Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Darkness Within Plastic Faith

   I am beginning a series of responsive essays based on Barbara Brown Taylor's newest book. As I work out the words for what Learning to Walk in the Dark speaks to me, I fumble. In the dark, I may offend. But, I hold fast to this: “There is a light that shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John1:5) 

   As I began these essays, I was unsure of the path forward and then it came: I would write my shift from religion to faith. I would write my loss of faith in the institution of Christianity, but my gain of faith in Christ. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36 KJV)

The Darkness Within Plastic Faith

If you have understood, then what you have understood is not God. ~ Augustine

    From the front seat of the land rover, I grab the colorful catalog full of trinkets from a child: faith, hope, and love on strings grace the pages. How charming. I swing for the catalog and then jam it between my car seat and the main console with all the other junk mail. I holler at them, “You can't have that right now, not when we aren't living it!” That settled it, or did it? 
    My kids love the popular catalog of trinkets selling Christianity in bulk for pint sized believers. I ask myself: is this value-added Christianity similar to a McDonald's Happy Meal, but simply with a religious flavor? Do these trinkets of faith represent anything of true happiness, or true substance? Plastic faith leads to plastic people. And plastic faith eventually breaks, like the McDonald's toy or catalog junk. Worse, it could be thrown out by an adult. At church no less. 

    Yes, it's hard to build and live an authentic life filled with true faith. Harder yet in our first world, consumeristic, holier-than-thou, post modern, reasoning culture. If we can consume Jesus with our junk, we've arrived. Yet when plastic faith breaks, we get our hearts broken. If I find myself throwing my faith out, maybe I need to ask if it was ever faith in the first place? Maybe it was just religiousness. Tried and found wanting. Plastic faith and plastic people be damned.

    When our plastic faith has been broken, thrown out, or both, we are now in a place of consummation*: God's altar, but it feels like a consuming fire. His mountain. His presence. His fire. Yet, on His mountain these three remain: faith, hope, and love. In Oregon, the Three Sisters peaks of the Cascade mountain range are named Faith, Hope, and Charity (Love). These peaks remind me that the failure of a plastic faith can propel you and me up the mountain, into the shroud of God. A world containing both dark and light.

    The God of Moses is holy, offering no seat belts or other safety features to those who wish to climb the mountain to enter the dark cloud of the divine presence. Those who go assume all risk and give up all claim to reward. Those who return say the dazzling dark inside the cloud is reward enough.

~ Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark

    And so I climb out of religious darkness and its soul wearying ways and onto peaks of truth: Faith, Hope, and Love. But these peaks of truth are often summited in darkness. Seasons of dark unknowing. Faith. This unknowing faith clings to mountain rocks and draws me closer to God. When I can't see in the shroud, I cling to the Rock and rise. 
    To some, this unknowing faith appears as abandonment of God, fellow believers, and finally faith. It's not abandonment. My faith in Christ is intact, but the rules and creeds men have made to define Christ and Christianity have gone by the wayside. Ironically, in Oregon, I'm not alone. We are known as one of the “least churched” states in the nation. On many a Sunday, Oregonians are found in the cathedral of the woods. I used to judge those in their wooded sanctuaries on Sundays. Now, I often want to join them. 
   God may be found in Spirit filled sanctuaries made by men, but He's also found in sanctuaries carpeted with grass, rocks, and water. Christ increased his faith in the woods. He held fast to the mountainous journey he undertook. Filled with God, fully God, He became the sacrament. We too are called to be filled. We too are called to hold the Sacred. Within us. And so I journey up the mountain, into the darkness, and seek to behold the Sacred.

My Soul
Son Sacrament
God Sacred

*Latin for: “to complete” or “to fulfill"

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Living Life and Writing Life

     Writing a series I'm titling The Darkness Within in response to Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor, Flannery O'Connor's Prayer Journal, and Speak What We Feel: Not What We Ought to Say by Fredrick Buechner. More words to come, as they come, and as I commit to them.

Entering the Dark Cloud of God sermon by Barbara Brown Taylor.

     We spent much of the weekend getting the hang of a new acquisition that is supposed to make our lives easier. Sister called it a pup tent today. I suppose it is that: a pup tent for four, on top of the rig, sans the pup!
There is a ladder on the other side, but why would we use that?
     We learned a bit later in the weekend to make sure your toys fit in the garage before and after adventuring. Set up and settled into, then stuffed full of bedding (to save rig room), the tent no longer compressed enough to fit into the garage upon take down. It was a mere 3" shy of clearance. Ugh! Engineers to the rescue; a solution is in progress. More details to come in Land Rovering with Little People: Tent Triumphant, an article for Rovers North.
 35 dirt balls later, he left the garden.
The residue of his play upon him.
His pile was outfitted and stashed.
Now to find an unsuspecting subject.
His sister perhaps?
But no, not his mother.
She knew. 
She took the hose to him,
giving him ample warning of her ammunition.
His hair smelled like a campfire. 
A heady sweet smoke, skyward bound. 
But his feet bore the aroma of the earth,
and were firmly planted in the soil.

     The robins left without so much a goodbye. Blink. They were gone. Knacky timing on their part. Jack was preoccupied in the garden, most of the day, hunting a fur pellet. He nearly succeeded, save mercy. They did not fail to take advantage of his preoccupations. Smart little things. Robins.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Weekend Adventures

It's good to get out,
and make familiar places new.

 Scaling rocks is good.
Looking deeply for more, but knowing this is enough, and it is good.
 Studying nature.
Learning respect of wild places and wild creatures.
We need them; they make us human.
They do not need us. We are incidentals.
How often we treat them the same. 
To know, to name, to classify, must once again mean to care.
Let us tread lightly.
This day. It is good.
 ...and let there be ice cream.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Just now...

  Just now, we are thankful for the powerful message of The Giver;
a story that gives much to ponder.
Just now, we are thankful for the power of the page and of story,
for like chalk dust, a good story makes vibrant what it touches.
 Just now, we are thankful for rest.
 Just now, the waves loom large.
The opening feels narrow and restricted.
 But light illuminates the way. Rise above.
 Just now, we are busy fording streams. 
Confident of His grace.
Just now, we are making new discoveries.
Just now, we choose to rest rather than resist.
We choose vulnerability and trust.
Just now, we choose to be. Still. Like the rocks.
Just now, we cherish the small moments, 
for indeed they are the moments.
He is the Rock, the rock eternal. Upon Him shall we stand. Strong.
The waves may pound, but they will not overcome us.
We are on the Rock.

Monday, May 5, 2014

An Oregon Spring

     A bit of Sunday trail time with my favorite girl.
      The morning greets with a rainbow. On the trail, a kingfisher swoops over the creek. Bees hive. Seeds push their way through the earth. Chicks grow and stretch wings. Jack adventures and we anticipate summer roaming.
     The turkeys gobble, strut, and fight for mates. The sole pea hen remains in our local turkey flock. She doesn't fit, but she doesn't notice. 
     In the car we listen to Brene' Brown's, The Gifts of Imperfection. The kiddos get little snippets here and there. We talk of belonging and fitting in and how one idea very often opposes the other. Is not true beauty unique? Why do we so often want to fit in where we don't belong in the first place? Why is it so hard to find places of belonging that mean something? How do we daily work to help each other experience belonging within the embrace of our family?
     There's been nary a moment to write lately. Moments arrive when I feel I've run dry, but I choose to believe I'm gathering strength and fruitfulness - like a seed tucked into good soil. There's a story calling. And it's time to make time. Time must be carved, seized, grasped and harnessed in order to live something worthy of cherishing. Time escapes so quickly, but is harnessed so readily. Reading Ezekiel and Elijah - men who got words. And so the dove calls, and so too, the story. 
  The place where your treasure is, 
is the place you will most want to be....