Who do I love…

Augustine’s question, “who do I love when I say I love my God?” is an apt one.  It’s honest.  For all of our highly articulated dogma’s or “namings” we must acknowledge, in the end, that a question mark lingers with the person of God.  The face of God, unrevealed to Moses, is still no more revealed to us.  A hazy gauze lingers there, and a promise that one day “we will know even as we are presently known.”  In other words, the “event” of God–the experience–is still a Mystery (something known but not understood).  While we have many names for this underlying event (and it takes all of them to even begin to touch the event they house), no one of them takes the cake, so to speak.

But my point isn’t that we shouldn’t attempt to give name, or honor the particularity of names (such as Jesus).  Like the writer of the gospel of John, I think it would take all the words in the human language, and fill all the books ever written, to describe the presence of God.  No, I think part of what we must do is labor to give birth to better and higher articulations.  My feeling is that we must exhaust every available resource in the knowing of God in order to fall backwards into enjoyment; tossing our hands up and proclaiming, “this is a mystery.” 

So I search for better names and better namings. Last night I came across a simply beautiful phrasing of “the event of God.”  I was really blown away by it.  I think this most clearly articulates my current understanding of who God is and how we interact with Godself.  It’s from a book I’ve been reading called, “The Sparrow“.  This is a lovely novel. I can almost guarentee it will make my top 2009 list.  Amazing.  If you haven’t read it, please consider doing so.  Anyhow, here is the part I was drawn to, a working definition of who I love when I say “I love you my God”:

There are times…when we are in the midst of life–moments of confrontation with birth or death, or moments of beauty when nature or love is fully revealed, or moments of terrible loneliness–times when a holy and awesome awareness comes upon us.  It may come as deep inner stillness or a rush of overflowing emotion.  It may seem to come from beyond us, without any provocation, or from within us, evoked by music or a sleeping child.  If we open our hearts at such moments, creation reveals itself to us in all its unity and fullness. And when we return from such a moment of awareness, our hearts long to find some way to capture it in words forever, so that we can remain faithful to its higher truth…

…when we search for a name to give to the truth we feel at those moments, we [may] call it God, and when we capture that understanding in timeless poetry, we [may] call it praying.

Isn’t that beautiful?  I know that some will object to its universality, rather than its particularity (Russell doesn’t point to any one religion in this passage as the “name above all names” does she?).  Still, let’s not cut off our nose to spite the face.  Or in this case perhaps, let’s not cut off the face to eccentuate the nose.  The experiences and names we give God will (conceivably) be particular to our situations and context. I don’t think we have to work at bringing God down to our context, if anything we have to work at allowing God to be as big as s/he is.  As one of my friends put it, “there are thousands of types of lungs, thousands of ways to breathe in the air–still there is only one air…and I’m not sure if it cares what you call it…it still does it’s job” (my paraphrase). We do well to remember the differences and diversity–we also do well to remember the unity and BIGNESS of God. 

One final thought: if God is indeed who I imagine him to be then he will most certainly be bigger than my ability to imagine him.

Beauty…

I thought this was beautiful.  A friend sent it to me and it deeply touched me. It’s a bit lengthy but check it out–make sure you have your sound on as the music creates a wonderful dynamic.

The Ultimate Question & Answer

Americans have become conditioned to believe the world is a gray place without absolutes; this is because we’re simultaneously cowardly and arrogant.  We don’t know the answers, so we assume they must not exist. But they do exist. They are unclear and/or unfathomable, but they’re out there… Chuck Klosterman “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs”

Fascinanting. He goes on to say that most of those answers are found locked up within the statistics of the NBA over the last 20 years. Brilliant!  And it sort of reminds me of that moment in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” where we discover that the answer to the Ultimate Question of the Universe is 42.  And that opens up a HUGE can of worms because no one can remember what exactly the question was in the first place. 

Anyhow…I suspect that this is more like reality than less…the answers are the things we live with and pass by every day…it’s the questions that we work to figure out. 

A quote from my visit to “The Bridge” PDX,  “we work to demystify love and honor God as Mystery and Paradox”…so cool.

Experiments in Truth

More people than I can number or name entrust me with their confession of (non)faith.  Oh, it’s not exactly that they’re faithless.  Actually they tend to be far more faith filled than the religions they are shedding.  They are scared and uncertain, tired or bored, confused or distressed; they don’t readily see the final “vision”; in other words they are the epitome of those who “walk not by sight”…  And, they are done.  They are true believers who have been burned, hurt, torn apart by a thousand inconsistencies.  I love these people.  They are my people. 

Some of my friends, such as I’ve described above, project an image of not caring.  They say, in word and deed, that they don’t care about relgion, spirituality, or faith.  Ironically, they are usually those who care and have cared the most.  It is precisely because they care strongly that they are dissapointed.  We expect much out of that we idealize.  Isn’t that what causes such deep rage as we hear KKK members spout orthodox prayers and pleas towards God?  Isn’t that why its so disgusting when we here of a Catholic priest become predator?  Isn’t that why we feel so disturbed when faiths digress into violent fundamentalism sponsoring Crusades or Jihads?  We expect more.  We expect more from “the friends of God”.  And we should.

Here’s the thing…

Beauty hints at things that lie beyond the edges of our vision.  Something in us, crying out for fair play, demands justice–in ourselves and in the world around.  And, even though we find ourselves isolated and lonely, we long for relationships, for intimacy, for love.  This, truth, beauty, justice, love, is the Divine, is God.  They are not only attributes, they are the Person.  So, the very things we long for, the things are not right with the world of religion and faith, that we wish would change, are the very things that must change if they are to be real and true.  The dissapointment in the lack of those aspects is actually the outcrying for God’s Presence, and perhaps the evidence of the Presence itself. 

In other words…we aren’t alone. 

Our hunger bears witness to the existence of Bread. 

But that’s all jargon, isn’t it?

Beyond that…this is what I’m convinced of.  The person of Jesus described God in a way that is still intoxicating to me. I’m pretty sure he, and his radical way of living that he proclaimed, was on to something.  Life spent in the way of Jesus  changes things…at least I imagine it would.  It’s an experiment I wouldn’t mind testing out.  Ghandi called them “experiments in truth”.  What would life look like if… How would my relationships, the neighborhood, this area, this country, be different if I…

If I what? 

If I took Jesus seriously, if I tried the life he described. 

And then even bigger than that…what if I tried this with others?  Fellow scientists testing our hypothesis. Success or failure. Right or wrong.  Comparing notes. Taking a journey together. 

I read a book about writing recently. The author said an intruiging thing. He commented that writing isn’t something you can theorize about…it’s only something you can do.  You become a better writer by writing. You learn certain skills only by performing them.  I can’t help but think this is the nature of discipleship, of apprenticeship. 

Sadly religion, and as it’s my own faith tradion–Christianity, has detached the positional “beliefs” from the practice.  We believe in justice. We believe in mercy. We believe in love. But we practice dishonesty and greed and war.  Seperate the practice of life in the way of Jesus from Jesus and what do you get?  Dissapointment.  Detachment.  Nothing worth believing in. 

And I think that may just be the point of all this…as my friends confess their (non)faith to me, I’d love to make an invitation.  I’d like to invite them to do something counter cultural…at least it runs counter to the culture of religion most of us have grown up with…. Let’s experiment with truth.  Instead of believing into a new way of living, let’s live into a new way of believing. 

How’s that sound?

A feeling…

Longing for some other language, for some geometry or glossolalia or primal scream, sweeps over me. I have every intention of falling on my knees and speaking L O U D L Y! 

There is a sense, as if I want to scream, “I’ve FOUND IT!!!” But of course what I really mean is that I have lost it.  Any sense of form or container feels like it’s been shattered.  The Beauty cannot be held–and that is why it is a painful and slippery Beautiful.  A song written, hardly authored by me but more or less through me, that I forget instantly and hear traces of melody in all other songs ever written–but never again THAT hymn, THAT anthem, THAT one that I remember.

And so there it is. I have found and misplaced and commit to remembering again that miraculous agonizing praise song to the One, the Mystery, the Singularity, the Beauty, the Anguish of Freedom, the spilling out and the flooding back again, the Hidden, the Other, the Ineffable…and I can’t think of too many words, they spill and splatter like tears on a page.  I sit, transfixed by the Artist and am content to write these words–they will be my kneeling, screaming, crying out in the tongues of men and of angels. And they are only for You.

Entering Mystery

Songs for me, and particularly the personal writing of songs, are a prophetic thing.  I rarely know why I write what I do–they more or less flow out in built in rivers of word and melody.  To be honest, I’ve never felt like I had much control over them; they are their own creatures and I get the opportunity to give birth to something I did not create and then watch it flower into fullness as a spectator and wonderer.  Maybe that sounds strange, it probably does, however it has left me feeling addicted to the process of creation.  I love writing music, mostly because the songs end up helping me understand something of myself.  Lately I’ve come to imagine that I am never so in touch with existing as a created being as when I myself am creating. It is in those moments that I feel fully present, not running off in this direction or that, not distracted by future worries or past grievances. And, I said, there is something prophetic about them. Sometimes, months later I’ll find myself saying, “Aha! That’s what this song was about.”  Interestingly, it will be an event that wasn’t even developed at the time of write, but fits fully and completely.

That having all been said, a song I wrote in the not too distant past has begun to give definition to this blip of my life.  I thought I’d share it with you:

“Entering Mystery, Your Truth and Your Beauty
To have found You and look for You is the paradox of Love
There must be more than this. There must be more than this.

How can you run the race without running? How can you press on without pressing in?
How can my soul be still until I have exhausted myself on You?

There must be more than this.”

Dreaming Into Being

One thing that it’s hard to avoid in the world of web word is criticism…

Self introspection and critique…corporate picking and pulling apart…genuine crankiness….

And it sort of reminds me of bad 8th grade poetry. When the only way to express oneself creatively was to be dark or ominous.

Pop psychology says that middle school angst is caused by redefinition.  Adolescent’s are longing to grow and emerge as fully developed beings…but they don’t know what to be, only what not to be. Their negative energy is an attempt to become something…but they have no positive momentum.  this is why many sociologists call American teen-20′s the least productive years in the world…we’re spending the whole time learning what we AREN’T.

I’ve been reading a strategic foresight book recently (all about how to participate in the present with an eye towards the future).  I was interested to note the 1st step in foresight…  “Set aside the fears, the drawbacks, the pitfalls, the could-be’s, the things you want to avoid…those will come later…instead IMAGINE!” Isn’t that interesting?  Professionals consider the way to move forward creativity NOT reactivity.

So, in this small world of words and vocal sparing…where we are constantly writing the bad poetry born out trying to birth something…anything…God knows what…maybe what is needed is not more cranky posts or crotchety comments.

Maybe what is needed is to dream a new world into being.  Maybe we need more Imaginers NOT managers.  Maybe we need people praising actions yet unseen and generosity yet ungiven.  Maybe we need the sweet melody and good poetry of YHWH singing His New Creation to reality.

Can we join Him?

What Color Is God-Part 1

“…So then he says, ‘What color is God?’” My friend looks around the room eagerly waiting for the laughs that eventually do come. His seven year old son turns a shade of red I have not seen before and I feel badly for the kid at whose expense the clever story is being told. I ask my friend how he responded and he smiled broadly. “Well, I told him that God didn’t really have a color because He’s formless and not the kind of god who has color. I told him that some people worship idol’s that have color and shape but those are dead and dumb and our God is not at all like them. Our God can’t be put in that kind of box. I told him that we can’t define God. He’s too big for our boxes. Our God doesn’t have a color.” The little group of believers I meet with applauded the answer and then the conversation moved on to some other topic. People eventually drifted out of the room and towards the table full of snacks to be eaten in the kitchen where chatter resumed, this time about the latest issues of Celebrity News and US Magazine—real life periodicals filled with pictures and pretty faces and snap-shot true stories about lives that ought to be running smoothly (considering the amount of money they have) but aren’t.
And I’m still in the other room. I can’t get up out of my chair. I can’t move. I can only stare at the floor in front of me.
“What color is God?”
I whisper the words again, this time really asking the question for myself.
“What color is God?”
Because He created everything.
There isn’t anything that He didn’t make.
Not one blade of lush Kentucky blue grass.
Not one deep orange Monarch butterfly.
Not one sunset—violet and grey and crimson and gold, each hue distinct but brilliantly blended together.
Not one color on the pallet of the cosmos made it there accidently; they were each placed by God, the Bob Ross of Eternity (no offense God). So just where did He come up with all of those paints?
Himself.
He’s the original. He is the Real. He is the ultimate—the Source.
So, something in God has color—is color. Something in Him needed to be displayed brilliantly and vividly as tone and tint throughout the creation process.
Honestly, I don’t care exactly which of those millions of colors He really is. I’m not sure the details matter all that much. But that there is color to God at all…now that’s something that seems important.

Part 2 Part 3       Part 4        Part 5

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.