The Sound of God’s Voice

What is the sound of God’s voice? Is it audible? In English? Or maybe Aramaic, Hebrew or Arabic?

Is it discernable to the human ear?

I say it is. I say it is all of the above and much, much more. I say the sound of God’s voice is all around us.

It is in the chirping of the birds at Daybreak. It is in the soft cooing of a mother to a baby. It is in the agonizing weeping of sorrows and loss. It is in the rushing waters of rivers and streams.

God’s voice is found in the hushed whispers of breezes dancing through the trees. It is in the rhythmic meter of the little frogs praising God in chorus at eventide from the surface of the pond.

But God voice is found other places as well; places we think not, places that offend us and disturb us.

It is found in the trembling truths that fall from the mouths of alcoholics and addicts finding and seeking a new way of life. It is found in the death Nell sucking sound of cocaine and heroin entering the body and the gurgling of the last breath of an overdose or suicide. It is found in the screams of a child cowering in a corner. It is found in the begging and pleading of a young woman being trafficked.

God’s voice is found in a myriad of places, some comforting, some disturbing. God’s voice is found in sacred text and Scriptures of old that perpetually point us towards our Creator. God’s voice is found out on the streets and in the mountains.

I feel that in all ways, and things, God voice is constantly saying through life, Scripture, Nature and all that exists, “come, be with Me, be with Me in all the places I am to be found.” Other times Gods voice is saying “stop this, help that one, be with this one, listen to the other, fix this, heal that, challenge the darkness and shine the light.”

It is not always what God is saying that is crucial for us, for it is. But what is more important is the truth that God is speaking to us, here and now, in this moment.

So where do you hear God’s voice? And what is being said?

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Dreams of Mercy (revised poem)

I dreamed of walking through emerald forest
hanging all the worries and weights of my body,
and my Soul, upon thick, uneven branches.

The wind was whispering through the trees, blowing dust out from within this wounded temple.

I heard the whimpering cries of old griefs who came
to have their say; the grief so laden, so familiar.
All the years of want and scars, they all came out of this

unsayable said, seeking their rightful place in my body.

The trees dared me to let the grief hollow out my bones
with mercy, allowing them to paint the walls of my heart
the blurred colors of hope.  I have failed this challenge before;

these pregnant opportunities to be held by an urgent compassion.

Too often I have walked away, full of myself, yet empty of truth.
But not today; today I dreamed of walking through emerald forest
My fingers tracing poems in the worn flesh of their bark…

 

“I Don’t Want to Be an American Christian…” (Written by Sheri Faye Rosendahl)

I am reposting this challenging Blog from Sheri Faye Rosendahl.  The original can be found at “I Don’t Want to Be an American Christian…” (From NotYourWhiteJesus Blog).

I Don’t Want to Be an American Christian; I Just Want to Follow Jesus

By Sheri Faye Rosendahl (May 15, 2017)

The label “American Christian” is largely and globally associated with negative connotations. How many American Evangelical Christians supported the Muslim ban? Who are we bombing today? What was that reason we can’t love the most vulnerable? American Christianity far too often looks nothing like its Savior.

I grew up in your typical American Christian home. I was exposed to Evangelical Christianity my entire life, but somehow I never got into religion. I think I picked up on the hypocrisy at a very young age and, in all honesty, it took me a quarter of a century to figure out who Jesus truly is.

Regardless, deep down I always believed the basics after essentially yelling at Jesus to get into my heart when I was four or five because I was terrified of hell. However, I have never in my life wanted to call myself a Christian. These days I try to follow the ways of the red letters with everything in my soul, but the idea of putting myself under that label is still beyond uncomfortable.

The truth is, I don’t relate to the general American Christian population because I can’t relate Jesus to many of the actions and beliefs of the general American Christian population.

I mean, come on now, the American Christian elite have managed to bring to power a literal bigoted-misogynistic-racist sexual predator as the “leader” of this nation. Conservative Christians stand firmly against health care for the vulnerable, but they are all about tax breaks for big business and spending millions on their president’s lavish “needs.” They tend to be crusaders for the right to birth while blatantly disregarding a right to life as they write off children slaughtered around the globe as “collateral damage.” They strongly advocate for the deportation of immigrants who are simply trying to provide a life for their family and refuse refuge to the most vulnerable ― essentially giving them a death sentence, but yet drone strikes and increases in military funding are totally cool…

Here’s the deal, maybe I’m wrong, so if someone could explain how these self-proclaimed American Christian views align with Jesus, please enlighten me. But really, if you wondered why it took me 25 years to figure out Jesus while I was surrounded by Christianity, there is your explanation: American Christianity is not synonymous with the ways of Jesus. Straight up.

But there are many of us who choose to follow Jesus and refuse to stand by the egocentric ways of American Christianity. Jesus was about loving sacrificially, not “America First.”

I often hear that we need to redeem Christianity and, though I understand the motive behind this quest, my question is: why are we trying to redeem a label?

Why don’t we instead try to redeem the ways of Jesus and ditch the label that has contradicted the red letters in his name? Jesus didn’t call us to be Christians; he called us to follow his ways.

So here’s where I’m at. This country and world are a mess and it’s time for those of us who want to see something different to unite. It’s time for a movement based on bold love. It’s time to go back to the red letters and start a revolution, something different than we have seen before. It’s time to truly and literally be the change our world desperately needs.

So who’s with me? Who is ready to truly see love win?

About Sheri Faye Rosendahl
Sheri Faye Rosendahl is a writer, lover of bold love, the Middle East, Yoga and cookies. You can find more of her writing at NotYourWhiteJesus.org or find her on Facebook. Sheri and her husband, Rich, also run a non-profit called The Nations, doing peace and humanitarian work with refugee neighbors from the Middles East, both domestically and abroad.

Ruminations on Healing

The journey towards healing can feel at times like a disjointed rummaging through the cracks of the soul; a seeking out the darker corners in order to let in the warm sunlight of God’s love into all the places of my world.

Healing is sometimes akin to things like beauty, truth and spirituality: ineffable yet quite real and rather than define “it”, it defines us.

In this place, I am able to find meaning in both my scars and my healing, rather than being merely defined by my scars (or my addictions, my pain, my darkness, etc.).

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.  God is present in all of it, at all times, in a myriad of ways.

Sometimes I can’t even define my “healing journey” or necessarily point to specific events or scars that are evidence of healing.  Sometimes,  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; undefinable, but still quite real.

In all truth, as I near fifty years of age, a lifetime in and of itself, 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 doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether I feel loved or not; God just loves.  Period.

God is my constant companion; God is both the Journey and the final destination of this journey towards healing and recovery.  And whether I feel it or not, like it or not, or even care about it – my life is the hands of a gracious and loving God.  And not that fleshly, feeble, finite love.

No!

No, I’m talking about a love that dangles from a Cross forgiving the murderers who nailed him there; a love that is all consuming, all powerful, all present, all knowing and ever-faithful.  And regardless of what friend or foe says to me or about me, THAT truth –  that Love – is the motive, the power, the hunger, and the very reason I am even able to write this today; to live another day sober, to walk this path back to a place called Home.

Stories: Paradox and Power

The thought of discovering spirituality and a deepening relationship with God in a room full of drunks and drug addicts telling stories about their foibles and failures might seem like a paradoxical oxymoron.  But far from it…

For us alcoholics and addicts in recovery, stories are what save our lives.

Ancient truth and history reveal that stories are one of the very foundations of both cultures and religions; stories are what God uses to reveal the Divine to us most commonly.  And it is such transformative stories that 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 clean and 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 the disease named addiction.  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 for you, me, for the professionals treating it; but not so for God.  One more time: addiction is not cunning and baffling for God; God is not baffled by my dis-ease.  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, the light in the darkness.  Indeed, God is the tenderness to my sharp edges.

That is the grace and power of our stories – stories of addiction and recovery shared become the paradox of our freedom. 

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.

The Myth of Addictus (reposted)

The Myth of Addictus was about a slave whose master set him free but the slave was so used to his chains and his pain that when his master allowed him to roam and be free, the slave wandered the land with his “chains” still intact.  All the time he wandered his chains were unlocked and he could have simply taken them off, but being so used to and so in love with his chains and pains he chose to NOT take them off.

That is what it is like for those of who have lived our lives enslaved to drugs and alcohol, or to religious systems and other abusive environments.  We are shown a life of freedom, but until a spiritual transformation occurs, we surrender our  voice, surrender our very selves to the bondage of addiction.  Addiction is about surrendering our voices and beings; recovery is about surrendering to God in order to find our voice and our selves.

The following is an article that I “stumbled” upon years ago.   It was written by the spirited writer and addictions specialists, Thomas Lavis.  I have been unable to find a link to the article, and this original link seems to be dead but for the purposes of citing the source for Lavis’ words, it was found at http://www.lapismagazine.org/return-of-the-spirit-by-thomas-lavin/

To be addicted comes from the Latin word addicere, “to give my voice over to.”  Someone who is addicted has no voice.  Linda Leonard wrote a wonderful book called Witness to the Fire: Creativity and the Veil of Addiction in which she talks about the word “addiction”:

What does it mean? Where does it come from? “Ad” means to or toward…“Dicere” means to speak

[Addiction is when I] give my voice to or toward some person, place, thing, or even a process. Process addictions are rigid attitudinal ways of approaching the world.  Addiction need not be limited to alcohol or drugs. I can give myself over—hand over my voice—to anything.

In fact, the original meaning of “addictus” was spiritual, in the sense of someone dedicated to the gods, one whose voice was given over to the Divine (e.g. the 3rd Step of A.A.).  Thus, inherent in the meaning of addiction is the sense of dedication, or bearing witness, to creative energies.

Among the Romans, addiction also signified the making over of goods to another by a legal sale. A slave was even known as an addictus, someone who had no voice, who was a slave to a master.

Addiction is the act of giving oneself over to something as one’s master.

Addiction is terrible, it is true, but addiction can be transformed. How can the addict get her or his voice back, so that they can respond [to what they have been called to]?

Within every addiction there is a vocation, a calling (vocation coming from the Latin word meaning to hear or listen and therefore to respond).  Addiction is [far from] the end of the line.

Like the biblical prophet Samuel did in the night, how do I respond if I don’t have a voice? Samuel went to his guru and said, “I think I hear my name called.” And he’s told by the Prophet Eli, “Say ‘Here I am.’” [ref: 1st Samuel, Chapter 3].

Saying yes is part of dealing with addiction. The spiritual part of addiction…getting my voice back…is to be able to say yes to all of life. No one, no thing, is excluded, precluded, left out.

In dealing with addiction, we have to see it as one side. It might be a sad story, maybe generations of sad stories, but we can’t talk about addiction, whether positive or negative, without pain, because people who get their spirit back have to deal with the pain of staying with their own creative spirit.”

 

Musings on Dignity and Value

No matter where I am with the ‘organized religion’ part of my faith, I am constantly in awe of the person of Jesus.  He is without a doubt, amazing.  I mean when you remove him from all the religiosity of our present day, all the cultural entrapments of ‘Churchianity’ – he still stands out as one of the most remarkable beings we have on record.

Jesus was an incredibly devout Jew, but time and again he was a rebel and a rabble rouser within his own faith.  He comforted and disturbed people in that he constantly called them back to both the center and the edge of their faith and comfort zones.  The center was Jesus calling people back to the simple foundation of the Jewish faith – namely the Two Great Commandments to love God with all your being and to love your neighbor as yourself.  The edge was that Jesus called us to love people who are hard to love and make us uncomfortable: our enemies, those different than us, and those we deem unworthy of divine love.

The manner in which Jesus loved all people, the example we are called to follow and emulate, Jesus is affirming the worth and dignity of every human being he came into contact with: prostitutes, tax collectors (considered unpatriotic, greedy traitors), the poor and sick (to be sick was to be cursed by God) as well as the smug and seemingly righteous.  Jesus did not dismiss people with categories, prejudices, or negative assumptions.  He accepted people as they were, as they came to him, and he loved them.

The painful and disquieting truth is Jesus shows us how and who to love, for he loved people just as God loves all people – unconditionally, as they are, and starting at where they are.