the heart of every human

That truth has been inscribed into our hearts
and into the heart of every human being,
there to be read and reverenced,
thanks be to you, O God….

Open our senses to wisdom’s inner promptings
that we may give voice to what we hear in our soul
and be changed for the healing of the world,
that we may listen for truth in every living soul
and be changed for the well-being of the world.

-from Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter (John Philip Newell). Click here for full prayer. 

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)

questions of life

[A passage from a soon-to-be-released book appealing for a newly invigorated role for theology in helping us live a good life:]

The most theological thing I have ever done was to plant a church—a community in which Bible scholars, ethicists, philosophers, and, yes, a stray “theologian” proper, have done theology as we have lived theologically. A community in which graphic designers, poets, musicians, sociologists, and even lawyers and medical doctors have become “accidental theologians.” It began almost imperceptibly and quite by accident. We should have known something theological was afoot when we found ourselves spending evenings on a back porch listening to a friend—a Christian Nietzsche scholar perched, with not a hint of ironic self-consciousness, on a stump in the backyard—call us to live lives that amounted to more than a never-ending quest for ever-greater degrees of comfort. I remember waking up at 3:30 a.m. to walk with that friend three miles across town to the train station—simply because walking was more life-giving than driving and the conversation along the way was worth the effort. Summer evenings were spent poring over Karl Barth, Søren Kierkegaard, C. S. Lewis, Kwame Bediako, Marilynne Robinson, and, yes, Nietzsche, with the visceral sense that our lives depended on the words on the pages. The questions of life were theological because theology was the question of life. Where to live—and with whom—was a theological question. We bought houses together; we shared cars. How and whether to own at all was a theological question. Rhythms of work and rest were a matter of deep theological reflection. Art and beauty were perhaps among the most theological questions of all. Theology was a question about the nature of the life we were living together.

the truth about myself

By accepting the truth about myself and my actions, I am moving towards a more honest and whole life. Though painful, it is important that I see the impact of my own choices (for example, I must understand that the clothes I just bought at the store are made by workers in developing countries who are often underpaid and working in unsafe factory environments). Once I understand this impact, I can let it hurt me and let it change me. I can let it illuminate my darkness, broaden my understanding, and deepen my love. For honesty’s sake, I need to see my own desire for material gain, and how I sometimes place it above the well-being of the world’s most vulnerable. This is the tension that, should I choose to bear it, will transform me.

how we read the bible

[in one of those lovely and timely moments, I read this yesterday- after reading the news and the misuse of Romans 13…]

The Bible has been used as a tool of colonialism, xenophobia, exclusion, and cultural genocide. It still is. But this does not have to be. For centuries, communities of radical compassion and courage have read and re-read the sacred page in creative and critical fashion, so that these old memories shake the powers from their thrones and bring actual change to those who have been kept down…. The Bible must be lived (and enjoyed) in streams of justice, or it is a dead word.