The Second Call

When I found myself “at the bottom,” with my life in shambles, a dear friend told me that if I chose to accept the gift of surrendering my life and learning to live in a new simple way—trusting God, cleaning house and serving others—that not only could I survive, I could actually grow through that trial. “If you do go on this journey,” he told me, “you will get to know yourself for the first time.

Since then, I have lived my life, one day at a time, according to this new, simple program.

In somehow choosing this new path, I believe I have received what many call, “the second call.” I read these words this morning, from Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel.

Second journeys usually end quietly with a new wisdom and a coming to a true sense of self that releases great power. The wisdom is that of an adult who has regained equilibrium, stabilized, and found fresh purpose and new dreams. It is a wisdom that gives some things up, lets some things die, and accepts human limitations. It is a wisdom that realizes: I cannot expect anyone to understand me fully. It is wisdom that admits the inevitability of old age and death.

The second journey begins when we know we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the morning program. (That’s really good-EC.)

The second call invites us to serious reflection on the nature and quality of our faith in the gospel of grace, our hope in the new and not yet, and our love for God and people. The second call is a summons to a deeper, more mature commitment of faith where the naiveté, first fervor, and untested idealism of the morning and the first commitment have been seasoned with pain, rejection, failure, loneliness, and self-knowledge.”

Brennan Manning, Ragamuffin Gospel

Over the past six months, I have experienced more pain, rejection, failure, and loneliness than I could have ever imagined possible, let alone endurable.

And yet here I stand (with, I hope, just a little self-knowledge).

This “second journey/call” is exciting, but also terrifying, because for the first time in a very long while, I’m aware that I am NOT in control, and nor am I meant to be. I am trying very hard to put my life in the hands of the God of Abram, and Isaac, and Moses, and David, and Elijah, and John the Baptizer and Jesus and Paul… and everyone else who embraced the mystery and took a step out their front door to follow the CALL to “become who they are meant to be.”

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Poison

Poison.

It’s not what you think.

It’s way trickier than that.

It’s when you start doing the thing that you think is the thing, but what you’re actually doing is creating something that you think the thing is supposed to be, so that it can get the likes it’s supposed to get…

The retweets…

The shares…

When did creating become a commodity in my life?

It’s snuck in, that’s for sure.

I used to have a musical, songwriting friend, and we would have this argument all the time…

Him: “Let’s get together and play guitars on our back porch.”

Me: “Let’s book a gig.”

Him: “Let’s just write songs that no one has to hear.”

Me: “Let’s book a gig and share them.”

You see, I get this about me: I love the audience. I have been performing since I was 5, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it, and pretty used to it. With music it seemed like such a natural fit.

But then I started dabbling in writing, and wow they had these things called “Blogs” and you could publish to the world!

So I would write, and I would publish.

And I would write, and I would publish.

And I would write, and I would publish.

So much so, that writing began to equal publishing.

Writing = Publishing… ?

And sitting down to type always meant looking over my shoulder, or more accurately, “out there” to the world.

I’m not sure you can really write like that.

You’ll always pull back. Or nudge things this way or that way to make them more palatable, or more fantastic.

(Or, at least, I will always tend towards those behaviors.)

Click bait, anyone?

The book Writing Down the Bones is really all about this; creating a writing practice that gives you a safe space to get stuff out.

As Mick would say maybe, “empty some blood on the page…”

But I haven’t got that habit back in my life just yet. I’m still struggling. Turning the Wi-Fi off while I write is a beginning step, but it seems as if there’s another place to go that’s even more simple, more analog, more primal than this.

Don’t make me get out my pen and start writing! Hand cramps anyone?

But I know I need it. I need the place to be raw. To get at the essence of things. To mess up. To be a beautiful disaster.

Ironically, songwriting is still a bit like that for me. Somehow, I just instinctively know how to be more free in that space. Not sure why. It may be simply that it’s just more honest and true to who I am.

Anyway. Desperately seeking space.

Let’s get there.

Wake Up Call

Typically, I am almost always reading SOMETHING from Thomas Merton (currently, No Man is an Island). Here’s what I started with this morning:

The ultimate end of all techniques, when they are used in the Christian context, is charity and union with God.

Discipline is not effective unless it is systematic, for the lack of system usually betrays a lack of purpose.

Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

Well now: that’s clarifying.

But Merton’s not done.

He goes on (and yes: this is DEFINITELY worth quoting at length, and I have added some emphases where it struck me):

Good habits are only developed by repeated acts, and we cannot discipline ourselves to do the same thing over again with any degree of intelligence unless we go about it systematically. It is necessary, above all in the beginning of our spiritual life, to do certain things at fixed times: fasting on certain days, prayer and meditation at definite hours of the day, regular examinations of conscience, regularity in frequenting the sacraments, systematic application to our duties of state, particular attention to virtues which are most necessary for us.

To desire a spiritual life is, thus, to desire discipline. Otherwise our desire is an illusion. It is true that discipline is supposed to bring us, eventually, to spiritual liberty. Therefore our asceticism should make us spiritually flexible, not rigid, for rigidity and liberty never agree. But our discipline, must, nevertheless, have a certain element of severity about it. Otherwise it will never set us free from the passions. If we are not strict with ourselves, our own flesh will soon deceive us. If we do not command ourselves severely to pray and do penance at certain times, and make up our mind to keep our resolutions in spite of notable inconvenience and difficulty, we will quickly be deluded by our own excuses and let ourselves be led away by weakness and caprice.

That certainly can give you perspective before you walk out the door to live your life… if you let it.

Don’t Call Me a Leader (Morning Pages, 09.05.2019)

Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us to a place of ‘hidden wholeness’ because they have been there and know the way.

Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

I’ve certainly been on my own journey of vocation lately. I’ve been to the depths, to (and at least partially through) the darkness, and emerged to ask the questions I’ve repeatedly wrestled with:

  • who am I?
  • what am I uniquely put here to do?
  • what am I uniequely put here to make?
  • how will I answer the call of vocation?

I’ve answered these questions, over and over, throughout my life, but always through a hazy filter of the false self, a mask that I cemented in place over decades of hiding, fear, and addictive behavior.

Now I’m trying to answer them from a new place, “the ground of my being,” from the truest self that I can muster, and apart from any pretense or ego.

One of the answers that I used to readily embrace was that of “leader.”

But now I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t like that word, that title. It conjures up images of stressful conversations and navigating measurements and metrics that can be difficult to separate from my self-worth. The title reminds me of the endless list of things to do, the vague feeling of, “Is anything getting done around here? Is anything changing?”

That title, that word, feels tired to me.

But here is what I ALSO heard: I may be tired of the TITLE, the NOUN, but I’m NOT necessarily tired of the VERB.

So while I may not have the title of leader currently (or ever again?), I WILL lead.

I WILL lead, which really only means trying to change what I can change and surrender to what I cannot.

Which is really just good plain common sense.

(PLUS a model for serenity… hmmmmmm…)

So you don’t have to call me a leader. But I will lead where and how I can. And I will try to do it from a new position of true humility, and honesty, and an intimate knowledge of my own limitations and potential for darkness.

And I will try—very hard—not to do this for my own sake, but for the sake of my friends, my community, and the world.

Just a Thought (Morning Pages, 09.04.2019)

“God loves us as we are, not as we should be, BECAUSE NONE OF US IS AS WE SHOULD BE.”

Brennan Manning

This very simple truth has the power to change everything.

If we let it.

(I invite you to just meditate on it for a day or two.)

But my experience is that often we’d prefer to NOT.

We would LIKE it to be harder:

“There’s NO WAY that God could embrace them; not with what THEY HAVE DONE.”

But a simple reading of the gospels would tell you otherwise.

(Christians still read the gospels, don’t they?)

It’s love and acceptance BEFORE repentance and life change.

It’s “let’s have a meal” before “clean up your act.”

It’s “embrace” before “challenge.”

(NOTE: life change, challenge, and transformation are all still invitations, it’s just that it’s important to keep things in the correct order.)

Try Vulnerability (Morning Pages, 8.29.2019)

Truth is, I like to power through most everything:

  • marriage
  • friendships
  • sickness
  • depression
  • work

“Nose to the grindstone.”

Push harder.

Stand my ground.

Assert myself.

Get my needs met.

Where does that get me?

Not very far, oh—and very mentally and emotionally sick.

Have to continually remind myself; actually RE-learn, every single day it seems, that VULNERABILITY is the way that I’m to posture myself in the world.

Only gods are invulnerable. The rest of us are decidedly fragile.

This is okay; it’s the way it’s meant to be.

So when I wake, it’s okay for me to say, “I don’t have what it takes today.”

To say, “I really am feeling weak, and I need some help.”

To say, “How can I help?”

Without being overly dramatic, very few people around me—if anyone—is going to teach me how to do this.

I won’t learn it from Netflix.

Vulnerability is upside down, and is counter.

In a place and time where we all clamor and scream to get what we want, there remains a tradition that says, “I don’t NEED to get what I want, because I have a Power/Father/God/Mystery that will provide what I NEED, so that I can help YOU get what YOU need.”

Last Night I walked Into a Room (Morning pages 8/28/2019)

I walked into a room last night.
Just over 5 months ago I’d walked into a couple other ones.

Not for the first time, but it might as well have been.

First times/not first but first with desperation.

And I listened.

Because I had no choice. I was at the end, with no hope. No alternative.

Last night I walked into a room.

And I’m not at the end, but at the beginning, and the beginning of an end, and also a middle.

With alternatives, and a future, that is still shrouded and clouded and misty mysterious.

And I am still me, with my limitation.

Poor limited me. With imperfections and spectacular failures and wondrous potentials.

Both rooms have hope. Both rooms have humanity. Both rooms have stories.

And I just listen. And then share and tell my story

When my time comes.