I can’t intellectually defeat the existence of God. It is impossible for me.
Sometimes when life gets hard and dark, we become worried faith will be lost, God will be doubted or worse, blamed.

I am totally and utterly incapable of doing that.

I can blame myself, I can find fault in the cosmos or the natural tendencies of society and creation, but I cannot find any reason in my mind, any tragic situation, that God could not explain away through his eloquent, poetic incarnation.

Sometimes it’s a curse. Sometimes it’s not.

Like most things.

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Sacred Space.

In a letter written to a young poet seeking his wisdom, Rainer Rilke wrote the following:

“I would finally just like to advise you to grow through your development quietly and seriously; you can interrupt it in no more violent manner than by looking outwards, and expecting answer from outside to questions which perhaps only your innermost feeling in your most silent hour can answer.” (Rilke, 13).

The idea of a sacred space is hard to define, but for me, Rilke captures what it is about a place that in a sense can make it, divine.

I am very influenced by places. Environments, moods, the way a setting feels speaks to my core and often I find myself coming to locations that bring about a preconceived emotional disposition because of my past experience there. Because of this, the quest to find a place that is mine, a place where presence can happen is all sorts of difficult. In the same vein of Rilke’s writing, I seek a place where my introversion can be encouraged, and the temptation to include the outside world in self-critique is less likely to occur.

For me this space is the Mt. Angel Abbey and Seminary. About four miles up the road from Silverton, it is a community of Jesus followers on a hill, overlooking the valley. It is a place where silence is a virtue. It is a place where love abounds subtly and calmly. It is a place where you can feel community, and experience community, without ever having to sign a ‘Visitors’ book or be reminded that you are not expected to participate in offering (unless of course, the Spirit really leads you to).

When I reside in this place I can sit in silence, look out over the rolling hills and small communities of the valley, worship, experience a somewhat wordless sense of community, I can read, drink coffee, have conversation, ask questions, learn and even be different. As someone not very prone to peacefulness, having  a place that is spiritual but not invasive is almost addicting. Being at the Abbey is a reminder of what existence means. A reminder that the opportunity to live and have life to the fullest, could be my bare minimum for existence.

There are two main feelings I experience when I go up to this monastic abode. First as I mentioned earlier, there is a sense of calm and peace that pervades my time. On the other side, there is a sense of anxiousness. A feeling that even attempting to be is an agenda in itself. That learning to rest is not something that happens, but is something achieved, and if I fail to take advantage of my time in solitude and presence-seeking, then rest is in fact lost. I find myself alternating between these two feelings in my sacred space.

The amount of time I spend rushing from place to place, responsibility to responsibility, is reason enough to make the Abbey a regular stop for me as I seek refreshment. On top of that I think what makes it such a positive experience is the fact that I get to observe Jesus followers who operate, think, worship and seek, so differently than myself. The diversity of tradition up on the hill, compared to how I was raised, is distinct. This has encouraged me to walk in the tension of observing incredibly holy people, who are far unlike me and the images of God in which I operate from.

There are certain times in life where titles, people groups, and stereotypes caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. Mormons, Jehova’s Witnesses, Liberals, Conservatives, Feminists, and even Catholics… at one point or another had this affect on my nerves. And I am not elevating myself above any of those judgements, but as I come up to the Abbey and look around I cannot help but say, “This has to be real.”

Those people, those traditions, must be a result of some true disciples of Jesus. It’s at my sacred space that I see how my observations and judgements are not what make someone a true follower of Jesus, but it is their inherent value given by God. I am thankful for the disposition of observation and learning I am able to take on in this place, and I pray that it will call me to give value not just to people, but to places, institutions and the less considered pieces of creation in God’s Kingdom.

I’m not allowed to be lonely; I’m surrounded

I’m not allowed to feel need; my stomach is full

I have too much, to want so little

I am not able to ask for specific love; heart and blessing abound

I am not able to yearn for the touch of a woman; I’m Christian

I have too much, to want so little

How could I feel loss; the grass withers and the flowers fade

How could I feel a gaping hole; real faith is divine presence

I have too much, to want so little

It’s wrong but I want love; physically, emotionally, communicatively

It’s wrong but I want God to meet my needs; Especially when I’m lonely

It’s wrong but I cannot feel God fully without the resources, people, hearts, minds, poetry, and desire God has placed

I have too much, to want so little.

Sacred Experience.

To this day I walk down the blood red center aisle of my church on communion Sunday, mentally preparing myself to experience deeply the sacrifice of Jesus’ life for my wretchedness. And every time, I drink the wine and eat the bread (slowly of course, to sell the spiritual experience I am pretending to have) and take five perfect right angle turns, finding myself back in the pew, unchanged. A little more guilty, quite theologically unstable, but experientially unchanged. I am a twenty-two year-old pursuing ministry with my life, who loves Jesus dearly and seeks the will of God however I can, but… I prefer theology talks at a bar over the sacrament of communion, I am more transformed by prayer time in the steam of my shower than the rebirth of baptism, and I trust people who describe their faith experiences by using phrases like: bullshit, asshole, what the fuck, and why the hell would this happen, in lieu of: trust Jesus, God’s plan, I am just so blessed or pray about it.

For me these alternative experiences with the divine allow me to see the raw, wild and explicit tendencies that the world has when relating to God. For others their desires are different, less extreme and more or less comfortable. This dualism is not meant to elevate one way of experiencing God over another, but it recognizes the sacredness of all God experience(s) not just those rites of passage we deify as equating to God.

What is sacred experience? Is everything? If so, should that scare us?

Creation. It’s bigger than I.
Miles above, clouds below, shaken by wind with no other purpose but discomfort… or so it seems.
Selfish turbulence.
Does that wind matter? Who does it matter to?
We seek sand, the tides, tropics.
We seek a mountain like Nebo, the view of Cannan.
Value. Promised and Exposed.
But what about the wind we can’t see?
That selfish and turbulent wind?
Do we see Glory in that?
A man is not a mountain he is a spec.
A man is not a force of influence, he is easily swayed.
A man does not hold beauty in his eyes, he sits… with no leg room, a cocktail and some fear- at the mercy of the wind that no one sees.
That selfish and turbulent wind.

Serenity

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

In a time of independence, self-reliance and perfection, I reached out for God high above me, His character radiating, dousing any pride I had in my own light

The righteous rejoiced and were obedient to Him as I witnessed through service, bible studies, books and podcasts
I join the crowds in shouting, thanking God even though I couldn’t sense our heart in the pleas.
The words changed nothing around us, just our motives. Shaken, stirring.
My brokenness is noticed from nothing more than what I take for granted and though it is veiled and calloused it seems the most dark.
Affirmation by people, the affirmation of opportunity in my path is my realization of cleanliness. A pure heart seems possible though it is not attained.
Moment to moment, God’s voice is louder… saying “Will you go? I know you can but will you?”
“Tell them that my presence changes thinking, My presence changes structure. Let them see the essence of change in my relationship with you.”