Tag Archives: faith and hope

Countering Some Cultural Assumptions

Some assumptions in our culture:

*what I need must be purchasable.

but what if it is not?  The sages of all the great Wisdom Traditions would say this is an illusion.

*a bad lie got me into this, maybe a good lie can get me out of it.

but what if lying is a labyrinth without exit?  Mark Twain’s insight is worth pondering at such a moment, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said.”

*I am and because I am, I am entitled to everything.  

but what if  you are derived, a being dependent upon Another and your spark of life has been given to you?  Provided for you?   Then you are not entitled to everything but everything you have been given is a gift and thus, gratitude—and not entitlement—is the, or should be the, prevailing sentiment by which you live your life.

*Getting even, fighting for every square inch, demanding my place and placement in the order of things is all that matters.

*but what if revenge only perpetuates violence and revenge and demanding one’s place actually undermines one’s placement?  Jesus taught that the first shall be last and the last first, that the humble would be exalted.  What if living that way, the Christ Way, was actually a liberation and a freedom from the gyre of destruction and death?

*There is no God.

if you find yourself lost inside a system of caves and with little light making its way through the shaft through which you crawled, are you sure you shouldn’t call out?  It’s not that you’re wrong to conclude it is dark or that you’re alone in the moment.  It’s not that you are wrong that things look bleak.  But our culture bleats out that there is no God when much of the time what it is really saying is, I cannot believe any longer in the superstition that human beings are gods and that we’re reasonable enough to make things better.  In that sense, I’m an unbeliever.  I do not believe in Human.  There’s just too much empirical evidence to ever embrace that as a reasonable belief.  God IS.  I AM is how God revealed God’s self to Moses at the burning bush. Take that golden thread of your own “I am” and follow it; it will lead you to a gate at Jerusalem’s wall (as the poet William Blake wrote so beautifully).  It makes absolute sense and is a rational act to call out to God.

Out of the depths, I cry unto you O Lord.

Lord, hear my voice! . . .

~Psalm 130

Within the tick tock clockwork of your existence; along the pathways of the labyrinth which is your life; from season to season and moment calling to moment, may you hear if only faintly, the words of the Good Shepherd that you are not alone.

Bury This Near Your Heart, You Will Need It One Winter’s Day

The birds and squirrels are stashing nuts, squirreling away food. The days are still bright and the sun will warm the kettle afternoon so we are deceived that winter is far over the horizon.  But it is coming and the creatures know this even if we won’t admit it.

I have met one famous, at least, one very well-regarded poet in my life and it was only because I got the lovely task of reviewing an anthology of his for The Columbus Dispatch back around 1991.  The anthology was not poems but essays written by magnificent writers entitled, Incarnation:  Contemporary Writers On The New Testament. Alfred  Corn was poet in residence at the Thurber House that was right around the corner from my first full-time pastorate.  I wrote a review. He called me up.  He was generous and brilliant and I stupidly insulted him (I’m sure) with an off-hand comment about the South, dealing as I was in stereotype and, well, stupidity.  He didn’t act insulted. He was generous and forgiving and overlooked my short stature.

Why did I bring him up?  Oh, because I was talking about winter and seasons of sorrow (though I have not brought that topic up, but it is hidden beneath the snow that has not appeared as yet).  When I went to Columbus, Ohio, fresh out of seminary, I left behind my supervising professor for the PHD, John Jonsson, a man who was learned and brilliant and deeply caring about the world and me. So I found myself in Columbus with a deep sadness that I could not name.  I didn’t have the foresight of a squirrel.  Seamus Heaney, the great Irish poet, now deceased as is my dear professor Jonsson, crafted a line in his book of poems, Human Chain, “I know the pain of loss/before I know the term.”  This is an example of what Jonsson would call the “pre textual” aspect of scripture. Before there was holy writ, there was holy and unholy (profane) experience.  The luminous poet, Mary Oliver, reflected in her book of poems, Thirst, “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness/It took me years to understand/that this too was a gift.”

Autumn is glinting silver around us in blue sky the color of cerulean pottery glowing fresh out of the kiln.  What a beautiful season.  It is not unusual that we become reflective and even sad at times in Autumn.  The little creatures of God are preparing for loss.  We should as well. Take a poem or a psalm or some words of Jesus and bury them near your heart.  Then on one cold, dark, winter day, uncover them so you can remember what Shakespeare wrote (in Macbeth):    “Come what come may, Time and the hour runs through the roughest day. ”  For poets, for stars at night, for scripture like lanterns and for the love of God that is enduring, give thanks.  Sorrow, like the night, will give way.  It must.  And by all rights, it will.

~See you Sunday