Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Darkness Within the Mystic

   The boys are off on an adventure. Rockets, lava, and very high vistas of the stars. I heard there is a dent! Adventuring often leads to dents and dings. I inhale and remind myself it also makes memories and future adventurers. It's all good. Right? 

   I didn't intend to stay home this weekend, but stay I did. Sister is keeping me company.  I've cleaned the garage, paid the bills, and am catching up on life. Soccer and quilt camp kept us busy this week and rarely home. A good kind of busy, but I'm glad for a quiet respite, so is the sis. As of late, I'm feeling pretty good if I can keep the house plants alive, while trying to nurture a soul or two and keep mine from going insane, but that is life some seasons. No?

   I don't feel I've much to say, but I've been scratching away on paper all week while in the rover watching soccer or hidden under the stairwell at the quilting shop. I'm learning that showing up and committing to this thing called writing means focusing on the writing - whether I feel it or not. And so I proffer my latest meditation on Barbara Brown Taylor's book, Learning to Walk in the Dark.

   In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all. ~ Karl Rahner

   I told myself, I would work out and walk out these meditations. I proceed fitfully, and unfortunately there's no weight loss working out one's thoughts from pen to paper. The pondering usually adds poundage, but work it out, I must. That there's a mystic within each of us has been my place of pondering, and I find myself asking what is mysticism vs. a mystic and why is mysticism so negatively viewed in the evangelical church and yet revered in so many other places, cultures, and climates of the world?

   Merriam Webster links the mystic with words like miraculous, extraordinary, fabulous, and sublime, but also links the word mystic to soothe saying, metaphysical, paranormal, presaging, predicting, bewitched, augury, and unearthly. No wonder we are afraid of mystics in the evangelical church today. Mysticism is defined in Webster's as a religious practice based on the belief that knowledge or spiritual truth can be gained by praying or thinking deeply. I believe there is some truth to that, maybe a tiny portion, but I also snort/laugh at this. If thinking could make us spiritual, I'd be there! Here's to wishing. 

I offer this simple definition of a mystic:

  One who is inordinately concerned with knowing the will of God and knowing God. One who is willing to be alone and misunderstood in this world in order to access the divinity of God and see Him in the next. One who not only seeks to know His words, but also knows his Name. One who is willing to go against the grain of the one's culture to access the will of God and seeks to live that will out. One who wishes to see beyond the realm of the limited first dimension of this world into a deeper world which they sense exists where God is central and primary. (Sounds like a biblical prophet. Yes?)

   I believe within each one of us, there lives a mystic, but we either grow it or kill it, with our daily actions. We either listen to God's presence within us, or we occupy ourselves with the world until the world occupies us. The mystic within each one of us experiences God to the extent of our worship of God. The laws men make for God, and of God, the legalism, can no longer be the crutch upon which we lean. We must know Him intimately as  friend in order to follow his voice.

   Doctrines and creeds are no longer enough to keep faith alive. Instead the faithful seek practical guidance and direct experience of the sacred. ~ Barbara Brown Taylor

   What of the saints? Augustine, St. Gregory l, Hildegarde of Bingen, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Terese of Avila come to mind. There are many others. What of the Desert Fathers and Mothers? I am not Catholic nor Benedictine nor Greek Orthodox, though there have been seasons of my life when these beliefs have called to me deeply and still do. We have much to learn from them. Yet, I've held onto my evangelical seat tightly, not because evangelicalism is the way, but because ultimately I remind myself that no matter where in the world I worship God, the act of worshipping and relating to God is not through method but through discipleship and relationship with Jesus Christ and worship of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Indeed, I have felt the Spirit of God in many different houses of worship, but I have most sensed the Spirit in places where God worship is neither too loud, nor too controlled, but solely and soully focused on Him. For me, this has tended to be in Spirit filled evangelical churches. Nature or nurture? I'm not sure I'll ever know. I'm often wandering and wondering in my mind, seeking stillness to find Him.

   Some days, I seek to wander, and other days, I seek not to wander. What is the Way to God vs. the ways of men to God? I am often tempted to believe that my wandering mind, my unwillingness to adhere to, and die at the feet of a certain church creed, is unholy and unhealthy, for both myself and my family. Where is my loyalty to the creed????? Oops, I mean Christ. Often, I am tempted to believe that those who stand fast until the end (Christ's return) will have stood on firm principles and a steadfast steely attachment to the way. Unmovable men and women of steel. But rigidity has never helped me respond to Christ. I jerk myself upright, reminding myself that the only thing I want to attach my steely will to is the foot of the Cross; the Way, not the ways of men. 

   Certainly, I am never more unsure of someone, or their beliefs, or my own, than when confronted by the rigid certainty of another. Rigid creeds in another, cause me to ask if they have every really lived any kind of hardship. (Mercy and questioning required.) Shielded by a set of creeds, have they ever met Christ at His cross?  The Christ who suffered. The Christ who wanted another Way.

   But, I do not proffer knowing who will make it into paradise. Who is a mystic? Who is not? Who is growing and who is dying in their relationship to Christ? That's what it comes down to. Right? Yet, it seems to me, one season we are growing and the next season Jesus himself is calling us to the dying. Growing and dying are both critical to discipleship. So, as far as who's in vs. who's out, I have no clue. The Bible does give us a few hints about the ones who will fellowship with God: there will be few chosen, they will love God and his son Jesus, and they will come from all nations, peoples and cultures, as God said to Isaiah, "my house will be a house of prayer for all nations."

   And whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered and saved, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the remnant [of survivors] shall be those whom the Lord calls. ~ Joel 2:32 (AMP)

   More and more these days, I cast my lot with the mystic who seeks God's face at all costs, not with the knowing follower of a certain creed, who's beliefs are based on ideas that have not yet had their bars rattled and shook. I do not dismiss the importance of creed in the formation of our faith, but again, creed, can become law. Creed can become legalism. Laws and legalism will not save us. Relationship will. Save us in the dark.

  To decipher the dark is a mystery that reveals itself in time. That time is frequently in the beyond, where the shining light of God dispels the dark, and we are present, with the One. For one day, we shall know fully, just as we are fully known.

    For now, it is often not to know, but to choose to walk into the darkness. Trusting. He is there. To wade into deep pools, opaque and cold, this is my veritable quandary. This is my call. And it runs counter to my human nature which desires to know, name, and make known. Will I shed my cloak of human understanding and reasoning in order to know God? He left the Light and willingly walked into the darkness. He enters my darkness willingly. He chose the shroud, that we may know the Light. 
   And then there is Flannery O'Connor, God bless her soul. Bringing us right back to down to earth. Because she, like the saints, knew not take herself too seriously, but simply talk with her Lord.

   "What I am asking for is really very ridiculous. Oh Lord, I am saying at present, I am a cheeze, make me a mystic immediately. But then God can do that - make mystics out of cheezes." ~ Flannery O'Connor Prayer Journal

*As my copy editor/editor is out of town, I claim all grammatical mistakes as my own :-)

Monday, June 23, 2014

The River of Shining Light and the Halo Around the Sun

 Summer solstice camping on the Metolius River 
Camp Sherman, Oregon. 
A lovely time with an auntie, uncle, grandma, and grandpa.
   At 1 p.m. everything positively glows. The sun slants its back on me. The river is brilliant, while ripples of crystal flow downstream where insects seek nectar. My nectar is before mine eyes: every shade of green. The spectrum talks to me. Rustle of grass. Gurgle of river.

   The fly fisherman, skinny as his rod, wades in and seeks a blended immersion. Save his bright orange pole and black sunglasses. I dare say, they see his eyes glaring at them. They glare right back.

   Note to fly fisherman and women: Mid-morning, in the same pool of crystalline water, a bull trout, all 15 glorious inches of him, is landed. The husky fisherman, planted now, near the west bank, casts his shadow behind him. He is fully sea, sand, and sky. The bull trout has met his match. He agrees to a little free play on the Metolious today. Both enjoy the match immensely. Both resist. Both are released. Heading home.   

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Darkness Within Anger

A responsive essay  based on Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

The Darkness Within Anger

   Just now, anger engulfs. It swallows whole. The weight of it. All alone. To carry the burden, others could carry, if they would. Fear: they won't ever. And what will be at the end, will be. Alone.
   When the anger engulfs and threatens suffocation, "can I learn to trust my feelings instead of asking to be delivered from them?"* Will I choose to face the conflict within? Will I embrace my anger? I am much less likely to be hurt by what I embrace; its lashing blunted. The anger is not me, yet within me and real. Too real to ignore.

This is not a fight or flight situation, but every fiber says, "flee."
Anger is not my enemy.
It is neither friend, nor foe.
It is.

    Do I accept the truth of Miriam Greenspan's words: “There are no dark emotions just unskillful ways of coping with emotions we cannot bear.” I struggle with this because I believe evil is real. Some thoughts should be banished forthwith, forever. Yet, her words ring true when it is my own anger I entertain. Anger is not darkness, though often we respond darkly.

    My response to anger determines the outcome. Slowly, I am learning to navigate the hurt, and be more prepared for the riptide of anger when it rears its head. Most often, an angry riptide is preceded by a wave of fear or surging tide of expectation. I'm learning to get out of the angry cross current. Face the fear. Release expectations: of them, me, us. Wrestle the dark. I want to respond to anger riptides with truth, light, and hope. I have a ways to go. That wave washes out to sea, often with me in tow. But navigating my anger correctly helps heal humanity. I sit up and take notice. Better angry, than anesthesized. In anger, my apathy to human suffering might just abate. I respond. If Jesus shared much on anger, we aren't privy to it. But when the Son of God displayed his anger, it was to defend a vulnerable humanity. His anger offered an alternative to both the world's anger, and the world's apathy. 

And remember, none of us outruns anger.

    It's tempting to run from conflict. I'm one of those who screams inside while my feet are on fire, an internal implosion. Others explode. Neither works. Get angry if you must, but respond rightly. Esau's anger had a manipulative Jacob running, and rightly so. Jacob knew Esau's explosion was imminent, and so he fled.  Jacob surely knew his actions had provoked Esau's wrath. The anger of "always second best" having overcome him.

     Did he regret his actions? Maybe. Maybe not. But with his heart ready to implode, he put on his running shoes. He ran from the consequences of his provocative actions. In the Old Testament, anger and provocation are closely linked. And the same seed of anger would haunt his own sons one day.  (What we do not resolve and repair with God, we teach our children to repeat.) Jacob fled, hunted by anger, Esau, and the Angel of the Lord.

Anger hunts us, but so too, the Angel of the Lord.

    The question is, "will I choose to wrestle the dark angel all night long in order to break free? How tempting it is to use religion to dodge the dark emotions instead of letting it lead us to embrace those dark angels, as the best most demanding spiritual teachers we may ever know."

~ Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

    The darkness within Jacob caught up with him, as did Esau. But first, he had a wrestling match with the Angel of the Lord. Courage wrestling. Courage working. Rising at dawn, a blessing bequeathed. Only by facing his darkness could Jacob wake into his future. A life, forever after altered, all because of a little anger.

Anger hunts. 
So too, the Angel of the Lord.
Work it out. Wrestle.
But remember, the Angel always wins.
And the Angel always has the last Word.

* Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Meet Mercy

For it is by grace you have been saved, 
through faith—and this is not from yourselves, 
it is the gift of God—  
not by works, so that no one can boast.  
Meet Mercy.
Today was not his best day.
He met challenges in the woods:
fur with sharp teeth.
But it was a day for living, and rising above.

  Jack searched, but upon loosing his victim, gave up the chase.
If we hold out and hold on, Hope always arrives. 
 Unexpected hope.
 A mouse named Mercy.
God has got our back. 
He covers it over and over again.
  Mercy rests.
Seven doves arch across a twilight sky, calming jangled nerves.
Heading north, the pole star calls.
Because a true bearing will always bear truth.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

 Into the woods we go...
Will we ever leave the Lego's at home?
Chilly mornings.
She did the whole 3.9 mile lake loop trail...and then we took a long nap.
   Friday was a slammed kind of pack day. Ever had one of those? The kind where you don't really like each other when you finally get out the door? Breathe. Drive. Arrive.
   It got better: I forgot cocoa and s'more supplies. See, I told you. Then we had the worst camp neighbors ever. I thought we were headed home Saturday morning, their speech was so awful.  I prayed all Friday night, through the night, for safety and peace. (This is why we love our rover buddies. Time in the woods, with friends, in out of the way places. Peace and quiet. Safely and sanely.)  Thankfully, we were able to relocate. Amen.
   Saturday was much much better. We took a lovely hike, had a yummy lunch with an auntie, uncle, and cousin, paddled the lake a bit, took a long nap, and enjoyed the campfire.  

   Sunday, we made it home in time to make wood fire pizzas on the Big Green Egg and eat Guinness Stout cupcakes with two grandpa's. Yum.

Happy Father's Day!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Working it Out, Working it In

Pale ladies on wooded paths whisper often. 
Speaking volumes, I dare not tell. 
Secrets, I dare not share.
   Listening into words, for the Word. Working on the Darkness Within series, even though it will always be easiest to set it down. And walk away. My copy editor/editor (husband :-) found spots a lacking, while spots a hunting. And so I hunt for the answers to the Darkness Within. The Word. The words. Little by little, they shape me. Little by little, they come. Petals of grace upon the path. 
Praying to be fruitful. Praying to be faithful. 
 Pretty excited about this

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Musings of a Soccer Mom

  Sometimes I think we are afraid to cheer for our kids. Then again, maybe my voice is so loud I don't hear others cheering. But I wonder: are parents afraid to cheer these days? There are so many rules regarding sideline behavior we must sign pre-season and sadly, the rules are often necessary. If the kids have discipline issues on the field, it certainly stems from what adults model. 

    I am working to be a little less neurotic on the sidelines. Some Saturdays, I succeed, and others, not so much. I am a serious cheerleader at heart. I am VERY careful with my words and they are always positive, but I do admit I yell and holler for our team. I tell them to "mark up" and "find the ball" and can be intense at times. Just a tad. I sometimes wonder if a parent is going to ask me to, "please use your indoor voice". I played this game for a long time, and it courses through my veins in ways that sometimes surprise me. I remember hating that my mom would yell "Go Kimbo" from the sidelines, but I do an awful lot of whooping and hollering. I'm working on it. I promise. I want him to love the game for a long time. I want it to be fun. I need to step back. Sister reads through most games. I'm not there yet, but maybe I could bite my nails?
    Soccer teaches him hard work, perseverance, team work, and joy.
  Where is the athlete that will aggressively give his all without showing aggression to fellow players? Where is the athlete who pursues excellence, but not at the expense of others?  

   And so another soccer season has ended. We are sad to see it go. Brother played both U9 and U10 this spring. When we signed up there were very few signed up for U9 and so he got slotted U10, but then a U9 team materialized. Juggling the games was a little challenging, but he loved the extra weekly practice times. Who doesn't like kicking a ball around in the afternoon with friends on a sunny spring day? 
    He and I did a little fishing before the game on Saturday, as it was free fishing day in Oregon. We caught five little blue gills and tossed them back in, but we did take home a little trout wisdom. We'll be putting that idea into action soon.  I tied my first Uni knot this past weekend. Go me!
Ever so thankful. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Musings: A Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor

A Prayer Journal BOOK LINK
   Don't let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story-- just like the typewriter was mine. 

   Dear God, I don't want to have invented my faith to satisfy my weakness. I don't want to have created God to my own image as they're so fond of saying. 

   If I have to sweat for it, dear God, let it be as in Your service. I would like to be intelligently holy. I am a presumptuous fool, but maybe the vague thing in me that keeps me in is hope.

   It does not take much to make us realize what fools we are, but the little it takes is long in coming. 

   Sin is large & stale. You can never finish eating it nor ever digest it. It has to be vomited. 

   If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things He kindly wrote for me. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


She's had a tough late winter and spring.
We are leaning hard into Grace.
I am SO proud of her. 
She keeps smelling the flowers and filling the vases.
Guess the materials at the Engineering Fair.
Checking out Google Glass.
She's her daddy's girl, with a bit of Jane Austen thrown in.
She rocked the hover craft and proceeded to prune the shrubs!

Fire? Yes, she did sir.
And yes, she hit the target 3 times. Soon, she'll be using my bow.
Weaver of intricate bits of lace, called paper.
Math Maverick.
Nocturnal owlet.
Caster of words, and spinner of orbs.
Dragon Slayer.

I called her a "dragon slayer" to J the other night. His reply: "Well, she's certainly not the damsel in distress."  She's as feisty as ever. Praying this summer brings answers. Trusting.