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Richard Rohr.

Just started reading his latest offering from which this is adapted -
Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi

Yes, Richard. Just, yes.

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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Quotations, Suffering

 

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no silence in the library

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Keh-RAH.

READ!

It’s said to be one of those onomatopoetic words in the HebrewCarl_Spitzweg_021-detail
imitating the sound of a beast or bird crying out.
I can’t help but think of the “caw-caw” of the crow.

Which tells me that reading is supposed to raise a racket.
Only modern libraries in Western culture would ever post
“Shhhhhhh!” warnings.
There was no silence in the library.
Reading is a noisy business.

But even more instructive than that was the note
that this Hebrew word is a primitive root
signifying the “accosting of a person met.”

To read is to accost.
To read is to be accosted.
Accosted by
thoughts
opinions
ideas
epiphanies
revelations
serendipities.

Reading as wrestling
much like
that pile of boisterous brothers I recently witnessed
wrestling
squirming
squealing
laughing
crying
accosting.

How tame our reading can be by contrast.
If we read at all.
Glancing blows over words
A perennial search for smooth reading fare that leaves
our core beliefs unstretched
our hair unmussed
our heart unperturbed.

Writer, prophet, poet,
O muse,
accost me.

the-book-thief-1

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2014 in haverings, word studies

 

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the most liberating word of all

mitzvah

I have seen an end of all perfection, but thy command is exceeding broad. KJV

I see the limits to everything human,
but the horizons can’t contain your commands! MSG

 

Mitzvah.

Command.
Not the most liberating word. Authoritative. Harsh. Controlling. Confining. Restrictive.
Do this. Not that. Walk this way, not that.
Coming upon Psalm 119:96 in a random reading tonight, I was struck by it. It made me pause over mitzvah. Again.

I know this isn’t scientific. But then, I’m not trying to prove anything. Merely illustrate it.

Hebrew letters in their ancient form were pictures, each picture representing a sound. (I may have mentioned this before. A time or two.) This begs my imagination to play with the pictures, to see in each Hebrew word a potential rebus loaded with possibilities. And what a possibility laden rebus is mitzvah.

Four Hebrew letters:

Mem.
Tsade.
Vav.
Hey.

Tsade is the key – which perhaps is why it’s crowned. It’s a picture of a trail, a path. And this picture of a path is sandwiched between a picture of flowing water (mem) and a fixed nail (vav) leading to the upraised hands of one who sees (hey).

What is a command? A mere order or instruction (do this, go here, put that down)?

No! So much more!

A command is a fluid yet firm path leading to vistas of comprehension and boundless beauty.
Or to use the classic KJV rendering of Psalm 119:69, it is “exceeding broad.” How broad?
“The horizons can’t contain it.”

Which makes it sound like a path you can get lost in even as you are found.

And if this is the case, then I suppose “command”
just might be the most liberating, adventurous word of all.

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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in haverings, word studies

 

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the Jupiter Syndrome

I have a theory.
It’s not scientific, I suppose, but I have observed the phenomenon.
Repeatedly.
I call it the “Jupiter syndrome.”

I don’t think I’ve shared it here. If I have it’s time for a repeat.

i hate this place

i hate this place

Jupiter is the largest planet in our Solar System.
Fifth planet.
Gas giant.
A mass one-thousandth that of the Sun.
Two and a half times the mass of all the other planets
in our Solar System 
combined.
No solid surface.
Rapid rotation.

I read an article years ago about how thankful we should be for Jupiter.
Evidently, due to Jupiter’s huge size and its consequent gravitational pull, its presence in our Solar System has saved this planet repeatedly, because Jupiter’s gravity sucks in objects that would obliterate the Earth but that she can and has absorbed through the millennia.

Jupiter takes the hits for us.
The cosmic punching bag.
Over and over.

but it could be worse. it could be uranus.

but it could be worse. it could be uranus.

The Jupiter syndrome?
Some people are just blessed with it.
They take the hits for us.
Calamity is drawn to them.
Repeated impacts
sickness
cancer
chemo
accidents
deaths
living with no solid surface
dizzied by a rapid rotation that refuses to stop so we can get off
our life a huge, swirling red spot
a storm that seems to have been raging since the 17th Century
at least
while the rest of us watch through social media telescopes
and sigh our prayers
“God help them”
and
“Thank you that I’m not Jupiter.”

my favorite far side...another version of the swirling red spot

my favorite far side…another version of the swirling red spot

Sometimes it’s a just a Jupiter day,
count your blessings.
Sometimes it’s a Jupiter week, or month, or year.
Sometimes it’s a Jupiter life.

God have mercy.

And he does.

Five, they say, is the number of grace, and Jupiter is the fifth planet.
There is a special grace that flows through most Jupiter folk I know,
flows right off the wispy, wobbly surface of their lives
without them even trying;
so much substance from folks just happy to find their feet.

So be kind to Jupiter folk.
Thank them.
Pray for them.

And pray that you have never have any idea what in God’s name I’m talking about here.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2014 in haverings, Suffering

 

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ta-‘chen-da

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I so identify with this.
I mean, this could be a really bad snippet -
keeping quiet in situations when we need to be shouting from rooftops.
But in this ongoing pastoral journey that often makes me wish in spades that I had listened to my dad and tried the whole accounting thing after all (could crunching numbers possibly hurt more than witnessing crunched lives?)
I see things.
I do.
I see pain and elation, beauty and ugliness, despair and hope. And such suffering.
It’s probably at those times most,
each bedside of suffering.
I see so much.
And yet I sense that to say anything – especially to blog or post it out there – would defile it, would hijack the moment, would co-opt the pain as if it were my own.
The seven thunders of suffering speak, but the revelation must be sealed.

Oh yes, this happens a lot.

It’s a tricky business, this knowing the time to speak, to write,
and the time for tacenda.

Good word.

Enough
said.

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Posted by on July 24, 2014 in Quotations, Suffering

 

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to those contemplating vocational ministry…

meet abby...but I like to call her "pond"

meet abby…but I like to call her “pond”

My friend Abby is going off to pursue her masters for ministry, and she sent me five questions as one of her preliminary assignments (interview someone who does what you anticipate doing one day). These are my answers. I don’t know if this is what they are looking for, but it’s what I have. So I submit it to you, whoever might read this with that inkling in their head “I think I want to be a minister.” Below is what thirty-three years at this has taught me. Take it or leave it.

What types of tasks are involved in this ministry?

Today I filmed three small group videos to equip small group leaders for their monthly meetings.

Then I met with a couple about their upcoming wedding, discussing the arrangements, talking about possible premarital counseling.

Then I met with a man who has been battling brain cancer for two years; he wanted my help in planning is memorial service as he now has less than a month to live; he doesn’t want that burden on his wife, who was with him today. We talked about the flow of memorial services, the part the mortuary plays, the part the officiator plays; we talked about putting together the PowerPoint; we talked about their six year old son. We prayed.

And that was just from 9 to Noon.

When I started out on this ministry path, I thought it was about being a pulpiteer, a Bible teacher composing goodly homilies, sermons, and lessons.

realityBut mostly I walk with people while they live and die – and I bury many of them, young or old; and too often this involves being in the hard and holy place of deathbed vigils as life ebbs away and pain and grief awake.

So yes, there are the Bible lessons, the counseling, the phone calls, the administrative meetings, the budgets, the events to plan and help execute, the leaders to identify, launch, mentor, love on, and release.

But by and large it is what I would call soul care or soul craft.

And there are few formulas for it.

You absorb a potent mix of life and death, suffering and joy, heartache and happiness which Paul says translates into “death working in us, but life in you.”

I guess that’s as close to a formula as it gets.

 

What skills are needed to do this ministry well?

Love in buckets.
Huge draughts of patient endurance.

“Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early……..and the latter rain.”bienvenu

Yes. Lots of that.

“The earth brings forth fruit by itself, he knows not how.”

You are embarking upon a vocation in which you have no control, in which you make nothing happen. This realization is pivotal. Lose this, and you end up with a religious machine with people as cogs – or worse, grease. So, yes, organizational skills are great; leadership aptitude as defined and promoted within American corporate culture can be a boon (or alternately a curse). People skills also come in handy. Study skills can be pivotal.

But without the love, patient endurance, and release of control, you will end up with a noisy gong of a ministry.
Maybe a really big, successful noisy gong, but a noisy gong nonetheless.

Also a crucial skill: switching off.
And that means from the Bible too.

Ideally one day a week and one month every seven years.

In other words, practice Sabbath or you’re dead.

 

What are the most frustrating and fulfilling aspects of your ministry?

Most frustrating: no matter how much you labor with tears and sweat as great drops of blood falling to the ground,
seeing people stagnated and stuck in the same old mess.
Again.
Still.
Always.

And then looking in the mirror and realizing that this is you.

blown away lisa

 

Most fulfilling: watching people soar – and realizing it was because of something you said or did that you don’t even vaguely remember saying or doing.

 

What advice would you give to someone beginning to train for this type of ministry?

Do something else for a living if at all possible.

In other words, make sure divine “necessity” is laid upon you. If this just seems “fun” it will either eat you alive (of course, it will anyway!) or you will end up taking the more manageable route of running a religious shop in which you will eat others alive.

Also, commit to the habit of Sabbath now before your full time ministry life opens up. It’s easier to bend the branch while it’s still green than after it’s hardened around established habits of busyness in obedience to the god of productivity.

 

What type of organizations should I consider to fulfill the kind of ministry role to which I am aspiring?

Organizations that aren’t devoted to their own survival or growth but instead to seeing the kingdom of God flourish, even when that means their demise.

Organizations that own their institutional sins rather than foisting them on disgruntled members and ex-members.

Organizations that see themselves as structural support for people to find and fulfill their own trajectory of spiritual life and growth instead of seeing people as a consumable for corporate benefit

Organizations that encourage you to breathe, and make a practice of it themselves.

 

ah, that wondrous art of switching offffffff...

ah, that wondrous art of switching offffffff…

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in haverings, Pastoring

 

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absorbing evil

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 12.40.15 PM ~ Richard Rohr

What a refreshing way to view what was accomplished in Jesus’ suffering.
Not merely an eternal accounting transaction,
but an absorption.
Absorbing evil until it becomes resurrection.
And what an interesting nuance to add to that age-old invitation,
“Come, take up your cross, daily.”

Absorbing evil. Daily. Until it becomes resurrection.

Like John Coffee in The Green Mile.

Okay, maybe we should just stick with accounting.

happiness_by_tenshinosekai-d5dpfwc

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2014 in Quotations, Suffering

 

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