Tag Archives: God

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…

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What we dwell on tells us who we are

IMG_2393That last post, I would say, is an effort to dream, to give thanks, to wonder, and to celebrate. All bad comes with some good if we are looking for it. All good comes with some bad… even if we aren’t looking for it. Isn’t that so true? Our dreams, the things we dwell on (on our worst days AND our best days), reveal to us about who we are.

A friend reflected to me that he has to marvel at the reflections of some people at various events he hosts. A woman told him once that she felt that all the subjects of his pub conversations were about sex. Hmmm… I wonder what she is trying to resist. How true it is that the things we try to resist are the things we focus on the most. Sometimes we see the negative in others and the positive in our selves, or the other way around. We see the positive in others and the negative in ourselves.

She is so in shape, I have such a hard time exercising. They eat so poorly, I have made the most healthy food ever. They are so obsessed with sex, at least I can keep a pure mind. It’s so cold here, I would rather be in a place that is warm. They don’t know how to work hard and so are poor as a result, I’ve worked hard and have money to spend. Ultimately, there are attachments… physical body, food, sex, comfort, money. The things we dwell on tell us so much about ourselves.

But there are layers there, aren’t there? I obsessively read fantasy novels these days. And is it obsessively or diligently? And is it because I want to show that I have achieved something, or because I want to escape, or because I am just bored? Or maybe it is because it feels good to work my imagination and to open up a world of dragons and battles and adventure. It could be all of the above. Who knows?

When it comes down to it, we must simply pay attention. Knowledge and observation teach us much and give us freedom. Freedom to let go, freedom to move on, freedom to feel.

One more story to further illustrate my point. The family and I went and met a friend at a new coffee shop this morning. We opted for this rather than getting geared up for church. Brendan even said at one point, “Church?” Of course, there are the thoughts in my head of the need for spiritual support, the desire to worship and sing, the feeling of lack of Christian spiritual guidance in my life, the importance of Brendan being with other kids, and the fact that we would not be spending the money on coffee when I had already made some at home.

Getting out of the car, Kat laughed at the ease of going out for coffee versus going to church. “It sure is easy to get going for the coffee shop on Sunday morning that church,” she said. It’s true. We didn’t do the customary church-going family tradition of battling our way to the car, silence on the road, and smiling at the greeters. Rather, we had a date on our only free morning of the week, while enjoying the creative ambiance of this finely crafted coffee house and having good heart-to-heart conversation with our dear friend. It’s all about what we see, and as I have said so many times before, we ultimately see what we are looking for.

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.

Holy Ones Take Flight

A poem from 2007:

Birds afloat in air’s current,
sacred breath? No, not breath of God,
it seems, but God
the air enveloping the whole
globe of being.
It’s we who breathe, in, out, in, the sacred,
leaves astir, our wings
rising, ruffled – but only the saints
take flight. We cower
in cliff-crevice or edge out gingerly
on branches close to the nest. The wind
marks the passage of holy ones riding
that ocean of air. Slowly their wake
reaches us, rocks us.
But storm or still,
numb or poised in attention,
we inhale, exhale, inhale,
encompassed, encompassed.

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Nature is the First Scripture

“Sacred writings are bound in two volumes – that of creation and that of the Holy Scriptures… Visible creatures are like a book in which we read the knowledge of God. One has every right to call God’s creatures God’s ‘works,’ for they express the divine mind just as effects manifest their cause. ‘The works of the Lord are the words of the Lord.’ (Eccles. 42.15).” ~Thomas Aquinas

In our men’s work we hear often from Fr. Richard Rohr, a quote from one of our early spiritual father’s that the Nature is the first Scripture and the Bible is the second. If we can’t be in right relation with the first, we will never be in right relation with the second. I tend to agree.

It seems that it is so easy to formulate our spirituality from the books we read, the people we listen to, and the doctrines we hold… but do we stop and pause long enough to hear of the mystery that comes to us from the natural world? This is the purest and most distinct-from-ego revelation of the divine that we can encounter. It seems to make sense to start there.