Reigning Fists

hazelnut

Photo from Into the Expectation blog

 

“In this vision he showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, and it
was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and
thought “What may this be?” And it was generally answered thus: “It is all that is
made.” I marvelled how it might last, for it seemed it might suddenly have
sunk into nothing because of its littleness. And I was answered in my
understanding: “It lasts and ever shall, because God loves it.”    
— Julian of Norwich

Punishment is easier to preach than grace.  Well, punishment is more available in the theological vocabulary of my life and that of my parishioners.  We understand the concept. Steal a piece of candy, get caught, shamefully confess, work hard to do better and be satisfied without candy. Yell at your kids for some inconsequential infraction, see the humiliation dawn in their eyes, feel the recriminating glare as you look in the mirror, skulk to the bedroom to cry out the pain you were yelling at them.  Hear a joking, yet critical, remark about how you handle the impending deadline at work.  Snap back a much too hasty and sarcastic remark.  Realize your mistake after reacting poorly to your haggard co-worker.  Spend hours wondering what causes you to be so sensitive and flagellate the little bit of God-image left after years of self-righteous indignation over how ineptly you have learned the “God-way.”  You poor little human, you deserve no less than punishment.  How you wish and hope that one day you can leave behind this human shell and get the “God-thing” right.

But on Christ the King Sunday, we see the error of this way.  Julian saw the crucified and risen Christ not inflicting punishment, rather cradling “all that is made” with tender protective love.  In the shelter of Christ the King’s palm, Julian saw the littleness of the universe and the littleness of our often misguided hearts held by crucified hands.  The hands of One impaled because he refused to fight the system of oppression in the same way that system fought him.  The hands of One pierced because he saw in every outcast the circumstances of her heart and the root of pain that had grown into self-serving action.  The crucified hands that hold the hazelnut of our existence, these hands were dead and now live, these hands knew suffering and pain and have risen again sharing the conquering healing of God with all who have known death and destruction.  The scarred hands of a crucified and kingly Christ reign over the universe with tender compassion for those who have been blinded by ignorance, self-pity, and hatred.  These wounded reigning palms reach out to set us free from the tyranny of self-doubt and self-hatred.  These hands coax us into a grace that is harder to accept than punishment.  The crucified and living Christ who sits enthroned over all that has been made does so as one who gave himself up to suffering in this world, not because he had to, not because God made him, not because some old human debt had to be settled by a divine blood-letting [punishment].  The crucified reigning Christ entered into our human existence not to “teach us a lesson” but to invite us into a new way, a way that acknowledges and accepts a brokenness in creation that will not be fixed by punishment, a way that accepts and surrenders to death which shall be overcome by the power of Unrequited Life in God.  Hear the invitation to participate in the reign of a Kingdom unfettered by our need to do anything other than accept our inheritance in it and to see the royalty of straw and rags in an humble stable and to be embraced in the mighty and impenetrable grasp of One whose reigning fists are closed tightly around the wounds of the cosmos.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2014

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The Prodigal Pain

“And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.”                          Mark 14:35

Walk toward the pain, and you will find life.  Swallow the shallow thinking that bids you turn and run.  Refute the fear that declares you are not strong enough to endure the crucible of this moment.

Walk toward the pain and let it unveil the particulars of your life so you may see with clarity and dignity the reality of this moment.  Walk toward the pain and offer it your attentive ear as it relates what you most need to hear.

Pain is merely a messenger of the Spirit of God who wishes to convey wisdom.  Pain is a child of your heart which can be held and comforted and healed under the gaze of God’s love within you.  Pain, attended to, will be transformed.  Pain bathed in grace can be an instrument to resurrect what lies putridly decaying in your soul.

So, Friend, look to the Pain of your heart, comforted and guided by the life of a suffering Christ.  Listen to the Pain of your existence; and as he comes down the long road home to you, call out to him, “Welcome!”

In compassion, run with open arms toward him and embrace him.  Bring out the finest robe of your acceptance and clothe him.  Adorn him with the splendor of surrender.  And in celebration of what he has to teach, feast at the table of Pain’s wisdom.  Once Pain has disclosed the whole sordid, aching story, how will you respond?

For you had lost him, and now he has been found.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2013

*photo from Makezine.com 

Take a Load Off

“For all must carry their own loads.”
                                             Galatians 6:5 NRSV

Paw’s load was pecans, and Granny’s load was Paw.  Granny carried more than her share.  Too bad Paw never learned to carry himself; and sadly, Granny waited until he died to live.

Carry your own load now.  Don’t wait for someone to die because the insurance money will only insure the probability that others will line up sooner rather than later, wanting you to pick up where they recently left off.

Everyone must carry their own load.  Now is the time to take an inventory of what you need to see about yourself, the laundry list of inescapable strengths and weaknesses that parade behind you like a waddling line of downy yellow ducklings.  They will follow you anywhere.

Tend to your own load lest those ducklings obediently plunge off the precipice of your self-deceit.  You wouldn’t have flown so far down if you had known the ducklings were far too immature to fly.

Yes, Wisdom, help me to carry my own load.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2013

duck crossing

The Dark is Me, Too

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I don’t know when or where or how or from whom I learned not to look at the dark side of myself.  It’s not like I don’t have a dark side.  I have plenty of dark side.  And I don’t mean that I  learned to pretend that I didn’t have a dark side.  I knew I had a dark side; I simply learned not to look at it.  I didn’t look at my dark side like I managed not to look at someone who had spoken unjustly to me.  I didn’t look at my dark side like I both recognized and avoided the person I was embarrassed or ashamed to talk to.  I didn’t look at my dark side like I haven’t looked at some of the buskers near the subway stairs.  I know they are there; I hear them; I see them.  I just don’t have the time and money to spare, right now.  Nope, not right now.

And my dark side, let me clarify.  I’m not talking about illegal activities or heinous omissions of ethical behavior.  It’s pretending that I am listening when I am really forming a judgment about why you should be listening to me.  It’s believing I am calm and peaceful and forgiving while I am in an all-out brawl with anger and resentment, refusing to acknowledge their presence and throwing them out the back door of the “I’m So Good” Club hoping no one else ever saw them come into the place.  My dark side is the place where I know I could see (if I took a good hard look) the full reality of my brokenness, my humanness,  and my incompleteness.  My dark side is the part of me that is me, the part of me I wish weren’t me, that I was hoping would somehow change, disappear, or mature if only I could put enough distance between us.

And here’s what caught me, the question of attention.  Would it be okay to give my dark side a thorough gaze?  Or would this serve to fuel the darkness residing therein?  If I looked at the darkness, would I be swallowed up within it, rendering me incapable of ever leaning out toward the light again?

“But,” I sang to my Self, “attention need not be laced with shame nor approval.  Attention may be clarifying while gentle, humble yet accountable.”

May the light of my eyes, cast a luminescent glow, one encompassing net, about my dark side.  May the gift of a sacred attention irradiate what I have been unwilling to fully acknowledge.  May I learn to love my darkness, for that is me, too; and may the Light which has never been overcome by darkness be my guide.

***

What have you learned about yourself and God when you turned your attention to your darkness?

© Amy Persons Parkes 2013

What is Your Emotional Equator?

flat map ocean

What if the world is not flat?

What if the North Star’s dive below the horizon as you make your way south of the equator is not an indicator that the end of all things is near?

What if the truth everyone believes, isn’t really True?

What if the most important aspect of your life is only an emotional boundary that you can’t bring yourself to cross for fear of what monsters and end of time horrors await on the other side?

What if the edge of the only world you can imagine is only a passage to another world you never even dreamed existed?

What if speaking the truth of who you are and what you know does not have the power to crush another person?  What if, instead, the speaking of this truth has the power to set you free, to set the other free?

What if the expectations you think God has of you are really the expectations of your people that have been handed down from generation to generation, and what if they have nothing at all to do with God?

I devoured the first chapter of Edwin Friedman’s book A Failure of Nerve, and I am setting sail on an adventure toward my emotional equator.  Like the early explorers of the late 15th century, I wonder what will appear on the horizon when I stretch out into the boundaries of my fears and press into the deeper unknowable presence of God.

What is your emotional equator?

© Amy Persons Parkes 2013

Around that Table

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I grew up going to Sunday dinner at my Grannie’s house.  Grannie was known for her hospitality; she always had an open door and food to be shared.  Sunday after Sunday my family gathered around an oval claw-footed oak table that easily seated fourteen of us at a time.  Grannie didn’t have much in the way of material items, but she always had enough china, glassware, and silverware cobbled together in mix and match settings to provide a place setting for everyone who came to her table.  Each one of us had our place at the table, and each one of us played a part in getting food prepared, setting out the dishes, calling people to the table, running to the store when we ran out of ice, and washing dishes.  We were a motley crew.  We were indifferent, delusional, mean-spirited, kind, outspoken, shy, beautiful, peacemaking, faithful, honest, and dishonest.  We were all these and much, much more.  We liked each other; we loved each other; we resented each other; we tolerated each other.  I believe we became a family around that table sustained by the rhythm, the ritual, the shared food, and Grannie’s intention that she would host us at her table.

When I imagine the intent of Jesus saying “do this in remembrance of me” as He blessed and passed the cup and broke the bread, I think Jesus was inviting us to continue to share a table with one another, to continue to open ourselves to God’s grace at work through the mystery of this meal, to continue to be reminded that in the sharing of the cup of His blood and in the breaking of his body we are healed.  I imagine that in Holy Communion Jesus is reminding us of the gift and pain we will experience through covenant community.  In the church, at the Table, some are Mary Magdalene; some are Peter; some are Judas.  We are all God’s children.  With as much humility as I can muster, in ministry I give myself over to the understanding that throughout my life, I have been and/or will be these three and more.  With as much love and compassion as I can muster in ministry, I yield my heart in the knowledge that we will all be these three and more.  However, we all have a deeper, more lasting identity that we claim each time we share Holy Communion.  We all belong to Christ.

Amy Persons Parkes © 2012

Made You Look

“That mole on your nose makes you look like a witch.”

Eyebrows knitted, thoughtful and yet direct in his tone, my little friend continued to chew a bite of his sandwich.  He had no intention to offend.  Contemplating my face with sincerity, he articulated the obvious relationship between me and a witch.

For a stunned moment, I paused to realize how often such a thought had flitted through my own mind.  He, however, said it out loud with unbiased conviction.

I dared not laugh.  The manner of his comment implied a certain gravity of exchange.  Isn’t every witch’s face identified by at least one mole on her nose?

“Hmmm. Yes, you’re right.  I do have a mole on my nose.”

I do have a mole on my nose.
Yes, I do.
A big mole.

I said that out loud, and I didn’t cry.
I laughed.
I laughed, inside.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2012