Thursday, July 21, 2016
"My God, my God...why have you forsaken me" ~ Psalm 22
You may recognize those powerful, passionate-soaked words as the ones often read at Good Friday services...ones Jesus perhaps shouts...or whispers in the still, small silence of his soul from the cross. You might recognize these powerful, passionate-saturated words from your own life. Moments when everything is going to hell in hand basket...when life is turned upside down and inside out...nothing makes sense.
Forsaken-ness has been cried out and absorbed into countless doctor's offices.
Forsaken-ness has been cried out and absorbed into homes where words and even fists hurt and cause irreconcilable, unspeakable harm!
Forsaken-ness has been cried out and absorbed into city streets where more and more young men are shot...and into places where now police officers are targets.
Forsaken-ness has been cried out and absorbed into the walls of our very hearts when we struggle in the midnight of our souls.
That unanswerable question, "Why?"
We live in a world that has such a strong belief in order and reason. We live in a world that loves the quick fix and easy answer. We live in a world that craves someone to do something...even if it ends up making matters worse.
Forsaken-ness...like it's cousin brokenness...can linger and last long after the event....causing ripples and ramifications to touch every part of our life.
The psalmist in 22 continues to talk about feeling surrounded by bulls...with so much fear in her mouth that her touch sticks to the roof. How it feels like there are dogs all around, staring and glaring. The power of the metaphor is that it speaks truth. I know what it is like to feel tugged and pulled in so many different directions. I know what it feels like to sit in a space and my mouth as dry as the desert.
Yet, the psalmist refuses for this to be the only word...just like at communion we proclaim and celebrate that brokenness is NEVER the last word from God. The psalmist goes on to say that we sing out because that is also true. We trust that the poor will eat, we know that God is not one of forsaken-ness, but blessedness. That God will be the one who reminds gives us strength to put one foot in front of the other.
I don't know what it means that right before the most beloved Psalm...23...we get this heart and gut-wrenching prayer...but I know in my life the truth that I have to process my pain. I need to notice and name that which hurts me. I need to pray my heartache before I can praise. So, I give thanks for psalm 22. I give thanks for its honesty, even when it is too bright or too harsh. I give thanks that in a time of too much violence and hate-filled speech, I remember that life was not better back then. There has always been moments of feeling forsaken among God's people. There has always been the truth of, "God of our weary years...our silent tears...God who has brought us thus far on the way." So, today, I hone in and open my heart to the faithful presence of God who has led me to this day, this incredible, amazing day...God has made.
May God meet you in your forsaken-ness with a presence and promise that offers you hope and healing.
Friday, July 15, 2016
As we continue our conversation with the Psalms...these Hebrew Hymns and Prayer-drenched poems that simultaneously connect us to our ancestors and to today; a prayer from these holy words.
For ideas and insights we hold clear and point us toward You,
For questions that linger persistently and doggedly refuse easy answers.
For mystery we sit silently...comfortably beside.
For hope that stirs
For frustrations when the words won't conform to what we thing.
For raw emotions
For release and relief.
For this day...this holy, amazing day of life.
For this breath...and the one of this.
For an understanding and orientation toward God
That suddenly, like a drop of a roller coaster called life which comes
In phone calls
A blink of an eye...
And we feel the world spinning and stirring in dizzying disorientation.
For the questions of why?
What in the world?
And cathartic tears and a sudden smile,
And praise that drips from our heads to our pinkie toe.
Thank you, O God.
Grace and peace ~
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
As you read through the Psalms there is a re-occurring word, "Selah". Honestly, we don't have a clue what the word means. Some propose that it was for musical direction, perhaps a word that directed how loud or soft or what kind of tempo or even key ~ major or minor ~ the people would sing. That is a GREAT way to think about the word. When you come across "Selah" it is good to think would you sing this out with loud trumpets blaring and blasting...or do you need Robert Johnson's blues guitar in the background? Would you sing it loud or quiet...like you are whispering to an infant? Selah may invite us to think musically about the words we are saying...for indeed the Psalms are the original Hebrew Hymnal.
What if Selah might have also been an invitation to pause...stop reading...do not pass "Go" or collect two hundred dollars but actually think/reflect/prayerfully ponder what you just read?
For example, in Psalm 4:5 ~ "Quake, and do not offend...speak in your hearts on your beds, and be still. Selah" If you really let those words soak, settle, simmer in your soul that will take some time. Those words invite us to consider...what is causing us to quake individually, communally, collectively as a nation or world? What ways have we witnessed offense and what has been our response? How do we find our voice...our true authentic voice? And can we listen for God's still speaking voice?
When we let the words of the Psalm do their slow work upon our soul, it makes all the difference. Yet, that work cannot be done as though we are going through the drive-thru window at a fast food service. We let each word have its say and way with our heart...we return to that word throughout the day to see if there is a tiny new insight or idea that is pouring forth. The psalms are poetry in the best sense that poems move us toward a more profound imagination and insight into this life, usually with just one simple sentence.
I pray you will find the margins and spaces to "selah"...to listen...to be open to these powerful and profound psalms that truly connect us to the sacred.
And may grace and peace surround you as we savor these words.
Two weeks ago, we got a new puppy. It's has been a lot of fun...and a lot of work...which is a true statement about most things that offer meaning within our life. Whether we are talking about work or relationships or prayer or trying to train a new puppy there are moments of joy and frustration. Times when it feels like it is two steps forward (only ONE accident inside today...or I only lost my temper once...or finding yourself saying, "I can't believe they pay me to do this!) and then it is four steps back (Really? Four accidents today?? or I can't believe how frustration is just fuming out my ears right now...or they really don't pay me enough to do this!). There is risk in life. Anything worth doing will offer incredible and indescribable moments and moments you wonder why. A huge part of why this is...is because we come face-to-face with the truth that we are not in control...you can't logic your way out of everything (especially with a puppy) and there is risk in any relationship.
Now...if this is true for us humans here on earth, it is also true for our connection with God. It is especially true as we try to stay open and aware of the holy in our lives. God can at times seem as unpredictable and unclear as dealing with a puppy. What does God want me to do? Usually cultivate joy, share love, seek justice and celebrate the beauty of God around us and within us. But beside all that, what does God want me to do with that person or is that situation? Sometimes we know...but we want to know more and be more confident and certain and alleviate all our fear. But that might actually make our life less mysterious and holy. On my best days...most prayerful and sacred soaked days...I don't want to know everything. I want to be surprised by the serendipity. I want to laugh at my boneheadedness and fall flat on my face. I want to look at fear and say, "Sure I know you are here, but you don't get to pick the radio station" - to quote Elizabeth Gilbert. I want to live in the moment...this beautifully imperfect moment with all its wonderful unpredictability.
There is probably lots more I could say...but my dog just brought me her blue ball and its time to play.
Grace and peace ~
Saturday, July 9, 2016
While weeding this morning
Dirt climbing up my arms
Clinging to my clothes
And nearby a small lizard leaped
As if to encourage and cheer me on...
I noticed that by tugging on one weed,
the others close by came with.
Connected by a network just beneath the surface.
Connected one to the other.
Which made me wonder,
If weeds are connected
Sticking and staying together...
Why is it so hard for humans?
Saturday, June 25, 2016
Be still and know that I am God.
Be...not doing or accomplishing.
Still...not moving or constant motion.
And...the promise of more.
Know...not only in my head, but also my heart.
That...which points to something more.
I...which is often lifted up as the center...but
am God...an acknowledgment of who is really the ground and source of my being.
As our family embarks on vacation, let these words go before, beside, and in the space in-between our lives speaking truth that is more than good advice...but a way to find true life.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Words create worlds...said Abraham Heschel
Words that I speak.
Words that I hear.
Words that I want to hold at a distant.
Words that challenge.
Words that confront and even offend.
Some words create worlds that I want to inhabit.
Some words create worlds that I would rather not visit.
Your word, O God, creates a world around us.
Your word, O God, came in the flesh of Jesus Christ helping us to see the world and life in new ways.
Your word, O God, still surfs, hovers, and hangs around the chaos of our ordinary lives.
Your word, O God, can be covered by political, military, give me power now speechifying we hear all around us.
Your word, O God, can be covered by my own ego wanting to pontificate.
Speak Your word afresh and anew, O God.
Clear out the spiritual earwax built up...the cloudiness of constantly being on the go...the voices that clamor for my allegiance in the form of my wallet, my vote, my bank statement, house, car, or what I have down.
Create a new world...Your world...Your realm where peace cannot be found through violence;
Your realm where winning and losing are not the only realities.
Your realm where love is at the center and not scoffed at with snide, sarcastic comments.
Maybe it is less about waiting for Your realm to come and more about waking up to Your realm right here and now.
That kind of word would create a brand-new world.