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.
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.
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.”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw a child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. —Matthew 2:7-11
Today I read that an estimated 250 children are born every minute, about four per second. Four distinct, beautiful lives arriving in the width of a breath. In the time it takes to blink, staggering potential is released—again and again and again. Right now. In this second. As you read these words, birth is taking place. Light is breaking in. Possibility is being born.
You don’t need to fully embrace Christian orthodoxy or even be a particularly religious person to embrace the dawn in every second, in the ways the planet is always being made new, and in the reality that we get to participate in it all while we’re here. Every day we open our eyes and greet the sun, we are gifted a Christmas miracle. You wake in and walk into this glorious new day—into the delivery room of the present. You have this entirely new, never to be repeated opportunity to bring peace and compassion into a space that so needs it. Hope is being born again with the light arriving. Today is a birth day. This is the greatest of good news. Continue reading “Dwell In Possibility (Christmas Meditation) …”→
We risk the life we’ve known to discover something new . . . The unknown territory will open before us only to the extent that we turn our whole being courageously toward it . . . And then we must venture wherever the road leads us, in spite of the dark, in spite of the quivering of our heart. — Jack Kornfield from A New Set of Eyes by Paula D’Arcy
If we listen through our broken heart, love can gently point the way to a deeper understanding of how human life contains both darkness and light. At some point we realize that we still have choices: We will either open our heart to be healed, or we will close down to avoid the pain. — Paula D’Arcy from Winter of the Heart: Finding Your Way through the Mystery of Grief
Signs and Wonders
Reading: Mark 13:24-37
Mystery is rarely comfortable. We want to understand what we are doing here, to see more clearly how God is at work, to know how the future will unfold. This Gospel passage confounds us, reminds us that God works in the darkness as well as in the daylight. We see this in the book of Isaiah, where God says through the prophet,
I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. (45:3)
In her book The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ’s Coming—a beautiful reflection on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany—Wendy M. Wright relates words given to her by a novice master of a Trappist monastery, who said, “To be a Christian does not mean knowing all the answers; to be a Christian means being willing to live in the part of the self where the question is born.” Advent brings this home in a fashion that may seem painfully direct but can also be tremendously freeing: it tells us that we cannot see everything, cannot know everything, cannot predict everything. It tells us that, ultimately, we live in mystery.
But it also tells us this: if we stay awake; if we open our eyes in the midst of our life, with all of its wildness and wonders, then we will see: something is coming. Drawing closer. Stealing home.
A shadow is never created in darkness. It is born of light. We can be blind to it and blinded by it. Our shadow asks us to look at what we don’t want to see. ― Terry Tempest Williams from When Women Were Birds
Light Moving in the Darkness
It’s not the darkness itself that we must understand. It’s the force behind the darkness and within the darkness…the force moving through life that we must know. This is the great passage: to see deep into our own nature by meeting its reflection in everything around us. To swim with something very big. To allow the Universe to love us and to love deeply in return…to allow this story to trace itself through the chapters of our life. To live within the miracle. — Paula D’Arcy from Stars at Night: When Darkness Unfolds as Light
I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being. ― Hafiz from I Heard God Laughing
Scientists say we are made of stars, and I believe them, although my upper arms look like hell. Maybe someday the stars will reabsorb me. Maybe, as fundamentalist Christians have shared with me, I will rot in hell for all eternity, which I would hate, because I am very sensitive. Besides, I have known hell, and I have also known love. Love was bigger.
What comforts us is that, after we make ourselves crazy enough, we can let go inch by inch into just being here; every so often, briefly. There is flow everywhere in nature — glaciers are just rivers that are moving really, really slowly — so how could there not be flow in each of us? Or at least in most of us? When we detach or are detached by tragedy or choice from the tendrils of identity, unexpected elements feed us. There is weird food in the flow, like the wiggly bits that birds watch for in tidal channels. Protein and greens are obvious food, but so is buoyancy, when we don’t feel as mired in the silt of despair.
Darkness is where incarnation begins. The gorgeous texts of Advent, christmas, and Epiphany shimmer with the light that God brings into our midst, as in the prologue to John’s Gospel: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:5). Yet if we lean too quickly toward the light, we miss seeing one of the greatest gifts this season has to offer us: that the deepest darkness is the place where God comes to us. In the womb, in the night, in the dreaming; when we are lost, when our world has come undone, when we cannot see the next step on the path; in all the darkness that attends our life, whether hopeful darkness or horrendous, God meets us. God’s first priority is not to do away with the dark but to be present to us in it. I will give you the treasures of darkness, God says in Isaiah 45:3, and riches hidden in secret places. For the christ who was born two millennia ago, for the christ who seeks to be born in us this day, the darkness is where incarnation begins.
Can we imagine the darkness as a place where God meets us—and not only meets us, but asks to take form in this world through us?
In the morning when I began to wake, it happened again– that feeling that you, Beloved, had stood over me all night keeping watch, that feeling that as soon as I began to stir you put your lips on my forehead and lit the Holy Lamp inside my heart. ― Hafiz from I Heard God Laughing
Remember to practice the nobility that comes with promise,
to drive out west, the eyes level or lifted the mind cleared; the steering wheel invisible below the eye but still charting the needed course
and the body almost at tiptoe, leaning toward the windscreen,
the breath held and the eyes a-shiver for a falling plume of sky;
the clear, pinpoint star that just appeared above Leenane,
May you know serenity When you are called To enter the house of suffering. May a window of light always surprise you. May you be granted the wisdom To avoid false resistance; When suffering knocks on the door of your life, May you glimpse its eventual gifts. May you be able to receive the fruits of suffering. May memory bless and protect you With the hard-earned light of past travail; To remind you that you have survived before And though the darkness now is deep, You will soon see approaching light. — John O’Donohue from To Bless the Space Between Us
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. — Isaiah 43:18–19
I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go.
― Anais Nin from The Diary of Anais Nin
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. —Matthew 5:9
In our joy, we think we hear a whisper. At first it is too soft. Then only half heard. We listen carefully as it gathers strength. We hear a sweetness. The word is Peace. — Maya Angelou from Amazing Peace
Peace is not just about the absence of conflict; it’s also about the presence of justice. Martin Luther King Jr. even distinguished between “the devil’s peace” and God’s true peace. A counterfeit peace exists when people are pacified or distracted or so beat up and tired of fighting that all seems calm. But true peace does not exist until there is justice, restoration, forgiveness. Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free. Continue reading “Peace (Advent Meditation) …”→
There are no manuals for the construction of the individual you would like to become. You are the only one who can decide this and take up the lifetime of work that it demands. This is a wonderful privilege and such an exciting adventure. To grow into the person that your deepest longing desires is a great blessing. If you can find a creative harmony between your soul and your life, you will have found something infinitely precious. You may not be able to do much about the great problems of the world or to change the situation you are in, but if you can awaken the eternal beauty and light of your soul, you will bring light wherever you go. The gift of life is given to us for ourselves and also to bring peace, courage, and compassion to others. Continue reading “Hope (Advent Meditation) …”→
So let this winter
for the new life
I must call my own.
— David Whyte from The House of Belonging
On the Ridge
We can grow by simply listening,
the way the tree on
that ridge listens its branches
to the sky, the way blood
listens its flow to the site
of a wound, the way you
listen like a basin when
my head so full of grief
can’t look you in the eye. Continue reading “Advent Day 14: Season of Listening …”→