Waking Up

June 6th, 2020

Religion, at its best, helps people to bring this foundational divine love into ever-increasing consciousness. In other words, it’s more about waking up than about cleaning up. Early-stage religion tends to focus on cleaning up, which is to say, determining who meets the requirements for moral behavior and religious belief. But Jesus threw a wrench into this whole machinery by refusing to enforce or even bother with what he considered secondary issues like the Sabbath, ritual laws, purity codes, membership requirements, debt codes, on and on. He saw they were only “human commandments,” which far too often took the place of love. (See especially Matthew 15:3, 6-9.) Or as he puts it in another place, “You hypocrites, you pay your tithes . . . and neglect the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and good faith” (Matthew 23:23). Cleaning up is a result of waking up, but most of us put the cart before the horse.

It’s no wonder his fellow Jews had to kill Jesus, just as many Catholics would love to eliminate Pope Francis today. Once you wake up, as Jesus and Pope Francis have, you know that cleaning up is a constant process that comes on different timetables for different people, around many different issues, and for very different motivations. This is why love and growth demand discernment, not enforcement. When it comes to actual soul work, most attempts at policing and conforming are largely useless. It took me most of my life as a confessor, counselor, and spiritual director to be honest and truly helpful with people about this. Mere obedience is far too often a detour around actual love. Obedience is usually about cleaning up, love is about waking up.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 72-73

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, June 6, 2020

Creating Proximity

June 5th, 2020

The beauty of the bigger table is that it creates proximity in the way Jesus did. It destroys distance between people, and distance — whether real or imagined — is the enemy of relationship. This chasm allows us to otherize people with little accountability to their reality. It enables us to hold onto the belief that the crudely drawn caricatures we fashion for those we disagree with are at all accurate, allowing us to craft a clearly defined us-vs.-them narrative and place them opposite us. This simple narrative can’t accommodate people’s individual stories, as this is too labor intensive and time consuming. Instead it lumps those stories together into the closest-fitting generalization (a political party, a religious tradition, a people-group stereotype) and operates with that as truth. But these containers are simply never adequate. Our labels are never large enough for unique image bearers of God, and unless we become relentless in really straining to see individual people, we will always default to this easy, lazy shorthand, and we will always shortchange the beauty within them. We’ll also be satisfied viewing them from this safe distance of our self-righteousness and shouting through bullhorns or shaking tambourines.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 120-121

Photo: Great Falls National Park, June 14, 2016

Door Openers

June 4th, 2020

I would like to love other people enough to go to extraordinary measures to open the door and invite them in, rather than passively allow the door to close, go on my way and keep them out. Jesus said, “I am the gate. . . . All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them” (John 10:7).

Jesus encouraged his followers to become door openers rather than gatekeepers. He hoped that once people experienced the goodness of God, the love of God, and the grace of God, they would reside in it and be free to share it with others. This is why people who were sinners, outcasts, and poor loved Jesus and felt such joy in his presence. They were unaccustomed to being loved by someone who was talking about the ways of God. They knew that Jesus valued them, that he saw their worth, not one that they had earned or instilled within themselves. He saw their intrinsic value, the image of God that was imprinted upon their lives.

How does one become a door opener who leads others to the joy of Christ rather than a gatekeeper who judges others? Observing Jesus enables us to see how to value a vulnerable person.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 99-100

Photo: Festung Hohenwerfen, August 1998

God’s Way to Peace

June 1st, 2020

Forgiveness is God’s way to peace, and it is the way revealed by Jesus through everything He said and did.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 220

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, June 1, 2020

The Source of Joy

May 30th, 2020

Joy is rooted not in what, when, why, or how, but in who. Meanings and explanations can get in the way of experiencing the greatest joy of all, which is simply to be with the Divine Lover without any other meaning except being together. If we understood all mysteries, our joy could not be as great, for joy feeds upon a God of splendor and majesty who is far beyond our comprehension.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 171-172

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 30, 2020

A World of Singers

May 29th, 2020

The shared capacity to sing points to the many deep genetic connections that link humans to other living beings. In a beautiful article Rhodora Beaton eloquently states, “The image of singing as we go invites a broader vision of the journey song, one that includes the duets of gibbons, the beat-keeping dances of parrots, and the elaborate and distinctive calls of whales and other aquatic mammals.” Humans do not sing alone but raise their voices with a world of singers sharing the journey of life together.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 221

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 22, 2020

Part of Our Story

May 28th, 2020

Our scars are part of our story, but they are not its conclusion. The past is ours and will always be a part of us, and yet it is not all there is. It’s a process, moving from wounds to scars to grief to showing those scars. It takes time, and maybe therapy, and maybe being vulnerable in community, and maybe working through the twelve steps, and maybe making a lot of mistakes, and maybe experiencing a tiny bit of joy.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless, p. 158-159

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 25, 2020.

Your Best Revenge

May 26th, 2020

Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who hurt you power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 211

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 23, 2020

No Stingy God Here!

May 25th, 2020

Strangely, many Christians today limit God’s provident care to humans, and very few of them at that. How different we are from Jesus, who extended the divine generosity to sparrows, lilies, ravens, donkeys, the grasses of the fields (Luke 12:22), and even “the hairs of the head” (Matthew 10:29). No stingy God here! (Although he did neglect the hairs of my head.) But what stinginess on our side made us limit God’s concern — even eternal concern — to just ourselves? And how can we imagine God as caring about us if God does not care about everything else too? If God chooses and doles out his care, we are always insecure and unsure whether we are among the lucky recipients. But once we become aware of the generous, creative Presence that exists in all things natural, we can receive it as the inner Source of all dignity and worthiness. Dignity is not doled out to the worthy. It grounds the inherent worthiness of things in their very nature and existence.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 56-57

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 25, 2020

The Blessing of Work

May 24th, 2020

But the work for which we are fitted — which we feel we are sent into the world to do — what a blessing it is and what fulness of joy it holds.

— L. M. Montgomery, Emily’s Quest, p. 102

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 22, 2020