Archive for March, 2012

Live Some Big, Giant Love Out Loud

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2012 by michaelcogdill

As a Christian, I try to steer by the words of a very famous Hindu.  Gandhi skewered sanctimony and hypocrisy when he said this,

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Gandhi’s words remind us that religion is a written code, but faith writes itself in how we plow through life.  Faith is the ultimate rock star act of showing ourselves — face, backside and all.  What we say, what occupies our hearts, how well we serve the weak and the poor, the heartbroken and the heartless we must forgive — these become our faith, our active believing.  It’s how we live a legacy out loud, moment by moment.  When Steven Tyler sings of a world “Livin’ on the Edge” I believe he reminds us to step back from the brinkmanship of hate, judgment, feather-waving pride, and, instead, live some love, way out loud.

With that in mind, I offer below this little piece of musing out loud.  I am a man who fails his highest ideals each day.  I don’t love enough, or well enough.  My self occupies too much of my mind.  Others find too little room there.  But even a little love changes things — and men such as me — for the better.   If anyone ever tries to convince you that you’re not fit for love, that you don’t deserve it, or that a great love of the universe is out of your reach, please read this little piece anew.  May it remind you that boundless love reaches you, no matter what seems to stand in love’s way.  That love, even when it seems small, rocks this world OUT LOUD.

Rick Bragg’s boyhood seemed to make him destined for invisibility, or worse.  His family lived scattered to the wind of Alabama cotton field poverty. Much of the world eagerly sees the children of such parents as a feral force of human gloom.  Such a boy knows the shame of a dirt-faced, claw-hammer upbringing.  I’m sure more than a few glanced at him and let fly whispers of white trash.


But Rick cut a path out of the wilderness of living undervalued. It led all the way to the New York Times, where some wise souls said no, they would not be blinded by bigotry against the poor or the presumptively stupid.  They believed in him, felt the fecund, full-color life he could give to words on paper.  And Rick rose to meet their belief in him.  Far off from that wasteland boyhood in Alabama – and yet still beautifully tethered to it — he won the New York Times the Pulitizer Prize for feature writing.


Rick wrote a book about his upbringing — All Over But The Shoutin’.  It is an Eden of lovely and deeply human prose, with such wisdom as this:


“A swagger is a silly walk for a man with so far to go.”


Here, smack down in the weeds of the season of Lent, Rick’s simple wisdom rings out a reminder to each of us.  Easter’s coming, but not before our human Jesus takes his donkey ride through the season’s scripture again – straight through the dirt roads of our hearts.  He goes humbly to his own doom, knowing he’s of highest birth.  Yet all that palm waving would not drive him into a swagger.  He had a ways to go, a love to show, for you and me.


In this season, we live reminded that God celebrates our humanity.  He adores the poor.  He knows and loves the poverty within each of us.  God appreciates the feel of walking around terrified, tempted, underestimated in one of these mortal skins.  He knows us, better than we know ourselves, and loves us anyway — even when we dare cut loose a swagger.  He whispers to us about that silly walk.  He reminds us we have yet to arrive.


We will, of course, arrive one day at the door of the same death Christ conquered.  And isn’t it lovely how gently he reminds us that death, like poverty, is nothing to fear?  They are, instead, forces we are to defy, with faith and radial love, for ourselves and others. Neither poverty nor death is any match for the love of God. 


I identify, deeply, with Rick Bragg. My roots run deep into the poor of Appalachia.  People underestimated me.  They counted me as boyhood trash, surely dead above the neck, unfit for the pedigreed world.  But many of us have been blessed to flout such a view of ourselves.  God, after all, is father to us all.  Each of us owes everything to the love of such heavenly family.


In this season, may we lean into the peace of knowing God is right at home in the cotton fields of Alabama and the dry plains of every human heart. He reminds us that to meet a boy like Rick Bragg – in all his pig-tripe-lovin’, salt-of-the-earth glory – is to meet our brother. A reflection of our donkey-riding Christ.  To God, such a bucolic boy is a prize, and so are you.        

Even the darkness is not dark to You,
         And the night is as bright as the day.
         Darkness and light are alike to You.

Psalm 139