, I am caught in a strong wind. It whips around me at first, tossing me with its turbulent edges. But when I find the middle, there is calm. I sit within the movement of its powerful direction, and because I move within it, it seems almost still, like the calm of a sailboat catching the wind and pulling forward. The waves slap and the sail billows, but the riders who follow the wind are not buffeted by its power.

The wind carries me along like this for a good distance, high above the surface of a country I cannot identify, high above the trees and cities, over wisps of cloud that sit below me as I move on the current of the higher air. Then I am deposited on a hillside. I shake my tinny legs and roll in the grass for a moment and then lie, panting with excitement, on the grassy slope.

I am met there by a child. He wears a sweater and some woolen shorts. He walks over to me and sits beside me and places his hand upon my tin body. As he does, beginning where his hand touches me, I slowly turn from tin to flesh and bones. The doggy colors of my new coat melt over me, almost anoint me as they replace the coldness of the metal that I was before. I lick his hand with a warm, wet tongue and he smiles and wipes his hand upon his shorts.

“I’m glad you came,” he says, and rises. He begins to walk toward the crest of the hill. I follow. As we reach the top, I can see, spread before me, a whole countryside of fields and forests, with a small town nestled at the edge of the woods. Scattered among the houses in the village, there are a few red plastic houses from the Monopoly set, full size but just as empty as they are in the game. They boy smiles at them when he sees where I have fixed my gaze.

“When they no longer choose to be empty, they will be transformed as well. It seems an easy choice, but it is not.”

“I know.” As I speak the words, I am no longer a dog. I am a child about the same size as the boy. He reaches out and takes my hand.

“I think we are ready to begin,” he says and he turns and walks with me on a path toward the village.

4 14 95

[photo by Barbara Friedman per cc 2.0]

truth’s salve

Leonard Cohen

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.  – Anthem: Leonard Cohen

Truth for my soul:
There is no perfect offering
In my hands,
Or in yours.

May the crack in my soul, in my nation,
Give room for light
That we may come like refugees
Into your love.

Thank you, Mr. Cohen.

[photo by gaët  per cc 2.0]