I bet I have spent more time, energy, and head space on avoiding pain than on any other single thing in my whole life.

In a way, this isn’t a bad thing.  There is no particular reason that I ought to seek out pain.  But my avoidance of hurt…  I have made this an idol.  The center of my existence, sometimes.  I am pretty sure I am not alone.

We have these distractions that are almost too numerous to mention.  Music and movies.  Junk food.  Books.  Television.  Drugs.  Sex.  Much of the self help movement.  Sports.  Games.  Work.  Play.

None of these are bad things.  Except that all of them are bad things.  At least, they are bad when we engage them as a way of disengaging.

I have, so often, engaged all of those things as a way of disengaging.  A way of running away.

This is why it so important, and so hard, just to sit.  Just to be.

When I am sitting, and meditating, there are one hundred things I want to do.  There are a hundred things I want to think about.  If you are like me, even these mental trips, these thought experiments, even these are attempts to get away from right here and right now.

When I put on my big boy pants, and face up to the things that hurt me, to the things that cause fear, to the things that cause pain, there is a sort of exhilaration.  Because I find out a couple important things, quite quickly.

The first thing I find out is that I am not actually going to collapse under the weight of the things that weigh me down.  There is this great quote in the bible: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”  

As long as I run away from the things that hurt me, I am sure I will be crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, destroyed.    But when I sit in silence, I realize that I am “only” afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.  None of these things are fun.  And yet…  They are not as bad as they seemed to be.

When I sit through the hard things, when I face them head-on, I suddenly find that there is room in my life for more than this.  Each moment, — this very moment– is filled with more than just the hard stuff.  It has joy and glory and peace.  I never would have seen these if I had kept running.

I don’t completely understand the end of the verse I quoted above.  But I know that you have to get through death to find rebirth.  We carry deaths of so many different sizes and shapes within us.  When we face these down, that is how we get to a new life.  I guess this is what it means, to manifest Jesus’ life in our bodies; our willingness to die opens up the possibility of rebirth.

With Mary

In about an hour it will be Christmas day.

I realized something, as I was pondering this reality:

We are all Mary.

We are all pregnant with Jesus.  We all bare Immanuel; God within us means that God is with us.

Tomorrow we celebrate his coming.  He will emerge from us.

And yet…  In this joyful recognition there is something else.  What was it like to be Mary?  To feel that growing baby, to hear the angels tell it, to know that if God was coming in the flesh, that he must, in some sense, go the way of all flesh.  Into death.

And so tomorrow, I will celebrate his coming.  Just as he sprang from Mary so he will spring from me.

And I will participate, with Mary, in this understanding, amidst the joy: sadness will arise, too.

If she– and we–   barely comprehend the reality of what God’s birth means, then his death is a bigger mystery.  But beyond this mystery is the biggest of all:

Jesus lives!


Daft Punk and Meditation as a Jesus-Move

I follow Jesus by sitting in silence.

There is a way in which quiet meditation is a re-enactment of his death.  Like him, we become silent and still, beyond words and thoughts.   But there is something more than that.

Because when the world gets loud, there is a part of me that wants to get louder.  When it moves fast there is a part of me that wants to move faster.  When it positions itself in this way, I want to out maneuver it that way…

I have been eager to hear that Jesus wants me to respond in just these ways.  There have been people that have told me that Jesus will make me (just like in that Daft Punk song) bigger, better, faster stronger.

I am growing increasingly convinced that none of it works that way.

In meditation  I meet the deafening clamor with silence.  I meet the quickening with a slowing down.  I meet the machinations with non-action.   This is the Jesus way, this victory through redefining the rules of engagement.


Every Breath You Take

I used to think that the pattern of life-death-resurrection was powerful because it only happened once.

I am learning that the reason it is powerful is because it never stops happening.

The life of summer, and the death of fall and winter, leading back to the rebirth of spring.  The life of the day, leading into the death of night, back into the resurrection of dawn.  The life of our hopes, leading to the death of our dreams, and somehow, after a dark time, we begin to hope again.  The life as the Greek City States, and then their defeat in the Peloponnesian Wars, and then a sort-of resurrection of their beliefs in ideas in the Roman Empire.  The life of the a person, inevitably leading to their death, and yet the person lives on.  In an afterlife, I suspect, but regardless of all that, they live in the people they impacted, they live in because when they die the people who they once supported now take the roles that they had.

And perhaps more of all:

The life of inhaling.  The Death of exhalation.  And the resurrection because then it all begins again.  There is such power in our breathing!  Not only is our every breath an act of saying the unsayable name of God: also, every breathe is a reenactment of life, death, and resurrection; it points to the countless cycles that occur everywhere look, but most of all, it points at the cross of Jesus.

I have asthma.  And I hate it and it sucks.  But asthma is a teacher.  If I had never desperately fought for a breath, I think I wouldn’t know to value them so much.  If you have never had to fight to breathe in this way, I bet you can remember some time in your life when somebody got you just right, hit you perfectally in the solar plexus.  Do you remember the abject terror of having the air forced out of you, the terrifying fear that your lungs will never work again?

I think this all puts me in touch with something.  There is this moment, between the inhale and exhale.  Between every inhale and exhale.  It is a moment of death and terror.  It is a moment of emptiness.  It is a moment for me to hang dead on the cross.  I experience it hundreds of times a day.  And I think mostly I repress just how horrible it is.

But when we bring our attention to our breath, we are fighting this repression.  When we bring our attention to our breathe, we are being born, and dying, and then being reborn in evey single breath.  We are being crucified, killed, and reborn with Jesus, with every single breath.

Today, perhaps you would like to sit and meditate and breathe.  Some people find it helpful to touch a finger with a thumb with each breath: that tactile stimulation, of breathing and touching the pointer finger, then breathing again and touching the middle finger, and breathing again and touching the ring finger, and breathing again and touching the pinkie, and then going to the other hand…  Maybe you would like to give that a try today.

As you breathe, perhaps it is best if you think of nothing at all.  But perhaps you will think of Jesus: living, dying, and being reborn, with each breath you take.