Paradox of Pain . . .

1 07 2015


Pain knows me;

It comes like a thief – unexpected;

like wild horses – uncontrollable;

an enduring guest – unwelcome.

Pain – eliciting a deep soul scream;

taking me to the edge of what I believe I can bear;

clothing me in darkness;

rationing the sweet tones of hope.

Pain, threatening to take the very heart of me;

the essence of my spirit –

of who I am.

Pain borne from the hands of the other –

held in the hands of the other;

In the mirror, a moment of clarity . . .

                        so distant from myself – I am the other . . .

Denial is my drug;

escapism my addiction . . .

I’m not suppose to be here . . .

I don’t want to be here . . .

listen . .

breathe . . .be still . . .

listen . . .

Can I believe this echo in the canyons of my being?

Can salvation come from within what I would try to deny?

From what I so desperately want to escape?

Does Love arise from pain?

Can Love be borne from within pain?

Out of pain?

Is pain’s voice not the final sound?

A portal to deeper meaning – Love…

Pain knows me . . .

but . . .

I’m beginning to know pain…

Blue Ridge Parkway 1

Open Windows…

23 01 2014

open window








I tell myself, “don’t open that window –-

others will see the darkness within.”

But I deceive myself –-

I am really afraid of what my own eyes will see.


So keep the windows shut;

bolt the doors;

nail them all shut.

So much energy exerted

trying to harness the dark side of me;

my True-Self  sacrificed on this altar.



Who knew the ordinary would invite the extraordinary?

an analogy opened before me . . .

a parable poised for the telling . . .


Do I dare peer into the vacant darkness?

Do I risk looking beyond framed obscurity into a greater reality?

What monsters will unleash their furor?


yes –- if I want to know the deep wonder of fully living . . .


for sure –- a sign of venturing intimacy . . .


It is hard to turn loose of what we know –- of what is comfortable -–

even if what we hold close is killing us.


But now with doors flung open, light shines where it had not, exposing:

Joy . . .

flowing like a shallow stream at first . . . but streams eventually become deep oceans;

Unknowing . . .

a perpetual adventure in trusting Mystery;

Love . . .

deeper than we have words to speak -–

for ourselves, for others,

for the Mystery we are learning to trust.


And this is all my soul asks –-

courage, strength, and grace to peer into the darkness and truth of who I am;

trusting there is abundant life on the other side, and maybe,

even within the darkness itself . . .

Skies on Fire

15 03 2011

Sometimes it seems as if the sky is on fire…

Earthquakes…tsunamis…power hungry leaders…revolutions…bickering over millions while others just hope to make it paycheck-to-paycheck…cancer…nuclear meltdowns…hunger…addictions/unhealthy attachments…self-created delusions to cope with the failure of not living into who we were created to be. How can one hold all this? – so many questions to God…of God. We look to the skies – arms raised, and ask, “Why?” My hands have been lifted skyward many times. I claim this question too.

Many Sundays I pronounce the following benediction as our community of faith walks back into the world:

“And now go in peace, and as you are going, know this:

by the grace of God you were brought into this world;

by the mercy of God you have been sustained to this very moment,

and by the love of God, fully revealed in Jesus the Christ,

you are being redeemed, now and forevermore. Amen.”

(Bill Leonard – adapted from John Claypool)

Redeemed…to save…to restore…to bring back to wholeness. Is this taking place in our world…in creation…in you…in me? Within the events of this life – the good and the bad, is there hope for restoration…or at least to move toward wholeness? Where is God in all of this? Are we, too, a part of the restoration equation?

Being human…being one that has experienced – and will experience – pain and grief…being one who watches devastation beamed from across the world and in my community…and being one who has seen – and will see – the pain of others…I am thus invited into a deeper conversation with God – hard questions to ask…truth and reality become palpable…what is most important in life becomes crystal clear. What am I to do with this all? What am I to do with this question of redeeming?

My faith – my confidence in what I hope for…my assurance in what I do not see – awakens. It allows me to hear the whispers of hope within what I experience…in what I feel…in what I consider. It tells me that just as I am a co-creator with God, I am also a co-redeemer. I have responsibility to do my part in bringing about wholeness in this world – even when I do not understand…even in the shadows of what seem insurmountable odds. Why? Because I have been the recipient of grace…of forgiveness…of nurture…of encouragement…of a challenge to live into whom God created me to be – I’ve been offered and experienced restoration. And I want more – I want it for others…I want it for all creation.  So maybe I can help provide some sacred space for others to discover and uncover their gifts; maybe I can help open up space where nurture, encouragement, and healing can embrace another; maybe I can help provide holy space where another feels safe enough to risk becoming who God has created them to be; maybe I can help have faith for another when the other feels like their faith is a black hole – just like so many has done for me.

And where is God in all of this? Maybe we do not see God in the events of this world – the good and the bad – because we are looking skyward with our hands raised…instead of looking down. Maybe God is down – down in the muck of our living…in the debris of our lives and of creation…within the pain and horrors we experience. Maybe God is in the tears of the heartbroken…in the anger of those who stand against injustices…in the fear of those who are being abused…in the bewilderment of those in the wilderness…in the gaze of those who see – in us. If so, then, there is always hope…a light shining in darkness…the possibility of wholeness.

In the end, I still have deep questions. I do not understand it all…I never will. Many times it is as if my vision is veiled – “I don’t yet see things clearly. I’m squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.” [1 Corinthians 13:12, The Message] So I will rely on my faith…listen within for the conversations between my spirit and the Spirit…ask hard questions, risking a deeper intimacy with God…try to live into the Mystery of it all…and embrace hope as I ask for courage to do what I can to be a co-redeemer with the Creator.



12 02 2011

The question had been whirling around inside me for some time – I just hadn’t tagged it with a name. It was weaving itself together in my subconscious…that deep part of me. This question was birthed early in my life…it’s inevitable in our maturation. However, I cannot remember when natural wondering went underground – nor can I remember the reason. I suspect it was partly in my family’s genetics – passed along to each generation. I imagine it had some to do with my Southern culture. I know it had to do some with my faith community. I know my learned theology was trying to protect me – and others. So I was encouraged to stay on safe shores and discouraged from venturing into the depths of questioning. Questioning, especially questioning God, was treading on shaky ground. But this question was growing inside me none-the-less. At times it surfaced as curiosity. It would visit me while I lay in my bed staring at the ceiling waiting for sleep. As a child, it confronted my spirit when our dog, Ginger, died. It brought along confusion as its companion when Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated. Its energy pushed against my chest with the suicide of my uncle and a high school classmate. And then, there was the accidental death of my uncle only eight feet from me. Shutdown…numbness – I can’t recall much about my life the year after I felt death’s breath so close. The question seemed to go into hibernation. But time passed, and my frozen feelings began to thaw. I began to hear the heartbeat of the question once again – louder and louder. Understanding was elusive –confusion, grief, questions grew louder and louder. I tried to suppress all of it – the feelings, the beating, the questions – but they would not keep quiet. They pierced the mask of solitude and “togetherness” I was wearing in the presence of others. The question was pounding inside my head and inside my chest…my spirit was disturbed. “There had to be something wrong with me?” “There was something wrong with my faith?” “I did not have enough of it…that had to be the explanation.” “I have to make myself be more faithful. I have to bury these ungodly thoughts, feelings, and questions within me.”

Finally, one night after a campfire meeting at Look-Up Lodge, a summer camp where I was working – to a wide open, starry sky the question could no longer be contained…I acknowledged its presence and yelled its name…“Why?!!!” And as I shouted, I knew I was directing all of what I carried at the One who I had thought…who I had been taught…to never question. With the unchaining of this question, I was acknowledging a living relationship with my Creator.

It felt so good! It felt so scary! I felt relief! I felt guilt while tapes of past expectations – of rules I was breaking – played in my head!

I understand to some extent why my faith community had tried to protect me from questioning God. The new land I had entered came with freedom, and with this freedom came the possibility of turning from my faith; the possibility of living in bitterness; the possibility of making my home within rage and anger; the possibility of reverting back to what was comfortable: suppressing feelings…suppressing thoughts…suppressing questions…cutting off God. But this land also offered abundant life. It offered me the opportunity to feel again – feelings created out of the image of God. It offered a way to live through grief, pain, anger, hurt and loss that was dwelling in me…that was poisoning me. This land invited exploration – exploration of self; exploration with others; exploration with and into God. This land encouraged community – taking off masks that separates us from living in relationship as God intended; walking with others; learning with others; being with others; serving others…serving with others. This landscape is filled with the wonderful colors of God. It comes with an invitation for an ever-deepening intimacy with the One who knows the deepest parts of us and loves us best.

Most likely, you, too, have had questions well up in you born of pain, confusion, or intrigue…from life changing experiences. For some of us, it is not easy asking hard questions of God. Courage has to be mustered…genetics has to be accounted for…the cost has to be calculated – do we dare move away from what has been; from what has been expected? Do we dare take steps into a new adventure…a life long, life-changing adventure? There will be “lenten” times – filled with hard self-reflection…where the Light shines into our shadows and darkness. There will be “Holy Week” times – times when it is hard to see the week’s end…hurt, pain, confusion, dread, weariness, and despair seems as if it will never end…the threat of our spirit’s impending death is ever before us…where the answer to the questions we ask of God may be silence. There will be “Easter” times – those times when hope wins the day…when we breath in fresh air and we are reminded that God will never leave us…when we celebrate…when we know we are loved. We are resurrected within and without. These are the seasons of our lives…a process – the inward listening, the passion, the resurrection – and with each, an opportunity of a growing intimacy with God.

A new season is almost upon us…what questions would you offer?