Friday, March 14, 2014

unfolded

I want to be a mirror that reflects your whole being,
and never to be too blind or too old
to hold your heavy, swaying image.
I want to unfold.
Nowhere do I want to remain folded,
because where I am folded, there I am a lie.


                                       ~Rainer Maria Rilke
 
 
A few years ago, at the end of a retreat I was leading, I got into a wonderful conversation with a dear friend about all that God was up to in our lives.  And somewhere in the midst of the conversation he asked me a great question: "Do you have any secrets?"  The tone and the spirit of the question was not at all threatening or judgmental or harsh, but rather easy and free and filled with care. 
 
And I clearly remember being delighted with the answer that arose from deep within me.  "You know," I said, "I really don't."  And something really wonderful was struck deep within me, not only by the answer, but also by the question.  Because deep in my heart I have a desire to live openly, unfolded, before God and before the folks in my life and world; and this question was an invitation to do just that.
 
I've been thinking about confession a lot lately, and the role it plays in our life with God.  So many times I have viewed confession as a shame-filled, guilt-laden process that no one in their right mind would want to perform on any kind of regular basis.  But I'm beginning to think that I had it all wrong.  Confession is not a practice that is meant to produce guilt and fear and shame, but one that holds within it the possibility of living truly and freely and wholly (or holy) before God and before one another.  Confession is meant to produce life and space and freedom within us.  When I stand open before God and allow him to see all of me (which he already sees anyway), it does something beautiful deep within my soul.  It opens the possibility for intimacy and communication and growth (i.e., real relationship).  It allows him to help me clean my "inner room" of all of the junk and mess and clutter that fills the landscape of my soul and takes up room that God alone was meant to inhabit.  It unfolds me.  Because living folded, closed, and hiding is not really life at all, but only a fear-filled lie.  And we all know that: There is no fear in love, because perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18) 

So I'm hoping that, from this day forward, I will begin to see confession in a new way; as an invitation and an opportunity rather than a duty and obligation.  An invitation from my loving Father to live before him openly, freely, and unfolded.  Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

real

i thought i knew me
but the me i thought i knew
wasn’t really me at all
just another clever disguise—an illusion
a person that really doesn’t exist
a creation of my own deepest needs and fears
 
it was the person i thought i needed to be
in order to be valued
in order to be worth loving
 
but how does someone
who really does not exist
hold any value at all?
except from this fickle and fleeting world
 
living a lie
to gain applause and approval
the false for the false
under the guise of true
why is it so hard to tell the difference?
to see and recognize the real—and the false?
 
as long as the false is present
the true is hidden
it can’t be lived
and what is the process of discovery?
how is the imposter unmasked?
how do i see the real face underneath?
the naked truth?
 
wear a mask long enough
and you forget you have it on
it becomes who you are—
or you become who it is
until you realize
until you are awakened—
come home to yourself
 
isn’t that what this life is really about?
becoming—
undressing—
letting go of all you thought you knew
in order to discover the true—
the real
the beautiful
waiting underneath.

Friday, March 7, 2014

not condemned

Neither do I condemn you.  (John 8:11)

I read these words this morning in my time with Jesus and they almost leapt off the page; or my heart almost leapt out of my chest, I'm not exactly sure which.  Either way, they brought me to life inside.  You see throughout the last week I have been having condemnation issues; not so much on the giving end as on the receiving end.  And I'm not sure I would've called them that until I saw this word.  And as soon as I saw it my heart and soul quickly said, "That's it!  That's what I have been experiencing all week."  And it wasn't all at once, but in tiny pieces that were all adding up to a very large whole  (or hole, pun intended).  An unfavorable comparison, a criticism received, an insecurity struck, and the next thing you know I am at the bottom of the pit.  You know, that pit of despair and depression that these things send me right to the bottom of.

The word condemn means to express an unfavorable or adverse judgment on; to indicate strong disapproval; to pronounce guilty.  The Greek word katakrino means to give judgment against.  It is a positional word, a word that is intended to lessen the condemned and heighten the condemner.  A word that creates a dichotomy between the judger and the judged.  That definitely comes to life in John 8.  The scribes and Pharisees bring the adulteress woman before Jesus, rocks firmly in hand, fully intending to stone her to death.  They the high and holy, and she the sinful and lowly.  But, as he always seems to do, Jesus beautifully turns the tables.  He levels the playing field.  "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her," he says.  And one by one, oldest first, they all leave...with the harsh realization that we are no better than her.  We are not above her.

So there Jesus is, alone with the woman in the middle of what used to be a crowded street.  He stands up from writing on the ground, looks tenderly into her eyes and says, "Where are they?  Has no one condemned you?"

"No.  No one , Lord," is her reply, eyes downcast, wondering what the next words from his lips might be.  Would they be words of rebuke?  Judgment?  Condemnation?

But to her surprise, and delight, the words he gives her are words of life, not death.  "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.  Neither do I condemn you.  I'll bet those words were music to he soul.  I know they are to mine.  Since I do not condemn you, do not allow others (including yourself) that power either.  When you do that, you give people and things and events and circumstances a power over you that they neither have, nor deserve.  Do not do that.  Do not allow the voices within (or without) to convince you that you are any less than the Beloved of the Father.  Do not allow comparison, or criticism, or insecurity to drag you down into the pit of condemnation.  But instead, live your life out of the joy and gratitude and freedom of being loved.  For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17) Or, as The Message puts it: God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

Thanks be to God!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

hiding


Clother of Naked Souls,

Adam and Eve fled naked through the garden,
found secret crannies in the shadows
and, with fingers still stained with the forbidden,
     wove together clothes to try and hide from you,
the one who sees all.

I see myself there, with them,
hiding from you,
trying to sew together some new way of life,
trying to escape the memory of the fruit
that tasted so good.
     Only a moment ago.

Seek me in my hiddenness
find me once again.

Your grace will clothe
even the deepest kinds
of fruit-inflicted shame.
(A Heart Exposed by Steven James)

Monday, March 3, 2014

tired?

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 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 11:28-30 The Message)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

justifying myself

it's amazing
how little it takes
to put me in a spin
a downward spiral
straight down the rabbit hole
to that dark place
i know so well

just moments ago
the sun was shining
the day was clear and free
but then a sour chord was struck
and the next thing i know
boom here i am
at the bottom of the abyss
walls too steep and high
to climb out of
on my own

i thought i was
past all of this by now
i thought i'd have
finally learned
how to live
rooted and free
in the light of
truth and love

when will i ever
be fully convinced
of the truth
you long for me
to know
and live out of

to know that truth
in such a way
that these tumbles
into the pit of
darkness and despair
don't happen any more

o how i long for that day




Father of all humanity, you call your children to walk in the light of Christ.  Free us from darkness and keep us forever in the radiance of your truth, until we come at last to live with you on high.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reins with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.  Amen. (The Little Book of Hours)