Beauty

Wounds and God’s Glory, Love and God’s Face

30 May 2014

“To genuinely love another person is to see the face of God.” – Victor Hugo

“In my deepest wound I saw your glory, and it dazzled me.” – Augustine of Hippo

If the above quotes are true, then I saw God’s face, and His glory, last week.

A priceless part of my annual sabbatical has been the practice of going to Houston and moving in with my friend and mentor for a few days of going with him where he goes, joining him in what he does.

Jim is one of the few people I know, perhaps the only one, who has a life where something like this is possible.

And while many people I know have lives that are worthwhile, none but Jim have one with whom I would do this.

Why?

Because every single moment spent with Jim is spent with people. Further, these people are with Jim in order to discover how to “take the mask off,” discard it, and excavate Christ who resides within them.

And I get invited to join.

Join what, you may ask? The experience of truth community, inexhaustible grace, and rock bottom introspection. The experience of hope in life after death, and just as powerful, in life after wounds (emphasis on the word experience).

I get to parachute in and engage with folks who I have parachuted in on before and reunite around our shared desire for life, and I get to meet some brand new folks who have joined in on the journey. And here is the kicker – even though I am a stranger or infrequent visitor to them – I am welcomed in.

All the way in. I am welcomed in to the messiness and woundedness of their lives, and at a level that demands the messiness and woundedness of mine. I am loved, outrageously, and I am called to love, outrageously.

And right there… in that space… I see the face of God in them, and the glory of God in me.

You can probably tell that I’m struggling to find words to describe this experience. I can do no better than the ones I list below. These words describe what I saw, what I experienced, and what I appreciated most, from the moment I stepped off the plane to the one where I stepped back on:

Dad, Anne, Jake & Heather, Jim, Kate, Jeff & Stacy & Jace, Bruce, Teresa, Chad & Liz, John, Jason, Kathy, Pam, George, Taffy, Michelle, Renay, Laura, Mary, Karuna, Carly, Sue, Wayne, Braveheart, Taylor, Jeffrey, Don, Joe, Jason, Kevin & Amanda, Loren, Sarai, Ryan, Kathy, Aaron, Jennifer, Blake, and JT. And then bonus! More time with Dad, followed by a day of bliss with Ashley, Drew, Jackson, Grayson, and Andy. And then bonus of bonuses, it was all capped off by Kacy.

I saw the face of God. I saw His glory.

It was an experience of life and it required nothing and everything of me. Just as Jesus told me it would when he said that to find my life, I must lose it.

As I sit here closing this out, thinking of who and what Jim is to me, desiring to replicate the same kind of life, community, and fruit that he does, I received this blessing from a friend who really works hard to “see me” – and I finish this piece with it to honor who Jim is to me, and as a proclamation of love for the world that this is what I want to be in it and towards it. (And thank you, GM. You fuel my spirit)…

“’The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light.’ Therefore, Brian, you sir are a hero and a saint.”

 

 

Writing Down a More Beautiful Life

14 April 2014

“Write down the revelation.” – Habakkuk 2:2

“Everything in life is writable about if you have the crazy outgoing guts to do it, and the vivid imagination to improvise as you go.  The worst enemy to creativity and excellence is ‘stuck-ness’ caused by self-consciousness and self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath

I have not taken the time to write much as of late. And the quote above from Sylvia confronts me in this. I have just not had the “crazy outgoing guts to do it,” having allowed myself to settle into a “stuck-ness” caused by an unhealthy self-consciousness (cleverly disguised as a healthy self-awareness) and an debilitating self-doubt (cleverly disguised as humility).

I have some very good excuses for not writing much, all of which are unarguable and easily defendable, but I will spare you them, because, if you go but one thin layer underneath, this is not about that.

If my writing is about a selfless sharing of my life, and about the raw need to keep it real, and about my desire to improve on the truth that I have found in order to adopt what is truer, then there is no excuse that can satisfy my own spirit.

No one can “hold me accountable” to writing. There is no moral imperative they can appeal to, no literal life and death that they can point towards, nothing so detrimental about “not writing” that they can show me, no “job description” that I was hired to do that can be threatened. Not to mention that any effort at offering accountability for anything is more than easily dismissed by the one being “held.”

You can’t make an elephant move by saying it must, or should. The elephant must want to move.

And we are all elephants.

So I must do the work of wanting to write. I must be about the journey of attributing it some sort of value, if there is indeed any to be had. Any use that it has for others is nice, and sometimes encouraging. But that is not enough. Having a witness or two to my life interested just enough to read about it is important to most. But it’s not enough to keep writing either.

Ultimately, I have some lonely work to do that can only be done by myself and God.

He and I alone must wrestle about meaning. About life. About ease and suffering, and when each is called for. About potential vs. kinetic energy within me. He and I alone must wrestle. He against me, and me against me. I’m grateful that He and I are on the same side, because it will take both to subdue the part of me that is growing old enough to not care anymore. To not try anymore.

I don’t want to not care. And I don’t want to not try. But the gravity toward it is so strong. And I’m scared to mess something up, at this point, by acting too boldly.

You all get that this is not about writing, yes? I do. I totally get it.

But for me, today, it is the useful prop that God is using as a heart-excavating probe. You have one, too, if you’ll just have the guts to see it.

So I cannot speak for tomorrow… but today, when I didn’t feel like writing, I wrote. This is God and I warring against the part of me that would just as soon go about life doing the bare minimum, or just hurriedly meet the many demands coming my way so that I can justify myself from any sort of higher calling, or just do the house chores while watching TV and call it being a good husband while getting others to agree with me, and then calling it a day.

This is personal. It always is. I can write about it, but there is a part of it that cannot be shared. It can only be known, and explored, and exploited by me and God. It is our work to do. It is our battle against not caring. Against not trying. Against not dying before I actually die.

It is a battle against not loving.

May God help us.

The Do-Gooder’s Battlefield

31 July 2013

“To be doing good deeds is man’s most glorious task.” – Sophocles

“For we are God’s workmanship , created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – St. Paul 

The first battle that must be won for a person to become an unstoppable force for good is the battle over self.

From the moment we are born, we are concerned with, consumed by, and communicating what we perceive to be our needs and wants. Sometime between birth and the successful arrival of a person as good, he or she has come to grips with this truth and overcome it.

The second battle that must be won for a person to become an unstoppable force for good is the battle over pride.

Ironically, this is a second battle over self. Doing good has this incredible tendency of making you feel good, and on top of that, it gets you a lot of praise from others, which also feels good. As a result, it is difficult to not end up finding your value from these things. This makes the doing of good a means of feeling good about yourself, making it prideful. Some get stuck here, becoming masters at doing just enough good to feel good and/or impress others. But many realize their doing of good has ceased to be for good, and they overcome pride.

The third battle that must be won for a person to become an unstoppable force for good is the battle over effectiveness.

For statisticians or capitalists who require a good return for their labor, becoming an unstoppable force for good is not possible. The doing of good is the do-gooder’s reward, not the results. By definition, if you require a good return, then you will be stoppable in your doing of good if there is not a good return.

The fourth battle that must be won for a person to become an unstoppable force for good is the battle over judgmentalism.

Nothing stops a do-gooder quicker than his or her own judgment of the worthiness of a recipient. Do-gooders do not judge the worthiness of recipients, they assume the worthiness of a recipient. This allows him or her to never waste energy discerning whether to do good or not, and directs it towards what is the good that needs to be done.

The fifth battle that must be won for a person to become an unstoppable force for good is the battle over self-martyrdom.

Even though a do-gooder knows he or she cannot do all the good that needs to be done in the world, they do want to feel like they are doing all that they can do, so each one seems to go through a season (if they trust a guide, it is shorter, but for most, it is horribly long) where they say yes to just a bit more than they can or should or are called to handle. Do-gooders are paradoxically strong and fragile, able to maintain a decent performance at “too much” for long periods of time, the cost being their inward peace, their emotional steadfastness, their physical health, and their energy for God and loved ones. The payoff of this self-inflicted, just-over-the-edge-but-sustainable schedule is the ability to say with (delusional) confidence, “I am doing all I can,” pointing to their self-martyrdom as their proof. Burnout and bitterness is the inevitable result of this, and it must be conquered if one wants to be a life-long doer of good.

The sixth battle that must be won for a person to become an unstoppable force for good is the battle over diminishment.

Many do-gooders feel under-qualified, or dis-qualified, to do good. What’s more, there is usually at least one “foe” who will be glad to validate and even try to prove that this is true. Doing good, however, is never a matter of qualification, but willingness. There may be certain good things that a person needs that you can’t do, but there is never nothing good for you to do for them (even if it is sometimes the doing of “nothing” – which it often is). There is a fine line between humility and diminishment, and do-gooders become masters at separating them.

The sixth battle that must be won for a person to become an unstoppable force for good is the battle over demand.

Life long, unstoppable do-gooders naturally become very good at doing good. At some point, a tipping point is reached, and opportunities for doing good, that he or she used to search for eagerly, not come knocking, calling, and emailing, most all of them legitimate and worthy. Add to that, the ideas of brand new ways to do good start rushing into the do-gooders imagination, each one possible needing a lifetime of investment to pursue, develop, and leave behind as a legacy. Many do-gooders shrink back at this point, drowning in opportunity, paralyzed in inability to prioritize one above another. The strategies for doing so are almost as numerous as there are do-gooders, but if they are to be unstoppable, they win this battle somehow, someway.

I’m certain there are many other battles ahead that I have yet to experience, and some current that I have yet to identify. Anyone have some?

Hello, World

4 April 2013

“When awaking from a deep slumber, forces conspire in opposition.

It takes courage to wake up, fortitude to get out of the proverbial bed.

The bliss of the moments between sleep and awareness are seductive,

We want them to last, and when they must end, we want them to end with more sleep.

Those eager to wake up are motivated by one of two things: driven-ness, or life.

The former wake one up from a place of resigned, robotic desperation…

…desperate to succeed.

…desperate to not disappoint.

…desperate to maintain.

…desperate to impress.

But the latter, those who awake for life, full life, those are the pure in heart.

They see God.

…in all circumstances.

…in all people.

…in creation.

…in themselves.

May I see God? May I be pure in heart? Oh, how superior this sounds.

You have tasted life from the dead place of sleep walking. And you have tasted life from the living place of purity.

It was when you were young. You woke to each day saying hello to it, welcoming it, and offering yourself shamelessly, creatively, moment-by-moment, with eyes twinkling and wide open. I did not need to look or feel grand, it just was, and you knew it and embraced it as a child.

The Kingdom of Heaven can not be enjoyed, will not be yours to enjoy, unless you change and become like children.

- from the pen of Yours Truly, effortlessly, with wonder about what it means

 

I took my daughter to breakfast this morning, and we shared both roaring laughter and tender tears. She is the real deal, engaging in life, dealing with her surroundings, learning about her emotions and the hearts and wounds of others. And God.

Part of the roaring laughter (and somehow the catalyst for the above piece), was this video she spontaneously made yesterday. I still can’t stop laughing, watching the combination of her using her creative, story-telling mind and her mom’s creative, visual-altering software:

 

“Nikki” complaining about “Chlorine” stealing her boyfriend

Have a fully alive day.

The Bible before the Bible

19 December 2012

“Our diligent study of the Bible comes from our belief that it was delivered and orchestrated by God to tell us about God. By that reasoning, creation should be diligently studied first, because God saw best to deliver and orchestrate it first.” – Yours Truly

“The ‘Bible’ of nature and creation reveals God and who God is.” – Richard Rohr

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.” – Paul, in Romans 1:20

“Through Jesus all things were made; without Jesus nothing was made that has been made.” – John, in John 1:3

It’s too late for most of us.

Most of us who call ourselves Christians are too late to take in and study the revelations of God in the order he revealed them.

Creation first. Bible second.

So we can’t know what the experience would have been like.

What would it have been like to look around at creation and “read it” for what it tells us about God? What would we have learned from the elements, the weather, the different landscapes, the different seasons, the different life forms, the interplay of darkness and light, and the consistent rhythm that the Sun provides? What would we have “read” in our own bodies about God when we found ourselves bursting with energy in one moment, and then helplessly lost in a state of unconsciousness in the next, only to awake with a new burst of energy, only to fall out of consciousness once again?

And once we learned all that we could from creation (the chief lesson being that we will never exhaust the lessons), what would it have been like to then crack open scripture?

We may never know, because most of us were born into, and continue to live in, an environment designed specifically to keep us untouched by nature. Goodness, if nature has lessons on “God’s invisible qualities” that can be “clearly seen”, then I have no chance to see them from where I sit right now. I’m in a nice, quiet, contained area that doesn’t even have a window out to God’s creation. I’m staring at at window, of sorts, called a computer screen, but it is a window created by man looking “out” at a bunch more creations of man. Just last week, a powerful storm that blew down trees and made the day look like night hit my homeland that lasted about 20 minutes, and I would have never known had I not had to move for the bathroom. Even then, nature only got a momentary pause out of me before I went about my business. And that business was in a room that man designed inside this fortress I work in to keep me from having to experience nature even when nature calls!

From within this fabricated, man-orchestrated, climate-controlled mansion, a big box that keeps the first revelation of God at bay, you know what I spend my time doing? Reading and studying God’s second revelation – scripture.

It is great, and I am blessed. But I wonder how much I get wrong in my interpretation of it because of this?

After all, a baby is born incapable of experiencing the study of the Bible, and only capable of experiencing the things around her. As that baby grows, it doesn’t jump right to the ability to read or study or imagine ideas, but instead moves slowly through a process of observing, experiencing, and “reading” the environment she is in. It seems to me that the order of our naturally developed abilities observed in our growth as human beings supports this idea that we should study God first in nature, and then in scripture.

So maybe we are all late, but it’s not too late. Maybe we have done it out of order, but there is still an order to be had and known and experienced in the first revelation, even if it is the second one we are studying.

Get outside. If you can burst out of the physical matrix we’ve all been conditioned to breath in with a revolutionary charge and zealous yell of “freedom!!!” then do it. But start small if you need to.

Just get outside.

And not just when it is comfortable (comfort is why we created the boxes we live in), and not just when it is convenient (convenience keeps us in the boxes, it does not move us out of them, ever).

You are missing out on getting to know God through His first revelation.

 

That is Not True

29 November 2012

I was visiting a friend who is in the hospital this week, and ran into another friend who is one of my true allies in the mission of love that I am on in my life.

With a mixture of horror, gratitude, and awe, she briefly recounted an experience from the day before. She was by the bedside of a young boy around 14 years old who was dying. This boy’s older sister was sitting in the room next to the wall, the mother was standing over the bed of her son, howling with uncontrollable tears and sobs, desperately pleading with him to “not leave her.”

Pause. Let’s acknowledge the fact that most people in the world do not experience these kinds of moments. By “these kinds of moments”, I’m speaking of moments that are unescapably raw and real. Moments that are so unconsciously intense and gripping, that a necessary, uncontrollable, and un-censorable emotional honesty, that does not care  how it is comes across to those around them. Can not care. So do not judge. Just witness.

The mom, in the actual, real-time face of losing her beloved son, was wailing and desperately appealing to everyone with reasons why this must not happen, using as many different sentences as her urgently distraught mind could come up with. My friend is standing by the bed, facing her, with the woman’s daughter in her view just over the shoulder of the mom. My friend was doing her best to “be with it all” – witnessing this desperate pain, undone with the magnitude of her task to give care, coming up empty when searching for words to accompany the sorrow and tears that she was sharing with this family.

Then it happened.

Something completely understandable, and entirely false, came out of mom’s mouth. She looked up, drowning in her pain, right at my friend and said, “He can’t die! He is the only joy that I have in my life!”

My sister-at-arms found herself glancing quickly back and forth between the piercing eyes of the mom and those of the daughter (who’s head jerked up to meet hers at this latest pronouncement). And with a surprisingly authoritative voice, equaled only by a loving compassion in her tone and eyes, she looked right at the daughter and said, “That is not true,” and then looked right into the eyes of the mom, and said it again, “That is not true.”

The mom looked over her shoulder and saw her precious daughter, instantly realized what she was saying, and ran to her, hugging her, instantly letting her girl know that she knew that what she had just said, sure enough, was not true. And she embraced her daughter, allowing the untruth of what she just said be washed away by their shared suffering and tears. Mom, who was losing her son, realized that she was not losing her daughter, and that her daughter was losing a brother. And with this, the potential wound that could have been inflicted on her daughter’s heart based on an understandable, but completely false statement innocently spoken while drowning in emotions…didn’t happen.

Because someone was there to speak the truth out loud. Someone was there to expose it as a lie.

As far as I’m concerned, my friend is nothing short of a peace-bringing hero. A relationship saving, heart-protecting, love-advancing, healing-inducing hero of epic proportions.

She didn’t plan this. She couldn’t have. She just had to be willing to be there to let it happen. She had to be willing to walk into the uncomfortable place of human suffering and pain. She just had to be there and not run. She had to be there and not find and use a reasonable excuse to leave the room. She just had to go and stand in that space with people in their most vulnerable and intense experiences.

And she did. And she does. It costs her. It costs her some tears. It costs her some time. It costs her some comfort. It might even cost her some sleep.

But…

She saved people. And saving people, in my book, is worth any cost.  I don’t do it perfectly, this walking into things, and neither do all my allies, like this sister. But it’s what our friend and teacher, Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ did. And we want to be like him. We want to do what he did. We want to do what he does.

We want to save people. Like we’ve been saved. Like we are being saved.

All she had to be was willing. The words came to her when she needed them, precisely when they were needed, and – boom – a miracle.

Dear reader, would you please join her?

Dear God, would you please help us?

The Life I Want Most for Myself

1 February 2012

Some friends of mine and I were given the powerful assignment of sitting down and writing a letter to God explaining to Him the life we want most for ourselves. In my humble opinion, it is an exercise that everyone should do often. Here is mine:

Dear God:

The life I want most for myself is Christ’s.

I want a life of peaceful intensity. Intense because of a missionary spirit that relentlessly takes me into difficult circumstances in the name of love. Peaceful because of an intimacy with you so stable and real that those difficult circumstances can’t shake it.

I want every decision of my life to be motivated and explained by love, healing, and freedom, and every action to help inspire those things in others. I want to be a man of harnessed passion, who walks gratefully and confidently with God and people, creating true transforming community wherever I go.

I want this life with Christ to be so authentic that those closest to me, Carrie, Shade, Callie, and Jakin know it to be real and weighty. And I want its abundance to be so obvious that they are effortlessly drawn to it, constantly challenged to believe it, emboldened to give it a try, and naturally disgusted by anything the world offers, with all of it’s glitter, that is less.

While living inwardly for an eternal Kingdom, I want to be a good steward of my body while I live for that Kingdom here, maintaining the health and fitness required to live this adventurous life over the long haul, using as my target and goal the physical and mental ability to keep up with grandkids, should I be so blessed.

I want what I love about Carrie to always dictate how I see and treat her. I love her fire and vulnerability, her commitment to godly and thoughtful motherhood, and her non-stop energy for God and people. I want a partnership with her that is alive, connected, fun, open, passionate, raw, real, and respectful. I want us to take and be mutually supportive of our adventurous and faith-testing experiments – and I want us to take them often, sometimes independent of each other, sometimes in partnership. I want us to be unafraid of what makes each of us unique and challenging to the other, eagerly receiving those things from each other for our own growth in Christ, gratefully and joyfully embracing the mess of it all. Above all, I want Carrie to experience that hers is simply and unquestionably the most important human relationship in my life because I act accordingly at all times.

I want to be an embracing, exalting, playful, teaching, and uplifting Dad for my kids. I love Shade’s passion and zeal, his inclination towards truth and people, and want to partner with him to channel his energy as he creates a life of meaning and purpose. I love Callie’s competence and strength, her sense of creativity and laughter, and I want to give her both her space and my presence, within which she can have both her freedom and my guidance, to be and become the force of beauty that God has created her to be. And I love Jakin’s depth and humor, his light playfulness and deep inquiries, and I want to listen closely for his soul as he continues to show up and coach me on how to best serve him as he grows into his greatness.

I want to be an invitation to family for my Dad, Mom, and brothers and their families, and allow them to be that invitation to me. I want us all to be thankful and proud from where we have come from, and with whom we have come, a family of true believers in forgiveness, redemption, and the intentional, designing hand of God.

I want my life to be a model of the God-centered, Christ-like, Spirit-enabled way of living. I want it to be counter-cultural enough to be both noticeable and tempting for anyone in the world who is hungry, hurting, burned, or just plain sick-and-tired of mediocrity. I want my words, my work, my relationships, my dreams, my plans, my commitments, my decisions, my thoughts, my feelings, my actions, my reactions, my demeanor, my devotions, my prayers, my spaces, my priorities, my travels – and anything else that can appropriately go after the word “my” – to live in perfect harmony with one another, never competing with each other because they all humbly serve and exalt the same irresistible master.

I want a life that finds happiness only in you and in the loving relationships that are from you. And I want a life that is an invitation to, an inspiration for, and a catalyst of this abundant way of life for anyone who volunteers into any little piece of mine.

I want Christ’s life.

Don’t Be the Pig that Stomps on Pearls

25 October 2011

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet.” – Jesus

Two weeks ago, I was out at beautiful Lake Tanglewood to do a wedding. I had a little down time, so I sat down and read a blog post of someone’s on my smart phone. image

This post was full of profound point after profound point. I came across a monumentally significant and timely thought that has the potential of not only transforming my life for good, but was witty and universal enough to be useful for just about everyone I ever get into spiritual conversation with.

Want me to tell you what it was?

I wish I could. I’ve forgotten it.

This happens to me all the time. I don’t know exactly what to credit it to, but I have a rich life of getting to hear and have thoughts like this all of the time. I think it is fair to say that my life is saturated with them.

  • I spend a lot of time in the Bible, for instance, most especially prioritizing Jesus.
  • Additionally, I have stacks of books that I invest in, recommendations from folks who’s lives have earned my admiration. And these people are legion, so I have many books they say helped make them admirable.
  • I get profound, life-changing wisdom in my inbox every single day, so much that if I read them all, I would have time for little else (and these are the ones I signed up for and have proven themselves worthwhile, let alone all the others that come uninvited, equally worthy, I’m sure, but I just don’t read or watch unless I’m so overwhelmed that I do it just to feel like I accomplished something).
  • On top of this, I am in some thickly rich relationships with several small groups (a men’s group, a couples/family group, our church staff, our church’s elders and ministers) that have AS THEIR POINT the idea that we need to saturate ourselves in the wisdom of God and in each other’s lives in a way that we connect the two.
  • I go to a movie almost every week on date night with my wife, and we have honed our skill at picking movies with profound meaning (and then finding meaning in them even when they don’t)
  • This doesn’t even count my wife (who has a few small groups of her own), and my kids (who are teaching me every day if I will pay attention).

Pearls! Pearls! Pearls! I’m drowning in them.

But I have forgotten and lost (hear: “trampled on”) more great pearls than I will ever remember, and let’s save me from humiliation by not mentioning how few I have effectively incorporated into my being and lived out.

It makes me sick to think about it.

Back to Lake Tanglewood: when I read the profound, timely, and life-changing thought, I remember looking up at the Lake below me, and at a spot down there right by it that looked both accessible and comfortable (not to mention beautiful), and I thought, “I should go down there right now and just dwell on this sentence. I should visualize how it has and can be expressed, and use my imagination to script a fairy-tale future for myself that incorporated and utilized it’s wisdom. I should do that right now…or I’ll forget it.”

I did not choose the former. And sure enough, it is forgotten.

With all my might, let me discourage you from doing that.

I’m all about being a life-long leaner and stuff, but instead of filling your mind with 100’s of great thoughts, hoping that “something good will happen” by letting them pass through like wind does a screen door, pick one. Take it home, or out to a beautiful place, and dwell on it. Give it all over your creative energy…every last drop…and let it transform from a wise saying to an new action or “way” in you.

This will change you, and the world, more than all the great thoughts and books and quotes and readings and scriptures that pass through your minds all put together.

Ironically, an email from a friend of mine in Houston intrigued me enough to watch this 3 minute video, and it is the perfect example of what I mean.

Johnny was no pig. He took the pearl like no one else, and he changed himself and the world.

Please! Pick a pearl!

My Vision Cleared

6 June 2011

I’m sitting in a simple but comfortable room perched on a hillside just North of Pecos, NM at a Benedictine Monastery. A monk name Brother Todd, whom I have yet to meet in person, sent me an email Thursday, responding with a “yes” to my question of “I know it is unlikely, but do you have any space available for a soul longing for silence and solitude this weekend?”

So here I sit in silence and solitude, with the exception of mealtime, where the monastic community and its guests all eat together in silence.

I resolved to speak only when spoken to, but even so, I have been spoken to by several. Linda, who works here, and Edgar, a seminarian stationed here temporarily, who kindly greeted me upon my arrival and showed me to my hermitage. A sweet and very talkative woman (who couldn’t resist speaking to a young lady next to her even during dinner) engaged with me as I finished eating and was making my way back to my cove. Jose, who along with his wife, has been here for a week taking an iconography class, and is staying next week for a stained glass course, offered to show me around. That is to name a few.

Without asking them to know for sure, I found myself formulating the reasons that may have brought them to a monastery. I think Linda is a devoted Catholic and eager to serve in Catholic institutional ways. Edgar was assigned to live here this last year before he graduates, I believe. I think the talkative woman is looking for someone who will listen to her, really listen to her, beyond her words (of which there are many). I think Jose, who lives in Maryland, but used to live in Santa Fe, really wants to support this Monastery, which has threatened to close it’s doors if it can not come up with ways to keep from losing money.

I can only guess, really, as to what brings any of these others here.

But I know why I came. I came to see God.

Now, did I have to drive the 4 hours from my home to do this? Do I think there is some special measure of God’s presence here vs. there? Did the ascent from about 3,600 feet above sea level in Amarillo the 7,000 feet of Pecos somehow bring me closer to Him?

Of course not.

But what I did need, and desperately so, was to exit stage left from the noise and normalcy of my life (as blessed and saturated with God-stuff as it is) in order to narrow my focus onto only one goal, tune my ears into only one frequency, fill my mind with only one thought, leverage my energies for only one project, and pour my whole self into only one relationship. Put simply, I came here to obey with unusual fervor part 1 of the Greatest Command, to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

And I have.

As I come upon the midway point of expressing this single-minded affection towards God in this unique way, I can see clearly how far I have left this practice in the midst of my normal ways. I needed this departure from the people and circumstances in my life, who were (by no fault of their own) distracting me from seeing God, so that I can return to those people and circumstances in my life, and once again see God in (and through, and behind, and over) them.

The power of this is to once again embrace that I don’t need the people or circumstances in my life to change at all in order to see God in them.

The key is purity within me. My understanding is that when the Bible uses the word purity, it is not talking about sinlessness, but single-mindedness, or singleness of motive in the heart.

Singular devotion to God and God alone.

So, when one desires nothing more (or less) than God… when that affection for Him has no equal and no competitor… then one is operating in purity of heart.

And Jesus makes a promise to us about it: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

Come on up out of the mediocrity of your lives, people, and hear some of the most helpful, bold, and exciting words that Christ ever uttered. With these words, Jesus promises something that God Himself said no man could do and live (Ex 33:20)! And yet here we are, our deepest souls testifying that no man can do without it and live.

Evidently, there is one type of human being that can see God and live…the pure in heart.

Well then…create in me a pure heart, oh God, that I may see You.

My Longing

24 May 2011

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – CS Lewis

I am blessed and cursed with a very powerful sense of longing. I’ve never found the words to describe it adequately, which is part of the blessing and curse. While generally being the kind of guy who is more likely to use or indulge such non-stop, all-consuming hunger as motivation for some kind of action (be it noble or not), I have also strategically tried to escape its incessant hold on me…

By denying it.

By avoiding it.

By medicating it.

By pushing it down.

By judging it as impractical.

By acting as if it was satisfied.

By pretending it was not there.

By trying to delegate it to others.

But no matter what, I’ve never been able to suppress this thirst. It has been a constant companion. In my youth (past) and immaturity (still present), it has compelled me to do some incredibly unwise, even crazy, and sometimes outright stupid things. I have no regrets in this regard, mind you, for looking back, those things served as a litany of experiments and tests. They have cost me, but they have also enlivened and grounded me, authenticating that this longing in me is real and indestructible.

As I’ve grown older, slower, and more easily tired, I’m so grateful for this relentlessness. It serves as an old friend, one that I depend on as motivation for my worthiest endeavors and achievements.

What is this longing I speak of? As I said, I can’t nail down into one set of words, but that is not to say that I haven’t used some to try.

I long to matter.

I long for love and to love.

I long to see. I long to know.

I long for peace. I long for joy.

I long for healing and to heal.

I long to give. I long to receive.

I long for truth. I long for grace.

I long to experience. I long to risk.

I long for justice. I long for forgiveness.

I long for relationship. I long for reconciliation.

I long for good. I long for great. I long for perfect.

I long for victory. I long for redemption. I long for glory.

I long for a plan. I long for spontaneity. I long for adventure.

I long to be righted. I long for things to be righted. I long to participate in righting.

I long for life…to the fullest extent that it is available to a human being…that is what I long for.

Writing this list of words is quite unsatisfying. None of them, not even all of them, can capture this longing. It is at times subtle, at others obvious. It is sometimes overt, sometimes covert, but always subverts everything.

Certain thoughts, sights, and experiences seem to flare it up…

When I see the hungry. The thirsty. The oppressed.

When I see tears of hurt, anger, despair, or loneliness.

When violence breaks out, in thought, word, or deed.

When someone hurts someone, be it themselves or others.

When injuries happen. When sickness comes. When tragedy hits.

When lies are told. When masks are utilized. When hypocrisy is practiced.

When suspicion is called for. When skepticism pays off. When pessimism results.

And especially death. The death of anything, really, so long as it qualifies as “good”. A dream. A childhood. An innocence. An animal. A relationship. An idea. A motivation. An enthusiasm or spirit. A marriage. A person.

This longing…this hunger…this thirst… it simultaneously must be and can’t be satisfied!

It makes me walk through pain for the joy on the other side, and long for more.

It makes me call my dad and settle things between us, and long for more.

It makes me engage fully with my wife, and long for more.

It makes me present with my kids, and long for more.

It leads me to friends of depth, and long for more.

It drives me to give, and long to give more.

Ultimately, it makes me start movements that have no end, not projects that get done. And they are investments that demand as much or more than they will ever seem to payoff. It puts me smack dab in the middle of “problems” that are over the top, over my head, and overwhelming, while I get to feel under qualified, under resourced, and under the weight of it all. It gets me involved in issues that are so big, they will never, ever be solved…the work will never be finished.

Why do it then? Well, because…I long for it. I must. I guess the best answer would come by comparing the longing to an addiction. Not an unhealthy, self-defeating, chosen addiction like alcohol or drugs or workaholism…but a healthy, necessary addiction, like food or water or sleep.

Something in me knows that I’m contributing to something very worthwhile and satisfying now, and something that will be ultimately solved and satisfied later.

The way Jesus said it was, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

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