hospitality

[This past weekend was the inaugural (?) “Rain and Snow” winter festival at SSU, and Carol and I had the privilege of offering hospitality to Pádraig Ó Tuama, receiving more hospitality than we gave, from his presence, his words, and his easy appreciation of our shared moments. Here is a passage that shows the thoughtfulness behind an approach that combines hospitality with truth-telling:]

In many circles of faith or spirituality, there is generous time given to the testimony – the telling of the story of conversion, or re-conversion, of enlightenment or change. It is a moving thing, to listen to the testimony. But testimony, if told or heard unwisely, can be a colonisation of a  single experience into a universal requirement. Jesus fed me when I was hungry, we hear, and those who are hungry feel bereft. Jesus healed me when I was sick, say the healthy, and the burdened feel more burdened. Meditation cured me of depression, say some, and others make plans to hide the Prozac. Upon whom is the burden of words? I don’t know. I don’t think there is answer. I cannot dampen gladness because it will burden the unglad. But I cannot proclaim gladness as a promise that will only shackle the already bound. Faith shelters some, and it shadows others. It loosens some, and it binds others. Is this a judgment of the message or the messenger, the one praying or the prayer prayed? I don’t know.

Hello to what we do not know.

What I do know is that it can help to find the words to tell the truth of where you are now. If you can find the courage to name ‘here’ – especially in the place where you do not wish to be – it can help you be there. Instead of resenting another’s words of gladness or pain, it may be possible to hear it as simply another location. There are there and I am here. At another point, we will be in different locations, and everybody will pass by many locations in their life. The pain is only deepened when the location is resented or, even worse, unnamed.

Hello to here.

  • Pádraig Ó Tuama, from In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World

freedom of non-entitlement

[Peacemaker, Jarem Sawatzky, learned from Thich Nhat Hanh to write poetry as one way to be more mindful. He encourages his readers to “take me as your guide and write bad poetry”:]

The Freedom of Non-Entitlement

Beneath some of my suffering lies anger
Beneath anger, impatience
Beneath impatience, entitlement and wrong expectation

Entitlement is the seedbed of wrong expectation
Expecting now what cannot be now creates impatience
Impatience erases time and creates anger rooted in the
injustice that our wrong expectations cannot be lived now
Anger overflows to suffering
The suffering of wrong thinking and
The suffering of wrong action
The presence of this kind of suffering
waters the seeds of anger, impatience, wrong expectation
and entitlement
And the cycle of violence goes on

Transform entitlement and a new horizon of being
Bubbles forth into the present moment

Through the law of non-entitlement
we can embrace and enjoy death
The ones who know
the universe does not owe them anything
are free
A great weight is lifted
We are not entitled to our entitlements
They are not what makes us beautiful

The flower follows the law of non-entitlement
It does not expect to live without end
It does not see its own death as injustice

Gazing at the flower we know will die
Does not feed within us the seeds of anger
Somehow suffering diminishes
in the presence of the flower’s fragile beauty

How can I live and die
Like the presence  of the flower?
How do I embrace the way of non-entitlement?

  • Jarem Sawatsky (with permission), from Dancing with Elephants: Mindfulness Training for Those Living with Dementia, Chronic Illness or an Aging Brain

a response to confessions

[a follow-up to the last poem by Rachael Barham]

confessions ii : God responds

Hear this.
I don’t care
whether or not
you believe in me.

I believe in you.

I don’t need you to protect
my fragile sense of self
by defending me,
by ensuring I am the answer
to every question,
by twisting and distorting your precious soul
to accommodate this little image of me
that you’ve created but outgrown.

I am not small
and I don’t need you
to play small
or play safe for me.

Can’t you sense
that I am always
beyond,
outside,
and calling you
to join me there?

Can’t you feel
this unstoppable force
carrying you towards
a love so powerful
that it is breaking your brittle heart
and remaking it
as a river?

Can’t you see
that I don’t exist
for me,
but always for you,
always for the other,
and that you are just like me?

So please.
Let go.
Stop fighting
and give in to the mighty flow of reality
which is love.

Let whatever is
be.
Let your own beloved self
be.
Whether or not you believe I am
Let me be
for
you.

Let me be
in you.

Let me
believe
in you.

– Rachael Barham – see her blog to find this and related poems

confessions

[a poem by Rachael Barham]

confessions

I say it because I’m with friends
and a couple of glasses of wine and laughter
have loosened my heart
and my tongue:

“Sometimes when a friend asks for prayer
I think, I can’t.
What if there’s no point in praying?
What if there’s no God?”

The smiles and nods
tell me I am not alone.

“But other times
I find my heart rises
to God and to love
with no regard for doctrine or doubt.
Yes, I can pray.”

(I wonder.
Would I have confessed
the first, the moments of uncertainty,
without also confessing the second,
the moments of faith?)

“And then I message back “Praying” 
and feel victorious!”

The laughter lasts a while –
laughter of recognition and relief,
laughter full of unspoken stories,
of relationships with friends
and families and childhood churches
whose belief appears to be
single, unwavering,
that illusive benchmark I suspect
I may never again reach
(though in truth I never did;
I just pretended
–  to myself above all).

Beneath the laughter
there is also pain,
misunderstanding, distance.
The pain of leaving
and the pain of holding on.
The pain of the inner struggle
to find and walk one’s own road
with love and courage,
the new road, now road,
but one that connects
at some crossroads miles past
with the old, well-worn.
Yes, continuity and discontinuity, both.

I say it because I’m with friends
and I need the healing balm
of laughter and confession mixed,
for this truth not to be so serious and heavy,
weighed down by years of silence and taboo.

I say it because I need to hear out loud
that I am not one.
My belief is not single.
Uncertainty and faith
dwell side by side in me.
(Perhaps less disparate than they at first appear,
different ways of approaching the same mystery,
two sides of the same dark coin?)

I say it because I need to balance
the complex victory of “Praying”
with the equally complex victory of “I can’t.”

Most of all I say it
to lay down any claim or need
to be champion of the faith
– that burden is not for me to bear –
and to take up instead the only burden
(at once heavier and miraculously light)
that is truly mine:
the burden of being myself.

– Rachael Barham – (from her blog)

celebrating difference

Working for an inclusive community of love and justice doesn’t mean throwing all of us with our various beliefs into a big blender so that our believing and belonging become homogenized. It means being able to celebrate difference and argue for our point of view without wanting to imprison or kill those who differ from us.

  • Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity