The Presence of Listening

Every year, around my birthday, I take stock of my life: reviewing where I am; how is my spiritual condition; am I growing closer to God and others, things like that.

I am realizing that a few things about me are being noticeably transformed – all thanks to God and those who have helped me in my recovery. I have grown from a totally rigid black and white thinker to a place where I am being led by the Spirit towards a more tolerant, compassionate experience and view of life – mine and the worlds.

In short, I have become less arrogant that my way is the right way, much less even “a” single way being the ‘right’ way.  I have come to know and see that the Spirit is like the Wind indeed – blowing wherever the skies and landscape take it.  Who am I to judge the Spirit’s leading and intention in a persons’ life?  I am learning that God can work in any way God sees fit, and can obviously do so without any input from this particular ragamuffin.

I am learning again one of the indispensable foundations of spirituality (and spiritual growth) is listening: listening to God, to our hearts, our fears, our pain, our joys, and especially to others.  Spirituality (and spiritual growth) can and do occur in solitude, but for them to flourish deeply they must grow in relation to another – in community.

And I am fast learning one steadfast truth: all community begins with listening.

It is an initial listening to a call from the Other Who then leads us to others and in listening to them we are led to ourselves, and it is vital to listen to each one clearly because at the Center they are all saying the same thing: “we are loved and we are one.”

It is in the mutuality that grows from listening that the deepest spiritual significance occurs, namely the mutuality between listening and telling: knowing someone will listen without judgment and knowing that one can tell their story and it will be heard.  That is one of the greatest powers of groups like Alcoholics Anonymous – story telling, listening, a shared struggle and a shared healing experience.

Those of us who are wrestling with spiritual dilemmas and demons, creeping and crawling ever so slowly towards awakenings, do not necessarily need answers but ‘presence’ – the permission to confront the dilemma, struggle with it out loud knowing we will be heard, and finding solace in the ‘defeat’ of terminal uniqueness (the belief that we are so different that we are alone in a chaotic, random universe).

Listening begins and deepens our spiritual experiences.  Listening affords us the space and silence needed to empty out our pain through storytelling and mutuality.   Listening is where we find not only answers but maybe more importantly the Presence Whom is the Source of all our longings.

 

 

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“A Letter to the Church of Abbotsford and Beyond” (Ward Draper)

In this broken city teeming with hurt and frustration a looming tragedy approaches. This tragedy is not new; we have seen it before and will most assuredly will again. On the horizon injustice and oppression are bearing down on some of Abbotsfords most vulnerable residents again.

An eviction notice has been posted for July 31, 2014 at 9 a.m. to displace dozens of hurting, sick, and forgotten humans who have sought fragile safety and community along the Gladys corridor. It is a street drenched in pain, exploitation, despair, and numerous other woes. Regardless of the conditions and behaviors, these are humans who need the Church of Abbotsford to respond and engage. The Church needs to walk down into that darkness and let its light bring the healing so desperately needed. Do not let more suffering come.

God asks His children, lovers of Christ, to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, and to set the oppressed free. We, the Church of Abbotsford, must rise united to halt the cycle of tyranny which decimates so many precious lives. We have an opportunity to bring the Kingdom to bear upon misguided and futile hostilities that cause great pain and misery on so many lost and hurting human beings.

It is true the Church of Abbotsford has stumbled many times when facing the challenges of the marginalized within her walls. However, it does not have to be this way. This does not have to be. It is our calling, our responsibility, our privilege to face these daunting challenges together as family of believers. Sisters and Brothers – our King calls blessed those who feed the hungry. Those who quench the thirst of the parched. Those who welcome the stranger as family. Those who wrap garments around the naked. Those who bring healing to the sick. Those who visit the prisoner locked in cages of steel. Jesus calls us blessed when we do for the least, for it is there that He is found. Christ is served when we offer these courageous loving gifts. The Kingdom is found in these simple acts of love, grace, and mercy. The King says if we do not love in these ways we will face punishment.

The time is now, today, to put aside empty self-gratifying activities and seek justice. Lend your voice, your hands, your heart, your possessions to reach out to the lost in our community and on our streets. July 31 is such an opportunity to serve our Lord. Pray, listen, and seek practical ways you and the Church can rise up and face these challenges that burn within our city. Together we can let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream.

Original Link at Huff Post

Going About…Doing Good

“You know…what has happened all over Judea…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power [and Jesus] went about doing good and healing all those oppressed…for God was with him.” (Acts 10:37-38, NAB)

I’ve often realized that sometimes the sacred Scriptures get quite “dull” to me, and I think the reason is that for all the “this and that” over Scripture, it is and will always be a collection of stories about real people of people, and their interactions with each other and with God.

That is why I love the above mentioned Scripture; for it says that the love story of Jesus, and how he lived and what he did, was known all over Judea (so even back then ‘gossip’ and stories were afoot and the norm).

When I think about Jesus, I often forget or deny his humanness (back in the day that was a named heresy with punishment being excommunication and a hot party of one on a burning stake!).

Yes, Jesus was utterly and completely human, and he was filled with the Spirit and power. And what did he do with his Spirit-filled power: he used it to go about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed. Now, how many of us can say if we had “power” that this is what we would do? Be honest…

And when I look around at the self-proclaimed Christians, I am often left wondering and amazed at just how power hungry some God mongerers are. Wouldn’t it be grand if most of “Christendom” and the “true professed followers of Jesus” were known more for going around doing good and healing the oppressed rather than what most of Christians are known for now: gay bashing, gun-toting, reactionary close-mindedness, narcissistic self-help pedagogies promoting earthly riches. The list goes on…

Truly, I sometimes feel that if Jesus were alive today, we’d lock him out of our houses of worship: how dare he hang out with whores, drug addicts, money-launderers, and those people who smell funny and talk to themselves when they walk down the street.

Can you hear it? Just exactly who does this Jesus think he is? How dare him. Well, he’ll mess up my agenda. He’ll mess with my Constitutional Rights! He’ll come across as unpatriotic. He’ll offend the neighbors…

Blah, blah, blah. Damn right Jesus will mess with you! For going around doing good and healing the oppressed got Jesus killed! He did not win some local civic award, or the Nobel Prize, nor did he get 1 million hits on his YouTube viral video or have the most popular Facebook account.

He got strung up on a tree for following the leading of the Spirit and doing good and being with and healing the poor and oppressed. It is vital to remember that in the time of Jesus, much like today, the poor were maligned for being so because it was their fault; they had sinned or committed some heinous error that had caused God to punish and curse them.

Jesus screws all that screwy theology right to hell.

I’d like to be all pious and sanctimonious and say I want to be like Jesus. Well, I do, just without the cross. I do want to be filled with the Spirit and go about doing good and being a source of God’s healing for the oppressed. But I am afraid because those who love God and the poor often times suffer the same fate as the poor.

What will the stories be about me when I die? Will I be known for going about doing good? Will you be known about going around doing good? What legacy am I leaving?

The question is: am I out there going about doing good and healing those who are oppressed?

“Ultimate Matters” (Kayla McClurg Sermon)

For Sunday, September 22, 2013 – Luke 16:1-13

On the brink of losing everything, we see what we really have. We take account of the resources entrusted to us. In the end, what will matter? What will we have to show for ourselves? Are we managing well or squandering the wealth we have been given?

My brother, right now, is dying of bone cancer. From a place of physical strength and independence, he has slipped quickly into utter weakness. Against the barren backdrop of these days, I feel an urgency for what really matters and what does not. What does it mean to steward this property we’ve been given, this one and only life?

Jesus tells a story of a rich landowner who had given authority over his property to a manager, who subsequently squandered the wealth and was brought to account. (Have I yielded the authority over my life to other managers? Have I squandered the riches I’ve been given?) While he still could, the manager turned to others who also were indebted to the rich man and cut new deals with them, letting them owe less than before, thus endearing himself to them in the hope that they would take him in once he was evicted from the master’s property. In other words, he cheated and connived for his own benefit. And Jesus says he is to be commended for his shrewd action!

What are we to learn from this story? Aren’t we supposed to follow the rules, do the honest thing, the morally responsible thing, always and only? Here we are given another door by which to enter God’s house, a small, hidden door out back that requires crawling through on our knees. It causes me to wonder—would I be too proud for the degradation of this door, the door of weakness and spiritual poverty? (As the manager says, “I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.” What a fix he is in!)

Will I lower myself for the sake of what ultimately matters, even to the point of being called shrewd, even sneaking in the back way, empty of other options? Or will I insist on a final report saying how decent and appropriate and careful I have been, how I have managed God’s property just fine … except for missing out on the one thing that matters …. except for taking the risk of a life that is really life.

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My God Dream…

Short and sweet.  But here it is.  My God Dream, that hunger pang of divine inspiration that I am called to, is Rez Farm

Rez Farm ~ a healing retreat ‘cultivating resurrection’

Rez Farm will offer the wounded, the weary, the healers and the seekers a place and space to GROW: deeper into God, community, the Earth and practicing the works of mercy.

What is your God Dream?!?

P.S. And I mean for any and all to email me their God Dream and I will post them on this blog with your permission, of course, to send it out into the world!

“Easy to Believe” (Dorothy Day)

It is surely an exercise of faith for us to see Christ in each other. But it is through such exercise that we grow and the joy of our vocation assures us we are on the right path. Certainly, it is easier to believe that the sun warms us, and we know that buds will appear on the trees in the wasteland across the street, that life will spring out of the dull clods of that littered park across the way. There are wars and rumors of wars, poverty and plague, hunger and pain.

Still, the sap is rising, again there is the resurrection of spring, and God’s continuing promise to be with us always, with comfort and joy, if we will only ask.

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” The Single Garment of Destiny” (MLK)

We must all learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or we will all perish together as fools.  We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.  And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.  This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.

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