There Is A Balm In Gilead …

Blessed are you in whom the light lives, in whom the brightness blazes— your heart a chapel, an altar where in the deepest night can be seen the fire that shines forth in you in unaccountable faith, in stubborn hope, in love that illumines every broken thing it finds.

Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

At times, it’s hardship that opens us, like a shovel splitting wet earth. At times, the light of another filters, like sunlight, through all the blinds we’ve drawn. And sometimes, like now, I’m softened by the glow of those entangled in the dark. They move about like stars that can’t stay still, looking for light everywhere but in themselves. I’ve done this when in pain, or lost, or after I’ve hurt someone I love. Last night, I couldn’t sleep. So I imagined that my breathing was coming and going through the crack in my heart. This relaxed me. So I closed my eyes and imagined that with each inhalation I was owning my mistakes. And with each exhalation I was sending a drop of mercy to those who are hurting, whether I know them or not. Then everything began to quiet — the noise of my pain, the noise in my mind, the noise of the world remaking itself faster than we can break it. And in that winded spot, I felt the air of love lift me. This is why I thank you when we meet. In case what helps me came from you.

— Mark Nepo from Things That Join the Sea and the Sky

There Is A Balm In Gilead

The Hebrew prophets deeply loved their tradition and profoundly criticized it at the same time. Such truthful love is a very rare art form and a hallmark of prophetic identity. The prophet Jeremiah lived in a time of deep grief and loss. Jerusalem had fallen to the Babylonians and his people had been exiled. He critiqued the false prophets of his day who denied such necessary suffering and pretended things were better than they were. He poured out his heart to God and famously asked, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” (Jeremiah 8:22). The hope for a healing “balm in Gilead” provided inspiration for the African American spiritual tradition and Civil Rights Movement. Today’s meditation is a reflection from the mystic and theologian Howard Thurman about the beloved spiritual “There Is a Balm in Gilead.”

Continue reading “There Is A Balm In Gilead …”

In Humility Is The Greatest Freedom …

We experience humility not because we have fought and lost but because humility is the only lens through which great things can be seen ― and once we have seen them, humility is the only posture possible.
― Parker Palmer from The Courage To Teach

 

In Humility Is The Greatest Freedom

In humility is the greatest freedom. As long as you have to defend the imaginary self that you think is important, you lose your peace of heart. As soon as you compare that shadow with the shadows of other people, you lose all joy, because you have begun to trade in unrealities and there is no joy in things that do not exist. Continue reading “In Humility Is The Greatest Freedom …”

Advent Meditation: Hope Anyway …

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness.
— Malachi 3:1–3

The prophet Malachi appeared at a time of discouragement for the chosen people. They had survived the exile under the Babylonians and were back in their homeland. In what should have been a time of gratitude and renewed fidelity to God’s law, Malachi saw the old patterns beginning again, the attitudes that had gotten the people in trouble in the past. The same old injustices, abuses, and indifference were creeping back into the culture … Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Hope Anyway …”

The Price (Good Friday Meditation) …

The suffering itself is not so bad; it’s the resentment against suffering that is the real pain.
— Allen Ginsberg from The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion

 

There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. Continue reading “The Price (Good Friday Meditation) …”

The Lenten Blessing — A Franciscan Benediction …

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy. Continue reading “The Lenten Blessing — A Franciscan Benediction …”

God Is Everywhere (Advent Meditation) …

To look at the last great self-portraits of Rembrandt or to read Pascal or hear Bach’s B-minor Mass is to know beyond the need for further evidence that if God is anywhere, he is with them, as he is also with the man behind the meat counter, the woman who scrubs floors at Roosevelt Memorial, the high-school math teacher who explains fractions to the bewildered child. And the step from “God with them” to Emmanuel, “God with us,” may not be as great as it seems. What keeps the wild hope of Christmas alive year after year in a world notorious for dashing all hopes is the haunting dream that the child who was born that day may yet be born again even in us and our own snowbound, snowblind longing for him. Continue reading “God Is Everywhere (Advent Meditation) …”

Desert Day 46: Tearing Of The Temple Veil (Good Friday Meditation) …

There are so many haunting lines in the passion narratives. Who of us, for instance, is not stirred in the soul when the passion story is read in church and we come to the part where Jesus takes his last breath and there is that minute of silence, where we all drop to our knees? No Good Friday homily is ever as effective as that single line (“he gave up his spirit”) and the moving silence that ensues.

Another such line that has always haunted me is the one that follows immediately after. Jesus dies and we are told that, at the very second of his death, “the veil of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” My imagination, even when I was very little, has always been able to picture that. I have this picture in my mind of it growing dark in the middle of the day and then at the second of Jesus’ death, almost as if by lightening, the temple veil is ripped from top to bottom while everyone looks on stunned, convinced now, too late, that the person they’ve just mocked and crucified is the Christ. It’s a great picture. But, my imagination aside, what is really meant by that phrase that the veil of the temple ripped open at the moment of Jesus’ death? Continue reading “Desert Day 46: Tearing Of The Temple Veil (Good Friday Meditation) …”