Life neither owes you anything nor is it out to get you. Both ideas are to be relinquished. The first, is your right to feel entitled. The second, is clinging to the familiarity of fear that says you’re not worthy of carving out a place for yourself in this world. If engaged authentically, life will both humble and dignify you in its struggle. It is the nature of grace to dress you in the vulnerability of your realized nakedness.
Pierced and Potent
“It is finished,”
Means it’s just beginning…
Flow and glow,
And River patrol.
Last shall be first,
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst.
Washing our feet,
Will be enough.
There is no need,
For all that extra stuff.
Sacrifice? It’s done. Go learn what mercy means…
Guillotines solve the problem,
Of split minds…
Jesus was a chicken with His head cut off,
So avoid what’s benign.
His blood cures,
Not dirty like mud,
But cleansing the crud.
By His wounds,
We are healed to receive this new lens.
So peer from this perspective.
One given not earned.
Both desired and required,
To see the enchantment that none of us deserve.
The Kingdom is coming.
The Kingdom is here.
Within which we see,
Without free of fear.
Ghosts of Christmas haunt,
But never last.
Only One left standing,
To salute in this cast.
Her name is Love.
She descends as a dove.
To empower this heavenly journey,
Humanly fit like a glove.
So remove your stained glass,
If just for a peak.
Drift inward to see,
And hear this Love speak.
Peer through this lens,
One glance and ascend,
To a clear and free vantage,
Of Beginning and End.
If I had but one day left
I would remain quiet
To see God
Would you give
that to me?
If I had but one day left
I would give it
For you to
in who You
Would you receive that
All the cares
all the concerns
with this single turn
If you had but one day left
would you open
up to see
That inside you
Clothed in flesh and blood
buried beneath lies and misery
Invite it in
let it have
You are the treasure
you have been seeking
If you had but one day left
would you dare to trust
that your inclusion at the banquet is a must?
Kick your shoes off
Dance in the dust
tattered and bruised
If I had but one day left,
I would remain quiet
To see God
Fall comes upon us now,
Like a turn of the page.
Representing Newness and Saunter.
We slow down, and eagerly await…
You see, somehow things have changed,
And they won´t return.
We too find ourselves like the Autumn leaf,
Strong, scarlet, beaming and growing in intensity.
The first signaling,
Of Winter´s coming,
Of such Fragility.
Soon to be laid bare.
We know all too well,
These Stormy Seas.
You´ve rode down with me,
To Hell, with keys.
In my hemorrhaging.
I vow to return,
Such lavish hospitality.
You see Dear,
I am the fruit of your commitment…
The reflection of what you´ve given,
Reflected back as you deserve.
Let me cover you my Lover.
Let me whisper with my hands.
Hear them transmit my belief in you.
They are my Heart´s true stand.
It´s Life I seek,
In this Cave together,
We have carved.
It´s dark I know.
But soon we´ll see,
This backdrop´s gift,
Contrast to Light´s Mystery.
Delight always begins and ends in We.
“We are a small but important part in our universe. We all have a part to play. We need each other.”
Flor lay in her favorite spot in the kitchen, catching rays of light through the opaque frosted glass door. She looked confused.
I was dancing on my knees, half a peanut butter jelly sandwich in my left hand, arm stretched high, gesturing in sync with Macklemore’s track, Glorious.
I feel glorious, glorious
Got a chance to start again
I was born for this, born for this
It’s who I am, how could I forget?
“God, thinking we’d enjoy ourselves,” writes Fr. Gregory Boyle, “That God’s joy may be in us and this joy may be complete. We just happen to be God’s joy. That takes some getting used to.”
Taryn, was in and out of the kitchen relaying instructions and ingredients to Levi, who was helping her make strawberry kombucha on the other side of the apartment.
“Where can we write down what we need from the store?” I asked, as she entered to re-fill a cup of strawberries.
I had pulled out the last trash bag from underneath the sink which had placed me in the kneeling position in the first place.
Shortly after asking, Jakob emerged from the living room where he and Lucas had been playing with Duplos-oversized Lego blocks-the ones easier to use for smaller children.
He had been on a creative roll and was donning a very cool spaceship. I approached him delighted, redirecting him back into the living room in order to check in on Lucas together. Come to find out, Lucas also had a quite mean train built, equally lost in his own play.
Re-joining Lucas on the floor, Jakob, content with himself and the feedback he received, sat down and acknowledged his own delight in the situation-uttering the words-“I love you, Lucas.”
Saturday morning. Tasting delight. Paying it forward. Forgetting ourselves through play. Sharing in the phenomenon of We.
“I want to partner fully with you in every part of our life,” I said, proclaiming my highest intention within my marriage.
I had just gotten off a call that had me feeling inspired, one day last week.
“Tell me more,” she said.
I was beaming the truth of the energy behind the statement and she felt it. So, she asked for more.
The truth is, I was wanting more of the same of what we were already learning to create for ourselves-equal partnership inside our marriage.
My inherited models had placed me in a dominant and entitled position in the past; where I consider my time, interests, and work in the world, supreme, all the while watching my ego hide, justify, and defend itself; playing the victim when not getting its way. An avoidance of true maleness, which is naked and unabashedly, unashamed.
I can still play this game.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
My LifePlan serves as a corrective for my accrued, habitual, self-centered way of being inside my marriage.
As the context for my life’s Greatest Delight and Most Demanding Work, our relationship serves as a symbol of Singularity, and, an arena for the constant Vision of Vulnerability.
It also puts me in touch with my deeper desires and longings; otherwise known as prayer.
“People would be surprised if they knew what their souls said to God sometimes.”
It’s taken me a long time to begin to learn what vulnerability actually looks like as a practice inside of marriage. And it at least includes the continual recognition that We need one another, having exhausted the unspoken myth that the other person will make me whole, no longer blaming them for what’s “wrong” nor expecting them to fix whatever I think is broken. Yet, somehow in the sharing of both our honest struggles and genuine aspirations, We grow in recognizing our interdependence-contributing to, and being enriched in, the safety of a mutual commitment to self-disclosure. In this way, We gets enlarged, space is created for others to join in and together we discover the reality that we really do belong to one another; fashioned from the same likeness, invited to stay through whatever current illusion may be in the way of the truth of our oneness. Indeed marriage, in the spirit of We, is a crisis to the fearful, possessive, protective, manipulative and destructive ways of the false-self.
“Many people, nations and institutions perish because they do not dare expose themselves to the pains of suffering, crisis and rebirth. Only those who go through the crisis, only whose who endure “the perils of the soul” and brave the unknown dangers of the future find the way to new, mature and productive life. They attain the experience of the Maturing-We and they help this We even if they sacrifice their lives in joining it. They find themselves and they find the We-the We being their Self. Even if they lose their lives they will find them.”
I woke up on a warm winter day in South Texas almost four years ago. And moved into my routine as usual.
We were living with Taryn’s parents, preparing to move to Spain. A lot of uncertainty loomed around whether the move would happen, and if so, when. I was still heavily relying on the very limited resources of self-sufficiency that were beginning to wear thin during this time. And surrender was looking a lot like sabotage.
I encountered the end of myself that morning.
Alone in one of the bedrooms upstairs, I threw whatever book I was searching for answers in across the room, exhausted with my approach to the circumstances. It was a Sunday.
Feeling pathetic, I slumped down into the olive colored chaise lounge along the wall.
The phone rang.
I answered it.
It was my brother. He asked how I was doing. I don’t know what I said, but I know I lied-probably saying, “I’m ok,” or something similar.
He then jumped into sharing about a dream he had the previous night, skipping past any small talk.
The crux of the dream was this…
There were two people searching for something important. One had a map. That person shared the map with the other person. They navigated the journey together, never finding what they were looking for. The purpose all along was to explore together. The discovery was, that the meaning found in that, was truer than the thing they set out to look for.
My brother’s dream could not have been more perfectly timed. And he of course had no way to know that.
“Knowing confers fellowship,” writes German theologian Jurgen Moltmann, “That is why knowing only goes as far as love, sympathy and participation reach.”
It seems only through We can there be access to more.
I love the darkness of my soul.
Those words are a statement of faith. Because until I can accept my own darkness, I am dangerous to myself and others. Literally, walking around split off from crucial parts of myself. Yet, my sense of needing to be qualified through perfect performance so often keeps me from the delight of participation. I can remain in the despair of thinking I know best how things ought to be, refusing to play until things are different.
Often the solidarity of “me too,” If I allow it, it can jolt me out of that constricted space and return me to a more spacious view, where “everything belongs,” as Richard Rohr names it. In this way, I get more of me through leaning into We.
“No despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there…We are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.”
Delight always begins and ends in We.
I interrupted a video call with my dear friend Marcos in order to greet my family. The boys had just come home from school. Levi, my six-year old son, had done a great job restraining himself from opening the door to the guest room where I sat in my favorite yellow arm chair.
“I’ll be out in a minute, buddy,” I called to him.
I could see his silhouette through the opaque glass panel in the door.
“Truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
I slept through my 5am alarm this morning, or, maybe I never set it. I don’t really remember.
Our five-year old son Jakob came into our room just after 6am. I used it as my cue to get out of bed as he assumed my spot, clutching the pillow as he laid down.
Walking out of the bedroom I stepped over our dog ‘Flor’ who was still snoozing.
Bathroom. Heater. Coffee. Shoes. Jacket. Bags. Treats.
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
Flor typically walks me in the morning much more than I walk her. This was a good day in that regard though, because she took care of her business quickly, allowing us to turn back towards the apartment after just a few minutes of being outside.
It was a cold morning. And I was happy to be back indoors. Rising to the fifth floor of our building, I exited the elevator and opened the door to blindness. Feeling and hearing the sound of dark silence sitting in the apartment, my eyes quickly adjusted.
Hang up keys. Hang up leash. Empty pockets.
After pouring myself a cup of coffee I proceeded down the hallway to the guest room. Flor curled up at my feet as I eased down into the yellow armchair next to the window.
I would spend the next hour and a half there, simmering in silent meditation. Reviewing the previous day and considering what this one held in store.
The anomaly of everyone sleeping in was an extra treat today. And emotionally I felt like I needed the time. But as the clock rolled past 8am, it became time to begin waking folks up.
Lucas, our three-year old son, had also entered our bed at some point during the night. I spotted his thin, playful, wispy hair, partially matted to his scalp, above the potato sack sized bulge of his curled-up body, snuggled up behind my wife Taryn.
She laid in the middle of our bed, sandwiched between the two boys.
Reaching my left arm carefully across my other son Jakob’s body, I placed my hand on top of the duvet resting on her back.
Sunlight peered through the bottom of the partially raised ‘persiana’ into the bedroom.
“Hey,” I muttered quietly, without whispering, shaking her shoulder slightly, “it’s after 8 o’clock.”
Beautifully open-eyed she sat up. Her face expressed shock at the news of the time as she inhaled the kind of breath one does when coming up for air after being under water.
I handed her the mug of coffee I had been holding in my right-hand, offering it as a kind of consolation that all was well.
Feeling satisfied, I strolled down the hallway back to the kitchen and began to make sandwiches for the boy’s school snack.
Slowly, the once dark and still space of the apartment began to rouse with the morning noise of pattering feet, opening doors, flushing commodes and high-pitched, groggy requests. Meanwhile, the doggy greeting service proceeded forth, as Flor scurried out of the kitchen in search of her signature hind legged balancing hugs.
Likely receiving a stiff arm from Lucas on his way to the living room, she persisted in pursuit of the onesie, pajama wearing three-year old.
Oh God…the comedy of it all, I thought to myself, spreading mayonnaise on the second of three ‘jamon’ sandwiches. I checked my phone. The time was 8:15, which meant we had around 30 minutes until departure for school. This was doable.
Glimpsing Taryn in my peripheral vision near the doorway to the kitchen, I continued with the morning’s duties, focusing in my mind, on what still needed to be done for an on-time take off.
Breakfast, clothes, …
The thoughts were interrupted by a scream.
Taryn quickly turned out of the kitchen, moving towards the shrieks coming from the living room.
A few seconds passed. I held the aluminum foil. My hand suspended in the hair awaiting the report.
“What happened?” Private-eye Jakob had now approached the scene.
“Oh, Flor just threw up,” Taryn answered nonchalantly, already on the way back to the kitchen for a rag and cleaner.
Opening the cabinet below the sink, she collected the necessary cleaning items and returned to the mess.
Before she finished, another shrill bounced through the apartment.
“Flor went poo-poo!!!”
Are you fucking kidding me…?
I could feel a headache coming on. Feeling my jaw clenching-up I searched in vain for access to more hospitable interior resources.
I tried to focus and sink into the sensation of constriction I felt pinching my brain as a first step in attempting to practice the Welcoming Prayer.
To no avail.
I had been knocked off Center and felt the disappointment rising at what seemed like sure defeat. My thoughts were off and running around the corners of my shame basement where little Jonathan dwelled in the self-pity corner.
I don’t actually remember cleaning up the poop in the hallway. I had been cut-off from connection to the moment and my attention was fragmented in the tumbling-dryer like upheaval of my racing negativity.
Walking down the hallway I became conscious of my frozenness when confronted with a simple request by my six-year old son Levi with a look of sheer, “how dare you ask me for something at this moment?”
And although my anger was then already being projected outward, the ugly messages of meaning that were arising out of the basement of despair had public enemy number one, yours truly, in their cross-hairs.
“When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”
Violence always starts with an act of rejection against the self.
Yet, in passing Levi, something stronger than self-hate began to surround and clarify my shroud of doom, and I glimpsed an opening to choose.
And then a question showed up.
Who do I want to be in this situation? I thought, remembering the innocence of Levi’s face in my mind’s eye.
Welcome imperfection. Welcome control. Welcome need. Welcome Levi. Welcome Jakob. Welcome Lucas. Welcome Taryn. Welcome Flor. Welcome Life. Welcome Home.
“Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently than the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it.”
Joy is a choice.
We made it to school on time that morning. Just barely. And the romp down our neighborhood’s sidewalks was joyously blissful. A choice of acceptance-celebrating the privilege of living life on life’s terms.
That afternoon, emerging from the guest room, after ending my call, Levi sat in the middle of the hallway playing.
He looked up at me.
Striding over the doggy gate I spotted a small shiner below his left eye.
“Hi daddy,” he said, returning to the scene of his play.
Sitting down slowly if front of him I placed my chin just above my bended knee.
“What happened to your eye, buddy?”
“‘So n’ so’ kicked me,” he said, matter-of-factly, holding a tinge of woe-is-me in his voice.
“What happened?” I asked, genuinely offering curiosity and concern.
I was surprised by the ability I had to be present to the situation.
“The first principal of non-violent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating.”
No blame. Withholding judgement. A better kind of listening.
We eventually got to the bottom of the situation, finding out Levi wasn’t just a victim in the story.
Together, along with Jakob and Taryn, we sat in the hallway in support of our son and brother. We created space to talk about a difficult situation for Levi and his schoolmate. We modeled non-violence in our communication and became a living sign of hope, discovering a new way of being in the world-opening up space for a six-year old boy to access his own connection with a more spacious interior. I’m reminded that it’s only in the presence of this kind of compassionate, collective, curiosity, where real choice even becomes possible.
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
Today is not a new day, unless allowed to be…
Today is not a test to be passed, nor a threat to be survived.
Today is not a riddle to be figured out, nor a stage to be performed upon.
Today is not mine to protect, nor is it yours for the taking.
Today demands nothing, while inviting Everything.
There’s no timer indicating Today’s beginning.
Today will be what Today will be.
Today can be molded but never manipulated…
It can be shaped but cannot be scrapped.
Today cannot be shared until accepted.
Today cannot be possessed until surrendered to.
Today cannot be wielded until possessed.
Today cannot be observed, unless it includes participation.
Today must be lived.
Today must be dove into.
Today is not an obstacle to overcome…
Not a second chance to redo or undo what’s been done.
Today is like an unfolding dawn, given to expand what is seen.
It includes Yesterday, and Recycles History.
Today demands unknowing yet expels fear.
It invites vulnerability, yet does away with insecurity.
Today relentlessly invites the Now-even while being guided by Tomorrow.
Like intimate companions Today follows Tomorrow, or is it Tomorrow that follows Today?
Today does not hurry, yet neither does it wait.
Today both shakes and fills…
Enter into Today-a boundless inquiry of Mystery and Thrill.
I sat on the cold, tile-floored kitchen, my left shoulder against the door, my knees bent, my feet tucked underneath them, my legs leaning towards the door, held up by the strength of my right hip and the weight of my body. I was wearing my house clothes-black sweatpants and a grey, hooded, zip-up sweatshirt. I stared at my house shoes-processing my thoughts. I felt at once tired and embraced.
“I get triggered,” I began. Looking up towards Taryn who now joined me in sitting on the floor.
Flor was sprawled out next to me. I reached my hand over to touch the back of her furry neck.
I had not liked the way the morning had began, and I was blaming.
My tone of frustration for things not being to my liking, had given way to a softer recognition of the problem being one on the inside of me. This shift had contributed to Taryn’s position moving from one of standing, busy with tasks, to being seated, attentively listening as she faced me.
I recall the words of my LifePlan:
“As the context for my life’s Greatest Delight and Most Demanding Work, our relationship serves as a symbol of Singularity, and, an arena for the constant Vision of Vulnerability.”
We sat there for a while, talking, listening, exchanging mutual self-disclosure. Breathing in the air of the space that the conversation was creating.
Meanwhile, the boys ran about back and forth down the hallway playing hide-and-seek. Every so often one of them tried to open the door, usually Jakob, wondering when we were going to the store. He had plans to get a new Cars 3 toy with his piggy-bank savings.
“When Mommy and Daddy are done, Jakob,” Taryn announced again, followed by a whine and stomping feet. We looked at each other smiling about his reaction in its consistent predictability.
We were on day 16, the last and final day, of the Christmas holidays. During which, two out of three of, our boys had contracted chicken pox. The night before I had squirt half of Lucas’ ‘acetaminophen’ accidentally on the side of his face. It had been that sort of day. We were tired. And our coming together in the kitchen that morning was in recognition that we weren’t going to get through the day without staying in concert with our connection to one another.
Love always costs more than we are initially prepared to give. And the process of surrendering to something bigger is so intricately intertwined with the most important relationships in one’s life.
In my case, this starts in many ways, with my relationship to my wife. It seems we have the frustratingly good fortune of living a life that, literally, doesn’t work without such a practice of coming together around the details of our days, as much as around more long-term dreams and plans.
That morning I was experiencing the fruit of that commitment for myself. Again, from the context of my LifePlan.
“Together we are learning to give the best of what we share away, while struggling to stay grounded in the Truth-that GOD IS EVERYTHING, and every part of us is welcome here, and that awareness alone brings out the best in us.”
Our surrender to something bigger, in this case the demands of authentic partnership, transform the relentlessness of that work into a delivery system of refuge for both of us.
We landed in a place of giving thanks for specific aspects of our life together, giving ourselves and one another affirmations, in a way that honored, and even revelled, in our oneness. We were ready to move on from there, together.
Preparing the baking soda bath for my three-year-old son Lucas, I noticed the way his delicate skin had been transformed by the bumps and blisters.
He was drowsy from the anti-histamine he had taken, and sat hunched forward in the tub, hugging his knees to his chest while I poured cups of water over his back; occasionally sprinkling baking soda directly on his skin to dry out the broken blisters before rinsing it off.
I continued dipping the blue plastic cup, almost rhythmically, into the water sitting inside the slightly darker blue plastic tub in which Lucas sat. Slowly I poured the water down his back.
I felt tired.
Life is terrible, I thought. Wonderfully terrible. And terribly beautiful.
The poet Rilke writes, “For beauty is only the beginning of a terror we can just scarcely bear and the reason we adore it so is that it serenely disdains to destroy us.”
As I write this, I think of the multiple people I know who are going through some of the worse kinds of losses.
A daughter struggling with substance addiction, the death of a son to its disease.
The sudden death of an active and healthy father.
A spouse with late stage cancer, another with the early onslaught of Alzheimer’s.
The loss of a lifetime family home to wildfires.
Life is terrible. Wonderfully terrible. And terribly beautiful.
I sometimes meet life with disappointment in having the expectation that things will one day be easy. But I’m finding that it is through the acceptance of difficulty, not in spite of it, that a paradoxical ease is actually delivered. And it comes in the form of a posture of non-clinging.
This stance, of course, can be cultivated in myriad ways. Practiced through things like prayer and meditation. But, it often comes most powerfully through the shock of loss, delivering the beatitudinal blessing of being in a right relationship with people, places and things. Where we learn to honor life’s impermanence and passing nature-having been broken open by the beauty and terror of things.
The spiritual journey often begins with such shocks, or, some other injection of emotional pain. Shaking us from the illusion of security and control to which we’ve been clinging. In fact, it is often only through suffering that we can access the love with which our hearts most deeply desire.
Richard Rohr writes:
“Any journey of great love or great suffering makes us go deeper into our faith and eventually into what can only be called universal truth. Love and suffering are finally the same, because those who love deeply are committing themselves to eventual suffering. And those who suffer often become the greatest lovers.”
Finishing the bath, I wrapped Lucas in a towel, and grabbing the calamine lotion and cotton swabs we then headed down the hallway to the living room.
It was a beautifully sunny, albeit chilly day, and the south eastern sun light shone down directly into the room.
Placing him on his feet in front of the radiator heater, I flipped on the TV and began dabbing his body with the increasingly pink cotton swab.
Lucas is feeling better.
He’s still home from school but hopefully will be able to return next week.
In the meantime, he is enjoying the attention and special treatment.
And even though we are adjusting to the circumstances the feelings of wishing they were different, just like any other day, sometimes shows-up. There is an invitation to a practice in learning to welcome them.
Yesterday afternoon, Lucas burst into the hallway from the living room, announcing enthusiastically, “Pee-pee…poo-poo!” Flor had donated both to the floor.
I cleaned it up.
Lucas, having gone into his bedroom, reappeared, equally enthusiastic, now holding a plastic rhinoceros in hand.
“No more pee-pee, Daddy!”
“Learn from the things that are already in the place where you wish you were not.”
-Pádraig Ó Tuama
Indeed. Life is terrible. Wonderfully terrible. Terribly beautiful.
And love always costs more than we are initially prepared to give…love anyway.
My Birthday is approaching, in a few days. And here in Spain, the momentum of ‘las fiestas’ is still building, awaiting its crescendo on King’s Day, or, ‘El Dia de Los Reyes’-coinciding with the Feast of Epiphany. I have a fat Cuban cigar awaiting me. A birthday present to myself, I plan to enjoy, alone, in prayerful reflection.
A couple of years ago my in-laws generously gifted me some cash for my birthday. I bought a pair of jeans, now patched up from wear, a denim shirt, that I’m wearing today, and, a bottle of Kentucky bourbon, though I no longer drink.
The day after Christmas our family went to an Italian all you can eat buffet. I wore my denim shirt.
Towards the end of the meal, I sat together with my five-year old son, Jakob. My wife, Taryn had gone to the bathroom with our other two boys.
Jakob sat kneeling on the red cushioned bench chair across the table playing with legos that Santa had brought. His innocence spilling itself all over the table, dripping off the wonder of his blue eyes. His messy hair, snotty shirt, sniffing nose and freckled face each playing their part to the tune. A palpable pungency of the aroma of goodness that now makes me teary eyed recalling it.
It was one of the only relaxed moments during the course of the meal for me. My ‘cortado descafeinado’ sat before me on the table.
Halfway lunging across the table to share a discovery, Jakob’s thigh hit the table sending my coffee and the moment dispersing.
As Epiphany approaches, we remember and pay homage to the Christ that was born, a Christ that is, and always has been.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” -Colossians 3:15-17
The child came, the man died, but the Christ lives on. Jesus’ much underemphasized role as revealer of the Divine Life, is what Epiphany (as revelation) is about the wise men journeyed far to celebrate. The Christ Mystery is indeed worth celebrating. But this is much more about an invitation to join in on what Jesus shared with the Father, than it is about merely following the eventual Jewish Rabbi.
“Don’t cling to me. It’s better that I go and send the Helper. I would rather you live my life as your truest experience than merely imitate mine-a transfer of my essence, and yes it will cost me everything, as love always does. The only purely exemplary part of my life then, is my willingness to say, ‘yes,’ summed up in the words “not my will, but thine be done.” The God-in-you will know what to do when the time comes. Surrender to that.”
There are a few necessary and important dualisms in the spiritual life I thought, rubbing the stain stick on my denim shirt, after returning home from lunch. The coffee stain, well set in.
This wasn’t the first stain I had worked on with this shirt. The color had faded, from its original light blue to an almost iridescent bend of whites, blues and browns from its regular wearing and washing. I knelt down on one knee in front of the washing machine, working the stain out, while the kids squealed and romped in the living room. Taryn stood in front of the sink to my left, washing dishes.
I felt a headache coming on as I grasped, trying to make something out of the thought.
Though, I’ve been reflecting on it a bit since:
Non-dual consciousness is the fruit of the relentless invitation to begin by making a dualistic choice-itself a grace. Control or trust, fear or love, isolate or connect, cling or let go. It is in making the choice, repeatedly, that we begin to access and see from the whole. And on the other side of that choice, the thing we chose against, or rather, over, paradoxically manifests itself in a different form-control of a different kind, an awe-filled trembling at the Mystery of God, a contented inner quietude, the feeling of being grasped. All gifts we could never commandeer through the forced-ness of willpower.
This is the invitation at the heart of Jesus’ relationship with the Father. A knowing from the inside of Oneness, where things like trust, mutuality, connection and freedom just are-much more an energy field than a thing we produce. In fact, one we often stumble into, as IT has already chosen Us.
This is the meaning of Epiphany-revelation of the Divine Reality being here and now. God says ‘yes’ to the concreteness of the messiness of human reality as God’s playing field.
And we join in through participation, more than imitation, in saying ‘yes’ back-always starting with a choice, which, by its nature, must be dualistic at some level.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other,” says Jesus, “You cannot serve both God and money.”
“Why not become unified or identified with God so that we manifest God in every action, and in this way, give God a chance to find out what it is like to be a human being. That seems to be the project. But it is only half the project. The bigger half is the effort God has been making since the beginning of time to convince us that he loves us. We are pretty shy about that.” writes Trappist monk, Thomas Keating.
Last night Jakob and I hung laundry. My denim shirt had been soaking in the bidet for a few days, and was in the load we were pulling out of the washer.
As we began this work, standing on the back balcony where our laundry rack hangs, Jakob uttered, “I love you Daddy.”
“I love you too, Jakob,”
We continued hanging clothes on the line. Jakob, the socks, me, the rest.
I pulled out my shirt. I felt the heaviness of it, the lined threaded texture, along with a strong presence, resting in, and pulsating through my heart.
“I really like being here with you Jakob,” I said, aware, that I don’t express myself enough in moments of joy.
“I really like being here with you too,” he replied.
After finishing up with the laundry, we put on our jackets to head out. Jakob had been motivated to help as we were going to have special time together, just he and I.
On the way home after hanging out, Jakob and I spotted a partially cloud-covered full-moon. It looked ominous.
I pointed at it. Reminded in the act of our role as finger pointers.
“This was never about me. It was about my Father, says the Son. This was never about you, in getting something “out of life.” It was about Me and My Life being spread abundantly. It’s about living my life-more like being me and meeting Jonathan, or, meeting me in yourself and allowing my life its fullest expression in the shape of you. Capiche?”
And so, we remember, and then forget…stumbling, dabbling and tripping into the Divine Life Stream that rolls on, and on, and ON…hopefully discovering in our experience that IT has chosen Us as worthy and privileged participants.
“You have to experience duality for a long time until you see it’s not there. Don’t consider dualistic prayer on a lower level. The lower is higher. There are no levels. At any moment, you can break through to the underlying unity which is God’s gift to us in Christ. In the end, Praise praises. Thanksgiving gives thanks. Jesus prays. Openness is all,” says, Thomas Merton.
So we stay open, say ‘yes,’ choose trust, let go, join in and discover the dance extending itself to us as, in and through our life. IT is not elsewhere.
In the spirit of Epiphany, won’t you join in celebrating as a contemplative, allowing Divine Love to meet you in the concreteness of your messy, yummy humanity!
Keating writes on the subject, “To be a contemplative is to be willing to be loved concretely in every detail of life and on every level of human life, body, soul, and spirit. If you are merely thinking of receiving the Eucharist as a ritual, go home. That’s not what it is. It may start with that, but the Eucharist is primarily about the interpenetration of spirits—all that we are into all that God is, and all that God is into all that we are, including every detail of our life, every concern, joy, and suffering. In other words, we’ve got a life companion of infinite capabilities all lined up in our favor and ready to go.”
So let it be.
One of my favorite times of the week starts on Wednesday evening. It’s a time built into my schedule that marks an invitation to stop.
Two weeks ago, I kicked Wednesday evening off going down to the parking garage where we keep our bicycle. We own a Dutch style cargo bike, or, ‘bakfiets.’ A two-wheeler with seatbelts for four small bodies located in an oversized wooden box built onto the frame.
Unlocking the bike, I placed the lock inside the box that sits down in front of the handle bars, where three helmets sat-two red, and one black. I was preparing to pick the boys up from school and in doing so I wanted to arrive with enough time to purchase a worthy snack to honor this time of the week. Sabbath is a time to revel in abundance-chocolate cream-filled cookies would do the trick.
My plan was to head to a place we refer to as the spider-web park. A park set in a large green space in our city, containing an enormous red steel-roped structure, stretched across sand, and setup for climbing, swinging and acrobatics of all types-attracting children and grown-ups alike into its orbit.
The boys were happy to see the bike parked on the corner as we walked out of the school. They were even more excited to discover, and then show off, their snack to friends passing by. Climbing into the bike preparing to leave, my oldest son spotted a couple of classmates and hopped out. A game of tag ensued, drawing my other two boys to demand I unbuckle their seatbelts.
For a while I chatted to several parents as our children romped around, occasionally using the bike as safety ground from being pursued. Eventually heading on our way, we made the fifteen-minute ride to the park. It was almost dark, but there was just enough light still to attract the usual double-take from those we passed, many likely heading home from their work day.
“There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord,” writes Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel in his book, The Sabbath.
I used to practice Sabbath as a stance of resistance, saying to a coercive and demanding world-I will not be owned. I then practiced Sabbath as a way to survive, crashing into the only sure time of the week where I could not be found by anyone else’s needs, sometimes discovering my own unmet ones in the process. I now see my practice of Sabbath as a sort of modality; a standard, symbolizing my eternal yearning for God’s eternal Rest, or perhaps, a time when I allow God’s eternal yearning to say it’s yes to me.
In each case, I’ve practiced some form of Sabbath because my guidance has instructed me to do so. And in any case, it is a testing, and at times terrible, practice to engage. Not least of all because there will always be something that I’m convinced needs my attention, and sometimes actually does. But a Sabbath well practiced is a cry of trust in the benevolence of a Creator and their ability to sustain their creation, including my life, with or without me.
Wayne Mueller in his book Sabbath exposes us to ourselves, writing…
The wisdom of Sabbath time is that at a prescribed moment, it is time to stop. We
cannot wait until we are finished, because we are never finished. We cannot wait
until we have everything we need, because the mind is seduced by endlessly
multiplying desires. We cannot wait until things slow down, because the world is
moving faster and faster, and we cannot be left behind. There are always a million
good reasons to keep on going, and never a good enough reason to stop.
Although it was chilly, I allowed the boys to take off their socks and shoes. Mostly to enjoy the sand under their feet, and in part to have one less thing to clean up or take off when arriving home.
It was completely dark now, other than the moon light and the several street lamps close by. I willingly jumped into a game of cops and robbers where I chased the boys, repeatedly sweeping them up into my arms and hauling them off to jail. This went on for a good while until it was time to go.
We used to kick off Wednesday evenings by lighting a candle and then speaking “Shalom, Shabbat” to one another. But besides getting to blow the lighted match out, the boys weren’t too into it. So, we stopped doing that.
Assuming the normal bedtime routine, the boys quickly fell asleep shortly after I had begun reading to them, worn out by their long day.
Looking for Taryn, my wife, I walked into the bedroom. I found her sitting up in bed performing a task on her phone.
“What are you doing,” I asked, slowly sitting down onto the edge of the bed.
She responded with something, not taking her eyes off the screen.
“Can it wait?” I offered, knowing she could sense my invitation.
She sat the phone down on the nightstand, and turned to her left, we now faced one another.
One of the things that has come to mark this practice of Sabbath, is sex.
But, besides it being a gift in itself, it has taken on a sort of tangibility in its unequalled ability to transport us to the depths and holiness of rest. And not just in the act of love-making itself.
More so, in the simplicity and exquisite gift of laying together naked and unashamed. Knowing and being known. Enjoying the quality of feeling in being together.
Hanging on our bedroom wall is a netted hammock that has come to be a sort of garment, symbolizing this embodied, mysterious quality of rest.
I am now reminded that at the heart of my life rests my marriage. And at the heart of my marriage, rests a practice that requires an intentional stopping of activity to connect. Yet the act of stopping to connect, need not wait only for time set aside to do so. It’s as simple as saying yes to the invitation given from the Source of Sabbath. The One ever resting, delighting in what is, naming it as Good, inviting us to do the same. In the process, this One invokes our awe. Where we learn to give ourselves back from our gratuitous receiving, joining in the growing, enduring and lasting “O” at the heart of creation-a chorus of praise, in acknowledgment of “Oh my God!” rising from our hearts, thus pervading all we do.
“Ultimately, we are happiest when we are relieved of the need to get anything at all. Just driving in your car, wanting nothing, watching the trees go by, can be an epiphany of perfection. Deep sleep, a day of fishing, looking into an infant’s eyes, these occasions can relax you from your search long enough to realize that you already have what you seek, that what appearances promise is a revelation of your own deep and inherently blissful nature.”
Three days after going to the park with the boys, as I sat touching up my last blog post, I got a knock on the door. It was, Taryn, who knowing the shut door signalled a desire to be left alone, proceeded anyways, needing to communicate something with me.
She said, “Hey, can I come in,” not really asking as she walked through the door.
I stopped typing and looked her way. She was beaming. She had just got out of the shower, though changed back into her pyjamas; her still wet hair, holding its natural wave. She looked stunning.
Staring at me she uttered, “Today feels like Sabbath.”
I placed my laptop on the table, which had Wolf Larsen’s “If I Be Wrong” playing on YouTube. I stood up, grabbed her right hand with my left one, and pulled her into a stumbling, slow dance in our guest room.
“The departure into restfulness is both urgent and difficult, for our motors are set to run at brick-making speed. To cease, even for a time, the anxious striving for more bricks is to find ourselves with a “light burden” and an “easy yoke.” It is now, as then, enough to permit dancing and singing into an alternative life.”
So let it be.
Onward, we move in Rest.