And they wrestled all night


My intention is to continue unpacking what I began yesterday, talk about it, bring it into the light, consider what it means, consider how being at this juncture is where I’m supposed to be.

Today I opened The Good Book, which led me to a commentary by Alexander MacLaren, and there I discovered his wonderful essay about Jacob wrestling with…a man…an angel…the divine presence…God!

Alexander Maclaren (February 11, 1826 – May 5, 1910) was an English non-conformist minister of Scottish origin. “Called the “prince of expositors,” Alexander MacLaren was a renowned preacher of the 19th and 20th century. [The published collection] Expositions of Holy Scripture brings together many of the sermons over his fifty years in ministry.”(https://www.ccel.org/ccel/maclaren)

Here are some highlights from MacLaren’s commentary on Genesis 32 :

So this failure of natural power is the turning-point in the twofold
wrestle, and marks as well as symbolises the transition in Jacob’s
life and character from reliance upon self and craft to reliance upon
his divine Antagonist become his Friend.

How interesting to land on this particular story, and these particular insights now. Spiritual formation study and practise have been part of my life for over ten years. My recent studies have led me to the teachings of Contemplative Christianity (Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, Margaret Silf etc.) with distinctions between living from the false self vs the true self. I am beginning to understand my longing for authenticity and integrity, and my unique place as an artist/poet in the world. I have begun to look at The Enneagram as so much more than a diagnostic justification of identity, rather a starting point toward spiritual transformation, balance, and healing. These teachings are rich, impacting. I continue to sense the draw toward this way of being.

And yet, ironically, I find myself wrestling with certain fundamentals of faith…and perhaps wrestling is what is required of me to continue on The Way with God. Do I truly desire to be transformed? Do I?

Further highlights from MacLaren’s expository on Jacob’s encounter with God (bold text by me);

God desires to go, if we do not desire Him to stay. He will go, unless
we keep Him. Then, at last, Jacob betakes himself to his true weapons.
Then, at last, he strangely wishes to keep his apparent foe. He has
learned, in some dim fashion, whom he has been resisting, and the
blessedness of having Him for friend and companion.

The desire to retain God binds Him to us. All His struggling with us
has been aimed at evoking it, and all His fulness responds to it when
evoked. Prayer is power. It conquers God. We overcome Him when we
yield. When we are vanquished, we are victors. When the life of nature
is broken within us, then from conscious weakness springs the longing
which God cannot but satisfy.

And God prevails when we prevail. His aim in all the process of His
mercy has been but to overcome our heavy earthliness and selfishness,
which resists His pleading love. His victory is our yielding, and, in
that yielding, obtaining power with Him. He delights to be held by the
hand of faith, and ever gladly yields to the heart’s cry,’Abide with
me.’ ‘I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me,’ is music to His
ear; and our saying so, in earnest, persistent clinging to Him, is His
victory as well as ours.

This is far from being tied up with a bow. I will continue to lean into what is revealed…in word, deed, circumstance, and the world around me. I don’t yet know what it means…this seeking and longing for…answers…peace…justice…love…God?

I continue to read and consider the the new name “Israel” that Jacob receives from God after morning comes and wrestling ends. I admit there is a teeny shift for me when I read MacLaren’s words;

To impose a name is the sign of authority, possession, insight into character. The change of name indicates a new epoch in a life, or a transformation of the inner man. The meaning of ‘Israel’ is ‘He (who) strives with God’; and the reason for its being conferred is more accurately given by the Revised Version, which translates, ‘For thou hast striven with God and with men,’ than in the Authorised rendering.’

A true Christian is an ‘Israel.’ His office is to wrestle with God.

jacobwrestlesgod

An encounter with the Divine…

Wrestling as worship, leading to transformation…

I wonder…

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Spirit wrestler


jacob-with-the-angelThis is me taking a risk. I doubt that I am alone but it sure feels like it right now.

Thing is, I recognized yesterday that I am wrestling with something fundamental and HUGE. I admit my biggest struggle is what I will do with Jesus, The Christ. Jesus, the centre, the hinge of Christendom, and I am wrestling with what it means to say yes to the entirety of the Trinity – The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, three-in-one.

My heart has been troubled with this question for some time. Oh, I want to believe. I do believe, many days. Still my guts churn over what I perceive as the exclusivity of Jesus, his life, his death, his atoning sacrifice that right sides me with God, the Father. Because saying yes to Jesus means you can also say no. And saying no means…well, you probably already know where I’m going with this. And this empath with a social justice heart is deeply perplexed by the thought of that.

I hide my perplexity, mostly, because it feels embarrassing. My life indicates my clear Yes! to God, and Yes! to the Spirit, but when I unpack the theology around Jesus, The Christ, I get stuck. I resist. I say “BUT.” But what about those who don’t believe or don’t get it right? But what about those who have a strong belief system of their own? But is hell really real? But what is the limit of God’s grace? But, but, but…

I wrestle with God like I’m the gatekeeper for the eternal well being of all souls. I wrestle on in doubt and then belief and then I attempt to stand under the tiny bit of assurance I can muster up. I am conflicted. I wonder what this makes me?

A wise friend shared a story with me.

There was once a sacred gathering of people who came together to seek spiritual wisdom. Among them was a young man who had a spirit of negativity, of questioning, of smouldering resentment. This man carried that spirit into the holy place of gathering, and began to share his discontent with others. One elder considered him with great love, listened to what he had to say for a little while, and then offered this;

Go outside. Dig a deep hole. Place your head and shoulders down into the hole. Shout your complaints to the earth. Then, when you are done, come back and join us.  

I have been carrying my complaints for several years…too long. I have made them heavy with meaning and power. My complaints stand between me and the freedom of The Way.

Truth is I WANT, but do not NEED, answers from God. Who am I to demand, to arrogantly suggest that God explain himself to me? I am one human, being. Who do I think that I am?

Perhaps here is where I must dig my deep hole?

Part of me resists…LORD, have mercy on me.

Ice, not ice


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Reflections on creek and her transformation

She is cold shouldered, hard edged. She is lifted above herself and perched topside, hard memories filled with small stones wait for the bottom to fall. She is thick with gathering.

dsc_0156How she wears so many faces; still and impenetrable under the overpass and upstream where she breaks tumultuous along fault lines, falling into herself again and again along breached edges.

Sometimes I see her clearly, other times she is shrub obscured, a stark backdrop to rich shades of ocher and brown, left-right axis to sky pointers, cottonwoods, Sunday afternoon walkers.

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A slit widens in her breast. She opens herself to a black and white diver brave enough to discover sustenance below her horizon. He floats and dives, floats and dives, finds a way where she appears solid as stone.

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Further upstream she is more exposed, her heart warmer, more willing. She flows wanton here. Mallards and Mergansers dip and fly.

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Eagle’s view of her is wider still. He anticipates the taste of spring salmon, how creek’s scent and navigational pull will entice a pink run and then exhausted demise. He watches from cottonwood, preens his tail, waits for the inevitable.

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She is ice becoming open water. She seeps from concrete abutments and along gravel pathways seeking the path of least resistance back into herself. She is the heart of greening.

She may soon rise above these banks. She will carry everything in open hands, her shoulders wide, and powerful. She will make herself known.  She is just beginning to remember words like ebb and flow. She feels the sharpness of each necessary fissure. She breaks into smaller and smaller pieces.

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I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.

John O’Donahue.

Poem for the cloud ceiling


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What was

 

truth is dark medicine

with a teaspoon of honey

I swallow hard

keep it down

and it will set me free

 

forget everything, they say

forget what lies behind, run the race

redemption for

a half-life of lies

 

instead I’m mudlarking

hip waders swamped

by stagnant water

sucked into detritus

where turtles burrow

slow and silent in the dark

 

this is the way, they said

I was too young to argue

fight back

hindsight is tree tangled

deadfall

sun hazed and glaring

what have they done to me

what have they done?

 

masters of fence lines topped

in barbed wire, ripped flesh

hung as a warning

this is the way, they said

this is the only way

 

I am not a victim

I was gone

long before

the last word

shun

 

God loves me

God loves me not

God loves me

 

I was a good girl, scars

on fire with holiness

who are you to say otherwise?

 

LAE2017

 

Walk in the near wild


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The book said take a walk in nature, centred, open, considering, look and see what is the divine grace in that wild place.

The middle of a dull warm snap here and snow is melting mush so I went to the most clear pathway I could find that winds through a small marsh not far from my home. The gates were locked to cars. The pathway was clear of snow. I began to walk and look. Asking what does this mean? Asking what does this mean for me?

I saw Osprey’s nest, high on the sport’s field flood lights. A platform built for her safety, I suppose, but not quiet and away, close in and loud in seasons of stiff competition on the pitch, and I wondered why wildness might choose this tamed space…

I saw a Mallard pair, in a ditch of melted runoff, making their way carefully through a fallen tree’s gauntlet of downed branches. Where there appeared to be no way through, they find space enough and carry on down the waterway…

I saw what used to be 18 holes of mini golf, now stockpiled here and there with junk and overgrown with weeds and small shrubs and the sound of birds who forage and find shelter in the convergence of cast away and redemptive things…

I was frustrated somewhat by 2 large dump trucks, the sound of their revving engines, the road adjacent to my cleared walkway where they worked with loads of soil, beeping, passing too close. My ideal vs reality, finding a simple path in the midst of complexity, messiness, noise, real life. Both, and…

The air was warm. A sense of being apart, yet part of something. I breathed in the fresh air, stretched my underworked muscles, said hello to a couple of humans and their dog who walked by. I kept looking all the way back to my car. I kept asking…

What is language? What is this craving for our experience to mean something that then requires articulation? What if it is only for us? What if it does not require mere words?

A walk in the near wild…nearer to…

Monday poem 2017.8


Dry-Bones

1. For the paradox of wandering

in a mapped landscape,

for my half-blind eyes

and Your tiny blinding light,

I give you thanks, Oh Lord.

2. For the altered state of

ice over lake water, the kindness

of snow on snow on snow covering

a multitude of sins,

I give you thanks, Oh Lord.

3. For the cravings of knowledge

and the fear of the unknown,

for all that is or will be

and all that never will be so,

I give you thanks, Oh Lord.

4. For endings of childhoods

and each best loved dog,

the incremental demise of body and mind

that You say one day will rise,

I give you thanks, Oh Lord.

5. For closed doors

and open roads,

for edges of the wild world

and the nothing that is everything,

I give you thanks, Oh Lord.

6. For this moment, this chair,

fingers synapsed and sure,

breath, room, silence,

Your imagined and almost certain presence,

I give you thanks, Oh Lord.

LAE2017

Friday Poem 2017.7


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The heart,

always the heart. Those matters

of heritage, lifestyle,

and circumstance.

We make promises

and say what we mean

when we first say it.

Forever after we are somewhat unsure;

Did I say always? Sometimes?

Yes, I will walk each day,

eat more raw broccoli

and taste collard greens.

Yes, we will be kinder to one another, practice

lightheartedness, and forgetfulness.

By now some arteries are permanently closed,

but collaterals may grow, who knows.

Damage is indicated by various dashed lines

on the cardiac print-out. Your family doctor

will interpret these with you, and review

your wellness plan.

Blockages, self-righteous debates,

where to win feels like death by drowning;

selfish for air we grasp at anything.

How much tissue

has been greyed out

where once bloody and vital?

LAE2017

Another Thursday poem


 

DSC_2406Crane

They call on her for one thing only;

she is built to lift the weight

they cannot. They attach safety chains

and she swings beam after beam,

rafter upon rafter,

up and over the building site,

and lays down each piece

in its place. She knows

her capacity and her reach,

the stabilizing legs

hold her firm.

Do not ask her to dig

or scoop or drag.

Do not ask her to change

what she does best,

her gentle lift, the ballet

of all she carries.

 

LAE2017

Poem for Thursday


dsc_0907Mandarin

Plump curves and

burnished skin glowing,

not without imperfections but

what you see now is

what you already know

of her taste, nectar, quenching.

You imagine how your thumbs will gently open her

and your tongue will wrap itself

around the lusciousness

of each soft segment.

The air will carry her scent

long after satiation.

You reach for her

and close your eyes.

Oh, how her cool skin meets

the heat of your hands.