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.”

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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.

The Unthinkable

For over a decade now, I have set an annual goal of how many books I would read in a year. One of the things I internalized from my many mentors was that I should “Always Be Reading” (gratuitous Glengarry Glen Ross reference). So, each year I would set a target (usually 50 books), and I would meticulously record the title and author of each book I completed in a year (metrics, metrics, metrics).

Around May, I released myself from that goal.

It’s not that I’m not reading; I actually am reading as much—if not more—than ever.

But I feel like I’m reading differently.

For one, I’m actually re-reading a lot of books that I’ve read before. Some of these books—The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example—I’m reading because they are near and dear to my heart, and I have desperately needed their inspiration, comfort, and challenge.

Others, I’m re-reading because I realized that there was something I missed the first time round. In this season of greater clarity, when my eyes, ears, and heart are more open than they ever have been, I have been drawn to words, thoughts and truths that are familiar to me, and as I read them, I feel like I’m seeing, hearing, and experiencing them again for the first time.

On top of that, I just don’t feel as compelled to “measure” every single aspect of my life right now. Am I on track to read 50 books this year? How about 75? Thirty?

What does it really matter?

What does matter—for me right now—is why I’m reading.

Sometimes I read for comfort; sometimes I read to embrace new thoughts; sometimes I read for beauty; sometimes I read to save my soul, just for today.

So, in December, don’t ask me how many books I read this year, because I won’t be able to tell you. But you can ask me how my heart is doing.

Aha: Caught You!

When I used to lead music at churches, I used to point out that we musicians were responsible for roughly 30-40% of the content that someone experienced on a Sunday. What I mean is that if a sermon was 30-40 minutes long (like they were at our church), we usually sang anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. So, for 20 or 30 minutes we were, in a way, teaching people—both through the lyrical content of the songs we chose, but also in the intensity and passion with which we approached playing and singing.

I was reminded by that recently. In his great book, The Universal Christ, Richard Rohr writes, “Art is the giveaway of what people really believe at any one time.” I agree, and this is really highlighted in a song I heard the other day on Christian radio.

I don’t usually listen to Christian radio stations, but I got into a car recently and heard the song “Where I Belong”, by Building 429. Maybe you’ve heard it. Here are the lyrics:

Sometimes it feels like I’m watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I’m breathing, but am I alive?
I will keep searching for answers that aren’t here to find
All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong
So when the walls come falling down on me
And when I’m lost in the current of a raging sea
I have this blessed assurance holding me
All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong
When the earth shakes 
I wanna be found in you
When the lights fade 
I wanna be found in youAll I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

“Where I Belong” by Building 429

It’s a catchy song, and executed really well.

But I really struggle with the lyrics.

As the song wound down, with the singer repeating over and over, “This is not where I belong,” I couldn’t help but imagining Jesus standing in front of the band and responding to the song by saying,

“Um, well, I was pretty at home in this very same world that you seem to be not enjoying so well. I lived in the middle of the awkwardness, the uncertainty, the dirt, the smell, the challenge of… guess what: THIS WORLD.

“PS I actually died for this world.

Yes: I know the finer points that the singer is trying to express: It’s not “The World”—as in Creation, and Community, and Relationship—that the singer wants to bail out of; rather, it’s The System. It’s the way the world “works”, according to “might-makes-right”, and wealth = status and influence.

But that’s not what he wrote.

And I doubt that’s what people are thinking about when they sing this song.

What we are talking about is only one of the most important, critical, “center-of-the-target” beliefs of our faith: That Jesus Christ came to THIS world, in a REAL human body.

He didn’t come to “Jesus-Land”, where everything was safe, and the weather was always 74 degrees and sunny. He came to dusty, dirty, Palestine. It gets hot there. It gets cold there. There were good days; there were bad days.

PS There were Romans.

A huge—if not the entire—point of Jesus coming to us was to show that God can show up in the middle a very normal, very “every-day” human life.

Saying, “This world is not my home,” or “Get me out of here Jesus,” is betraying the escapist and non-incarnational view of spirituality that we (myself included) are always tempted to fall into.

But that’s not the way Jesus works: There is no life—apart from your own—that Jesus wants to come to. There is no other world—apart from your world and my world—that Jesus wants to come to.

It’s like we want to sing, “This is not where I belong,” and Jesus wants us to sing, “Actually, you SHOULD belong there, WITH ME, because that’s where people need me.

I used to love saying this to people, I am continuing to learn them myself:

There is no “spiritual life”; there is only MY life.

Caught ya, church. Don’t lose the incarnation just for the sake of a catchy melody and a theology that merely sings well, especially if it’s not true to The Story.

Merton on Suffering

Suffering, therefore, must make sense to us not as a vague universal necessity, but as something demanded by our own personal destiny. When I see my trials not as the collision of my life with a blind machine called fate, but as the sacramental gift of Christ’s love, given to me by God the Father along with my identity and my very name, then I can consecrate them and myself with them to God. For then I really that my suffering is not my own. It is the Passion of Christ, stretching out its tendrils into my life in order to bear rich clusters of grapes, making my soul dizzy with the wine of Christ’s love, and pouring that wine as strong as fire upon the whole world.

Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island.

I am continuing to learn that the most intense seasons and occasions of devastation that have occurred in my life were brought about by my attempts to either avoid suffering, or to misuse it/suffer badly.

On the flip side, I am grateful for the reality of the fruit that suffering, rightly born, produces. What’s more, it’s not just in my life, but it overflows into the lives of the people around me.

An Update (Of Sorts) for July

Hi everyone. I wanted to send something out that was a bit more personal, and talk about some things that I’m thinking about and dabbling in.

NEWS

For those of you who know me, you know a lot has happened in the past few months. It was (sometimes still is) a season of deep sadness, grief, regret, confusion, suffering and devastation. At the same time, it has also been a season of redemption, peace, clarity, insight, and growth.

Through the journey—with all of the ups and downs—God has met with me, through friends and family, and also through occasional moments and consolations, when there’s really no other way to say it accept to say that “God showed up” in amazingly peaceful, subtle—and utterly personal—ways.

In other words, everything I’d ever read or wrote about the Gospel and spirituality is true.

I’m still processing how I will share my story, but I’m taking that one step at a time. For now, here are some things:

First of all, I’ve been thinking about and exploring some new and exciting creative ideas, and that is causing me to re-think this website. I’m going to be tinkering a bit with http://www.thisisericcase.com, along with the format of my writing and posting. I’ll do my best to keep everyone up to date, but stay tuned for some changes and updates.

MUSIC+

Musically, somewhere around February I opened my eyes and realized that somehow I’d written an album’s worth of songs. My band and I worked off and on through the winter to record them, and hopefully it will be ready for release this fall. Until then, please stay tuned to my Facebook page (please head over there and give a “Like”) for updates.

(PS: If you want an official Eric Case Band t-shirt, just let me know, and I’ll figure out how to make that happen.)

If you’re in Tallahassee or North Florida, we are playing a very special show with our friends, the Sarah Mac Band, on July 26 at the Tallahassee Theatre. I think that the show is officially sold out, but stay in touch for any last minute tickets or no-shows.

WHAT I’VE BEEN READING AND LISTENING TO

In case you’re into this sort of thing, here are some books I’ve been taking in:

  • Falling Upward by Richard Rohr
  • Universal Christ, by Richard Rohr
  • No Man is an Island, by Thomas Merton
  • Open Mind, Open Heart, by Thomas Keating
  • How We Love, by Milan and Kay Yerkovich
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • A New Pair of Glasses, by Chuck C.

There’s plenty more, but that short list has been pretty helpful and influential in recent weeks.

As far as music goes, here are just a couple tasty morsels:

  • Let’s Rock by The Black Keys (so, so good)
  • Anima Mysterium, by Yugen Blakrok (dark, mysterious South African hip-hop)
  • Sons by The Heavy

I’ve also been digesting a lot of Tom Petty, Grateful Dead (particularly American Beauty and Europe ‘72), and Ray LaMontagne). All good stuff.

Anyway, thanks for all of your support and friendship; I’m excited about the future that is unfolding in front of me, and for the continued pull towards the deeper waters of faith and life.

I Could Not Say This Any Better

God knows that all of us will fall somehow. Those events that lead us to ‘catastrophize’ out of all proportion must be business as usual for God—at least six billion times a day. Like good spiritual directors do, God must say after each failure of ours, ‘Oh, here is a great opportunity! Let’s see how we can work with this!’ After our ego-inflating successes, God surely says, ‘Well, nothing new or good is going to happen here!’ Failure and suffering are the great equalizers and levelers among humans. Success is just the opposite. Communities and commitment can form around suffering much more than around how wonderful or superior we are… There is a strange and even wonderful communion in real human pain, actually much more than in joy, which is too often manufactured and passing.

Like any true mirror, the gaze of God receives us exactly as we are, without judgment or distortion, subtraction or addition. Such perfect receiving is what transforms us. Being totally received as we truly are is what we wait and long for all our lives. All we can do is receive and return the loving gaze of God every day, and afterwards we will be internally free and deeply happy at the same time. The One who knows all has no trouble including, accepting, and forgiving all. Soon we who are gazed upon so perfectly can pass on the same accepting gaze to all others who need it.

Richard Rohr, Falling Upward.

At one point, I wasn’t ready or able to really understand or receive this. Now I think I’m beginning to get it.