Tag Archives: spirituality

How to Keep the Faith

How to keep the faith

after fundamentalism was revealed a power structure designed to subjugate,

raise money

raise structures

raise men

All in the name of Jesus

In the spirit of greed, shame, and tyranny.

To this day, it is no longer natural to say, “I believe in God” without wondering if that means I believe in

Systems of exclusion

Prayer for the purpose of imperialism

Worship of drawn boundaries

Spirituality of capitalism

Politicking pastors and priests

But faith must be deeper than the skin of religion or propositional truths of the West

II.

Do I believe in God?

Ask me while my wife is in labor, at the first breath of a new life

Ask me when my grandfather lay dying, pleading the words “I love you”

Ask me as I put a wooden paddle into the quiet waters of Cedar Lake

Ask me at the twilight call of a loon

Ask me when the homeless man tells me he prays every day, and he’ll pray for me

III.

I believe in the spark that lit this soul

In the very first seed

In whatever it is that binds me to you

In the mystery of prayer

In systems of inclusion

In a spirituality of wholeness, nourishment, and equality

In worship as action on behalf of the oppressed and suffering

which welcomes my own story of oppression and suffering

which will beat every gun into a garden shovel

which will turn every corporation into a co-operative

which will transform every church into a neighborhood pub

which will make fellow Pilgrims out of politicians and corporate executives, religious radicals and heretics, rich and poor,

you and me.

This is the place where I can quietly, contentedly say that, yes

I believe in God.

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Canoe

You cannot know a lake, yourself, or God

Until, being out on the water, your eyes are trained to see what was always overlooked:

A gentle, persistent breeze is pricked

From your vantage, sequential lines form and move in parallel towards your canoe

Coming closer and closer, then passing

Just after dawn the lines will display a remarkable contrast of light and dark.

In the present moment both orange spacious sky and black depths appear

It is paradox at its finest

There is no grey

There is no in between

Only a sincere respect, fear, love for absolute mystery

When you begin to see these lines

You will begin to see the lake, yourself, and God.

How to Cut Down a Tree

Tree trunks break out of the snow banks on the Mississippi

Like old soldiers at their post

These men are time travelers, tall

The few left who tell creation’s story

A glimpse of what the river looked like before progress landed on her shores.

Keep watch old men, keep watch

You’re the icon of Eden

A reminder of how things used to be, should be

The power planters

The farm fertilizers

The industrializers are going to cut you down

Can’t see Garden for the trees.

Curiosity Vs. The Cynical Scandinavian

Just left the Monastery of St. John on Monday morning and said farewell to my brother who is living there (he’s a Postulate, thinking about becoming a monk). I sat at the San Francisco airport on my way home and purchased a copy of What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. He begins in his introduction by discussing the concept of curiosity and how it always leads to a good story. That “interestingness” as he calls it, is always there if one can get past the habit of assuming that what is around the corner is already known.

I regret my lack of curiosity at the monastery. For five days I was surrounded by liturgy, icons, architecture and of course, monks. I think that I barely scratched the surface in learning the story of that enchanting place.

The most common tendency for me, especially in a religious environment, is to become the Cynical Scandinavian. This of course is a survival mechanism that I usually whip out whenever the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses come-a-knock’n. It also helps in a heated argument. If I can find a fault, I don’t have to be vulnerable. I don’t have to change. I can have theological superiority. The Cynical Scandinavian takes a more powerful posture– the upper-hand. I acted as if I knew what was around the corner, even when I didn’t, so as not to give the impression that I had something to learn. Having something to learn would of course be a sign of weakness, which a Scandinavian has nothing to do with.

I’m such an idiot. The monastery was neither Mormon nor Jehovah’s Witness. None of the monks tried to convert me to Orthodoxy. Didn’t even hint at it. Furthermore, they were accepting and incredibly hospitable. My Evangelicalism was as safe as a kid on a school bus.

I wish I had asked more questions. I wish I had gotten over my insecurities and participated in the rite of forgiveness, the blessing for travel, and the blessing of the Eucharist. Instead I just sat there. Sure, it’s kinda weird when grown men are touching their hand to the ground and then kissing another’s shoulder while saying, “Forgive me”. But in the end, I’m kinda into that weird stuff. And it was really interesting, if not spiritually moving.

Well at least I think I learned something. I hope to again be a pilgrim at the Monastery of St. John.

On John Woolman

Should we undertake such efforts whose effects may seem negligible, mere drops in the ocean? Woolman’s and my answer would be not only that we should, but also that we must if we believe that there is an operative presence of love at the heart of things. This is not the way of the world, but it is the way of the saints. To rephrase Woolman’s moving confession of faith I quoted earlier, “To say that we love this God of infinite love who is at work at the heart of things and yet fail to respond in whatever small way we can to the cries of the distressed or to the groans of the creationis a contradiction in itself.” Perhaps like Woolman, we will rest easy in the awareness that we “labor long, diving love attending.

Hinson, 36 (Weavings, Volume XXV Number 2).

Planting for Rest

Heard the quiet wisdom whispering:

“I will give you rest.”

You are going to give me rest?

Well, what do I have to do to get it?

How much does it cost?

Will I have to use my PTO?

How long will it take?

Is there a book I could purchase on the subject?

The other day I had a really peaceful nap. Is that what you’re referring to?

I get pretty relaxed when I go to the beach!

But I’m on my way home and I’ve just got time for a quick drive through

Or a drive by

Whatever’s fastest

Just want to get it done.

Okay I’ll be serious

Gotta make this happen

Booked a weekend retreat at the trendy northwoods spa.

Now that felt good! For a while…

Came home and life clenched its fists with a one-two punch to the gut

Email box: full.

Voicemails: 11.

Even missed my sister’s birthday.

Heard the quiet wisdom whispering “cultivation-

Plant it here, plant it there and water it some.”

So I stopped. I took a breath.

I planted.

Gave it a drink, some light and some time.

That’s all a flower would ask for, and it’s really all that it needs.

On Peacemaking

We need not label ourselves pacifists, but peacemaking is not something optional for Christians. A major element of Christ’s teaching his call to become peacemakers. They are among the blessed and are witnesses to the Kingdom of God. To be a peacemaker, Christ says, is to be a child of God. In the years of Christ’s life described in the Gospel, one of the most notable aspects is that he killed no one but healed many. He is not a warrior king. Caesar rides a horse while Christ enters Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Even when he clears the Temple of people who have made a place of worship into a place of commerce, he does so using nothing more than a whip of cords, not a weapon that can cause injuries; the only life endangered by his action was his own. His final instruction to Peter before his crucifixion is, “Put away your sword, for whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword.” Saying that, he healed the wound Peter had inflicted on one of the men arresting Jesus. On the cross, far from calling down his Father’s vengeance on those who participated in his execution, Jesus appeals for mercy: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Again and again, throughout is earthly life Christ gives his followers a witness of peace.

The Orthodox Peace Fellowship