New Names

You give us new names and we are due for a new name.  The very land needs a new name, our very hearts long for newness.  Birth our new name out of our experience of you. Birth it out of our experience of you we collectively have together.   May it be one that reflects your very presence to us and our presence to each other.  May it be one that awakens us every time to the God who makes all things new.  Lead us through that path that will lead us to our new name.  Although I’m not sure it won’t be without hardship.  But I am sure you will be there with us.

(on reading Mark Buchanan)

After Nouwen

Yesterday’s Lenten reading from Henri Nouwen was particularly poignant and paralleled what I’ve been thinking about a lot.

“But Jesus came to open my ears to another voice that says, “I am your God.  I have moved you with my own hands, and I love what i have made.  I love you with a love that has no limits, because I love you as I am loved…… I know all your thoughts.  I hear all your words.  I see all of your actions.  And I love you because you are beautiful, made in my own image, an expression of my most intimate love. Do not judge yourself.  Do not condemn yourself.  Do not reject yourself.  Let my love touch the deepest, most hidden corners of your heart and reveal to you your own beauty, a beauty that you have lost sight of, but which will become visible to you again in the light of my mercy.  Come, come, let me wipe your tears, and let my mouth come close to your ear and say to you, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

This is the voice that Jesus wants us to hear.  It us the voice that calls us always to return to the one who has created us in love and wants to re-create us in mercy. ”

Make clear this love to us today, make abundantly and surprisingly known to us this love.  Help us allow the space needed for that love to take root, as terrifying as that might be.

 

The Book Of Love

–Here is a bit more of my BIG PROJECT.  I had earlier published the first bit of this, which I include here as well.  I am constantly asking myself this question lately, so this is some attempt to put my broken, hurting heart into the answer.  To anyone who actually reads this – much love to you 🙂  

 

What story do we live out of?

Because we all do live out of one.   Every one of us plays our part, consciously or unconsciously, in the story that we think best represents the world, best explains the world. Best represents ourself, best explains ourself. The story that we think is the reality we walk through or maybe that we think we should or have to walk through. And what we believe this story is will, in every way, effect how we live our lives.   Its safe to say there are competing stories.   And I think its safe to say that there are times when we fully believe ourselves to be living in one story but our actions and attitudes deeply reveal that we are, in fact, deeply buried in another.   The journey we undertake, when we decide on a journey of spirit and of faith is one of relearning and relearning and relearning the story. The Story. And that is not easy. Relearning generally hurts because we have found and attached our deepest identities in these stories.

 

In the beginning God created. That’s a pretty good start as far as story starts go, I think. God created the heavens and the earth. The universe and all that is in it. He created that star that died millions of years ago whose light is only just reaching us now. He created that gnat, crawling on your windowsill, looking for its next microscopic meal. He created us, in mysterious and long ways. Seeds germinating, creatures evolving tiny bit by tiny bit. He created a fabric of good and beautiful and he wove himself into it and then he used it to fashion all sorts of weird and beautiful and curious things. He fashioned life to be that – life – interdependent, a glorious and beautiful theatre that exactly reflected Who He Is. He is love – and love is not abstract. It is exactly prosaic, and ordinary and every day and woven exactly in the in between spaces between living things. This love that made and infuses this universe requires communication, requires bridging that space in between us. He made it this way because it is in his nature to relate, to commune, to go-between those spaces that surround us all. And it is good and whole and it is LOVE.   He made love to require continual flow between entities. Ecosystems – seriously – want to know what God is like? Examine ecosystems. We can only live on this earth because of the complex, dynamic, interactive ways this world makes oxygen.   The earth is not the backdrop to us humans and our drama. It is in fact the main character that we comprise a part of. THIS WHOLE CREATION. This is the start of our story.

Because He wanted to start there, pouring out that LOVE which exists within him, that comprises Him (Good Trinitarian Doctrine, my friends). Because He is good. Because it was good. Because he is love, this creation was love.

 

Do we live out of this story?

 

No. We don’t. Something happened. We call it The Fall. Because in our long and collective memories as a species, we know that the disconnect we feel between us and eachother, as races, as genders, as ideologies, is undeniable and it is not right. That ease of flow between all the moving parts of this life was, and is, disrupted. It was, and is, broken. It feels broken and we can not deny it. We live apart, very apart from our home in this earth and it is killing us.   The great tragedy when I read the Adam and Eve story is not necessarily in their act of self- aware disobedience but that the result was they were afraid—they were afraid of their life, afraid of their own selves, afraid of each other, afraid of their world and the God whose love surrounded them.  They no longer knew the love that made them into belongings of the grand love design. Or they did but were afraid now, afraid of all the space, afraid of all of God and afraid of eachother, their very selves. God did not banish them automatically. In this old story, God looked for them in the garden. He was calling out to them, reaching out to them, seeking to maintain that love that is the foundation of existence. And they could not face that love, they were afraid. They could not be seen by him, they saw themselves apart from what He had created. They hid from their own reality and did not think God would love them. Not after what they thought they knew.

 

But then, oh but then, within the self-awareness of humanity, the part of nature that suddenly knew it was a part of nature, Love undertook to keep writing this story, to keep creating his world. To keep showing up in His creation, woven into their hearts, woven into their lives, weaving himself into culture and art and thought and reason and all that makes us human. If we were now aware of ourselves, God made us aware of Him, again. Re-teaching us about what it means to be WITH Him. Within Him, Of Him, His good creations.

 

And he did this the long way. Again. They way of growing, of learning, of being in communities. He took a people, a group, small and seed-like, and started showing them His Way of being His creation. Over centuries of promises, deserts, tribes, heirs, exiles, kings, prophets, and millions of individual stories, The Story rose to the top, every bit of it making up a picture of who Love was within His good creation. A love that did not leave, did not break promises, a love that stayed deeply connected, deeply covenanted, deeply calling out to his creation in his garden.  He didn’t do it from without, from above – for that is not his way. It is never his way. God always works from within His story. Love always works from within the story. He always works within the context and peculiarities of cultures and groups, just as he always works from within the germinating seed and the intricate water cycle of the earth to feed and nourish it and grow the earth. He works within how groups function and keeps calling them forward. He works within the way individual humans grow, learn, become and transform. He works from within the brokenness that we live out of, to make explicit that which connects us. Because that is His way.

 

 

In every step of this story, we see how He writes in such a way that we could see His character, his ways, His intricate involvement, Love’s intricate involvement, to weave us back together.   The Temple – a long, detailed chapter – showing us His glory, his beauty, his desire to be connected in the way that that culture would understand. The Law – a long detailed chapter that showed a small people how to BE their identity as creations and to build into the details of their harsh lives a sense of the BIG God who loved them.  The King – a long detailed chapter on the highs and lows of power and where true power resides. The Psalms – a long, detailed chapter on what its been like to respond to God, to need, to love, to lament, to feel joy and deep sorrow, and still to trust. It’s a long detailed chapter on God’s growing within our delightfully human hearts, using the whole of creation from the mountains, the oceans, the deserts to the beauty of language and words and perfect communication to re-member us back together.

And those prophets—calling us to love in any way they could. I think of the prophets. Their incredibly harsh and weird call of God to us – standing WAY out in left field to get us to move a little bit back into alignment, a little more centered. And what was God always saying? “Don’t look to anything else to be your love”, (idolatry, apostasy) and “stop the rifts, the torn apartness of human life” (oppression, violence, selfish unseeing of the Other).   Pretty much that was everything the prophets were on about. “Remember that you were all apart of each other once and that every one of you is a part of Him – every one of you is made in that image of LOVE. And you need each other – all of you- from the greatest to the least. Come back to each other, come back to Him.”   Those prophets – calling us back to the Story.

And the people kept telling this story to each other and to their children. For hundreds of years, generation after generation, even when they heard nothing new, they kept trying to understand this story, trying to find themselves within it. I think of the millions of actual lives lived in those times….hearing about Love and greatness and God, maybe experiencing a bit of it, and I think about how they got on in those times.  About the fear and the hope that comes from looking for love and living with it.

 

 

And then this story, of us and God, of God and this world, comes to a crux. We get to a still point.    One day, unbeknownst to all those hearts, a girl woke up in the middle of the night. Terrified, but also able to see something that had that sheen of hope. That young, uneducated girl was able to conceive of something completely unexpected. She woke up and said yes to that call. She was afraid but still showed her face, even her whole self.   And she was filled with all that part of Love and all that part of God that the world was made with.   She was going to bear a baby. And it was at once miraculous and prosaic.   God – so big, so everywhere, so much more than us, became so small, so located only in one particular spot, with those particular parents, siblings, cousins. And the So Much More of the UNIVERSE became an ordinary, common baby strapped to his mothers back as she gets her water for the day. This is the power of the universe – the power we crave so intensely – the power of all the creative love furled within one small dark boy.

 

This storyteller – I tell you. Not only does he consistently choose to work in ways that surprise and confound our proper and dignified sensibilities, but this storyteller once again, and always, does things in order to bring himself and his creation back together. Reprised, remembered, recapitualated, reconnected in ways that cannot be undone. Not by anger or hatred or shame or fear. That baby was in our world, deeply intertwined with the whole of creation – just as we all are.

 

That same part of God that folded himself into the creation of the universe, our world, our star and all the stars and all the worlds, en-folded once again, that part of himself that grows and learns and draws life from the ground into a small, jewish, displaced boy whose parents who had nothing to go on but snippets of dreams and intimations they got in the night and what felt like swords piercing their deepest hearts.

 

And this is the still point in our story. This enfleshing of God himself. This incarnating of love into specific ways of language, culture, religiosity, spirituality. Love, now in flesh appearing.

Collective Wisdom

Give us wisdom – your wisdom that takes on real shape in our real world.  Your wisdom, your incarnated self, your embodied way of truth.  Your wisdom revealed in the halting words of moms over coffee and cake, hope and trust being extended all around.  Grace us all with your wisdom as we speak what we know of you to each other.

On Ephesians 3

–I’m on an Ephesians kick – honestly, its been years since I’ve really taken a look at any of the epistles.  But I love the faraway-so-close aspect of this writing.  How the grand and expansive and life-altering business of who and how God is is also found in the minute, the daily, the very ordinary stuff of our real live relating.  For me, I am finding it is only after spending 2 decades almost solely reading the gospels, that any of these letters begin to make sense.  I’m probably just very hard to get through to….  In any case, my eyes are seeing out of eyes changed by love and, even in their deep imperfections, they are seeing the deep human beauty of this part of God’s story, the part where we just keep walking – but hopefully together – and hopefully with him setting us aflame just that little bit before supper

 

Rooted and established love, this is how you grow your world, grow your people, grow your body.

Root us and establish us, all of us together, in you.  And maybe we will see how high that expanse of sky that inspires us really is  and how deep the depth of water that sustains us really is.   Maybe we will see know mind-boggling way you change us bit by bit, almost imperceptibly but entirely and wholly change us nonetheless.   Root us and establish us in that love, that love that crosses roads to help, pays for strangers to heal, and invites everyone in for a bit of food and maybe a story or two.

Psalm 33

We need your fullness.  We need your beauty.  We need the hope that comes from knowing You and your habit of love still run through this earth, this city, this church, our homes.  That’s all I have today.  Where we are crumpling, brace us.  Where we are blind, open those eyes.  Where we are beyond tired, keep us resting and waking and hoping.

 

After the congregational meeting

Thank you for the moon tonight that lit up the snow and the sky and came, blue and clear, like a herald and bell, into my home.    This light that drew me up, made me to look up, to look for its source, to take in its clarity.  It brought me to look around at my yard, the bushes, the plastic yard toys, the trees, and wonder at how different this night light made it all.

Thank you for the stars and their tilting.  In a way that I will never, ever get over, seeing those stars, millions of miles away, thousands of years in the past, makes me feel more seen and more comforted than I ever knew I needed.    I do not feel alone when I see them, though they are farther from me than I can comprehend.  I feel seen when I see them.

Thank you that these things, this moon, those stars, are, at once, for each of us and for all of us.  For they are all of yours, as are we.

Thank you that each of us is seen, is known, is comforted, and heard in the middle of a hot, dingy room with power point slides and budget numbers,  in the middle of the hugeness and the inexpressibility of the dark night.

 

 

 

awake my soul

Wake us up.  In all of our parts, wake us up.  This body being knit together and drawn by grace, (and we hope TO GOD that this can be seen) now needs a jolt–a blast–a rush of wind to wake us up to what we are now to be.  Wake up our leaders–wake up their visions, wake up their dreams, don’t let  the boldness, the beauty slip away as we fall back asleep.  Wake up their deep souls to where you are going next, to who you most possibly are.  Wake up their ability to bring people together and point them to you.

Wake up the prophets and their devastating calls from left field that will bring us closer.

Wake up the teachers and their insights and ideas and ways to word things that just make us and our children more.

Wake up the healers, the servers, the ushers, the sound techs, the piano players, the singers, the accountants, the bookkeepers, the meal makers, the people who cut the bagels, the people who hand crying babies cookies.

Wake Us Up and give us our next steps, towards you, through you, to a bit more of what this body could be  and already is.   We need a vision of you to waken our souls, to waken us to what is most true and most real.

Open the doors and there are the People

We pray for the building of this community, from the inside out.  We pray for people.  For all the ways people are connected – daughter, sister, wives, mothers, sons, brothers, husbands, fathers.  For friendships across the aisles.  We pray for the peace of you to be what characterizes each of these relationships – that peace that we will not understand.

Thank you for the people.  For the seniors who are up for anything…. for the moms who are trying to laugh while keeping one eye on the kids playing with the elevator buttons….for the grandfathers looking for hope…..for the single ones finding family…..for the teenagers who want to belong and want to stand out.  We pray for the babies being born into this family and for the kids who are being shaped by it.  We pray for the professionals who carry big loads coming here to meet God…..We pray for the unemployed who aren’t sure where to look next.  We pray for the dying and for those left living.  We pray for our needs, small and big, so very big.  You know each of them.  And you bend yourself over each of them, perfectly knowing the place to be in each of us.

You’ve woven a big tent with this collection of weird, needy, short-sighted, hopeful, kind, talented people.  Keep us all, under your wings, close to your heart, close to your action of grace after grace after grace.