Finding union in love

James Finley on Thomas Merton:

The Samaritan going from Jerusalem to Jericho found a man half dead who had been beaten by robbers. As the Samartian bound up his wounds, Christ met Christ. Weakness met strength and both found hope in life beyond division and fear. Love is the epiphany of God in our poverty.

I want this in my life. This is what matters.

on becoming fully human

My mind is filled with a million seemingly random thoughts lately, all somehow connected to my current spiritual path… the one I have been fighting ever since my connection to God was awakened as a teen. You see, I’ve always been a “go-getter,” filled with ambitions and dreams and the drive to DO SOMETHING. Often my drive to do something has been related to situations where I saw obvious injustice, abuse or neglect. This has, in many ways, served me well in life. I’ve met challenges and survived. I’ve done significant work. I have experienced life deeply.

However, this same drive and ambition has prevented me from embracing my full humanity…

I have been slowly reading a book on Thomas Merton called “Merton’s Palace of Nowhere,” and it talks about humanity’s sin in a way that is new to me. In Merton’s view, our sin is rooted in our choice of independence over dependence. Now, I was always under the impression that my independent spirit was a GOOD thing, so you can imagine my reaction as I’m reading this book. I want to tell him he’s wrong. I can take care of myself and chase after my dreams and do it well for the most part. What’s wrong with that?? Well, that might be true, but I also know something else that’s true. Having lived into my mid-thirties, I realize that my independence is a lie. It seduces me into thinking that I have little need of anyone or anything; it dupes me into believing that I am queen of my own fate. There is nothing better than becoming a mother to bring one to her knees. An island, I am not. There is nothing like helping a loved one die to uncover the lie. I cannot control anything– not the medicines or the professionals who prescribe them, not disease, not my children, not my husband, not my parents, not my puppy, not the earth or its weather patterns. Not one damn thing. I am dependent on God. Utterly dependent. And I am connected to the people around me in a way I cannot even put into words, but they are not mine to change or control.

When I choose to ignore these truths, I put myself between myself and God (thank you, Merton, for helping me realize this). I also put myself between myself and those whom God has given me. I have created this false self, this queen of her own universe, and God has been slowly deconstructing her over the last years. It’s painful, let me tell you. But there is a longing in me to be done with her… because she keeps me from being fully human. My full humanity is in my connection to God and others… the only way to live fully human is to embrace my dependence and utter powerlessness… to open my clenched fist, clinging so desperately to a life of my own making and embrace whatever comes. And of course, to let God be God.

I was recently having a conversation with God that went something like this (beware, I’m not very reverent in my prayers sometimes):
“God I hate this. This is one of those situations where I have NO VOICE. None. I’m just supposed to smile and go along with whatever, and it sucks. They don’t even care what I think.”
“KrisAnne, you have a voice with me. Always.”
“Oh, really? Cause last time I checked, God, you do whatever the hell you want with my life, too.”
“Ok…. I won’t deny that. But honestly, I adore what you bring to whatever situation you find yourself in, KrisAnne. I really do. You bring fire and beauty and whit and wisdom. You bring intellect and heart and intuition. You bring you. And I love that. It brings me joy.”
“Oh.”

And in that moment something cracked in my soul. I finally got it… that this life isn’t about gaining more control over stuff and having my say. It’s about being fully me– fully human quirky beautiful me in the middle of it all. And I cannot do that when I’m trying to make it the way I want it. Because I’m trying to be god. I am less than human– and there’s little room for love or mercy, compassion or forgiveness when you’re trying to force people into your god-plan.

As this Truth is sinking in, I’ve been sitting by our living room fire and praying that the heat will melt away all that is less-than-human in me. I can’t get enough of it, actually. I want to be by that fire all day, just offering the scorching flames my SELF. Burn it away, God. Consume all the cold, unbending parts and let me be fully human. Let me be.

vision

The last of the leaves are falling all over the 10-acre wood these days. The trees are nearly barren. I can see all four borders of our property now, and the spaciousness helps me breathe deeply.
I wonder, as the sleep of winter approaches, does dying help us see beyond what’s right in front of us?
Does it give us a wider, longer view of existence, of our lives, of all that God is doing?

St. Francis prays

I beg you, Lord
let the fiery, gentle power
of your love
take possession of my soul
and snatch it away
from everything under heaven
that I may die
for love of your love
as you saw fit to die
for love of mine.
amen.

that bag of seeds

Remember that bag of seeds from my previous post? I walked into the kitchen one morning and glanced at them and immediately felt a rush of negative emotions. They had grown moldy. I was sad. I was disappointed. And honestly, I was a little angry. Apparently, those seeds owed me something. They were supposed to stay nice so that I could plant them, and they would grow into healthy plants and bear fruit. What do you know, my capacity for arrogance and self-centeredness is well intact… also my ignorance of the fact that this was probably my own fault for not allowing them to thoroughly dry. I’ve been thinking about those moldy seeds for about a week now… and the sadness is still pricking my heart.

I read a new chapter in “Living the Incarnation: praying with Francis and Clare of Assisi.” The author was explaining their sense of kinship with Mary as a prototype for Christians. Each of us, they say, is called to birth the Lord Jesus in our own lives and encourage his birth in the lives of those around us. That means being open to God’s Presence within. Oh. We have to stay open, huh? I am realizing how closed I am lately. I think my soul is the thing that’s moldy… it’s been locked up in a plastic bag and the moisture from my undried tears has allowed mold to grow.

I have not paid attention to what has been going on inside me lately. I have filled my life with a lot of noise and the clutter of technology (and a whole host of other life demands)– all of this as a way of ignoring what needs to be tended to inside of me. This is me running away and sabotaging my chance to thrive in God, so that Christ can be birthed even more in me. I am afraid of what is inside, my own ugliness and well as my unhealed wounds. And I am surprised at this growing sense that I am angry. Very angry. Why? And what do I do about that?

There is no way to remove the mold from those pumpkin seeds and save the life that is inside of them. They are done. But God is inviting me to let Him do the impossible– remove the mold from the seeds of my soul and bring me abundant life… and joy. Joy is something that feels somewhat foreign to me. Maybe it comes from growing up a pastor’s kid or a nerd. Who knows. But I am, for better or worse, a fairly serious person. Well, let me say I can laugh and joke and be goofy sometimes, but in general, I take life and people seriously. Life is work to me. I am well aware that it can be hard and painful. Spirituality, too, is often hard and painful. But Francis and Clare speak of joy so often, and I shake my head. Really? Joy in poverty? Joy in confession and repentance? Joy in learning to walk as Jesus did? Joy in suffering? What is this joy? I think I would like some of that.

“This is the meaning of conversion: learning God over and over and over again, a different lesson each time. Meanwhile God acts as if we knew him well.We are basically afraid of this God who strangely likes us. The gentlenes and understanding of God disconcert us and reveal how much our ideas are based on projections from within. We see God as judgemental because we are. We see God as demanding and totalitarian because we are. As distant and cold because we are. And here is the paradox– who we truly are is what God sees us to be. Unless we live in God’s Presence and learn Him over again, we will remain in exile from ourselves. Our true self is hidden in Christ, he who is most fully human. We are kept in exile by our compulsions and attachments which drive us. They are like an addiction. They retain power over us because we are used to them. Our greatest sickness is that we prefer what we know and what we are used to over risking the unknown. The truth, however, will set us free so that healing can begin.” from chapter 6 of “Living the Incarnation” (excerpts from pp. 76-79)

I have to tell you that these few pages, and especially the words quoted above, were like a revelation to me. I know it’s very meaty, so read it again slowly. It is amazing. I read this and realized that I am sad and angry because I am in exile from myself and from God… a self-imposed exile. To be whole again, I need to learn God again. I need to trust who He is, trust His love for me again, and trust who He sees me to be… if that makes sense. It is not that I did not know God before or know any Truth before. But it is time to take another step in the journey and learn more of Him… and learn more of me as well, to be more fully who God created me to be… more fully human. It’s an interesting idea to consider. It feels risky. Am I ready to allow God to remove the mold?

pumpkin seeds and puppy training

I have been absent from here for a long time. There are some boring reasons for that. There are also some intentional reasons. I’ve been marinating in life… just trying to live it and not analyze it. Now I am feeling it’s time to write again and reflect on what has been going on inside me.

We welcomed a puppy into our family last month. She’s been a joy. She’s been annoying. I have taken on the main responsibility to train her, which is a painstakingly long process of repetition. And consistency is needed. Can you hear me sighing with impatience? We are, however, beginning to see the fruits of all my labor.

Which has me thinking about seed-planting… recently, my son and I cut open a pumpkin he specially picked out on a school field-trip. at his request, we made pumpkin pies out of it, but he also felt strongly that we should collect the seeds so that we can plant them next year. It was neat to watch him pick out each seed and carefully clean it and lay it on the paper towel to dry. He spent at least 20 minutes doing this. I was amazed at his diligence. Now the seeds are clean and dry and stored in a plastic bag, awaiting next spring. But I haven’t been able to put them away… they are still sitting on my kitchen counter. All over our 10-acre wood, things are dying and preparing to sleep for the winter. But here, in my kitchen, life awaits. The seeds are just waiting to burst. Waiting.

I feel like so much (too much?) of my life I have spent waiting… waiting for the next thing, waiting for me to be prepped and ready for whatever I’m supposed to do, waiting to see what the point of my life is. But something about watching my puppy learn and looking at these pumpkin seeds has crystalized a new thought for me. I can see fruit already! Right now. Right now I can see fruit that God has been able to bear in my life. So I wonder…. what the hell have I been waiting for??

Just in the last few days I have been able to reconnect with someone I knew and helped to teach more than 10 years ago. She remembers things I said to her, things I taught her. Just a few weeks ago, I was reminded that all the God-stories I’ve shared with my young daughter are now being shared with her teachers and friends. She remembers things I’ve planted within her. Just a few months ago, I was able to reconcile with a young adult who was in my youth group… someone I wounded. He remembered my actions. He also remembered that he could talk to me. The healing was sweet fruit.

I do not want to overestimate my impact on people’s lives, but I have lived the other mistake, when I think I have done little to nothing of value. Was I just place-holding and not planting living seeds? Is there something fearful about recognizing the significance of what I am doing here and now? It’s tragic to miss the fruit in the present and the past because I am forever looking ahead. It’s as if somewhere in the back of my mind, I refuse to believe that these seeds I am planting are worth something. I always think there is more somewhere down the road, that this is all just prep for that big something else. But this is it. This, right here and right now, is my life and my calling. Sure, there is still waiting involved. When you plant seeds they do not instantly sprout and grow and bloom. I have no magic beans here, Jack. However, my seeds are alive and they are growing. How have I missed that for so long?

what i can do

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I can punish myself (or maybe sabotage is a better word) with negative self-talk. “I can’t do this. I won’t do it right. I don’t have the skills. I don’t have enough time. It’s too much….” Well, let this be the week of I CAN. Here is my current list of awesome skills that I have learned in the past few months:

1. I can caulk well. My thumb makes a wonderful smooth line that covers a multitude of “sins.”
2. I can work that spackle until it looks like the creamiest frosting you’ve ever seen!
3. I know how to apply three layers of spackle properly (not an expert by any stretch, but I’ve got skills).
4. I can sand a wall so that it’s smooth as a baby’s bottom.
5. I can roll paint onto a ceiling and leave NO LINES.
6. I can spackle corners that look pretty good… not professional, but pretty darn good.
7. I can remove baseboard that has been caulked and nailed into place without tearing any paint off the wall. I can even remove it when there is tack strip in the way.
8. I can nail trim into place without putting any dimples in it with a hammer, because I know how to use a nail punch.
9. I can clean up a room, wash down the walls, apply primer, give the ceiling it’s first coat, cut-in the wall color, and apply ceiling second coat in 6 hours flat (with help from my step-mom, of course).
10. I can juggle kids, meals and all this work AT THE SAME TIME, baby. That’s right. I can. 🙂

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