God is Dangerous

It is important that I communicate this particular truth to everyone, important because we supposedly live in dangerous times, and we are told to fear “dangerous” people.  But here is a more important Truth: God is dangerous!

Americans (and all Westernized Cultures) have tried to tame God, but to no avail, the Holy One will not be confined or consumed by our whims or appetites.

We have tamed God, un-Deified God, molded him to our desires forgetting that the clay has no say to what the potter will make it into.  We have made Jesus the Messiah into Casper Milquetoast…a spineless, mushy, materialistic Messiah.

We have taken the very Bread of Life and turned Him into a palatable tea-time snack.

We have made Jesus into a comfortable suburban soccer mom/dad, who comes alongside our best intentions for the best life we can have: a house, 2.5 kids, a Prius or SUV, designer clothes, and a pittance of our time and money to give to the majority of the world that lives in poverty, under oppression, hungry, hurting, addicted and chained to despondency.

We in the West have tried but to no avail; God will not be tamed.  God is dangerous.  God is an all-consuming Fire (Hebrews 12).  Jesus came to divide mother from daughter and father from son.  Jesus came to bring a sword and Fire (Matthew 10).  Jesus came to preach good news to the poor…and friends do not be deceived: good news for the poor is always bad news for the rich.

Jesus is dangerous, for He will turn our worlds upside down in order to turn them right-side up.  We’ve made Jesus an addendum to our agendas and desires rather than the Prime Motive, the divine Modus Operandi to our days and lives.

Following Jesus is dangerous and deadly:  doing so will break our hearts (in order to heal them in a healthy way); it will kill us (the cross we are called to carry will slaughter our ego, our will, our plans, and maybe even our lives).  It is a dangerous thing to love our enemies, give to the one who asks, to go two miles when we are asked to go one, to sell all that we have and give it to the poor (ref. Sermon on the Mount, Gospel of Luke).  These things are scary as shit.

Make no mistake about it, God is dangerous.  God brings down the rulers and rises up the broken and poor (Luke, ch. 1 – 6); God humbles the proud and breaks the arrogant and gives life to the downtrodden.  God comes to us, not in the gold of kings or presidents, but in the distressing disguise of the poor and homeless.

God is dangerous.

God loves the unlovable and the unlovely, is not interested in our suits or ties or Gucci or DKNY.  God cares not for our fancy words, smooth talking, nor our degrees, licenses, or certifications.

Jesus is radical but we care more about the whiteness of our teeth than the words that come out of them; we care more for the way things “look” rather than the way things are.  We keep Jesus in the background, the backseat, the closet, or the dark.

We should tremble and remove our fine leathered shoes and realize we are on Holy Ground, for God is a consuming fire and He will burn up all the dross that we call precious and priceless.

God longs for us to surrender everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – to Him and to love Him more than others.  Oh yes, God is zealously jealous and will remove anything that stands between us and single minded devotion to Him if we are not careful.

Oh yes, God is dangerous.  So shut your ears to the manicured hands of those with expensive suits, whitened smiles, big churches, nice homes, and realize that one day, the Good Shepherd will come and separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25).  I tremble when I realize that the sheep and the goats have one thing in common: they both bleat.  So how do I tell the difference in what they say?  For according to this dangerous God, the only difference between the sheep and the goats was what they did and did not do for the poor!

God is dangerous…and His love will turn you upside-down, but in the end you will find that the world looks so beautiful, so radically different when seen through the eyes of (our) dangerous God!

“Alcoholics Anonymous” (Frederick Buechner)

Once again I turn to the great and grateful words of my hero, Frederick Buechner.  I am a recovering alcoholic & addict.  I love A.A., but I do not speak for A.A.  I love Narcotics Anonymous too.  Heck, I love all 12 Step fellowships because the 12 Steps and those who seek to live and practice them are some of the most loving, kind, real people you will ever meet; they are God’s ragamuffins.  Someone once told me God has a special love for fools, children and drunks.  I meet two of the criteria.

I’m posting this because it is a beautiful essay on A.A. from a non-alcoholics’ perspective.

And I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Enjoy Rev. Buechner’s words.

Alcoholics Anonymous

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS or A.A. is the name of a group of men and women who acknowledge that addiction to alcohol is ruining their lives. Their purpose in coming together is to give it up and help others do the same. They realize they can’t pull this off by themselves. They believe they need each other, and they believe they need God. The ones who aren’t so sure about God speak instead of their Higher Power.

When they first start talking at a meeting, they introduce themselves by saying, “I am John. I am an alcoholic,” “I am Mary. I am an alcoholic,” to which the rest of the group answers each time in unison, “Hi, John,” “Hi, Mary.” They are apt to end with the Lord’s Prayer or the Serenity Prayer. Apart from that they have no ritual. They have no hierarchy. They have no dues or budget. They do not advertise or proselytize. Having no buildings of their own, they meet wherever they can.

Nobody lectures them, and they do not lecture each other. They simply tell their own stories with the candor that anonymity makes possible. They tell where they went wrong and how day by day they are trying to go right. They tell where they find the strength and understanding and hope to keep trying. Sometimes one of them will take special responsibility for another—to be available at any hour of day or night if the need arises. There’s not much more to it than that, and it seems to be enough. Healing happens. Miracles are made.

You can’t help thinking that something like this is what the Church is meant to be and maybe once was before it got to be Big Business. Sinners Anonymous. “I can will what is right but I cannot do it,” is the way Saint Paul put it, speaking for all of us. “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:19).

“I am me. I am a sinner.”

“Hi, you.”

Hi, every Sadie and Sal. Hi, every Tom, Dick, and Harry. It is the forgiveness of sins, of course. It is what the Church is all about.

No matter what far place alcoholics end up in, either in this country or virtually anywhere else, they know that there will be an A.A. meeting nearby to go to and that at that meeting they will find strangers who are not strangers to help and to heal, to listen to the truth and to tell it. That is what the Body of Christ is all about.

Would it ever occur to Christians in a far place to turn to a church nearby in hope of finding the same? Would they find it? If not, you wonder what is so Big about the Church’s Business.

– Originally published in Whistling in the Dark

Short Musings: Surrender or Resignation?

Surrender.

Resignation.

One of them is giving up and one of them is giving in?  One of them is active; one passive. Is there really a difference?  And if so, would I even know what that difference is?

As I ask these questions I am merely speaking to myself, not to anyone else.  At this point in my journey of recovery, and my journey with God, I’m not sure where I stand: am I at a place of Surrender or Resignation.  It could be one, the other or both.

I truly do not know.

The good news is that God does and when it comes to giving up or giving in, faith and fear become guides that in some ways ‘will’ me forward.  The question is which one will I choose to be my guide: fear or faith?

Surrender involves faith; faith in a Loving God.  Resignation is about fear; fear that is a poisonous and ruinous drug.

Surrender is about journeying towards something while resignation is about running away from something (or Some One).

If truth be told, I have much and little of both.  But the choice is mine.

So which one will it be?  Faith or fear?

The answer will change the world.

 

Wounded & Loved

 

“In each one of us there is such a deep wound, such an urgent cry to be held, appreciated and seen as unique and valuable. The heart of each one is broken and bleeding… An experience of being loved and accepted in community, which has become a safe place for us, allows us gradually to accept ourselves as we are, with our wounds and all the monsters. We are broken, but we are loved.”

Jean Vanier, taken from Community and Growth

I remember listening to one of my favorite shows on the radio the other night  – Krista Tippett’s “On Being and the host was interviewing one of my favorite Christian Irascible, the Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. She was speaking at the Wild Goose festival and the topic happened upon her depression and how she dealt with it, and here is how she described it: rather than succumbing to not only the pain of depression but also the stigma of depression (compound that with Bolz-Weber’s history with alcoholism and long-term sobriety), she gave her depression a name!

She named her depression Francis.  How brilliant.  How utterly deviously and brilliant – name the pain and befriend it!  I was struck by the hilarity and compassion that naming her depression afforded her. When asked a direct question about does she preach and teach about her depression she smacked it out of the park and left my mouth agape. Nadia said, “I try and preach from my scars and not my wounds.”

How raw and authentic, how utterly insightful, and how true for those of us in recovery…”I try to preach from my scars, not my wounds.”

She essentially sums up Jean Vanier’s quote, the essential message of what it means to be a human being seeking God; the journey from our own wounds to others wounds and the healing experience of scars.

I love my scars, almost perversely so. Some of them are physical, on my arms, some covered up with kanji tattoos of sacred text, and some have been rendered almost invisible due to the aging process. And some, well, they are invisible and only show themselves in holy moments of intimacy, prayer, and community

I am wounded, no doubt. But I am loved. The point is do I spend more time focusing on the truth that I am wounded or on the amazing truth that I am loved, beyond words, by a God Whose loved is infinitely faithful and present?  The answer to that question reveals a great deal about where I am spiritually.

Our scars are the perfect reminders of this creative tension in which we must live – that of being between the “already and the not yet.”   I am whole, but not yet. I am perfectly human but not perfect. I am superfluous yet divinely unique. I am loved by God, but I sometimes I loathe myself.  I am a shining example of God’s love taking place but I am broken and wounded and wound others as a result sometimes.

But the great truth in all of this, a truth I learn and live every day of my sobriety, is this – I am not my wounds, but I am my scars.

My scars are reminders of the place where God entered my wounds, entered my life. And each scar I have is a blessed reminder that God is right now, and always has been, with me. Our scars are reminders that God is with us in the pain and the healing, in the suffering darkness and the tender light. God comes and sits down on the floor with us in our darkness and reaches out to touch us and to simply BE with us.

Our scars remind us that even though God may not have delivered the trial or tribulation from us, God did indeed come in Love and be with us in the darkness. I have experienced this Truth many times: when my father died; when my son died; when my mother and brother died; when all hope seemed lost and I thought the only obvious answer was death God came.

Our scars are God’s calling cards, reminders of his faithful Presence, enduring love, patient tenderness, and infinite wisdom and power.

So the next time we glance down at our physical scars or feel the pang and tug of the unseen scars, whisper a prayer of Gratitude in remembrance that you may be wounded, but you are loved.