the liberator vs. the perpetrator

“We are all one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of one bread and of one cup.” –St. Paul

Part I images-22


I think one of the main reasons I haven’t particularly liked past conversations with peers who had a lot of things to say against “the Church” is because their objections seemed to be entangled in the rantings of a self-righteousness person (which is ironic).

It is another story when you realize years and years later that you are the one who ended up with the church wounds and you yourself have need of someone to bind them.

I walked outside the library the other day and bore witness to the librarian telling this group of kids to turn off their profane music they were blasting. These kids looked so weird so instead of walking home I took a seat on the brick wall just to see if I’d end up talking to any of them. This one kid named Robert approached me after chasing his friend who had run off with his bike and told me quite frankly that his cat died. “Can I get a hug?” “Sure.” I said.

I started talking with him more (just about his life and then ended up sharing w him some of my own journey with self-hood and God and coming in contact with Jesus) and he started telling me about how he’s been visiting every church he can think to go to. “Yeah, Ive checked out Ebenezer, Lifepoint, Horizon’s, and I most recently got kicked out of Mt. Ararat.”

“Oh yeah, what happened?” I asked him. “I don’t know, I guess I just started causing trouble. But I know what it really was. They didn’t want to deal with me. They had their 5 step plan for the guy hooked on porn, but my issues weren’t something they had a small group for.”

He said what he was gonna do now was to go find a temple or some epic building that was a sanctuary just for him and God.  “Because the way I see it; churches are like a subscription. Pay 9.99 a month and you walk away with some thing that you want, but it’s basically a business, I think..”

I couldn’t detect any of the old cynicism I used to detest in some of my peers who would rag about the church this and the church that (and it was all very negative and aimless). As I now think about my talk with the kid outside the library, I’m pretty grateful for it, because it helped me recognize the hopelessness (and maybe some bitterness too) which has secretly dwelt in my heart concerning the institution of church.

I left the conversation with genuine compassion for this kid and a curiosity to study the obligatory relationship the Christian has with “the Church”.  Is it possible to be united with Christ and permissibly reject the Church? Or in other words,  Can I experience intimacy with Christ free from any involvement with a “church body”?

For someone who spent significant years in a chamber of cult activity I am realizing how long a journey it is to recover and heal from that, especially when you aren’t willing to altogether abandon Jesus. It can be somewhat of a shell-shock to enter in to church culture after having been so heavily immersed in a cult setting.

My himages-23opeful desire to find refuge in the safety of my own private quarry was recently disturbed by haunting thoughts concerning the sacraments. (most of which were inspired as I haphazardly began delving into Martin Luther’s treatise on the subject of communion)

Martin Luther begins the treatise describing Christ’s decision to set apart unto the world a Church; a church which offers the weary sinner a chance to partake of Christ’s body and blood. By doing so the church thus commits itself to be a place of common profit and common loss; a place where love unites all.

It is like a city where every citizen shares with all the others the name, honor, freedom, trade, customs, usages, help, support, protection and the like, of that city, and on the other hand shares all the danger of fire and flood, enemies and death, losses, imposts and the like.

He writes that through the offering of communion one may receive not only a reminder of Christ’s eternal love, but assurance of our victory in the midst of adversity, which we are assured of all the more as we partake of communion alongside our fellow man (to whom Christ has also bestowed such victory). It is as if, through this sacrament, He has whispered to our hearts “Therefore, be bold and confident; thou tightest not alone; great help and support are round about thee.” (ML)

I found myself eagerly soaking up the ideas aforementioned which give some sort of potential explanation of Christ’s decision to establish a Church on Earth. The ideas themselves reach out to those deep longings of the human soul. However, the hopelessness I’ve felt concerning finding healing in the church can’t be erased by idealism.

In future posts I will further explore the questions and ideas included in this one.


 

 

 

Dealings with beauty

 

“He begins to feel that the stars are strange, that the moon is sad, that the sunrise is mighty. He begins to see in them all the something men call beauty. He will lie on the sunny bank and gaze into the blue heaven till his soul seems to float abroad
and mingle with the infinite made visible, with the boundless condensed into colour and shape. The rush of the water through the still twilight, under the faint gleam of the exhausted west, makes in his ears a melody he is almost aware he cannot understand.”

 

“We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it.”

 


 

This is a post about the topic of beauty (especially in regards to grace) which I am writing by accident. I started out writing about dealing with defeat and it turned into revelings of beauty. (therefore I do not mean to communicate about beauty in an entirely abstract way). My hope is to talk about beauty as a means of grace, and as a means of experiencing healing from the pain of deserved retribution.

Something this week has taught me (my mother has taught me) is that failure does not simply go away. When you mess up badly, you really have quite a lot to go through afterwards. Life has a way of building in retribution, as painful as that is.

Another thing I am learning is the act of walking through defeat, (enduring its wound) and still that most pivotable act of picking yourself up, shaking off the dust and moving forward with your life.

I was wrestling through the tension of deserved consequences in a world that is also unjust and unpredictable when I began to see small bits of light splendidly seep through the whole situation.

I was sitting on the couch (after having gone outside and discovered it to be unbearably cold), holding my cup of coffee and (having abandoned all thought) observing the way the sky and tree branches looked through the windows. Without asking to be, (and without having done anything to create it) I found myself in an uncommon bath of morning light.

The light was, as it were, sunny and gorgeous. It was pouring in through the windows above my head and behind me, filling the room with clear colors. Filling the room with beauty that I could not have seen if I’d been sitting on that couch a few hours before.

I saw in this weird waking up experience the horribly enchanting nature of beauty. I somehow was able to dwell in something so dignifying and redeeming to the person who has done all the wrong things. You don’t simply make a good choice and then the morning light decides to come and kiss your shoulders and skin with its warmth, and reward your eyes with myriads of pure color.

Beauty (the realization of beauty) is a means of grace to the soul that has known the bitterness of sin. Beauty points to the hope of what is to come, a world without sin (and a world where all of the goodness we taste of has very little to do with our worthiness)

 

The needs of the soul

sudanwater

Like camels in Sudan we ride
wearily along to catch the evening’s tide
to feel the soft breath of daylight’s kiss
goodnight

In comes the golden weather
hot sands become as pools beneath my feet
to swim, to feast, to dive
merrily we ride

we caught the evening’s tide, alright
we ran beneath the setting sun
we tasted of divine love
While all the worlds lay still before us

Flashbacks of a former life, a former good
the separate wonder
Can one go back to who they were?
What wretched spell coerced a man to lay aside the pure!

Like camels in the night we ride
Himself now seeking
a certain weariness strikes the core
depleted

I pour out these drops on sand
thirsty again, but I am tired of drinking
I’ll now stretch out across this thirsty ground

The beauty of Heaven trickles down
beneath the Moon where memories lie
sacred and still

Forever stretched out beneath the pale blue sky,
tucked deeply between the edges of night,
embedded in the Stars as they pull diamonds from their pockets
and whisper to another if they will trade it for a pearl

But it gently slips from one Star’s hand
falling down
towards that foreign world
(but don’t worry, the pure remains pure and the sacred
will always be alive)
and someone beneath will catch it
even if they aren’t looking for it

Silently along we ride
like camels in the night
no longer thinking about water
riding along for the pleasure of it
just to see some stars
and feel the wind
remembrance

What was thirst?
What was hunger?
Buried beneath me,
deeper cries than the physical man could utter

the sound of which more eerie
for the sun could not calm them, nor shelter
and Food and drink would not silence them

As the wind howled over sands
we could hear their deeper cries, yet leery of their warnings
they continued on, ever mourning
for a return of all that sacred world once offered:

intimacy without fear and
gifts without price
kindness unmeasured;
connectivity without a bribe

Like birds upon the wind
the longings came like songs,
we trembled as they echoed from each pilgrim heart
many notes and octaves, countless harmonies
clear, bright moonlit melodies

we did not know fully the beauty
for the sacred carries pain
but we knew of moonlight
we knew the sound of goodnight

So on we traveled
like camels in Sudan
carrying our symbol pearls
as the weary song rang out
and the white sands became pools of delight.

Dec. 28

A Poem about “acceptance”

If I had made another choice
If I had seen with different eyes

faa7450cad3d3c319577949ecba45c30Would I have lived a different life?
I could have escaped the turmoil

All those hideous words
buried beneath pride

Crumbled up inside
was the child I used to be
Squashed down, forbid to come out

‘This is glorious you see, to really bow the knee
Serve another man’s vision,
the rewards will come later
Just keep singing, let’s all join in together’
on and on and on

I would have risen up
on the inside
I would have been a free person,
every limb and every muscle
I would have sung the words in context,
every fiber and every particle
I would have burst through that heavy bubble

But burst through to where?

I had no where else to go it seemed
Where else was better, than this place of such radical acceptance?

The acceptance dripped so heavy off their hands
while I played their song, and danced their dance
to make another man great
and another man’s vision grow strong

This is love, at too high a price
Forsaking all things to obtain this balmy dream (just like the Scripture verse,
just like the Scripture says)

Where will I go? Where will I flee?
Now that trouble is near

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there
If I descend to the bottom of the pit,
even there

You are.

And your hand will guide me there.

I mistrust even God my Father.
I am afraid of this Reality.

Wrapped up inside this Mystery,
surrounded in this Shroud

There are far too many words
that mean so many different meanings

This one Word
This very Meaning

He often hides inside the turmoil
But it couldn’t have been his plan?
amid the horrors of all that it was

To be spit out again
and again

Rejected by the very thieves who stole your
shirt and tunic

you gave them a mile
they wanted nothing from you except your service

And with empty hands you are left alone
with just the broken hands of the One who bled
holding you dearly

Dec. 25

A Christmas Poeimages-21m

Words long ago chiseled in stone
etched in His eyes, face and bone
The Word which woke the moon aglow
traveled the worlds to bring us home

Not by merit, nor by fortune
but by the will of the Father alone
such favor is bestowed
(to The Virgin Mary as she groans)

From humble lips a soft voice echoes
the beating of hearts beneath skies;
Each darkened by sin and bleeding with night
held up as a candle before this Light

Not by merit, nor by fortune
but by the will of the Father alone
these seeds were turned to stone
and buried here remain to be
a fortress of His own.

The nature of loss

I wanted to write a story about the Bridgewoods because being with them on Sunday gave me a lot to consider concerning the nature of loss.

It’d been a year & a half since I had last seen Mary. Last time I came to the door,  Mary was so weakened by the unbearable loss of her son,  barely able to hold herself up, eyes spilling out tears. Her brothers and sister-in-laws and best friend Gabby were all there. Family members who had driven from New York spent the night on the living room floor with her, on pillows and cushions. The house was just as full this time as when Danny had passed.

This time the same faces were there, only everyone wore delightfully tacky onesies and Christmas sweaters (except Emily, who wore a leather skirt and mahogany lace up boots). A few bottles and shades of wine stood on the counter next to the tray of gingerbread men. Bobby and Patty were giving each other dares, so Patty was secretly shooting at people with her hand gun. Mr. Bridgewood had grown a great big mustache.  And Mary was smiling.

Things were different.

Lori looked completely different for one thing. Her face had to be reconstructed after the car accident, which was I think only a month ago. She lost her four front teeth.

She had a totally different nose.

Emily and I went out on the porch to smoke. She told me about being at Snowden in September. John had found her lying in a heap on the side of the house, near the woods. He carried her back inside and they rushed her to the hospital.

“It was my first time on the adult ward!” Emily smiled at me. She breathed in the cool night air. And the tobacco.

“I sat there in that ward and remembered everything. How completely insulated I had been, living in my own reality.”

“Tim drove over to see me. “Dad fucking lost his job today.” was the first thing he said. “What?” Dad lost his job? Then everyone was there. They just sat there with me.”

Aaron fell in the ditch on his way to the porch, he smoked a cigarette with us and we went back inside. I talked to Lori some more.

“Lori, you look so different, but I can’t remember how you used to look.” I told her. “I know, it’s weird for me too.” she said. “Every time I look in the mirror, I surprise myself.” She took me in the office room and held out a framed photo of how she had looked before the accident. It triggered my memory and images came back into my mind of her old familiar face. Her new nose made her look like Tim.

Then she told me about getting cancer. I was shocked. Right after I left in August 2015 she had been diagnosed with cancer.

She pointed at the table where a woman sat wrapping presents for the children at the children’s hospital. “That’s one of the doctor’s who helped me.” she said. I hugged her and she hugged me back. “It’s all gone now.” she said. “I’m cancer-free.”

“Your family is a load of freaking soldiers.” Aaron told Emily on the porch.

“Yeah, I guess we are.” Emily said. “huh,… yeah.” she thought about it. “we’ve been on the battlefield.”

“Everywhere I look I see His hand.” Lori told me while we were in the bookshelf room.

“We got an anonymous check in the mail that paid for my teeth. And Tom still hasn’t found work, but every month we’ve paid the mortgage.”

I just looked at her in silence. “He’s faithful, Mikaela. I don’t mean to say that it hasn’t been  hard. I don’t mean to sound cheesy. It’s been hard.” Her New York accent was starting to come out.  “But where else could we go?,  like it says in Scripture, you know.”

We went back into the kitchen. I noticed the picture on the fridge of the whole family. I looked at it for a minute. Lori didn’t have her teeth replaced yet. Tim’s head was popping out in the back, like a shy gopher. Tommy and Mary were smiling. Emily looked hardcore.

A picture of Danny boy was also on the fridge. I looked at his face. His sweet brown eyes.

I went back outside to say bye to Emily. “Remember when you were playing Wolverine in the car?” Tommy was on the porch too. ” I had to head bang. My soul had to.” He started head banging a little bit at the memory of it on the porch. Emily was smiling and naming off other metal bands.

Tommy asked me about school. I told him how I quit. I immediately start to hate myself when I remember that decision, but Tommy eyes were filled with encouragement and his face just lit up.   “You know what I tell my 8th graders?” “What?” I said. “I tell them the cross is our success. Our success is found there, and every day we carry His cross we are doing well. What worth is our life apart from grace, anyway?” he said.

I felt like I had been injected with a weight of something eternal, but it was more so like awe, because it wasn’t too deep or too heavy.  It stunned my whole body and mind as I drove home. The awe I felt in response to seeing Mary again. Emily’s hugs. Lori’s new face.  I went home and  the house was dark. My dad was on the couch watching the news and my mom had gone to bed.

I went upstairs and lay in stillness on my bed,  at rest.


I think, at least from my own experiences, the nature of loss is a form of dying.  It seems to take without healing. The nature of loss is destructive. Loss itself is cruel.

I hate loss.

Yet through these losses, there is something else. It’s a mystery. I don’t think that it is loss itself, but the something that is experienced through loss that is quite indescribable. I would say surrender, but it also something more than surrender. It is something very pure, and it makes me cry to realize that this is part of the beauty we have has humans. To go through horrible things, and to face such horrendous things like sudden death, or forms of dying which are more complex than , the many various losses that come to us in life, such loss as there being distance between you and people you love..loss of dignity that comes through the abuse of power, or poverty, …it is in and through these very destructions we must face that we experience things like, letting go. Things like perseverance.

And also love.

Part of the mystery here is I think, love. Love is so pure and so much sweeter than I have thought. I’m starting to see it now, that love is not equal to romance. It’s not. Love goes beyond being connected to my worth, or my means of becoming valuable to another person.  In loss, there is a discovery of real love. If you lose your beauty, (which gives you much value in this world) if you lose your independence, (aging) your money, etc. these are the times as a human being when you really get the chance to experience love that is not selfish.

When you lose the people you love, that’s the hardest though, and it’s different. but even in the worst kinds of loss, there is a mystery. It has something to do with discovering Christ’s compassion for you as a person, that He somehow is alive to you in pain. That in the worst kinds of loss, He draws near.

So while the nature of loss is to destroy, there is a mercy that comes I think when we are scorned by its heat..

 

 

The Medicine of certainty

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible…

A patient who has been diagnosed with cancer will go through what is likely many days and weeks and months (perhaps years) of uncertainty. Such uncertainty drives emotions into a heightened and feathered frenzy. It can produce depths of fear mingled with expectancy and the desire to “just be well.” All a patient can often think of is what life would be like if they were well again.

Imagine the patient who has spent months in an Oncology unit the morning of his last treatment. The morning is covered in a newfound sense of rest. According to the Medic, the emperor of all maladies, for this patient, is nearly defeated. The cancer will be over. Recovery dwells in sight.

It is not that the patient has gained any control over the situation that gives them any comfort. What calm has found him the morning of his last treatment can be traced to the human need for certainty. Here is found within the Medic the power to relieve him of that overpowering sense of fear. His diagnoses has shifted, and this sense now comes to him that is rarer and truer and sweeter than ever. It’s the sense of “i’m almost through with this.” More so, this sense of “i made it.”

This precious relief exists within the realm of truth. It is not the substance of blind faith. This patient fighting cancer is a metaphor for the child of unbelief, for however long they may wrestle with this strong sense of unbelief,  there will be the morning when they may wake up to find their unbelief forever cut out from their  heart. The ancient Malady (despite how vicious it was) pales in light of an ancient declaration concerning an immortal God. The words of the Christian Creed are not rooted in fanaticism or self-exalted ecstasies. They are not made up to make anybody feel better about their stupid existence. They are the words of the Medic.

Surety (even when answers aren’t appropriate) can curb the pain one endures in the midst of life’s fragility, opening a window to the everlasting calm of the One who has always been. It is a song dancing around past and present and future, a drink especially sweet to any creature aware of their weakness.

My friends daughter was sick last week and so one night as Coco couldn’t sleep, my friend Patty had a tea party with her in he middle of the night! Coco’s nose was running, and her eyes filled up with wonder. She was caught up in a cloud of delight due to the fact that her mom was having a tea party with her in the middle of the night.

Coco looked at her mom in this moment of trust and enjoyment and said in a raspy voice, “Mom?”

“Yes, Coco?”

“Mom, why was I made?” Coco’s mom smiled at her and put her teacup down. “Well, you were made, Colette.. you were made for God. God made you to live in this world so you could enjoy Him.”

Coco stared into her mother’s face unnervingly. “Then why am I sick, Mom?”

Coco’s mom, as you can imagine,  had no idea how to answer this one. She was stunned by her 4 year old’s earnest thoughts.  There are some questions you don’t necessarily give an answer for.

It helps to know that you don’t have to have an answer for legitimate questions.  What I find true about creeds (maybe this is the nature of a creed) is that it doesn’t necessarily provide me with the answer that I want.

A creed isn’t a manufactured cookie cutter answer for all human dilemmas. The declaration doesn’t always console you in the way you want to be consoled. But I’ve found there is something held in this declaration that transcends my need for immediate answers.

There is peace in possessing knowledge about the One who has always existed. It is both concrete and yet brimming over with mystery. I find measures of mystery in certainty that fuels me as a person to live and to breathe.

Even if I feel that I cannot obey God, or by any means of my own believe in Him, I still desire the certainty that all created beings hope for. It only humbles me, and humility is kin to curiosity. For in this certainty I find an ever remarkable wonder by which I may search myriads of untold mysteries.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; by whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead. ;
whose kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Ghost. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.
In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

disarrayed matter

Green fields spread over a velvet sheet
water beneath

a father and a mother lay out their spread
delights untold

little people frolicking around; dancing now
hands hold

this was the purest matter; an unspoken dream
God’s world

can you tell where the wrong came from?
lunging forward

tearing God’s image apart at the seams
bloody tragedy

the hero has been stripped of his clothing
rest mourning

the light still rises in the morning
dark forlorn

a silver dusted dove’s wing flashes
beak full

where embers fly

Hey, hey,  hey.
Isn’t trickery just like this?

What’s a greeting anyway
it’s saying hello not long before goodbye

weave your heart into This (mystery)
you’ll See the colors of love

laced inside these embers
is a reaching song

It starts before and goes
beyond this 3 minute 36 second radio song

It tips me over the edge where inside the far off beats
is a pounding (mystery)

the joy of someone Sure
inside all of these second chances

hello,  hello, hello, without ending
He’ll never say goodbye

I consent now Dip my feet
Please now my head

I cannot get away from This. rush
the blessed, fucked fountain

I hated it though, but it was everything good

I hated  its eternal chambers
my own dignity am I willing to trade?  In order to escape

I left it once
i’ll leave it once again

This wretched bloody fountain
Christ

nothing less than mangled
nothing less than free

Mercy, blessed, Mercy, wild
Mercy running without measure
the only place where embers fly

The Whole 30 challenge

  • When an elimination diet becomes a fad diet it becomes a joke to the people that actually are forced to go on elimination diets. It’s like someone without a broken leg going around wearing a cast and crutches because it supposedly is a good treatment.
  • What makes an elimination diet a ridiculous undertaking for someone without major gastro-intestinal or digestive related issues is that you are FORCING yourself to literally cut out 3 of the 5 food groups FOR NO GOOD REASON.
  • There are other terms for this kind of force. self-deprication and starvation are two that come to mind. Absurdity is another one.
  • It doesn’t make sense to cut out that many food groups for an extended period of time for the sake of retraining your body to eat whole foods.
  • “A balanced diet is not a crash diet, it is a way of eating all of the right nutrients that your body needs in order to be healthy. Everyone’s bodies are different and often individuals require a different amount and type of nutrients.”
  • People are getting really pumped up about this diet. “whole 30 friendly” is even being written on beef stick labels.It is everywhere. I hear it being talked about almost every day. Almost everybody around me seems to be going on it or thinking about going on it or preparing to go on it or have just broken it and are back to day 1 (just 29 more days to go). Because of this some of the results people are getting out of it are actually psychological. It’s as if Mesmers magnets are being waved in front of them and “ta-da” they walk away singing ‘The whole 30 changed my life! aha aha! i feel so much better’
  • You don’t have to eat an extremely over-restricted diet for 30 days to feel better. Honestly you can eat healthy and retrain your body to enjoy whole foods without cutting out whole entire food groups, calling taboo ingredients that actually create a wide variety of flavor and enjoyment to life, (are not necessarily unhealthy) and can give you the nutrients your body might actually need.
  • “Well it’s only 30 days.” One of the main mantras of this diet is that you can do anything for 30 days. I think it’s great to want to reset your body, cut out sugar, nip food addictions in the bud…all of these things are really good. My main concern is that this level of over-restriction can cause people’s minds to reprogram what is good and causes people to be so limited with what they are allowed to consume that it actually isn’t even based on goodness anymore. When Good nutrition starts being defined by an elimination diet, (which is specifically for people with health issues and food allergies) you may actually be unintentionally veering away from holistic nourishment
  • i think because of how limited you become when undertaking the whole 30 challenge, it actually causes you to focus on food way too much and think about all the foods you can’t have in a way that can backfire for people with food addictions. it can become extremely possessive of your time and energy
  • and i have to ask myself, what is the point of limiting yourself this much (even if it’s just for a month)….my recommendation to my friends who are going on this diet because they want to lose weight and feel better, is HONESTLY…..there is a better way. focusing on what is good (based on nutrition NOT ELIMINATION DIETS)