Shame

19 08 2016

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Shame ON you:

A shadowed birthright for the unknowing;

vulnerable shoulders baptized;

permeating the fibers of being.

 

Shame On you:

Given by master shame-keepers;

blind to their own shame-pain;

stained by the dregs of their perceived worthlessness.

 

Shame ON me:

I, too, am stained – a shame-holder;

cloaked in my denial;

shame administered from my benumbed self;

dispensed to avoid;

imparted to another so that I will not be the only worthless one;

buried in anger – a distraction from facing my

damaged-self in shadow places…

always hiding, always evading.

 

Longing though…

longing…

for exoneration;

to be disburdened from this groundless, guilt-laden backpack;

just to be loved…

            for Love;

longing rising from a deep soul-knowing.

 

I still bear the decades-old shame stigmata.

Sad that I still prefer to dress in these tainted garments.

They’re still in fashion, right?

These comfortable, immured costumes?

 

But I see only through the eyes of the child in me.

There is a different way – where scales fall;

where Light burns off unworthiness like morning fog

and the soul is clear and pristine – created worthy;

where shame has no place –

exposed as the mask it is;

where I AM reveals the I am that I am –

breathed into existence by Breath Herself.

Created by Love –

always “Love ON me”…

Love in me…

That’s all…

That’s all that’s needed.

Cades Cove layers

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Defining Moments

16 04 2011

It’s not how we act, or react, in those spotlight moments – from dinner out with friends in a public place to presenting a project for work – that defines who we really are. We are masters at knowing what mask to wear in a given situation. It’s how we live in each present moment that adds to the sum of who we are…who we are becoming.

I met Dr. Griffin Henderson during the summer of 1987. I only wish our first meeting had not been so jarring…or maybe it was just the right way – my life would not be the same if I hadn’t.

This particular summer I worked at a conference center in the mountains of North Carolina as the Day Camp Unit Leader for first and second graders, provided for parents attending weekly conferences. Tuesday was our hiking day for our unit. The college students I supervised would leave with the children soon after Day Camp began – heading toward Kitzuma – a relatively small mountain not far outside the conference center’s gates. This particular Tuesday, I got word that two children would be arriving late. I sent the hikers ahead – knowing I could drive the latecomers to catch up.

With the children buckled in the back seat of my roomy VW bug, I started down the hill toward the main gate.  As I stopped to turn left onto the frontage road, I became very aware that this particular week’s conference was a popular one. There were cars parked outside the gate along the frontage road obstructing my site-line of oncoming traffic from both directions. As I strained to see any oncoming traffic, a person turning into the center motioned me to pull out. I appreciated their kindness but their non-verbal message did not include, “wait for the car coming from the other direction”. As I proceeded, I experienced that brief gut-sinking moment of seeing the other car, I heard the squall of tires on pavement, I heard the crunch of metal crushing metal, and I felt the jolt from a small car being pushed around by a much larger one.

I checked the children…they were fine – eyes wide open…but fine. Then I turned to the reality of what was next – I had to get out of the car and face the man whom I accidently, unintentionally wronged. I was ready to face his wrath. I do not remember him saying very much. He did not call the police…we just exchanged insurance cards then he asked me to come by his house that afternoon so we could work out the details about costs. Shaken, not too aware, and not familiar with car accident protocol, I agreed. We both drove away in our damaged cars. I took the children to catch up with the rest of the group.

I did what I needed to do – called my director and later talked with the parents. On the inside however, I was being eaten alive by worry, guilt and shame…I have always been a very conscientious person – taking my responsibilities seriously, never hurting anyone…never putting anyone in harms way; taking care of what has been entrusted to me. I worried about the conflict I would face in my later visit…that this man was storing up his rage…that I had made a huge mistake in not calling the police – I was going to get taken. I felt guilt and shame that I had done something wrong…I had endangered others (children!)…I had messed up. When the appointed time came, I looked at the card he had given me – Dr. Griffin Henderson (great a doctor!), got into my pitiful banged-up bug and headed for the address printed under his name. As I pulled into his drive, I felt a sinking feeling. My stomach churned as I lifted my finger to press the doorbell…ready to walk into the judgment chamber.

I was greeted by Mr. Henderson’s wife, a kind person, who asked if I would like some tea…“they’re setting me up”! I declined as she escorted me to Mr. Henderson’s office. In reality, I could not tell you the size of his office, but at that moment it felt like I was being swallowed whole. Mr. Henderson – sitting behind his desk – invited me in and asked me to sit down…here it comes – so I thought.

Then things seemed to change. Mr. Henderson stepped out from behind his desk, sat in the chair beside me and asked about me…my story. I told him a little of my history – about attending seminary and about my summer job. He told me to call him Dr. Griff as he told me a bit about himself – a retired pastor now living in the Ridgecrest area. In my wildest imagination, nothing could prepare me for what happened next. Dr. Griff began to talk about the accident – tears welled up in his eyes as he told me that he would pay for the deductible…on both cars. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – I was being forgiven…I was being baptized in grace and love. I did not know what to say…all I could do is cry. So two grown men sat crying, embracing and I became distinctly aware of one more present – of one that had been there all along…waiting for me – God.

I left Dr. Griff and his wife with a full heart. I had a new story to tell – life-giving. Dr. Griff had imparted the greatest Love…I suspected that’s the way he lived his everyday life.

Mr. Griff and I stayed in touch after I left Ridgecrest that summer. In my position after seminary, I ended up taking Woodbrook’s youth to camp at Ridgecrest for many summers…and I would always make time to walk over to visit Dr. Griff. We would have tea and talk. Over time, we lost touch but I still have a story to tell. On that day in the summer of ’87, I didn’t know anything about Dr. Griff. – his past…the wonderful things he had accomplished. I didn’t need to know those things. For me, what defined Dr. Griff was the man I met one particular moment in 1987…how he was open to God’s Spirit that day…how he related to me…how he did not hold over me the power he had, but used it for redemption’s sake. And because he was in that moment long ago, I now tell you and many others of God’s grace I experienced through one man in a closed office, in the mountains, in a small town, on a hot summer’s day.

It’s not about how we are “in front” of others – it’s not a performance. It’s not about making sure we have it all together – when we attend church…when we are at school…or in our social groups. It’s not about knowing everything or making sure we act the right way so others will like us or so we won’t be judged. It’s about being true who we have been created to be each moment. It’s about being open to and aware of the relationship the One who loves us best wants to have with us each moment of each day. It’s about living each moment like it’s a gift…because it is.





Forgiveness Found in Shattered Wood

6 02 2011

Several years ago my wife and I decided to add on to our house.  When it was time, our friend, Bill (a carpenter), asked me round the edges on the flat boards for our new staircase. As I ran the router over the first piece, I watched, and felt, right-angled edges transform into a rounded surface! Immediately, my childhood awe of watching my dad carve letters in wooden signs filled my imagination – the enchantment with wood…its smell…its character…the thrill of transformation.

This experience brought about a new awakening and a desire to learn about woodworking. So the adventure began – chip carving, relief carving, scroll sawing, and most recently woodturning. My friend, an experienced woodturner, became my teacher – in which tools to invest, how to use them, and turning techniques.

So with modest tools, my new used lathe, and some time, I ventured deep into the Cochran Cave (our garage) on a Saturday morning and put tool to wood in an attempt to turn my first solo piece. I remember my friend saying that the wood on the lathe would speak and guide me as to what it desired to be. So I watched, and listened, as wood shavings flew off the wooden canvas. A chalice – that’s what was speaking…emerging. My excitement grew. The concave cup began to take shape. The cuts felt smooth beneath my hands…I was doing it! I moved to form the stem and base. I stopped occasionally to check this project of co-creation. The color and grain of the wood was going to be beautiful. I made one last cut and was satisfied.

“I’ve done it,” I assured myself with pride. “Just the sanding and staining.” I reminded myself not to try anything fancy – to keep it simple. As I turned the lathe on and began sanding, I noticed the lip of the chalice was not completely even. “Not to worry,” I thought,  “I can sand it down.” Another check of the chalice, revealed a couple of tool marks at the top of the cup. “I can remove these – no problem.” I retrieved my gouge and removed the tool marks. “This is so great,” I thought as my head began to swell. “People will be so impressed! They will sing songs about me! They’ll put this beautiful chalice in the National Gallery! I will become famous!”

However, as I turned the lathe on again I noticed the lip was not perfect. “I can take care of that.” I ignored the voice inside telling me that it was good enough…to keep it simple. Stubbornly…pride fully…I put the tool to the chalice again. CRACK!!! It wasn’t until after the chalice had exploded off the lathe and was in two pieces on the garage floor, that I came to myself and turned the lathe off. Like a little boy with a broken toy, I picked up the two pieces and tried to fit then back together. It wasn’t going to happen. I stood in disbelief! “Why did I do that?” All I had to do was to sand and stain – to keep it simple. I stood in silence. I couldn’t take it back.

We all have experiences like this in life – intentionally or not – we mess up. Some of our “mess-ups” cost us little – some sadness…some frustration…we get over them without much emotional or physical energy expended. Other “mess-ups”, however, may cause us – and others – great pain: deep grief, so deep it’s easy to bury it so that others (so we) can no longer see it. It plants shame deep into the soil of our soul. Its roots spread and drain the pool of what brings us joy. Some “mess-ups” generates great anger – at ourselves…at circumstances…at others. Anger so intense that we become afraid of ourselves; we are afraid of the power we might unleash, of the damage we may leave in our wake. Our “mistakes” leave us with a wish we could take words or actions back. We want a “do over”. We wish some things had never happened; that we had not made certain decisions. We want to make it right. We want redemption…we want forgiveness.

We know forgiveness as a word. We have heard others talk about it…stories of those who have experienced it. And we know, intellectually, that forgiveness is available and a possibility for everyone – for you and for me. If you are a person of faith, you have most likely been taught that as we bring our mistakes before God, God moves to forgive us. We are assured we can start over…God’s grace is endless. We have been told…we have been taught…we are supposed to believe… that God’s love for us is unconditional – no strings attached. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.

The question is, do we REALLY believe this…deep down in our soul? Do we believe God will hold up God’s end of the bargain? Will God really forgive us? I have to be honest – sometimes I’m not sure. And, as I follow these questions deeper, I find the real crux is that I’m not so sure I am willing to accept God’s gift…I’m not sure I’m forgivable. So the questions turn – do I believe I am forgivable? Do you believe you are forgivable? Do we believe we are worth forgiving? If so, can we forgive ourselves? Can we accept forgiveness? Can we let go of…release…the shame, grief, and anger we hold? Again, I have to be honest, many times I don’t…I can’t. Not alone.

What I do know is this – those times when I have accepted forgiveness; when I remember what it feels like to have accepted God’s gift of forgiveness…of unconditional love; those times when I have forgiven myself; when I have done the hard work of uprooting my shame, digging up my grief, or unleashing my anger and offering it to God – It’s those times when I have felt the most free, the most compassionate, the most grace-filled and gracious. Not to say there won’t be nicks, stains, and scars. Forgiveness is a process. God never said our past experiences would vanish. God did say, “I’ll never leave you.” Once I tasted that freedom…that Presence – my craving runs deep.

So there I stood with shattered wood in my hand…and the thought came, “The stem looks like a candle holder.” The forgiveness process began. The walnut candleholder now sits in my office as a symbol of God’s forgiveness and of my forgiveness of self. It is a symbol of the potential that lies in what looks like destruction and chaos. It is a reminder to be forgiving toward others and self, and to be a vessel of God’s presence in the world, and to be mindful of the potential ministry in each moment. It is the holder of the Light.