Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.
And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.
When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.
The journey towards healing can feel at times like a disjointed rummaging through the crevices of our souls seeking out the darker corners in order to let in the warm sunlight of God’s love. Healing is sometimes akin to things like beauty, truth and spirituality: they are things that are ineffable yet real and rather than define them, they define us.
This rag-tag, one foot in the front of the other, one day at a time journey is the journey of a lifetime that occurs in every diminutive detail and every instance. And I cannot necessarily define my healing journey or necessarily point to specific scars as evidence. The very things I am being healed of have been accrued over a life filled with the paradoxes of poor choices and God’s ever intervening grace, with both being somewhat messy yet always real.
I am velveteen rabbit-like in my journey for you see my eyes are popping off, my fur is being rubbed off, my stuffing pulled from my fragile innards, yet I know I am loved…loved by a generous and gracious God. Oddly enough, I even know this at this precise moment when I do not ‘feel’ or sense it.
At this juncture I am peeling away the dried mud of anger and resentment that has splattered me after hitting the proverbial fan. I am not in a tender place, or feeling very forgiving, and I most certainly am not sensing God’s presence.
But none of that matters.
God is faithful even when my feelings are not. God is before me. God is beside me. God is within me. God is to my East, my West, my South and my North. God is in my ups and my downs. God is the Constant Companion on this journey towards healing and God is the Final Destination of this journey.
And like it or not, believe it or not, feel it or not I surrendered my life to God and God IS Love; not fleshly love, not feeble love, not finite love. No! God IS Love: all consuming, all powerful, all present, all knowing and ever-faithful LOVE. And regardless of what friend or foe says to me or about me, THAT truth is the motive, the power, the hunger, and the reason for this journey I am taking back Home.
God is love. And not the kind of love that is necessarily Hallmark like, but the kind that is Present when no one else is, when all else has failed, when there are more doubts than assurances. And in all things and through all things I am keen to remember (re-member) two solid truths: one, that God is Perfect Love and two, I gave my life to God. All else in my world must flow from these truths or I am lost. And if God is perfect love, and I surrendered my life to this God of Perfect Love, then I am wise to allow that divine love to flow into me and through me. I must get out of my own way, so to speak, and allow God’s all embracing, all encompassing love to BE just that in me and through me: embracing all and encompassing all.
I am here to have my mind conformed to the will of God. And God’s will is that of love, so therefore I am also here to learn of God’s love and to let God’s love teach me the divine ways of being. For me, God’s love cannot be learned in a book of paper but rather in the and through the book called Life. I have joked around that the definition of LIFE is Love In Full Expression. And so must my learning be: learning to let God’s love have full expression within me, burning off the dross of my banal ego and my leanings towards the pettiness of things. If I am to learn of God’s love, I must place myself consciously “in the way” of this love, and I am here to learn of this will of God that is love in being and action.
And finally, since I am oh so human and I need to learn to lean on God and others for my support, my growth and also how to be someone others can lean on. Love received can only be nurtured if it is love given.
So simply put, I need to Love, Learn and Lean…
The Heart of It All
For Sunday, May 8, 2016 – John 17:20-26
Jesus longs to plant deeply within all who will listen the central truth of his life—that at the heart of it all is love. The love of God has poured prodigally into Jesus, causing the love of Jesus to pour into his friends so that the love of his friends will pour lavishly into the world, until generations later here we are, learning to receive and give from that same bottomless well of love. God’s glory, Jesus says, has been given to him, and whatever comes to him flows through him, to us. What is this glory river that flows to us and then through us? It is the awareness that we are one—one with God, one with each other—and loved so bountifully that we can do no less than respond to all of God’s creation in love. What a simple way, this way of love!
Except when it is not. The easy flow of receiving and giving love becomes blocked with jealousy, anger, selfish motives. We do not see ourselves as one; we become alienated from each other, lost. Some call this the evidence of our functional atheism. We disconnect our believing from our living. We might say intentionally chosen words, trying to sound pleasing to God and others, but we do not embody these words in an intentional way of life. Jesus challenges our lofty concepts about love, our fantasies about how remarkable our love could be, and sets us on the path of action. What matters is love’s practical implementation day by day.
If we are going to have the full experience of God’s way of love, we will start by being more at ease with being one. We will seek to love others as ourselves, knowing that what happens to one happens to all and to ignore suffering is to ignore our own. When will we wake up to each other and stop excluding whomever we please? Regardless of birth nation, gender identification, political affiliation, degree of education, sexual orientation, being an aggravation, craving adulation, believing, or not believing, in transubstantiation—we are, the whole lot of us, God’s absolute favorites. We are amazingly broken and beloved beings, and like it or not, we are in the little boat of this life together. Whether resting in or resisting this truth, we are right where God intends for us to be—at the heart of it all, where we are one.
By: Kayla McClurg, Church of the Saviour
The thought of discovering spirituality and a deepening relationship with God in a room full of recovering drunks and addicts telling stories might seem like a paradox. But as ancient truths reveals to us, stories are one of the very foundations God uses to reveal himself to us and to the journey of transformation; and stories are exactly what are found in the rooms of recovery.
Jesus told stories – some offensive, some hilarious, all of them insightful – as he taught and lived these very stories as a means of communicating God’s infinite and tender love for us.
Stories in general and our stories in particular, are what keep people like me sober. We share what we have done and who we have been in the hopes of opening up our hearts to let the grace of God fill and transform us, so we do not remain those fractured characters of our stories past. In sharing our stories, in sharing my story, I find I am freed from the bondage of the past and the restraints of alcoholism.
In truth, when my story is unleashed, I am unchained.
Stories are the vehicle for God’s grace as it comes in tenderness, in messiness, in darkness and shifting shadows…but come it does when I open my heart and share the truth of who I am and what I have been like. And in stories, in the sharing of my past wreckage and destruction, healing is found and divine light is released into the world, shining so as to light the path for those who walk with me and those who will come after.
Addiction is indeed cunning and baffling, but only for us, it is not so for God; for God is not baffled by my dis-ease. For God is the great Mystery that swallows up all the mysteries of the how’s and why’s of addiction; God is the truth in the lies; God is the light in the darkness; indeed, God is the tenderness to my sharp edges.
That is the grace and power of paradox.
Only in a room full of addicts and alcoholics (the walking wounded and wonderful) do I learn that I cannot keep what I do not give away. And like the ancient echoes of the prayer of St. Francis, I learn daily that in giving, I receive; in pardoning, I am pardoned; and in dying daily to my selfish ego, I am born anew in the living grace of a loving God.
Billy Joel was right when he sang “honesty, it’s such a lonely word.” And I know Jesus said the “truth shall set you free” to which I always add “but first it will piss you off.” I crave brutal honesty with my God, at all cost, at the expense of propriety.
I often ask myself happens in a relationship when people are brutally honest? Growth, intimacy, destruction, despair, loneliness, resentment? All of the aforementioned?
I know personally I can be brutally honest with God and there will be no real repercussions; not like there can be when I dump truth on to the people in my life. You see the one problem that most people create in their relationship with God is in assuming God has an ego. Only those with egos get their feelings hurt, feel jealous, harbor and nurture resentments, plot and plan revenge and retribution. But God has NO EGO therefore God cannot like other human beings be ‘wounded’ by any unrefined truth laid bare in prayer.
Oh how so many would be freed up in their relationship with God if they could just fathom deeply, experientially, that God has no ego; that God is Love, pure love, holy love, perfect Love. God is free of the ego, unlike you or I.
But I digress, because my point is not so much that God does not have an ego. No, that is just the precursor, ,my point is to share about two of the greatest struggles I am living in and through right now.
The two ‘issues’ are this: one, I know God has the power to do miracles in the world and in my life but I do not necessarily believe that God has the willingness/desire to do so in my life; and two, I experience God these days more so as an historical Memory rather than a Present Reality.
I do not feel judged when I write these lower case truths. In fact, there is a certain freedom that occurs when unburdening myself of the need for propriety when praying.
So I live with this creative tension that God is all powerful but not necessarily all willing. I live with a rich historical sense of God and God’s presence in my past, but not so much today (or the last 12 months for that matter).
I try and come up with metaphors to explain these two things more ‘rationally’ or easily, but to no avail. I am not saying I have no faith nor am I saying I will never get over or through this. What I am saying is I must start from where I am rather than where I am not. And where I am is struggling – wrestling as it were – with God.
I believe the greatest gift I can give to people is me being as real and authentic as possible and in that posture pray somehow, some way, you see the grace and love of God. The best way for me to help people, to walk with people as they grow spiritually which is my calling, is to be velveteen rabbit real, even when that ‘realness’ makes people uncomfortable, gasp, or wonder if I have fallen away.
Indeed, Jesus was spot on when he said that we would know the truth and that truth would set us free. So, even though I am fighting and struggling, I am indeed free in God’s love to do so, free to be fully human, and velveteen real.