I got up at 4:00 a.m. this morning. So many things swirling in my mind. The hand to hand combat I witnessed last nite made me tense. I did sleep, but it was condensed. So, I got up. I thought I needed to study. I do need to study, but that isn’t why I got up that early. This is why I got up. This is why I needed to be awake…
This, then, seems to be the work of the Spirit: to keep you vulnerable to life and love itself and to resist all that destroys the Life Flow. Notice that the major metaphors for the Spirit are always dynamic, energetic, and moving: elusive wind, descending dove, falling fire, and flowing water. Spirit-led people never stop growing and changing and recognizing the new moment of opportunity. How strange to think that so much of religion became worship of the status quo and a neurotic fear of failure. It does make sense, though, when we consider that the ego hates and fears change and failure.
What, then, is the path to holiness? It’s the same as the path to wholeness. And we are never “there” yet. We are always just in the river. Don’t try to push the river or make the river happen; it is already happening, and you cannot stop it. All you can do is recognize it, enjoy it, and ever more fully allow it to carry you. —Richard Rohr
I forget about the river sometimes. I seem to be able to critique constantly how we dam up the river, forge, harness or pollute the river… but rarely do I just admire and refresh myself in those mysteriously majestic waters. You catch my drift?
Our refusal to be vulnerable thwarts the ever-so naked plunge into the river’s life flow. Our fists are too curled. Our breathing too rapid. Exposure is so dangerously scandalous to our protection mechanisms.
The river doesn’t require us to change… to get it right… attain perfection. We only have to muster the courage to enter. The river does the rest.
Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!
I don’t remember the last time I talked about the encounter I’m about to pour onto the table. I wish I could explain the “why” with some sort of insight or rationale, but that’s just not going to happen. In fact, none of my “why” questions have answers in this particular scenario.
The few times I have talked about it, I’ve gotten mixed reviews, which is totally fine. The questions are good with me, but I can’t undo what happened. It is what it is.
Patti and I had been married a little over a year. I was in my last year at Arkansas. Despite some of the positive changes that happened due to my spiritual awakening in 1978, I could be pretty damn narcissistic, full of “me monster” energy, and not very attentive to the needs of anyone other than myself. That’s kind of expected if you’re 12 years old. Unfortunately, those are horrible traits of a 20-year-old married man. I’m pretty sure that every conflict we had in those early years were pretty much due to my love affair with my own needs. It’s a miracle she’s still in the game with yours truly. I’m totally serious when I say that.
We had bickered about something one morning. I’m sure I had stepped in “it” somehow. Regardless of what ever it was, she went to work hurt and I went to class pissed. Later that morning, I decided to take the clothes to the Laundromat by myself. I still had a lot of attitude from our earlier rumble, so I rounded up a handful of quarters to do the job, threw the clothes in the car, and went to complete the task by myself. It was something we usually did together, so my thoughts were more along the line of, I’ll teach her. I know… childish.
She and I had previously spent a lot of time together in that Laundromat discussing our days, making plans for the future, and generally sharing our lives together. Washing and folding clothes wasn’t work when we were together. I was 20. She was 19. Anything together was frikk’n awesome. But there I was, in my foul mood, mumbling my curses, and doing my chores under the cloud of self-righteous pity. I was pathetic.
About the time I was taking the clothes out of the dryer, an old man limped into the area where I was about to fold clothes. He introduced himself and started chatting me up about much of nothing. Suddenly, I realized he was talking to me about my marriage. He talked about love and respect for your mate. He reminded me that my “pretty girl” was a gift. He even asked me if I had ever considered such a thing. I loved the fact that this old man was “dialed in,” yet loving at the same time. He said words that hit my heart. I heard him very clearly and I was very appreciative.
There wasn’t anything spooky about this old man, but I do remember the khakis, white socks, and black work shoes he wore. He smelled like Old Spice and snuff. Those things definitely tracked with my memories of my deceased grandfather. We probably visited for a good 20 minutes.
I must add here that it was eerily strange that the place was empty. There was always about half a dozen people in that Laundromat. On that day, the place was vacant except for the old man and myself.
Once I had my stuff stacked in our laundry basket, I told him I needed to get to my next class. So I picked up the basket and walked out the front door. As I opened the door to the car, I could see through the storefront windows that he was still standing by the table where I had folded our clothes. I put the basket in the backseat, I closed the door, headed back inside to shake hands with the old man… and he was GONE! I hadn’t walked more than 15 feet to my car! I had seen him just five seconds earlier!
I checked the restroom… empty. I opened the door to the back of the building… nada. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. The old man simply wasn’t to be found anywhere! I was slightly freaked out, but still deeply taken with the words he had spoken.
I wanted to hug his neck. The hairs were standing up all over my body. But it wasn’t to be. The brotha was gone!
By the time I got home, I was convinced I had been sent a visitor to adjust my mind about a lot of things. Trust me, I needed the adjustment. Patti immediately drew the same conclusion when I told her about the encounter. I still see it in my mind’s eye like it was yesterday. Crystal clear and weird.
But, maybe not so much:
Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! (Hebrews 13:1-2, MSG)
Angel? Probably. Maybe. I’m not totally certain. But, I can’t explain what happened. All I know is that I needed a serious check on how I was treating my girl. Maybe it took all that to get my attention. Regardless, I got the message.
So… what about you? How are you treating the people around you? Do you need an “old man” visit or do you already know you need to adjust your dials? I do suspect they are among us, rooting, praying, and believing for our growth and positive character. I think we may need these encounters more than we realize.
Thanks, Nate and Di. You forced a great memory to resurface.
Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!
Here is another blog I put out during the Kickstarter Campaign. -MDP-
I want to make a book recommendation. Find a way to get a copy of Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. I love the entire book, but the fourth chapter in particular, entitled Love, has inspired me to read and reread it multiple times.
One of the more fascinating dialogues in that chapter is from Georgia Representative John Lewis. Let me say that his comments are absolutely remarkable. Notice that I didn’t say political. I’m fairly grossed out right now with the political situation in America, so don’t think for a moment that what has stirred me was political in nature. Don’t soil his ideas by rinsing these beautiful thoughts through some political paradigm. The context was about love in the midst of what is unlovely.
A much younger Lewis and other Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s worked diligently to impress upon the minds and hearts of African Americans to hold the vision of what an equal and loving society could look like. It needed to be more than a whimsical dream. It had to have substance. The people had to be taught how to have faith, how to love, how to look beyond what they were experiencing. The teaching was to see and claim the Promised Land of equality while enduring far less than the integration they saw in their spirits.
The real battle was to avoid the temptation to retaliate with rhetoric and deeds that were combative and ultimately dangerous. That temptation and the dangers were a daily enemy. The leaders held the people to the default notion that whatever was done in return must be out of love. You have to believe that the DNA of God, which resides in every human being (regardless of color, creed or status), will eventually respond to love. That was the plan that eventually helped win the day. I suspect we ALL have to return there at some deeper level.
I’ve been fairly frank in my estimation that the applause we so readily give to dreamers is pretty much overcooked. Does the dream really benefit us all, or is it tied to personal ambition and agendas? I can always be happy for anyone being successful at what he or she does, but you can keep the chill bumps. I’ve reserved my chill bumps for the dreams that tangibly touch all of us with acceptance, tolerance, and yes, the word we’ve murdered for millennia, love. Dreaming for a culture of love isn’t too much to ask, is it?
Dreaming for it is easy. Living it as a “now” reality, when not everyone is on board, is the real challenge. That’s the mountain we’ve got to climb.
Do we remember when Jesus kicked over the tables of the money changers in the Temple? What do you think that was about? Do you think he was that offended about keeping ritualistic order in the Temple? He did other things that weren’t kosher in the Temple. I know it’s difficult for some to imagine this, but a close reading of the New Testament seems to indicate that Jesus countered the Mosaic Law much more than he obliged it. The scribes were on Him constantly about his lack of interest in satisfying the demands of the old Law.
He kicked over those tables to send a message:
Whatever is common and customary in your ideology about God is probably the exact opposite of reality! Follow Me around and you’ll begin to understand that you don’t understand how this works. What you won’t touch, I will touch. Where you retaliate with hate, I extend love. When you are convinced you are disqualified, I use you regardless! It’s people over principle every time. Save your energy to be like Me instead of just talking about Me. Be like Me, and I’ll turn your world upside down.
That’s what that disruption was about. Counterflow. He was all about bringing a different kind of energy to the party. Faith, love, and hope were directed towards people. It’s not sort of the point. It is the point.
How do we do that? Really, with all the crap that is stirred around us, how do we live the love energy? That’s a massive question. Granted, it won’t be easy whatever the direction we go, but I think we must take a cue from what John Lewis unveiled for us. We hold a transformed culture in our heads and in our hearts, and live everyday as you would if it were a “now” reality. You live now as if it’s already here.
But, what if it’s not appreciated? Everyone won’t appreciate it, but you’ll know deep inside that this is the true DNA of Jesus. This was His path. Loving people over principle will eventually win the day.
Make it your mantra, your juice for living. Sow it everywhere.
Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!
While reading some devotional material earlier this week, I was pretty much captured by a single thought. It wasn’t necessarily a new idea to me, but it was posed in such a fashion that it really caught my attention. Here is that thought:
“God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of subtraction.” —Meister Eckhart
What a challenge for our culture, including religious life in America! Richard Rohr’s commentary to the point is even more thought-provoking:
In our consumer culture, religion and spirituality have very often become a matter of addition: earning points with God, attaining enlightenment, producing moral behavior. Yet authentic spirituality is not about getting, attaining, achieving, performing, or succeeding—all of which tend to pander to the ego. It is much more about letting go—letting go of what we don’t need anyway, although we don’t know that ahead of time. On the mental level, it is more “the shedding of thoughts,” as the Desert Fathers called it, than piling on more thoughts. –Richard Rohr, O. F. M.
I, too, have ridden downstream in these rapids. We run from one event to the next. The pile of unread books on my nightstand is testimony that I’m not keeping up, there is revelation I’m missing out on, and there is so much more to do in order to be in the flow with God. I honestly believe that most Christians are simply exhausted from chasing the proverbial carrot that is always just out of reach. The whole mantra of “I’ve got to do more for God” is a pressure that doesn’t come from Him. We do it to ourselves. I think…
We’re addicted to working for God’s approval.
Jesus said something about His way being easy? Where? When do we allow it to be easy?
Peterson’s translation puts it this way:
“Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:29-30, MSG).
Lightly and freely? We probably need to check our math. Addition and piling on activity doesn’t seem to be doing it for us.
The next time you feel under pressure or left out because you’re not going to make it to that “oh so necessary” religious gathering, or you’re going to miss pulling every single drop of revelation from some prima donna preacher or another prophetic diva, just do yourself a favor: whisper the word, “no.” Don’t scream it, but whisper. It’s for you only. You find God by what you subtract from your religious clutter. Some of what your soul needs requires you to let go of what the masses deem as urgent. It’s not. Let it go. That’s good math.
Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!
With our focus on the Kickstarter last month, I was unable to post with variety. This is from a couple weeks ago. -MDP-
In my personal opinion, the most needed light from Paul’s personal glow of revelation occurs in the thirteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthian people. Today, we still need that message just as much, if not more, as they did back then. It’s hard to imagine that any culture at any time has ever really taken that download very seriously.
I used to think the revelation of humanity’s tussle with the spirit of rejection could be the single most important component for our healing towards unity. Although I’m still a believer, I genuinely feel that a download of the Father’s love might actually hold THE hope of society’s ultimate healing.
Don’t think for a second that I’m talking about a religious agenda here. I’m not. I’m talking about what would happen if people truly bought into the notion that God loves us? He’s always loved us. And the best, the most accurately pure expression of our loving God, is manifest by our loving those we share space with on this planet. Our neighbors. Can you image what would happen if we really loved at that level?
There is a line in that ancient text that pushes us to the brink of the unbelievable. It’s hard for us because we know how far we are from that kind of love. We want to be this way, but we all have our limits. Emptying ourselves of our egos, our agendas and our pride in order to be filled with the power of love is daunting, to say the least.
Paul says this about love:
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Cor. 13:7, NASB
Getting to this in a great marriage is a serious challenge. Getting to this is any marriage is more than work. But, getting to this with people who differ politically or racially or in their worldviews? Holy smokes!
I recently read a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. that absolutely stopped me in my tracks. I was alive when he said it, and was aware of the tensions in America at the time, but I was too young to even consider the weight of Dr. King’s words. In light of how things were then, he still held to the power of love. The very words of Paul’s great challenge manifesting in a single songbird’s voice—standing strong in the midst of hate’s greatest storms.
It was in 1963 when dynamite was used to blow up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The KKK was involved. Four little girls were killed in that act of racial terrorism. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke publicly about the bombing, there was opportunity to hit back with a torrent of rage that would have been more than justified.
He did not.
At times life is hard, as hard as a crucible of steel. In spite of the darkness of this hour, we must not lose faith in our white brothers. MLK
I can barely get my head around that response. This was a chosen position of grace in powerlessness. It was powerful, but mostly power-under. A bold counter to the expected. The same way Jesus operated. If only all of us could exercise this kind of spirit in our dealings with each other.
It was the ultimate bearing, believing, hoping and enduring for love to break through. Dr. King had plenty of reason not to go there. He could have just as easily said, “Game on. Release hell on these people who evidently hate us.”
He did not.
He chose in that pivotal moment to side with love.
Some things have changed. Some things have not. If you’re prone to pray, ask for yourself the capacity to love in spite of what you see with your eyes. Believe for, hope for, and endure for the love of others. Don’t get sucked into division and polarization. Don’t allow yourself to be bewitched with dualistic thinking and offended bitterness. Let some of what Paul was trying to convey get inside you.
Today demands that we stop waiting on someone else to change. We have to be the change. Today, we need to be the love that we so easily proclaim. Honestly, if it’s up to us, love has to be our agenda. Our infatuation with building our little personal kingdoms is part of the problem. Tap into the big K: Kingdom. It begins with love. That has always been the plan whether we’ve realized it or not.
Love breaks the yokes.
Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!
OUR DIFFERENCES ARE SMALLER THAN WE THINK
Wrecks me everytime I watch it – MDP
In 1673 Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque (now a Saint in the Catholic Church), a 26 year old nun in Eastern France, was praying before the Eucharist one evening when the Lord appeared to her and gave her an incredible message with an unforgettable image to anchor her memory:
The Divine Heart was presented to me in a throne of flames, more resplendent than a sun, transparent as crystal, with this adorable wound. And it was surrounded with a crown of thorns, signifying the punctures made in it by our sins, and a cross above signifying that from the first instant of His Incarnation, […] the cross was implanted into it […]
Then she added what the Divine Apparition said:
My Divine Heart is so inflamed with love for men, and for thee in particular that, being unable any longer to contain within Itself the flames of Its burning charity, It needs to spread them abroad by thy means, and manifest itself to them (mankind) in order to enrich them with the precious treasures which I discover to thee, and contain graces of sanctification and salvation necessary to withdraw them from the abyss of perdition. I have chosen thee as an abyss of unworthiness and ignorance for the accomplishment of this great design, in order that everything may be done by Me.
Okay, I realize the flow and usage of 17th Century vernacular is a bit awkward, but there are parts of this dialogue that are absolutely beautiful. You can easily spot the piety of the age. Self-loathing was their way to humility, but Sister Margaret Mary saw something that definitely got her attention. Actually, it has gotten a lot of people’s attention over the past four centuries.
The rest of the story is that Jesus asked Margaret Mary to place her own heart inside of His flaming heart. Once her heart was also inflamed by His love, He gave her heart back and sent her to spread the word of His compassionate love.
Maybe this is a message that should never lose its affect upon us?
Eighty seven years later, an Italian painter did his best to convey the essence of what Sister Margaret Mary saw that evening. I have no masterful eye for art, but it seems to me that Pompeo Girolamo Batoni produced one of the more beautiful illustrations of what Jesus represents to and for mankind. Not that it gets that much recognition, but when we actually contemplate the implications of the Sacred Heart painting, it really does bring you back to earth some. It doesn’t take a lot of understanding to glean the truth of what Pompeo was saying. There is something very personal in that painting. Let me see if I can shed some more light.
The robe of Jesus is red and it declares that robe has been blood drenched with His forgiveness, grace and mercy. The blue mantle on His right shoulder declares that Divine authority has endorsed His overall mission. His gaze is piercing. While you’re looking at him, you realize He’s looking into you. But, for whatever reason, it doesn’t frighten you. There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. When have we ever encountered such compassion and total unconditional love?
Two things in this painting touch me deeply. Please allow me a few more words:
First, notice that Jesus presents His flaming heart way out in front of himself. It’s what He wants us to see and know first. His flaming heart is for us. His love is not thwarted. His acceptance of us is not contingent. His heart is always out there. That is His lead, and it’s totally exposed, vulnerable, and within reach. It’s His banner. His banner is love.
If I’m to be honest, I’d say that’s not always noticeable to hurting people because those of us who have eyes to see His love don’t always present ourselves as loving representatives of that Sacred Heart. I still can’t figure out who God doesn’t love on this planet. I know we do horrible things to each other. People who know the love of the Father, the love of the Sacred Heart, and the loving tenderness of the Holy Spirit should have no reason to deprive anyone of love.
Rigid, prideful, harsh, judgmental, legalistic, elitist, tribal, finger-pointing, dualistic-thinking religion isn’t of His essence. We probably need to remove the word Christian from our resumes if that’s how we roll. I’m serious. The true followers of Christ, those who carry His flaming heart of love, live by a different mantra. We can’t be the other way and convince anyone that we’re full of Him. So stop with the religious pretense. It’s not working.
Second, notice that there is an invitation to partake of that love. He points to His heart with a message that shouts: HERE IT IS! THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED. PARTAKE FOR YOURSELF. RECEIVE WHAT IS FREE. THEN GO AND DO THE SAME FOR OTHERS.
I realize that most of us are pretty much in touch with our needs. Our wants probably get more attention, but we do a decent job with our needs. At times, some of what we think we need isn’t what we really need.
You’re probably much quicker than I am. I’m prone to reach for snacks when, what I need, is real nourishment. That’s not the proper source of health. We have to be careful about what we reach for when we’re hurting, beat up, lonely, scared, or anxious. Even our most precious loves can get in the way of what we really need from Him.
His Sacred Heart is out there. It’s always out there.
When is the last time you reached inside, took your own battered heart, and put it inside of His flaming love? I know it’s a scary thought to some, but I promise you He will give it back to you in better condition than it was when you gave it to Him.
THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FULLY ALIVE! Don’t let anyone convince you that being alive is tied to another adventure, mission, or plan. It’s not the truth. God is love. That is the truth and that truth will totally set you free to live and love others. That’s living. That’s what it means to be fully alive. That’s the power of His Sacred Heart!
Live everyday inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!
I could hardly believe what I read last week in national headlines. It seems that the Marine Corp misidentified one of the soldiers in the famed Iwo Jima photograph. Looking at the above picture, the second from the last guy in line (rifle on his hip) is where the confusion now becomes clear. For seventy years they’ve had it wrong. Now we’re told that it wasn’t Navy Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class John Bradley in that renowned photo, but Marine Pvt. First Class Harold Schultz from Detroit.
No disrespect to the military for getting it wrong. The article I read mentioned that Bradley had been involved in another flag raising on the same day, at the same location, but there was no photograph of that particular flag raising. There is a good chance that Bradley never realized he wasn’t in the picture.
What is completely staggering is that Harold Schultz never came forward to set the record straight with the Corp. A Marine historian surmised, “Harold Schultz took his secret to the grave.” That is a stunning thought. Schultz died in 1995. Probably the most iconic WWII pictures ever taken, and one of the guys involved never forced his fame or rightful recognition. Wow! How does that happen?
How does a man do such a thing? How does he sit on that kind of data his entire life? Surely it would have profited him to disclose the details, but he didn’t. It’s really hard to get your mind around it.
It challenges me to wonder if we’re too seduced by the sirens of social media. The Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook culture tends to report everything. EVERYTHING. I mean… everything except the stuff we’re too embarrassed to let anyone else know about. Yeah, yeah, I realize that’s our norm now, but I can’t help but wonder if we’re internally tormented by the thought of being unseen, ignored, undiscovered, or an even more horrible possibility… forgotten? Could obscurity be the dirtiest word our current culture has ever encountered? It seems to be a terrorizing creeper that messes with us constantly.
(Yeah, I post as much crap as you do. Probably more. I might be nauseated now. Why is the room spinning?)
Why do we appear to be so anxious about living in the shadows? We’re supposed to be children of peace. We don’t seem to be at peace with what’s not sexy, trendy, exotic, or spectacular. Our mouth-wide-open selfies (OMG! Don’t get me started) more than argue that point. Are we over-stimulated and bored without another super-charged activity to prove to ourselves that we are alive? Or are we that starved for attention?
No, I do not think you are the problem. But I do think we might have an issue here. For real, we might have an issue.
If I’m to be truly transparent, I’d have to admit that I have a fist fight with every blog I write and potentially post. While my heart wants to help people transition out of their religious zombie walks, my head barks, “Who gives a shit about what you think about anything?” It’s always been that way for this old preacher man. Only now it’s not a 5:30 a.m. conversation on Sunday morning. Now it happens on Tuesday morning when I’m about to click the “send” button on my blog site. The internal conversation is savage, I kid you not. The shadows would be much more restful. Evidently every creative type suffers with the same fight.
I wonder if Pvt. Schwartz ever regretted holding something that powerful, yet so deeply hidden, in only his memory? What were the metrics that composed such a beautiful discretion for 48 years?
Maybe Brokaw was right. Maybe they were the greatest generation. Not because of what they accomplished, but because of how they handled their difficulties, their pain, and even their successes without a lot of drum beating. Granted, they didn’t have the same media opportunities, but I’m not too convinced it would have mattered anyway.
Are we really that far from a long time ago? Social media says, “Yes… definitely. We’re so much further along.” But, if we were going to remain honest, we’d probably have to admit that a lot gets done in this world without much notice or fanfare. Not everyone needs a big social hug or a cookie in order to be enticed to add value to life’s participants.
Every now and then, you bump up against a Pvt. Schwartz. An unknown, a hero, a quiet go-getter who is carrying the precious cargo of valor, sacredness, sacrifice, service and goodwill, buried deep down in their heart. You’d never know it, but he or she knows it, and that is just the way they want it. It could be a hospice aid, or a clerk at the courthouse. Maybe he or she is toting the mail or mowing your grass. Yes, puke-covered mommies totally qualify. They’re everywhere—just doing their thing—quietly. Well, most of them.
Excuse me for throwing scripture at you, but it feels right to add this in closing:
“Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these nobodies to expose the hollow pretensions of the somebodies?” (1 Cor 1:27-28, MSG).
I don’t think this is about God playing favorites among His children. I think it has more to do with the virtues of humility and obscure dignity. I think those qualities are explosive components for real impact. These people mine where the real gold lays hidden. And when we discover and allow their stories to settle in our spirits, we, too, realize that their impact has made a profound difference in how we experience and see life.
Here’s to the obscure giants who walk among us, wherever you are!
(I’m changing my sign off line. This one is what I care about most!)
Live each day inside of the magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!