Thursday, February 20, 2014

We paint the images we need to see...

Last night I tried to write a memorial service homily for my brother and friend, Rick Weber, who went home to the Lord on Sunday just before worship began. I don't think of myself as particularly sensitive to the ways of the spirit, but I knew in my soul that something was shaking last Sunday. And, as the full day came to a close, it was made clear why.
Sadly, all my starts at this homily came to a crashing halt over and over again as I found a host of ways to distract myself.  Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, once described a writer's life something like this (I don't have the actual book at home but it is worth finding and reading if you know anything about trying to write.) He says most (slacker) writers (like myself) get up in the morning and sit down before the computer with a fuzzy but urgent sense of what we're suppose to transcribe.  But first we have to read our emails and peruse the news - and then we need to get some coffee.  But we're out of coffee so before any real writing can begin we need to go to the coffee shop and get ourselves pumped up. There, we spend some time visiting with the usual suspects - and read the morning paper just for safe keeping - before getting a latte to go.  Once home, we check out emails one more time and then create a fresh new document for the day's opus.  

After staring at the newly opened document for about 20 minutes - and maybe adding a few words or a title - we have to pee because of all the coffee consumed. So after returning from the toilet, we get down to it in earnest and come up with a few versions of our opening sentence. They are all clunky and only hint at what is closest to our heart. So, better get some more coffee - and maybe a muffin, too - for sustenance. By now, four hours have evaporated and there are three sentences on the page. Panic and frustration sets in so we pace around the front room for about 20 minutes. We flip through a book of quotes - or do it on line - to try to jog our imagination into gear.  And then we pee again.  

It is only after all of this that a (slacker) writer is really ready to engage in the discipline of giving shape and form to her/his thoughts on paper (or in this case a reasonable facsimile.) Then we write in a burst and two hours later have a draft that we will edit and worry over for another three hours. And then, after printing it out and doing a hard copy edit, will give us permission to head back to the coffee shop and reward ourselves for working so hard and creatively.

That's what my writing felt like yesterday afternoon and evening.  First, there were writing chores to finish for church. Then there were blogs and emails to catch up on - so now it is two hours into the project with nothing written. So I flip through some books of poetry - and let myself have a 5 minute crying jag - before actually opening a new document.  I, too, stare at the blank page for a few minutes and then go open a Pacifico (I love Mexican beer) and sip it while jotting down a chronology of my history with Rick. This experience evokes another brief crying jag so I decide to take a break and watch another episode of "House of Cards." This may be the most cynical show on TV and the only thing it inspires is the need to watch one more episode. So, I heat up some bean soup, watch Kevin Spacey et al get mean and nasty in the most sophisticated ways and then decide I'm ready to write.

Except, of course, I'm not - and still nothing gets written down.  I've been "writing" in the slacker mode now for over three hours without much to show for it. Like my early experiences with centering prayer, I've had lots of other ideas float through my mind and heart - and I've written a few down - but nothing to show for being centered and still.  Or creative and productive. So, at 8:30 pm I called it a day and trust Jesus when he told us that he would send the Holy Spirit to speak for us when we needed him the most. My prayer is that this will happen later tonight after a full day of pastoral visits. So I had another Pacifico and straightened up the kitchen before Dianne got home from work.

This morning I reread something I saw last night from Fr. Richard Rohr that
touched me.  It may become part of my homily and made me think back to last weekend when we skyped with Jesse and little Louie in Brooklyn. We talk to Jess and watch our grandson role around and laugh. And every time Jesse got close to his face - or called out his name - like a joy-filled electric shock little Louie turned towards her face and laughed and laughed in near ecstasy. Rohr wrote:

I have heard it said that the gaze of delight between a mother and the baby at her breast is the beginning of the capacity for intimate relationship. We spend the rest of our lives hoping for that moment again: that kind of safety; that kind of security; that kind of feeding; that kind of living inside of one world, where we are delighted in and loved. That is the True Self. Perhaps the most perfect image of this we can find is the Madonna with the Baby Jesus. This is the most common painting in Western art museums, I am told, probably because there is absolute wholeness mirrored in the gaze of love between mother and child. As Jung said, we paint the images our soul needs to see. We also become the God we connect with. That’s why it’s so important to know the true God, and not some little, punitive, toxic god, because then you don’t grow up, but live in fear and pretense. Contemplation, as Thomas Keating says, is the divine therapy. We know God and we know ourselves by inner prayer journeys and not by merely believing in doctrines or living inside of church structures. God’s way of dealing with us becomes our way of dealing with life and others. We eventually love others, quite simply, as we have allowed God to love us, which should create quite a loving world.

As a painter, Rick Weber, knew something about this truth - and his work and life was a reflection of his intimate relationship with a loving and grace-filled God - a God who was much more Madonna-like than anything resembling a God of wrath and judgment. Rick was a gentle contemplative and an artist. A man who loved passionately and creatively. He was a blessing - and it hurts like hell to know that he has gone to heaven. I give thanks for this AND still grieve.

Here is one of his works - Family Trees from 1999 - after he was first diagnosed. I love this for so many reasons...

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