It’s not only moving that creates new starting points. Sometimes all it takes is a subtle shift in perspective, an opening of the mind, an intentional pause and reset, or a new route to start to see new options and new possibilities.Kristin Armstrong
For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.
Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.
― Henri J.M. Nouwen from The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
I love the fact that the word “humus”–the decayed vegetable matter that feeds the roots of plants–comes from the same word root that gives rise to the word “humility.” It is a blessed etymology. It helps me understand that the humiliating events of life, the events that leave “mud on my face” or that “make my name mud,” may create the fertile soil in which something new can grow.
Continue reading “The Fertile Soil In Which Something New Can Grow (Easter Meditation) …”
— Palmer J. Parker from Let Your Life Speak
There must be always remaining in every man’s life some
place for the singing of angels — some place for that
which in itself is breathlessly beautiful and by an
inherent prerogative, throwing all the rest of life into
a new and creative relatedness — something that gathers
up in itself all the freshets of experience from drab and
commonplace areas of living and glows in one bright
light of penetrating beauty and meaning — then passes.
The commonplace is shot through with new glory — old
burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much
of their old, old hurting. A crown is placed over our
heads that for the rest of our lives we are trying to
grow tall enough to wear. Despite all the crassness of
life, despite all the hardness of life, despite all of the
harsh discords of life, life is saved
by the singing of angels. Continue reading “Advent Day 23: Hospitality …”
From the very beginning to the very end, pointing to our own hearts to discover what is true isn’t just a matter of honesty but also of compassion and respect for what we see.
Learning how to be kind to ourselves, learning how to respect ourselves, is important. The reason it’s important is that, fundamentally, when we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves that we’re discovering. We’re discovering the universe. When we discover the Buddha that we are, we realize that everything and everyone is Buddha. We discover that everything is awake, and everyone is awake. Everything is equally precious and whole and good, and everyone is equally precious and whole and good. When we regard thoughts and emotions with humor and openness, that’s how we perceive the universe. We’re not just talking about our individual liberation, but how to help the community we live in, how to help our families, our country, and the whole continent, not to mention the world and the galaxy and as far as we want to go. Continue reading “Advent Day 17: Awakening To Your Heart …”
Marvelous Truth, confront us
at every turn
in every guise.
― Denise Levertov from A Grateful Heart
We forever drift in and out of the miracle before us. As our eyes dilate and constrict in order to see, we are opened by love, wonder, and truth into the immediacy of all that is incomprehensible, only to wrestle with pain, loss, and obstacles that make us constrict. And during the wrestle, the miracle of life seems out of reach. Though once enduring what we’re given, pain and loss open us further. This is how the human heart sees. Modern culture tells us that we are entitled to a perfect, happy life. Yet if we insist on deifying a painless life free of loss, we will only be battered by the pain and loss we are given and miss the point of the journey. Much as we’d like, we can’t be happy all the time, any more than we can dilate or inhale all the time. We need to dilate and constrict, and inhale and exhale, in order to live. And so, the heart, mind, and soul need to open and close to the entirety of the human experience in order to make sense of things as they move through. Difficult as they are, pain, loss, and obstacles are dynamic forces of life that make us open and close. It is up to us to make sense of our lifelong conversation with them. Continue reading “Advent Day 07: Our Real Work …”
I did not
have to ask my heart what it wanted,
because of all the desires I have ever known just one did I cling to
for it was the essence of
to hold beauty in
— St. John of the Cross from Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West
What’s Important in Life?
Once upon a time, there was an elder who was respected for his piety and virtue. Whenever anyone asked him how he had become so holy, he always answered, “I know what is in the Qur’an.”
So when the old man died, they raced one another to his hut to find out for themselves what was in his Qur’an. “Well, what is it?” they shouted.
The disciple holding the book looked up from it amazed and said with wonder in his voice, “What is in this Qur’an are notes on every page, two pressed flowers and a letter from a friend.”
There are some things in life, whatever its burdens, however it is spent, which if we cultivate them will never die, will be the source of our joy forever, will sustain us through everything.
Continue reading “The Wisdom Of Beauty …”
Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.
— Adrienne Rich from On Lies, Secrets, and Silence
When you take the time to draw on your listening-imagination, you will begin to hear this gentle voice at the heart of your life. It is deeper and surer than all the other voices of disappointment, unease, self-criticism and bleakness. All holiness is about learning to hear the voice of your own soul. It is always there and the more deeply you learn to listen, the greater surprises and discoveries that will unfold. To enter into the gentleness of your own soul changes the tone and quality of your life. Your life is no longer consumed by hunger for the next event, experience or achievement.
Continue reading “The Voice Of Your Own Soul …”
To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty.
To find the best in others; to give one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exaltation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
What to Do When You Can’t Find Your True Self
Who of us has not asked, “Who am I?” “Who am I really?” “What am I all about?” “Is there any essential ‘me’ here?” It is as if we are all a big secret to ourselves and must search for clues, however obscure they may be. Yet the search never stops fascinating us, even as we grow older. (If it does, we have almost certainly stopped growing.) … Continue reading “In Search Of Our True Self …”