“The Heart of It All” (Kayla McClurg)

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

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Advent: A Time for Pregnant Pausing

 “Advent is a season of the secret of Divine Love growing in Silence…” Anonymous

Advent, from the Latin word adventus, means “a coming.”  In the busy days of the Christmas season, it seems Advent has become more of ‘a coming and going and rushing about’ than a pregnant pausing to celebrate the birth of Divine Hope.

One of the things that bothers me the most about this time of year, more than the blatant and rampant consumerism, is the edgy “busy’ness” of it all.  Like hamsters on a treadmill going nowhere fast, we run from store to store, party to party, event to event, never taking the time to pause and reflect upon the momentous occasion of the true “Coming” that this season is based upon.

Advent was and is meant to be a time of pausing, a time of seeking the Great Silence away from the rush and temptation of every little thing that tugs at our attention.

Advent is about taking the time to ‘stop’ time: to reflect upon the miracle of the Infinite rending the veil of time, thereby making all that is finite holy and sacred.

Advent is a time of deepening spirituality. And rather than some highfalutin concept, spirituality is more of a Velveteen rabbit-like experience of sensing God’s movement and Love in our lives in ever deepening ways, especially when things seem darkest.

Advent is also a specific “liturgical time” that gives us a chronological space for sensing God’s movement in our lives and in the world around us. It is an intentional time of pausing to look for the Holy in all the ways it is embodied around us. During Advent, we are reminded to allow the Spirit to transform our lives into “living mangers” – places where Christ can be born anew and afresh in us and in a world crying out for divine love.

This time of year is a time for seeking and seeing all the ways God comes to us, in tenderness and smallness, in ways and places that we may not normally look for God: places like a manger (a feeding trough to be exact) or the distressing disguise of the homeless; or the numerous people waiting in line at the soup kitchen or the forgotten and lonely or those struggling with addictions or the person next to us in line at the store. All of these are moments when we can both see and be Christ.

In these last days of Advent, may this be a time when God comes to each and every one of us in deliberate ways, ways known only to us, special ways that afford us the opportunity to renew our faith, discovering the depths and richness of God’s love and compassion for us and the world.

So as we continue to journey on into these days of Advent, let us all pause…

and reflect…

and take time…

to recognize the Holy Presence that surrounds us.

Sacred Desires

I am starting to truly believe that the secret of life is written on (and in) our heart’s desires. These desires – the ones that are all-consuming, have a life of their own, connect you with the pain and joy of the world and with God – are sacred.

The time has come to return and re-ignite the inward journey that leads us to these divine desires. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we can pick up the trail right here and right now. God is timeless and therefore God is ever-present in every moment and in this moment we can dive deeply into our hearts and find God and those burning desires that are divine.

Our desires are the map that we have been given to find the only life worth living!

Don’t just ask yourself what the world needs. It is vital (life-giving) that we also ask ourselves what makes us come alive, and go do that! Because what the world needs now are people who have come alive and are awake.  There are enough ‘sleeping giants’ and deer in the headlights kind of people.  We need people burning with Life, fire, passion and love – seeking to fulfil the desires planted in their hearts.

In some ways, I believe that God has in fact “rigged” the world so that life only “works” when we embrace risk as the theme of our lives, when we live by faith.

All our attempts to find a safer life, to live by the expectations of others, just kill the soul in the end. That’s not how we find Life. And if there is any wisdom in these words, in the 47 years of living I have under my belt, I would say this: don’t ask yourself how or why you would follow your heart’s desire; for that question will cut your dreams off at the knees.

The “how” is never the right question to ask. And the “why” questions just leads to chasing an elusive dream, like a hamster on a spinning wheel going nowhere fast.

The most powerful question to ask is “WHAT”…

What would you dream for yourself? What does your heart truly long for? What do you feel God is calling you to be and do? What makes your Soul sing?

I believe the deep desires of our hearts’ were placed there by God – to lead us deeper into him and deeper into ourselves and this beautiful world.

In my estimation, I feel our “job” is to ask what we would do and as for the question of HOW, well that’s God’s job.

Words of Five Wise People

My words are insufficient, again.  I am sensing I am grasping at straws, false pride and ego whisper to me that I (of all people) truly have something to say.  In truth I do have something to say, but so what, so do billions of others.  I am just arrogant and pompous enough to to believe my words matter more than most and can rise above the din and feed people spiritually.  Ugh, arrogance is ugly indeed; I do not wear it well. 

So, rather than write my own words, I will intentionally practice my spiritual disciplines – becoming silent and invisible – offering instead the Words of others who are truer and wise than I. 

So with that, I offer you the Words of Five Wise People who love God madly and deeply. 

May you grow in Grace and grow closer to the God Who is Pure Love…

“God is the primary actor. But even actor seems a bit too domesticated here, since when we hear that word we readily think of the folks on TV. God is strange; God is surprising; God is faithful. In worship, we enter this drama with God, as did Abraham, as did Moses, as did Mary. In this liturgical drama, we begin to see what it means to receive the stranger.” – Elizabeth Newman, Untamed Hospitality

“Fortunately, God is not what we think God is—not in any small way what I might think, nor in any big way the sum total of what a whole bunch of thinkers, great thinkers through the centuries, might think. And yet we have no choice but to try to think what God is, what and who God might be. At some point God comes to meet such thoughts. God arrives and appears as Surprise…. And something new is grasped in the surprise; something is learned; experience—it could be called experience with God—is gained. But God remains infinitely free, infinitely out of our control in whatever we come to know.”  – Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, A Monk’s Alphabet

“One of the best pieces of spiritual advice I ever received from a spiritual director was to pray for anything that I desired, even if that desire seemed sinful. It was a kind of “prayer shock therapy,” designed to break through dualistic thinking patterns and begin integrating prayer with life as we actually experience it, rather than as we might wish it to be.” -Br. Robert L’Esperance

When it comes to our spiritual journey with God, the best advice I’ve heard is: It’s your journey. Your spiritual life is between you and God, Alone. So don’t follow anyone and don’t seek to be followed. Yes, listen, learn and respect your elders and those wise forerunners on the spiritual journey, yet when all is said, it’s just you and God, and in the end, it’s just God.” – Peter Traben Haas

God’s vision is expansive. God’s loving-kindness is expansive. The net is cast wide to catch fish of every kind. We come to celebrate God’s infinitely expansive catholicity, the wide-reaching embrace of his love. It’s a mystery! And, here we all are, in the midst of this most savory, this most delectable stew.” – Br. Mark Brown

Soulpatch Musings: On Spirit & Fear

Spirit…

The holy Spirit is the wholly Other Spirit – the very Breath of God – that is sent to fill us humans in order to give us Life Abundant and all that Is God.

The holy Spirit is the Totality and Essence of God.

The Hebrew word for Spirit is “ruah,” meaning “Breath” – even saying it sounds like breath and breathing, Rue’ahhhhhhhh is how it is pronounced. So that even when we say the word for Spirit we are in truth breathing Spirit in and out of our bodies.

Breathe.

Life.

God.

God’s breath breathed into us to give us God’s very Being. The holy Spirit, the wholly other Spirit, the Breath that is like no other, is the Divine Breath that contains the whole being of God and all that exists.

So even breathing, being mindful of the Source of our breath, is an act of prayer and surrender. In breathing and being mindful that all my breaths come from God, means that I am thanking God for my life and offering my life back to God, simply by living…as a fully alive human being.

So be mindful that every breath you take is a prayer to God, in thankfulness for Life.

celtic knot divider

Fear…

​Fear speaks to my doubts. God speaks my name.

Fear only 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 balm that heal my body, mind and spirit.  God’s promise is divine presence.  God’s gift is unlimited and unconditional Love.

God’s faithful presence and crazy Love open up my life and my days to the ever present abundance that Jesus told us He came to give us (John 10:10).

Seize Life…Now

It is no secret that I am a verdant seeker and searcher of all that is mystical and practical, addicted to more of God and all that is Sacred. I am not easily quieted or quenched by safe answers. As a teenager, I would walk around my church youth group with a homemade t-shirt that said, “you know the Answer, but do you even know the Questions?”

As is often the case with me and God – the hand held Mystery, the Unsayable Said – Wisdom comes through fragments of papers, random Google searches, strange emails, etc., questing for deeper and richer experiences of all that is Holy and profane.

And today this Message came to me, from The Message (a modern day translation of the Bible) written by one of my favorite people, Eugene Peterson. This comes from his translation of Ecclesiastes, one of the least appreciated books of the bible precisely because it is not pretty, packaged or pedantic with gentle answers.

So, read it with me with rage, passion, love, pounding fists, and sweating palms. Read it as prayer, as mantra, as fodder for your Greater Life and the larger angels that inhabit your heart!

Green Page Divider

A right time to lament and another to cheer.

A right time to hold and another to part.

A time to search and another to count your losses.

One handful of peaceful repose is better than two fistfuls of worried work-

More spitting into the wind.

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.

God’s in charge, not you – the less you speak, the better.

Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work.  It’s God’s gift!

God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.

But against all illusion + fantasy + empty talk

Seize life!

God takes pleasure in your pleasure!

Each day is God’s gift… Make the most of each one!  Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!

Be generous! Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns. Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others.

Just as you’ll never understand the mystery of life in a pregnant woman, so you’ll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does.

Life as we know it, precious + beautiful, ends. The body is put back in the same ground it came from. 

The Spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.

It’s all smoke, nothing but smoke.

The words of the wise prod us to live well. They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd. But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy.

There’s no end to the publishing of books…

The last + final word is this: [Be in awe of] God. Do what He tells you.

Source: The Message (MSG)© Eugene Peterson

Car Accidents, Irony & a Bigger God

NOTE: this blog is raw, no editing, first thought, first word. And since it involves the rawness of realness, I felt OK with leaving it be.

My life has a funny way of having moments of “embodied Irony.” A moment like that crossed my path earlier this week. I had written the post about being in search of a bigger God and had set up my blog to auto post it. Well between the writing of the blog and the posting of the blog I had a miraculous experience: I survived a serious car accident.

A 4:30 p.m. on Palm Sunday, I was heading out from a friends’ house to get to evening Mass. I am far from a good Catholic or even a faithful follower of Jesus, but the events of Holy Week and Sacred Rituals of Easter and Passover are vital and important to my own spiritual l journey. So, I was pulling out of the gravel road onto a state highway. I looked left, then right and for some reason decided to go left to stop by a convenience store for an afternoon cup of Joe. I pulled out and there it was – a 1990 black Honda Accord traveling at about 60 miles per hour.

Picture taken by Hugh McGee at the scene of the accident.  It is of my drivers' side, direct impact of accident, Juno was sitting at the point of direct impact as was I.

Picture taken by Hugh McGee at the scene of the accident. It is of my drivers’ side, direct impact of accident, Juno was sitting at the point of direct impact as was I.

Time stopped or at least felt like it slowed down. I knew Juno and I were going to get nailed by this car so I reacted the fastest way I could: I simultaneously slammed the gas pedal to the floor (hoping to only have only the tail of my car hit) and I used all my strength to reach around and move Juno from behind the driver’s seat, pressing her against the rear passenger door (thereby putting her as far away from impact as possible).  All of this occurred in 2 seconds or less…

The car slammed into us, never even hitting the brakes before impact. Then it became surreal: metal twisting and bending; pain and searing fire erupting through my body; the shriek of a terrified dog; spinning around and around with dizzying force; then a second or two of pure stillness.

Then I heard the voice of a young person, “holy shit that is a lot of gas….get out, get out, man!” I only remember scrambling to get my seat belt off and nothing happening.  I was stuck and in blinding pain.  The door had me pinned in. I just remember screaming out to God, “Give me strength NOW, help me, Lord, save Juno. I don’t give a shit about me but save HER!!”

The seat belt unclasped.

I flipped over into the back of the car, grabbed Juno by her harness, and we literally fell out of the car stumbling about 30 feet away from the car. I could not breathe and pain was setting my body and soul on fire. The rest is a blur. All I remember is asking a bystander to call my friend and have him come and take my dog to the ER vet hospital.

I also remember Juno being right next to me, tight up against what I would learn were my fractured ribs. She did not move. When the paramedics approached me she growled but then let them touch me. My friend Hugh came and did what he is great at: exhibiting grace under pressure and jumped into the Solution. He just said, “I’ve got Juno.  The paramedics have got you.”

Then the pain took over…all over; searing, fire like, pained breathing, burning on my face and arms. Later I would learn it was the air bags and a few fractured ribs, one vertebrae fractured (L4) and another compressed (L3), bruised lungs, scrapes, cuts, and soreness all over, covering me like a blanket.

Out of all of this too, I learned I have a “shaded area” in my lungs that appears not to be affiliated with the accident. So, the accident afforded me the chance to learn that I need a biopsy on a shaded lump in my lung.

As I said before, my life is Embodied Irony. Continue reading