the grand promise

 

I’VE A THOUSAND RESOLUTIONS at the start of this new year, something I find thrilling. There’s nothing I love more than the chance to start again, to do it better, to make new commitments that add depth and beauty and enjoyment to life. 

One of these is morning devotional time. It is a practice that has been made more beautiful via two things: (1) New Morning Mercies, (a most thoughtful Christmas gift), and (2) Daily emails from Franciscan friar Richard Rohr. To heighten the intention, I’ve decided to record a sentence I find particularly meaningful from one of these teachings every day in my journal. It is a practice that has borne beautiful fruit; I find that I read with greater focus, and I consider more deeply the lessons shared there.

 

WHICH BRINGS TO MIND A QUESTION with which I have long struggled and one I find difficult to admit because it’s such a foundational Christian belief. (To tell you the truth, I’ve worked on this post for two weeks and am still not sure I’ve effectively articulated the point I’m trying to make. ) Still, here goes.

I believe in a God of love, an omnipotent God, the great I Am. And because of that Almighty Pure Love–so beyond our earthly comprehension–I don’t quite get why Jesus had to die on the cross. To be clear, I don’t mean I have trouble believing. What I can’t wrap my head around is the literal need for it. I struggle to reconcile God’s boundless love with a requirement that, for our sins to be forgiven, Jesus had to endure unconscionable pain and suffering.

It is a simplistic view, I am quite sure. And those who are more learned scholars–who have a much greater understanding of scripture, of the God of the Old Testament vs New, etc.–these people could no doubt offer perspective I am missing. Still Rohr’s January 4th meditation landed in my inbox and he offered an insight that made my heart flip. The crucifixion is not really a matter of substitutionary atonement, he writes, where “Jesus takes the punishment that this angry God intended for us.” Jesus died to show us, he says, that the other side of suffering is transformation.

Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God.

 Whoa, as they say.

Jesus shows us that the pattern of everything is death and resurrection. Jesus is the archetypal pattern for every life, including yours and mine. There will be suffering and death along with love, joy, and resurrection. Most of us are so resistant to accepting suffering that Jesus walked through it himself and said, “Follow me.” He showed us that on the other side of suffering is transformation. 

We had to see the pain, we had feel the ache in our bones to truly know and believe the pattern, which is evident in all things around us, which is life:

Suffering. Transformation. Resurrection.

 

 

In the cosmos, in nature, in our own lives.

 

 

 

It is faith, that’s what I believe, the grand promise.

Something beautiful will come of this.

 

 

Tomorrow will be better.

 

XXOO

I’ve written of Richard Rohr’s meditation series before on The Daily Grace, and perhaps you’ve already received the passage referenced here. If not, here is a link to the January 4th devotional, titled Original Blessing

 

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in love

Love is not what you do; it is how you do it.

This sweet sentiment has clung to my heart since I first came across it in Richard Rohr’s daily message three days ago. One tiny thought in the midst of a meditation so beautiful, so moving…I’m telling you, every word.

Every. Word.

And still it was the sentence that stopped me in my tracks in one of those how can I have lived this long without knowing this ways.

 

I’D ALREADY HAD THE INSIGHT, may I just say that? At least I thought I had. The moment I moved from the teenage notion of love as an emotion, sweeping and powerful, to the grownup realization that love is, instead, a choice. An action. A decision you make. An intentional opening of your heart to that which may well be beautiful but is also imperfect; to the understanding sometimes that which seems least deserving of love is actually most…

Well, you know.

And then Richard Rohr writes this and sends it to me in an email.

Love is not what you do; it is how you do it.

 

It’s the grand answer, don’t you see? In this confusing time in which God has brought love to the forefront, in which there are a thousand examples in our contemporary culture of the need to come together, to reach across, to look through their eyes, to acknowledge, once and for all time, we are all connected. Each and every one of us.

To let love win.

 

MAYBE IT’S NOT POSSIBLE always to love, and maybe that’s okay.

(Maybe that’s not even called for.)

Maybe it’s enough simply to come at things in love.

Amen, Father Rohr.

Amen.

 

XXOO

 

To read the short meditation Disciples: Those Who Love Others, click here. If you’d like to receive Father Rohr’s daily meditations, you’ll find the signup link here. I hope they will bring you the joy, peace and insight they bring me.

Life is hard.

It’s the sentiment that came to me this morning, the thought that woke me and insisted I turn toward the clock to see “4:42.” It was ridiculously early, and for the next 25 minutes I lay there in the quiet dark turning the sentiment over in my mind, watching it tumble amid the troubles sitting on my conscience, tumble like towels in a clothes dryer, a dryer moving in slow motion.

Life is hard.

A friend is staying with us for a while, working a new job that allows her to be closer to her sweet Muzy, a beautiful soul slipping slowly beneath the heavy cloak of dementia. There is great love and tenderness between these two women, mother and daughter, and as I went to bed last night my dear friend kissed her Mom in Atlanta and began the journey back here. It was late–as I said, I was already in bed–and in that difficult late-night dark with snow and freezing rain all around, she began the four-hour drive back. It is too much to bear, I thought. Too much to bear.

Life is hard.

Everywhere I turn, it seems, there is worry great and small: the threat of ISIS, and the beheading of a parade of Christians; the inability of the people of Boston to simply dig out before another great storm socks them in, this time even deeper; my sweet little aging dog, a torn ACL having rendered her back left leg unusable, her right leg then sprained.

Life is hard.

~~~~~~~~~~

I was cooking a pot of chili on Sunday, a (joyfully) mundane task amid the trouble in the world, when I hit PLAY on Oprah’s Soul Series conversation with Father Richard Rohr. His name was not familiar to me, but I was captivated within three seconds. A Franciscan Priest, yes. But a more human human I don’t believe I have ever encountered. Yes I thought as he spoke. Yes. Yes. Yes. Amid many powerful and relevant points he talked about life’s difficulty, about the reality that we live in this world not in spite of but because of the great challenges. It’s how we learn, he said. It’s how our souls expand. It’s why we are alive.

It is what you do with suffering that matters, he said. You must learn from it. You must transform it. If you don’t, you will transmit it–to your family, your friends, your country.

~~~~~~~

At 5:02 I turned on the light and got up. I shuffled to the side porch, where I looked out to see Colleen’s car parked safely in our driveway. I made coffee and got back in bed, laptop open and Life is hard still on my mind. Two hours later I met her in the kitchen. My friend was awake, dressed, ready to head out the door to work.

I’m so happy you made it home okay. That drive must have been brutal I said.

It was long she said, pouring her coffee. And then she turned and smiled at me. I want to hear all about this weekend’s wedding she said. Who was there, what did you wear, every detail. I should be home by 6. And then she was off.

Life is hard, I thought, watching her go. And so we move through it, doing the best we can. Sometimes we transform suffering and aren’t even aware because the beautiful lesson is for someone standing by–a friend or loved one or stranger touched in a profound way by our example, a lesson in grace and generosity that makes someone else’s soul expand.

It’s what happened to me this morning. I thank you, dear friend.

Morning comes.
Morning comes.

*Above is a link to a portion of the show. It is well worth a watch.

 

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