FORGIVENESS: Turning The Tables—Do We Forgive the Father of the Prodigal?

August 27, 2017

Let’s face it, the Father of the Prodigal Son comes off as some kind of superhuman hero. God the Father, to be specific. I like to spend time in that low, quiet quarter of my soul that sort of rumbles about looking for meaning and connection with the rest of the world. And it interests me when I feel the wind with the same kind of whisper on it blowing by me. A mumble here, a shrug there. It is there in the world: the grumbling against the mighty spirituality of God. I know it’s in me.  Grumbling about the vast difference between the absolute that is God and my hunger pangs which are relative. Relative to me. They relate to me.  And my stomach. And in those moments, I really don’t care about God’s absolute need to [...]

FORGIVENESS: The Nine Lepers

February 23, 2017

The wounding and healing of a person is an interesting process. The truth about the priest on whom I am focusing my forgiveness process – a stand-in for the line of priests in my life who have shunned me – is that what he did to me, at that time, bothered me no more than a mosquito bite.  Because the rest of my life was complete chaos. That day, and for so many thereafter, I didn’t have the time, the energy, or the interest to even think about what that priest said. Or did. So the pain was efficiently stored away. It was a shock to me, then, when God said at the beginning of this last Advent, It’s time to heal your priest-wounds. My first reaction was, What priest-wounds? And then, there they were. Spread out, like [...]

FORGIVENESS: Humility, or The Tale of Two Shawls

February 18, 2017

I have been studying what I thought was a “new” form of evil.  New to me, that is. Turns out, though, I studied it for years when I was half my age. Because it was only a study back then, and because the study was very intense, it left some terror in my soul. I’m very efficient about my emotions: if I don’t need them right here, right now for whatever it is I am doing, then they get stowed away. This terror had been stowed away – very much out of sight, out of mind – until the door was flung open and there it was. And here this study is again now. But what I realized was that when I had studied this particular form of evil, I had never come up with the understanding of what kind of spiritual weapon would be [...]

FORGIVENESS: Surviving The Quicksand Of The Soul

April 8, 2016

It is no wonder that people are so confounded by forgiveness. It is either treated so lightly that it is given like a blessing to someone after they sneeze. Or the challenge of 70 times seven feels too great a summit to reach. But I have discovered something recently. When we forgive, we forgive an act. You (name act)ed me. I understand why you (name act)ed me. I have come to terms with why you (name act)ed me. I forgive you for (the act). So why is it so hard to let go?  Why do shades of the act come back and haunt us? Does forgiving an act have to be done in layers? What are we missing? What we are missing is what is under the act.  The violation. Kathleen Norris, in her book, describes at great length the idea of acedia.  She calls [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — Tasting The Blood

March 10, 2016

Knowing God’s heart means consistently, radically, and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, and that every time fear, isolation, or despair begins to invade the human soul, this is not something that comes from God. (Henri J. M. Nouwen / In The Name of Jesus) I am here at my 30th day of Lent. Thirty out of 40. Or 47, depending how long you make your Lenten disciplines. Plunging around in my imagination to find blessings from people I’ve only always associated with a grunt and a shrug is like having to go to the dentist every day and having a root canal. Being scraped and scraped and scraped.  Down to the nerve.  And then scraping the nerve. And, then, every day after the procedure, having [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — God, the Rumpelstiltskin

March 3, 2016

Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, Whose mouth speaks lying words, And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood— That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style; That our barns may be full, Supplying all kinds of produce; That our sheep may bring forth thousands And ten thousands in our fields; That our oxen may be well laden; That there be no breaking in or going out; That there be no outcry in our streets. Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord! (Psalm 144:11-15) I never expected this from God, to be honest. And I’m not sure there would be many who would either.  Unless they [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — Playing The Hand The Fool Dealt

February 18, 2016

There is a saying, Only a fool plays the hand he’s dealt. But sometimes, I’ve found, it is The Fool, himself, who deals the hand. I have learned a lot about forgiveness this week. A whole lot. One thing I have learned is that we all lie to ourselves about the nature of forgiveness. We want it to be all about resolution. About peace-making. About love. But what it is really about – what it is about when we are alone with ourselves in the darkness – is justice. We want justice for the pain. For the inconvenience. For the disruption to our lives that the injury caused. And we use forgiveness as payback. I know this now because what I saw before me this week, working hard to find something to be grateful for for some people [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — Turn Around

February 11, 2016

Where to begin? I think of people lost on the moors.  Lost in swamps.  Lost in endless stretches of forest.  Or desert. Direction becoming a matter of wishful thinking.  Of good intentions.  Of wondering where it will all end. So this particular beginning begins with Lent. The usual organizational push.  What to do.  How to structure it. Pieces.  Like a child sitting cross-legged on the floor.  Building. One at a time. Watching for an imbalance that will bring it down. Only to be pieced together again. Lent. Stillness. But with a different hush than the one that belongs to Advent. Instead of the glow of ahead-ness, there is the slow choking, the tightening of the heart and mind and soul and body. It Is Coming. That which we [...]

FORGIVENESS: Pre-Lent 2016 — A Matter Of Dust

February 4, 2016

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. (Matthew 10:14) I am planning to write one of these days my thoughts about the difference between spiritual growth and healing.  It’s pacing there in the back of my mind somewhere, but other matters seem to be more eager to be played with. So it seems that my life is all about dust these days, and the kicking-off thereof. It all began with some writing.  Two responses to the promptings of poetry.  Followed by a challenge thrown down: Now Write About This!  The challenge accepted.  Mulled over. I have not found the process of writing in response to someone else’s words “fun.” [...]

FORGIVENESS: Finding Our Voice, Finding Our Time

June 9, 2015

More and more, it strikes me that we make healing much more difficult than it has to be. We get it into our heads how something should look in action.  We try to understand God’s intentions in our own best intentions, only to find that we’ve gummed up the process in the process. OK. Fine. I do these things. You, on the other hand, may get everything right. I can’t imagine how old I will have to be to be able to get to that point of getting anything right with God. I have one redeeming feature, though.  At least I know when I’m wrong. That’s kind of easy for me.  I am wrong all the time. All.  The.  Time. Let’s just take my most recent “study”: forgiveness. I remember in the good, [...]

FORGIVENESS: The Prodigal Son Comes Home

April 30, 2015

I could see him from the path.  Up there, on the hill.  Waving at me as though I were old Aunt Bertha coming back from attending some childbirth or something. How did he know that I was coming back?  Who tipped him off? Of course, he may have thought I was someone else. Someone he would be glad to see. Not me. Surely. I can’t believe how he treated me. He cried all over my tunic.  As though on top of everything else I’ve been through – and in – I needed that on my clothes too. What a wimp. Crying over me like I’d just come back from the dead, or something. And there was my brother, Joseph, waddling around, nodding and nodding that fat head of his.  I wonder when the last time he could poke himself and find a [...]

FORGIVENESS: Finding The Room To Forgive

April 16, 2015

Ash Wednesday, February 10 That long ago. An assignment in forgiveness.  Except, for me, the assignment was narrowed.  I was to focus on my unforgiveness, my refusal to forgive. And I initially thought, this is good.  This is healthy.  Like fasting for the body.  A deep cleansing. That’s because I thought that this was just going to be an expansion of those aspects of forgiveness that I’ve worked with nearly all my life.  What I know.  Just more.  Bigger. Improved. Huh. It turns out that forgiveness for those big things that have happened to us in our lives isn’t the worst expression of letting go.  Because, I have discovered, big things give you room to move around.  They give you memories that you can finger. [...]

HEALING: Listen, or Approaching Unforgiveness

October 23, 2014

It was a direction that came during my evening contemplative prayer.  The time of prayer in my day that I had been dedicating to “working” on an unresolved anguish. Listen, he said. The directive did not come from the God, the Father, as is most usual for me.  Instead, it came from his son, Jesus. I felt, almost immediately, how different a command from Jesus was from one from his glorious father.  I trusted it more, if that is the right word.  Trusted it in terms of feeling that it would be “easier” to follow; not yet another offering of inscrutability that would take years, if not decades, to unravel.  The command, listen, from God, the Father, could very well end up meaning, sing the Alleluia chorus [...]

FORGIVENESS: Finding Ground With Evil

September 4, 2014

As much as we would like it to be, it is not unusual to either experience personally or through someone else’s story evil spitting in our faces. What I am referring to is opening ourselves up to someone who has hurt us badly, in order to advance forgiveness on our part, and being told by that person that we are wrong to be upset by what happened. In the first place, it might begin. And then might finish up with, How can you blame me for what happened to you? This may come from rapists.  Or from someone who beat us.  Or degraded us for years. Or betrayed us. Betrayal can come from so many directions, and affect us profoundly. It can be found anywhere. And when we become aware of our reaction to those serious injuries that we wish [...]

GOD 101: The Leveling Virtue Of Gratitude

May 27, 2014

I was standing at the information desk of a very busy suburban library the other day.  Next to me was a breathless nine-year-old boy, impatient with the help he was not getting from the librarian behind the counter.  The librarian, in his turn, was making a nominal effort to sift through the assorted junk in an open drawer in front of him, letting one of his fingers draw across the surface of the contents like a lover hanging his hand over the side of a boat and lightly disturbing the smooth surface of the lake. Do you really need a pencil? sighed the librarian. NO! Just an eraser!  It sounded to me as though this, to the boy, had already been explained quite clearly. I watched the librarian, who appeared even to me to have no [...]

FORGIVENESS: Being Found, or The Problem with Hidden Enemies

May 19, 2014

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen. The Prayer of Humble Access.  Written by Thomas Cranmer for the newly forming Anglican Church.  A prayer that has been said, while kneeling, for centuries.  And yet when I was a child I choked on [...]

FORGIVENESS: The Mechanics Of Resistance

February 24, 2014

I love insights.  Along with a few other things on Earth, they make life almost worth living, I find. I’ve been pondering on this very real reality of mine, this result of having been a mystic all my life and having lived squashed up tight under God’s arm pit that gave me a sense of being very separate in certain ways from the rest of mankind. It began when I was very young, and it has been my definition all my life. And so now, God bless God, the tables have turned on me and I am to look, to study, to probe my humanness.  Myself as one who interacts with other people. And I want, to be honest, to just sit here and stammer. But, but, but. . . . You get the drift. This “closing the gap” between myself and others [...]

FORGIVENESS: An Unsteady Happiness

February 13, 2014

My prayer life changed a few months ago.  I can’t remember why, exactly, I did this, but I began to follow an Ignatian online retreat that has meditations and whatnots that change on a weekly basis.  A 34-week retreat.  Something to sink my spiritual teeth into. I found that I liked snippets of the prayers offered, and decided to use them for the basis of my rosary prayers.  So, instead of praying everyday the same prayer as I worked completely through it, I changed my rosary prayer every Monday morning. Now, let’s face it, prayers aimed at our relationship with God pretty much settle on one basic concept: I’m inadequate in this, help me to do that better, I’m confused about everything. Our weakness. Our [...]

GOD 101: Love Without Pity

January 28, 2014

Recently, I figured out a way to organize the “categories” section of my blog.  As I was happily sorting through the various entries and putting them into subcategories – Raphael goes under Angels – I noticed something that I had never thought about. There were concepts that belong entirely to God.  Creation.  Death.  Final judgment.  And there were concepts that belong entire to man.  Sadness.  Motherhood.  Enemies. And, then, there they were: concepts that belong to both God and man.  Love being the biggest one I noticed. And so I felt confirmed in my “discovery” that love is not really an emotion: how could it be if there are different applications of it?  How could it be if at least one aspect of [...]

GOD 101: Incremental Forgiveness

December 2, 2013

I have written before about the lesson of re-creation.  I’ve added a hyphen here, because the lesson is not about having fun on a beach, but of creating yourself anew. It’s about healing.  Deep healing.  Healing of wounds that have slammed into you and taken up real space in your mind and soul. It’s symbol is the number 8.  The top circle of the number represents going through the experience again with your mind.  The bottom circle of the number represents going through the experience again with your body. But it’s not like, OK, I’ll just go over this painful experience with my mind and emotions (top circle).  No, it’s a continuing process of being slammed, in little bits this time, with elements [...]

HEALING: Forgiveness And Judgment

February 19, 2013

It isn’t very often that accomplishing the process of forgiveness doesn’t wind up feeling like a waste. Because after it is all over, after we’ve cried and wrung our hands, pulled at our hair and tried to look the other way; after we’ve said, enough is enough, I don’t hold it against you any longer, it’s too much work to be this angry at you; after all that, we’re still left with the shadow of judgment. Yes, you did this to me. Yes, I have forgiven you.  I really have. But I now see you for who you are.  I see what you can do to me. What then? We want forgiveness to be this complete washing out of our minds, our mouths, our hearts, our souls.  We expect forgiveness to heal our relationship with [...]

REFLECTION: The Prodigal Son

November 30, 2012

A few years ago now I sat through an Advent Quiet Day that focused on Henri Nouwen’s book about the parable of the prodigal son. I was very impressed that a man, not usually found leading quiet days, but for whom I felt great respect for the depth and sensitivity of his observations, was leading it. And I grew even more impressed as he took on each of the three roles expressed in the parable and dressed himself up, so to speak, in each one’s part of the play.  I couldn’t imagine myself doing that, considering myself as each one, each different one: the casting-off, cast-off younger son; the open-hearted, open-handed father; the self-absorbed, whining older brother. That is a lot of personas to find in oneself. As I sat there in the [...]

FORGIVENESS: Those Who Trespass Against Us

November 16, 2012

We make enemies out of other people. It’s not that hard to do.  And it feels like in today’s culture, the one that keeps itself so busy with faster and faster communications, making another person our enemy is something to be proud of. Roman Catholics make enemies out of women who have had abortions.  I read a line in a Roman Catholic discussion group concerning the recent election that went, I know we’re supposed to love one another (blah, blah, blah, blah). Love is blah.  Judgment, now that’s cool. Republicans make an enemy out of a black man being president.  They’re announcing the end of the world.  The take-over of our minds by the president.  The collapse of all industry.  The united hatred of [...]

A REFLECTION ON LOVE: On Earth As It Is In Heaven

October 26, 2012

Most of the visions of my early childhood were dedicated to seeing God in everything.  It was more than a challenge.  Sometimes it felt torturous.  Trying to wrap my mind around some concepts was hard enough, but seeing them as an expression of God bordered a lot of the time on nearly impossible. But as I aged, I got used to the idea more and more.  I can even say to myself, quietly, when no one is looking, that the AIDS virus is an expression of God.  Death is, after all, in the purview of God.  And AIDS is a means of death. Just a means of death. But, oddly, (not perhaps for me) the one concept in the universe that I never would consider as an expression of God is romantic love.  I would never consider it as an expression of God [...]

FORGIVENESS: Four Steps To Healing, or The Look of Fear

October 16, 2012

I think that the hardest part of forgiveness is identifying the wound.  For me, not understanding that I have felt wounded has a lot to do with shame: most of the time, the things that wound me, frankly, embarrass me.  I was overwhelmed with sorrow when my father gave me a hat.  (For those who might be confused by this, I wrote about it in a post entitled, SPIRITUAL DIRECTION: Hunting the Jabberwock.) I think that because I tend to just blink at my wounds, feeling somewhat unable to even understand them much less approach them with a plan to resolve them through forgiveness and reconciliation, most, if not all, of them just go unresolved for want of recognition. It’s one thing to say, Father, I forgive you for driving over my [...]

SCRIPTURE: Hearing My Master’s Voice

September 14, 2012

During my lifetime I have read(ish) the Bible through(ish) a number of times. I have a collection of reading plans.  One even from the time of Elizabeth I, with readings from 3 Kings and 4 Kings. I say read, when what I really mean is hum. I think that during my life, I have tended to hum with the imagined sound of a bassoon in the back of my mind while reading the Bible.  It beats having to pay attention to it, after all.  Except the good parts.  I pay attention(ish) to the good parts.  Like the story of Tamar in Genesis. The humming is so bad that in spite of the fact that every morning and evening, during prayers, I read that section of psalms that is carved out in my prayerbook (there was even quite a long time when, in addition [...]

FORGIVENESS: When It Is Better To Receive Than To Give

May 10, 2012

There are many reaches of forgiveness.  There’s forgiving others.  Asking others to forgive you.  Asking God to forgive you.  Asking God to forgive others.  Supporting others in forgiving each other.  Forgiving ourselves. On the surface, I think that we generally believe that we have a grasp on forgiveness.  What’s the big deal, after all?  Jesus teaches us to forgive seventy-times-seven, so that just means that we need to keep at it until we can stand to be in the room with the other person and have a conversation with him. Right? I don’t think so. I think that we are masters of forcing our outward expressions to conform with what it looks like to forgive, while finding niches deep inside us where our pain can [...]

FORGIVENESS: Opening The Wound

January 25, 2012

If the unity of Christians in one body makes the church a sign of God in the world, and if men tend unfortunately to conflict and division by reason of their weakness, selfishness, and sin, then the will to reconciliation and pardon is necessary if the church is to make God visible in the world. Nor can this pardon, this communion in forgiveness, remain interior and invisible.  It must be clearly manifest.  So the mystery of the church demands that Christians love one another in a visible and concrete way. Christ will not be visible to the world in his church except in proportion as Christians seek peace and unity with one another and with all men.  But since conflict is inevitable, unity cannot be maintained except in great difficulty, [...]