Let Go

You can’t recapture the faith of your youth; it’s a disconnected, false reality.  A blissful prison.

Pull up every staked belief objectifying and falsifying and personifying a deity into understandable, compartmentalized rigidity.  Let Go.  Embrace an ontological stance that calls for nakedness and vulnerability.  Become one with the acute responsibility threading through your actions and posture and cultivated attitude.

 

Self-emptying and Go-gurts and Grace

True, uninhibited life is found in seeing beauty in the seemingly random flares of grace.  The more we gather empirical experience, poignantly contemplative at the ephemeral playfully at work, the higher the resolution at which we perceive the transformational spiritual reality we’re called into;  it’s availability and presence and immediacy.  There exists and permeates a reality, as Peter Rollins says, “found in the act of love.”  Knowing there’s patterns and rhythms brooding with a sacred weight, means the opposite is also true.  There’s an exchange of love that takes place in the ambiguity of chance and frills of casual daily living.  There’s small moments fermenting with rich, experiential life if attuned to in the spontaneity and unexpected.  I have two beautiful accounts.

I was substitute teaching on the southwest side of my Texas city, in school deeply within white-flight, upper-middle class area of the district.  Incredibly quick backdrop, with self-actualizations and inner angst-filled turmoil for another post, needs to be made.  I recently got back from a multi-month trip backpacking overseas in Southeast Asia.  I love primitive, minimalism mixed with cultural immersion and be external intuitively-stimulating environments of application and dissonance that teach me about humanity and my soul.  Long story short. So here I am in Texas, the community I’m humbled to serve and love and change (, bless their hearts).

His name is Naziel, at least that’s his last name which I mandated as his salutation upon its pronounceability.  He’s the one non-white.  He’s Pakistani and Muslim. And he’s such a collection of inviting, pristine awareness.  Confident and sure.  He’s chastized and pushed in the margins, both by faculty and students.  Living seen through bifocal perspectives of paralleled opposites:  my religion vs. your religion, arab vs. white, different vs. same.  His untarnished, freewheeling spirit makes him such a beautiful demonstrative force at love.  He walked in acceptance of situational circumstances,  but not defeated.  He chose self-disclosure and vulnerability in response to vocal dissent and timidity of uncertainty.  I felt Ihidaya, the Single One, through him.  His spirit marinated my heart into the clarities of his “knowing” me.  THrough his opening and opening, I saw whole and new into the divine energies of Being manifested around me.  I preempted this story with myself to illuminate the isolation and misunderstanding I sometimes feel….and its pettiness. Naziel showed me the third way, a response into a reality that transforms those around you.  He expands and opens himself in a liberalness of spirit that doesn’t carry wounds of exclusion or mistreatment.

By the end of the week, his mom who had never met me, made me a traditional Pakistani meal.  The nuances and subtleties of flavor, prepared with love, almost made me weep as I ate in the gym, alone, in a white wall washed school in West Texas.  You can guarantee I accompanied every morsel with sighs of ecstasy. I worshiped with a fork as my medium.  

Secondly, I took a position for a day working with elementary-age kids that have cerebral palsy or permanent brain damage from shaken baby syndrome.  I was struggling with lack of fulfillment, wondering whether any impact or change was being made without linear continuity in the day to day as a substitute, or oppositely concerned if I was grasping to acquire meaning through immortality projects.  Anyway, walking across the threshold of a room laden with beautiful souls, I felt invited to be faithful with the world.  Mother Teresa says “There’s no great acts, only small acts of great love.”  Teary-eyed and humbled by grace, I was entrusted to be everything in changing diapers, moving positions, cyclically, from seated to standing to lying.  The evening was spent in a sensitivity hangover as I felt my heart had been massaged by their laughter and outbursts and spit-ups and smiles all day.  I took a second day there.

I love the dependency. I love how interim and nothing I am. I love kids needing help at lunch with milks and go-gurts, taking no stock or identity in self-reliance.  I love the kenotic, fallow self-disclosure that has to take place before I can become anyone, in all my humanity and partiality.

In Scandal and Squalor

Patience seems to always make its reprise, unknowingly to itself, at a child’s laugh.  Trees kindly wave their hellos, the branches tempting, alluring invitation to see new angles into elevated freedom and wind-chilled cheeks.  The buzzing rigor and austerity accompanying a bee’s missionality, leaves wonder found in color and bloom.  

I can’t help but believe that this divine energy, underlining and infusing, exploring and stabilizing all of creation, is bound to a linear transfer or procession.  When attentive to being, you’ll find in glimpses, this Source flicks and floods and beckons and parades our participation in life.   There’s a definite systematic methodology we’re innately aware and supportive of, even yearning and hastily constructing in our own coarse, finite, and fragile means. Relationships are seen as investments, dispensing resources and energy with piecemeal utilitarian tact towards posterity. Sense of place is held to loosely and comfortably, to make available the choice to engage the next lucrative job advancement or resume padding, partitioning us from intentionality and embrace of community and setting.  

 

It’s easy to recognize and facilitate Love that procures longevity of well-being and stability.  Yes, love is found in a mutual exchange. There’s a giving that accompanies receiving.  A symbiotic nature threads through the intent of choices and actions:  it’s primal and natural and lovely. We’re keen to see and live in the apparent.  This author I adore, Cynthia Bourgeault, quoted a piece by the great Sufi mystic jalalludin Rumi that conveys a beautiful tone on self-emptying love.

 

“Love is recklessness, not reason.

Reason seeks a profit.

Loves comes on strong, consuming herself, unabashed.  

 

Yet in the midst of suffering,

Love proceeds like a millstone,

Hard-surfaced and straight forward.

 

Having died to self-interest,

She risks everything and asks for nothing.

Love gambles away every gift God bestows.”

 

How do we love first, without any desired response?  How do I give recklessly and uninhibited?  Can we have our being in a vulnerability that risks and bares it all?  As Cynthia Bourgeault refers, how do we make abundance and generosity bordering extravagance, our signature?  

the ache, the taste

What I find cyclically inducing strife and guilt-ridden anxietym, is this idea that you don’t care?  Alluring, seductive, and tantalizing is the notion of a contemplative life; being in the presence of divinity. Attentive to the ripples of the everyday ordinary.  Simplicity of existence.  Peace at what is.  I want to run. Fearing retreat and abandonment, distressed in the mire of loss.  Escapism haunts me both before and behind, gleefully proud of the static, paralyzing thresholds I’m kept from crossing.  I want you.  I love you. I can’t pretend or silently utter for the anodyne enclosure calling for ignorance brings.  I need to know.  I hunger and burn to know.  I can’t be satiated or know contentment in the elusive luxury that falsity beckons one into.  

Warmth meets the need of cold.  Love is invited within the eyes of sadness.  Love, warmth, and light are found in the absence, not in the measure.  I can’t adorn myself in the frivolity and decadence of unintentional, pleasure-seeking that thematically runs through the mantras and recants of ‘blessings from God’.  Offensive and pinning, this monophonic chorus vindicates for a life lived out of abundance and excess.  Entitlement muddles austerity, claiming that space as natural and native, as if we should know no other in our newfound “sonship.”  

 

Please tell me divine?  Speak.  Is the ascetic, humbled heart that lies broken in receptivity, a silent repose of an attitude cultivated to your Being desirous to you?  Do we run towards redemptive, restorative efforts in the world, meeting brokenness and injustices with haste and relentlessness?  Do you care?  Are idle hands a sin of unfulfilled commission?  Does my participation merit a life for/in/with You?  Restlessness consumes me, demanding my allegiance and smothering me with the guilt of all left uncompleted, undone, untouched, dismantled, and excused.  Fulfillment of Being.  The dichotomy of the Mary vs. Martha mentality:  servitude against solace.  Heaven is here now.  The taste that enfolds and enlivens is a present reality.  I can’t help, but deny the Stygian sights and sounds of the hell that resides as the present reality for so many others, also here and now.  My brothers.  My sisters.  My family.  You.  

 

Divine Mother, may I always taste the reverie and sweetness.  Enamored by the dust of divinity in which all live and breath and move.  Keep before my eyes what appalls and ravages the innocence of my heart.  Bare, broken, and tender.  May I be kept alive.  Make the struggles of the marginalized and least of these my own, match the intensity and ferocity of sensitivity.  Share what I tasted.  Callous, bruise, and fatigue my being.  Make the hell of the brethren be my own.  I want to share in the wild.  Let them taste the heaven I’ve humbly savored.  Plunder pride.  Restore humility and meekness. I’ve known no other than hautiness and self-preservation for too long, numbing my senses, instilling self-justification.  Forgive me.  I come with penance and grief.  I’m a mess. Create in me a clean heart.  Keep me on the bridge between the two, ecstasy and depravity.  May it heighten my senses towards the ethereal and mysticism of your Presence, and enraptured in the conflicting dissonance of a heart made in the likeness of what I know my Creator to possess.  

Spiritual Ecology

A way of life.

 

Environmental stewardship has finally become kosher!  Recognized as characteristic and pertinent to the nature of God, the author of earth.  Conservation has shifted in the eyes of believers from secular hobbies of heretical hippies to finding its infancy in ministry.    Trudging through adversative and insensitive audiences, dialogue has languidly grown to a refreshing level of acceptance and presence.  We have even adopted new Church-ianity vernacular with the tag name “creation care,” winning the endorsement of even our southern Baptist brothers and sisters.

 

Now lets move on.  We need to look at the earth differently. There’s an interconnectedness and intimacy with divinity we’re missing out on.  The mysticism of the spirit has to give weight to our ethics and provide clarity to the complexity and depth of ecology as it relates to God.  He has redeemed the earth:  “to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:20).  Our being must live and breath and move in the earth-filled reality of “divine incarnation.” (Richard Rohr)  

Inner Change has to drive Action and Intent

Confused in defining the opaque implications and duties of environmental stewardship, we rushed to catch up with mainstream society.  The church has always been slow to accept the ways in which the world glorifies God; especially when they do it better, and they have been doing the whole earth-care/green movement thing better for a long time.

We have adopted external change, but not internal change.  Organic, local produce fill our pantries from the CSAs and coops who have won our patronage.  Recycling has become commonplace, carpools orchestrated, and upgrades to energy-saving lightbulbs now fill our homes.  FIrst, let state my gratitude and thankfulness for these acts of intentionality and change; they’re absolutely beautiful and needed.   However, inner transformation must precede and accompany our reasoning for living in communion and harmony with creation.  Actions have to find their substance and meaning in spirit inspired animation and sensitivity; otherwise, they’re prompted by effort and morality.   Lasting change comes from real interactions and encounters with creation ( Leah Kostamo, Planted).  

 

 

Have Eyes that See Divinity

“Earth’s crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God;  but only he who sees, takes off his shoes.” – Emily Browning

Creation merits our awe and adoration.  It’s beauty sparks our encounter with the divine.  Cast in the language and vision of deeply rooted Hebraic tradition, is the call to have eyes awakened and attentive.  Rabbi Abraham Heschel, in his book “God in Search of Man,” radically transformed my perception and outlook on the world.  To the Hebrew,  walking in reverie and awe was paramount to experiencing divinity within humanity and the inanimate of creation.  Sensing the sublime was a posture of receptivity to God, an attitude that kept you present to the reality of the mystery.  The reality being that every living entity carries the essence of God: all flora and fauna, animal species and landscape, as well as man.

This is a reality that transforms.  This is a reality that changes how we engage life.  Day to day living opens up into the bliss and ecstasy of dwelling in heaven here on earth.

In judaism there is no term for “believer.”  A religious individual is either called yirat hashem, meaning “awe of God,”  or yare hashem, meaning “awe of heaven”.  The implications are profound.  Instead of an objectified noun with a held set of beliefs, you’re alternatively asked, “What’s your state of being?  How do you engage the world? “

Interconnectedness

Resting in this attentive posture and spiritually reconfigured within, we’re then shouldered with conviction.  Escapism no longer creeps up as an alluring, seductive route as responsibility sets in for the present.  Environmental injustices and societal inequity plaguing our sister earth then become injustices against us.  Individual decisions and choices then begin to hold relevance in the interconnectedness of humanity and earth.

This is where conversation and environmental stewardship become personal and present.  It moves from a vocational calling or compartmentalized ministry opportunity, to a way of life.  Those that are called into conservation as a profession, deserve and need our respect in seeing their work as essential and tiered on the same level of importance as all other evangelistic endeavors.  What a beautiful outlet to strengthen and grow our interdependence and communion across interfaith, socioeconomic, cultural, and ethnic lines as we partner in the revitalization of our home.  There’s a thread of redemption throughout scripture in relation to earth, and let’s be a part of where it’s going.

Without Cadence

Art is pure worship, approachable to all and inviting full participation. Know that what you have to offer is worthy; it’s treasured and sought after.

Embedded within us is this creative spark, a mark of divinity, exciting us to bring more beauty and life and peace into the midst of others.  Art is formative to the human soul.  A child doesn’t worry about the possibility of let down, dripping paint, or excessive applicature of a particular color as he holds up his newest masterpiece before his mom.  Light and beauty are boundless because the source they are drawn from is boundless.  If we could only build and create like children, with the minds of our youth.  I want to muddle the lines, use too much of one color, blend hues and textures, let it run off the canvas and cover my skin, liberal and uninhibited in expression.

Non-attachment

There’s true originality of worship seeking exposure in everyone through the penchant medium that makes us come alive.  Whether stemmed into tangible, hard matter of clay and tones of color, or the more enigmatic ambience filling a room with vibrations, develop non-attachment to a product that’s useful, performs a function, or has practical applications.  Reclaim the artist within:  sing, make music, write, grow, sculpt, and build in a way that’s adversative to utilitarian results and antagonistic to projected implications.  Remove hurry from artistic endeavors, how time is spent, and avenues of worship explored.  God, like a child so anticipatory and excited to give away their work and craftsmanship, be the same releasing every cadence and after placing that final period, giving and letting go of all.  When you keep the fruits of your actions, you also keep the seeds inside.  Non-attachment frees worship.

Seek Originality

Reawaken and revitalize the artist, musician, and creator within to worship.  I don’t need the permanence and meaning offered by developing a credible musical skill-set or accomplishing an immortality project through a body of work.  My identity lies in the creative life force within, not the created.  God, grow artisanship and the exploration of worship within, removing insecurities and the realization that there is no failure to be feared.  Allow room for improvisation and discovery.  Art is pure worship, approachable to all and inviting full participation.

In Hindu belief, mantras are always encouraged to be sung in your own version.  To worship to someone else’s version or display of worship recorded, is to have lost the “ragas” or flavor, that originality only you have to offer in the act.

Real, Broken Worship

Know that what you have to offer is worthy; it’s treasured and sought after.  His heart is moved in the acts of raw, vulnerable worship.  He seeks the openness; where tears replace words, pieces of broken alabaster jar surround his feet, and the fragrance of heartfelt, honest out pour fills the air.  He desires and craves the heretical questioning and curiosity, in it resides true humility and authenticity, bringing us to His presence.

May my life be one unresolved cadence of worship.

Detachment from Expectations

How do we remove our loyalty to outcomes, expectations, and agendas? Can hope and anticipation be healthily applied to our lives?

A projected outcome keeps a dreamlike haze around the scope of our vision, shading reality in its fullness and vibrancy.  Surprises then wear the facade of obstacles and rugged scenery is nuisance to the trek,  hindering return to the well-beaten path.  We choose our response, the ripples lapping against our being that portray a movement towards a reality we’ve created within our own minds.  A constrictive, false reality that limits, ignores, and dispenses possibility.  The disturbances in the water only merit our acknowledgement when they align and cooperate with our desires and hopeful anticipations.  Expectations set a sterile standard, limiting potential and a probability for more.  They shoulder others with an undisclosed, internal accountability and results to perform.  In the relational sphere, loved ones are limited to what emotions can be extracted and replicated out of them, personified ideals of an individual is the manifestation seen out beyond the lens.  

Speckled on our days, splintering foresight’s dominance, is the subtle responsibility to move against will and breathe in what is.  The now invites us into full participation.   Efficacy demands loyalty in time spent, relational investment, performance in vocational and self-study practices, and through labels coloring into condition.  Detachment from expectations, wants, desires, goals, and results brings liberation and the present, “for the present is the presence of God.  Things have a past and a future, but only God is pure presence” (Abraham Heschel).  Peace is the gift set before us when our awareness abides in an intimate permanence and maturity.  Sentient in nature, admiration has capacious ability to thrive within us, which must accompany the pulse of our movement through life; anything other is self-denial and austere.  Our hearts were made for worship and observance in the present.  Expectations remove us from dwelling in the richness of His presence.  In the breath by breath with the divine, the primordial existence comes to life and the provisional faithfulness moves me to a cosmic humility.  

In Bedouin culture, shepherds lead their flocks through through the Judean mountainsides for sustenance and life.  These mountains are desolate and barren.  Tufts of grass, 3 to 4” in length, grow from outcrops of rock, which are heat-stricken and dead by noon.  The only hillsides that may contain this scarcity of life and provision for the sheep, their family’s livelihood, are mountainsides touched by the “Ruach” or wind from the Mediterranean Sea the night before, carrying moisture.  The shepherds could potentially lead their flocks to a slope without anything for the sheep, of whom their existence completely depends.  

What a different picture from our aggrandized, western view of Psalm 23:1-2: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”  The “spirit” or “Ruach” is a moment by moment need for life, to live.  We need to be lead by the shepherd for every breath, “the green pastures are every moment of the day.” (VanderLaan).  He’s a God of the present.  Lean into whom you draw everything, because all that exists is the now.  

 

“We always become what we behold; the presence that we practice matters.  For those who have learned to see, everything is holy.” – Richard Rohr