Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2013

Do not put your trust in princes [or princesses],

in mortal men [and women] who cannot save.”
—- From Ps. 146

R.I.P. Van Clyburn: "Blessed are the peacemakers"

R.I.P. Van Clyburn: “Blessed are the peacemakers”

Today is another day of Lent in the Christian life but in the worldly life of politics in Washington D.C. it’s just another Groundhog Day hosted by the usual suspects. A few thoughts:

I made a notation in my journal back on Wednesday, July 27–in 2011–which reads:

“The nation is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.”

What would we do without public servants?

They love us and serve us from the cradle to the grave.

///////

This just in from News Central! We’ve been bankrupt for whole decades.

And who’s to blame?

Obama and Boehner. Reid and McConnell. Clinton(s) and Bush(es).

The entire “conservative” Republican Party and the whole of the “liberal” Democratic Party.

But most of all, you.

And me.

Like our Princes we point fingers of blame, but point your finger and look where you thumb is aiming.

We love to love some politicians and love to loathe and hate others and have an amazing capacity to forgive the lies and disappointments and sins of the ones we love.

Our divine-like mercy for our guy or gal in politics is like God’s mercy on us all–endless.

/////

Why are we forever putting our trust in elected “Princes” (and a few “Princesses” who are allow to speak sometimes) who do constant violence to our minds, bodies, souls and spirits with fearmongering of the sort that both sides and all sides have “governed” with for a long time now.

And anyway, haven’t they always. “Nothing new under the sun,” a wise man said a few thousands years before Democrats and Republicans were (God help us!) created (by men, not God).

Surely we can all agree that politics is a necessary evil and politicians are too. But the operative word there is “evil.” Grace, mercy, forgiveness and truth that can be sworn on a bible–these are not exactly political values.

And we Christians vote for them, loving our guy and hating the other.

Although, some of us don’t vote anymore.

I mentioned last year that I, for one, was done voting, having finally arrived at the point where one of my faith heroes, Dorothy Day stood.

“I don’t vote,” she said. “Why encourage them?”

Which didn’t stop her from giving them holy hell in her protests and a passionate fight for world peace and justice for all with justice for the poor being a bit of a Dorothy Day priority.

A good practice for spiritual growth in this time of Lent is to simply refuse to allow the “Princes” to do any more violence to the mind, body, spirit and soul.

— Don’t let them have your mind and fill it with endless worry and anxiety over things largely over your control anyway.

— Don’t let them have you spirit and soul–don’t surrender the God in you over to professional liars and “spinners.”

— Don’t let them keep your body tied up in knots of hand-wringing angst.

— And try to remain mindful that just like you and me, every politician alive is just another broken piece of work in need of God’s healing power and endless love, grace and tender mercies.

— Breathe in life in every breath that God gives you, mindful that every breath is a gift and that the gift that is God Himself/Herself is always as near as the next breath.

— Simply maintain your only real trust in the Prince of Peace, Truth, Justice and Mercy.

— Pray.

1 Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.

2 I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.

4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.

5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,

6 the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
the LORD, who remains faithful forever.

7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,

8 the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.

9 The LORD watches over the alien
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The LORD reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the LORD.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

P1030580

It’s Lent 2013, and St Teresa of Avila is always a good read for Lent.

But then, she’s always a good spiritual read anytime.

To have courage for whatever comes in life—

everything lies in that.

— Teresa of Avila

Cemetery on the outskirts of Santa Elena.

Cemetery on the outskirts of Santa Elena.

“Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one Glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing. “

St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila

“Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.”

“Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.”

Read Full Post »

A whole-hearted, unrestricted cooperation with the unavoidable.”

— A Buddhist teacher revealing
“the secret to happiness and equanimity”

—————-

From John Wesley’s Journal, Feb. 26, 1743:

“‎I visited those that were sick. One of these had kept [in] her room for many months, so that she had never heard the voice or seen the face of any preacher of ‘this way’. But God had taught her in the school of affliction. She gave a plain and distinct account of the manner wherein she had received a sense of her acceptance with God, more than a year before; and of a fuller manifestation of his love, of which she never after doubted for a moment.”

What follows is today’s Lenten meditation in our continuing series of, admittedly, sometimes heavy meditations over the 40 days of Lent leading up to the happier day that is Resurrection Day:

Cemetery in Santa Elena, Belize. Click on to enlarge and you can see the pale moon we've had in these blue skies for a while.

Cemetery in Santa Elena, Belize. Click on to enlarge and you can see the pale moon we’ve had in these blue skies for a while.

Buddhist teacher and author Christina Feldman* tells of a Buddhist teacher who was asked:

“What is the secret to your happiness and equanimity?”

The teacher’s answer: “A whole-hearted, unrestricted cooperation with the unavoidable.”

Life is hard, life is a struggle, and like the old bumper sticker that was very popular for a lot of years used to say, “STUFF HAPPENS.”

The actual bumper sticker put it more bluntly but you get the point.

Stuff happens. And sometimes the random stuff of life happens to us big-time. Bad stuff seems to come in waves sometimes. As Annie Dillard puts it, “Sometimes it feels like all the forces of the universe are arrayed against us.”

///////

In hospital chaplaincy I used to sometimes hear people tell stories of such awful things overwhelming them over a short span of days or weeks or months or years that it was all I could do to keep my equanimity in trying to be still with them and just listen and allow them to talk their pain and grief off their chests. A part of me wanted to just say, “Well, I know it’s hard. Can I say a prayer with you now?” And with prayer duty done, I wanted to bolt for the door and step outside a while and go swallow gobs of chocolate at a nurse’s station or something.

There’s a reason there’s always lots of chocolate at a hospital nurse’s station.

///////

A hospital patient I visited once had just received news that a granddaughter had been killed in a car wreck. This patient already had endured six–an amazing six deaths of people close to her– including her husband, children and siblings, all in less than one year’s time.

And now came news of the beloved granddaughter, which made seven.

All I could say, repeatedly in her frequent pauses for weeping–make that our weeping– as she talked about these family members who were her life to her, was, “I can’t imagine how that feels to you.” I still can’t imagine how it felt.

The last thing she said to me after I had wept with her and prayed with her and was headed out the door was, “God never promised it’d be easy, did he Chaplain.”

“Only that he’d be with us,” I reassured her. And with that she managed a bit of a smile.

I couldn’t believe this amazing woman’s faith and equanimity in the face of such constant tragedy. And I still can’t believe how deep and mature in faith and hope a Christian like her is capable of being.

But such faith, and hope, happens. Or can.

“A whole-hearted, unrestricted cooperation with the unavoidable” is not the exclusive, peaceful domain attained by a Buddhist who has grown to accept the randomness of “stuff” laying them low in life. That peace-filled embrace of the unavoidable, which leads to healing and some measure of comfort, is what all seekers in all great faiths are seeking, and what many actually attain, even in the face of all the forces of the universe sometimes seemingly arrayed wholly and entirely against them.

We Christians speak of growing and arriving at such happiness and equanimity, which is peace, in terms of “peace beyond understanding.”

///////

Jesus teaches us, as so many characters and stories in the bible teach us, that one secret to happiness (actually the joy from which happiness can sometimes spring) and equanimity in life is learning to embrace “the unavoidable” hardships of life. One learns from spiritual practices like prayer, worship, bible reading and all the rest, and from no small amount of perseverance in the practices.

I’ve long had an abiding interest in Buddhism and the spiritual practices of that faith tradition, which in in so many ways parallel the Christian way. My dear friend the Buddhist, poet and author Stephanie Rogers, who has many years of experience in grief counseling in hospice, always reminds people that “the only way out of grief is through it.”

As a Christian I always took that saying of Stephanie’s and framed it with grieving people with the image of Christ walking with us through the dark valleys of loss and mourning and grief. Christ walks with us through our dark valleys toward the bright light of healing and renewal. Sometimes all we can do is surrender and let him pick us up and carry us.

Put another way in the Christian scheme of things, sometimes the weight of our cross is too much for us to bear and we just hand it over to the one who was nailed to it in the worst event of suffering imaginable, an event that wasn’t exactly random, which he accepted and cooperated with.

A Christian, like a Buddhist, accepts, or learns to accept through the two faiths’ different means of the embracing of suffering, that hardship and more suffering in life are unavoidable. Once accepted, then comes the never-ending spiritual practice and discipline required in both traditions, and all great faith traditions for that matter.

But I am a Christian. And as for we Christians, we can either try to escape hardship and grief by over-drinking, over-eating (too much chocolate, perhaps), over-sexing, over-shopping or a million other unhealthy and potentially destructive escape routes, or we can follow the examples and teachings of Christ and so many characters in the bible, and so many biblical stories, and learn to “cooperate with the unavoidable” in life.

We only have to look to our own Christian Psalms, which other faiths honor and respect and sometimes turn to and for good reason, to find the Psalmists processing pain seemingly beyond belief–some of them to the point of lashing out in anger at, or frustration with, the Almighty.

“My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”

When the Jewish rabbi Christ uttered those agonizing words in his suffering on the cross, he was quoting right out of Psalm 22.

Speaking of embracing suffering; see Judaism 101 for that tradition’s unflinching take on it and how to handle it. And Judaism’s tradition, Christian brethren, is our tradition still, to a great extent.

/////

The Psalmists that we find crying out in anger or agony in so many such “lament Psalms” as Psalm 22 inevitably end up singing God’s praises before a Psalm is over, but the point is that they embrace the pain and agony on the path to healing and hope renewed. They remain in conversation with “the Father” even if for fleeting moments they hate the Old Man.

When people say to me as a pastor–“I know we’re not supposed to be angry with God. . . .”–I cut them off and say, “Wait a minute–where is that written?”

Stuff happens and will. Suffering will ensue. It will be hell sometimes. And we might even curse God in it in the midst of (like Job’s wife advised). But God has very large shoulders and thick, God-like skin and can take our ranting. And anyway, our suffering can be transformed, and healing can always happen,

and then . . .

well . . . I always thought about investing in and marketing bumper stickers that say, “HOPE HAPPENS.”

But I don’t know.

That might be a risky venture in a world where practices of instant convenience, instant comfort, constant entertainment and “instant gratification” make suffering and its embrace in faith a hard sell.

———–
*Christina Feldman is the author of a number of books, including Compassion and The Buddhist Path to Simplicity. The quote was taken from a 2008 article by Feldman in the Buddhist journal Tricycle, “Long Journey to a Bow.”

Read Full Post »

Pix for Lent this week from a peaceful cemetery on the outskirts of Santa Elena.

Pix for Lent this week from a peaceful cemetery on the outskirts of Santa Elena.

Cleaning up the wife's grave with machete. "I miss her every day," the gentleman told me. "Keep her cleaned up."

Cleaning up the wife’s grave with machete. “I miss her every day,” the gentleman told me. “Keep her cleaned up.”

Something to think about in Lent meditation:

P1030570

The late James Luther Adams, the Unitarian theologian and social ethicist at Harvard, said there are two necessary things in life–“a sense of ultimacy and a sense of intimacy.”

A baby born into babyhood without any affectionate touch and nurturing can’t survive, or if he or she does the result won’t be pretty. Intimacy is a must in life and the more it’s lacking the more are the unhealthy and sometimes totally self-destructive ways we’ll try to fill that emptiness.

I happen to believe, at the risk of being arrogantly presumptuous, that we need, and all desperately want, intimacy with some Ultimate that so many believers of all kinds of faith recognize and address as God. It’s been said that we are born with a God-sized hole deep within us.

Ultimacy and intimacy are definitely needs, and certainly what we all want, don’t we?

For Lent we Christians might do well to mull on where God fits into that ultimacy/intimacy equation–and where and how God fits in into us.

And how, btw, we’re fitting into intimacy with God.

P1030575

Read Full Post »

This is my Rasmus/Marleyite buddy Razz J. You may recall that last time I saw him he was standing on his head down on the Mayawalk and I didn't recognize him even when he called out to me, "What's up, Pastor Paul?" He was wearing a tie for Mardi Gras and Marley Day observances and so I didn't snap to who it was right off. Saw him around market yesterday and he says, "You getting big around the girth there, man; you need to get off the motorcycle and start walking more." What I like about Razz, no nonsense. Keeps it real. Respect, Razz.

This is my Rasmus/Marleyite buddy Razz J. You may recall that last time I saw him he was standing on his head down on the Mayawalk and I didn’t recognize him even when he called out to me, “What’s up, Pastor Paul?” He was wearing a tie for Mardi Gras and Marley Day observances and so I didn’t snap to who it was right off. Saw him around market yesterday and he says, “You getting big around the girth there, man; you need to get off the motorcycle and start walking more.” What I like about Razz, no nonsense. Keeps it real. Respect, Razz.

The thing about beer for my horses was just another cheap Jitterbug joke.

Actually picked a few for Oscars tonight.

A while back a TV station here in Belize played all of the movies, in English, that are up for Best Picture–I saw some of them before you got to see them in the States.

I think I had already seen Argo last time at home but being the incurable film buff that I am it was great to watch such terrific movies here. I do get HBO and some movie channels on cable here, but to see all the Oscar nominees was pretty cool.

And for all I know this broadcasting on the cable station was legal.

I’ll be seeing many of you on Facebook while we watch the Oscars tonight I’m sure, FB friends.

It is tonight, isn’t it?

Saturday morning, they pour in in buses, cabs, rattling cars and pickup trucks, on bicycles, 2 wheelers and many walk many miles from many miles around.

Saturday morning, they pour in in buses, cabs, rattling cars and pickup trucks, on bicycles, 2 wheelers and many walk many miles from many miles around.

Just another jammin’ Saturday at the market. . .

My biggest catch since I moved to Belize to take up the fishing life. I ain't lying.

My biggest catch since I moved to Belize to take up the fishing life. I ain’t lying.

Time to turn the big boy.

Time to turn the big boy.

P1030543

P1030551P1030533

Muchos juevos.

Muchos juevos.

Upstairs on the far left end is a nice, private room with a view where you-know-who now lives, writes and swings  in his hammock on the veranda a lot.

Upstairs on the far left end is a nice, private room with a view where you-know-who now lives, writes and swings in his hammock on the veranda a lot.

P1030401

P1030400

It came mostly furnished but I bought the hutch from in town and it's a nice touch for the man cave methinks. Rent for this room and a bedroom and veranda is $550 a month Belize (always divide by 2 in Belize to get the U.S. dollar amount). That includes water, electricity, cable TV and internet, although I paid an extra $25 U.S. a month because I upgrade to a little higher speed.

It came mostly furnished but I bought the hutch from in town and it’s a nice touch for the man cave methinks. Rent for this room and a bedroom and veranda is $550 a month Belize (always divide by 2 in Belize to get the U.S. dollar amount). That includes water, electricity, cable TV and internet, although I paid an extra $25 U.S. a month because I upgrade to a little higher speed.

The view from the veranda where I spend a lot of time writing or just letting it all be, especially now that I have a hammock, my first since I came to Belize seven--plus months ago. Landlord, who installed it with his drill for me, told me I'm now a Belizean. You can't lay claim to that status unless you have a hammock or three. Hammock life sure beats life on Dallas freeways.

The view from the veranda where I spend a lot of time writing or just letting it all be, especially now that I have a hammock, my first since I came to Belize seven–plus months ago. Landlord, who installed it with his drill for me, told me I’m now a Belizean. You can’t lay claim to that status unless you have a hammock or three. Hammock life sure beats life on Dallas freeways.

My horse, or closest thing I have to one. She's one of the landlord's three big dawgs. Actually she doesn't like beer. Just had pups.

My horse, or closest thing I have to one. She’s one of the landlord’s three big dawgs. Actually she doesn’t like beer. Just had pups.

Read Full Post »

Readers are baptized in the Jordan River of his (Robert Frost’s) poetry, where they drink and feel ‘whole again beyond confusion.’ This is, in my view, sacramental poetry of a high order.”

— Poet and author Jay Pirini.

Robert Frost struggled mightily with his "shadow side," that darker side where we all have our little demons  to contend with. Gifted but tortured artists like Frost, who according to Jay Pirini was probably manic depressive, wrestle mightily with the demons that can drive them to kind of great timeless art and creativity that can bless us. From out of Frost's anguish came lasting "sacramental poetry."

Robert Frost struggled mightily with his “shadow side,” that darker side where we all have our little demons to contend with. Gifted but tortured artists like Frost, who according to Jay Pirini was probably manic depressive, wrestle mightily with the demons that can drive them to kind of great timeless art and creativity that can bless us. From out of Frost’s anguish came lasting “sacramental poetry.”


Your thought for the day, in the form of a question, on Day 10 of the 40 days of Lent.

Also here below . . .

an excerpt from a piece about the great American poet Robert Frost from the Catholic magazine “America” (online edition).

Or, click here to read the whole interesting article about Frost, who had a large “shadow side” that haunted and depressed him.

And we all have that dark, Jungian “shadow side” we can’t shake, which Carl Jung described so well in his incisive work in psychology. Great art–which can be defined in one way as truth, powerfully rendered– bubbles up from a lot of gifted but tortured artists.

In fact, a lot of gifted but tortured artists had a hand in writing the Holy Bible, which is pretty dark and heavy stuff all in all. But it is, after all, the ultimate in truth, powerfully rendered.

There’s scores upon scores of “self-improvement books” out there, some good and some so awful as to be awfully profitable.

But for self-improvement, a good question to ask ourselves every day might be, “Why was I born?”

This is a practice that can lead to a whole lot of deeper self awareness; that is, awareness of our faults, flaws, conceits, weaknesses. But it also can awaken us to our very reason for being–our purpose or calling or mission in life–or give us greater clarity of purpose for the benefit of self-improvement.

Mulling on the question “Why was I born?” is a good practice for Lent since Lent is a time very much about stripping ourselves down, “emptying our trash,” ridding ourselves of the “baggage” that drags us down, and getting clarity on things that really matter.

/////

Here’s the excerpt from the fine piece about Frost from writer Jay Pirini who has a biography of Frost coming out–and is a fine writer I discovered in reading the Catholic “America” journal. Pirini nails the art of Frost, whose poetry I’ve read a lot since we studied him in seventh grade, when he writes: “Readers are baptized in the Jordan River of his poetry, where they drink and feel ‘whole again beyond confusion.'”

I love the idea of salvation being our restoration to wholeness and health and balance and harmony, rendered in the healing power of Christ, of course.

“Frost spent a lot of time reading Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American essayist, who remains for me a core religious writer. Like Swedenborg, whom he read closely throughout his life, Emerson believed in deep correspondence between the natural world and the spiritual world. “Nature is the symbol of spirit,” he wrote in his essay “Nature,” one of the central texts of American religious thinking. Frost never lost interest in Emerson, and he returned to his essays throughout his life, rereading them, allowing Emerson’s philosophy of life to seep into his poetry.

“Speaking to his friend Lawrance Thompson in 1948, Frost commented on his poetry in relation to God: “It might be an expression of the hope I have that my offering of verse on the altar may be acceptable in His sight Whoever He is. Tell them I Am, Jehovah said.” There was, indeed, a sacramental aura in his work from beginning to end, and one cannot read a poem like “Directive,” his last great poem, without noting his allusion to St. Mark near the end. In it, the poet wanders into the woods to seek revelation—a typical scenario in a Frost poem. In this instance, he happens upon the ruins of an old farmhouse, with a stream—”Too lofty and original to rage”—running nearby. There he finds a children’s playhouse, with a little goblet that reminds him of the Holy Grail. Frost describes the goblet as like one “Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,/ So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t./ Here are your waters and your watering place./ Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.”

“St. Mark was commenting on the fact that Jesus spoke in parables, which had the effect of keeping out those, in some instances, who had yet to believe. Faith, in other words, was essential for understanding. One believes in order to understand, as Augustine (and Anselm) suggested, not the other way around.

“Frost’s own poetry was “too lofty and original to rage.” Readers are baptized in the Jordan River of his poetry, where they drink and feel “whole again beyond confusion.” This is, in my view, sacramental poetry of a high order. It is beautiful and true, but it is also complicated, even thorny. The faith of Robert Frost was nothing straightforward. He was not a simple Christian, but his faith was real, it was profound, and pointed readers in directions where they might find solace as well as understanding, where they would find their beliefs challenged, where they find answers as well as questions.”

Read Full Post »

Photo by  a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani, Br. Paul Quenon, where Thomas Merton lived and wrote and taught and devoted every moment to a closer walk with thee.

Photo by a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani, Br. Paul Quenon, where Thomas Merton lived and wrote and taught and devoted every moment to a closer walk with thee.

This is Day 9 of Lent; it’s also Friday and with my prophetic gifts I know what you’re thinking.

(TGIF.)

Your Lenten ramblings follow:

"Father Louie,"  as the mystic one was called in the Kentucky monastery where he was a spiritual writing machine.

“Father Louie,” as the mystic one was called in the Kentucky monastery where he was a spiritual writing machine.

My Main Man the Mystic Mr. Merton the Magnificent Monk (click here) wrote:

“A prophet is one who cuts through great tangled knots of lies.”

Jesus was not only a prophet in the sense of being able to clearly see the writing on the walls through his oneness with the Father/Mother/Creator, but a prophet also in the sense of speaking, and in fact embodying, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Let us never forget, Christian brothers and sisters and all ye who may drop in here–Jesus was a Jew and a rabbi and remained one till the day he pronounced from the piece of hardwood to which he was nailed, “It is finished.”

In this deep Jewishness of his he stood in the tradition of all the great, truth-telling prophets before him, from those that he so often quoted like Jeremiah and Isaiah to Amos and all the many others that perhaps too many Christians neglect in their reading and understanding of the Testaments New and Old.

//////

Lent is a good time for us to reflect in our daily meditations on all the lies we tell, all the false fronts and faces we present to others in the course of a single day. It’s easy enough for us to spot what we know, or what we perceive to be, the “great tangled knots of lies” and phoniness in others.

The truth of the matter is that, more often than not, what we hate in someone else is the very thing that’s part of our own “stuff,” our own “baggage.”

“If you spot it,” the old saying goes, “you got it.”

You may very well hate someone or hate something about them because they do the very thing of which you are guilty yourself, something you wish you could shake, but seem incapable of letting go.

We find unique ways to delude ourselves, thinking we know ourselves so well while being willfully blind to the truth and the many harsh or ugly truths of our very selves.

If Jesus teaches us anything he teaches us that we will never live, much less enjoy, life to the fullest as long as we keep lying to ourselves, imprisoning ourselves in delusions and always seeking the approval of others by being something we’re not, or saying something that we know someone else will want to hear.

Mark this down: Jesus tried and tried to show us how important it is to be our honest-to-God selves to the greatest extent humanly possibly. That was a topic that took up an enormous amount of Merton’s huge and spiritually profound body of written work.

As long as we’re not being genuine, not being authentic–not being the unique and honest-to-God individual that God created us in God’s image to be but trying to be something or somebody we’re not–we’re lying to ourselves and hiding most of the time behind one of those masks we’re always wearing to protect ourselves from being hurt by somebody who may not like the real us.

Untying the knots of lies within us can be a great stress reliever because we’re not so preoccupied with worrying what others think of us; we’re not obsessed winning the approval of others all the time; we’re open to the grace and truth and tender mercies of Christ who wants us “saved” from ourselves and healed and renewed and restored to wholeness and authentic health.

There’s a reason Jesus is called “the doctor of souls” or simply “physician.” A “good Christian” is a mentally, emotionally and psychologically healthy Christian who knows who he or she is at the core. A “good Christian” isn’t faking it, appearing to be strong when he’s weak, secure when she’s overwhelmed by insecurity and over-compensating for that hidden fear of exposure.

We can, in a real sense, be perfect–we can “keep it real” by being real–like the one who created us. Christ meant what he said when he said for us to be perfect.

Christ always said what he meant. He was the truth and showed us the way to discovering and embracing our true being at our very core by really, honestly knowing ourselves, warts and all.

He’s still the utter truth.

He’s keepin’ it real, dude.

//////

In cutting through the tangled knots of lies within us we can let go of trash like “keeping up with the Joneses,” freeing ourselves of burdens like debt overload and buying ourselves or our kids every new gizmo and toy that comes out at the Apple store, or fleeing for yet another “escape” weekend in Cancun or heading to the mall to shop till we drop.

Letting go, downsizing, simplying, “rebooting”–these can be spiritual paths to wholeness and health because they can help us to see the ruts we’re stuck in on the same old dark paths that are leading us nowhere fast. Or paths to places (or even friends!) that may have been good for us at one time but no more.

In spiritual “rebooting” we can re-prioritize and let go and live more fully, and joyously by the way, in the present moment. That can relieve us of a lot of pressures and stresses and strains that we pile on ourselves and those closest to us.

The present moment, incidentally, is the only moment we have and the only moment we’re promised, and anyway–it’s only in the present moment that we can be fully engaged with that God who made us in His/Her image.

Think about it. Can you really be still and know God if your mind is never rested and relieved from what my Buddhist friends call the “mind monkeys” swinging around up there non-stop? (Merton, incidentally, was on a tour of the Far East engaging Buddhist leaders when he was electrocuted in Bangkok.)

Can you “hear” God if in every moment you’re eternally and intensely preoccupied with thinking of later this afternoon or tonight or next year and being an anxious worry wart about it all? (Or worse, thinking of the past with all the tangled knots that it can keep us locked up and stressed in.

Sometimes the hardest thing in life for us is being right where we are. That is, being wholly present in the moment, the here and the now. Getting still. Getting quiet. Just being and letting God be and allowing ourselves to be so quiet as to hear the small, still voice.

But practicing solitude and silence in order to tune in to God may require a certain amount of bravery and intentional practice. A lot of bravery, in fact. It’s a lot easier to preoccupy ourselves with planning another dinner party or shopping at the mall or worrying about the things we cannot change than to get still and take a good hard look at ourselves.

Being the hopeless rocker that I am I love the lyrics of a Fleetwood Mac about talking to God who thunders, “Now don’t ask me what I think of you I might not give the answer that you want me to.”

I know it’s only rock and roll (and I like it), but there’s theology to be mined even from it.

///////

For us to be prophetic Christians does not require us to be abrasive, combative howlers who claim to know and speak the truth from every mountain top. Whenever I encounter someone who is always blunt and plainspoken to the point of abrasiveness, who is always speaking of himself as one who just tells them the truth like he’s Harry S Truman reincarnated (while possibly lacking a fraction of Truman’s substance or his gifts that made Truman authentic and genuine), I look for an escape route. That person is one who can’t begin to look inside himself and see how tangled up in knots of lies he is.

People who are so full of themselves all the time (that couldn’t be me, mind you!) that they can’t seem to complete a sentence without it ending in the words, “and that’s the truth, by God!” really need to leave God out of the conversation. They suck way too much oxygen out of a room and make it hard for others to breathe, much less get a word in edgewise.

Speaking of music makers, they make me wanna holla. (Marvin Gaye, “What’s Goin’ On?”)

//////

Being prophetic in the manner of Jesus, seeking greater truth in the world and especially all the worlds within our own minds, bodies, spirits and souls, is a spiritual practice to be approached via a wide path of humility so that we can attain more humility as we work to live in the truth, to know the truth, and to liberate ourselves from all those “tangled knots of lies” within our very selves.

But spiritual self-diagnosis, which is a large piece of what Lent is about in order to become a whole and healthier self who can give more wholly in service to others, requires being in the moment and finding better health in each and every moment.

My main man Merton who wrote those words of wisdom about tangled knots of lies also wrote in his journal:

“The grip the present has on me–that is the one thing that has grown most noticeably in the spiritual life — nothing much else.”

“Be still, and know that I am God!”

— From Psalm 46: 10

/////

And congratulations to the great actor and devout Catholic Christian activist Martin Sheen. See here for more.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »