Post-Election Beatitudes

What follows is not a statement of political preference – although with little effort one could easily determine my ideology. Nor is this a kumbaya-just-come-to-Jesus plea by someone without convictions who just needs a hug. Nor is it a milk-toast acquiescence to fatalistic non-action. This is a simple exhortation for us to stop living from our heads, perhaps even our hearts.

It is an invitation for us all to rediscover ourselves. Our souls.

Anyone within spitting distance of social media the past few weeks, uh, months…well, years actually, has had to endure the cage match that has become political discourse in this country. Chances are you jumped in to scrap on occasion as well. Come on, admit it, doesn’t it feel positively cathartic to drop your well-reasoned, deftly-articulated, bulletproof opinions into the foxhole and then run back and wait for the barrage of new disciples? 

I confess, despite self-promises to the contrary, I too have sparred from time to time online. I too have seen what you have seen – a massive groundswell of support and teary-eyed repentance because someone, namely me, finally spoke the truth.

Yeah, that’s what happened.

Actually, I merely added to the carnage of dry bones philosophizing in the desert of ignorance, that welcomed a never ending explosion of verbal piranha-ism. There was no change whatsoever in anyone’s beliefs. Ever. And, if anything I walked away inwardly disheveled and outwardly grumpy. No one gained anything at all from the exchange, least of all me. My soul was tattered and, worse still, I was beset by a deepening sense of guilt for having added to the seething Gehenna that is Facebook politics. The Twitterisms of twattle. I bred dissension rather than being an instrument of peace (thank you Saint Francis).  

Now that the exhausting (and tellingly self-important) process that is the American election cycle has come to an end, I have peace. Oddly. I think it’s a bit like getting a needle at the doctor’s office. The waiting is always the worst part. Well, usually. We’ve endured a two and a half year drum roll, waiting to hear the fat lady sing after the failed attempt to shoot someone out of a cannon.

We can easily get stuck between the clarion call of a golden era, hiding somewhere in our not-so-distant past. Or, we become dilettantes of some visionary Utopia yet to be unveiled. Either way, we miss the sweetness of this moment.

This sound. That smile.

This smell. That embrace.

This possibility. That touch.

This challenge. That kiss.

Listen, I’m not happy that Donald Trump is our President. I’m not happy that almost half the population didn’t even bother to vote. I’m not happy with the entire political process in this country. I’m not happy with the deep divisions that exist among us.

But, I am in fact, happy. Or, in faith language, I’m blessed. I have peace in the aftermath. It is the unquantifiable peace of Christ, whose love is so much stronger than our naïve opinions and murky thoughts.

So, here I share my personal Beatitudes for the coming days of uncertainty, safe in the knowledge that I need neither knowledge nor safety nor certainty, to be blessed.

Dear friends, will you join me in pursuing such blessing?

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Blessed is the one who awoke to draw breath for another day.

Blessed is the one who sees him/herself in the eyes of another. 

Blessed is the one who appreciates the dare of morning and the hush of night. 

Blessed is the one who finds solace in the laughter of children.

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom in the presence of elders.

Blessed is the one who cannot find hatred within, no matter who sits in power.

Blessed is the one whose speech is poetry, whose work is homily, whose life is liturgy.

Blessed is the one who sees past the surface to find the goodness in things.

Blessed is the one whose trust isn’t in flag, policy, or party – but in the Christ of love. 

Blessed is the one.

Blessed is. 

Blessed.

Bless.

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Lighting candles of healing, hope, and unity at Yakima Covenant Church (November 13, 2016)

 

Maidin Paidir – Domhnaigh

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Morning Prayer – Sunday

 

With tear-drenched voices,

lungs outstretched to sing,

our guts emboldened, well-fed

on flesh, broken –

and tongues to taste blood from a cup,

let our tiny reverie resound

in the vast echo of your heart,

beating like yours.

 

Madin Paidir – Sathairn

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Morning Prayer – Saturday

In our frantic days

carved more in years than hours,

remind our hands to reconnect

to our yearning,

our feet to our love and, together,

find again our place

in the bosom of God.

Maidin Paidir – Déardaoin

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Morning Prayer – Thursday

 

Lord, sometimes we laugh.

And our chuckles of contentedness

are just tall enough to reach the table

upon which is spread

a riotous meal of grace.

 

Where all laughter begins.

Maidin Paidir – Luain

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This title is not so cryptic (or shamelessly hipster) as you might imagine. Rather, it is the not-so-original title of this new series entitled simply, Morning Prayer in Gaelic. This is of course, Luain, or Monday.

On this grey, rain-damp morning in Yakima – a rare, but gratefully received, occurrence in this geography – I offer up a new series of simple, daily morning prayers.

My intention for these prayers is that goodness, grace, and presence may result, if only long enough to bridge our awake-ness with awareness.

May just enough grime from the windshield of our lives be wiped away by a few words to the God who sees us through and in spite of it.

 

I

God of first things,

don’t stay in the queue we impose on you

to accommodate our tiny desires.

Erase our pages of want,

if only to satiate the thirst

we didn’t know we had.

Off-the-Rails or On the Wrong Train?

Train Tracks.jpgMy thoughts have been troubled of late. They take turns volleying between self-abasement and self-awareness. The dizzying heights of self-knowledge are fleeting, never staying as long as I need them to in order to affect any real change. The easily derailed choo-choo that is my brain isn’t always the engine that could. Often, at least in darker times, it is the train that won’t!

As I’ve alluded to elsewhere, in January of this year, I experienced what I might call a “Spirit-induced glimpse” into the possibilities of anxiety-free living. Following an emotional breakdown, God granted a 12-day “deliverance” from a deeply embedded fear. A veil was lifted, if only for a time, just long enough for me to smell the better air above the clouds of my oft-stormy psyche.

It was a gift. One that would not last but which I eagerly received.

I saw no angels. I did not speak in tongues. The back-of-my-neck hair stayed still. And, I had no beatific visions. What I did have however was a new appreciation for the glorious mundane as it appears to an uncluttered mind at rest.

I made decisions. I cleared detritus from my schedule – a schedule unrealistically packed full of the vicissitudes of one reaching anywhere for validation.

As I am learning, adoptees suffer more than others with fear of rejection and of taking risks. Our need for deep connection, protection, and nurture runs far deeper in us than it might in others. It has led me to waltz too easily, regularly, and with little forethought across boundaries into the space of others.

I become unrealistic in my perceived need of their attention, their support; their endorsement. When it becomes too stifling and they pull away, I panic and up the ante, making things worse. I grab for ankles from under the water, threatening to pull the poor buggers down with me.

It is the price of my intensity. And, it has chased away more than one friend. It is a lonely existence. Those like me generally vacillate between the ache of loneliness and the ache of shame – an unwelcome tightrope to be sure.

Usually about now is when the psychologists offer a word or two about healthy boundaries. Very good. However, my own experience suggests that merely living within prescribed boundaries isn’t always enough. Helpful, yes. Necessary in fact. And, it can be protective of further damage to be sure. But, for me at least, it was still only symptomatic of deeper reasons that gave rise to over-extended living in the first place.

As an adult adoptee, I suffer from off-the-charts fear of abandonment. Until recently, it drove the bus of my life. It was the track upon which this train moved, with or without my conscious permission.

Biblical language would suggest the term idolatry lying at root of this harrowing ill. But I confess that even that was never deep enough to pull out any roots. I was always left treating symptoms: lack of boundaries, fear of risk, inability to delegate, fear of failure/rejection, etc., etc.

Instead, it was God who needed to reach in and pull out this lifelong fear (or, at least point it out), which lay at the root of many little idolatries. In other words, I only think, act, and live wrongly because of much deeper reasons – reasons of pain rather than peace.

Now that some real healing has begun, the blessing of a transformed consciousness has opened the door to limitless other possibilities for new life – one grounded in grace, rather than just scrambling after “idolatry-free” living. All that ever does is give rise to, and fuel, a life off-the-rails. The gardener knows to pull the root and many of the rotted branches begin to fall away. Heal the plant, and the leaves will follow.

Or, in keeping with our metaphor, we stoke the deepest fire and the core is given strength to move and guide as it should. The engine of spiritual health promises a more unified train pulling in one direction on well-laid track. This is God’s doing.

It’s not always that we’re off-the-rails. Sometimes we’re simply on the wrong train.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not a party till the piper comes

This blog has been kind of a one-stop shop for all things spiritual; the stuff life throws my way and what, by God’s grace, I get to hurl back. Much of that is intimately tied to my Celtic DNA. A Canadian by birth, an American by address, a Scot by history, bloodline, and luck – I gain much from this tossed salad of personal ingredients. 

Perhaps none more so however than the joy and pride I take in being a Highland Bagpiper.

bagpiper.jpgNow, I recognize that many out there might consider it an oddity for such a thing to be a point of pride. Well, to those misdirected naysayers, I share the following excerpt from a delightful book I’ve been reading entitled A Celtic Miscellany. It is a varied, and utterly delightful collection of literary bits ‘n bobs, all masterfully translated from early Celtic literature by Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson.

From a section on humour and satire (something in which the Celts took great delight and did astonishingly well), I give you “Welsh Harper and English Bagpiper.” It describes the self-pity of a self-congratulatory Welsh harper at being upstaged by, you guessed it, a bagpiper.

Enjoy (he says, trying unsuccessfully to rub the silly grin off his face).

“Last Sunday I came – a man whom the Lord God made – to the town of Flint, with its great double walls and rounded bastions; may I see it all aflame! An obscure English wedding was there, with but little mead – an English feast! and I meant to earn a shining solid reward for my harper’s art. So I began, with ready speed, to sing an ode to the kinsmen; but all I got was mockery, spurning of my song, and grief. It was easy for hucksters of barley and corn to dismiss all my skill, and they laughed at my artistry, my well-prepared panegyric which they did not value; John of the Long Smock began to jabber of peas, and another about dung for his land. They all called for William the Piper to come to the table, a low fellow he must be. He came forward as though claiming his usual rights, though he did not look like a privileged man, with a groaning bag, a paunch of heavy guts, at the end of a stick between chest and arm. He rasped away, making startling grimaces, a horrid noise, from the swollen belly, bulging his eyes; he twisted his body here and there, and puffed his two cheeks out, playing with his fingers on a bell of hide – unsavoury conduct, fit for the unsavoury banqueters. He hunched his shoulders, amid the rout, under his cloak, like a worthless ballad-monger; he snorted away, and bowed his head until it was on his breast, the very image of a kite with skilful zeal preening its feathers. The pigmy puffed, making an outlandish cry, blowing out the bag with a loud howl; it sang like the buzzing of a hornet, that devilish bag with the stick in its head, like a nightmare howl, fit to kill a mangy goose, like a sad bitch’s hoarse howl in its hollow kennel; a harsh paunch with monotonous cry, throat-muscles squeezing out a song, with a neck like a crane’s where he plays, like a stabbed goose screeching aloud. There are voices in that hollow bag like the ravings of a thousand cats; a monotonous, wounded, ailing, pregnant goat – no pay for its hire. After it ended its wheezing note, that cold songstress whom love would shun, Will got his fee, namely bean-soup and pennies (if they paid) and sometimes small halfpennies, not the largesse of a princely hand; while I was sent away in high vexation from the silly feast all empty-handed. I solemnly vow, I do forswear wretched Flint and all its children, and its wide, hellish furnace, and its English people and its piper! That they should be slaughtered is all my prayer, my curse in their midst and on their children; sure, if I go there again, may I never return alive!

(Welsh; authorship uncertain; fifteenth century).

Well then. I’ll just leave this here, shall I?funny_bagpipes_cards-r3e45aedba9bb4a898a576c4c32274e9e_xvuak_8byvr_512