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
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 …”
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 imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.
— James A. Baldwin
Anger is a catalyst. Holding on to it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalizing anger will take away our joy and spirit; externalizing anger will make us less effective in our attempts to create change and forge connection. It’s an emotion that we need to transform into something life-giving: courage, love, change, compassion, justice. Or sometimes anger can mask a far more difficult emotion like grief, regret, or shame, and we need to use it to dig into what we’re really feeling. Either way, anger is a powerful catalyst but a life-sucking companion.
I can’t think of a more powerful example than the sentence, “You will not have my hate.” In November 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène, was killed by terrorists at the Bataclan theater in Paris along with eighty-eight other people. Two days after the attacks, in an open letter to his wife’s killers posted on Facebook, Leiris wrote: Continue reading “You Will Not Have My Hate …”
Empathy is connection … Empathy is connecting with the emotion that someone is experiencing, not the event or the circumstance. …
… Empathy is a strange and powerful thing. There is no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’
— Brené Brown from Daring Greatly
There’s no way to be spared sorrow. I wouldn’t even wish that upon someone. But we shouldn’t get stuck in our grief; it’s not a permanent address but a companion that walks beside us. Everything I love, I will lose. That’s the harsh truth. You either have to shut down your heart — and miss the love that is around you — or wrestle with that truth and come out the other end. There is indeed such a thing as joyful sorrow. Continue reading “A Companion That Walks Beside Us …”
The longer I wake on this Earth, the louder the quiet things speak to me. The more I experience and survive, the more I find truth in the commonalities we all share. The more pain softens me, the deeper my joy and the greater the lessons of those things that live in great stillness.
— Mark Nepo from The Book of Awakening
You Are Not Alone
One of the most difficult things about hard times is that we often feel that we are going through them alone. But we are not alone. In fact, your life itself is only possible because of the thousands of generations before you, survivors who have carried the lamp of humanity through difficult times from one generation to another. Even Jesus had hard times, and Buddha did as well. At times they were hounded, threatened, physically attacked, and despised. Yet their gifts outshone all their difficulties. And now, as you read these words, feel yourself as part of the stream of humanity walking together, finding ways to carry the lamp of wisdom and courage and compassion through difficult times. Continue reading “You Are Not Alone …”
Hoping against hope, he believed.
Hope where we had ceased to hope.
Hope amid what threatens hope.
Hope with those who feed our hope.
Hope beyond what we had hoped.
Hope that draws us past our limits.
Hope that defies expectations.
Hope that questions what we have known.
Hope that makes a way where there is none.
Hope that takes us past our fear.
Hope that calls us into life.
Hope that holds us beyond death.
Hope that blesses those to come. Continue reading “Hope Nonetheless …”