Do I Dare?

“Those who look to the law of love as Jesus taught it, as the law of perfect liberty, and act accordingly as doers, whose acts are motivated by that love, will be blessed by God for living by that teaching.”

– Br. David Allen

“Jesus risked reputation and dignity in order to love—risked loving even a sinner.  “O Lord, who risks everything to love, show us compassion that does not count the cost, and teach us to share it without hesitation.” 

Thomas HoffmanA Child in Winter

Do I?

Do I risk ‘everything’ to love like Jesus?  Do I follow a royal law of Love at all costs?

Do I risk my pithy reputation to love like Jesus loved?  I sit in churches so often and all I hear is sermons majoring on the minors (so to speak), but rarely do I hear sermons about loving like Jesus did.  Some say love the sinner and hate the sin, but I am only human and do not possess the surgical precision needed to separate the “sin” from the sinner, so I end up hating the sinner even as I say I am only hating the sin.

I can sit in the rooms and listen to others share their experience, strength and hope and I slice my fellow alcoholics to bits with the surgical knife of my mind.

Plain and simply put, I am afraid to love like this.

I am aware that most followers of Jesus are afraid to love like this: we fear being called gay, radical, Muslim, liberal, drunk, addict, loser, sinner, scum, one of “them” if I am in proximity to “them” attempting feebly to love like Jesus.

Or even worse, I fear being called “Jesus freak” – which is actually a grand compliment.

The old adage says, visiting someone with cancer does not mean I condone smoking; but I fear if I love those different from me, then I will be accused of being one of “them.”

But is that so bad?

Jesus was accused of being a sinner, a glutton, a drunk, a ‘friend’ of sinners, one who dined with traitors and whores…  And yet, all he did was love, love, love.

Do I…?

 

“Turned Upside Down” (Fr. Thomas Keating)

“The Divine action may turn our lives upside down; it may call us into various forms of service.  Readiness for any eventuality is the attitude of one who has entered into the freedom of the Gospel.  Commitment to the new world that Christ is creating requires flexibility and detachment: the readiness to go anywhere or nowhere, to live or to die, to rest or to work, to be sick or to be well, to take up one service and to put down another.

Everything is important when one is opening to Christ-consciousness.  This awareness transforms our worldly concepts of security into security of accepting, for love of God, an unknown future.

“The love of God will take care of the rest of the journey … ”

Fr. Thomas Keating

More on Grace: the messiness of it all

I love grace.  I need grace; and desperately so.  But most of all, I rarely understand grace.  So permit some random musings on it.

One explanation I try and use for grace is that it is the place and space where the tenacious madness of God and the seemingly never-ending woundedness of human beings meet. Frederick Buechner says that this meeting place between us and God is almost “always a matter of life or death and usually both.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Grace is the reality that God meets us where we (wherever that is), as we are, and begins the transformation process at that precise spot. Grace is NOT “I’ll get a bit better, more whole, wiser, holier, etc., and then God begins to transform us.”

Not at all. That is the letter of the law kind of thinking, not the Spirit of Grace.

That still involves me doing the work, and God does the work. I ask for help, surrender, become open and wait upon the Spirit to breathe new life into these old bones.

That is grace.

~ ~ ~ ~

Grace is not just talking about God, or admiring Jesus, or even trying to follow his way. Grace is being down on the floor, all curled up, sobbing over the pain and confusion of it all, and knowing, experiencing the Truth that God is down on the floor with us, sobbing, being present to all of us, with us.

~ ~ ~ ~

Grace is God’s complete and total love and acceptance of us as we are NOW, the whole kit and caboodle, and not at some distant point in the future when we arrive or get to some heavenly place.

Grace is almost always a NOW thing, a movement of God that removes the stain of the past and the fear of the future and brings radical acceptance in the here and now.

 

 

 

Advent Musings on the Incarnation

Originally written and posted December 24, 2014

“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”   (The Good News of Luke 1: 67-79)

“God became one of us and…pitched his tent in our midst.” – Clarence Jordan (taken from the Cotton Patch Sermons)

Since Christmas Eve is actually the last day of Advent, I thought I would muse a bit about the spectacular nature of this Sacred Season. So, this morning I received an email and in it this pastor was saying that no words can adequately convey God’s love for human life. I thought to myself that he may be right; no mere words can truly express God’s desire to be so close to us and to love us. My first thought was well the Incarnation is as good as it gets in describing that truth.

Think about it: God wanted to be so close to you and me that God put on flesh and became one of us! Pause for just a moment and really ponder that truth, the truth of what Christmas is ALL about. Ponder and personalize it:

God wanted you to know how much you are loved, wanted to be so near you, so much so that God put on flesh and became just like you.

God spared NO expense to be close to us, to love us, to show that love to us! Now even if you do not believe in the virgin birth or that the Incarnation is real, still ponder the notion that God would do such a thing to prove his love to you and me.

That truth to me makes this a time of true hopefulness – a kairos moment pregnant with God.  Kairos, the Greek word for time, is unlike the human concept of time, chronos, meaning “chronological time.” Kairos has to do with a divine visitation, a rending of the veil of human time when God comes to dwell among his people in an extraordinary way. The Incarnation is a Kairos moment that happened at a specific chronological time…an Infinite Moment held delicately within a finite one. It’s downright scandalous.

The Incarnation is both mind-boggling and paradox. Mind boggling in that almighty God would actually limit Godself by becoming flesh; paradox in that God comes to us through the fragile vulnerability of a helpless, newborn child who is Messiah. And the paradox of the Incarnation continues: God did not choose to come as a powerful military King Messiah ready to liberate the Jewish people with force from the brutal and ongoing occupation of the Roman Empire.

God, it seems, had different plans.

Instead, God chose to come to us as a naked, helpless baby born to a poor, unwed disenfranchised teenage mother in a land under the oppressive occupation of an Empire. That fact alone defies all logic and reason. Who would be more marginalized and dispossessed than Mary? Who could be farther from the seat of power? But it within this zeitgeist that the Incarnation happens; God did not come as a warrior God with a large army, a boon of gold, and a taste for control.

No, God came to us, as one of us, choosing to make himself known in fragility and poverty – a far cry from how most people thought Messiah would come.

Every year at Advent we are offered the chance for reflecting on how God came to us then, and how God continues to come to us now: in helplessness; in the tenderness of new life given during a dark time; in the promise of hope when all seems lost.

And let us remember too that Advent is an opportunity for us to remember during darker days that God is asking us again to allow our very lives to become, like Mary, a sacred womb where Hope can be born anew within us and indeed within the world.

 

Poetic Musings: God in our Midst

I want to live my life as if I believe God is in my midst,
not as theory but as a Living Presence.

I hunger for God.

I pine for my life to be a living reflection of the God I believe in.

I want my life to be a fount of God’s love –
limitless, lavish and lushly poured out for all.

God is not to be out done in giving or benevolence.

God pines for us, waiting for us until we are ready to taste and see the
great goodness and truth that surrounds us – the truth that God indeed is in our midst.

Minor Musing: Litmus Test of Love

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this [expression of love] everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

The most visible proof that Jesus is real and the ‘proof’ that I am – that we are – following Jesus is revealed by the answer to this one question: how we love one another.

It is not about how well I love the pretty, the well off, the ones just like me, or even how well I love the poor and wounded.

I believe the “calling card” for our faith is revealed by how well we love everyone.

The litmus test of my intimacy with God and the integrity of my friendship with God is shown to be abundant or lacking based on one proof: how well am I giving and receiving Divine Love. 

So, on this journey, I ask myself daily, “am I allowing God’s love to flow into me and through me out into the world?”

The answer to that Question is my spiritual litmus test.

“Ruthless Trust” (Brennan Manning)

Wallowing in shame, remorse, self-hatred and guilt over real or imagined failings in our past lives [portrays] a distrust in the love of God.

Preoccupation with our past sins, present weaknesses and character defects gets our emotions churning in self-destructive ways, closes us within the mighty citadel of self and preempts the presence of a compassionate God.