Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thy Will Be Done...


The Kingdom of God is “the presence of God in all things and the presence of all things in God. In the Kingdom of God everything tastes divine and smells divine because the divine and the human, the heavenly and the earthly, are intertwined and interpenetrating. This is a great vision of the prophets of Israel and of the apostles.

“I think this is necessary because then no part of life is separated from God. If you speak only about the salvation of the soul, then you neglect social salvation and the salvation of the earth. We have a lot of one-sided theology, and we need this holistic understanding of the Kingdom of God which is present everywhere.”

Dr. J├╝rgen Moltmann is Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Tubingen, Germany. Widely considered one of the most important theologians of the last fifty years, his landmark book Theology of Hope (1964) has been translated into many languages. His other books include The Crucified God (1972), God in Creation (1985), and The Coming of God (1995).

May we pray this week, “Thy kingdom come.” And may we bring there our frail human hearts and all we can see and taste and smell of our earthy-human living, for there is no part of us or our living which is separate from God. May we pray, “Thy kingdom come.” And may we seek to find God everywhere present: may we seek to find God in the lives of the sick and the poor who come to us here seeking our care and in the lives of all those in the community which we are called to serve, and may we seek to find God everywhere in this good earth entrusted to our care. May all that we do this week be prayer. “Thy kingdom come.” Amen.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day, Dad

My Dad died while I was at college. A long time ago. I’ve lived well over twice as many years without him as I had with him in my daily life. I was so young for most of our time together. Memory dims. Yet, if I dwell in the memory for a while, I can still recall, with vivid detail, what it felt like when I was a little girl, in petty coats and Mary Janes, to see him come through the door at the end of a work day. I can feel the excitement and bursting love upon seeing him again, feel the anticipation of arms out stretched to receive in warm embrace. My heart recalls its fondest hope. Happy Father’s Day.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Truth is... Elvis Speaks the Truth


Awhile back I had a really good day in a Chemical Dependency group I lead. In attendance were several young second-generation gangbangers recently shed of their orange wardrobes (been released from jail). They all had been in our program for a couple of weeks and gamely tolerated their once weekly cruel and unusual punishment of mandatory participation in the Chaplin’s Spirituality Group fairly well up until this point; mostly trying, quite successfully, to keep a low profile by not making eye contact with the enemy (me) and volunteering only minimal information when asked; survival skills honed, and which no doubt served them well, in both their gang and prison lives.

My first hint of trouble came in the introduction and goal setting portion of the group (right off the bat). A really, really, big young guy dressed all in black and sporting a complex collection of ink and piercings introduced himself by shifting in his chair, slumping to an almost prone position, opening his legs wide toward me, while simultaneously crossing his arms against his chest, and stating that his goal was “to be more open.” Translation: “F’off lady!” In the monkey-see-monkey-do spirit that can saturate a group dynamic in less time than it took for the first monkey-to-do, the three other young men in the group with gang affiliations and prison time in their backgrounds soon followed suit.

Of the ten other patients in the room, after a quick mental survey, I recon about four of them of similar mindset, just not strong enough to launch an initial sortie but quite willing and happy to lend ground support, and the rest sufficiently intimidated to keep to themselves.

It’s working. Therapy is working and in those initial moments I am both terrified and grateful. Terrified, because I have no real idea of what to say and how to make the next fifty minutes of any real value to these patients who deserve my best efforts to help them come to a deeper understanding that it is only a power greater then themselves that can lead them to sanity amid the insanity of their addiction. Grateful, because something in the room has been getting to these four over the past few weeks and its making them uncomfortable enough to act it out it the group. If they do not bring their pain into the group there is no meaningful way to point them toward the Power that is more powerful than it, or themselves or their gangs or their drugs, or sex or money or power or anything else in which they put their faith.

The opening salvo is predictable; I am accused of forcing Jesus down their throats. This is a familiar and always amusing criticism, intended to put me on the defensive turning attention way from the accuser. It is amusing because I never mention Jesus, of my own accord in group and only in response to a particular patient’s stated Christian belief or in a litany of examples of a teaching which exists in all the major faith traditions. With a bit of therapeutic conversation I refocus the conversation where it belongs and start probing for what they have really brought to the group: Lives which have known mostly pain and suffering, abandonment, death, loss, abuse and victimization, guilt and shame, loneliness, grief, fear and trembling.

“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth, have you come to destroy us?” (Mark 1: 24), is ringing in my head, and all the while I am praying because I have no idea what Jesus has to do with any of this in their lives as they have lived them in a world light years away from mine; it begins to seem the height of hubris for me to be standing there trying to speak for Jesus to all of that… Then Elvis speaks. Yes, Elvis. There is an Elvis impersonator in the group and he loves the King enough to look quite a bit like him, even in his off time. “I guess what were trying to say is, ‘Where is my God?’”

Suddenly, Ivan Karamazov, after watching wealthy land owner set his hounds upon a boy ripping him to death before his mother’s eyes, is speaking with him: “It isn’t that I refuse to acknowledge God, but I am respectfully giving him back my ticket to a world like this. Understand me, I accept God, but I don’t accept the world God has made. I cannot resolve to accept it.” These young ex-con-addict-gangbangers have not rejected God but are rebelling against the unexpiated suffering (borrowing from Moltmann) of their lives. They are challenging not Jesus of Nazareth but a cultural Christianity that holds up on Sunday mornings with folks who would never be like them—never enter their world of seemingly endless hopelessness and pain—preaching a mind numbing gospel of repentance and goodness and blessed success, illumining their lives as worthlessness and wanting, relegating to the shadows Christ’s radical transforming message of acceptance and love.

If I would speak to them for Jesus, and that is what I’m called (and paid) to do, I had best take seriously the message of Jesus. The Kingdom of God comes closest to the suffering of the poor, to the sufferers who society rejects and judges most wanting. Jesus of Nazareth offers to them acceptance and a radical love of healing and peace and hope, not in some distant time come but here and now. For today and tomorrow and the days after that. Jesus of Nazareth expiates their suffering, but not by asking them to deny it but by joining them there and traveling with them along their way (Luke 24).

So I travel, as best I can with them, acknowledge their experience of betrayal by the Faith and speak with them, as they are able to hear, of how they might find healing for their suffering souls. It is enough that on this short journey, they might however briefly recognize Him. This is what Jesus of Nazareth has to do with them and with us all.

If I would dare to speak for Jesus to them or to any, I had best take seriously as well the suffering journey of my own life. Stand squarely in the face of it. I had best, come like Job, festering, sitting on the midden of that which is my own and pray aloud its truth in sorrow and loss, and sufferings and pains. In praying there recently in this space, I was more fortunate then Job. The blundering Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, Elihu and the ungrateful and phenomenally unsupportive Mrs. Job did not appear, thank God for that, but the blessed voices of the two in whom I recognize God’s presence; a willingness to reach out into a world which may not be their own, but which they nonetheless entered with compassion and concern.

If Elvis were to ask me now, I would answer, “There, there is my God.” I am so blessed. Amen.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blackbird



Blackbird
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.

Blackbird fly
Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird fly Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
Sir Paul McCartney, born June 18, 1942

May we find the courage this week to come to prayer in the dead of night on our broken wings, may we come longing to see through our sunken eyes the dark black light. May we find there the moment we were waiting for and arise from the journey free to fly upon our broke wings and to see the light, even in the darkest night. Amen.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Truth is... Not My Life


I'm living the life no one wants, least of all me. But it is mine and I am responsible for my own happiness and so I must seek the integrity and truth that are mine in the life I've been given.

At 52 divorced 17 years from my husband who cheated on me with women entrusted to his care, I can say that I am only now coming to understand that being a mother is the most life changing thing that has happened to me. Sadly, I am a mother to three children who died before they ever drew a breath, my Dear Little Ones, and to the millions conceived and dead in shattered hopes and broken dreams of over 3,000 monthly vigils held in tortured expectation of s/he who would never come.

I see and read in the blogs and books the term “child free” and although I have no living children, and have spent the last two decades carefully, neurotically and sometimes ragefully, trying to avoid the whole “child/baby thing”, trauma therapists call it selective avoidance, I find now that menopause’s “gifts” have forced me reenter the obgyn zone in ways terrifyingly similar to my infertility struggle days. And by the way, my friends with children are now sprouting grandchildren and I don’t believe I have it in me to not fain excitement about the children of the children whose conceptions, births and lives I systematically avoided for so long because of the unrelenting pain which them simply being kindled within my soul. I cannot live another twenty, thirty, forty years into becoming that old woman, bitter, tortured soul who smells of urine, lives with stray cats, in ceiling-high garbage, friend only to the condescending smile from meals-on-wheels.

Coming now to see more clearly that “child free” is not the truth of me, and that in the grief of them is my maternity for I have pondered them in my heart and carried them in the deepest recesses of my being, having been claimed by a love for them more powerful than any other I have known. Truly, I would and almost did on more than one occasion, give my life for them, sacrifice more of me than I had ever known. In my grieving now I pray for a softening of this mother’s heart of pain and the good guidance of others seeking to make their way through this unmapped, shrouded landscape of living into grief’s maternity.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Living Home


"You can never give another person that which you have found, but you can make him homesick for what you have." Scots Clergyman Oswald Chambers , 1874 – 1917, My Utmost for His Highest.

May our prayers this week carry our hearts home. May we find there that for which they most truly long and may we pray to live so as to ignite such longing in the hearts of all who are entrusted to our care. Amen.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Gratitude: Things That I Loved About Hyde Park Today



Things that were wonderful about Hyde Park today: John Cacioppo presenting his loneliness research, getting my book signed and talking with him—briefly; spinnakers on Lake Michigan—even against grey sky; the guy in the desert camouflage kilt, combat boots, Tilley hat with a pony tail and a laptop waiting for the shuttle bus with Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren; any and everyone on 53rd Street and the fact that driving on 53rd Street is like Frogger on crack; “Free Ice Cream—˃” printed in chalk on the sidewalk across the street from Regenstein Library which stands over the site of the first sustained nuclear reaction and houses some of the most sophisticated attempts by human beings to communicate; 57th Street Art Fair and my friends the Franklins who made it possible. I am grateful.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Loving Frank


“God is the great mysterious motivator of what we call nature, and it has often been said by philosophers, that nature is the will of God. And I prefer to say that nature is the only body of God that we shall ever see.”
Frank Lloyd Wright, June 8 1867 – June 6 1959

With the Wright anniversaries approaching I'm thinking more and more about some of his beautiful homes which were so a part of the town in which I grew up. I'm grateful to have the legacy of appreciation for such grace and beauty. Reading Nancy Horan's fresh novel, Loving Frank, about Wright and his affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney. She and two of her children died horribly in the fire which destroyed, Taliesin, Wright's studio, school, home in Spring Green Wisconsin, which he later rebuilt. It is pictured above. Its resurrection seems a fitting sign of Wright's devotion to the great mystery of his own motivation to create.

May our prayers this week draw us deeply into the great mysteries of nature. May we find there some enduring sense of the God who brought us into being. In so doing may we seek God’s promise for our living that we are a part of a part of a body whose joys and sorrows, happiness’s and griefs, livings and dyings are of a purpose which is far greater than we can ever comprehend. And may our life in that mystery motivate us towards living its grace and beauty, peace and hopefulness for our days. Amen.