Friday, July 24, 2009

A Great Question continued...

What is really amazing to me, when I first read this, was that the author believes that our God DELIBERATELY chooses those of us have been habitual sinners for special attention rather than the "goody-two-shoes". That word deliberately really blew me away. It does not make sense. Of God's way of acting and behaving, we cannot make any sense of because it says in the scriptures, "His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts" [and I thank God for that].

Over the years I have observed, in families, how the mischievous child, the one who is always in and out of trouble, will forever claim a special place in a corner his/her mother's heart. The world may give up, the family may give up, society may give up on us, a church may give up, but a mother's love, which is just a manifestation, an incarnation, of God's love - NEVER gives up. Yes, the scriptures tell us, even if it were possible for a mother to forget the child of her womb, God cannot and will not ever forget. With His persistent safety-net, God is always recalculating what we need, not what we want, in the place where we both find ourselves. Wherever we go, wherever we stand, wherever we may be, we will always stand on Holy ground. The reality of the GPS is that His grace is always there for us. Reaching out and offering us the right and healthy way. We must continue to fine tune, the ears of our hearts, so that we can hear the oh so gentle voice guiding us safely home. Are we willing to stay there?

In the parable Jesus does not tell us whether the rebellious son ever stayed or not. We are never told whether he grew up to be like his prodigal father. We never learned whether the resentful son ever went into the celebration for his brother's return. We never learned whether the two sons ever became reconciled. [That reconciliation is a process that takes place which is taking place within each one of us right now.] Jesus, the wonderful teacher, rabbi, leaves us then with more questions than answers. That is why the spiritual life is always about the question not about the answer. Why? The answer leads to a new and deeper question. This process goes on and on and on....

Sometimes our regular gps systems cannot find a satellite connection and so we are stranded without any source of good direction. Because of the GPS system He provides, which is super-charged, the source of our “good orderly direction” always lies deep inside of us. It never fails, goes to sleep, loses power or ceases to function. It has, you could say, "a life guarantee". Our GPS not only provides us with good direction, but also provides us with life, light and strength for the journey. [On top of all of that, I am now sounding like a TV salesman, “It is free!".] No subscription to run out, no renewal notices in the mail, no late charges. It is all gift - paid for in advance. All we have to do is love ourselves enough to enjoy it. Being spiritual beings having a human experience, we will not always be either aware of or be prepared to listen to what our GPS is offering to us. That is why we need to remember that the power of the toxic trinity (guilt, fear & shame) is always determined to sabotage the GPS system. When the saboteur is effective in disrupting The System, we get into fear, isolation, loneliness, discouragement and the list goes on and on and on. It is so reassuring to know the recalculating love of our God is always there for us. There is great consolation in the words of the Hymn Hosea "Come back to me with all your heart, do not let fear keep us apart".

To bring about this return and reconciliation, the ever-present love of God, who is prodigal in His love, is offered to us so we can "live deeply our new life". This new life goes deeper and deeper and deeper. With each departure and the return of the rebellious son/daughter something wonder-ful happens. Through the mystery of grace, which is beyond our understanding, what the author of The Cloud of Unknowing has said above is happening and will continue to happen. The grace for the return will always be there. The persistent voice calling us precious, calling us beloved, calling us the apple of His eye, will always be operative within us. We can, unfortunately, harden or be hardened to the voice, but that does not change the commitment of the voice. It is up to you and I to open our hands, souls and minds to receive the gift.

"In religion there lurks the fear that we invented the story of God's love." Sabastian Moore

A Dreamer's Journey continues......

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Great Question

Some weeks back, this questions was posted, "I wonder how many times is the Prodigal allowed to return?".

This is a great question, “Why?”. Because it allows us to focus, not on our understanding of mercy and compassion but on God's infinite mercy and compassion. The simple answer is- there is no limit to the mercy, acceptance, empathy, generosity of our Prodigal Father. I like to take my cue from Henry Nowen’s book, "The Return of the Prodigal Son" [that book radically changed my understanding of the sacrament of reconciliation and my own understanding of what it means to be the beloved]. In his book, Nowen points out it is the love of the Father which is prodigal. You and I are the rebellious son and the resentful son as well [this is also read as rebellious daughter and resentful daughter]. Both are living and at war within each one of us every day. So also is the presence of the Prodigal Father. All three are dwelling within the cave of our souls. In our rebellion, we leave the home where we are loved with a reckless love. We move off to a far off land. In that far off land, seeking what we have left behind. We can rent, at a price, but can never find a home to be at home in. Yet it is in that far off place away from the comfort of home, in a moment of clarity, which always comes to us in pain, we are reminded of who we are, where we are and what we have left behind. So, we make a u-ee and head back knowing we will be received as the rebellious son was, with a reception beyond our imagination and expectation.

The rebellious son just wanted to return. He wanted to become one of the hired hands, with no relationship to the family. The father wanted none of that. He placed him right back into his inheritance. I am sure to the consternation of the resentful son. Being returned to his rightful place came responsibility. The rebellious son will one day have to be as his father, is. This is going to take a great deal of hard work, patience and perseverance. His plan was to practice "the spirituality of evasion". Evasion does not bring out the best in us. And so, the father said "no". He wanted the best for his son and so he would not allow him, as the son wished. He not only wants everything that is good for his beloved son, but what is BEST for his beloved.

The Prodigal Father is the incarnation of Paul's words on love, "Love is patient, love is kind, love takes no offense and is not resentful". These qualities of love defined what the father of the parable is. He is patient with his rebellious son. When he returns, there are no questions like, "Why did you do this to me? Look, I gave you a lot, what more could I have done?" "So you could not wait for me to die, so you could get your share and waste it." The love of the father is not resentful, only accepting. Down the road, what a wonderful gift the son has to share with those who will need a love that is patient, kind, and takes no offense.

Here is what the anonymous author of "The Cloud of Unknowing" wrote many centuries ago,

"I believe...that our Lord deliberately chooses to work in those that have been habitual sinners rather than in those who, by comparison, have never grieved Him at all. Yes, He seems to do this very often. For I think He wants us to realize that He is all merciful and all mighty and He is perfectly free to work as He pleases, where He pleases and when He pleases."

I have read that passage over and over so as to get the full brunt of the meaning. It is always like a splash of cold water in the July Arizona heat. It cleans, refreshes and encourages. It strengthens, it vivifies, it frees up something inside. This will provide a new strength, and a new hope. We will have a new strength for a new phase of the journey we are on. We will have the strength to carry on.

A dreamer's journey continues...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Continuous Persistence

God shows no partiality in His love for us or where He meets us and greets us. We, however, are partial to how we allow God to meet, greet and love us. Many times in the course of our life, our options are taken away. No! That is wrong, many times we surrender our options, and give God only one choice as to where He is to meet and greet us.

Free will is such an awe-full gift. It is full of awe and is full of wonder, full of mystery. Free will, like all gifts, carries with it great responsibility. I will always have to keep before me, "Will what I am doing challenge God to re-calculate?”

From all of this, I feel we can now use GPS as shorthand for God’s-Persistent-Safety net. How comforting that is to know. There is a persistent safety net that is always there to catch us when we fall. There is a persistent safety net there to catch us when our ego-driven decisions cause us to stray and stumble. God’s-Persistent-Safety net is called GRACE. It is the prodigal love of a Prodigal Father God who is always ready and never tired of “re-calculating.”

God's love for us is personal, passionate and persistent. It is always offered to us, not where would like to be, where we think we ought to be, but is offered where we are now and in the moment we can be reached. God’s-Persistent-Safety net reaches each one of us in all of the circumstances of our human journey -- in relationships with other human beings in an imperfect world.

Do not be hopeless. Be hope-full. The world IS being transformed. As Mama Cass Elliott sang so many years ago, "There is a new world coming, coming in peace, coming in joy, coming in love."

This new creation is coming, it is happening right now. And, our faith tells us we are part of the creation of this new world. We are co-creators with God of a new world, a new creation which is guaranteed by the resurrection. What we have to do is use our x-ray eye of faith, the optimistic eye of faith, to see beyond the obvious to the hidden goodness. In other words, to the God hidden, revealed and always ready to re-calculate. This is the God of the Good News we must proclaim!

We must take on the responsibility, especially now, of reminding ourselves and others of the inherent good that is all creation. The seen and unseen. As it has been said before, we do not need so much to be informed as to be reminded again and again of who we are and who it is that is on our side.

"If God is for us, then who can be against us?"
"With God all things are possible."

We must remember our Good Shepherd will lead from dark valleys. We must be people of memory, constantly reminding ourselves of the fact we are linked forever, and without cost to us, to God's-Persistent-Safety net. We need this reminder so we can be assured and reassured in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. We must be a people of hope, proclaiming not only by our words but our actions, what we have experienced. We must be a people who by our very demeanor are choosing to live life and live it to the fullest.

"The glory of God is a human person fully alive." [St. Irenaeus]

Alive and responding to all that is. Alive and responding to all that is calling for -- no demanding -- a response. A response born of faith stronger than fear, breaking through the darkness. Proclaiming for all to hear, "Lord, it is good for us to be here --right now."

A dreamer's journey continues…

Friday, July 3, 2009

God's, Persistent, Safety-net...

As you know, I travel a great deal. Over 10,000 miles last summer. Not bad for a fellow who has no sense of direction! I tell people, "I can get lost in a bathtub." When I want to know how to make a left turn, I bless myself with my right hand and then go in the opposite direction. When friends express concern about my long journeys alone, I reveal the fact that I do have a GPS system.

I believe that whatever is real, and if you look at it long enough, there is a sermon right there before your eyes. So, how about a GPS system? As you move along, a GPS system provides the right direction in which to travel. Since I have a little trouble knowing which is left or right, I do not always take the right turn (no pun intended). Then when I take a right rather than a left turn, or more likely miss the turn completely, I will hear the word -- "Re-calculate." I go on a distance, going in what I think is the right direction, only to hear "Re-calculate." No other comment, like, "Bad move, what is wrong with you, can't you follow directions?” “Are you asleep?” “Don't you understand?” Nothing but just, "Re-calculate."

Just so with God. God in His mysterious love has given us free will. He has also given us the spirit of truth, which when listened to will give us good orderly directions. As a matter of fact, G-O-D can be broken down to Good-Orderly-Directions. When we take the wrong turn, decide to go another route than the right route, God says to you and me, "I am now re-calculating. I am now re-calculating the new grace you now need for this new situation in your life." We are always forcing God, by our self-will, to re-calculate. I have been asked, "How about U-turns?". As a matter of fact, our spiritual journey is all about U-ees! That is exactly what conversion is, turning around and going in the opposite direction. Our self-will leads in one direction, God's will turns us around to go into the direction of His will. That is always the challenge that goes on between the ego and the true self. The less ego, the less self-centeredness, the less selfishness, the less God has to re-calculate.

The Prodigal Father had hopes for his two sons. One is rebellious, the other is angry and resentful. Both sons changed their father's plans. He had to re-calculate. We see at the end of the story the father did not change his generosity or his faithfulness toward either son. Surprisingly it is the outward "good son" who is inwardly angry and rebellious that the the father has the most difficulty with. We have both within each one of us. The first part of life we have to deal with the rebellious son/daughter. In the second half of life we have to deal with the angry and resentful son/daughter. The spiritual journey involves becoming reconciled with both realities within us and showing prodigal, reckless, extravagant love to both.

Wherever we place ourselves, God is there right beside us not saying, "Another fine mess you have gotten us into,” rather He says "I love you, right here, right now. I will give you whatever you need to get back on the right path. I will give you whatever you need so we can restore our right relationship. Let’s get it done, together."

The parable, of what we used to call The Parable of the Prodigal Son, I think we need to rename it, "God’s Re-calculation."

A dreamer's journey continues…