Tag Archives: love

Miscellany

So it’s been seven weeks since I returned from Spain and the Camino.

And make that almost seven weeks since my last fearful post on here about how to incorporate what I learned/experienced on the Camino into my life here in Chicago.

I’ve realized I don’t have to know what it looks like. I don’t have to know how the story ends. I don’t have to know how the pieces fit in the puzzle. I don’t have to have it all figured out.

When I was walking across the meseta in central Spain, wheat fields meandering towards the horizons on both sides as I crawled under an azure dome pocked by clouds that were few and far between, I didn’t need to know where I was staying that night. I didn’t need to know where I would sleep tomorrow. I would be ok. Everything’s gonna be alright

—–

There are days I am nigh overwhelmed by the brokenness in the world.  There are refugee crises, and sickness, and violence.  The weight is huge.  And I am reminded of it daily as I sit in the pain and fear of the boys and girls who I work with have fled violence, destruction, and death.  I sit in it now.  And it is heavy.

We kick at the darkness, and hope that one day it will bleed daylight…  But we keep kicking.  One starfish at a time.  And we keep jumping, even if we’re not entirely sure how deep the water will be…

https://bmiller.wordpress.com/2008/05/14/bleeding-daylight/

—–

And sometimes when the darkness draws in close, it doesn’t take all that much to drive it back.  Sushi and an old Rasputin.  Friend talks and laughter.  Music and poetry.  And reminders of truth and beauty from Richard Capon as he plays with language and metaphor, meaning and mystery:

Might it not be, then, that it is by bearing for love the uncertainty of what we are to do that we come closest to his (God’s) deepest will for us?  In our fuss to succeed, to get a good grade on the series of tests we think he has proposed, we miss the main point of the affair: that we already are the beloved.  We long ago wound God’s clock for good…

It is our thirst for success and our fear of the freedom which he wills for us that keep us the poor lovers we are.  If the cross teaches us anything, it should be that the cup doesn’t pass from us, and that agony, bloody sweat, and the pain of being forsaken on a dark afternoon are the true marks of having said, Thy Will Be Done.  He is no less lost in this affair than we are.  What really matters for us both, though, is not the lostness, not the doubt, not the fragile, mortgaged substance of our house – only the love as strong as death which has set us as a seal upon each other’s hearts.

This is me learning to show up.  This is me, embracing love.  This is me, realizing that its ok to give up on my quest for certainty, for answers, for control.  What you find in the process is life – and life to the full.  This is me embracing the questions.

It feels good to be back…

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Consolation

I am tired. And my feet hurt. A lot. A few blisters. A few deep aches in the muscles & bones. 180 km. 7 days of walking.

But those things fade away quickly when you’re seated around the dinner table sharing a meal with friends who you hadn’t met a week ago, laughing through the beauty of blended cultures & spilled out stories, love & laughter abounding. To have someone lift your blistered foot into their lap to help bandage it, the sharing of your last cashews, or simply walking in shared silence through Spanish cities & countryside… Beautiful signs of consolation today. And I am thankful.

20140704-051450-18890452.jpg

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Oh the places we’ll go…

It’s funny how someone can capture your heart even though you’ve never met that person before…

That happened to me today:

 

Caleb

 

Welcome to the world Caleb William Derentz.

So excited to meet you, and for the adventures we’ll have…

Love you already…

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Without condition

Three years ago I was vacillating between engaged participant and shell-shocked bystander in the final acts of a long-term (for me) relationship.  I had thought I would spend the rest of my life with this woman.  I was wrong.  Its implosion was spectacular, and devastating.  In some ways, it was like watching the Hindenburg disaster – a horrifying mix of tragedy with flickers of beauty and hope that kept one glued to the scene, hoping against hope that a survivor or two would escape the wreckage, and having each hope dashed time and time again until there was nothing left but ashes.

Two years ago I was tentatively jumping off the cliff into deep relational waters with a different lovely young woman whom I enjoyed, respected, and thought there was potential.  But fear and insecurity and uncertainty and listening to my heart – what I actually wanted, and not just what I thought I should want – led us to the end.

Last year I started communicating regularly with a passionate, creative, hilarious acquaintance, knowing that with the distance in place it was probably not a good idea…  But we kept talking.  Until fear or cowardice or good sense or simple honesty or a little bit of everything compelled me to end our communication.

The common thread in all three of these relationships (and, if I’m being completely honest, in most – maybe all? – of my other relationships) is the inability to do what Thomas Merton suggests:

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them…”  ~ Thomas Merton

This is my stumbling block.

This is the lesson that I have learned from others, even if they did not mean to teach it to me:

“You are loveable, and it is possible that someone could love you…
– as long as you are improving.
– as long as you don’t stay the same.
– as long as you stop making the same stupid mistakes over again.
– as long as you change, and become someone different, someone better.
– as long as you produce something grand for others.
– as long as you are living up to your full potential.
– as long as you are doing amazing things in the world.
– as long as you are not normal, or ordinary, or boring.
– as long as you hide your deepest weaknesses and insecurities, your shattered brokenness and your shameful darkness.
– as long as you are at all times the person you pretend to be.”

And this is the way I loved others all too often.

I internalized those lessons.  I applied them to others in my life.  I judged.  I evaluated.  I withheld.  I wounded others.  I told myself that I loved the potential that I saw in them – and while that potential was very great, it blinded me to the actual loving of the person that I was in relationship with.  It blinded me to the needs and brokenness and beauty of the person in front of me.  And the love that I had to give was only a pale shadow of the love that I wanted to give, of the love I wanted to receive.

These last few months, I have been asking myself what it means to love without condition.

What does it look like to love with no strings attached?

What does love look like when it is not only concerned with what the future holds or the great things the beloved can accomplish, but is content to simply delight in being in the presence of the beloved?

What does it feel like to know and understand the depths of grace – to feel in your bones that you are accepted just as you are, and you are deeply, fiercely, richly loved?

It is bigger.  Fuller.  Richer.  Deeper.  Brighter.  Heavier.  Tastier.

To accept that I am loved.  Shockingly.  Unexpectedly.  Undeservedly.  Beautifully.  Entirely.

It is how I want to be loved, and how I want to learn to love others:
– co-workers.
– clients.
– friends.
– parents.
– brothers and sisters.
– habibi.
– Abba.

“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”  ~ Thomas Merton


Thomas Merton
via Father Bill

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Only Love

The last time I was at the Music Box theater was over a year ago, with Ryan.  It’s a fun theater which shows quirky fare.  Tonight they were screening several of this year’s Oscar-nominated documentaries.  The second one we watched was titled “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall.”

Over the forty-minute long film, we come to know Jack Hall, an 83-year-old World War 2 veteran who is serving a life sentence for murder. He has congestive heart failure, has been in the hospital wing for the past 10 years after multiple heart attacks, and is not doing well. We follow him around as he is wheeled out into the yard to visit with his friends, we follow him to worship services and doctor’s visits and eventually follow him into one of the two hospice rooms of the Iowa State Penitentiary.

It is a startling, intimate, humanizing look into the lives of several men who are incarcerated – and what it means to die with dignity in prison.

The most arresting moments we were invited into were the moments that Jack shared with his hospice care-givers – volunteers who spent 10-12 hours a day with him 5 days a week, in shifts so that he was never alone: bathing him, holding his hand, praying with him and for him, rubbing his back, shaving him, laughing and joking and simply being with him so that he would not die alone.

One of the volunteers was named Love – serving a life sentence for kidnapping. Love was with Jack as he faded into a coma, and became unresponsive. Love was with Jack as he stopped breathing.

And for someone who all too often tears up while listening to “This American Life,” I was gone.

Such a beautiful picture of what reconciliation can look like – life transformed and made new…  Even the murderers and kidnappers and the embezzlers and the gossips and the liars and the racists and the selfish and the greedy and the prideful – Jack, and Love, and you, and me…

—–

(for more on “Prison Terminal,” check out this piece on “Fresh Air.”)

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Problems solved or mysteries lived

I never thought I would see Lenny Kravitz cry on stage. But as the show went on, he just seemed to get more and more frustrated. I felt a little bad for the guy, to be honest. I mean, on the one hand, he’s Lenny Kravitz. But on the other, no matter how many times you repeat your song lyrics and ask the crowd to sing along, it’s not gonna change the fact that the crowd of 300,000 people on the Copacabana beach were primarily Portuguese speakers, and don’t understand what you’re saying, and even though they were super excited to be there, weren’t really able to sing along…

Of course, the five english speakers I was tagging along with didn’t really know the lyrics either – we were just there cause…  I mean, c’mon, how often do you get to go see a free Lenny Kravitz concert on the beach in Rio?

I was reminded of this ridiculous scenario the other night as I was driving home from my internship out in the suburbs, listening to a podcast of Walter Brueggeman teaching an Old Testament Survey workshop. As he closed out a portion of his talk, he said:

“For the most part, the wisdom teachers are problem solvers. But they knew that underneath the problems are mysteries to be lived with.

One of the problems with an electronic culture is that everything turns into a problem to be solved.

Creation is a mystery to be lived with, and not a problem to be solved…”

I turned it off to think about his words for a moment in silence, but right then Lenny Kravitz began blaring through the radio, and I was back on that beach in Rio.

As the two threads wove together in my mind, I smiled at the beauty and absurdity of it: Brueggemann and Kravitz combining to remind me of truth, of experience, of lived hope, of a time when I was learning to give up expecting God to solve my problems, or the problems of the people I cared about, and embrace the mystery of faith and trust and dialogue and honesty and anger and questions and relationship with God in all its wonder and complexity.

—–

The time around the concert was tumultuous. I had recently moved into the favelas, and was confronted on an almost daily basis with police brutality, gun-fights around the corner between traffickers and cops, friends dying of drug overdoses or drug-deals gone bad, systemic oppression and hopelessness and despair. I saw lots of problems that needed to be fixed.

But God wasn’t doing it. At least not the ways that I wanted it to happen. The violence continued. Bullets flew. People died. Hope died.

And yet…

Mystery. Beauty. Death was present. But even as death seemed to reign, there were signs of resurrection, of new life, of people transformed and choices made new, forgiveness opening doors and hearts, people risking love even in the darkness. This was the Kingdom at work.

This tension goes back to the disciples. I think of them asking Jesus, “Lord, are you now going to restore the Kingdom of Israel?” They wanted flash. They wanted bang. They wanted power. They wanted solutions. They wanted the Kingdom to come in now – powerful and majestic and impossible to miss. They wanted torture to stop, chemical and nuclear weapons destroyed, the oppressors ousted, the vision of Isaiah brought to earth where every one could sit and eat under their own fig tree, “and no one would make them afraid,” and freedom and liberty and justice for all.

And against that stands the path of Jesus.

“Yes, that will happen, but not in the way you want it to happen.
Yes, I will make all things new, but it will be like a slowly growing tree instead of an avalanche of light.
Yes, there is hope.
Now go.
Forgive.
Serve.
Give.
Love.”

That is the mystery…

And how do we live that?

“Now if I’d seen him, really there, really alive, it’d be in me like a fever. If I thought there was some god who really did care two hoots about people, who watched ‘em like a father and cared for ‘em like a mother…well, you wouldn’t catch me sayin’ things like ‘there are two sides to every question’ and ‘we must respect other people’s beliefs.’ You wouldn’t find me just being gen’rally nice in the hope that it’d all turn out right in the end, not if that flame was burning in me like an unforgiving sword. And I did say burnin’, Mister Oats, ‘cos that’s what it’d be. You say that you people don’t burn folk and sacrifice people anymore, but that’s what true faith would mena, y’see? Sacrificin’ your own life, one day at a time, to the flame, declaring’ the truth of it, workin’ for it, breathin’ the soul of it. That’s religion. Anything else is just…is just bein’ nice. And a way of keepin’ in touch with the neighbors.”

She relaxed slightly, and went on in a quieter voice: “Anyway, that’s what I’d be, if I really believed. And I don’t think that’s fashionable right now, ‘cos it seems that if you sees evil now you have to wring your hands and say ‘oh deary me, we must debate this.’ That my two penn’orth, Mister Oats. You be happy to let things lie. Don’t chase faith, ‘cos you’ll never catch it.” She added, almost as an aside, “But, perhaps, you can live faithfully.”

~ Granny Weatherwax, in Carpe Jugulumby Terry Pratchett

May you live today faithfully…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Josh and Melissa

josh and meli

 

Dear Josh and Melissa,

So you’re getting married this evening…

Know that I’m thankful for your friendship these past few years – for small group, and worship, and prayer.  For coffee conversations, and dinners on the patio, and the steady diet of ideas, music, silliness, laughter, and joy…

It’s been a delight to see your love grow – the way you make each other come alive, the spark in your eyes on catching sight of the other.  Praying you hold onto that over the years as your love deepens and matures, and as you continue on this journey together.

Praying your love will create a space for beautiful things to grow, for God’s kingdom to be extended in new ways and spaces…
Praying for patience, for grace, for joy, for laughter…
Praying for protection of this relationship, that you are able to keep God as the foundation on which you build the structure of your life together…
Praying that you are reminded today and every day of all those who love you and have come from near and far to celebrate you, to encourage you, and to support you in your commitment to God and to each other.

You are both loved.

Thanks for inviting others in to celebrate with you today…

Can not wait…  Now let’s get the party started…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized