The Seer

This one is for the Drama Geeks, because nothing makes the rest of the population more uncomfortable than a dramatic monologue.  The following is a conversation between two people, but the script was written for just the one part.  Anyone know if there’s a name for that kind of thing?  Anyway:

 

The Seer: A Conversation-Monologue

 

Hello, my friend!  It is so good to see you.  Please come in!

 

(The Seer welcomes the Visitor in)

 

I’ve been looking forward to today.  May I take your bags and coat?  I’ll put them right over there.

 

(The Seer takes the bags and returns to the Visitor)

 

Oh, I’m so glad you’re here.  I know how much trouble it can be, but I am so exited you came.  Would you like to look around?

 

(Pauses for the Visitor’s reply)

 

Of course—you’ve had quite the trip.  Please, take a load off.  Have a seat—there’s a great view of the town square from here.  Feel free to put your feet up.  How was your trip?

 

(Listening to the Visitor)

 

I love people watching, too.  And you’re exactly right, this town is known for a little bit of everything: artists, philosophers; teachers, students; liberal, conservative; new and old…  There wasn’t always such a broad spectrum, but we’re the better for it.

 

I’ve had this place forever—just off the square, to be close to everything.  I’m glad you found the entrance.  It’s fairly modest because I wanted people to feel comfortable approaching it; but you’d be surprised of the irony: it’s such a simple door, that no one seems to find it in the first place.

 

I know you’ve got some questions, but would you like some tea first?  Cucumber water?  Anything you want…  Kombucha, coffee, lavender soda…

 

(A pause to listen for the Visitor’s request)

 

I sure do have an orange blossom + lemon verbena spritzer with a dash of elderflower-infused simple syrup, and a sprig of mint and blackberries for garnish.  Made with fresh ingredients just this morning!

 

(Silence while the Visitor looks around and then asks some questions about the interior)

 

Why thank you, yes, that boarder is a frieze, carved quite awhile ago, but I meant to tell a timeless-togetherness type of story with it.  No, no—I didn’t do it myself.  My favorite artist did it for me.  Actually we sort of did it together.

 

The parquetry flooring?  Yes, painstakingly chiseled and polished and fit together perfectly—so many different shapes and pieces of wood and yet there’s not even the slightest gap between each one—only lines which compose a most beautif—

 

(Seer is interrupted by a question)

 

My favorite artist did it!

 

(Another question)

 

Oh, that mosaic took quite awhile.  I love how big it is.  Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?  All those colors…  It was done by my f—

 

…How’d you know?  Yes!  My absolute favorite!

 

…Who?  Well, all kinds of people.

 

…Yes you can too have “all favorites”.

 

(The Seer chuckles endearingly at the youthful, shortsightedness in the Visitor’s retort)

 

Now.  Would you like to stay here, or would you like to move onto the terrace?  There’s a fantastic view of the countryside.

 

(Visitor chooses)

 

Wonderful!  Come with me.

 

…The tile was hand-painted—

 

…No, no!—I absolutely love that you notice all these things—and ask about them, too!

 

…The hallway, yes, real gold in the gilding.

 

…For sure.  The favorite.  See that painting?  Look closer.  See those brushstrokes?  Each one, confident.  Definitive.  Purposeful.  I love it.

 

(They walk down a hall, lined with artwork toward a room whose exterior wall consists of single-lite double-doors)

 

Let me open the doors for you.

 

Ahhh…  do you smell that?

 

…Well, let’s see, it’s a combination of grass, fertile dirt, lavender, the bread being baked in the shop on the square…  And also, very faintly, since the breeze is coming from all the way over that mountain range, it’s carrying a bit of an alpine smell.

 

(A pause to take everything in.  They sit at a table)

 

I agree.  Very peaceful.  But… you still look tense.

 

…I don’t know, something about your shoulders, your heavily creased brow, your clenched teeth…  your… knuckles, yo—

 

…OK, I’ll stop.  How about, you start?

 

…Those are lemon trees.  Lemon trees!  That’s what else you smell.  Now THAT is my absolute favorite fragrance….  And olive trees.  By the way, I have some olives—

 

…Yes, fresh Buffalo mozzarella and feta, too.  Tomatoes from right down there, and some fresh figs.  I just happen to have a platter piled with all of those things on the credenza inside.  You enjoy the fragrance of those citrus blossoms while I grab the platter.

 

(The Seer returns carrying a platter of cheeses, tomatoes, olives, figs…)

 

My pleasure!  I put some baguette chunks on there, too.  Still warm—I just picked one out at the bakery.

 

…Yes just now.

 

…I can be very speedy.

 

(The Seer offers the platter, and then eats an olive)

 

Mmm.  Exquisite.  Simple, and exquisite.

 

Indeed I do have gelato.  The finest quality, too.  But what do you say we leave some room for that later.  My hope is to leave room for something… more important.  We’ll get to the gelato in a bit.

 

…It’s OK, we can just sit together.

 

(Another pause)

 

I agree.  Computers can be very frustrating.

 

….And that pesky vacuum of yours, too…

 

Why don’t you tell me why you came today.

 

…I know, but I like to hear it in your words.

 

…..Hello?  Did I lose you again?  So many worries…

 

I have a tissue box here.

 

…I know, you don’t cry.  It’s not for you, it’s for me.

 

Tell me.

 

(The Seer listens.  And weeps).  Oh, my heart.

 

Yes.  She is …my favorite.  So delicate!  I love that you sing to her every night.

 

…My heart aches for your friend, too…

 

…Oh my, that is a lot of money.  That must feel overwhelming…

 

…So much pressure you put on yourself.

 

…I’ve noticed that, as well.  Why do you think you feel so low?

 

(The Seer listens intently, compassionately, and hands the visitor a tissue)

 

So many things.  So many, many things.

 

(More quiet)

 

I mean to tell you something about all of your worries.  I hesitate only because people don’t believe me when I tell them this, and that makes me sad.

 

May I tell you?  Oh, I hope you’ll believe me.  I have seen what happens with each one of your concerns, and I have such good news that I can’t stop smiling—even though right is…  Well, anyway, do I have you?  Right now?  If I tell you, will you listen?

 

Listen, now.  Here is the truth:

 

(Seer leans in, and says quietly):

 

It all works out.

 

(The Seer listens to the doubtful but hopeful questioning)

 

Yes, that works out.

 

…That, too.

 

…Something bigger happens there—so big that that becomes a non-issue.

 

…I’m intimately aware of that.  I knew it was coming, and I’ve had a plan since forever to make sure that that specifically would soon work out to even better than before you saw it seem to come to fall apart.

 

…You’re seeing it from the other side.  Yes, broken, but I can do far more with brokenness than without.

 

…I got it.  I have it completely.

 

It works out in the end!  It ALL works in the end.

 

…No, the “end” is different than the way you define it.  The beginning is different, than where you’ve pegged it, too.  It’s bigger than what you think.  But whether it works out here or there, does it make a difference to you if it finally does, once and for all?

 

…Yes, I understand.  Sooner is better than later.  But…  neither sooner nor later are relevant when—

 

(The Visitor seems to object)

 

…It will all be OK.  Please believe me.

 

…Ludicrous, yes.

 

…Not practical help—it would seem not.

 

…Ridiculous?  I’ve been told even worse…  but that doesn’t make it any less true.

 

This is the part where you become a little bit relieved, maybe?  Or… hopeful?  Perhaps you might be willing to entertain a teeny bit of joy in your heart about this?

 

…But I DO know.

 

…But I AM here.

 

…(Seer chuckles) Well, I’m even smarter and stronger than you.

 

(Silence for awhile)

 

It all works out in the end.  This is a promise and a guarantee.  Everything.  Every last bit.  Every tiny detail, every concern, every fear, every problem… it is finished.  Resolved.  It all turns into something else that will make you want to jump up and down and do flip flops.

 

But, my favorite one, in order for you to be OK while everything is being worked out…  You have to believe me, too.

 

Will you?

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The Good Side

“What is good?  Who is right?” many ask.

 

“God alone”, some would say.

 

“Then who or what is God?” ask some amongst those.

 

A select few might pursue an answer—and might even be willing to lose themselves in the question—and ask, and wrestle, and contemplate, and persist, and be willing to learn, and might even allow themselves to change.

 

Their findings, though, would lead to a problem: God is a mystery, and a contradiction in terms.

 

He wants to be known, and yet cannot be fully known.  He sanctifies some, and yet loves all.  He implores us to endure, and yet saves the ones who surrender.

 

He is only, and yet all: two seemingly opposing concepts.

 

Even more, God is a Trinity(!) of … of what?  Spirit, matter, and oneness?  Purity, dichotomy, and reconciliation?  Authority, willingness, and medium?

 

More compounding yet, the beloved creation is created in this image: paradox—diversity—bonded polarity, which is reflected even down creation’s molecule!

 

“What then?” ask fewer still.  “What is right amidst mystery and paradox?”

 

The least of these remaining seekers might consider that the problem is neither God, nor differences; but rather their own limited framework which has not evolved to possess paradox—an immaturity which cannot grasp that “right” is not one solitary, isolated concept which can be fully contained or manifested individually; but rather it is all things, working together for the good of all things.

 

If the Triune God is good, then perhaps this is good: paradox collaborating sustainably, mutually, in a way that is both humble and edifying.

 

Perhaps “right” is not a place or a side on the spectrum; but rather the whole spectrum working together, toward more togetherness.

 

And then, the only thing out of step with “good” is a total disregard or devaluation of diversity; or fear and suppression of differences; or anything which fosters a fracturing of “whole”-mindedness; or an isolated or elitist nature…

 

The only one good thing to agree upon is God alone; and the way to reflect this good is not to demand sameness, or merely tolerate differences; but instead to embrace, with fierce respect and utter relief, seemingly opposing concepts, knowing that each completes the other—that one isn’t right without the other.

 

This is my political statement:

 

(I like the artist’s word for “opposite”.  They call it “complimentary, or complimenting”.)

 

Let’s not muzzle our complimentary counterparts with a derogatory label.  Especially if our definition of “right” has not evolved to embrace paradox.

 

Let’s not magnify destruction and division that exists on all sides by participating in it, ourselves.  Instead, let’s value the person who sees the same thing, but from a different angle—even more, let’s expect that what they have to bring to the table might be wisdom of a complimentary nature, and worthy of the honor of, at least, consideration.

 

Consider that valuing the complimentary (read: opposing) parties actually glorifies the paradoxical, Triune God (that is, if glorifying means “to reflect; or to magnify, or make bigger by participating in the same nature”).

 

We have been selectively and specifically placed at certain spots all over the spectrum—not to alienate or even stay put, but to balance and weigh in from our different vantage points, and to work with the whole, toward “good”, understanding that “good” = sustainable, humble, optimal, and edifying wholeness.

 

Wherever we’ve been put—wherever we are right now, let’s strive to exemplify this side of good.

Never More Than You Can Handle: A Debunking

“The Lord will never give you more than you can handle”.  This phrase has practically risen to scripture-status.

 

I have never found comfort in it.

 

Its origin is earnestness and hopefulness; but possibly, also, ignorance and denial.

 

The young, pre-suffering me used this saying to rationalize and categorize suffering away from me, because I surely couldn’t handle it.  And it compelled me to take it a step further—I judged people who were suffering, but weren’t handling it well.

 

Fast forward a decade or two, when hardships came.  To the me who was now suffering, this saying meant “I should be handling my suffering”.  If I’m not handling it I’m failing.

 

Fast forward another decade, post-crisis.  Now, “The Lord will never give you more than you can handle” sounds like a terrible thing to say to anyone, but I appreciate the good intentions.

 

Isn’t the Gospel message about God handling it?

 

May I make a suggestion?  How about instead, believing that God will never allow anything to happen that He can’t fully restore.  He’ll never give me more that HE can handle.

 

I know we know this, but life and culture have a way of dissuading our focus; and instead of hoping on God in our hardships, we easily promote hoping in ourselves handling it.

 

How about instead, banking on the hope that God will never let anyone go farther than where He can’t reach them?

 

Consider re-phrasing that unfounded but beloved proverb above, to: God will not allow even the smallest thing to happen, which He hasn’t intimately foreknown, and consequently provided a way for redemption.  And not just back to “how it was” redemption, but to ultimate, better than new, honorable and deeply loved status.

 

If even our Wounded Healer didn’t “handle” his own resurrection, neither should we put on that aspiration or criteria for coming out the other side.

 

Do you know someone who is suffering?  Believe instead these things about God for this person.  Hope in this about God for the person, more so than the wounded’s (or perhaps your own?) proper handling of things.

 

“Preach the Gospel.  When necessary, use words.” – St. Francis of Assisi.

Receiving or Achieving?

Yes, my mind tends to think in cheesy billboard rhymes.  But it was the sound bite that downloaded instantly into my head when someone asked me to speak on “Finding God in Suffering”.

 

Plain and simple:  The Gospel message (that God will save those who profess they can’t do it themselves) is for receiving—not achieving.  In fact it is a contradiction in terms to attempt to achieve the Gospel.

 

In my beginning, I approached religion just as I approached any other merit-based entity.  I was good at earning things.  Meritocracy promoted a world order that made sense to me, and put me towards the top of that order.  I believed that God loved me here: in the light of my self-manifested goodness.

 

This logic was woven in my DNA.  It had nothing to do with how I was raised—I know this because my parents went to opposite extremes to tell me that I was marvelous and wonderful just because I was theirs—because I existed, because I was me.  I knew without a doubt that their love was unconditional, and had nothing to do with my achievements.

 

Boring.  A love that anyone could have didn’t seem very special.

 

Free love didn’t seem very self-edifying, right?  It had nothing to do with my awesomeness.  It had more to do with their awesomeness.  So I sought the other kind—the kind of love that values the things that young Me valued and possessed (good choices, self-discipline, abilities, high scores, etc.  All very noble, yes?).  A love based on this would reflect ME.  Would edify ME.  And I really liked myself.  In fact, I still do :).

 

I was good in the arena of this religion—Eugene Peterson calls it the gospel of “Salvation by self-help” (see his fabulous translation of Hebrews).

 

Alright.  Enter suffering.

 

Suffering removed the things of me that I valued–good and bad things.  I lost my valued ability to control things, to be admirable, to achieve goodness and worthiness according to the gospel of achieving.  With the loss of valuables comes the loss of perceived self-value.  This is suffering.  Or at least one form of it.

 

In that state of suffering I found God.  Or as some people say, God found me.  Or, I let myself be found…  I suppose any version of that is right.

 

Here’s what suffering (finally) did for me:

 

  • It gave me an opportunity to consider a different Gospel: God saves. Not me.

 

  • It separated me unto a place where I felt God’s pursuit of me. It put me where, eventually, I knew His divine empathy (something I could never have accepted in my non-humbled state).  It enabled me to experience these things that are relational qualities instead of merely doctrinal or religious ones.

 

  • It produced a new hope in me: from personal success, to eternal rescue. I switched from hoping in me to hoping in Him.

 

Anyway, suffering is fertile ground.  I hate to even make a bulleted list, because it comes off as exhaustive, yet the beneficial dividends of suffering are infinite.  So let this only be an encouragement to patiently endure, with certain hope, toward your own list of the payouts of suffering.

 

As with everything in the Kingdom of God, the Gospel is wherever there is space for it.  Think Sabbath, communion, Nativity…  The things of salvation come to wherever space has been made for it, or to where a sacrifice has occurred.  (And sometimes it just comes no matter what because God is that good).

 

But for me, suffering created (gouged, gored, gutted, and crushed) space in me to RECEIVE the good news.  GOD saves!  Not me!  What a relief, because suffering also showed me my limitations, and proved that I cannot save myself.  To hope in this is futile.

 

Where I was once full of myself, as is the inherent way of the flesh-organism, I now had space to want something grander.  And that I could accept that there really even was anything grander, and want it, was the work of God alone, regardless of whatever evil-seeming means that realization came about.

 

It’s right there in the beatitudes.  Blessed are you who suffer.  Blessed are you who are unable.  For that which you cannot do for your own self will be given to you by God, eternally and infinitely.  If only you will RECEIVE it!

 

This is a perennial lesson.  I have learned this, I am still learning this, I will be learning this again.

 

First Thing on Today’s to-do List

Is to believe this:

 

God is sufficient for me regardless of the choices others make

AND

God is sufficient for others regardless of the choices I make.

 

Do you know how much better my life would be if I really believed that?

God help make it so!!!

 

If You Believe That God is Good,

then live like it is so.

He is Not Here

I went back to find Him this morning

Right where I left Him last

Right there in that same, tired spot

But He was not there

He was not exactly as I had left Him last

Why do I look for the Living in this hand-carved container?

Why do I expect Him to stay here?

He is not here

Maybe I’ll find Him somewhere else today–somewhere outside

Or perhaps He’ll find me