Immortal Diamond – Take THREE!

1Take Three Logo “We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb
the cross of the present and let our illusions die.”
  W.H. Auden

 Warning – Steep and Deep Waters ahead – only for
the courageous

Rohr’s last published book, Immortal Diamond, has been formative in my
heart and life over the past weeks.  As
many of you know, I spent much of the Lenten season in 2013 reading and
re-reading Rohr’s work.    

“Dead giveaways.” 
That’s what we call them. They are those things that unveil the truth
about some subject or person.  For
example, you notice a middle aged gentleman driving a red sports car on Pacific
Highway in California, right by the beach in the middle of the day…isn’t that a
‘dead giveaway” of a mid-life crisis?  Or
you see a young couple browsing through a “Babies R Us” store…isn’t that a dead
giveaway that they may be expecting a baby? 
In addition to my life in a faith community, I am also a college
professor.  Not too long ago I received a
term paper from a student that had the following on the bottom of the last
page, "This essay is from – join today!"  Dead giveaway of cheating, isn’t it?

When it comes to how we see ourselves as followers
of Jesus, there are a few dead giveaways. 
Rohr says that the “curiosity
about ourselves grows more intense (through our lives) as we try on a dozen
costumes and roles and we surely covet any recognition or praise of our most
recent incarnation.” 
Isn’t that
true?  I read that in the first chapter
of the Immortal Diamond and I
paused and thought, “How did Father Rohr get into my head?”  Here’s my confession – I’ve been trying all
kinds of different “costumes and roles” throughout my life attempting to find
the “McGuffin” of success and personal peace. 
One of the reasons I’m so darned impulsive is that I appear to NEVER be
satisfied.  Just when I think, “I’ve
finally made it,” I realize in moments of quiet that there still is restlessness
in my heart.  For years I thought it had
to do with boredom or simply that I could never settle down in life and finish
a specific “race.”  But now I’ve
discovered something deeper, that being, despite my vocal and lifestyle proclamation
of being a follower of Jesus, I’m still looking for success in “small/false”
self.  I keep expecting that the most
recent dressing up in that costume/role will deliver.  What I fail to understand, and what I pray I
can grow in understanding, is that following Jesus is not as much about
“dressing up” as it is “dressing down.” 

Thomas Merton (another great spiritual mentor) once

“If I had
a message to my contemporaries it is surely this:  Be anything you like, be madmen, drunks, and
bastards of every shape and form, but at all costs avoid one thing:  success…If you are too obsessed with success,
you will forget to live.  If you have
learned only how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted.”

Rohr again, 

is hardly ever your TRUE self, only your early window dressing.  It gives you some momentum for the journey
but it is never the real goal.  You do
not know that, however.  In the moment,
if just feels right and good and necessary – and it is.  For a short while.”  

All I can say is, “OUCH!”  Why? 
Because this pursuit has been my life’s M.O.  I have worked hard and attempted to get to
the top of that “mountain” of success and recognition in order to plant the
flag of my identity in a pile of accomplishments…now, I realize that I’ve been
climbing the wrong mountain (and that all my accomplishments and “costumes” are
the real “pile”).  For those of you who
know me, you would be correct in having a different expectation of how this all
comes out in the wash especially because I have so passionately and publically
aligned myself with what most of us regard as the REAL meaning in life.  Even so, as we’ve been alluding to in other
devotionals, it is easy to USE religion as a costume or role.  We can easily use religion for one more opportunity
for some sort of existential, spiritual or personal “success.”  We can use religious goods and services
well…we can prove to anyone who is watching that we are “more spiritual, more
biblically astute, more worshipful or spiritually gifted” than others and thus,
are religiously successful.  Even those
of us who rely on GOD’S GRACE as a means of anchoring our spiritual journey…we
talk a good line but rarely live it. 

Here’s what I see Rohr doing in this early part of
his book – he says clearly that “religion’s
main ‘job’ is to purely and simply do one thing: to tell us, and keep reminding
us of who we objectively are.”
we are babbling on largely about ourselves, Grace keeps reminding us of who, or
better yet, WHOSE, we really are. 
Friends, religion and spiritual acts were NEVER meant to be used as
boundary markers of acceptability, merit badges of being a good person, or
reward for decent behavior.  In this
instance I agree with Father Rohr, a little bit of enlightenment is a very
dangerous thing.  Why?  Because for many of us, religious acts,
affiliations and beliefs are more like props in our lives of righteousness
instead of simply that which proceeds out of an “endowed” identity that we
receive as gift. 

Jesus said, “REJOICE
only that your name is written in heaven (Luke10:20).” 
If we could really, really, really (did I
write, “really”?) understand and feast on that truth it would change our whole
life agenda.  Before we take another step
or have another feeling of inadequacy or discomfort or feel like we will never
be good enough…if only we would just STOP our climbing, contending, competing
or criticizing…if only we would stop “accessorizing” our fragile self, we would
do what Jesus has been waiting for us to do our whole lives:  fall into His loving arms (“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall NOT
want…” Psalm 23:1
).  One last
illustration from the book,

“St. Teresa
of Avila used a metaphor when she described how you can either keep digging the
channel or find the actual spring and let it just flow toward you, in you and
from you.” 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need too many
hints on WHO that “spring” is?  I’m
jumping in…how about you?



Immortal Diamond – Take TWO!

1“We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.” W.H. Auden

Warning – Steep and Deep Waters ahead – only for the courageous

Richard Rohr’s last published book, Immortal Diamond, has been formative in my heart and life over the past weeks. As many of you know, I spent much of the Lenten season in 2013 reading and re-reading Rohr’s work. Last week, we started a new devotional series using this powerful, spiritual resource. Over the coming weeks, our devotionals will continue to be reflections on some of the things that made a difference in my life! I pray you are blessed and encouraged.

A month ago, when we were preparing for Easter, I spent an evening in our faith community’s worship gathering talking about “McGuffins.” Sounds odd, doesn't it? What is a “McGuffin?” A “McGuffin” is a movie or story “technique” that attempts to, not only involve, but also be that which draws a viewer or reader into the story. A “McGuffin” is that which needs to be attained by the protagonist…it is “getting the girl”, stopping the bomb from exploding, finding the cache of riches buried in some ancient location, in other words, it is that which DRIVES the main character to find personal fulfillment. Every good story not only has a “villain” or some sort of conflict that the story’s progression depends upon but has this gnawing sense that SOMETHING HUGE must be attained or accomplished. And don’t think this doesn’t occur in your daily life or mine. If you think about it, we are all “after” something in life. Deep within our souls, everyone has that which they feel and believe will bring personal fulfillment. In many respects, just like that of a good novel or movie, our “McGuffin” comes in a variety of forms from possessions, to people, or a dream of temporal success (to name just a few). Yet, most of us ALSO KNOW that none of those things bring true fulfillment. Yes, “McGuffins” make for good movies and good “reads” but NEVER a good life!

As Rohr states in the Immortal Diamond,

“Conservatives look for absolute truth; liberals look for something real and authentic. Spouses look for a marriage that will last ‘til death does us part. Believers look for a God who will never fail them; scientists look for a universal theory. They are all on the same quest. We are all looking for an immortal diamond: something utterly reliable, something loyal and true, something we can always depend on, something unforgettable and shining.”

Psychologists, theologians, counselors, pretty much all self-aware and truth-seeking individuals know that this search is real. The REAL ISSUE is where we seek and where we eventually stop the search and find the peace our soul so longs to experience. In seeking the truth, Richard Rohr says, we enter our hearts. The “heart” has long and deep biblical roots. Scripture refers to the heart as that part of our lives that is more than the physical organ circulating blood throughout our bodies, but that aspect of our lives that taps the deepest sense of who we are. The heart is the center of our identity. Because of that, we need to understand what we eventually discover when we search for fulfillment. MOST of us understand that that which is outside of our being (possessions, relationships, accomplishments, etc.) won’t bring us ultimate meaning yet, interestingly enough, when we DO go to our heart we end up looking for exactly that! We search for a satisfying of our EGO and not our SPIRIT.

Confused? Let me explain:
Most of us live out two distinct identities over the course of our lives – that which we build from the very beginning of our self-awareness; that which is focused on accomplishments, degrees, awards, recognition, roles all of which promise to bring a sense of importance, and other factors that stoke the fires of our EGO. Don’t misunderstand me here…the EGO isn’t bad or even wrong. WHAT IT IS, IS MISGUIDED. The “ego” is, to use a Rohr-ian phrase, our “small self,” that which we know about from our daily experience. Rohr goes so far as to say that the “small self, false self” is OUR common default in life. You know what I mean by “default?” Permit me to explain: for example, our “default” in the morning is tiredness, a need for food, coffee and, in some cases, a good make-up session or teeth brushing. We don't wake up ready for the day…our default is MUCH different. It is the same with the ego. Our default position in life (some theologians, including myself, would call this “original sin”) is that which seeks individualistic fulfillment via a host of outward works that convince our hearts that we are significant. Unfortunately, our default never delivers. Sooner or later people’s praise or our materialistic rewards or other “props” that we accumulate in life to make ourselves feel good about ourselves end up running out of gas. And, what are we left with? Ourselves and a lack of fulfillment and peace.

Even for those who have a professed “spiritual journey”, it often is the same dynamic at work with a religious mask. In other words, those of us who claim we believe in God and trust that relationship to bring us ultimate meaning and purpose in life will often create and arbitrarily manufacture spiritual hoops to jump through SO THAT WE CAN PROVE TO OURSELVES AND OTHERS that we have “made it.” We separate ourselves into that which is moral and godly and that which isn’t…we reason that if we can gather God’s attention as, at least, being a person who is “trying” to get life right that we will have attained life’s ultimate goal. It doesn’t even matter, in most respects, what these arbitrary rules do to us and others (I don’t know if you have noticed this but few people really keep personal, moral rules to themselves…they end of measuring, or better yet, “judging” the world by that same criteria), the proof (God’s love and affirmation) is in the “pudding.” You see, when we deny our identity as that which is encompassed in our hearts (or souls), that which is proclaimed by God to be “loved, a child of God, a saint whom is gifted by grace”, all we have left are rules and hoops, all of which net us nothing but frustration, anger and meaninglessness. When we make FAITH into “hoops” and not about love, then everything within ourselves and in our relationships and world because that which crushes our TRUE identity IN Jesus.

Here’s where we need to end this devotional – “when you and me have found our absolute reference point that is both utterly within you and utterly beyond you at the very same time,” that is the reality that grounds our being and soul. A historical figure in Christianity, St. Catherine of Genoa shouted as she ran through the streets of her town hundreds of years ago, “my deepest me is God!” Oh, to find at the very heart of whom we are and how we live God and God’s presence and love? NOW, that can change a life!

“Immortal Diamond,” Take ONE!

1_truth “We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb
the cross of the present and let our illusions die.”
  W.H. Auden

Warning – Steep and Deep Waters ahead – only for
the courageous

Rohr’s last published book, Immortal Diamond, has been formative in my
heart and life over the past weeks.  As
many of you know, I spent much of the Lenten season in 2013 reading and
re-reading Rohr’s work.  Over the coming weeks,
some of my posts will be reflections on some of the things that made a
difference in my life!  I pray you are
blessed and encouraged. 

Sometimes our ideas on “who’s in and who’s out” of
a journey with Jesus overwhelms the Mystery of who God is and how He reveals
Himself in our lives.  We are so
determined to be theologically or “religiously” right that we are apt to
compartmentalize, exclude and even condemn others because they look, sound or
worship differently.  In reality, as Rohr
comments in the preface of Immortal Diamond,

Christians…are forever deepening their personal relationship with a very tiny
American Jesus – who looks an awful lot like them.”

What’s Rohr getting at?  He’s saying what many of us are waking up
to…that we have created God in our image, with OUR theological prejudices, with
OUR observations of duality (who’s in or out, right or wrong), FOR OUR BENEFIT
at the expense of the truth.  And, in
light of that reality, we have reasoned and justified our excuses for NOT
taking the Kingdom of God OR Kingdom ministry/lifestyle seriously.  Many of us have grown too comfortable in our
tiny houses of worship, feeling pretty self-satisfied and fairly self righteous
while the rest of our community and our relationships can be written off
because they do not agree with “me” (or “us”).

Does that sound like a harsh assessment?  Well, it depends…it depends how much patience
a person has for what should be or become that which propels our lives, informs
our actions, and motivates our intentions no matter what we do – the overwhelming
and ALWAYS life-changing and compelling love of God.  The Immortal Diamond is NOT an easy
book to read at times.  For me, it is
always a challenge to open my mind and heart to that which I seriously never
desire to entertain – that being, NEW thoughts and perspectives.  It appears that I’m interested in the
Spirit’s voice as long as that voice sounds more like my own affirming my
preconceived notions and actions. 
Frankly, anything of God that messes up my life is suspicious, though I
must admit, necessary.  I say I welcome
the winds of the Spirit…I say I invite the Lord to blow freshness into my
heart.  I say that I desire to be that
“new wineskin” filled with fresh “wine” (see Matthew 9:17ff)…but in reality,
the comfortable and the unchallenged in me is simply too resistant to the
novelty of God. 

Rohr writes, and this is just in the PREFACE, 

within them (sic) needs to be deeply trusted and many things must be allowed to
die – not because they are bad but because they perhaps cannot get them where
they want to go.  Spirituality tends to
be more about UNLEARNING than learning….many religious people seem to think
that God, for some utterly unexplainable reason, loves the human past (usually
their own group’s recent past) instead of the present or future of this
creation.  As Jaroslav Pelikan so wisely
put years ago, ‘Tradition is the living faith of the dead.  Traditionalism is the dead faith of the
living, and I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives Tradition
such a bad name.”   

I’m not too comfortable with this but I’m so
thankful that I'm reading it, asking the Spirit to reveals the truth in the
midst of it and allowing that truth to transform my life and heart.  Rohr’s right – our preoccupation with our own
pasts always seems to be at the expense of something.  In this case, we affirm our past and, along
with that, affirm a misleading suspicion that God does only likes “us” and not
“those other” people.  In other words, to
use Rohr’s words,

“This preoccupation
with the past comes across as a divine approval of everybody else’s death (non-Christians,
heretics, “sinners”, etc., etc.) and NEVER OUR OWN (italics mine).” 

All I can say is “ouch.”  You see, HOW WE SEE our lives, our spiritual
journey and interaction/connection to the world says EVERYTHING about what we
believe about WHO GOD IS.  If we see
ourselves especially blessed, then that is at the expense of somebody else
missing the boat.  In other words, if God
is FOR US, He is definitely against THEM. 
In that case, we become self-justified in ignoring that which is outside
of our feeling or sense of rightness. 
And truly friends, that’s why many faith communities and many Jesus
followers are stuck.  Week after week,
they make their way to worship experiences and then completely DETACH from
reality the rest of the week because God is ONLY on their side…why bother with
all the rest of those folks. 

Unfortunately, and I’ll close this devotional here
(I think you’ve probably had enough for today), when we come to these conclusions
we do so at the ignorance of the power and all-encompassing nature of God’s
grace.  The Immoral Diamond says this,

Grace is
what God does to keep all things He has made in love and alive – forever.  Grace is God’s official job description.  Grace is not something God gives; grace is
who God is…an unexplainable goodness is at work in the universe.”

It is God’s grace that propels us into action…into
joining God’s mission…we don’t do or live mission because we have nothing
better to do or because we want more butts in pews, we do it because we are
joining God and recognizing that grace is available and already “moving” in
every person’s life.   Knowing and
experiencing grace is really at the heart of what it means to be a Christ
follower.  It is God’s grace that
transforms.  Without it, our religious
experience is just a social club or a doctrinal system.  What radically changes our lives and our
motivations for joining God in mission is grace…pure and simple! 

Three NT Wright radio interview “segments” regarding HIS FABULOUS book, “How God became King”

1totally-greatYou really shouldn't miss this!  Here are three radio interview segments where NT Wright is discussing his great book on God's Kingdom, "How God became King."  In addition, the host of the program asks great follow up questions.  This is a must listen…it gives us a great opportunity to learn and grow.  

Hughniverse NT Wright – 1

Hughniverse NT Wright – 2

Hughniverse NT Wright – 3