Advent Day 07: Our Real Work …

Marvelous Truth, confront us
at every turn
in every guise.
― Denise Levertov from A Grateful Heart

 

We forever drift in and out of the miracle before us. As our eyes dilate and constrict in order to see, we are opened by love, wonder, and truth into the immediacy of all that is incomprehensible, only to wrestle with pain, loss, and obstacles that make us constrict. And during the wrestle, the miracle of life seems out of reach. Though once enduring what we’re given, pain and loss open us further. This is how the human heart sees. Modern culture tells us that we are entitled to a perfect, happy life. Yet if we insist on deifying a painless life free of loss, we will only be battered by the pain and loss we are given and miss the point of the journey. Much as we’d like, we can’t be happy all the time, any more than we can dilate or inhale all the time. We need to dilate and constrict, and inhale and exhale, in order to live. And so, the heart, mind, and soul need to open and close to the entirety of the human experience in order to make sense of things as they move through. Difficult as they are, pain, loss, and obstacles are dynamic forces of life that make us open and close. It is up to us to make sense of our lifelong conversation with them. Continue reading “Advent Day 07: Our Real Work …”

To Enter the Song (The Real Challenge in Creativity) …

I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire.
― Martha Graham (as quoted in Marry Your Muse: Making a Lasting Commitment to Your Creativity)

 

There are three kinds of performers: The first, while singing a song or doing a dance, are making love to themselves. The second, while performing, are making love to the audience. The third, while on stage, are making love to the song, to the dance, to the drama itself.

Of course it’s not difficult to discern who the better performer is. The one making love to the song, of course, best honours the song and draws energy from some deeper place. And he or she does this by entering into and channelling the energy of the song rather than by entering into and channelling their own energy or the energy of the audience. What a good artist does, whether that be a singer, a writer, a painter, a dancer, a craftsperson, a carpenter, or a gardener is tap into the deep energies at the heart of things and draw on them to create something that is of God, namely, something that is one, true, good, and beautiful. In the end, and this is true of all good art and all good performance, creativity is not about the person doing the creation. It’s about oneness, truth, goodness, and beauty. Continue reading “To Enter the Song (The Real Challenge in Creativity) …”

This Very Moment Is the Perfect Teacher …

When we are stuck in our convictions and personas, we enter into the disease of having good ideas and being right… We think we have a lock on truth, with our burnished surfaces and articulation, but the bigger we pump ourselves up, the easier we are to prick with a pin. And the bigger we get, the harder it is to see the earth under our feet.

We all know the horror of having been Right with a capital R, feeling the surge of a cause, whether in politics or custody disputes. This rightness is so hot and steamy and exciting, until the inevitable rug gets pulled out from under us. Then we get to see that we almost never really know what is true, except what everybody else knows: that sometimes we’re all really lonely, and hollow, and stripped down to our most naked human selves.

It is the worst thing on earth, this truth about how little truth we know. I hate and resent it. And yet it is where new life rises from. Continue reading “This Very Moment Is the Perfect Teacher …”

Maybe The Desire To Make Something Beautiful Is The Piece Of God That Is Inside Each Of Us …

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well …
— Saint Julian of Norwich from Revelations of Divine Love

 

Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us.
Now all four horses have come closer,
are bending their faces toward me
as if they have secrets to tell.
I don’t expect them to speak, and they don’t.
If being so beautiful isn’t enough, what
could they possibly say? Continue reading “Maybe The Desire To Make Something Beautiful Is The Piece Of God That Is Inside Each Of Us …”

Advent Meditation: Without Love …

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
— 1 Cor 13:1-7

 

In Luke’s Gospel, it is the Jewish poor, the shepherds, who first see and recognise this birth as a manifestation of God in their midst. Perhaps this reflects the experience of Luke’s community and its emphasis on Jesus’ outreach to the marginal ones. In Mathew’s Gospel, it’s the Magi, these Gentile outsiders, who see a mysterious star and follow it. They recognise that the promises made to the chosen people are being fulfilled. How unlikely that they would be the ones to see and understand, while others who are much closer to the revelation are indifferent, or even hostile, to it. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Without Love …”

Advent Meditation: A New Narrative …

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
— James 4:6

He will rescue the poor when they cry to him;
he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.
He feels pity for the weak and the needy,
and he will rescue them.
He will redeem them from oppression and violence,
for their lives are precious to him.
— Psalm 72:12-14

 

This is God at work, as God has been at work across the millennia, as God is at work even now – unfolding new narratives with, through, and among particular people who are others, outsiders to the assumed faithful. The good news that God bears through Jesus is concurrently jarring news, infuriating news to the temple stalwarts who push him, rush him out of the city to throw him headlong down the hillside (Luke 4:21-30). The good news is not the narrative they were used to, not what they expected from the living God, who had come once again to break through their calcified ways. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: A New Narrative …”

Desert Day 46: Tearing Of The Temple Veil (Good Friday Meditation) …

There are so many haunting lines in the passion narratives. Who of us, for instance, is not stirred in the soul when the passion story is read in church and we come to the part where Jesus takes his last breath and there is that minute of silence, where we all drop to our knees? No Good Friday homily is ever as effective as that single line (“he gave up his spirit”) and the moving silence that ensues.

Another such line that has always haunted me is the one that follows immediately after. Jesus dies and we are told that, at the very second of his death, “the veil of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” My imagination, even when I was very little, has always been able to picture that. I have this picture in my mind of it growing dark in the middle of the day and then at the second of Jesus’ death, almost as if by lightening, the temple veil is ripped from top to bottom while everyone looks on stunned, convinced now, too late, that the person they’ve just mocked and crucified is the Christ. It’s a great picture. But, my imagination aside, what is really meant by that phrase that the veil of the temple ripped open at the moment of Jesus’ death? Continue reading “Desert Day 46: Tearing Of The Temple Veil (Good Friday Meditation) …”