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A Father’s Day Tribute

A Father’s Day Tribute

Dear Dad,

When I was a kid I didn’t truly appreciate you.  I’ll just say it.  They never told me how hard a man works.  That work slowly kills a man, grinding away at who he was and what he dreamed he’d become, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.  Slowly and almost imperceptibly.  They never told me that men die, on average, ten years sooner than women.  They never told me about prostate cancer.  They never told me about depression and anxiety in men.  They never told me any of this.

“Holy crap!!!” …. “How did Dad do this!!!”

Then  one day I became a man.  And I became a father.  And I said to myself, “Holy crap!!!” (Or something along those lines.)  “How did Dad do this!!!”  The treadmill.  The daily grind.  Doing what you have to do to put food on the table and feed the family.  Trying to earn another pay check when the one you just worked your tail off for disappeared in seconds.  That pressure cooker we call “Being a Man.”  I always knew that you were tough.  But experience is the great revelator, isn’t it?  My eyes were opened.  And you–the one who was my rock, my anchor, my hero, the guy who could do anything–grew even more in stature.

I started to feel bad for all the nights I kept you up, worrying if I’d make it home all right.  I started to appreciate those long drives you made from the other side of the state just to make a ball game of mine.  I felt guilty for the times when you finally made it through a week and yearned for time with your family only to see us kids walk out the door and say, “See ya, Dad!  I’m going to hang out with the guys….”  Now I know why you said to us three knucklehead boys, “Look, I don’t care if you beat each other senseless.  Just take it outside.”  I didn’t understand what it was like to be a man and a father.  I just didn’t get it.

I’m sure I still don’t quite get it.  You see, as I see the trail that you are blazing for me, wisdom has taught me that there’s still a lot I don’t know and that there’s so much that I can learn from you.  That’s what scares me–that I don’t even know what I don’t know!  Yes, I’m still that little boy, in a sense, walking behind you with my little plastic push mower as you mow the lawns of life, wanting to be just like you.   I want to have the patience and courage that you have developed by fighting through a broken neck, a spinal cord injury, kidney failure and cancer.  I want to have the strength and humility that you have earned.  I’m not quite there yet.  In fact, I have a long ways to go.  You’re the genuine article.  I feel like a pretender.

I want to spend more time with you.  But, you see, now I’m caught in that daily grind and there’s days I don’t have the energy  to do anything but come home from work, plop down in the recliner, and turn on the ball game.  But maybe we can grab lunch every now and then.  And maybe we can take in a ball game or two here and there.  And we’ll definitely do some fishing.  Oh, and if the Cubs make it to another World Series, I’ll let you be my psychotherapist to help me through it again.  Thank you for that, Dad.  I couldn’t have done it without you.  Every Cubs fan needs a good psychotherapist.  And every boy deserves a Dad like you.

Happy Fathers Day.

 

These Flowers Remind Me of You

These Flowers Remind Me of You

To my own mother, my mother-in-laws (Carole and Marlene) and, most of all, to the mother of my children …

These flowers remind me of you.  These living paradoxes are delicate but extremely tough and resilient.

They beautify and give life.  They’re put on display.  They’re put in the background.  They rise up.  They’re cut down.  They always come back.

Living embodiments of growth, hope and life.  They endure storms, cold and clouds, heat and drought.  Nurturers of the ecosystem of earth, heart and soul, they rejuvenate, inspire, calm, encourage, embolden and, above all else, endure.

They give more than they take.  Their fragrant beauty makes the world and its inhabitants softer, kinder, gentler.

When the random abuses of nature are heaped upon them, they transform these oppositional forces into something marvelous and miraculous.

Gracious, giving and generous, their strength and beauty give shelter to the lost, rest to the weary, and comfort to the wandering soul.  They adorn all of creation, these emblems of God’s grace, these reflections of God’s face.  They bring you home again and remind you of who you really are and what you can become.  These flowers … they remind me of you.

God Is Not Your Lender

God Is Not Your Lender

Transactional models of the at-one-ment have always bothered me.  God is not a lender who swoops in to save us from the loan shark only to refinance our salvation with new terms of debt.  God is not some kind of micro-venture capitalist who demands everything we have—which is always woefully inadequate, and never good enough, as the story goes—and then, “mercifully,” he kicks in and “makes up the difference” so that we can purchase the proverbial bicycle.

Salvation is not transactional.

Salvation is not transactional. It’s transformational.

It’s transformational.

Salvation is not about appeasing a distant, retributive and score-keeping God.

It’s about experiencing God’s transformational love inside of us … now.

Jesus tried to teach us this in many different ways and on many different levels.  His miracles, for example, were transformational and defied economies of any sort, even the laws of physics.  He transformed water into wine.  (John 2:1-11.)  He transformed loaves and fishes sufficient to feed only a few into a feast that not only fed the masses but resulted in leftovers.  (Matthew 14:13-21.)  He transformed the sick and the dead.  Everything and everyone he touched changed.  He did it for free, too.

God doesn’t refinance your spiritual mortgage.

Jesus disrupted the economy of the temple.  This should have taught us that salvation is not about transacting business with God.  It should have taught us that it’s not about sacrificing “this” in order to earn “that.”  He brought unclean people to the temple; people who probably weren’t “worthy” to be there; and there he healed them to show us that salvation is about transformation, not transaction.  (Matthew 21:14.)  Indeed, he didn’t just figuratively turn the tables on the prevailing concepts of justice and mercy, which posits a God that is hell bent on making someone (either you or Jesus) “pay” the price for sin; he literally turned the tables of the temple, drove out the money changers, dumped their money on the ground and said, “make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.”  (John 2:16.)

In case you missed it, this is so much bigger than just cleaning house.  It’s about ridding the human mind of the concept that God needs to be paid by anyone for anything.  Salvation is not a transaction.  God is not your lender.  It’s so much bigger than that.  It’s so much better.

God doesn’t refinance your spiritual mortgage.  Through at-one-ment, he transforms you into a spiritual Warren Buffet, making you capable of paying off a thousand mortgages.  God doesn’t help you pay for a bike.  He transform you into someone like him, making you capable of building a bike, even a thousand bike factories.

You are good enough for Him.

Mercy does not rob justice.  It overpowers it.  God’s grace is so powerful that it cannot be contained or measured in any sense.  It defies any type of economy.  In fact there is no accounting in an at-one-ment paradigm because we discover God’s love now and, being filled with God’s love (and thus his power), we become one with him … because God is love.  (1 John 4:8.)

We are powerfully “yoked” together with Christ.

As we accept and feel God’s love for us, we are powerfully “yoked” together with Christ just as two horses or oxen may be yoked together to pull a carriage or a plow.  (Matthew 11:29.)  We can’t help but grow and be transformed through the process.

Even the imagery Jesus chooses to describe his desired relationship with us is transformational and at-one-ment oriented.  Jesus said, “I am the vine, [and] ye are the branches[,]” (John 15:5).  Your interests are merged.  One is the extension of the other.  It is impossible to see where one leaves off and the other begins.  And both, together, are transformed into something different than they are.  God becomes human.  Human becomes filled with God.  Being so transformed, we are now able to transform, which is the whole point.  The vine can produce grapes, which can produce wine; the seeds of the grapes can produce additional vines and so on.  Can you even begin to count the grapes?  Can you count the seeds?  Can you count the future vines?  It’s not transactional at all, is it!  It’s transformational, evolving, and never-ending.

You are God’s temple.

In the economy of Jesus, you no longer go to the temple to offer up your sacrifices.  You are God’s temple.  (1 Corinthians 3:16.)  You are good enough for Him.  So much so that that’s where he yearns to be … inside of you.  Our communions and sacraments teach us this.  His flesh becomes our flesh through ingestion.  He wants to be a part of us.

“I am the vine, [and] ye are the branches.”
God loves you just the way you are.  There’s nothing you can do to make him love you any more or less.  But you can be happier by living your days not to merit God’s love but to personify it.  You will feel God’s love to the extent that you share it.

The prayer of Jesus to the Father was “that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  (John 17:26.)  That you may unburden yourself from a transactional relationship with God and experience the in-dwelling and transformational love of God … now … is my prayer, as well.

Amazed by Grace

Amazed by Grace

What has three years without food and living on a feeding tube taught me?  Many things.  But today I want to talk about grace. Grace is not a one-time act of rescue.  It is not a one-night-only show.  It is a lifestyle.  It is a partnership with God.  It is the means by which we mortals access the enabling power of God.  Grace is not just an act of mercy or salvation.  It is a process of transformation.  Grace works.  It works on us.  It works with us.

To say that we are saved by grace is true but vastly understated and oversimplified. It’s like saying we are “saved” by oxygen. Grace makes spiritual respiration possible. It feeds the marrow of our souls. It sustains and transforms immortal metabolisms. We are saved by grace, changed by grace, sustained by grace and, consequently, amazed by grace.

Grace is even more than the enabling power of God.  It is the enabling presence of God.  It is the presence of God manifested not only through his Holy Spirit, but also through the kind and helping hands of others. It is the power that has sustained me for the past three years and allowed me to survive. Please watch this seven-minute video to learn more about my journey with grace:

For more ideas and discussion on suffering and utilizing love as a powerful coping mechanism for suffering, please read my books Gethsemamnesia and Built to Love, available now in paperback.