Friday, October 14, 2005


Acting like we know what we are doing is a step on the way to knowing what we are doing. The Alcoholics Anonymous folks say, “Fake it until you make it.” I say, “If you want to know God, live a God-like life.” We don’t find God the way we find antique stemware or sinus relief medication. God isn’t “out there” somewhere waiting for us to take up the search, and dust off our Bibles, and start knocking at the doors of the famous Gurus asking if they know where God is. We don’t find God. We birth God. We bring God to life in the world through the quality of our living in the world. We bring God to life by living Godly lives.
And, these aren’t austere lives of pristine asceticism. We have the wrong take on Godliness. It isn’t about toeing the line and walking the straight and narrow and minding your P’s and Q’s. It isn’t about living a wooden, scripted, robotic existence with the Ten Commandments in one hand and The Four Spiritual Laws in the other. It is about living straight from the heart toward the best that can be imagined in each moment. Sometimes that’s a cold beer with a handful of friends as we process the day. It’s different things in different moments. It’s never the same response to every moment. The moment has its own needs. The God-like thing is to listen carefully to the moment and offer to the moment what is needed out of our unique store of what we bring to the moment. Some moments need more than we have to offer. We have to recognize that and be what comfort we can be to the moment, exhibiting as much grace, and compassion, and peace, and justice as we can muster. And letting that be it.
The God-like thing is to be as vulnerable as we are. To be as helpless as we are. To offer as much of God as we can give, and let that be that. Too often, all we have to offer is a lap, or a lap-like experience with caring presence.
Never underestimate the power of a lap, or the lap-like experience of caring presence. Mostly all we need is a little encouragement, a kind word, a gentle place to be for a while. If we can offer that to one another over a cold beer, say, we make tomorrow possible. Laps don’t DO anything, but they transform everything. Everything looks different from the perspective of a lap. We can shake off a skinned knee and get back on the bike with a lap in our lives. The first step in being God-like is being lap-like. Just be a source of comfort and consolation in the lives of others. That will make a difference beyond anything you can imagine.
This isn’t to say that a lap, or a lap-like experience with caring presence, is all that is ever needed. It is to say that at least that much is needed. At least that much is necessary. I’m saying that God-likeness begins with our learning to be gentle, caring, presences. We can’t very well be God-like if we can’t be gentle and caring. And, there is a place also for granite-like determination and persistence in the service of the good. We don’t just gently go away in the face of resistance and opposition. We live to serve the good, even when it seems to do no good.
Poverty is a place where we have given up too easily in the service of the good. Even Jesus despaired in the face of poverty. “The poor will be with you always,” he said. Why didn’t someone ask “Why?”? What makes poverty so pervasive? We need to figure that out and start providing more paths out of poverty.
One thing that contributes to poverty is our own, personal, economics. What is economical for us, destroys the economy. We buy inexpensive clothing and shut down the cotton mills which move to China to find cheap labor to sell us inexpensive clothing. In order to stop that cycle, we all have to re-think the profit motive. When we try to have more money at someone else’s expense, we create poverty.
What is “enough”? When the culture, the society, as a whole fails to answer that question, poverty is created. What is a “tool” and what is a “prop”? What do we need to do the work that is ours to do? There is a place, of course, for distraction, diversion, denial and escape. We have to “step back” in order to “step in.” Maybe a portable DVD player is just the thing we need to gain a clearer perspective and restore our souls. We certainly cannot make a list of acceptable purchases and boycott everything not on the list. But, we do have to think about what we are buying, and how much money we need, and what we need it for, and what we are doing to help others out of poverty. And, what we are willing to do.
Are we willing to pay higher taxes, for instance? For housing? For job training? For child care? For education? Poverty asks more of us than caring presence. So does racism, and sexism, and, well, the big problems are on all sides. Godliness requires us to pick a direction and wade in, with as much imagination and creativity as we possess, living resolutely toward as much of the good as we can make out, whether it does any good or not, for as long as we are able.
It is the quality of the life we live that brings God to life in our lives and in the lives of others. We are all the Virgin Mary, bearing God, birthing God, nurturing God to life in the world. We are all the Baby Jesus, the incarnation of God, the spitting’ image of God, chips off the Old Block, exhibiting the truth of God in the way we live our lives. Instead of wondering where God is, ask where your life needs a little dose of God, and go there, and get to work.

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