|Evil disguised/pastel on paper|
Sandwiched among e-mails for hair and penile implants, get-rich-quick schemes, you-must-have-this-and-that offers and those unveiling conspiracies, I, fortunately, find Truth. I have to wade through a lot of muck to uncover it, but it’s worth it for these snippets feed my soul and affirm that wordly wisdom is rotten to the core.
These beacons help me shake the earthly doubt and understand my sacred place.
The words of Henri Nouwen and Richard Rohr are what I long to hear. Today’s meditations from both reach my heart. Nouwen, though dead since 1996, has left his mark as a priest and prolific writer who spent his last years serving people with disabilities. Rohr is a Franciscan priest, ecumenical teacher, writer and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation.
Rohr, to whom I was recently introduced, has been writing about the evils in our society, the first of which he calls “the world” of group selfishness and the spiral of violence. The second is “the flesh” as witnessed in murder, stealing, rape, lying, adultery and greed. From those, emerges the third, often construed as fully justified because it manufactures systems: oppressive governments, legal, penal, military, economic behemoths we are taught to worship and not question.
According to Rohr:
“The devil’s secret is camouflage. The devil’s job is to look very moral! It has to look like we are defending some great purpose or cause, like ‘making the world safe for democracy’ or ‘keeping the bad people off the streets.’ Then you can do many evils without any guilt, without any shame or self-doubt, but actually with a sense of high-minded virtue.”A few years into my tenure as a Quaker, I asked our minister for his thoughts on evil. I’d had a frightening experience driving home one night from the Meetinghouse after a particularly mystical evening. Everything red glowed at me in a menacing way from the red traffic light to the glow of tail lights. I’d really never believed in a devil, so I wanted his opinion.
I was a bit stunned. He said he believed in institutional evil that takes on a life of its own. Wow, I thought; he’s right and we don’t even see, let alone, question it. This is the third evil Rohr names.
One of my gifts is seeing systems and seeing into them. I hadn’t known it was a gift until recently. They become these super structures that require energy, high maintenance and complete authority; the antithesis of simplicity and Spirit.
This is why I am struggling with my art-exploration ministry for local, under-served kids. It’s a beautifully simple program until I seek funding. Fortunately most of the grants have not been too complex. But, I am beholden to them. Then, if I want to seek individual donations, I’m advised to get non-profit status (filling out a form for the state and sending a $125 check) and an IRS tax exemption, requiring a 30-page document, legal expertise and thousands of dollars in fees.
That’s if I want to grow the ministry. I’m thinking bigger is not better. I want to serve these kids and their community more deeply, not necessarily serve thousands. I want to help these children and their parents see their value, tap themselves within and express what’s there. It’s not a manufacturing process. Early on in this ministry, someone thought they were being kind in offering that their friend operated something similar that served 10,000 kids. Can you imagine the structure that requires?
In this world, unless you’re building, improving, getting bigger, richer or reaching more people, you’re not a success.
I feel very little in that venue. And insignificant. I’m a middle-aged woman with fibromyalgia called to a ministry of spiritual nurture in writing, groups and with at-risk middle schoolers. I have yet to be paid, though, fortunately, most expenses have been covered. And people in my neighborhood and faith communities have been so generous with time and materials.
On the other hand, this – right now – is where God calls me and my gifts.
Thank heavens, today, I read the Henri Nouwen meditation:
Downward Mobility The society in which we live suggests in countless ways that the way to go is up. Making it to the top, entering the limelight, breaking the record - that's what draws attention, gets us on the front page of the newspaper, and offers us the rewards of money and fame. The way of Jesus is radically different. It is the way not of upward mobility but of downward mobility. It is going to the bottom, staying behind the sets, and choosing the last place! Why is the way of Jesus worth choosing? Because it is the way to the Kingdom, the way Jesus took, and the way that brings everlasting life.
I am still reflecting on a recent worship experience in which Spirit told me to lay down and surrender. And, I am trying.
• How do I view evil?
• How does Richard Rohr’s view shape this?
• How do I participate in the systemic evil?
• With awareness, how can I shift away from supporting it?
• How does Spirit direct me to lay down and surrender?
sitting, writing, contemplating,
praying, creating in an air-
in society: the
good and bad
God calls me and
if I have been
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