Sunday, May 09, 2010

Integrity, Integrity, Integrity

Sometimes we have to lie there and catch our breath when whammed by life. Sometimes we have to get up and get ready for the next play. Sometimes we need to hear, "There, there, it'll be better in time," and sometimes, "Quit your bellyaching and get back in the game!"

Life keeps coming at us. We have to work recovery into bringing the best we have to offer to meet the next challenge. This is true multitasking, operating on different levels of living at the same time. We have to recover while meeting the demands of life. To do this, we have to know how we recover, what we need to assist recovery, and we have to be conscious of nurturing ourselves in sustaining ways.

Recovery includes feeling what we feel AND remembering the life that is still OUR life to live, and knowing we have what we need, what it takes. Recovery is finding our way back to ourselves and living out of our connection with who we are within the context and circumstances of our lives. Recovery is regaining our sense of integrity and living out of our sense of what is integral with who we are within the context and circumstances of our lives.

Those of us who are off track, either because we have been knocked off track, or because we have simply drifted away from what is integral, have to get back on track, those of us who are on track have to stay on track. That's all there is to it.

The three watchwords for doing this, for getting on track and staying there, are: Integrity, Integrity, Integrity. Integrity connects us with the core of who we are. When we live with integrity, we live with authenticity. What we say is important IS important and our lives reflect its value. Integrity is alignment with the values that are core values and are truly worthy of our allegiance and loyalty.

We know when we are at-one with ourselves, when we are living in ways that are integral with our core. This is integrity. We have to live out of our sense of what is right for us, of what is appropriate for us in the situation "as it arises." This is our truth. Truth is not static reality apart from us. We create truth as we form our lives with integrity, doing what is truth for us, living lives that are aligned with values that connect us to the core of who we are.

Truth is about how it is with us, within and without. It is who we are and what our situation in life is. We are to live in ways that relate the who to the what. Relating who we are to what our situation in life is, the who to the what, is the work of soul, the work of life. When we do it well, we have life and have it abundantly, we are alive in the deepest sense of the word. We are alive to the extent that we live with integrity—being who we are--within the circumstances of our lives.

There is only one path to LIFE: Living with integrity, living to be who we are, to express who we are, within the context and circumstances of our lives. One of the indicators of living with integrity, aligned with who we are, is the degree of spontaneity we exhibit in our lives. How free are we to live without thinking how we should live? That's the test that tells the tale!

The obsession with doing it right is the neurotic need to be pleasing. Who must be pleased? What would happen if they are not pleased? Who do we think is watching, observing, grading? Whose life is it? Who gets to say how we live our life? We cannot live with integrity, with spontaneity, AND be pleasing to our parents, our children, our spouses, our partners, our friends, or the Lord God Almighty.

We also cannot live with integrity and spontaneity if we are concerned about making a profit, about having something to show for having lived. Don't have to have anything to show for it! What would you do for itself alone, with no reward, recognition, fame, fortune, glory, attached? We have to have more of those things in our lives.

We can’t live with integrity and spontaneity when we are concerned about doing our duty. Doing our duty untracks us, gets us off the beam. Social duty, or Christian duty, are authoritative should’s distracting us from the inner voice calling us to live aligned with our own integrity.

No one can give us our mission, our destiny, our life. No one can tell us what the beam is for us. We find our own path. It's about the work, stupid! The work is never about the money. The work is IT. Finding and doing the work that is ours to do is life itself.

There is a beam with our name on it, a track our life is made to run on. Our task is to find the beam, the track, get on it, stay there. This is to live with integrity. We keep thinking there is more to it than living the life that is our life to live, doing the work that is ours to do. NOT!

We are to live our life, OUR life, not frantically seeking satisfaction, but focused on bringing forth what is ours to give, loving who we are. We lose the way looking for it. We set aside the best seeking something better. Sin is not knowing when we are well off, or what's important.

Why work when you don't have to, ask the masses who think it is about not working, who think it is about lolling around, sipping sodas. It's about The Work! We live to quit working, to get away from work, when life is found in doing the work—the true work that is ours to do. Getting this wrong is the essence of sin, you know.

Sin is missing the mark, missing the point, thinking the wrong things are important, not getting it. Just try to talk someone into getting it who doesn’t get it! Jesus couldn’t do it, neither can we! But, Jesus didn’t let that stop him. He led the Revolution anyway, even though no one got it at the time.

The Revolution is led by those who know what is truly important, who know what they need to do to live with integrity, and do it. The Revolution is led by those who live out of their own integrity and let nature take its course. Living like this, in the service of what is truly important, what counts, matters, makes a difference, is subversive, insurrectionist, seditionist in the fullest sense. And, we get there by listening to ourselves, aligning ourselves with core values, and living in ways that are integral with that which is deepest, best, and truest about us. Living in this way is living well, and it requires us to live lives that are slower, quieter, simpler, more reflective and aware than the lives the culture encourages. May it be so for us all!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Saying and Hearing the Right Word

You pay me to say the right things. This doesn’t mean that I’m right about the things I say, just that you pay me to be right. I can be wrong, but you pay me to say the right things, in the right ways, at the right time, to the right people (that would be you). Now, the catch here, and this is going to sound like I’m writing myself a free pass, or asking you to write me a blank check—the catch is that the right word is, more often than not, the wrong word. The word that must be heard is the word that cannot be heard—because it is too painful, too burdensome, too far from what we want to be told, too hard, too true, or just not capable of being heard at this point in our life. We cannot hear what our life experience has not prepared us to hear. So, if you don’t like what you are hearing, it may not necessarily follow that I’m doing a bad job (Of course, that could very well be the case. I can’t offer you any old word. It has to be my best effort at offering the Right Word). It could also be that you aren’t doing a very good job of squaring up to the truth. Or, it could be that you cannot hear what I’m saying because you haven’t lived long enough to know what I’m talking about. How would we ever know whose fault it is if the right word isn’t heard?

There is a scriptural formula for determining whether the words of a prophet are true. This is set out in Jeremiah, who was saying one thing to the king and to Jerusalem, while the paid priests of the state were saying the opposite. Who was the false prophet? Who was the true prophet? Jeremiah declares, “When the words of the prophet come to pass, then it will be known that he was a true prophet.” Jesus said the same thing to those asking him to justify himself and his words: “Wisdom is vindicated by her children” (Luke 17:35). And, sometimes, it is by her grandchildren.

It takes a while for the validity of a word to be verified by our experience. By then, it is generally too late for us to benefit from it. It would certainly be too late for us to know whether I’m slacking off on my responsibility to say the right word or if you are slacking off on your responsibility to hear it. It is enough for us all to know what we are responsible for. I am here to say the right word. You are here to hear it.

The right word can only be heard by hearts that are at the point of being able to recognize the truth of what is said, but it is too easy for each of us to blame the other if nothing is heard. I could blame you for being “hard-hearted and stiff-necked.” And you could blame me for being ambiguous and incomprehensible. Or, as one dear soul once said, “Jim, why don’t you talk to us about things we can understand?”—which I took to mean, “Why don’t you tell us what we have always heard?” All of which is to say that we have our work cut out for us. I have to say the right word and you have to hear it, and neither of us can blame the other for being obstinate or obtuse.

This means we have to grant the other the benefit of the doubt, as we each endeavor to do our part in saying and hearing what needs to be said and heard. You have to trust me to be working to say the right word. I have to trust you to be working to hear it. The work we do together produces the word that needs to be heard. I need you doing your work in order to speak the right word as much as you need me doing my work in order to hear it. Your hearing enables my speaking, my speaking enables your hearing, and together we produce a dialectic which creates the truth.

This means I am not the authority on what constitutes “the right word.” No word is “right” in and of itself. Everything rides on how those who hear it work it out for themselves, work it into their lives. “Wisdom is vindicated by her children.” You don’t come here and take dictation in order to memorize it so you can repeat it as heard to yourself and others forever. You hear what is said and turn it over, work it into your own soil, make it your own. You may transform it completely.

We have changed the meaning of the words of the prophets and the apostles and of Jesus Christ God’s Only Son Our Lord himself! We say what their words mean to us. We make them ours. We would have to interpret their words to them because of the changes we have made in order to make their words intelligible to our generation. We make the right word right by the way we hear it, by the way we fit it to ourselves and ourselves to it. How do we all know the right word when we hear it? The first rule is: No quick dismissals! We have to sit with it for a while, walk around it, mull it over, reflect on it, wonder about it, let it do its work. I have to do that with the word I say to you. You have to do that with the word you hear me speak.

The right word is yeast in the dough, a seed in the earth, the stone that the builders reject. It is like the dragon hatching, like the new life aborning. It is a threat to all that we have heard before, to the old life based on the old words. The right word can be consoling, comforting, healing, renewing, and it can be a threat and a terror, so we must not dismiss it outright. We have to spend the right kind of time with the words we hear to know if they are right words. This is doing our part.

I’m talking here about the importance of meditation—not blanking out your mind, but focusing it, thinking about the word you hear and what feels wrong about it and what may be right about it. I’m talking about the importance of reflection. About the importance of prayer.

Prayer is primarily attitude, orientation, a certain quality of spirit, of soul. It is openness, and respect. It is honoring the otherness of the other, of the situation, of the word, in a way that brings the other, the situation, the word, in and makes the other, the situation, the word, welcome. Prayer is making all things welcome and offering them, spoken or barely perceived, to the numinous reality that is our home in a way that recognizes our home is with all things, so that nothing is shut out, shunned, banished, but received, heard, understood, honored, and made room for. This is one of those hard words that cannot possibly be right because it is so wrong. How can we welcome all things when some things are so obviously horrendous and atrocious? Well. What would it take to understand the atrocities in a way that allowed us to receive them well? We must not hurry here, but sit, thinking, prayerfully.