Soul Rain ... Kelli Sorg

a little rain refreshes the soul

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My Place in the Scheme of Things

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 Thomas Merton’s Hermitage at The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, near Bardstown, Kentucky

 

Everything about this hermitage fills me with joy. There are lots of things that could have been far more perfect one way or the other – ascetically and ‘domestically.’ But it is the place God has given me after so much prayer and longing – but without my deserving it – and it is a delight. I can imagine no other joy on earth than to have a hermitage and to be at peace in it, to live in silence to think and write, to listen to the wind and to all the voices of the wood, to live in the shadow of the big cedar cross, to prepare for my death and my exodus to the heavenly country, to love my brothers and all people and to pray for the whole world and for peace and for good sense among men. So it is my place in the scheme of things and that is sufficient. Thomas Merton, Journals, February 24, 1965, V.209-10

 

Perhaps in no other place does Merton sum up my need for a sense of place and belonging. It cannot be simply my need alone. I believe all people have a similar basic need that very rarely gets met. – KSS+

To carry you through the weekend: forgiveness

Forgiveness is the ground in which we live. It is the only ground in which we can sustain living in a way that’s balanced and  whole.  living in a constant state of unforgiveness throws us off balance. Everything seems so off kilter for so long, we accept that skewed vision as the norm. Our word for ground, literally ‘dirt’ comes from the Latin humus, from whence we also get the words humans and humility. Humility and forgiveness are inextricably linked. This connection is not to keep the victim of wrongdoing forever the victim or the injured party. The connection between humility and forgiveness keeps us all on a level playing field. Humility and forgiveness in equal measure remind us of who we are, of the sorts of things of which we are capable and the consequences of these actions, both positive and negative.

An abundance of useful beneficial work in the field of forgiveness is been done by Dr. Virginia (Toddy) Holeman (Reconcilable Differences, 2004), Dr. Everett Worthington (Forgiveness and Reconciliation,2006) and Miroslav Volf (Exclusion and Embrace, 2010). Dr. Holeman’s work is in the area of interpersonal and family relationships and comes from a Christian counseling viewpoint. Dr. Worthington is one of the most valuable of writers-one who is actually living in the most difficult of situations calling for forgiveness and has the gift of articulating his personal journey in useful and meaningful ways. Miroslav Volf is a contextual theologian who grew up in the Serbian – Bosnian conflict. His work is known by his emphasis on humility – personal and political.

“How often do I have to forgive my brother?” Peter asked Jesus. “Seven times?”

“Seventy times seven.” Jesus replied. Jesus might as well of said Peter had to forgive one more time than had been wounded, in perpetuity, ad nauseaum.  Peter had to forgive past the point where it made him sick to his stomach. That’s true for all of us. Past the point of fear and nausea comes the place of acceptance in the Holy Love Jesus modeled. It is that unconditional no-matter-what kind of love that makes forgiveness possible.

Forgiveness means: I will not destroy or sabotage this relationship with you even if you are trying to. Forgiveness is a means of fidelity. We as humans cannot be faithful like this on our own. We as humans can’t live like this our own. One of the most terrifying moments of my life was when someone I cared for deeply, yes loved, try to convince me that there was no such thing as unconditional love. In the fragmented way of human communication, the only broken shard I grasped from that conversation is that he would never be able to love me unconditionally. I continued to bleed from the realization that our promises to each other were at best conditional and based on behavior, financial status. Perhaps our relationship was controlled by some other factor totally beyond my control like the weather or the phase of the moon. Even stronger was his protest that not even God could love us unconditionally. We, not the creation that God called good, could be loved.  We are just too broken. That kind of shame and guilt has been used for far too long to manipulate relationships – personal, social, and even religious. Literal fear of God, that we are spiders hanging by a thread over an immolating flame is not the heart of Jesus life and message. Those words were the beginning of the end of that personal relationship. Those of us who have relied on that travesty to scare people into some sort of religious decision need to look to our own glass houses before picking up another stone.

There IS love that is unconditional, the no-matter-what kind of love that we are capable of at our best moments. That’s because our best moments are empowered by Someone higher and bigger than you and I. The presence and power of Holy Love assures us of forgiveness and grace. Neither comes without sacrifice. Forgiveness and grace mean we still must live with the consequences of our actions and other people’s actions. Living simply with God and each other isn’t complicated, it’s just difficult.

Forgiveness in the places that we have been hurt and accepting forgiveness extended to us when we have hurt another cannot be accomplished by our own power. Human history-international, national, domestic and interpersonal-easily proves that point. We can only forgive and be forgiven, love and be loved, to the extent that we have accepted and live in the love and forgiveness offered to us by God: Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer; Father, Son and Holy Spirit; I AM; the Alpha and the Omega; the beginning and the end; God who spoke order out of chaos in Genesis to create the world and speaks the same order out of chaos over our lives every minute of every day.

So how do we practice forgiveness? In the words of Greg Jones in the title of his seminal book on the subject: we must embody it (Embodying Forgiveness, 1995). Forgiving love, Holy Love can become part of that which we are if we will give ourselves and our agenda over to God. We practice forgiveness when we give up our agenda for revenge and getting even. We practice forgiveness even when we give up our right to our own hurt when we are the victim. We practice forgiveness when we accept and inhabit the hurt we have perpetrated when we are the offenders.

 

 “Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion — without transposing the enemy from the sphere of the monstrous… into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows [as the cross demonstrates] that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him. And when one knows [as the cross demonstrates] that God’s love is greater than all sin, one is free to see oneself in the light of God’s justice and so rediscover one’s own sinfulness.”― Miroslav Volf

Forgiveness is not saying that it’s okay. It’s not being a doormat when wrong is done to us. It is not allowing the perpetrator the leeway to say: “Just wait until I do it again so you can forgive me some more.”

Forgiveness is perpetrator and victim standing face-to-face, eye to eye and accepting life in the wounded-ness and fear of both parties and then walking away. Social justice and the morality demanded by life in community require restitution and consequences. That is for neither the victim nor the perpetrator to decide. Forgiveness is not about making excuses, sweeping the truth under the rug or slapping ax murderers on the wrist because they had horrible childhoods. There are social justice and moral problems of huge magnitude that must begin with the acceptance of burdens imposed and burdens carried.

In the end, the victim and the perpetrator must stand on level ground at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. Beyond all the courtrooms and legal chambers across our planet there is no higher or more eternal judge than the one who gave his life as the ultimate expression of forgiveness and Holy Love.

I offer no apologetic here. I offer no discussion of whether or not you believe that Jesus existed in historical sense or was resurrected in a bodily sense for whatever particular divine agenda might be on the table. To paraphrase the Psalmist: I was young and now I am old and I’ve never seen true reconciliation happen, with or without restored relationship, except by the expressed power of Holy Love working in the lives of ordinary people.

There is love. It is unconditional. There’s one tiny little caveat. We have to say yes. We have to accept that holy love. Then we can let it permeate our lives like the fragrance of frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense and myrrh are two of those old Biblical gifts that heal and make us whole and make us holy.

If we can find him there, we will never lose him.

Little by little we are able to hear the still, small voice in the hurricane, the earthquake or the fire. God is hidden in difficulties. If we can find him there, we will never lose him. Without difficulties, we do not know the power of God’s mercy and the incredible destiny he has for each of us. We must be patient with our failures. There is always another opportunity unless we go ashore and stay there. A No-risk situation is the biggest danger there is. To encounter the winds and the waves is not a sign of defeat. It is training in the art of living, which is the art of yielding to God’s action and believing in his love no matter what happens. (Father Thomas Keating, Awakenings, page 15)

Matthew 14:28-31 (MSG) Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.” He {Jesus} said “Come ahead.” Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried “Master, save me!” Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint heart, what got into you?”

Living on the edge

Journal entry from October 2, 2012 preparing to go from North Carolina to Oregon for a wedding

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I am resting in the quietness before the storm of action.  Tomorrow at this time I’ll be hurtling toward the West Coast on an airplane. That kind of travel and this realization of liminal space coming and going is the edge of chaos where new creation happens. There is so much to be learned in this liminal space. Isn’t life itself always on the verge of one of the great mysteries – being born or dying? We get complacent in the middle when we suppose we are far enough away from either one.

It is in the intersections of life that we look around for Someone larger than ourselves. The spiritual spark seeks full expression as we try to articulate the mystery that surrounds us.

Part of the mystery is not being sure about what to do. We so much want to do something, as if one particular action of ours will tip the cosmic balance to the good. We look around us and ask the people around us to do something. We hope that perhaps they know the sequence, speak the language, and know the way.

All we really have is this present moment. We have our limited power to act or not to act and we have the gift of faith. That faith is in Someone who does go and has gone before us. That Someone does know the way and has already acted on the Cross and walked out of the grave to tip the cosmic balance to the good.

Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance – Samuel Johnson

In the realization that death and meaninglessness have been conquered, we find the courage and wisdom and perseverance to live in the liminal space – on the edge. Then we can do new things in new ways that make people ask questions to which the only answer is Jesus Christ.

Redemption (that big church word) means ‘to heal you from the roots up’

[Jesus] healed those who needed healing. Luke 9:11 NIV

Until…basic childhood programs for happiness are repented of, that is to say changed, we’re engaged all of us in an addictive process, which will show up if you live long enough in a specific addiction unless you take the spiritual journey to heart and a practice to heal that situation. The Gospel is about the healing of our conscious and unconscious wounds…It is into this melodrama of everyday life that Jesus has come with the Kingdom and that’s where it works.

That’s where it’s powerful. That’s where it’s found on an everyday basis.

Right where you experience it and feel it.

And it’s the gift of Jesus.

And this is the full meaning of redemption – to heal you from the roots up. So instead of self-centered motivation and a world in which you see everything from the big I am of your ego, you see it from the big I AM of God’s selfless-self….That is the true view of reality.

 

Father Thomas Keating, Where is God

 

Put your hope in the Lord,

For with the Lord is unfailing love

And with him is full redemption

Psalm 130:7

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