Uncontrollable Outpouring

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Since yesterday morning, there has been a stirring within me, triggered by words I heard spoken in a homily. I’ve been going over them again and again and looking at them closely through the lenses of my life experiences.

Everything that is needed is given. All that is given is needed.”

The priest was referring to Pentecost-a day that Christians all over the world recalled yesterday. The early followers of Jesus, who were gathered together after he had ascended into heaven, received an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and something new was unleashed in their lives. Pentecost is actually considered the birthday of the Church. Before this day, there was much confusion and fear and lack of direction in the lives of the disciples. The One whom they journeyed with, even unto his death and resurrection, had now left them and gone to a place they couldn’t go. They probably wondered, where do we go from here? He promised us that he wouldn’t leave us orphans, but what did he exactly mean?

They had been gathered together in one place, trying to figure out what they were to do next, and then it came-an Uncontrollable Outpouring:

And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong, driving wind and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 2:2-4)

Boom! In that very moment, everything that they needed was given. God, in a lavish expression of his divine love, extravagantly indulged those gathered with a multitude of gifts to inspire, to convince, to save, to strengthen, to delight, to guide. And all that was given was needed. In the stories that follow Pentecost, one thing is very clear-these followers became significantly different than they were before. In their receiving of the Uncontrollable Outpouring, they became courageous and empowered. They became fearless and moved confidently to where they were led. They became bold and had a clarity of vision. They became passionate about sharing what they had been given. They became ablaze with a fire that could not be contained. And in the process of their sharing, the world around them was changed; people were given hope and joy and peace and love.

I believe that the action of Pentecost was not a one-time occurrence. I believe that this outpouring is happening all of the time. I believe it, because I have witnessed it all my life, in people unknown by most of the world and in people well known to the world. I have always been captivated by them, by those who live with an awareness of the Uncontrollable Outpouring and embrace it within themselves. They all share the characteristic of being convinced that they have been given gifts that are not their own to keep, but must be shared to accomplish the purpose for which the gift was given. They see themselves as vessels that are to be used for something greater than themselves. They do not despise their humanity, with all of its imperfection and flaws, but see it as a part of the plan. Many of them have made great mistakes in their lives, yet they allow these too to be used for a greater purpose.They are not of one religion, but their identities cut across all lines of race, gender, age and faith. Bono, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Richard Rohr, Mandela, Mother Theresa, Malala, Pope Francis-these come to mind when I think of persons whose inner fire has drawn me in, time after time. Most of all, I am fascinated by their passion to share the gifts and convictions that have been entrusted to them. In the face of odds stacked against them, harsh words of criticism, imprisonment and even the threat of death, nothing has gotten in the way of their need to express this passion, born within the depths of their being.

Once, when I was reflecting upon such persons, I was led to write down these words, which I entitled, Passion:

Passion, the poem

Today found me again in a pew at church. Instead of hearing words that were being proclaimed, I found myself drawn to the cloth banner that was newly hung on the wall. It was a fiery red color, with an unpredictable pattern of lines, portraying movement flowing from and going in every direction. As I drank in its beauty, my senses were delighted. I was amazed that just the design of a simple piece of fabric could communicate a truth greater than itself. Its abstractness spoke to me of the lavishness of God, who does not withhold anything that is needed, whose love moves from and to all directions; whose love cannot be controlled or limited or stopped. It occurred to me that this Uncontrollable Outpouring isn’t just for some, who will go on to change the world; it is for ALL. What is the difference between those persons who passionately embrace the Outpouring and the rest of us? If everything that is given is needed, then the truth is that the rest of us also have something that someone needs.

Maybe the difference is the fiat-the “yes” to all that is yearning to be poured out through us, the “yes” to be used as a vessel, trusting that even with our imperfections and cracks and gaps, great things can happen when we say “yes”. God does not force himself upon us, but once he is invited, will indulge us with an Uncontrollable Outpouring, freely given and capable of changing the world. One such fiat, uttered by a young girl in a moment of great fear, was the “yes” needed to gift the world with Jesus. What might happen if we too utter a fiat?

Today, may we dare to say “yes” and unleash Pentecost once again.

Heaven is Breaking Through

Effortless. That is the word that comes to mind when I am witnessing my girl functioning “in her zone”. Time after time, these glimpses captivate me; they draw me into something bigger and deeper than can be seen at first glance. Maybe this is due to the fact that the rest of her life, the part that requires immense effort that sometimes isn’t even enough to succeed, serves as a harsh contrast to these moments of grace. But they still shine through, even on the darkest of days. They come, even when the burden of ADHD makes it nearly impossible to focus long enough to complete a simple math assignment. They come, even when the downward spiral triggered by unfinished assignments threatens to grab her and pull her underwater. When she is in her element, everything negative fades away and all seems right with her world; all seems to be as it should be. There is no struggle or fight or discouragement. There is only an opening within her to be the vessel she was created to be, freely receiving the grace and inspiration that is meant for her to experience.

One of the wildest things about being a parent is seeing how so much of who my daughter is has absolutely nothing to do with my husband nor myself, but everything to do with her Creator. I laugh at how the very things we fail at miserably, come to her easily. Case in point: when I studied Interior Design at the beginning of my college career, I nearly failed the class in Art which required me to pick up a piece of paper and pencil to draw. My entire grade was dependent upon my weak and feeble attempts to create art using this medium. My daughter, before being of eligible age to enroll in Art class, could draw better than I could at 18 and if she were to be graded by my college professor, would have received a better grade than I.

If you want to know the lyrics to any contemporary song from the 1980s forward, just ask my kid to sing it to you. She nails every word to nearly every song, no problem. A couple of summers ago, after hearing “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice play on the radio, she took it upon herself to learn every single word. When her Arizona cousins came into town a couple of days later, she entertained them with her precise and perfect rendition. The funniest part of it all is that her dad is self-admittedly an epic failure at figuring out lyrics to songs. In our early days of dating, as we were driving and singing along to the radio, his imperfect renditions of lyrics would have me rolling on the floor laughing.

Some days, as I am supervising homework time, I will watch my daughter as she is engrossed in a reading assignment. Thankfully, she doesn’t notice me watching her, otherwise she would call me a “creeper”. Anyway, the reason I watch her is that she has this amazing talent I’ve always wanted, but didn’t get and I am super jealous. As she is reading, she will simultaneously braid her long, brown hair into several different, intricate braids. In the time span of say, 30 minutes, she will do five or more styles, without ever looking up from her book. When she finishes one, she takes it out and starts the next. She will do french braids and dutch braids, waterfalls and fishtails, five strand braids and upside down braids. Me? I haven’t even mastered the messy side braid, which is probably the easiest of them all. When I ask her how she learned to do these she just says, “I don’t know. I just do them.” Then I say in my head, or sometimes out loud, “Who are you and where did you come from!?””

There is a song by the artist Audrey Assad entitled, “Breaking Through”.  In its lyrics she sings of how some things may seem ordinary, but if we gaze at them longer or pay closer attention to the deeper stirring they cause within us, it is then that are able to see that they are more than just ordinary. They may be evidence that Heaven is breaking through.

Are these just some words that I say aloud?
Is this just the sun breaking through the clouds?
Oh, I know it’s more and I know somehow that
Heaven is breaking through
And it’s You, it’s You, it’s You, it’s You, You.”

As I sit captivated, watching the offspring of my imperfect self as she effortlessly creates beautiful art with a pencil and piece of paper, delights others with word for word renditions of rap songs,  weaves intricate braids without lifting her eye to a mirror,  I encounter something more magnificent than can be seen on the surface. Witnessing her in the zone reminds me that no matter how much she suffers the consequences of genes she inherited from me, no matter how hard her life is, no matter how many mistakes I make in my struggle to figure out how to be a good mom, the burden of who she is to become isn’t really mine to carry. She was created in Divine Love, made to receive Divine Love and meant to overflow with Divine Love. I feel it so strongly when she is there, operating in that sweet spot, the one place that doesn’t require effort, but only beckons for an openness to receive all that is to be given. Heaven is breaking through.