Tag Archives: Christ

My soul resource in suffering

Now that I have begun my residency for hospital chaplaincy, I have had plenty of opportunity to reflect on my view and process of suffering. In a recent conversation with a friend, I was asked my view on suffering as it pertains to helping others work through their own suffering and being able to internally deal with my own suffering and that suffering I hear on a daily basis. How do I not become overwhelmed? How do I translate my views in such a way that helps the other despite differences in theology or spiritual paths? What is even appropriate to share with others about why suffering happens?

Why does suffering happen anyway? My immediate response is one of, “I really don’t know.” There is some suffering that simply cannot be explained. I have heard from many different places that we live in a sinful world, that humanity is inherently sinful because of what Adam and Eve did in the garden when they disobeyed God. So because humanity is sinful, we do sinful things, and of course that is why we need to repent and believe the right things about Jesus so that we have access to his transformational power to change our nature and at least not have to suffer for all of eternity. In my thinking, this doesn’t cut it in so many ways. It still doesn’t answer why I and so many others still have to face suffering in this life. It also seems like a minimization of someone’s current troubles in order to fit them into a system of beliefs that moves them from focusing on the pain here and now to hope in something that they or we haven’t experienced yet. It doesn’t fit with my belief in a God who suffers with us and doesn’t want his children to suffer. I have also heard people say that suffering happens to teach us something. While God doesn’t want us to suffer, he allows it to happen to us so we can become stronger. I could never give this to someone as a reason for why they are suffering. “God wants to teach you something.” What kind of help does that give when someone has lost their child or their loved one, or they are faced with the loss of a limb or cancer? Continue reading My soul resource in suffering

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Gerard Manley Hopkins – As kingfishers catch fire

I had to post this… it’s the original reference to what I mentioned in my last post.

And the parallels are so wonderfully significant!

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As king fishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

What is your face? or place? …either way, let it flow

In a recent conversation with a directee, we discussed the nature of finding one’s identity… as a self, as a child of God, and as a follower of Christ. Our conversation helped me put the following core ideas together for me.

I was reminded of Eugene Peterson‘s book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. I have not read the book, but I have heard from those who read it and I find the title alone to be a transformation of thought. I am sure that it is not Peterson’s main point, but the title speaks to me of the reality of Christ’s presence in all that is. Christ really does play in ten thousand places. Not just in the church, not just in one set of beliefs or theologies, not just in one type of person. And he plays! He is not in all things to judge, to condemn (“…and the son of God did not come to condemn the world, but to save it”), to say who’s in and who’s out… he recreates. He finds joy and delight in revealing himself in the cosmos!

I also like to think that Christ dwells in ten thousand faces. Meaning that there are so many flavors and so many individual expressions of Christ’s presence. All the people I meet… Christ. I remember Jesus, himself, saying, “Whatever you did to the least of these, you have done to me.” Not to say they all use the same language for Christ incarnate. Many have a deep chasm to cross, high hurdles to climb over, when it comes to words like “Jesus,” or communities like “Christians.” What they perceive is their experience, not perhaps the reality or the true expressions of these.

So if Christ dwells in ten thousand faces, or he plays in ten thousand places, the questions I have to ask myself are, “What is my face that I show to the world? Who am I as a beloved son or daughter of God? What is my expression?” It seems to me that until I know this truth and allow it to be real in myself, I will never see it in others. I will always be prescribing a face that I believe is the right face to others. Most likely, it will look like what I think it should look like… probably me, or my set of ideals. This was one of the most difficult yet freeing things I have ever learned… how to be myself as Christ has made me to be, not to be the “Christian” that the Christians say I should be, or the “man” that the men say I should, or even the person that I idealize myself to be. Coulda, shoulda, woulda… that’s what I like to say.

Anthony De Mello teaches,

If you want to live, you must have no permanent abode. You must have no place to rest your head. You have to flow with it. As the great Confucius said, “The one who would be constant in happiness must frequently change.” Flow. But we keep looking back, don’t we? We cling to things in the past and cling to things in the present. “When you set your hand to the plow, you cannot look back.” Do you want to enjoy a melody? Do you want to enjoy a symphony? Don’t hold on to a couple of notes. Let them pass, let them flow. The whole enjoyment of a symphony lies in your readiness to allow the notes to pass. Whereas if a particular bar took your fancy and you shouted to the orchestra, “Keep playing it again and again and again,” that wouldn’t be a symphony anymore.

My wise and beautiful wife said to me yesterday, “I’m through not loving myself. I’m done with it. I am just going to love all of myself from now on. I love myself! I even love that I am weird.” She loves the flow. We all need to love the flow. We need to find that unique face of Christ that only we bring to the world, and live it… love it. The rest flows…

The Celtic Soul

I have been contemplating the nature of the soul in Celtic Spirituality for quite some time now, and as I work my way slowly and thoughtfully through John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara, I am reminded again of this very precious and beautiful gem of history. Frank MacEowen also addresses this belief in The Myst Filled Path.

The Celts believed that the body was contained within the soul. The soul extends beyond our body and reaches out to connect with other souls. In fact, all things have soul. The trees in the forest, the mountains, the hawk soaring above, the fish in the river, even the rocks under foot. The Earth herself has soul. We can connect and communicate with the soul of the beings around us.

This is very foreign and strange to our Western ears, which for so many of us have heard that the soul is contained within the body. When we were born, a soul was put into our bodies. When we die, the body decays and the soul moves on. A bit like on Loony Tunes, when the white angelic spirit wisps away from the dead character. It is very Western to think in terms of body and spirit, or body and mind. O’Donohue writes that it is the soul that connects the body and the mind. It is the soul that is connected, and connects us to, God-in-all-things.

So I have been sitting with this for quite some time now… because it really is such an incredibly different way of seeing the world and God and myself and my connection to God. I am drawn to a more mystical expression of my Christian heritage. I am drawn to the wild places, the mystery places, the times between times when the veil is thin. I am drawn to knowing Christ in all things.

This notion of the body being contained within the soul changes so many things. I now am drawn to consider how I care for that soul that is holding and enlivening everything within it. I am now faced with that deep connection that I feel in the presence of my beloved or in the magic of the sun-kissed horizon. To do damage to the soul of another being is to do damage to my own soul. Implications… consequences… connections.

Community, worship, and a future…

From Matthew Fox

The Cosmic Christ calls us to renewed worship: “Come to me all you who are burdened by lack of praise, lack of beauty, lack of vision in your lives. Look about you at the starry heavens and the deep, deep sea; at the amazing history that has birthed a home for you on this planet; at the surprise and joy of your existence. Gather together – you and your communities – in the context of this great, cosmic community to rejoice and give thanks. To heal and let go. To enter the dark and deep mysteries, to share the news, to break the bread of the universe and drink the blood of the cosmos itself in all its divinity. Be brave. Let your worship make you strong and great again. Never be bored again. Create yourselves, re-create your worlds, by the news you share and the visions you celebrate. Bring your sense of being microcosm in a vast macrocosm; bring your bodies; bring your play; bring your darkness and your pain. Gather and do not scatter. Learn to not take for granted and learn this together. Become a people. Worship together.