Thursday, January 29, 2015

Beginners Mind

I want to always have a beginners mind, a mind that is ready to see things in a new light.  I need not already have arrived at all the conclusions, in fact if I have, then I'm no longer open to learning from grace.  Our society stresses education, books, achievement, arriving somewhere only to look for the bigger and better.  Information seems to rule the day.  But I could read all the books in the universe, I could solve the most difficult equations without my heart being changed.  I could achieve the highest degree in the land, and still not be happy.

In contrast to this, stands the beginners mind.  The beginners mind is ready to learn, ready to integrate, ready to hold paradox.  The beginners mind might take the form of a child, laughing, ready to let go of all for new life.  If I stand before an infinite God, the only stance to take is that of a beginners mind.  We need to be all ears, ready to take in, ready to be changed.  This may look like a return to simplicity. I could study the Bible, go to seminary, learn Hebrew and Greek, but then only find life in returning to a simply joy, a simple faith, a simple experience of God.

A beginners mind does't need formal education to learn, it is ready to learn from each moment.  We enter into the moment with arms open, ready to engage, ready to hold all the seeming contradictions, ready to laugh.  The beginners mind doesn't take itself too seriously.  Maybe it has in the past but then learned the stagnation in this.  Maybe it learned the freedom in being able to laugh at itself and laugh with others.  Maybe it learned that the laughing joined us more than defining what is right and wrong.

If the first 30 years of life were about learning, defining ourselves, paving our way, making our mark on the work, achieving, then the next 30 should be about letting go, unity, compassion, seeing God in everything, unlearning the places where we find our security in anything but radical grace.  I believe that in our society, we are good at encouraging people in the tasks of the first half of life, not so much the tasks of the second half.

I believe that a beginners mind is important to return to for all people.  If you were raised with an oppressive theology, one where God only chose a few, where some were created specifically for his wrath, where rule and duty spoke louder than new life, where defining what groups, beliefs or people we're against ruled out instead of learning what grace we are for, than learning about love can simultaneously be an unlearning of oppressive theology.  I believe that returning to a beginners mind has a certain respect for the goodness in humanity.  If I think I was born evil, ready and waiting to sin, that my flesh must be dispelled, or at least denied, than I will fear returning to simplicity or to what I am at my core.  If I think in these ways, then I may construct beliefs and schemas to rule and dominate the body and mind, to try and control the evil passions I fear may be teeming under the surface.  This is why our religious belief and theology can actually support living in an inauthentic way.  If I was taught I am bad, spirituality needs to deal with these thoughts and core beliefs rather than erect constructs to deny, keep hidden, relativize, or not deal with our core assumptions.

If on the other hand I believe that we are at core image bearers of God, if I believe in the goodness created into everything that was present before the fall, than I will fear less a return to simplicity.  Why?  Because I will see that at the core of everything, a goodness is present.  I will see that before sin entered the world God was present, and he was good, and a returning back to the truth is a return to this.  Underlying all is a presence that can be trusted.  From this presence we can trace our origin.  In this presence, we can find our beginners mind, ready to accept life, at times laughing in joy and at times weeping over the tragedy in our world.

God grant me a beginners mind.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Acceptance (In your eyes)

I found acceptance in your eyes.  There was no  judgement there.  I found what was seeking me.  I fell in love.  Love itself shown itself to me.  I let go of all my fear, I felt no need to hold to it.  In you, I found my home.  All now makes sense, my strange mistrust of myself has finally been put to rest.

Hope is my new language.  Acceptance my new plan.  Love the new home base.  Moving forward, isn't so much of a moving as an awakening.  More and more I will awaken to you, more and more fade into you.

Fear shall not be my partner, I shall not lie down troubled.  I wake up to the morning light, the light dawning before the beginning of time.  Light is the truest story, the ancient wisdom.  Light has been, will be, is.  I shall not be lost in night, I have heard the call, I know where I must go.

Comfort me oh peace, be brighter to me than the mocking voices.  Let me not fret over them, let me not dismay over what cannot bring grace.  Help me to be patient with my own darkness, not as a surgeon, excising my own cancer, but as a patient, taking part in the great healing.

Meet me here oh love, let me rest in you.  Please let my eyes, my body, find solace here.  Lift up my head, my forlorn posture.  Straighten my twisted being.  In all things, don't let me go.

Light dawned in the darkness, the night gave way to day, and now the sun nourishes our skin, we drink deeply of grace.

Let us find the courage to be, to be with you in the now.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Thirst for the Transcendent

We each have a thirst for meaning, for the transcendent.  We want to know that what we do matters, or that it can.  We have an ingrained desire to be a part of something that is bigger than us.  We want better for our children than we have had ourselves.  We despair over the wars of the world.  We question and doubt when tragedy is near to us.  But we don't want to believe that this is the final say.  We don't want to believe that it ends here.  In our darkest parts, we ache for renewal, for rebirth.  If a desire for good wasn't woven into the fabric of who we are, we could call all as dark and give up.  But something nags at us, something tugs at the strings of our heart and soul, saying, "Just hang in there a little bit longer, trust me."  This is why suffering can be one of our greatest teachers.  Suffering takes all of our previous schemas and wrecks them, but if we are willing to see it this way, takes us beyond them.  In suffering, we cry out for deliverance, we seek answers beyond what we know.  We don't desire suffering, nor should we, but we must learn to not dismiss it.  We must learn to not cover it up or deny it.  What is my suffering trying to say to me right now?  Where is my current way of viewing things or current goals falling short?

Being open to learning from suffering is a grace.  And when I've suffered, and then felt the renewal, my eyes are opened to a new life around me.  I see with new lenses.  Suffering paired with grace has worked its mystery in me.  And now I can even seek the learning, the new life, before the suffering.  My defenses towards grace have lessened.

Whether it's disenchantment with the world at large, or exhaustion at the battles of our own hearts and minds, we can become downtrodden and burdened.  But our failures, our hardships, can become our greatest teachers.  We don't need to fear the dark parts of ourselves, they are but gateways to deeper grace.  They open us up towards the transcendent, to a stance more dependent on grace, on mystery.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Beyond Stigma

We each may have our stigmas.  It may be the environment, or be derived from personal experience.  Maybe we're uncomfortable with those that are gay.  May we shy away from those with mental illnesses.  Maybe we hate people of color.  It's good to recognize where we stigmatize, where we are biased or judge.  The goal isn't to hate ourselves for our prejudices, but the goal is to grow in a compassion for others and to let God accomplish his work in both us and our outlook on others.

I work as a mental health counselor with those given various diagnoses of mental illnesses.  I don't want to judge them, or even prescribe a set course of therapy for them, just because of their diagnosis.  I want to see them as individual, as unique, as having their own precious and special gift to offer the world.  I want to love the whole individual, not the person with the diagnosis.  I feel we hear certain diagnoses and become squeamish, or immediately prescribe a bleak prognosis.  What is those with disorders were not looked down upon, or thought of as a drain on society, but as each able to encounter God in their unique way, in a way that I cannot.  If thought about in this way, a diagnosis becomes just another label, much less a life sentence.

We need to not live our lives in reaction.  I feel sometimes we know much more what we are against than what we are for.  Being for love is the only way we truly know that we are ok in being against evil.  God is for us, using even our flaws to bring himself glory and to teach us greater dependence on him.

It can help to pay attention to our thoughts and reactions when encountering others.  What people group are my hotspots?  Gays? The disabled?  Those on welfare?  What are my immediate reactions when I see these people, or hear of them in conversation.  Starting to pay attention to this can open us up to the possibility of grace in our shortcomings.  We can invite God into the dialogue, asking for his opinion to be made known.  We need not fear awareness.  On the contrary, we can ask the Holy Spirit to aid us in resting in a compassion where we can let go more and more of our prejudices, learning to love others and ourselves at a deeper level.

Spirituality by Subtraction

Living in the now, being present with now, is the highest calling.  This is because the now is all we have.  We're not promised tomorrow, and the past is just that, the past.  We need to stop trying to create the now to be what we want it to be, and work harder at seeing it for what it is.  We need to learn to trust it, to trust the grace in the now.  This is because the now is where God is, and is where he is inviting us to be with him.  Anytime I hide behind the mask of fear, I'm not in the now.  Any time I've conjured up my own feelings, thoughts or reactions, I'm not in the now.  Seeking God in the now means letting go of my agenda.  It means finding God on God's terms, not trying for a personal accomplishment and then seeking God to bless it.

It's tempting to strive for a spirituality of addition.  It's tempting to try and cover all our bases with the right theology, then add a little of service to others, and then to go to sleep at night proud and self-righteous.  But we can do all the right actions with the wrong motives.  Was I moved by love by my actions, or did I do to look good in the eyes of others?  Did I seek to join with the efforts of love, to seek to participate in the joy that is found in communion with God, to know God for the sake of knowing God, or did I seek to check another mark on my "What I did" sheet.

I must acknowledge that while we are on this earth, our intentions will never be totally pure, sin will be right beside us.  But this shouldn't take us from the fight.  God doesn't shame us for this.  It takes humility to desire good, but to be patient with the bad in us.  Refining and purification is God's work, and our waging war against ourselves will not hurry the process.  Patience is a virtue.

I believe that our goal should be a spirituality by subtraction.  We need to cut the layers away, finding a place where we are in union with God.  This might mean we give up our hurried lifestyle, or our worries.  It might mean we need less of our own thoughts, or less of our own constructs, and more learning in quiet waiting.  It might mean that we need to be less quick to react, more quick to allow grace.

In the beginning of our lives, we come forth, beautiful and totally dependent on others.  I believe that the task of our life is to work to become with dependent on God.  When we die, we take nothing with us, only the soul lives on.  And our souls in this life are already longing for their home, we desire that which is eternal, we desire mystery and a love that will swallow up all.  Why should we starve our souls from what they desire.  Mystery is present, we need to learn to be present with it.  I believe this happens less and less by our actions, more and more through trust and faith.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


I need only be in his presence.  All else will let me down, all else is but a shadow and reflection of his reality.  He can be found everywhere, but is bound by nothing.  In my darkest night, in the gleamest hurt, his reality shines.  I must let go, I must recede control to him.  I need to trust his gentle call, to trust the true life in the midst of sulfur.

I see the presence, I move toward it, I hesitate, I fear, I notice the presence is moving towards me.  Maybe this whole time, maybe as I've been seeking it, maybe it's been seeking me more, harder.  Sometimes days are harder than others, some days reign like burning fire, but there is a stillness, a quietness, a solitude in the midst of storm.

This, be my home.  Let me grow in my capacity for rest, for true peace, for eternal joy.  I must let all else go, I cannot make suffering my god, I must give myself to the great Lover, the Lover of my soul, the Lover of all that is in all, through all, to all.

Once I ran, but now I must rest.  I used to desire fire, rain, decrepit shackles, now I must turn to peace.

I had a dream.  In this dream all was bright, all was good, all was love, all was one.  I will forever be changed by this dream.  Though it must be accepted by faith, nothing else will live up to this dream.  I'm drawn by it, called by it, taken by it.  Where the darkest night is replaced by the brightest light.  Where you and I are both here, and them and they all get along, and forever we lay our fighting down and join hands to sing a song, a song of love.  In this dream, the light seeks all, finds all, is in all, through all.  Nothing else seems as important.  Nothing else as deep.  Nothing as beautiful.  The dream encompasses all, is shining and is a dream not only dreamed by us, but to us, and through us.

We are farmers, we are miners, we are lawyers, we are homeless, we are wealthy, we are African, we are Korean, we are sinners, we are good, we are layman and preachers, women and men, forever a song being sung that no one can take away, written forever in the pages of eternity, we are art, we are beauty, we are God's creation, and we are forever stamped as good.

Let me grow in my faith, that is more precious than gold, though refined by fire, let me grow in compassion, in loving, in building bridges, in beauty and grace.  Let me grow to reflect the light more and more, I give myself to your hands Lord God.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Song for Charissa

Hello, I'm posted a song I wrote for Charissa and sang for her as a part of a Christmas present.  When I proposed to her, I had a series of gifts she opened and activities that we did and and at one point I sang a song I had written for her.  I wanted to do something special for her this Christmas so I did a similar thing where I gifts, activities and a song.  Here is the song I sang to her, I hope you like it.  So grateful to be married to Charissa Matthias.