Sunday, August 31, 2014

Resting up high like this clears my vision

You are the LORD; do not withhold your compassion from me; let Your love and Your faithfulness keep me safe for ever,
Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see. Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear. Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand. So shall I turn to You and be healed.
So, one never knows who seeing eyes may notice. I pretty much thought this around-the-golf-course stroll was going to be about me snuggling in closer to the heartbeat of Jesus, the Rabbi. But it wasn’t. Well, kind of not.
The essence of sin lies in the enormity of our self-centeredness. –Brennan Manning
And as I wandered through the beauty of quaking sun-filled leaves and a lazy hawk circling over million-dollar mansions, what I heard was cry for compassion. A cry of brokenness from somewhere close, but not so close. Somewhere over there.
And Chris our pastor is doing a series on why we belong to Church. But he has not even begun to touch on the hands and feet of it all. The walking where Jesus walked among the broken and aching and the crying. And the reaching out and touching in His name.
Because one of the lessons I learned on El Camino was in reaching out and healing, I was healed. And I didn’t even notice the exact moment when the riveting pain was lifted because my eyes were off of me and looking at His children. And my ears were attune to His sweet voice. And what I do understand is that it is pretty simple: Follow Me. 
Turn and follow me, and you will be healed.
And suddenly, the repeating refrain from last night’s vespers are clear, when earlier I pretty much just momentarily puzzled and pushed it aside: Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before You, and by your great might spare those who are condemned to die.
May I draw close to the prisoners’ sighs in Your name. And by Your great might may they be spared and enter into Your compassionate love and faithfulness.
Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening.
Free, free indeed.
…one day you realized that what you wanted
had already happened, and long ago and in the dwelling place
in which you lived before you began,
and that every step along the way, you had carried
the heart and the mind and the promise,
that first set you off and then drew you on, and that
you were more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach...

Excerpt from ‘Santiago’
From Pilgrim: Poems by David Whyte

Friday, August 29, 2014

A single Bright Morning Star

You strengthen me more and more; you enfold and comfort me. Psalm 71:24

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent. The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes. Psalm 19:7-8

What is true, that is the word of the LORD. The Word. And seeing life from the comfort of His bosom changes everything.

The love of God is not a mild benevolence but it is a consuming fire. Bede Griffeths

God’s love is not conditional. We cannot do anything to deserve God’s love–for which reason it is called grace and we need not do anything to provoke it. It is already there. Any love that is going to be salvific must be of this type–absolutely unconditional and free. Beatrice Bruteau

In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself, not holding men’s faults against them. 2 Corinthians 5:19

God reconciled all things, everything in heaven and everything in earth, when He made peace by His death on the cross. Colossians 1:20

When God comes streaming into our lives in the power of His Word, all He asks is that we be stunned and surprised, let our mouths hang open, and begin to breathe deeply. –Brennan Manning

And my withered in-the-heat-of-a-summer-day soul has been denched. That is what perfect means, It is done. Nothing else needs to be striven or struggled. And the water of life soaks in deeply, reaching down to my core. And I can lift up and rest. It is well with my soul.

And I am settled in His love. That is enough. I am Abba’s Child, innocent and cared for. His wisdom is gentle and good, whispered sweetly.  The voices have been silenced.

And as promised in the dusty desert of Cuernavaca, the injustice has been righted. Been righted in my understanding, I have repented, been given a new mind. I clearly know that very injustice was nailed onto that cross of Golgotha. It is finished. And in this new mind a great song of joy wells up from deep within my heart. I imagine that it is still out of tune, but Bless the LORD oh my soul soars up into the single morning star dawn.

And that truth is light onto my path. And seeing clearly, instead of stumbling along an unknown path is so reviving. Wow. I can keep going. Not that I know what lies around the corner, but at least I am not getting whacked unexpectedly at every turn so that I develop this weird ugly sort of wincing and ducking step. I can walk with a lilt to my step. A bounce. And that is who I am. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

...and sometimes its just twinkly lights wrapped around the palm tree

The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus. . . . He leaned back on Jesus’ breast. John 13:25

This morning the joy of yesterday has dissipated into thin air, and has been replaced by a deep sorrow that I cannot seem to shake. The rather ordinary words of yesterday stare me in the heart with empty ordinariness, and have formed the brittle plastic shell of platitudes.

Dear Jesus. Be my comfort.


And well, at last I noticed, with a little prodding from Kathie.  Your hands and feet stepped in and comforted me all day long, from a boss’s gracious generosity to a coworker’s stepping in to fill the gap to the heartfelt kindness poured onto my head by so many smiling students, you were present. And Everette popped raspberries onto her finger before biting them off in joy and Shaun fed the found kitten milk and bread and momma brought me iced coffee again and again and a yet another sweet note from my sister and my dear friends showed up once again on my doorstep with food and laughter and wise prayers.

Brennan Manning: If our faith is alive and luminous, we will be alert to moments, events, and occasions when the power of resurrection is brought to bear on our lives. Self-absorbed and inattentive, we fail to notice the subtle ways in which Jesus is snagging our attention.

William Barry: We must school ourselves to pay attention to our experience of life in order to discern the touch of God or what Peter Berger calls the rumor of angels from all the other influences on our experience.

Dear Jesus, thank you for Your comfort. And let me live there in the bosom of your love.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

No thunder clap, but a bright flash of light

We, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect; this is the work of the Lord Who is Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Brennan Manning: Paul looked so unflinchingly at himself, others, and the world through the eyes of Jesus that Christ became the ego of the apostle–“I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me.”

Contemplation is gazing at the unveiled glory of God in the risen glorified Christ. Contemplative prayer is above all else looking at the person of Jesus. The prayer of simple awareness means we don’t have to get anywhere because we are already there. We are simply coming into consciousness that we possess what we seek. Contemplation, defined as looking at Jesus while loving Him, leads not only to intimacy but to the transformation of the person contemplating.

Every time the Gospels mention that Jesus was moved with deep emotion for people, they show that it lead Him to do something–physical or inner healing, deliverance or exorcism, feeding the hungry crowds or intercessory prayer. Above all, it moved Him to dispel distorted images of who He is and who God is, to lead people out of darkness into light. I’m reminded of the messianic prophecy of Isaiah: “He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast, and leading to their rest the mother ewes.”

And in the consideration of these rather ordinary words, the gears stopped grinding and my understanding dropped into a whole other realm. A paradigm shift. The one I was waiting for. The one that probably everyone has been waiting for.

Somehow the image of the underworld in The Silver Chair, the licking flames and bright colors come to mind. And yet. What touched me so profoundly this morning was the tenderness of the Shepherd, holding the lambs against His breast.

And somehow the rather ordinary words about it not being about how well I am loved, but how well I love feels earth-shatteringly new. With the tenderness of Jesus. With the compassion. With the understanding.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Pneuma. Breathe in, breathe out. With my eyes fixed on Jesus.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Princess in her very own castle

Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold; for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me. Psalm 31:3

Man oh man, the Catalinas were beautiful yesterday afternoon as I drove north. Glorious and strong, reaching up high and golden in the sunset light.  And somehow every time I turn north in Tucson, my heart whispers, “I lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence comest my strength. My strength comest from the LORD.”

Brennon Manning’s morning chapter was on the hollow life of the Pharisee who seeks to control his world through blaming, accusing and guilt-tripping. Which is a hard switch left.

I think I will deliberately turn back to the mountains and consider this prayer:  You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, O giver of life, and to be glorified through all the worlds. Happy. Manning talks about childlike faith too. Just the simple openhearted acceptance and trust in a loving Father. Clambering around the rocks just as the stars are coming up.

He is worthy of being praised by happy voices.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Resting in the quiet of the Benedictine nuns' song

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

By the tender mercies of our God who from on high will bring the rising sun to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:78-79

Compassionate tenderness is the heart of our Abba, and thus is our heart, as His children. This is the mark of the life filled by the Spirit, The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us.

Brennon Manning: Scripture points to an intimate connection between compassion and forgiveness. According to Jesus, a distinctive sign of Abba’s child in his willingness to forgive our enemies. Love your enemies and do good…and you will be sons of the Most High for He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. In the Lord’s Prayer we acknowledge the primary characteristic of Abba’s children when we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus presents His Abba as a model for our forgiveness: the king in Matthew 18 who forgiven a fantastic sum, an unpayable debt, the God who forgives without limit, the meaning of seventy times seven.

…The demands of forgiveness are so daunting that they seem humanly impossible. The exigencies of forgiveness are simply beyond the capacity of ungraced human will. Only reckless confidence in a Source great than ourselves can empower us to forgive the wounds inflicted by others. In boundary moments such as these there is only one place to go–Calvary.

…Stay there for a long time and watch as Abba’s Only-Begotten dies utterly alone in bloody disgrace. Watch as He breathes forgiveness on His torturers at the moment of their greatest cruelty and mercilessness. On that lonely hill outside the city wall of old Jerusalem you will experience the healing power of the dying Lord.

Ah, a long time.

On that Sunday not so long ago, July 15, in fact, the birthday of that nice man who threw away his crutches. On that Sunday, after I made my weary painful ride up the cobblestoned street to the humble parish church, I knelt in the back pew and considered the bloody Only-Begotten in utter aloneness. Gripped by his grace, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

None of us know what we do. We stumble through this world with smeary lenses of self-interest and shallow busyness and intentional distractedness to protect us from the other. Understanding triggers the compassion that makes forgiveness possible.

May we peek over the thick adobe walls piled high to protect us from knowing and being known in all of our brokenness and truly see. Not simply the other, the beloved child of God peeking out from his respective wall, but the One who so tenderly and so unconditionally loves us. Loves me.

Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion and tenderness on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget.

The crucified Christ is not only a heroic example to the church; He is the power and wisdom of God, a living force in His present risenness, transforming our lives and enabling us to extend the hand of reconciliation to our enemies.

And today Lord, may I toss aside my smeared glasses, tossed aside like those now unnecessary crutches which only impede and slow down my bounding into kneeling down gratitude, and see. Seventy times seven.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The mercy that comes thundering O'er the waters of my soul

Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. You are precious in my eyes because I have honored you and I love you…The mountains may depart, the hills may be shaken, but my love for you will never leave you and my covenant of peace will never be shaken. Isaiah 43:1, 4, Isaiah 54:10
Repent and believe in the gospel, Jesus says. Turn around and believe the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all. Amen and come Lord Jesus. Frederick Buechner
It’s funny that in all of this quiet I have no words. Hour after hour I am quiet. I can hear the traffic on Broadway because the back door is open, but other than that, it has been twelve hours and lots of cups of water and nothing else particularly. Just quiet.
God is asking of me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God’s likeness. And to laugh, after all, at the preposterous ideas of ‘worthiness.” Thomas Merton


Friday, August 22, 2014

By the dawn's early light

Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sin is put away! Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt, and in whose spirit there is no guile! Psalm 32:1-2

Manning writes of The Imposter, the rationalizing self who lives deep within, the one who “prompts us to attach importance to what has no importance, clothing with a false glitter what is least substantial and turning us away from what is real…Our falses self stubbornly blinds each of us to the light and the truth of our own emptiness and hollowness. We cannot acknowledge the darkness within. On the contrary the imposter proclaims his darkness as the most luminous light, varnishing truth and distorting reality. This brings to mind the apostle John’s words: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

And of course this sort of “little rascal” is pretty good at hiding since he has been practicing for ever-so-many-years. And Manning’s suggestion is quiet. Lots of quiet consideration. And the quiet roars in my ears in this little hobbit hole with no phone or internet. And this is my prayer: Consider if there be any wicked way within me, that I may be clean. Choosing to open up my own dark corners. He is standing at the door knocking.

And I have been reading my meditations from May, before this path blazed clear with His promise: I am on the move. And on May 18, this was my prayer: Come in gentle Savior. Come in. Please linger and help me sort through my own self, my own willful and contrary heart.

And I am not sure what He will say to me as I make this summer’s pilgrimage following the paths of Paul and Francis and James. But I am very sure that He has laid it out from the beginning of time. May I be listening.

And what comes to mind and heart is that I had set a pretty low bar of what God’s love looks like. I think pretty much I identified with the heathen woman looking for a few scattered crumbs from the feasting table. My God and His love was too small, as I myself dug about for tiny springs in the Valley of Bitterness, cinching up the proverbial Coverdale belt to start up the next steep incline.

And what God is speaking to me is His overabundant glorious heaping overflowing feast of the fatted calf. And no, I do not have to head off to the kitchen with the dirty dishes.

When I stepped out this morning into the dark grey dawn, the slightest of crescent moons ducked behind even darker grey wispy clouds. But when I returned the very most glorious of glinting golden orange and pink sunrises sang, “Holy, holy, holy.”

LORD God Almighty.

Yet Abba.

I am His child.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

And there's even one who runs across the grass just to give me a huge hug every afternoon

I shall be very happy to make my weakness my special boast that the power of Christ may stay over me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

One of the great stack of books at my elbow is Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child. And that Benning is a great little reader and gatherer of well-told stories. One is Thornton Wilder’s play, “The Angel Who Troubled the Waters,” based on the pool of Bethsaida. And the angel spoke to a doctor battling depression, who longed to be healed. But the angel speaks, “Without your wounds, where would your power be? In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve. Physician, step back. This moment is not for you.”

And wounds result in tenderness, and thus I am grateful. Because each day I wade through the welling-up tenderness for each of those young souls in my care. The young man painstakingly copying the assignment into his book. The girl rushing off to the bathroom with thick mascara running down her face. Another slipping her phone under the edge of her skirt. Even, or especially, the one slouching in the back with his feet up on the desk. Because while he was still a long ways off, the father threw off his cloak and ran to his son and embraced him.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Conversation with Hans Turner

on the occasion of a remarkable visit with Christy Voelkel

"... interestingly, she described her journey [El Camino de Santiago] in three distinct phases. first, she experienced a sense of God's ubiquitous Love. as she encountered people and beauty and grace, she felt an overwhelming sense of His Love for her, and for all. for every single one. what a powerful recognition this is (i think this is the heart of what scripture speaks to, and what i have learned listening to Peter Hiett, and am amazed at the profundity of its implications on our faith and theology and our practical lives). 

next she ensured a period of Pain. an intentional Pain that she felt was both God's design and her own Choice all at once. and pushed to the limit of her tolerance she found herself desperate for Him, unable to deny her need for His strength and mercy. and in this pain, willing to accept his hands wrapping around her to carry her through it... Love, followed by Pain... and then her journey brought her into what can only be described as Joy. she found herself experience an Awe of God, a state of physical worship, physical healing, of praise without control.

this is transformation.
this is entering, if only now and then, into his reward
this is experiencing Jesus and not ever being able to go back.

and this process seems to me to be a universal truth: that all of us, including Jesus, must go through this journey in order to experience God in that undeniable way… experience God’s amazing Love and recognize it; then experience the very threshold of pain required for us to recognize that we are not ourselves sufficient to endure and succeed.

i am encouraged by this as it gives me so much hope for my own transformation. i crave the closeness and joy and experience that i know others have had. and i’m terrified that despite the pain i have already endured, perhaps i have not yet even entered into that phase. perhaps i lack the faith for God to even allow me to experience what is necessary. am i ready to be desperate for You? can i accept my own inequity and stop trying to be in control?