Art: listening and entering into a place where the muse (or the Holy Spirit) can speak to me with a vision that needs to be passed on, or at least given form be it in color, dance, music or some other manifestation
Craft: the means by which art is brought to life; the techniques and knowledge of how to “make it so””
I work at Craft. I work at technique, or programming, or color palette, or efficiency. But, it is hollow when I don’t seem to be able to hear The Voice, or my voice. And that is frustrating to me. I come closer to this in music and dance than in those things that I work at. I’m an ok singer, and ok guitarist, and ok (maybe not even ok) dancer. But, those actions are almost always where I go beyond and tap into something bigger. In some ways this blog is way to give voice to those stirrings of creativity I sometimes experience. I could spend more time on the craft of writing, but then I’m not sure that’s the point.
Maybe in the new year of 2020 I can take the time to get in touch, to enter through the eye of the needle and find the great beyond that needs expression. Letting go is not easy. But, maybe that’s just what I need to do.
I read the numbers and understand that so many of my generation, and even more of those who follow behind, no longer attend church or ascribe to a particular faith. I, myself, while still attending mass on a regular basis, find that I feel estranged in many ways from “church.” It’s not estranged from God/Jesus/Spirit, but from this whole organized church thing. I find much peace, strength and connection through yoga, and reflecting on daily emails from CAC (Richard Rohr’s daily reflections) and from a small group of women who meet weekly to share our walk through life.
There was a time when “church” was a center point in my life. I’ve learned much, loved much, grown much through Christian community. Ah! That might be it — What I can’t seem to find in church these days is Christian Community. Perhaps I have simply withdrawn.
Recent reflections from Richard Rohr have brought to my attention “the great comma” in the Apostle’s Creed. In the creed there one says “born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate.” That comma is Jesus’s life here on earth where he walked among people and showed the way. I’m far more interested in the comma than what comes before and after. The birth and death, to me are not nearly as useful to me as what came between. One can certainly state (and believe) the words of the Creed (Apostles and Nicene) but never be transformed by the example shown in the comma.
I think the Church and society would do well to dwell on the comma more that the phrases around it. For example, when I come to my yoga mat for a practice, the focus is not what faith or creed I might follow. The focus is on the present: how does this body feel, am I anxious, just be in this moment and see where I am. Be. Listen. A good instructor (with a small class) can give pointers on alignment without judgement about how bad you are for not being in the best alignment. Encouragement to shift a bit closer to the goal if your body allows. Oh — and acknowledgement that people are built differently and will not all shape up the same way. Wow! What if the church took that approach?
What if the Catholic Church changed its tune about Communion? Maybe viewing it as Food for the Journey that should be offered to all who desire it? A gentle touch to help one get into right alignment? A chance to be in the Presence of a great teacher who showed the Way instead of a reward for checking off all the boxes of belief and external behavior. Something to receive when one is lost, or unsure as well as thanksgiving for the gift it offers. Then, perhaps, there would be a place for healing and transformation and a new way of looking at the world.
As John Lennon might have said: “you say that I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one…”
Yesterday’s Gospel reading made me think. It enlightened me about a couple of “Bible Stories” I remember from childhood. And it shone a light on some things I have experienced. From the USCCB version:
|And the crowds asked John the Baptist, “What then should we do?”
|He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”
|Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
|He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
|Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
|Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.
|John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.
|His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
|Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.
I listened and forgot to pay too much attention to the presented homily (which I think was probably quite good). I thought of the end of this gospel reading about wheat and chaff and fire. Fire is my deepest fear, going even beyond my hysteria with heights. So, needless to say, in my younger years, I would hear this verse with great fear and trepidation. My “faith” was one born out of fear — God was gonna get me if I misbehaved. I was definitely afraid of being the chaff.
How many people are caught at that point? Before I could welcome the idea that God would clear away the brush and open space up so that life could be good and happy, I had to first understand that God/Jesus/Spirit loves me just as I am. Right now. With the chaff mixed in, with all that stuff that is available for composting. I had to be transformed in some way to even welcome parts of the Gospel and how it might affect me. I know so many folks who are stuck at “If I just ‘do it right’ I’ll be ok.” Life is a list with actions to be checked off.
I thank God for the people who could finally break through to me and help me to allow myself to be loved before proceeding.
When we put out that way of thinking that indicates that one is judged for actions alone, how many people do we miss? We come across as very judgemental. We proscribe how someone else must live in response to God’s love, often without even sharing God’s love or acknowledging it as the core of our faith. I propose that for those “outside” the circle a Christian should only proclaim that “God loves you! I love you!” and this means just the way you are. Only after a person has taken the step into that circle of love do they need to be presented with the actions that one might take. As best I can tell from the Gospels, Jesus didn’t walk around hollering at folks to repent or else. If someone came to him he listened to the person and proceeded from where that person was. The woman at the well, Zacchaeus in the tree, the woman caught in adultery (what about her partner? that’s for another day), lepers, beggars, etc: they sought Jesus out. Even if he offered a call, it was “Follow me” without the “or the Devil’s gonna get you.”
I’m not sure how this translates to homilies and Joe and Josie in the pew. That’s where a bit of secrecy might come in. Way back with movements within the Church (Charismatic prayer, Cursillo, etc) there was a bit of secrecy. But, people were drawn in by the results they saw in others and wanted to know how that happened. They didn’t know the rituals or the “secrets” of a Charismatic prayer meeting or a Cursillo 3-day weekend. But, the results of the metanoia that had occured shouted volumes without words. Only after this encounter would one be open to understanding why go to mass every Sunday or go for Reconciliation or do all those other actions. Those things can be so binding and onerous when only understood from the outside. So, maybe those actions need to be a bit hidden — a bit secret.
I’m terrified of deep open water. The feeling of floating helplessly above the nothing, the unexplored leaves me frozen. This was the first time I had ever been in an exihibit that lets you feel like you are seeing fish deep under the water, and I was a little shook. Looking up however, I could see the tank continued and let you see the only light source coming into the water, revealing more of this deep water. I smiled. Photo and comment by Matt Alaniz on Unsplash
Jesus says, “There’s only one sign I’m going to give you: the sign of the prophet Jonah” (see Luke 11:29; Matthew 12:39, 16:4). Sooner or later, life is going to lead us (as it did Jesus) into the belly of the beast, into a place we can’t fix, control, explain, or understand. That’s where transformation most easily happens—because only there are we in the hands of God—and not self-managing. (from Richard Rohr’s reflection this morning 21-October-2018)
Last year was a blur. Losing so many close to me — brother, mother, brother-in-law as well as one of my dogs (who had been part of my life for more than 12 years) — sent me to a place where I felt I had no control, no reassurance that the sun would rise. I wouldn’t plan anything of consequence. It seemed I had no chance to begin processing one loss before another occurred. My sister thinks I’ve handled it better than she has. Perhaps this is true, but it came only after surrendering to the grief, walking through it and basically remembering one of the lessons of Cursillo: Let go and let God. Or maybe sinking into Julian of Norwich’s “All shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.” Or the signs on walls while walking the Camino: in the end, all will be good. If it’s not all good, then it’s not the end!
The belly of the whale is dark and uncomfortable. At times the darkness might be more comfortable than the light. When one has been taken care of by the belly of the whale, then one can walk in the light again.
A couple of days ago, the daily reflection from CAC (Richard Rohr and crew) included the following:
Parker Palmer, a Quaker teacher and activist whom I deeply trust, reflects on his own “further journey”:
[There are] moments when it is clear—if I have the eyes to see—that the life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me. In those moments I sometimes catch a glimpse of my true life, a life hidden like the river beneath the ice. And . . . I wonder: What am I meant to do? Who am I meant to be?
That stopped me cold. Parker Palmer put in to words something that has pushed at the edges of my consciousness for forever. I have so often felt that internal struggle where I am trying so hard to live a good, proper, useful life and fit into a vision I have set up while knowing that there is actually another path that calls. Life has gotten more peaceful as I have been able to listen a bit more to the life that wants to live in me.
It’s not easy to let go of those actions and things that make me feel secure. However, those moments where I can look inside and just accept the one who is struggling to be born in me that life starts to emerge. In evangelical terms, I am born again… or maybe I just continue the process of being born again, over and over, little by little.