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 …”

Advent Day 19: Bearing Witness …

Bearing witness is one of the primary ways that human beings hold each other up and help each other grow. Bearing witness is also one of the primary functions of art. No matter what we long for in our imagination, we are just as obliged to affirm the truth of how we mistreat each other and how we lift each other up.

Social media is becoming a modern form of bearing witness that is adding to our communal sense of art. In 2010, it was the viral use of Facebook that helped ignite the Arab Spring, a revolutionary wave of democratic demonstrations and protests leading to civil wars in oppressive societies in North Africa and the Middle East. The ability of citizens to film events in real time has led to an irrefutable bearing witness of excessive force by police throughout America. Continue reading “Advent Day 19: Bearing Witness …”

Advent Day 11: Oneness With Love …

When wax and wick work best, light and heat are all that’s left.

Like a candle, our wick of spirit is encased in our humanity, and when our spirit is touched, we light up until all we know melts and changes shape for the burn of our experience. Repeatedly, our sweat and struggle burns our sense of self and world away, so that our Divine spark can be released, again and again. These moments of Spirit-Lighting-Up not only rearrange our lives, but they light and warm those who stay near.

In such moments, we become one with what we see, and this sudden Oneness is what the faithful of all paths have called Love. And in the illumination of Oneness called Love, all that’s left is a willingness toward birth, an urge to be touched by something timeless and fresh. All that’s left is the want of deep parts in strangers. To relish the waking over being awake, the burning over being burned, the loving over being loved. Continue reading “Advent Day 11: Oneness With Love …”

Our Ethic Must Therefore Be One Of Belonging (Earth Day) …

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree.
— Herman Hesse from Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

 

We’re all — trees, humans, insects, birds, bacteria — pluralities. Life is embodied network. These living networks are not places of omnibenevolent Oneness. Instead, they are where ecological and evolutionary tensions between cooperation and conflict are negotiated and resolved. These struggles often result not in the evolution of stronger, more disconnected selves but in the dissolution of the self into relationship. Continue reading “Our Ethic Must Therefore Be One Of Belonging (Earth Day) …”

Advent Meditation: Can You Hear The Angels Singing (Christmas Eve) …

Angels descending, bring from above,
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
— Fanny J. Crosby from She Wields a Pen (Blessed Assurance)

 

Hidden Beauty

Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Can You Hear The Angels Singing (Christmas Eve) …”