Tuesday, March 31, 2015

To seek, to Find, and not to Yield

It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life that Christ is looking for.

--Søren Kierkegaard--

It is a sobering reflection of his that I read this morning. He writes of the difference between being an admirer and being a follower of Christ. With an admirer, the connect is there in language and enthusiasm, but it does not permeate the life lived in the midst of the quotidian human reality. Things stay compartmentalized for a variety of reasons. He is careful to add that while good people are admirers of Jesus, there is an inherent separation when something or someone is admired.

The follower, however, is set on the conversion of self, on being suffused with the reality and not the ideal of the way Jesus was in this world and among his people.

[There] is absolutely nothing to admire in Jesus, unless you want to

admire poverty, misery, and contempt.

For me, though, I don't think we can truly Live without joy as well--that is part of the "life in abundance." I would like to read something of Kierkegaard's that brings that in too while also speaking to the challenge of steeping ourselves in the lived reality of our neighbors and seeking to help make manifest the longings of God for the world.

How clearly I remember the period of time when I began to close the gap of my own admiring distance...when I began to understand with my Being the invitation extended to me...to know what it is to truly Love and to allow Love to shape me, convert me over and again, time and again, world without end... and thus know greater freedom.

It takes energy to maintain a distance...energy that could be given to something or someone else. How much easier it is to breathe deeply when not quite as bound behind pain or hurt or fear; how much easier to offer understanding to another when I am more able to name and accept my own poverties of heart and spirit and yet know myself to be loved and able to express it; and how much it all makes me ache, sometimes...ache from laughing, ache from beauty, ache from a rending of my heart...

It is precisely this strength and ache and freedom all together that is for me what it means to be a follower of Jesus.



Saturday, March 21, 2015

Turning a Corner


I was a part of something small, simple, and beautiful, yesterday. I had gone to the bank for the community and included a swing by the library in my loop homeward. A bonus day for me, I left with a volume apiece from three different series I enjoy. It was brilliantly sunny--a generous, kind, balance to the snowdrifts taller than I am that line the streets and the slush swamps deeper than the ankle that pool at almost every corner.

I was approaching Spring Garden and South Park when I saw a guy I recognized from a coffeeshop I have gone to several times. He has something to do with the music industry. He, in his wheelchair, had an ice spade and was chunking free the frozen expanse at the corner that prevented him from passing easily. I asked if he wanted help. "Sure, if you have a minute! If you could shovel away what I break up, that'd be great." He pointed to a pile of shovels and other tools over by where he'd tossed his jacket.

We were working for some minutes and another guy stopped. "Want a hand?" He spelled the other man with the ice spade.

A woman soon approached. "I've got time. Want help?" She too began to shovel and toss.

Another woman stopped to cross and was watching us.

"You all are the most beautiful thing I have seen in a long time...so much cooperation between people who don't know one another... Thank you. Just...thank you."

I walked the rest of the way home full of thanks for being able to lend a hand, full of thanks for sunshine and the stretch of clear sidewalk beneath my feet, and full of thanks for helping show a woman that at least in one, small, literal, corner of the world, hope is not lost.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

I Come by it Honestly

"Attention without feeling...is only a report." --Mary Oliver--

Over the course of my life I have had the chance to read several volumes of my great-grandmother's journals...I read the first one before I was ten when I found it in a box at my grandmother's house and asked if I could read it. I can remember thinking-- "Really??," as I read what she thought to write down. Baking apples, cleaning the wardrobes, washing down the floor, the weather, my great-grandfather's comings and goings and visits with her grandchildren. Not a stray thought or feeling...a reporting of a life lived.

I loved seeing her hand, imagining her with a pen at her writing desk or in her comfortable chair, and piecing together a sense of her busy, manual, days of keeping house and home together for herself and my great grandfather as well as maintaining relationships with the extended family...grandchildren, cousins, etc.

Gift and insight that all of her volumes are, each time I read her words I long for more. I long to know what she was feeling, what she thought about, what the view was like from her kitchen window.

Why did she write? Given the volume of her writing, I'd say it helped her in some way. Was it her way of accounting for her life? Leaving a record of deeds and acts? Did it give her a sense of accomplishment to list her day's activities?

Though I long to know more about her feelings, her curiosities, frustrations, and joys, I don't know that the times and her upbringing would have allowed for that. I come from a fairly tight-lipped stock of people. Your bootstraps are yours to pull up, you do your best, and do your part.

But one thing I do know. My great grandmother chose to write. She chose to leave marks upon a page that offer windows into her world.

I don't wash down the floors as often or dust the wardrobes too frequently...heck, at ALL. But I too write. And I try to do it with a freedom she didn't seem able to enjoy.

I thought afresh about all of this as I wrote in my own journal while perched on the steps of the Farmers Market this past Saturday morning, observing the sea of humanity, munching on a cinnamon bun, and sipping a cup of dark roast...

Writing about a life lived is more than a reporting of deeds...it is paying attention to the in-breaking of God and wonder, the impact of the senses, the fullness of heart that draws me onward. It is honoring this...in ink and typeface.


Monday, March 2, 2015

The Write Moment

I can remember pretending my pen was a magic wand when I was a child. I was well aware that I couldn't really make anything disappear or multiply in number, but nonetheless, I had a knowing that what I held was a capable tool and it could make things happen. I felt secure if I had a pen: I could go somewhere else, could connect with a larger world, and always, I had a place to put things and a voice, a way to express myself in my own way, at my own pace.
I express it differently now that I am an adult, but the foundation is shared with my youth as far as why I continue to write, why I continue to feel better if I know that I have at least one pen and a pad of paper with me.
Writing is one way I push back with light when darkness encroaches. Word for me is very much alive and if it is alive, is has being-ness and things that "be" have energy and energy begets light. And, I believe that "light shines in the darkness and darkness will not overcome it."
And that Word shines brightly when I use writing to voice, to summon forth, a truth that lies within me. Perhaps that truth is on a gentle wander and I might not yet be aware of its company, or perhaps it is a truth seeking its own release, a truth needing to be freed so I can either breathe more freely without the burden--a recognized anger, or resentment of old that has mossed over my heart, or embrace it, welcome it, accept it, understand it--and allow it to find its place within me among the other truths that abide in my being.
This might end up looking like a poem or a letter or or a journal. It might read like a story or a prayer or detailed observations of what I sense in a given moment on the space-time continuum...
Whatever the shape it takes, whatever the sound it makes, for me, writing loosens the clench of emotion, confusion, and the sometimes "too muchness," allowing light to flow more freely so that I see more clearly all that surrounds within and without and recognize the face of God.