Liquid Prayers

I cry.  Sometimes once a week, certainly more often than many might find socially acceptable.  I hide it and feel ashamed of it most of the time.  The prevailing norm is that men don’t cry.  In truth, that is utter baloney.  Men cry, and they should do it whenever they need.  It is a release, a relief, a catharsis, an emotional explosion that is far less destructive than violence and far more constructive than repression.  And today, I received a new perspective on tears from Courageous Dear Heart.

Whether tears of sorrow or tears of joy, they are prayers.  What?  Tears are prayers?  Well, yes.  Why not?  They contain the raw emotion, the need, the unfettered joy, that pours from us.  If you believe that your prayers are heard no matter how they are offered (and I do), then tears are an excellent delivery system.  They rise from the heart and soul of each of us.  When we are devastated or inspired or moved, they pour forth unbidden.  I admit I cannot hold them back if I tried.  Is that weakness?  Well, we are all human and have weaknesses, but I am not sure tears equal weakness. Have you ever experienced the power of someone who you have known to be stoic or cold cracking their armor or lower their mask just enough to allow you in? It takes a special strength to drop all those protections and appear before humanity vulnerable and real.  So be confident that your tears are not wasted, do not merely fall and evaporate.  They have meaning and effect even when they are private.

Fear not, friends.  Allow your emotions to flow, do not be ashamed of being human. Embrace the courage and comfort of liquid prayers.

Spreading Salt

I was reading through the Sermon on the Mount in preparation for giving a message later this month and came to these words that I have read and heard many times, but never really took time to consider closely: “You are the salt of the earth”.  It made me stop in my tracks.  What does that mean, really?

Many have theorized that the verse is about being a good Christian and many sermons and treatises have been written saying just that, but Jesus was not speaking to just his disciples, or just his followers.  He was speaking to everyone.  We, all of us, are the salt of the earth, regardless of who we are or what we have done.  Everyone needs to be the salt, not just a select few.

So is it about good works?  No.  It is not about being a regular church-goer, or someone who tithes, or someone who wears their faith loudly and proudly.  Time and time again, Jesus urges humility, a personal and private connection with God, and even in the words of his most famous sermon, meekness.

It’s about grace.  It is about dealing with one another with respect and kindness.  Salt is many things.  Once, and still, it is a preservative.  If we maintain kindness and respect toward one another, we will preserve ourselves.  I believe we have the capability and responsibility to shape a heaven here on earth.  The Kingdom of God is not just in the future or the afterlife, it is not merely the act of waiting while we suffer through pain, it is not martyrdom. It is actively and constantly working toward His kingdom here on earth.  It is about keeping our saltiness, our grace, with each other.

Jesus was our example.  He instructs all of us to do as He does.  He instructs with gentleness and respect.  He reserves any warnings of condemnation for those who have abandoned kindness and who have embraced the pursuit of pride and the acquisition of things over the importance of humility and generosity.  Take a look at those in history who we have endowed with saintliness.  These are people, women and men, who have shown true grace.  We exalt them now because of the depth of their love, but in their own time, they did not seek out exaltation.  They merely followed the example of grace and love provided by Jesus.

Examples of grace, of saltiness, are not limited to those who follow the teachings of Jesus.  This is more proof to me that Jesus’ words transcend religion.  They go right to the core of what it takes to be truly human, to be born in the image of God.   Narayanan Krishnan is one of these human beings, a term I use with the utmost respect.  His story below is one of the most moving examples of kindness and generosity I have ever encountered.  He truly is the salt of the earth.

 

 

Consider the immense responsibility we all carry.  We are not here for ourselves, we are here for everyone.  We are here to care for, and love, everyone.  I have failed in meeting that responsibility up to now.  I lose myself so completely in the struggle to feed my own appetites that I neglect the very real hunger around me.   I have lost my saltiness, but there is hope.  We can rediscover our flavor, our ability to preserve.  We can make the road less treacherous.  We can listen and follow and inspire.

Desktops and Faith

Thanks to the generosity of the Grace Speaker, I again have a proper keyboard at which to type my thoughts.  The absence of a tangible keyboard was one of the reasons my writing took a hiatus.  It was certainly not for lack of ideas.  So many things have been rushing through my brain, but I find myself shackled by the necessity to hear the click clack of keys.  Composing on a tablet or smartphone is psychologically limiting to me.  While I consider myself relatively technologically savvy for one of my age, I still cling to certain conservative comforts, like being able to experience the tactile conveyance of words and ideas from my head through my fingers into a keyboard.  The light-emitting diodes that inhabit my phone do not have the same magnetic draw to me.  I suppose I am much like the person who refuses to give up their typewriter, or their heavy bond paper and fountain pen.

So many brilliant ideas slipped into the ether thanks to my resistance to touch-screen-fueled progress, but I suppose if they were truly as ground-breaking as they seemed, they would still be making their marks on my mind.  Instead we begin again.

The faith community to which I belong has been taking up much of my time, in positive ways mostly.  Over this past year, I have realized a long-time dream of delivering an inspirational message in front of an audience who was actually there to hear one.  Whether it was inspirational or not is a judgement I leave to those who heard it, but just the opportunity was an honor.

My faith has transformed in many ways.  What was once a collection of orthodox beliefs ingrained from an early age has become a more personal, nuanced way of embracing the world and those who inhabit it.  By no means have I been successful in repressing the appetites and desires that constantly seem to complicate what should be a simple life, but what I have been able to understand is that the efforts I make to control them is only one small part of the journey.  A more important part is the love required to interact with one another.  The Courageous Dear Heart reminded us this Christmas to look for Jesus in those who we may not like.  Think about that for a moment.  Put in your mind the image of a person with whom you struggle.  Now, attempt to see them with the sense of grace that Jesus saw us.  See the love in them, and by extension, yourself. Try to love the people that dislike you, that you dislike, or that you believe don’t think anything of you at all. If you can do it, it will transform how you view the entire world.  I’m not there yet, and maybe never will arrive at the end.  But the journey.  Maybe that is the way we strive for heaven here and now.