Oh Lord, Make Us We

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.”

-Jean Vanier

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.”

-Brother Lawerence

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.”

-Fritz Kunkel

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.”

-Thomas Merton

 Delight always begins and ends in We.

Terrible, Beautiful

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.






An Enduring Practice

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.”
-David Deida

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.”
-Walter Brueggeman

Sabbath endures.

So let it be.

Onward, we move in Rest.