WHAT IF . . . .

What if God is love? What if the core of the divine reality is love?

And what if love is “paying attention?” 

Does this mean that God is paying attention to creation? Does this mean that God is listening to creation’s groaning and laughing? Does this mean that there is a divine spirit that attends to each of us and to our friends, the birds, the horses, the caterpillars?

And what if the Apostle Paul is right and love is eternal? What if he is right that words about God will pass away, that emotional feelings about God will pass away? But love never ends.

And what if love is unconditional? What if love pays attention to us even when we don’t love, even when we shut ourselves off from attending to others because they hurt us or we hurt them?

And what if we quit trying to get love to pay attention to us and opened our hearts to see where love is already coming to us?

What if love is eternal and the creative energy for life? What if we started looking where it is rather than lamenting where it is not? What if we savor it when it comes rather than complaining because it doesn’t from where we want?

If God is love and love is paying attention, maybe the way we know God is to love God by paying attention to where love exists and joining with that love in the world.  Maybe this is what it means to be in communion with God—to participate in the acts of love (God) as they get acted out in our world.

And maybe if this is all true, we can live with more courage, knowing that nothing can separate us from love. Maybe we don't have to be afraid.

IRONING

It isn’t her birthday. It isn’t Mother’s Day. But, that doesn’t seem to matter. Tonight I am remembering my mother.

It started when I picked up a couple of damp dress shirts hanging on the back of a kitchen chair. I decided I would iron them while they were still damp—no steaming.  And flashback—my mother doing laundry for a husband and five children. I think it was on Monday. She hung all the clothes on a line outside.  When they were dry she brought them in. Then she got out a pop bottle with a cap on it that had holes in it. She put water in it, shook water on the clothes and rolled them up. And at the end of the day, she had another pile of clothes.

Tuesday morning was ironing day. And she got out the old dark iron with a detachable handle, placed it on the stove and heated it up. Then one item after another, damp clothes were pressed. The iron would get cool and so she put it on the stove again, reheat and repeat. Over and over.

And she did that for years. I am sure when she finally got a steam iron some years later she was like a kid in a candy store. Thankfully she had the steam iron when she taught me to iron (I had to learn to iron and cook before she would let me leave home—this was way before most clothes didn’t need to be ironed).

But, as I stood and ironed the shirts tonight, I was overcome with appreciation for the sacrifices my mother made for me and my siblings. I didn’t always appreciate her. I didn’t understand what all she had done in those days of no money, little resources and many children. She lived with so many things I take for granted.

And every morning she began the day with this scripture: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Thank you mother, for your love and persistent caring. You are not forgotten.

THE DADDY I DIDN'T KNOW

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I started crying. It got worse. I finally pulled the car over on an interstate exit. Better than driving off the road blinded by tears.

It was over 20 years ago, but the memory is vivid. I was on my way to Indianapolis for a meeting. I was listening to a tape. It was humorist Dave Barry. I was enjoying laughs that delighted my soul.

And then, it happened. Dave Barry started talking about his Dad. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember what happened to me. I suddenly realized how much I didn’t know about my Daddy. I was aware of huge gaps in my awareness of my Daddy’s story. And I began to cry. 

I had missed so much of my Daddy’s life. Oh, we had lived together for my first 18 years and I knew him.  But I realized that I didn’t really know him. There was so much that I had not seen. I wept over how much was hidden—some by him and some by my blindness. 

He has swallowed much of his pain to protect his children from the burdens of adulthood too soon. He hid behind his manhood—his role of providing stability and security for his family. He hid his unfulfilled dreams so we could fulfill our dreams. He buried his desires to satisfy the needs of those he loved.

And I didn’t know my Daddy because I was blind. I was blinded by my need for him to live beyond the mundane vulnerabilities of other humans; by my anger over his not being all I wanted him to be; by my sophomoric confidence that I new everything.

Fortunately for me, my Daddy was still alive at that point. And I made time to be alone with him, just to hear who he really was, unfiltered by others perceptions. And I am so glad I did. Some gaps were filled. Many were not. When he died, I wept for the loss of the Daddy I did know, but also, for the Daddy I did not know and would never know.

 

A CRACK

We spend a lifetime building them. We lay the foundation for them and carefully work to create stability and equilibrium. Our ego, our self-esteem, our relationships, all intangible but essential to our sense of safety and security. 

But, inevitably something happens. Self-doubt invades. We make a mistake and wonder what happened. We don’t live up to our own expectations and beat up on ourselves. We are betrayed or hurt and our relationships feel fragile. We lose our job and doubt our worth. 

And it is at times like this that we can sing with meaning the words of Leonard Cohan in his classic Anthem: “There is a crack in everything.” It doesn’t seem to matter how hard we try, that which we love seems to always give way to the aging, decaying, breaking reality of mortal life. Storms come, foundations crack, windows break, walls warp.

But, if we are able to hold on, sometimes hope comes, “There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.” The cracks in the secured ego allow the of the outside in and more of who we are to be revealed. It can allow light to shine into the unexplored regions of our self-understanding or our relationships. We can know more fully who we are.

Sometimes the truth isn’t easy to see. The light reveals things that we would rather not know. Our confusion about who we are can frighten us and make us reluctant to step out and give ourselves to relationships in the future.

Or, we can relax and sing the other part of the song’s refrain, “Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.” None of us is whole. We are all cracked. Our offering to each other will never be perfect.  So, forget your perfect offering and give yourself, cracked and broken, filling with light.

WINDOWS

Words are windows. They are windows on the soul. Sometimes the windows are clean and the view inside is crystal clear.  When words are used to express a truthful insight into the speaker’s heart, they can help us know each other more intimately.

But, sometimes the word-windows are fogged over. Sometimes the window is smudged and the what we see is distorted. Sometimes the words we use are designed to obscure a clear picture of what is really going on inside. Other times the windows are covered with shades to cloak the fear or dampen the desire.

I am satisfied that both kinds of window-words are important to help us navigate life. If we are communicating with someone we trust will treat what they see with respect, we will be inclined to use words that reveal as much of who we are as we or they can tolerate. We want to be known by people who will hear us with mercy, not judge us with malice. These grace filled relationships are sacred gifts to a lonely soul.

But, there are other situations where we find ourselves uncertain about how others will treat what they discover about us. When we are in these kinds of relationships, we will be hesitant to allow them to see too much. We will pull the shades on the window of our souls to protect our hearts from the glare of critical eyes.

So, be careful how you receive what you see through the windows others open to you. Listen with an ear that hears the tremor or delight in the voice. Notice with your eyes seeing the tears rimming the eye—tears of tenderness or tears of terror. Be interested, not critical of what you hear. Know that the soul of another is not yours to trample, but is a gift for you to receive that will help ease the loneliness in both of you.