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You speak in my heart and say, "Seek My face." Your face, Lord, will I seek. - Ps 27

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
See, I am setting before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity... choose life.


This morning i woke up early, agitated, and self-castigating for staying up so late talking - for 'dissipating' my energy with talk and for winding up my body before bed.  It was a costly decision, not necessarily chosen with deliberate intention.  However, what strikes me is the moral judgment placed on it as i woke to what i know will be a trying day phsyically.

i notice that yesterday's Ash Wednesday sermon set Lent on a trajectory of considering 'practicing joy' and asked us to consider what we normally practice.  This morning the answer would have to be - judgment, fatalism, regret.

Choose life. I set before you life and death. Choose life

The conversation last night was, itself, important, meandering through various topics of identity and pain with heat, revealing the work of healing still before me to do regarding these topics.

In the conversation, i was overwhelmed with compassion for my family of origin and especially my Mom as i told the story of their immigration, how she erased her accent, the hard load of lost all at once for her right now (empty nest, unexpected retirement, the truth of aging + mortality), the possibility of no biological grandchildren...  i especially saw how race has claimed not just its over costs but also the tarifs of striving for ideals of the colonizing culture (wealth, beauty, youth, title, consumerism, capitalism, 'my' sare of the pie to which i am 'entitled'.) i saw the heaps of unconscious weight the deck we drew as in this culture has loaded on us at each turn: fostering fear, insufficient, self comparison.

I set before you life and death... choose life

i reflect on where the conversation started: race demographics in this country.  i note that the deep wound of race is slowly becoming more conscious in me - especially in its amorphous nature.  And the continguency of identity PofC, the poor, the ill, the elderly must endure: only being relevant or worthy when others say so and once they do say so, not being allowed a private self until those same others have satisfied their current interests...

At the same time, though, i reflect on how the current discourse invites me to define myself by those identities and the fight for their recognition and entitlements.  i.e.: it seeks to keep me on this (fragmented) plane of stiving. Until Black is accepted and poor is helped and weakness supported and honored, i cannot possibly be at peace.  This subtle insinuation invites me to remain fragmented and striving. i do not rest in the unity and sufficiency that is within me because i am always rising up to defend and promote (different facets of) it to 'you.  These are the hidden burdens and landmines to real freedom that i recognize i've inherited from the culture directly and through its long onslaught on my family. Where is joy, peace, or unity in this striving?

I set before you life and death. Choose life.

i see how all this legacy boils down to a rift of strife in one human mother-daughter relationship. As we each labor under our own load of this stuff, our Black on Black, woman on woman, wounded on wounded 'violence' relieves the dominant culture from some of the work of imposing that violence on us. All the while we might just call it interpersonal conflict or about the choices and abuse in the house (though this too came from the burden borne through one poor, Black man's pain...)

I set before you life and death. Choose life.

Finally, for now, i think about the media.  It sets our sights on what is wrong out there and who to blame. It divides at every turn when the nature of the Divine is to integrate to wholeness. God is One. Life is One - refracted like light through the lenses of myriad prisms - still it is One.  We learn from the media to be disgusted. Maybe we should be aghast at some things.  But we are trained to focus all our attention there.  It reminds me of St. Paul's opposing advise in Philipians 4: "Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence [to be found in that person, yourself, the circumstance under which you labor), if there is anything worthy of praise, this on these things."

Well, is that what i've turned my mind to today? Is that what i meditate on? Is that what the voices i choose to listen to invite me to focus on? Did i start this day really stretching to find whatever or anything that may be good, lovely, pure, true in myself, my beloveds, my foes, my president, my present culture, the reality of my circumstances... Am i willing to discipline my mind toward this task this morning? Will i tomorrow? Will i right now?

See, I am setting before you today life and death... Choose Life

I am the Lord; Leviticus 19

We human beings are so fragile.  Though created in the image of God, we feel our vulnerability keenly.  The vulnerability sways our choices; we need anchors to soothe that pain.  We feel the desire that knits us to the Relationship for which we are created; we seek affection to soothe our loneliness.  All this is natural to our state and of no moral freight on its own.

Yet it is also the source of much that gets us in trouble.  We seek after idols – money, sex, knowledge, busyness, distractions, success and worldly outcomes.  Our fearfulness makes us usurious, or perhaps just stingy, or perhaps just blind to the needs and fragility out of which others act.  Our pride makes us inclined to forget the value in others, to speak of them as objects, or as though our works were their Savior and our perceptions their Judge.

In Chapter 19 of Leviticus, we read a collection of commandments designed to help us cultivate holiness.  Of course, any one of us who is honest knows that it is beyond our strength and effort to obey fully.  As we have in the prayer book, O God, because without you we are not able to please you...

And so, nearly as many times as Leviticus 19 gives us a commandment, it also gives us an anchor.

I am the Lord

Except for the first two verses, God does not say because I said so nor because this is what I, the Lord, am like.  God simply says, like a lullaby, I am the Lord.  God gives us a command... and He swaddles us with the strength of His Name.

But in this Name, God says so much: I Am here.  I am All.  I fill the hole and hunger you feel.  I Am, the All-Sufficient One.  Why hoard your gleaning when others are hungry?  I Am, your companionship and love, why take the spouse of your neighbor?  I Am, the All-Powerful, receive my sabbath rest and trust in my provision.

In truth, most of us stumble because we forget the palpable heartbeat of the LORD. Our whole lives are under a commandment to honor the dignity God has given us and our neighbors, so that our very being gives glory the Holy One and points others to the beauty of holiness.  It is an awesome call.  We cannot undertake it until we begin with the consolation God, Himself, offers us: I am the Lord.

Think of the child going to bed in fear of the boogey man or the youth trying to climb the high rope course.  He is afraid and looks to his mother, “I can’t do this.”  She does not say, “You better, because I would.” “You have to, in order to do me honor.” “I won’t believe your love for me, son, if you aren’t brave.”  She says with love, I am your mom, I am with you, I love you.

This is the strength that precedes and enables the work that youngster has ahead of him.

I am the Lord.
I am the Lord.
I am the Lord.

It is my own Nature that will inspire, strengthen, and guide you. Let my Name be your heartbeat; let it be your guiding song.

I am the Lord.  

Meeting Ourselves in this Cultural Moment

And Jesus said, ‘Take care that no one deceives you, because many will come using my name and saying “I am the Christ,” and they will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for this is something that must happen, but the end will not be yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All this is but the beginning of the birthpangs.

Then you will be handed over to be tortured and put to death; and you will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise; they will deceive many, and with the increase of lawlessness, love in most people will grow cold; but anyone who stands firm to the end will be saved.

This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed to the whole world


“Because of the increase of lawlessness love in most people will grow cold…”

For many, the apocalyptic writings of Hebrew and Christian scripture has fallen so far out of favor that we can hardly imagine Jesus saying them. The use of these passages by many to fixate on determining dates, solidify dogmatic stances, and separating sheep from goats has created such jaded distance that we rarely take these passages into our hearts through lectio or other forms of prayer.

This passage has captivated my heart the last several months. Jesus is telling his followers that it is not doctrinal purity or ascetic endurance (either spiritually or in the rigor of self-deployment in the public sphere for the cause of justice) that is at stake. Love is at stake. Those who stand firm in Love will be saved. Rising as a swelling tide above the earthquakes and famines and betrayals will be this good new: love never fails. As at the crucifixion, in the midst of death and chaos, Love alone can reveal the hidden and ultimate reality -these are birthpangs. Love alone can transfigure our hearts from the sting of death in a culture of divisiveness.

There is no doubt that we live during a time of wars and rumors of wars, of earthquakes, and famines,of nation rising against nation. No, it is not such a time uniquely. It does remain to be seen whether we have cultivated enough destructive power for it to be such a time definitively. From the perspective of the wisdom of the Christ, this question seems irrelevant.

It is almost a year since an election that rocked many people's expectations of reality. Bewildering, terrifying, inhumane and ecologically destructive events occur at alarming rates with seeming desensitization. How can one not feel to call to arms and action? To protect our borders or to provide sanctuary for the refugee? To prioritize jobs for one's nearest neighbor or to defend the distant helpless one? Whatever cause and value the times we live in has galvanized within each of us, Christ is still asking an unrelenting question -

How is your love doing? Your own soul depends on your answer. The Good News and hope preserved in the world depends on your answer.

This is a hard and truthful contemplative question for me. It is not a question of my love for the forsaken one who fits my understanding of need. Even the tax collectors love those whose cause they favor. For me it is a question for my heart posture toward the ‘enemy,’ ‘the other side’, the one handing me over… (already in my heart there is a significant NB: those categories, if that is the language proceeding from your heart, already reveals the primary of the dual within you…)

In these months it has been the vitriol from the folks on ‘my side’ of the issues or on the prayer bench next to me that has been most alarming. It tells me that this darkness of betrayal and the selectivity of love is *not* a function of believing the right things about immigrants or borders or economic independence or anything else. It is about the heart, and we all come to this work of contemplative conversion because we seek to be freed from a common illness that has seeped in through acculturation.

Of course, the trouble, we know, is that the wars and rumors of wars, the betrayals, earthquakes and famines are not between nations at all but right down the line of a human heart. It seems that becoming aware of this is a form of awakening.

I see that self-preservation, defense against being slighted, family wounds, a legacy of resentfulness, a law of fairness, the need for better healthcare… all this is at war with love within me. I see that my sense of security and acceptance is quaking against the cost of hoping all things, believing all things, forgiving seven times seventy times. The fledgling infant of Love in me suffers a famine of nourishing models and is malnourished by fear mongering, ideologically reinforcing media and conversation. It's not just the politics; it's in the stereotypes of each person at the office or the dismissive tendency to roll one's as at another. It's in the tightness of my stance when I prepare to encounter certain people or the fearful retreat with others.

At some point the contemplative heart comes to see only just how much she has fallen in her intention from the expansive love of a crucified God. Or, if it is not a fall, she at least sees how far the divide between herself and her fellows and the high hope of our human calling -our human creation and our human evolving. At some point she can only weep bitterly as the cock crows once at the choices her heart and church and nation have made, and the a second time at the bitterness she has watched it justify.

Because of the increase in lawlessness the love of many will grow cold.

She recognizes that the lawlessness does not absolve her, and to follow the teacher to the depth of His heart means to surrender the justified, complacent straying from an intention of love, especially towards the most unlovable - in her own life as well as in the public discourse.

Some choke at the insinuation of affection toward some whose behavior is abhorrent at such seemingly high cost. At each progressive encounter with true darkness and chaos in herself or the public discourse the questions can be very concrete.

Am I patient? Am I kind? Am I self seeking? Am I rude? Am I easily angered?... nope,taking the inventory of another to avoid my own answers to the question just won't do if love is to conquer ALL my strongholds and reveal the Holy One within me.

Who are those few whose love does not grow cold, or perhaps is rekindled? Who are they who become the Good News of the kingdom of mystical hope? Perhaps this is yet another awakening on the contemplative path - when one's heart makes the turn and at the last doesn't seek the demons outside but learns to stand lovingly amid the demons inside. This is a Holy Saturday kind of reckoning when the heart gazes at all the options that have conquered it and still gasps,’Love’ with nothing more than a willing glance toward the tomb of our own creating.

It is then that I am reminded of a second passage that has captivated me, when Jesus calls tenderly to his disciple:

Simon, Simon! Look, the Accuser has got his wish to sift you all like wheat; but I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail and once you have recovered you in your turn must strengthen your fellows.

Indeed, perhaps it is not the contemplative path to be exempt from the bitterness of seeing herself fallen from Love. Rather, it is her path to seek it still,and, when it recovers her in the darkness, then to strengthen her fellows. Perhaps it is the contemplative path simply to become the Good News of how Love conquers the wars, earthquakes,and famines of every human heart,herself the proof.

Love is everlasting; faith, hope, and love remain… but the greatest of these is love.

The Lord Is Risen Indeed? Alleluia?

This year is no different than most others for me. Easter comes and, in its wisdom, the Church bids us "Alleluias!" Nowadays, not even on Easter morning but on the night before. For me, this does not ring true. Frankly, somehow it stuns and even betrays the interior movements of my spirit.

"The Lord is risen indeed," is so triumphant and strident. To me, it can only reference an accomplished (finished) historical act that ultimately negates the pretend of Lent and Passiontide, the Triduum and that most awe-full of days - Holy Saturday - when one knows nothing at all but the darkness, the void of dreams cast in Sheol. If we can say with certainty on Easter morn that the Lord is risen, then we must be speaking of what happened about 2000 years about with the man Jesus, proven so entirely divine. Thus each year's Easter, we ultimately erase the enactment or "faux-amnesia" of Lent. We remember what we pretended not knowing.

I say this because Easter morning was not so triumphal for the disciples themselves.  I maintain that it cannot be so for Christ's disciples who actually walk it with him, even today.

Mary Magdalene, most keen and present of disciples, is weeping in bewilderment at an empty tomb on Easter. She is mistaking her Beloved for a gardener. When all becomes clear, she is told not to cling to him, not to take him to herself yet because his ascent is not yet complete. Apparently he has farther away to go.

Thomas has not even seen him yet.

Some disciples on a road have a dim-witted conversation after which their hearts burn within them with recognition, just as He whom they longed for disappears again.

Peter and [John] have been to the tomb, seen and finally believed. Yet, like all the eleven, they are still hiding in an upper room out of fear. Christ must break in to that fear, just as he broke forth from their death.

Alleluia? Indeed?

Easter is a stark confrontation with something even more shuddering than death - the emptiness of our death: old narratives and well guarded, visited, and memorialized tombs. It is to see that the old stories we have allowed to hold us back (either our stories of fear or of importance) are ultimately vapid. It is to be invited to choose a new life that makes us fully alive, fully ourselves, but in the Life and Mystery of an 'Other'. It it to embrace the whiplash path of risen, not fully, not yet - don't cling, open again, turn againn vulnerable again to the One Who Is, ever drawing us more fully into the Holy God...Life.

This Holy Week, I was blessed to travel with fellow pilgrims on an inward journey. Yes, we knew the events of so long ago. But we consented to travel with Jesus in our hearts.

Blessed are the poor? Blessed are those who mourn?

We consented to allow our own pains, losses, and tender trampled shoots of sprouting hopes to come to the surface. At the beginning of the week we anointed each other with myrrh (a burial spice) to walk Christ's road of surrender and affacement within the contours of our own lives. We held those lives alert in our heart with their wounds and longings and these were washed by him in love and a new commandment on Maundy Thursday.

Then we let go, dared really to imagine what we sometimes fear (or else so often anaesthatize) - we let our dreams die with him, into the dark void of the Father's Mystery. Our very selves came in to Christ as he walked that week.

For me, the circumstances of the week this year were such that the transference or transfiguration of my life in to that of Christ's and my assent to give him my self freely for his descent into love, happened most explicitly on Maundy Thursday in the midst of an Agape Meal and footwashing followed by Cynthia Bourgeault's Liturgy of the Garden. This could not be a remembrance only, or an enactment for the cathartic release at the end of a harrowing week. All of me must go with all of him.

But the thing is, we annointed each other, with myrrh, again on Easter morning as we sent each other out into the world.

For me it was probably just as well.  The week after Easter was one of the most terrifying weeks physically that I've had in a long time and also one filled with a lot of hard reckoning about living into the charge I felt in my heart.  Thoughts about my imminent need to move again... Job security...  But this is what Easter is about.  How does new life break in to our brokennes?  The seed has fallen, and the earth of our lives claims to accept it and live by it, alone.  So, what does that mean when despair creeps in, or the traumatic shock memories of the nights before, or the longing to cling to what was, in all its beauty and wonder and excitement...

Every year when Easter comes, it is not just the man Jesus we are celebrating arisen. It is the mystery of our own consent to die... and, if we are honest, the reckoning of what next. What is life if I truly have picked up these things in order to let them go, fall into the ground to bear God's fruit.

No, for me it is not time, not yet, for "The Lord is Risen." Not if Lent, Passiontide, and the Triduum have been true for me and I have been faithful to them, really allowing the Christ to have my life in which to incarnate even this part of his Mysterious life and mission - Death.

Right now, I am not ready for Alleluia. Perhaps not until Pentecost when the Spirit who will not leave us orphaned comes. Or at least not until Ascension when Jesus does rise fully to the Father, and my fragile yearnings with him.  But life is what it is, its own timeless mystery.  Perhaps not even then.

Eastertide: right now, what I can say this year with honesty and fervent faith (for that is all it is in these nascent days) is, "The Christ is rising, indeed." In allegiance to the promise of life that Holy Sophia in Her Wisdom attests, I may even add to that conviction - the faith, hope and love of an "Alleluia."

It is Eastertide. For those of us who would let Jesus walk into the tombs of our wastes and sorrows, or the ultimate dissatisfaction of our small (or large) dreams of the present, a real tide is rising. We still has more to which to be present. More must wash over us, wash through us, and bring us to fullness of life in the Father.

We are invited, even implored, by the story itself, NOT to put a period at the end of Easter day but to continue to let the truth of the season grow and transform us.

The Christ is rising, indeed. Alleluia.

Domestication - The Befriending of a Soul

My LIttle Prince, could it be
that you, as with the fox, by patient passes
have at long last tamed me?

Or perhaps it is I,
despite thorns and needs
and insecurities which, to Love, still refuse to heed
who have tamed you...
by the sweet nectar of purity
from the depths of a tight bud
arising from the good watering and sunshine and soil
Sweet Prince, of your own Love

Oh Prince!
your thorn pricked hand caresses,
my eternal Captive, always redresses,
just to hear my soul's wild "yesses"

Sweet Prince, we're both undone.

- from March 5, 2015

Tags:

Invitation

Take Off Your Shoes

Take off your shoes,
In fact, remove all your coverings –
The cloak of achievement, adornments of knowledge,
             Every false veil of ‘self’.
For the place you stand is holy ground.
Here is where I will burn away all that is not real.
Here is where you remain aflame with my Spirit’s fire.


Take off your shoes,
Yes, all your coverings.
For here you have found the baptismal fount.
You may not enter this sanctuary other than naked,
            Vulnerable
                        Exposed.
Available.
Then will I wash you and you will find your part with me.
Then clean and pure, will you abide as a beacon of my Light.


Like the bush you will not be consumed.
For this soul of yours is holy ground.
And see? You will not, naked, drown.
For by my presence, from your very soul
Has flowed springs of living water.


Bare yourself and come near.
In your soul you will find me:
      A fire’s power,
      A cleansing stream.
      A perfect refuge,
      An endless union,
      A boundless bliss,
Unknowable Revelation, Unshakable Peace.


Here I wait, for you to arrive,
But first you must take off your shoes.

- From April 2012

A Reflection on John 5:41-51

St. Cyrian of Carthage, writes on the Lord’s Prayer as follows:

“We ask and say, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ And this may be understood both spiritually and literally, because, in the divine plan, both readings are helpful for salvation. For Christ is the bread of life; now this is not everyone’s bread, but it is ours. And according as we say, Our Father, because He is the Father of those who understand and believe; so also we call it our bread, because Christ is the bread of those who are in union with His body. And we ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ, and  receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation, may not, by the interposition of some sin, be separated from Christ's body… [Christ says:] I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If any man eat of my bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world. … And therefore we ask that our bread— that is, Christ— may be given to us daily.”


I don’t think there is any magic in the Eucharist, neither any direct one to one exchange – an equation that looks the same every time.  However, I do believe there is real nourishment in equal measure to the genuine hunger and thirst, as well as genuine belief, that one brings to it.  John presents us in today’s Gospel with people who have believed in something for a long time, and waited for it, and yet, when confronted with it, find themselves quibbling, testing, complaining, “How could this be? We know this person.  I expected it another way…”
 

I think Jesus, through John’s Gospel, chastises complaining so fervently because it has a double effect.  It dissipates our hunger and thirst with a certain self-satisfied righteousness akin to “I know how it could be done better.”  Real hunger is an infinite force and a humbling one.  It drains energy from what is not essential (like our thoughts of how we ought/want to be fed) to what is essential – an awakening awareness of the deepest need of our body and heart.  As hunger and thirst deepen, they become like a pulley letting the bucket down into the well of living water.  By contrast, when we complain, we raise the pulley up empty, diverting its potential to show us that for which we really yearn.

In addition, complaining is opposed, in some ways, to believing.  I don’t mean the kind of wrestling with God that says, “How long, O Lord?” or “I will not let you go without a blessing.” However, when we look around us with defeatism, anxiety, and complaint, when we hesitate to embrace hope because the facts make it just too far from conceivable, we are also acknowledging that our imagination is drawn more by the brokenness that our dim vision sees around us, than by the call of the Father to something beyond us.  Jesus says that when we are drawn by the Father, that is to say that when our hunger, intact and undefended, not resisted or dissipated is truly set on some unspeakable conviction beyond ourselves… perhaps beyond our time… perhaps beyond our doing… then we will come to him and find in him the bread of life.

Cyrian reminds us that in the Lord’s prayer we ask this bread daily.  Just as at the Eucharistic table we stretch out our hands like hungry beggars for the body of Christ, so we are invited each moment of each day to stretch out our hearts in faith like hungry beggars in belief and receive the abundant life that comes from hungering with expectation and trust for Christ’s presence among us to meet our need.

Today an opportunity will come to complain – perhaps a juicy and justifiable one.  In that moment, let that perceived injustice draw you inward.  Don’t broadcast it, but ask of it, “For what am I hungry? For what do I thirst?”  Then, lifting your heart to God, extend the hands of your faith, and receive from him Hope, Peace, Patience, Surrender, Confidence, Joy… that is to say, receive your daily bread.







I long for something that speaks truth of hunger
Not of dainty and pretty things
I do not want to hear the words of one who can make dying of thirst sound beautiful, whistful, deep

Give me the word penned in chaos
Or estatic frenzy
Or empty defeat
Or futile defiance
Or slavery's mysterious freedom,
should one called to
- O! let us be honest and say, 'caught in' -
such snares endure to glimpse the riches possible on the other side of the terror of being used

I need a word searching
Stretching
Pressing forward

A word bending
Buckling
Being rolled out into the earth
Like a river of mud reshaping the desert with great,
Enveloping,
Suffocating deposits of silt after a monsoon

A word mute,
Choked,
Blanketed in snow
Squating on cardboard
Smelling of this world's filth
And evoking pity to
Hearts still too loud and self possesed -
   or do I mean too self obsessed,
      or pitiably, hearts too self repressed -
To fall to their knees and cry,
"Holy!"

To stay with this wreckage honestly
Is Silence too

The Silence of self
Of comfort
Of congratulatory meaning making
Or the adulations in the room for that turn of phrase
That somehow makes a woman giving birth
-Even if to the infinite-
Something less raw and true than
The tear of flesh, the flow of blood, of waste,
and the abandonment of everything that came before

Such effacement,
Undomesticated
Wild
Gruesume
Like black lives that DON'T matter
AND dead beggars unnoticed as they disappear from the landscape of our hastening about
AND the whisper of death, taunting in the flesh of the young, by pain that offers no prognosis of relief

This too is the Silence that bears,
Gives suck,
Delights,
Sets free
The Word

Sometimes it is the Word
alone
That comes to bear,
brings to bear,
is born and can be borne
In these wild alleyways of Silence, so deep
That never get the dignity of a contented "mmm"
or bidden an eager reprise
In the poetics of contemplation

Give me this Word
Or else stand with me trembling but unflinching
before its unrelenting truth.
For here, what the hell else is there to see but
'I Am.'
When all else has crumbled at Her feet

John 7:37-52

During Lent I have the gift of being able to offer a reflection twice a week during Morning Prayer at my church, little mini homilies, as it were.  Below is one on the above passage.  That Sunday we had heard a powerful sermon by our Black female Bishop about the Samaritan woman and the real call to us now, the fear she feels for herself and others now... etc.  It is that sermon referenced below...

It is interest for me to reflect on how John Chrysostom received these words and how they vibrate today and to recognize in this a Spirit moving us forward into what we Are, Becoming.

Holy Lent.

---

St. John Chrysostom reflected as follows on the passage we just heard:
“They who come to the divine preaching and give heed to the faith, must manifest the desire of thirsty people for water, and kindle in themselves a similar longing… For as thirsty men, when they have taken a bowl, eagerly drain it and then desist, so too they who hear the divine oracles if they receive them thirsting, will never be weary until they have drunk them up… Here Christ says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink” as if to say, "I draw no one to Me by necessity and constraint; but if any has great zeal, if any is inflamed with desire, I will call that person.”….

He adds, "He that believes in Me, as the Scripture says, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water."….that is to say, "he shall possess much grace". He calls that "living" which is always working; for the grace of the Spirit, when it has entered into the mind and has been established, springs up more than any fountain.  It never fails, never becomes empty, never ceases.”

I would add just two brief associations to John Chrysostom’s reflections above.  First, I cannot help but think of the Samaritan woman at the well from Sunday’s long Gospel.  It is worth reading that whole passage again because it opens many angles of meaning and tender invitation from God when one persists with it earnestly thirsting.  Bishop Gail reflected on the depth of that thirst and the despair of it, seeking to fill it even at the heat of day, through hard labor, and in isolation.  Jesus tells the outcast, beleaguered woman, “The water that I will give will become in [you] a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 

So much of John’s Gospel is about Jesus really pushing people to ask themselves, “What do I seek?”… to ask honestly, repeatedly, to see whether their life really speaks to this desire, to change the places where it doesn’t.  As we do this, slowly, we begin to discover that God’s life of grace and the presence of the Holy Spirit is constantly within us – we no longer need to dig around outside us for it.  We find it welling up inside, for we were made in God’s image and we are kept in God’s love.

But I want to add the reciprocal image as well.  This passage draws my awareness not only to the woman of Samaria but to Jesus himself on the Cross when he says: I thirst.  Many have recognized in these words not just physical thirst but spiritual thirst – and not just for the Father but actually for all of us.  That thirst shaped Jesus’ life, and it hallowed his death so that it could be a freely given wellspring of water joining us to God. 

Can we imagine how much God thirsted for us, whom he saw in his ‘mind’s eye’ before time began? A thirst so powerful that we were created, and sustained, a thirst so powerful that we were sought and cherished.  And thirst so powerful that it never leaves us alone in the wilderness.  This is God’s nature – to thirst for each soul.  And this is our call – to let that same thirst well up in us as we believe and embrace the wondrous truth of God’s active and present desire in this moment for us all.  And that is the ministry and gift of Jesus, to unite that divine thirst with our own human thirst, satisfying each with the other, in himself.  We who would be his disciples, are invited, like him, to let the Spirit make us wells quenching the loving longing of our Creator and the parched need of our fellows on this earth.  Amen.

An Honest Gaze

Suddenly I am certain none of it can be trusted
   --- the certainty ---
The "God so loved" and
the Deep knowing of the silent God within
The revelations that came through white men
Having climbed their ladders and mountains
And clothed themselves in the splendor of the taboric light like a cloak.

What woman, black, commodified
Ever had the option of wrapping herself in anything like a cloak?
Legs splayed, heart torn,
Story bandied about by any agenda
  --- to oppress or to soothe liberal egos ---
What part has she with this God?
What story can she tell?

That you allure her into wilderness
That you are a fire shut up in her bones
That you create the lineage of a Savior by a woman who gleans,
... and 'lays at the feet' of the land owner.
Thank God he was a noble man.

Thank God!

Thank God?!?

This Night that has enveloped my awareness is as dark as her skin
Dark but lovely
Working in her brothers' fields,
or was it her massa's

How can this story in stone and light,
Chant and stillness,
Be trusted without contemplating long,
In aghast gaze
at the greusume, incarnate image of woman, dark, lovely?

There is only you to trust,
Beloved, crucified,
Enfleshed, scourged
Dripping the blood of God's own tears
from the ducts of eternity's long gaze upon
the scourging of whole peoples
but really, it was enough that your gaze contemplated long, unflinching
the raping of just one woman
the shooting of just one nigger
the rejection of just one muslim
the suicide of just one fag
the starving madness of just one hobo

To gaze upon you
Whose gaze is still so long, so deep, so loving, so patient so true
That it became a body
A body tender enough to be heaven's cry
A cried that wailed blood
A blood that washed the blindness
And let me gaze at darkness as at light.

This holy terror.
I begin to trust.
This gaze that blurs the distinction
  me, them
  us, you
This gaze alone begins to speak salvation
Disabused of any answer shallow enough to draw away that rugged gaze

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Looking Up to Resurrection

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and annout him.  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  They ad been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrace of the tomb?" When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.... so they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. --Mark 16:1-8, selected verses

Actually these are some of my favorite verses of the resurrection and I know them well.  Yet what I discover newly in them today is that in the verses just before these, it is written that Joseph of Arimathea had rolled the stone against the door of the tomb, seemingly by himself AND that these women had seen him do it.  So, then, why should three women be in doubt that they could together accomplish the reverse task?

It does make me wonder about how fear, social expectations (I'm just a woman after all, for example, or I have no right to speak this way, resist this way, play and delight in this way...), self-pity, and grief can make an obstacle seem much bigger than it is.  I know that feeling of being bowed down by these crippling afflictions so much that I am unable to see that the obstacle is not only 'not as big' as my imagination had made it.  In fact, it is no longer there.

Resurrection does require some looking up.  It doesn't come in an instant.  Nor is its first movement joy or even discovering an empty tomb or going into it.  It is when one realizes that at this moment, some buckling weight of sorrow has lifted from her shoulders just enough to look up, to be able to confront reality as it is now - not as it was in its last terror, nor how it may be in her worst imagining.  And, looking up, to receive for a fleeting movement the grace of hope that allows one to walk into the dark center of her woundedness and find a new awesome terror: bidden by the absence of the death she expected to find within her, me must flow out, seeking the life that was always there.

Feb. 12th, 2017

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. - Mark 5:21-22, from the Sunday RCL

When I was working as a chaplain and spiritual formation teacher with immigrant, lower middle class Catholic (primarily) girls in Lawrence some years back, I remember teaching on the 10 commandments.  I asked them, when we came to murder, "So what do you think God is saying here?  Would any of you murder? (Mind you, some of their older siblings were affiliated in ways that didn't make this a guaranteed answer but, the general expectation would have been, "No.")"  Then I asked, "So how is it relevant to us, these commandments?  Do you think that pushing someone or punching someone in the hall is of the same kind as murder even if not the same magnitude?  What about calling that person you hate a 'fag' or mocking someone and verbal/relational bullying?"  By and large, the girls did not see these as the same as the vice to which the commandment was addressed and this was a great sorrow to me and frustration.

This was the Gospel today, and I don't think it needs any commentary at all.  I do regret, when I look back, that I didn't have the presence of attention to my work at the time with those girls to put this gospel in dialogue with the commandments right then and there.  I don't reckon I would make the same mistake again.  And I reckon that the one who has taken my life asks exactly that in these words.  There is a self-righteousness unbefitting of one who is on the ongoing spiritual journey of looking at the one who is committing murder and thinking - 'how could they? do they not know the commandments?' when our words are a kind of murder again the hope of God's ungoing process in our brother... or sister...  When we have murdered the hope in change and conversion for a brother, and the contrite and heartbreaking desire for a brother's conversion by our own allegiance to what eyes can see...  How can I do better?  How can my integrity grow?  How can the cammandment that some others may not even abide at the most base level, nonetheless seep more deeply into my flesh and bones in how I view even the most vile of my brothers to me?

I am likely the very last person in the 1st world to have viewed this but it does speak to me:

Van Jones at the Women's March

His keynote to Netroots Nation while Obama was still in office also speaks volumes to me.

His words are a challenge - one based in a clearly poised expectation that action is necessary, sometimes and somehow fierce action, but our allegiance to that and our vigilance about its place in our hearts must be clear.  His keynote makes me think a good deal about the role of right action in the face of what looks outwardly like evil to all one holds dear.  His recognition in that speech that such was the same 8 years ago for those who lost the 2008 election helps me trust the sobriety of his respect for people with whom he so clearly is in disagreement.

They can also speak for themselves.  They inform my prayer, as I feel called to do.  I pray they will inform the quality of our speech, as some will feel called to do and of our actions.

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

That old sermon from Matthew's Gospel has an awful lot of fresh demands on us today, it seems to me.

A little child

There is a new little child in my life.

I love this child for any number of reasons.  But, I especially love the way he is a little revelation of God and of our relationship to the Holy, through incarnation, creation.

The other day I watched him stare at flame in the fireplace  I watched him watch snow.  I watched him smile at his mom and dad, and me, and anything.  I watched him cry with abandon in his parents' arms.  Freely he let his need flow into their love, utterly unconscious of the opinion of anyone else around.

Yet, what I really enjoyed watching was how we all were with him.  We were thrilled when he farted or burped or sneezed.  We were happy for his relief and amused, gracious, softened by his self-forgetfulness.  We were lighter people ourselves.  Patient people.  We passed him around.  We held him close.  When he was ready to pretend to walk we held him up but gave him space to explore.  Love clinged to him stetched to give him room, tended to his most visceral needs, stopped even the most engaging conversation to be enfolded in his gaze, to mimic it, to let him now he is of importance and beauty.

This creature in the flesh helped me see the spontaneity we are called to in the Divine, the vulnerability with which the Divine deigns to depend on us to grown in a manifest way in the world.

He also helped me to recognize in myself, the image and likeness of a Loving Presence.  He invites me to ask - if this is how God seeks to love me, what is it in my that resists?  Why do I hold my legs so stiff when if I would just let life bicycle them back and forth, I'd have the most relieving fart.  (You know, not everything is an analogy.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar! :-)  Man I covet some of what babies can get away with!

My point, though, really, is that there is something beautiful about just letting oneself feel joy.  There is something equally amazing about just being yourself and watching that beauty elicit joy and love and beauty.

When one is with a baby and feels what that evokes in her, it is not possible to deny that it is love that makes a thing beautiful, not beauty that evokes love.

Man that baby inspires me to be love and, when that happens, my eyes sparkle with the beautiful of the world.

Thank you, baby!  And to all innocents in the world who fill the heart with its native love, thanks!

A bird's dawn

I am gratreful to receive this quote this morning:

“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”
-  Source:  Indian Poet and Philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore

I confess that I am grieved, and almost at the point of disgust with the media.  I am reading the Times more now than I ever have.  That's still not saying much.  But it is enough to notice two things:

1) This is a disturbing time we are living in with many of the things I've taken for granted or come to depend on being at risk.

2) Those who share this perspective are themselves at risk and that this view is so unfavorable as to be drowned and costly to express.

Tell me, are quotes like these satisfying to you?

"Now the words that fall from Trump’s pursed lips or, often misspelled, onto his Twitter feed are trite or false or meaningless. He’s angry with Nordstrom, for heaven’s sake, because the department store chain dropped his daughter Ivanka’s clothing line!"

"What do those too shiny, badly knotted, adhesive-buttressed neckties say about the president?" (This one is on an op-ed piece, IN THE TIMES, about how much the way the President knots his ties conveys about his absurdity.)

Or better yet, look through the images in the Times of Mr Trump and his aides, officials, etc.  How many can you find that aren't cast contemptuously, with an air of 'dumb' or 'vain'.  How many of them show him warmly with his family or just looking like a normal human being?  Do you real believe that the only expression on his face ever is contempt, vainglory, and baffoonery?

Or better yet, notice how much of the Times' reporting now includes language like "may" or "could" forecasting doomsday possibilities and projections that are not based in what has yet happened, spinning the worst and finding anyone to express their fear about it.  Notice, too, how much of their reporting has moved to the op-ed section, so as to allow more latitude for this kind of speculative journalism.

I was fascinated by an article that was meant to show how damaging the immigration policies would be.  It was one of the most morally condemning articles I'd ever read because it was from the view of White American farmers wo didn't want to lose their cheap, illegal labor that they would never be able to replace above board with American workers.  I feel like 8 months ago, that demographic (those agro-farmers) would not have been seen as the poor victims of an administration but the violators of human rights and equality for their migrant workers.  Wow, how we can change any fact "alternative" or regular, to spin any point.

My grief is not just at the media.  It is just as much at our willingness to be moved in that direction.

I can only keep saying what I have already said: there is no win in devolving my standards.  What it means to be a noble human being hasn't changed just because some in our leadership so flagrantly act otherwise.  I say flagrantly because it is absurd to think that it has not been so for a long time.

For me faith is not about a moral high ground or believing the right things - about God, Christ, salvation, or politics.  It is about an inner transformation that can feel what it cannot see.    This is where the bird speaks to me.

Every day, every single day, I find myself asking, for each of us with corporate contrition, but through the examination of my own heart: To what am I singing: the darkness I see or the Light I feel?  Surely one feels the light from within and that is what sings to greet the darkness that would come from without.  That nobility is what changes the world, I think.  Once we all devolve to the same level - fighting darkness with darkness - well, who will sing for the dawn?

As the psalmist writes (actually, it was in this morning's lectionary I am now recalling) "My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed.  I will sing, and make melody.  Awake my spirit, awake lute and harp.  I, myself, will awake the dawn.  I will confess you among the peoples, for your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds."

Nice poetry. What could these words actually mean in real life.  For me they mean that though I can look and one person and imagine my world has been consumed by darkness, yet, my inmost being will not stop outwardly singing for the Dawn, singing to the Dawn, singing in the feeling of the Dawn.

-----
A friend wrote something most humbling to me about how they felt called to pray for the President but they could not be light prayers for protection as for the last administration.  They had to be prayers for conversion and awakening and desire for something greater than himself.  What humbled me was that the friend said with full earnestness that feeling called to pray this prayers was convicting because they knew they could not pray something for another that they were not prepared to pray and be changed in themselves.  It reminds me of the story of Ghandi being beseeched by a mother who had walked miles with her son, "Tell my son to stop eating sugar."  Ghandi thinks about it, tells her to go away and come back again in two weeks.  She does all this and he says to the son, "Stop eating sugar."  She wants to know why he couldn't say that two weeks prior and saved her 100 miles walking.  His response, "I could not tell him to do it until I had done it myself."  So my friend was modeling to me.

Well, these last three years I've also been in my own darkness.  I've never been so afraid and crippled by the experience of my body.  I've never been so bewildered by the shame of perceived failure and of the loneliness of being who I am.

As I read with concern and pray that those who are of faith, may be of a transforming and transfiguring faith - people who live in hope, singing to hope, not croning in harmony with what we perceive in our leaders.... well, I have had to start with myself.  Where are the dark places in my experience right now where I cannot imagine hope?  Where are the places that I let drawn me into negativity, despair, apathy, contemptr, brutality (to self more often then other, but that is more about disposition than anything; brutality toward anything - inward or out seems to me to be a vice...)?  These I must sing into, with hope, with faith, in tender love.  Then I am in a position to pray in freedom that we e a people of hope, not gloom and panic and despair, as we face the world stage around us.

Reclaiming Being

Have you noticed that when people ask, in our culture, "What do you do?" The response is, "I am a..."

The solicitation of information about roles - work, in fact - in our language has no way of being addressed succinctly except by claiming (for the moment) that work as one's identity.

I wonder for how many people that is actually true... even those who work in fulfilling positions to which they felt called.

This has been a personal wound for me, I recognize, as I struggle with having no satisfying answer to that question.  None that satisfies the expectations of my education or those of the people asking, and, frankly, none that yet satisfies my own inner sense of purpose, call, and becoming.

Perhaps there is a subtle assault on one's being, one's inviolable personhood, in this was of speaking.  I wonder if there are other ways of speaking about the matter in other cultures.

However, the same would also be true when we say, "I am depressed." "I am poor." and so on.

The wonder of YHWH is that such was a God who identified as nothing but being and becoming - with the full integrity and inviolability of that.  Also, with the full potentiality and unconfined possibilities of that.

We humans need to identify with things to provide structure and boundaries in which to live and frame our becoming.  However, there is an invitation in faith to hold these identifications more lightly over time.  To identify ultimately with nothing... much... and to receive, in that undoing the full potentiality and integrity that is the Most Holy.

Once I met someone from Italy who didn't speak about the language involved in this exchange.  However, when I asked him what he did (actually, I asked what occupies his time, as I have come to find the question of 'job title' almost entirely superfluous to actually knowing anything about a person...) he simply mentioned that we Americans are awfully preoccupied with occupation and what one 'does'.  I agreed.

Of course, being awfully identified with what we do and our occupation also leaves us vulnerable to being overly identified and swayed in our inner being by what our President is doing, or our spouses, or our housemates... Overly identified with how we are feeling...  And perhaps even uproots the possible seed of contentment with which we came into the world.  We find our activism wanting, we recognize we are not doing enoug for our family or for the homeless or for our self-care.

Somehow, perhaps, all of this, all of this cuts so far down into the core of our being exactly because we unconsciously associate that sentence "I am..." with the unspoken question (or accusation), "I do..." and because we assume that without an object, the sentence is not complete.

But just for today give it a try, again.

I am.