wrathful devotion

by Jennifer Welwood

You gave me a heart that ignites
In the passionate knowing of you,
And having burned in that heat
Is not drawn to lesser fires.

You gave me a mind that expands
To encounter your vastness,
And finds in those fathomless depths
Its own luminous nature.

You gave me a soul that won’t rest
With any barrier to you,
Be it heavy and dense
Or gossamer as a veil.

You gave me an old structure
Made up of my history;
It is heavy and dense,
It is gossamer as a veil.

I meet it, allow it, explore it
And still it grinds on,
A machine that relentlessly churns out
Old patterns and tendencies.

I embrace it, dissolve it, release it —
Still it keeps reincarnating,
Rising up from some ancient template
Held deep in my bones.

I don’t begrudge you your sense of humor,
Beloved trickster,
But I do wonder, now and then,
What you have in mind.

Did you make me to realize a freedom
I can’t fully embody?
Do my heart and soul burn for a truth
That I can’t fully live?

I commune with you in the heavens —
It’s not hard to find you there;
But I need you down here,
In the marrow of my bones.

You can’t turn away now — stay here;
I will have this out with you.
You started something with me,
And now I want it finished.
Yes — I will wrestle with you on this one,
Beloved torturer;
I will wrestle you all the way down
To the very ground

And not rest till I stand
With the soles of my feet upon you,
And not rest till I feel you infuse
My every cell.

an afternoon in the sun

the beachThis evening my skin is tight and hot and dry from the sun and the salt water I immersed myself in this afternoon, and it feels so good. I spent my afternoon at the beach with some friends and my adventures included retrieving a log for myself and my four-year-old friends to float on, eating watermelon and junk food, having seaweed fights, and sitting silently in the sun. It was a perfect afternoon and like my one friend always says, the tight hot skin burnt by wind and sun actually feels good, it makes you feel alive.

Being really alive, truly lively, very present, has been something I’ve been working on for awhile now. As our world rushes by at a more and more frenetic pace, as the news reports about sun exposure and all the other things we are supposed to worry about use more and more scare tactics, as the apparently serious business of being an adult gets more intense, it is more and more important to let go of those pressures and instead be present to the fullness of life available in each and every moment we live.

Too often I worry that I am not doing enough or being enough in the world, when, as a friend reminded us in her sermon this morning, all I am really obliged to do is to be me, to be Shannon, in the beautiful and unique form that God has called into being for this place and time. What else can I do really? To be fully alive and fully Shannon is not always easy, but it is rewarding in ways beyond imagining.

And today, to be Shannon, was to frolic in the ocean, laze on the beach, and be joyously and abundantly alive.

manic screaming

We should make all spiritual talk
Simple today:

God is trying to sell you something,
But you don’t want to buy.

That is what your suffering is:

Your fantastic haggling,
Your manic screaming over the price.

– Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky, I Heard God Laughing

steeped in the burning layers of the divine

By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers . . . This palpable world, which we are used to treating with the boredom and disrespect with which we habitually regard places with no sacred association, is a holy place.

-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu


For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.

the way of the bodhisattva – shantideva – 8th century

salvation is here

Salvation is a subject that doesn’t get a lot of airtime in many liberal Christian circles. You might even be troubled to see me use that word – salvation. But I’m a big fan of rethinking what we mean when we use certain words, so today I would like to redeem this word “salvation” for a bit. I’d like to propose that we are saved when we accept peace and live from a space of calm, not allowing ourselves to be caught up in the demands of our go-go-go world.

Several years ago while I was working on my Master of Divinity I struggled with a book that refused to leave room for salvation, though it used the word “redemption” instead. I liked a lot of what the book said but could not go as far as it could in saying that there is no room for redemption, why, I wondered, did I have this deep discomfort with leaving that out? I decided to go talk to my teacher about this and as she listened and asked questions we discovered that I was just dealing with a different notion of redemption or salvation than the book conceived of. I and the book agreed that it is not possible to find ultimate and final redemption or salvation because the world is constantly in process and never does and never can come to some final static, resting point of redemption or salvation. I, however, don’t think of salvation or redemption in those sort of ultimate or final terms. To me, salvation is fleeting, it is the glimpses of grace that we see on a daily basis. There is salvation and redemption in a chord sung so perfectly by a group that we all feel deep down in our beings a sense of unity and satisfaction. There is salvation in resting in a moment of silence that holds my centre. There is salvation in the arms of one that I love.

I’m purposely trying to reframe how we look at salvation here because I think it is a powerful concept for understanding the profound difference that is made when we choose to walk a path of love, devoting ourselves to nursing the flourishing of the world, rather than getting caught up in the demands of our culture.

Salvation and redemption connote transformation, a change in life that is profound. In order to facilitate the building of a more peaceful world we need to transform our lives, we need to step out of our comfort zones, we need to risk living more simply, giving more generously, loving more lavishly, and living more peacefully.

We can all be witnesses to resurrection, to the joy of letting go, to living by dying, to new life through a peace that passes all understanding, to grace abundantly and freely given.