Transfigured and transformed

Transfiguration_of_Christ_Icon_Sinai_12th_centuryIn today’s Gospel we hear a story of an astonishing transformation known as the Transfiguration. As a kid, I would often wonder what that meant, and I figured it only happened to Jesus. It almost felt as if my eyes would hurt from the “dazzling white” of Jesus’ clothes, which apparently transfigured with him.

As an adult I have been blessed to know a few life-changing experiences. In reality, most of life is nothing like that, ordinary days sometimes punctuated by a startling and heart-churning happening. One such moment for me was Continue reading

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Even now

Lent2019Desert Heart (1).jpgEven now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.

The opening lines of our first reading from the prophet Joel sound different to me today. Even now, he begins, even now. Yes, even now, despite living through many Lenten seasons, God continues to ask me to turn around – even now. And not to simply turn around, but to do so with an open heart, one bereft of all the puffery of everyday living. It is my heart, God wants, my heart and your heart and all of hearts – not simply a world that overflows with uneaten chocolate bars, untouched French fries, quiet social media streams, and less meat. Whether not God wants those things, I cannot say, but it does seem evident… God wants our hearts. Even now, forever, always says God. Just turn around please!

Last Friday night I saw Elton John in concert. Near the end of the show he did something that brought me to tears. These tears were the kind that I hope and pray leads to the weeping mentioned by Joel in that first reading for today.  Sitting at the piano, Elton talked about how in 1990 he was ashamed of himself. His life lacked any sense of logic or control, he was living in a way that made no sense and that was harmful to him and to others. It was at that point he at long last uttered three words that changed his life… I. Need. Help.

This Lent I think that the thing I need to do before creating a list of things to give up or take on, is to simply bow my head in prayer and say out loud… I need help. Maybe it is time to stop working so hard on what I can let go of, and simply let go of my pride. In that way, as I ask for help, I have given up the biggest distraction of all. In that space, God can do some work.

As my heart opens and tumbles out before God, all messy, hard around the edges, cracked perhaps, and swollen with false pride, God can do something with it. Something I cannot do on my own, even if I have a long list, a bundle of books, and a plethora of prayers to launch my Lenten journey.  What if God is not looking for my perfectly polished List O’ Lenten Desires, but only for me to say, “I need help.” And then to simmer down and accept it?

Even now, as the dawn of Lent breaks on the horizon of my soul this year, I pray that I begin by praying these three words. “I need help.”  Lent is so typically filled with a to-do list of holiness, but I think this way may be the way to go. Each day, many times a day, may I say to God, “I need help.” With that, may I surrender to God, and may the transformation of healing begin.

Breaking glass

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Eighty years ago, on November 9-10, 1938 the lives of many were shattered. Like shards flying every which way, the existence of Jewish people of Germany was splintered in ways we have yet to recover from. This is the anniversary of the time of evil known as Kristallnacht. The night of breaking glass. Although they may age, and their numbers dwindle, there are those still alive who witnessed these events, such as Ruth Winkelmann and Jill Pauly.

In an almost spontaneous moment this explosive event turned the course of anti-Semitism, creating momentum that would spin out of control. – Of course, the moment was anything but spontaneous if you study the history of that time. Which also signifies the need to pay attention to the current events (like this or this) of our lives. There are so many more, many that we do not even know about.

This short post serves to remind us of how forceful the power of hatred and division is; we are living it right now.  The horrific massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh two short weeks ago, the rally in Charlottesville in August of 2017 are simply two incidents of the rise in anti-Semitism. As for prejudice against people of color, the evidence is so voluminous I hardly know where to begin. The rejection of people of other faiths, especially Muslims is ever present. As for people from other lands who seek a better life in the United States, often arriving on foot seeking refuge and asylum from extreme violence and poverty, there has been an abominable welcome. The list goes on and on, unfurling like a ribbon of infinity unraveling from a spool over all time.

Often the rejection of others is justified in tidy legalistic terms by people of faith. What dissonance this reveals, given that Jesus Christ pretty much spent his entire time of public ministry reaching out to those unwanted ones at the margins, and was himself rejected by the standards of the day. If one claims him as their God I am not sure how one reconciles this belief. I’m not here to judge, but I am curious as I cannot understand how one can believe in that fashion. God does not love white people, Christians, or any one other person more than another.

Ironically the readings for tomorrow (Sunday, November 12) are rooted in what it means to give not from your surplus, but from your very need. This can mean giving away your last bit of food to a stranger, or donating the smallest coin, knowing that your own livelihood may be imperiled by such an act. It can also mean that we are to give of our hearts in ways we simply cannot imagine.

One example of that might be something like stretching the door to our hearts, forcing ourselves to open a bit wider, in pursuit of our God. This could mean starting to see “the other” in a more loving light. Love could be a big leap, so let’s start with seeing “the stranger” at least as someone who is not a threat. That too is part of giving out of your life, not from the surplus. It is what we are called to do, at least those of us who are Christians. We must be transformed through, with, and in Christ. That is hard work, but so far Jesus has not given up on us, so maybe we should not give up so easily either. Just a thought. And trust me, I’m talking to myself as much as to anyone who reads this.  My own struggles with rejecting the other have less to do with race, color, creed, but coalesce around ideology. I’m always trying to keep that heart-door open, but man, does it stick a lot. Where is the WD-40 of grace that I need to lubricate the hinges that will enable the transformation that I myself require?

quote-you-can-safely-assume-that-you-ve-created-god-in-your-own-image-when-it-turns-out-that-god-hates-anne-lamott-107206

This quote is remarkably appropriate pretty much every single day.

For this Catholic, the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht reminds me that Jesus (who was in fact born as a Jew, lived as a Jew, died as a Jew – just saying) is forever knocking at the door of our collective hearts.  I’m trying to go open mine – what will you do with yours? One need not be Christian to open the heart, but must be human. When we get to that point, the Kingdom will truly be here.  In the meantime, the only glass to break is that surrounding our own hearts.

Caminoversary

EDIT SJPP Waymarker Sept 17.jpgIt has been quite a year… I am at the one year anniversary of going on Camino Santiago. Once again, I thank everyone who supported me in various ways; materially, by walking with me as I trained, and always in prayer and love. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and my feet.

It is interesting to note that now that the anniversary is here, I am emerging. Something happened to me on Camino, not one thing, but it did what pilgrimage does, it set off a series of reactions within me. I’m not even sure how – or if – I will ever write about that, but I can say that I traveled down to the depths. Our culture is based on either denying, ignoring, fixing, and other meddling with these deep dark caves where transformation happens. I will say this much, had I needed medication or feared anything, I would have gone for it, I truly believe that. But no, and no red badge of courage here, I went down and stumbled around in the dark.

But guess what?!  Light is found, a tiny stillpoint of it is found once your eyes adjust to that place. God was there, I never doubted God even though I doubted a lot of other things. It was another pilgrimage, one that went deep within. Today I am grateful for the place I went, the place I stayed with God. It kind of sucked in a lot of ways, mostly that I gained a lot of weight. On the other hand, I can and will work on that, and I can never thank God for what now grows from that seemingly fallow, even dead, field in my heart.  Things are stirring!

For some this may seem too vague and creepy and you may worry about me. If this sounds confusing, I can only recommend reading and studying the work of Carl Jung, and shadow work.  I am being as clear as I can be, and I am doing really well, as happy as I have been in a long time. Along with that, I’m deeply grateful for my “second pilgrimage.”  Let’s see what lies ahead! In the meantime, buen camino one and all! Ultreia!

The road ahead

View_of_Judean_Desert_from_mount._Yair,_Israel

The Judean desert. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

 

(Today’s post is a little bit of #tbt, also known as Throwback Thursday, or a day of looking back at something from the past. I have posted it before, although so long ago I forget when! It is a good reminder on our second day of Lent. May we all pray for one another.)

We all know where the pathways of our desert journey are leading, and annually many of us set out again, in search of change and transformation. The road ahead is difficult, but we press on, over and over again, following Jesus. Stepping into the wilderness, we proceed into a place that appears barren and lacking hope. Each day carries us into the wilds, the challenges, the struggles. Tempted again and again, we make our way to the Cross. There can be no resurrection without a crucifixion. And what sense would a crucifixion make if there were no resurrection? These questions stay with us, but for now, early in the pilgrimage, we place one foot before the other, praying for our souls and our very being to be at last made more whole in Christ.

This is the road ahead. Let us go forth, praying for one another.

Unchanging, yet transforming

Pope Francis talks with cardinals as he leads the synod on the family in the Synod hall at the Vatican, October 5, 2015. REUTERS/Max Rossi (no relation!)

Pope Francis talks with cardinals as he leads the synod on the family in the Synod hall at the Vatican, October 5, 2015. REUTERS/Max Rossi (no relation!)

(Today I present a few rambling, insomnia fueled thoughts on the Synod on the Family and the state of the Church. I hope you will consider commenting, and I hope that no matter what you say, you will pray before doing so. The pause offers us all a moment of grace. How we move forward depends on the bishops – yes, but also the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us hope for the best – even if that best breaks our hearts. What are you praying for?)

You are more than likely aware of the Synod on the Family that began last year, which has resumed in Rome at this time. Depending on how you look at things, we are Continue reading

Authority, transformation, and dirty feet

hi-pope-kissing-feetTrue authority presents itself in service and flows downward. Authentic change presents itself in justice through community and flows upward. Transformation happens when they meet in they dynamism of the Spirit. This is only accomplished through life in Christ.

I have washed feet and I have had my feet washed. No surprise that the getting washed was more challenging than the washing. Well, except for maybe when I had my feet washed by someone with whom I had a difficult relationship.

As a former corporate executive and leader, I can tell you that you can’t make anyone do anything. As an ordinary human, I can tell you that cannot make someone love you. Of course you can force people to do things, you can chase someone to no end, but no real authority, change, or love will come from that. The only change will be the disintegration that comes from anything to discomfort all the way to hate. This is not the integrity that emerges from the love known as agape.

jesus-washing-peters-feet-by-sieger-koderWhatever you do this Holy Thursday, whether you get your feet washed or you wash those of another, don’t think of any church service as a nice re-enactment. That is why the Eucharist is different, we are not re-enacting anything, we are not “getting” anything, we are not forced to something.

Eucharist is about what we give in love, put at the service of world in Christ. Eucharist is about how we are all transformed into what we are becoming. This can only happen in community, it is not a moment that is between any one of us and Jesus alone, it is about the whole, the entire Body of Christ – which is Continue reading