Monthly Archives: February 2009

Getting Naked Yet?

So, . . . how’s it goin?  You getting naked yet?  Beginning to take off that cloak which separates you from God and others?  Have you identified what it is?  You could have several cloaks actually.  Don’t get too ambitious.  Just try taking off one.  If you’re like me, I know the cloak that I need to remove.  It’s glaringly obvious to me.  But I begin to reach for the snap that will remove it; and suddenly I get frightened.  What is life going to like without this cloak?  I’ve worn it for such a long time!  What will I say, how will I act without this cloak?  What’s it going to be like to be naked?  O my God, I can’t even believe that I’m thinking about removing this from my life and getting naked!

I remember when I was trying to quit smoking some years ago, I could NOT imagine what my life would be without cigarettes.  How could I possibly enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning WITHOUT a cigarette?  How could I possibly talk on the phone without a cigarette?  How could I work, have a relaxing evening, clean, work on a project at home (the list goes on), WITHOUT having a cigarette???  It truly seemed unimaginable to me at the time.  Now, I look back and say to myself, “what was I thinking??”  The truth is, it’s glorious to have coffee in the morning WITHOUT a cigarette.  It’s great working, relaxing, walking, talking with friends, WITHOUT a cigarette.  It’s so freeing and I feel so much better.

Why then is it so difficult for me to envision my life without the cloak that I wear now?  If we have been freed before, why is it difficult to imagine our life without lethargy and exercising?  Why is it so difficult to imagine our life eating the right foods that will give us energy?  Why is it so hard to imagine our life without so much internet, TV, without a negative attitude, more attentive to the needs of others?

Perhaps that’s the key.  Imagination.  Thinking.  Envisioning.  Can I begin to think in a new and exciting way about what life would be like without this cloak; instead of concentrating so negatively on what it would be like?  Because the truth is this:   Our lives will be IMMEASURABLY better WITHOUT this negative pattern of behavior!  Perhaps that’s where we need to keep the focus of our thoughts.

God help me to imagine myself without this cloak that weighs me down!  Help me to envision myself naked, happy and free!


A Prostitute’s Love

I couldn’t sleep last night.  I haven’t been sleeping well for a while now.  Lately though, when I awaken, instead of turning on the noise of TV, I have simply been attentive to the silence and/or picked up a book to read.  I have felt like young Samuel being awakened and finally saying:  “Speak.  I am listening.”  And in this presence I am no longer alone.

Last night I picked up a book by Anthony Gittins entitled A Presence That Disturbs:  A Call to Radical Discipleship.  I immediately felt myself drawn into the book and its message.  At one point, he describes a former prostitute by the name of “Teddy Bear,” who comes to Genesis House, a place in Chicago that helps people get out of prostitution and rebuild their lives.  Although Teddy Bear ended up dying at the age of 31 from the ravages of prostitution and drugs, she was finally able to love others, because for the first time in her life, through the people at Genesis House, she was able to love herself.

It is only through a real encounter with love through specific flesh and blood people that we are able to love ourselves and, consequently, touch the heart of Divine Love.  Only then can we be energized to go out and change the world – again through touching specific flesh and blood people.

I laid in bed as I read this and realized that, outside of a time in a religious house of formation years ago, I never have had a community of disciples, a spiritual community where I have felt completely and unconditionally loved as a gay man.  Outside of that one experience, I have always had to hide in one way or another in the community of faith.  Suddenly I realized why I have always felt a disconnect from community, a lack of energy in reaching out to help others, a lack of energy for mission.  It is only when we are surrounded by a community that loves us that we can then reach out in love to others.  And this goes way beyond being gay.  I know of many people who feel they have to hide what they really think and feel about things in religious settings.

So where do we go for community?  I am grateful for those friends who surround me with love and whose love and energy I all too infrequently tap into of late.  I am grateful for those people who have had the courage to leave the confines of a religion which really does not accept everyone, and who seek to create new realities, new “houses” as it were, where all can find shelter, be called by name, known and loved, fed and refreshed again for mission and purpose in life.


Get Naked!

I recently heard a wonderful conference in which the speaker used the example of the blind man Bartimaeus (Mark 10: 46-52) who cries out to Jesus “I want to see!” Two things that the presenter said about this story struck me that have bearing on my living and on the season of Lent.

First, notice that in the story many people tell Bartimaeus to be quiet! They try to shut him up! They don’t like what he’s saying. After all, according to the prevalent thought of the day, Bartimaeus would have been considered a “sinner,” an outsider, a nobody – someone to shun and avoid. He certainly would have held no status in the religious establishment. Notice what Bartimaeus does after being told to shut up. He speaks even louder!

Sometimes the institution, be it church, society, political, the workplace, family or friends – sometimes the institution tries to shut people up. Like Bartimaeus though, I pray for the courage to only speak louder! Notice too that Jesus does not shun Bartimaeus. If anything he ignores the people telling Bartimaeus to shut up, but looks with compassion upon Bartimaeus.

Secondly, notice what Bartimaeus does when Jesus calls him over. He removes his cloak and runs to Jesus – buck naked!! He removes anything which would hold him from being fully present to Jesus and to others.

This Lent, what “cloak” do I need to remove? What is it that keeps me from being fully present to God and others? It could be a variety of things from an addiction, to a negative attitude, to fear, a poor self image, self centeredness, etc. What needs to be removed so that I can be more fully alive and present to Life and others? In what way do I need to get naked?

 


Paralyzed

Mark 2: 1-12

 

Did you ever feel paralyzed, emotionally, physically or spiritually?

Sometimes life is like that. We get stuck. Moving forward seems impossible. I have recently been in one of those paralyzed seasons of life. Can I believe that the same Power that set free, healed and raised to new life can, even now, do the same?

When I am paralyzed I am without energy. However, I must put one foot in front of another and keep moving. I may not “feel” like it, but I must keep moving. Oftentimes we may not “feel” like doing something, but there is Power in just taking one small step to do it anyway. Love is that way sometimes isn’t it? Work is that way. Life is that way. We may not feel like doing this or that; but it’s important to do it anyway. And in the taking of one small step, there can be contained a Power that lifts and heals and raises to new life. Sometimes it’s just a matter of moving, just taking a step.

What paralyzes you today? What keeps you from moving, from taking a step?

Sometimes fear keeps us from risking a step in life. We fear the unknown and so settle for a lifeless sense of comfort. Yet sometimes we are beckoned to take one step, just take a step, just one risk and see where the path might lead. We may find ourselves freed from the paralysis of our comfortable, secure life and born into an adventure that promises no security, but gives birth to a lived life.

Take a step today!


Faith and Risk

When we step out in courage, when we step out and take a risk – not knowing what the end result will be – faith comes alive.  Suddenly words of belief, words of faith and trust are no longer just words but are heard in a new way.  They take on a new reality that is spoken and felt in the heart.

Recently I have taken a couple of risks – both of which could involve the loss of my job and livlihood – but I have chosen to step out in faith because I strongly believe that the stance I take is right and good, even though I am intimidated by the “powers that be.”  I have to confess that of late I have been undergoing a bit of a spiritual desert, a dark night of the soul.  It has been one of those times in life where I have felt absolutely no spiritual connection and little motivation to connect to Source.  In taking the risks I have taken, I felt like a zomby, simply putting one foot in front of another and following through on what I had promised.  But suddenly, deep in my heart I heard a whisper:  “I am with you.  You are not alone.  Don’t be afraid.”  And in those words, summoned by the risks I was taking, the darkness of this long night was pierced by a Light within that seemed so very real – not just nice words, but real.  And it’s no big deal, no big feeling, no huge moment of revelation; just something small, something little, but something so very real that emerges from deep within me.  And in that tiny seed, I feel again the reality of which I so often write and speak.  Not just words, but a Power that is real and that promises to be with me – no matter what. 

Suddenly, in the darkness that has been this Winter moment in my life, my heart is beckoned to the reality of Spring that lay just around the corner – if I only have the patience to wait and keep putting one foot in front of the other.