Sunday, December 28, 2008

Learning to Adjust

I love the idea William Stafford put into my head with his poem "Learning to Adjust." The idea is this: what comes your way isn't an accident. Even if it doesn't have your name on it. There is a gift for you: something to smile about, something to open.

We spend our lives wishing they were different. We spend our energies wishing we were other than who we are. We neglect what we do have, wishing we had something else. But how marvelous when we can look steadily at what we are given without rejecting it. Sometimes, just being in the moment with ourselves and our circumstances can reveal to us the presence of God - and what can be a greater gift than that?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Inner Door

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me." --Revelation 3:20

I loved this scripture as a child, and loved to gaze at the picture on the classroom wall of my Sunday school.

What I didn't know: where the door was.

I always thought of Jesus floating up, up, in heaven or somewhere in the atmosphere, in another dimension, say, and when he knocked on the doors of people's hearts, he stood outside of them.

I've come to see it differently. Jesus is already inside.

All right, all right. I can hear the clamor of disagreement. But hold on. Think about it. Jesus doesn't enter into your life from the outside in. He comes from the inside out. That door, it's inside you. The place where your wisdom dwells. Your best hunches. Your most loving gestures. That deep knowing that you were born for something holy and beautiful.

We all have this inner chamber. In many people it has been neglected. But for those of us who may have opened the door a crack, we aren't "better" or "more worthy" than someone who hasn't found the door.

Man-made tradition has always removed God and Christ from the everyday hearts and lives of people. All people. Especially those who don't call themselves the right name. Tradition has gotten us in the habit of telling people all about their sin and ugliness, and how far they are from God. God is not far, however.

He is as close as one's own heart.

In fact, you and I both know some amazing people in whom we have seen Jesus - who would never think to call themselves Christians. (And thank goodness for that!)

Jesus comes from the inside out. He's inhabiting heaven already, and that place, the kingdom of heaven, is within you. He waits to be invited out - into your thoughts, into this day, and out into the world. Listen for his laugh, his breath, and his knock.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Not What We Tell People

"We hear a lot about evangelism today and how the church must pay more attention to evangelism. But mostly evangelism is not what we tell people, unless what we tell is totally consistent with who we are. It is who we are that is going to make the difference. It is who we are that is going to show the love that brought us all into being, that cares for us all, now, and forever." --Madeleine L'Engle, Glimpses of Grace.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Our Glory

"Mild he lays his glory by..."--from the song, Hark the Herald Angels Sing

He had to know his glory in order to lay it by. He had to acknowledge the glory of his being in order to tenderly set it aside. Christ did so, becoming one of us humans, with all our chills and fevers and rages and heartbreaks, our germs and metatarsals and hair follicles and brain ganglia.

I'm thinking how often we reject our glory, refuse it, rather than follow Christ's example to lay it down. Yes, our glory comes from God alone. But there is this beautiful hint at the mystery that surrounds the core of our being. In the words of Wordsworth:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home

Isn't it marvellous to realize that we are in the image of Christ? This humanity thing is just temporary. Our story follows His story, and we, too, have come from God. Let us not forget. Let us remember that glory, know where it came from and Whose it truly is, and mildly, gently, lay it by.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Never Stop Getting Up

A monk visited Abba Sisoes and told him he had fallen from grace. “What should I do, Abba?” Sisoes replied, “Get up again.” After a while the monk returned to ask, “What can I do now? For I have fallen again.” “Get up again,” The old man said, “Never stop getting up.”

This is my current favorite story from the desert tradition. I like its sly humor. One can almost see the old monk winking at us as we grasp after any and every form of spiritual perfection. But there is generosity and kindness here, too. Yes, we fall; yet, this is all part of the human condition and it is precisely here, in the midst of our fallings, that there can emerge a profound sense of the abiding presence of God. The desert monks were convinced that temptations and struggles were important not because they needed to be avoided, but because they can teach us so much. They seem to be saying to us that wherever we are God is there also. Wherever we are, in deep sorrow or in an acknowledgement that once again we did not measure up - and usually by ‘not measuring up’ we mean to our own impossible demands. Even in loss, and, of course, in joy, God is already there waiting for us.

Last month, Sr. Laura Swan visited our Contemplative Outreach community. I was especially moved by her insistence that it is in this world where we encounter the sacred. She said, “Modern asceticism is being called to what already is.” This involves the sense that “we have enough, we are enough.” Right here, right now. Perhaps, the last illusion from which we need to be freed is the illusion that who we are is not quite right, and far too imperfect to be a vessel of God’s grace, love and abiding presence in this world. Sometimes we feel as if a miracle is required in order for us to be enough to carry within ourselves the presence of God. But the message of faith is that the miracle has already occurred. Here we are, called into holy being by the simplest gesture of God’s ever creating word.

We do fall, but we can get up again. We can “never stop getting up again.”