“It is the theme of the divine party again, the party that lurks beneath the surface of history and calls only for a recognition by faith. It is the fatted calf served up for a prodigal who did nothing but come home in faith. It is the free champagne and caviar for wedding guest who did nothing but trust the king’s insistence on providing fancy costumes and party hats. It is the full pay for next-to-no-work-at-all given to grape pickers who just said yes to a last-minute promise. The only reason that judgment comes into it at all is the sad fact that there will always be dummies who refuse to trust a good thing when it’s handed to them on a platter. That is indeed a grim prospect. And it is grim because if we have any knowledge of our own intractable stupidity, we know that those dummies could just as well be ourselves. But for all that, it is still about joy rather than fear… The history of salvation is slapstick all the way, right up to and including the end…”
Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
An Easter Sermon
St. John Chrysostom
…First and last alike, receive your reward.
Rich and poor, rejoice together!
Conscientious and lazy, celebrate the day!
You who have kept the fast, and you who have not,
rejoice, this day, for the table is bountifully spread!
Feast royally, for the calf is fatted.
Let no one go away hungry.
Partake, all, of the banquet of faith.
Enjoy the bounty of the Lord’s goodness!
Let no one grieve being poor,
for the universal reign has been revealed.
Let no one lament persistent failings,
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
for the death of our Savior has set us free…
The Easter sermon of John Chrysostom (circa 400 AD)
Some days I leave work, and my only response to humanity as a whole (or, more specifically, that subset who take advantage of their power and privilege to do violence with impunity) is in line with what Roy here says below:
As I was driving home tonight, I remembered the corollary to the above statement made by the southern theologian Will Campbell when he was asked to define what Christianity meant to him, and he responded, “We’re all bastards but God loves us anyway…”
It doesn’t make the anger go away, or make everything all better… The problem is still there. But I’m no longer alone in it. And neither are the girls…
People are bastards. Men are bastards. But God loves us anyway…
Today is the day on which people in the U.S. consume more food and alcohol than on any day except Thanksgiving. Celebration. Getting together with friends. Being reminded of all that unites us and draws us together… Embracing commercials and commercialism. Bread and circuses are entertaining, and fill you for a little while.
Today in Syria the bombs still fall.
And today in Guatemala… the maras.
And today in Yemen… drone strikes.
And today in Nigeria… Boko Haram.
And today in New York City… #blacklivesmatter
And today in Paris… the 19th arrondissement.
And today in Englewood… Hamilton Park.
And today in Kolkata… Songachi.
And today in Rio… Complexo do Alemao.
And today in Freetown… Kroo Bay.
And today in my neighborhood…
Alcohol abuse. Violence against women. Isolation. Systemic violence. Oppression. Marginalization. Oppression. Depression. The search for meaning. Hopelessness. Apathy. Exhaustion.
And into this world we wade – committed to doing the hard work of love, of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of listening, of sharing, of connecting, of reaching out, of listening to those we want to ignore, of avoiding simplistic narratives and attempts to other…
“There is something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.” ~ Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We look for beauty. We notice the image of God in all people. And we search for God in all things. In the darkness… and in the spotlights… with trust that if we keep looking for God, God will find us. And maybe we will find that God has already found us, even before the looking began.
A Prayer for Super Bowl Sunday
~ Walter Brueggemann
The world of fast money,
and loud talk,
and much hype is upon us.
We praise huge men whose names will linger only briefly.
We will eat and drink,
and gamble and laugh,
and cheer and hiss,
and marvel and then yawn.
We show up, most of us, for such a circus,
and such an indulgence.
Loud clashing bodies,
violence within rules,
and money and merchandise and music.
And you – today like every day –
you govern and watch and summon;
you glad when there is joy in the earth,
But you notice our liturgies of disregard and
our litanies of selves made too big,
our fascination with machismo power,
and lust for bodies and for big bucks.
And around you gather today, as every day,
elsewhere uninvited, but noticed by you,
those disabled and gone feeble,
those alone and failed,
those uninvited and shamed.
And you whose gift is more than “super,”
overflowing, abundant, adequate, all sufficient.
The day of preoccupation with creature comforts writ large.
We pause to be mindful of our creatureliness,
our commonality with all that is small and vulnerable exposed,
your creatures called to obedience and praise.
Give us some distance from the noise,
some reserve about the loud success of the day,
that we may remember that our life consists
not in things we consume
but in neighbors we embrace.
Be our good neighbor that we may practice
your neighborly generosity all through our needy neighborhood.
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…
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…
My flight touched down in Chicago last night after almost 24 hours of traveling. I am home now, close to six weeks after I left. And while in one sense it is so good to be home – to have a hot shower for as long as I want, use a real towel, sleep in my own bed with clean sheets, walk the streets of my neighborhood in the cool morning light as I head to one of my coffee shops – in the other, it is terrifying. I had six weeks away from the day to day – six weeks of self-discovery, of newness, of walking slowly, of inhabiting silence, of learning to listen to God, to my body, to others, to the world around me. I had six weeks where I did not eat a single meal alone. It was lovely. Six weeks of talking to strangers and finding that we weren’t strangers at all, but family. Six weeks of simplicity – of sharing – of community – of delight.
It has changed me. I feel more free – more myself – less afraid – less isolated. More who I want to be, more who I was made to be. I return tired, but full to overflowing.
And the thing that gives me pause – that scares me more than anything – is that I don’t want to lose that. Now begins the process of learning to walk the Camino here in Chicago. Friends have told me this, and commented on it. I have read that the true Camino begins once you arrive in Santiago, and realize that your entire life is a pilgrimage – and that what matters is not only the destination, but the process of arrival.
I remember returning back to college after spending four months in Nepal and India with WMF, and being terrified that I would slowly forget the lessons I had learned – the relationships I had made – the people I had met – the growth that had happened. And I didn’t want that at all. So I made changes to my life.
That process begins again today. As I look back on this last year, much of it seems covered in fog. I was existing, but not really living. Isolating myself from those who loved me, seeking intimacy and relationship from books and TV and movies and fantasy and imagination… So, time for changes.
I’m not sure yet what those changes will look like. Simplicity. Relationships. Sabbath. Community. Slowness. Grace. Celebration.
But my goal for the Camino was to learn to hear God more clearly so that I might be more closely attuned to the things that really matter upon my return to “normal life.” Now begins the hard work of continuing to walk when there aren’t necessarily yellow arrows spelling out your next destination.
Or maybe I just need to learn to pay a little closer attention to what’s around me…
Today marked day 13 of walking across Spain on pilgrimage to Santiago. We have walked close to 400 km (240 miles) since starting out in France. It seems like we just started yesterday… It seems like we’ve been walking forever…
A few things that were beautiful today:
– the sunrise over the meseta as we watched the blacks & grays fade into golds & greens as far as the eye could see.
– songs & prayers & conversations & silence & laughter & stories & generosity & love that are slowly turning strangers into family.
– a beautiful impromptu guitar concert performed by a professor of classical guitar in an 11th century church as the setting sun painted the white stone walls into every shade of gold imaginable.
– the local priest laying hands upon us and blessing us as we continued our journey.
– a warm shower, clean clothes, hot coffee, & a soft bed.
– other people.
– a friend who will bandage your bloody & blistered feet with care & tenderness & patience.
– going to sleep knowing that tomorrow we are sleeping in until 6am & only walking 19km. =)
There is much to be thankful for.
What are you thankful for today?
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.
Tomorrow morning, I will get up, load my pack, and walk for 20+km over the Pyrenees. If I drove, Google tells me I could get there in 30 minutes.
Instead, these are taking me:
Why am I doing this? As I lie awake tonight, others snoring & roosters crowing (waking up my new Irish friend Frank enough to mutter “Shut up ya bastard, for fooks sake…” swear some more, & then doze off again…) I laugh a bit as I ask myself that again.
There are many reasons, but as best I can tell, it is primarily to step out of my daily ordinary life in order to hear God better & to love God more, so that I may continue to do so more fully in my life back home.
There is the adventure piece – to simplify – the camino as a metaphor for life – a chance to unplug from distractions – an opportunity to practice living w/ freedom & lightness – freedom for God & for others – a chance to be a blessing & a witness – discernment in my life – space to laugh, have fun, & receive life… All secondary however.
My hope & prayer is that this pilgrimage – instead of simply being a long walk, or a journey to some sacred place – will be a sacred time, that helps imbue my days & my steps with an awareness of all that is holy around me, & the presence & work of the Spirit (& then somehow carry that home at the end-but that’s a problem for the future…) today I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other as I walk over these today…