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Thursday, February 17, 2011

True Context

In out last blog we talked about the story of eternity -- The narrative of Father Son and Holy Ghost and how in their great love there was an overflow.  His holy family expanded and became us.  As this story including the tragedy of our prodigal lives unfolded God reached out and finding human voices he engaged us to explain the story.  He even wrote to us to help us understand our reality.  Many of us, however, have lost context to understand our world.  Most of us know it only by our experiences or the narrow dictates of our subcultures.  Perhaps the lucky ones may have a sense of history or knowledge of science, but these do not comfort us well.  Despite life and education, a disconnect exists between the original context of the best ideas in the world and our experience of them.  These include love, truth, and beauty; virtue and grace.   Other philosophical words like relationship, faith, religion, hope, or joy are taught us by our culture yet they seem to float through our collective consciousness like greeting card slogans: quaint but without depth of meaning. 
It is interesting that the concepts which most transcend us both either to unite or divide us are the ones that we deeply personalize.  We often hide them away, locked in our souls, unless birth, death, trauma or falling in love drags them out of us.  We staring inward look to our own understanding of the deep things of life and apply them with the limitation of our own experience.  If we go to the old, who have lived more than few decades on this planet, their philosophies either trend toward bitterness or love.  Let us assume for a moment that being old and bitter does no one any terrible good, then we can focus on the love.  The regrets the aged will espouse are never, “ I wish I could have bought that third condo…” but tend toward, “ I wish I had spent more time with my kids…” or “ I wish I would not have given up on that marriage…” If we listen to them we learn that there are ideas, truths that remain, and which the enlightened would pursue before old age and death overtake them.  Though we die, the next generation speaks the same testimony. 
I believe that these ‘best things’ arise during our worst and greatest moments because they are not personal, not hidden, at least not exclusively.  They are within us, tied to the substance of our souls; but they are also outside us and help to define us.   Love, beauty, Truth, hope….these have a density to them, like bed rock, and our feet search for them during the upheaval in our lives.  They remain present and faithful to catch our feet because they do not depend on us to exist.  How we feel about them, or how we were taught them cannot change what they are.  Our perspectives change only how we relate to them.  Truth and Faith will remain warm and bright even when we are at our most morose.  They will whisper comfort even when we will not hear.    Like monuments they remain beyond us, truly transcendent.  They do so because they are imbued with a life that came before us. 
All of the very best in life flows from that first story.  Love and Joy were built into the world before humanity was.   They existed, defined by the heart of God.  When we were born, we did not step into a vacuum, but into a world in relationship.   Our first and most definitive context is the best of all things: God’s love and relationship in Himself, overflowing to us.  Virtues and graces, life and love all have a context that informs what these words mean and how we engage them in a healthy way.  The easiest example is that of love.   Wonderful, glorious and good, but love leaves and relationships disappoint.  We try and wrap our mind around the pain.  We grieve.  We sometimes harden our hearts or lower our expectations.  We try to make sense of these things inside our own heads and are left with wounds that don’t fully heal.  What if….?   What if there was a different strategy? What if love can be known differently then how my parents modeled it or my significant other demands it.  What if we could reach outside ourselves and experience love the way God defines it -- A love that has more than enough and that overflows to bring life in other people.  How do we step outside our experiences and find this original context for our feet to rest on.  Perhaps best of all how can we build on that context – a sure foundation?   So that when life gets intense, we can respond well, full of good things as opposed to only fumbling through.  Now a little wiser, but still mouthing regret in our senescence. 
Love, Virtue, Hope and Faith: it is truly a worthy journey to find the full meaning of these things.   Let us then push the limits of our opinions and judgments which have been cheapened by our culture, and rather touch the source from whence these come.  Lord I repent for living from the dogma of my mind -- The meanings I have foolishly made for myself for love, or hope or truth.  I pray embolden our hearts to let go of distraction, empty philosophy and shallow religion and look past our base experiences, guided by your prevenient grace.  Teach us what even this word grace means, Lord, and how much more your love. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In the Beginning God

 This is how it begins.  Before my story was.  Before old men spoke seriously to up-turned faces, or young women laughed at the account of the day. Before philosophy, religion, or culture, a tale has been unfolding.  It is the story and it flows from the imagination of one being. 

It begins, like all really good stories, with love. Most authors I suppose would like to think disaster or some mild tragedy might make a better start.  Don’t be fooled, this story has plenty of its own drama, but it begins simply and profoundly well, with love. It is a story of a Father.  A One, who has a kind of grace about Him, which betrays his much rougher countenance.  The first thing you notice is his beard.  Full, more than a little wild, but it seems perfectly honest and well kept.  Wilder are the bright eyes that seem always a bit happily surprised.   Still, you get the impression they had already seen it all.  Thick arms end in large calloused hands; each moving slowly but deliberately.

It is in watching these hands that the most is revealed.  Their constant attention is toward his family.  They never miss a moment to give its members encouraging gestures.  These same hands become so animated in dialogue as the family discusses its thoughts and dreams.  Although one who is given to day dreaming himself, he is quick to bring his reverie to an end in order to caress those he loves – his right hand falling almost always on the head of his son.

Above all his pride and most definite Joy is His Son.  He shares everything he has with him.  His bright boy is one of action and passion and he can’t help but smile as he looks at him.  What draws one’s attention to the favored son is something special, quite different really.  It might be his intelligence.  It seems he can do a million things at once.  But I think it is something of the intangible, a kind of singular purpose or sense of integrity.   There is an intensity that is almost disturbingly heroic. He is as wise and creative a son as his Father could ask for.  He obeys his Father before he is even asked, as testified to by the overt lack of weeds in the garden.   Yet what makes this good boy smile, what is his chief pleasure, is to enjoy every gift his father gives him.

Gratuity and free giving is a hallmark of this whole family, and perhaps pails only in comparison to their creativity.  In the midst of the artful bunch flows a kind of liveliness and creative energy like the personification of originality.  Their family is full and complete including a hearty, nurturing maternal affection.  They do not lack the fiery passion of wife for husband or the enchantment of a feminine laugh.  It is indeed out of that very mother heart that the son finds his strength; only begotten.  From his Father’s smile he receives daily his empowering Joy.  There is wisdom and depth of thought in that family.  There is contentedness with one another. There is humilty and self-sacrifice.  There is sustenance and refresment openly shared wherever they go. 

This tale is the story of God himself.  For he is three in One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It compels a telling that goes on forever, love abounding from one moment to the next. It is in this very telling that love itself was first given substance. In this great soul relationship received its name.  Every best kind love and joy existed first and only in the midst of Him.  And in His overflow all things were made.

From the Father and head of our family we find identity, good will, strength, resolve, kindness, and nurture.  He is our boundary and provision.  From the son we learn submission, the ability to receive good things, and how to live with honor. He participates in everything and does so without control or selfishness. He is the spoken word of love and the wisdom of God abounds in him.  The relationship of God in Him self is also a person.  The three in one are known and know each other with and through one Spirit.  The Spirit connects fills and empowers everything that God does.  He is the life giver and teaches us how to birth new things.  He communicates heart to heart and searches the deep thoughts and feelings of God. 

Through profundity of that mind and from the generosity of his heart, that God chose for his life to be extended into a new thing. An Us. A world, with so many more tales to tell.  But above all he created an Us to know and experience the things of this heart.  He is building us up into and out of the life and love that flows out of his great story.  The tragedy and passion of the fall of humanity into loneliness and pain--the drama that so quickly unfolds in our story cannot even for a moment detract from the profound reality that this story belongs to Him.  If anything, our ridiculousness as broken humanity only throws this truth into high relief.  Let the kind intentions of the God of the universe encourage you for a moment.  God wrote your story.  But he did not write it arbitrarily or detachedly.  He wrote a story that is as much as about him as it is about you.  Because he wrote it you cannot un-write it.  No despair, no loneliness, no betrayal can come between you and His happy intentions.  He has written the romance of His lifetime and it comes into being from the very core of who he is.  So again, if you did not write it, you cannot mess it up.  God’s self is so big and strong and full, and so radically and treacherously safe that as His story unfolds you are free to be found in it.  To swim in it, to be ridiculously irresponsible in the very loveliness of it is the only proper response.  And though you are only part of the story you are the very heart of it.  As a matter of absolute fact, dear ones, you are defined by it. 

As His generosity hopefully begins to nibble at the corners of your soul, Brothers and Sisters, let us remember that this story has a point.  We were made as an overflow of perfect Spirit and life in God.  Any concept of humanity that is true and good has to come from an intimate knowledge of who this Person is. Out of the Son we were made to be good sons, who know how to trust our Father, and who go about his business. In imitating him we learn how to be mothers and Fathers and to spread love and integrity to others.  By His passionate longing we learn we are also meant to be the Bride of the Son. A little Holy romance will light up your life!

In the difficulty of what your life has become, make a choice even now to allow a little hope and faith to lift you out of the story inside your head.  If you will begin to let our Father’s strength and the Spirit’s life become, forgive me, your narrator; there is no limit for you. It is the truth, my Beloveds, that the Son, from whom our sonship is come, will do the will of his Father and bring transformation to your life.  This is to be your, Our story of the Father’s love. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Prayer for Ordinate Love

Lord I ask that you would help me love thee.
I would love thee for thy sake alone.
Lord thou art great, yes, and good, but it is purely for thy sake
         That I would love thee, this is the prayer of my heart.
Lord I would love thee as thou art
In thy peculiarity as Father
My safety and home
As Son, the lover
My Passion and Reward
As Spirit, the life giver
My Sustainer and guard
I would love thee. 

With room for naught else  
       There is no universe that can contain thee
       How can my heart love thee if aught exists in me but thee
       Any firmity but thy touch
       Any air but thy breath
     Any sun but thy visage 
Lord I ask that my thoughts be thy intentions
        And dreams, thy recollections

In loving thee only I find my life, my order and my serenity. 
Thy smiling face is every breath,
My brightness
My flank
My voice and sturdy hand

For the wife that thou hast given, that I have chosen 
I pray that I might love her from the overflow of thy wounds
And adoring her countenance in thine
Thy love overflows
I pray my touch may become thine, and Hers mine.  
       Together we celebrate thee. 
In you there is true Home, Life, and Glory

I thank thee for Children, my bright Sons, and beautiful daughters,
They are the Congregation that is wholly mine.
I saw them sweet and tender looking in your eyes.
Emboldened in thy love I pray, for them
And for myself, as I lay myself down to earnestly die
But you resurrect me in their faces, wet and warm
I hold in my arms Thy love formed. 

I pray for my Children, Sisters, Sons, and Brothers.   
In watching for your face I found my Fathers and Mothers. 
I ask for grace for these, thy least of these. Your beloveds.  
This is the Congregation that is Holy and Thine
I cling to thy heart and cross 
To find the grace for practice and discipline
I find grace to live and die for one and another
In thy church we feed
       From your hands we sup our need, and we know
We are each thy favorite and best.
Thine Only.

My hands are at the plow My Beloved, yet the Curse bites back at me  
Lord I reach for thee with pierced and calloused hands. 
Is there any tenderness left?
I work that my right Hand may not know or see 
       What You are doing. 
But the very Finger of God works in those who Love You
       Who are called to.
  He stirs my heart. 
            He holds me up,
            He drowns me in thy forgiveness and favor. 
            He is thy seed me in me.  
Lord let my eyes and my brethren’s see through yours
In your Favor Lord there is more than enough. 
            All poor, all spent.
            But we are all full from thee!

Although the day is spent and I am last, You are faithful to me my Father
You have made me first and best.
It is the truth that in the overflow You will Love me too
No one can come to shame for whom You have bled. 
Not even me. 

Lord it would be presumption, if it wasn’t faith. 
For Saints, for Doctors, for me
       I pray when my Day is done
Let my Rest be thy Bosom.
My Robe and Ring, thy Arm, thy gnarled Hands
My Crown, thy Beard.
I pray that I would love thy heart so fully, 
that I not lift my face
From thee, even in eternity