Musings on Fear…

Fear speaks to my doubts. God speaks my name.

Fear exploits my weaknesses. God loves them and uses them to heal and serve.

Fear is a ruinous drug that blurs my mind and chokes my heart.  God’s love and presence are a healing salve touching body and mind, spirit and soul. 

Fear says I am alone.  God says I AM with you always, even to the end of the ages.

Fear is limiting, stunting, holding only the sway of dumbing me down and shrinking my world.  God is Infinite; His love unconditional, His presence all pervasive, His mercy new every morning.

Fear is my addiction raging.  God is my recovery in bloom.

Fear says die.  God says Live.

Fear comes like a thief in the night, it only wants to steal and to kill.  But God comes as One who gives Life, and gives that Life abundantly (John 10:10).

 

 

“Under a Delusion” (Frederick Buechner)

If the World is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party.

The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says, Drive carefully—the life you save may be your own—and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get and Jesus says, Give.

In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow [Jesus] without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion. 

“No Metaphor” (Frederick Buechner)

FOR PAUL THE Resurrection was no metaphor; it was the power of God. And when he spoke of Jesus as raised from the dead, he meant Jesus alive and at large in the world not as some shimmering ideal of human goodness or the achieving power of hopeful thought but as the very power of life itself.

If the life that was in Jesus died on the cross; if the love that was in him came to an end when his heart stopped beating; if the truth that he spoke was no more if no less timeless than the great truths of any time; if all that he had in him to give to the world was a little glimmer of light to make bearable the inexorable approach of endless night—then all was despair.

– By Frederick Buechner.  Originally published in The Faces of Jesus

We are an Easter People

Happy Resurrection Day.

A few years ago, on what liturgical churches call Holy Saturday, I attended ‘Easter Vigil’ services at the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA.  Never having attended Lenten services at a monastery, I was not sure what the experience would bring.  My initial thoughts were that I felt I had stepped back in time, in a wonderful way: the historical richness and the ever present reality providing a sacred collusion.   The pews were hard, thick dark wood made by local friends, there was darkness, candles, prayers, chanting and singing in Latin and English, kneeling, bowing, and of course, the Eucharist.   It as delightful an experience as it was long – over two hours.

Catholic monks do almost nothing quickly; and in this world of immediate gratification, I was afforded the ‘time’ to slow down, breathe, and attune my being to God’s all-pervading and loving Presence permeating the place.

All this pausing got me to thinking about the reality of Easter; about resurrection and living a committed and intentional spiritual journey with Jesus.  The shadowy, yet hopeful Saturday Vigil Mass reminded me that we truly are a people on the Way…in transition on this journey towards God and each other.

We are a pilgrim people who must live between the tensions of two days: Good Friday (suffering and death) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection and new life in Christ).

We are a Good Friday People; all we need to do is look around at all the pain and suffering in our world and in our hearts.  But the glorious news is that is not the final word…for we are an Easter people.

Some 25 years ago a friend of mine reminded me in so many words that we are an Easter People.  He said, “Niles, it’s Friday…but Sunday’s a comin’!”

We must all face the daily’ness of life, the Good Friday moments, the smaller pains and frustration and the larger tragedies that can beset us.  These Good Friday times are painful, no doubt, but they serve a purpose of molding us into the image and likeness of Jesus.  These Good Friday moments and events all but force us to deeper intimacy with God, to a deeper reliance upon his grace rather than human sensibilities.

Yes, we must go through (and not around) Good Friday.  In our suffering, we somehow comingle with the suffering of others and with Jesus, bringing some sense of redemption to our pain, knowing we are not alone in it; knowing that on the Cross Jesus experienced every pain and darkness we ever could or will.

Good Friday moments connect us more to Jesus and to those whose lives are permeated with suffering – the addicted, the homeless, the imprisoned, and the poor – and in this we become in some way more human.  Good Friday teaches us some of the ebb and flow of grace.

But Good Friday is not the final word.

We must hold out, we must remember that the final word is Easter Sunday.  The Cross is not the final word of silence, the Great Silence of the empty tomb is the final word and that words echoes throughout human history and throughout our own personal histories: there is resurrection!

Our emptiness, our addictions, our pain and sickness, our loneliness and poverty (even our death) are not the last word from the world.  They are a word, but not the word.  The resurrection of Jesus is the Final, all glorious, Word spoken to us.

The Living Word is our final statement.

Hear God speak to you this truth: “Death is not the end.  Addiction is not the end. Fear is not the end.  I AM the End that has no end; I AM the Beginning; I AM the Hope and Love for which you long.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the One who was and Is and is to come.  And my love for you is all embracing and eternal.”

Let’s celebrate this Truth together, for we are indeed an Easter People.  We are a people living in the creative tension of the already and the not yet of the Resurrection.  So this Easter, I pray we all go deeper into god, deeper into the experience of the power of Resurrection and new life.

I pray the Paschal Mystery lives in our hearts.  Let us sing for Joy this sacred season for Jesus is Risen, risen indeed.

Alleluia!

“My God, My God” (Frederick Buechner)

MY GOD, MY GOD, why hast You forsaken me?” As Christ speaks those words, he too is in the wilderness. He speaks them when all is lost. He speaks them when there is nothing even he can hear except for the croak of his own voice and when as far as even he can see there is no God to hear him. And in a way his words are a love song, the greatest love song of them all. In a way his words are the words we all of us must speak before we know what it means to love God as we are commanded to love him.

“My God, my God.”

Though God is not there for him to see or hear, he calls on him still because he can do no other. Not even the cross, not even death, not even life, can destroy his love for God. Not even God can destroy his love for God because the love he loves God with is God’s love empowering him to love in return with all his heart even when his heart is all but broken.

– Written by Frederick Buechner – originally published in A Room Called Remember

The Thorn in My Side….

The thorn in my side has become the Rose of my life by the grace of God.

Addiction is the thorn of which I speak. 

Recovery is the rose. 

My addiction – the supposed greatest “failure” of my life – has become the vessel through which the greatest sources of grace and God’s love have come into my life; it came in the face of recovery.

It is in and through my addiction that I have become intimately aware of and experienced the truth that “God’s power is made perfect in weakness” because when I am in my great weakness – for me, my alcoholism and addiction – I come to point of absolute surrender and in that space I essentially get out of the way and God is, for lack of a better phrase, given room to flood my world with grace.

And flood my life, God does!

Addiction is the thorn that has become the great gift. In recovery, all my foibles, frailties, and darkness fall into the abyss of this thing, this reality, called God’s grace.  Hard to explain, and sometimes even harder to experience, God’s grace is the thing that comes to those who cry out for it, in moments of weakness as well as in moments of tenderness.

Grace is a bloody figure dangling from a cross, disfigured, impotent and scraped of all sense of power and dignity; and forgiving those who crucified him.  And it is precisely through that instrument of execution that the tear in the fabric of humanity has occurred allowing a means for grace to come to us.

Grace is a sloppy drunk like me finding healing, hope, and health for many years now through God and all the grace afforded me through my faith and being in a recovery fellowship.

And oh does it come to those of us who are grafted into the Tribe known as Addicts and Alcoholics.  We are not unique, but we are a special people.

It has been said that God has a special concern for fools, children, the poor and drunks; well that’s me!

It is this thorn called addiction — the darkness, the emptiness, the death — that has become the greatest gift in my life…”by the Grace of God first, last and always.”