Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) 14

Rev. Thurman talks about two kinds of Ideals: The ultimate and far off; and the stuff of life that is not separate from what a person knows as her/his daily life.

He whispers a hope that one day the two will be, in time, one piece. “The present every-achieving ideal is seen as the nearer end of the far reaching and ultimate ideal.

What is your ultimate and far off ideal?  I envision citizens of the world working to overcome challenges through shared work that strives to achieve what is good for everyone one involved.  It may not be the best answer, because sometimes the ‘best’ remedy is the best for one set of persons but not for all.  I’d like to see a world where we can say, “this is good enough because we are all served by it”.  Rather, what I now experience is groups getting the best edge or return on investment or medical care as if to say, you don’t deserve this, or if you get some, I won’t have enough.  Rather, I’d like to see decisions made for the good of the whole.  The fictional Vulcan philosophy; the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  Thanks Gene Roddenberry for a vision of the future where we’ve overcome competition and the sense of ‘not enough’.

What is your ideal for your more immediate possibilities? hmmmm, the IDEAL… do we even consider thinking of ideals for the living of our every day lives?  I mean, an ideal is something perfect.  What would be perfect, in light of my social location, gifts, skills and sensibilities? Now, there is something to be really honest about because it calls me to a higher version of myself.  And, let’s be honest, if I set my sights on my higher self, it’s a little scarey.  I mean, what if I don’t make it?  If I set out to do something, and it turns out to be a bad idea, then I risk looking like a fool.

But, the idea that Thurman suggests, that my more immediate possibilities (made possible by trying to be my higher self) may one day dovetail to the ultimate ideals keeps me from turning tail and running from aspiring to be my best self.

Dovetail cut

Meditation of the Heart (Yaconelli) Day 9

The word for today is “passion”. Mark Yaconelli reminds us that God has made each of us to embody and reflect the light of God.  The God who knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) created each of us with a particular gift, a particular way of being and, a unique purpose that God longs for us to carry out into the world  This calling, this way of being, is our passion. It’s the place, Fredrick Beuchner defines as, “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  It’s that deep seeded desire trying to be birthed from you and which you don’t want to live without.

Yet, often we miss the opportunities to join in the sacred act of creating something with God. We think our painting is no good, or our music as mundane. We keep to ourselves rather than becoming involved in our communities where lively interactions can make a difference in the world. We cordon ourselves off from our emotions, from our desires, from the impulse to care for fear that we will be overwhelmed and lose our own identify.

Audre Lorde, in her essay, Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, defines the erotic as an internal requirement toward excellence. The range of human passion (or eros) is a wide spectrum of awareness and responsiveness to our natural world which varies from enjoying the pleasure of a beautiful field of flowers to the passion that provides heroic acts or destructive hate. Deeper than gender delineation the concept of eros is the primal pulse of life. It is the personification of love in all its aspects with creative power and harmony.

The Holy Truth is that we find ourselves when we surrender to the God’s impulse.  Ah! But that’s what we fear too.

The tension mounts as we want to makes our lives and our children’s lives more rich, more meaningful, more unique and valued; yet, we bury the very sacred seed of passion, the erotic impulse, out of fear. Yet, wasn’t it this impulse to change things for the better that Jesus worked with?  Didn’t Christ use his passion to heal, to reconcile, to demand justice and provide a vision of a better way to live?

This is my prayer, to live with and for passion.  passion burning heart

Permeating Eros, Spirit that dwells in every desire and relationship,

You are the impulse of God’s love.

Take my life and let it be consecrated to a Holy Passion.

Let my will be guided by you and be no longer mine for selfish gain.

Let me not fear the power within creativity and pleasure;

Direct it to serve, to lift up and, to love beyond the boundary of my doors.

Divine inspiration, you are both food and that which is produced. 

In the created world You propel us forward into work and relationships which

In return produces the artwork of life, lived together to be savored and celebrated.

Passion mandela quote on hand

Meditation of the Heart (Yaconelli) Day 8

In his book of prayers, Mark Yaconelli brings us today to the act of contemplation.  I’ve been working with this book, Wonder, Fear, and Longing since the middle of November as part of a class at Lancaster Theological Seminary. When the semester was finished, I decided to go back to the beginning of this book of prayers to consider the entries more fully, and this time, without a class assignment.

In addition to this book, I’ve been reading The Satisfied Life, Medieval Women Mystics on Atonement by Jane Ellen McAvoy. McAvoy brings us a brief survey of several familiar and a couple not so familiar women mystics: 14-5th century Julian of Norwich, 11th c. Hildegard of Bingen, 16th c. Teresa of Avila, and others.  The manner in which these early monastics examined their lives in contemplation is impressive not only for the rigor and sometimes physical trauma – a tool within that period of the ascetic life – but for the outcome of the contemplation.  Seeing an alternative way of considering how God loves humans and delivering to the reader a new definition of a “satisfied life”.

As I interpret it, the point being that satisfaction of the rift between humans and God is not to repay God for harm done to God (as Archbishop of Canterbury Anselm posed in the 11th c), but rather; to see that our turning from God (sinning) is like turning our backs on God’s love as if we don’t deserve it. We create that rift by not seeing God’s love and not living into it. Therefore, what we need to do is live a ‘satisfied’ life, knowing that God loves us and living in ways that keep us in related awareness of that Divine love (atoned).

So, getting back to Yaconelli, contemplating our lives, as in a daily examen or some other schedule of looking at our lives and actions, is to ask what God sees in our current lives; to ask where God sees us going and doing what in our future (near and distant); and finally, to identify what is keeping us from attending to that which will draw us into a closer relationship with the Creator. Yaconelli suggests that this prayerful self-examination invites repentance, a turning from the ways in which we misdirect or misuse our lives, allowing God to heal and inspire us toward the person God created us to be. What am I called to do? Where am I called to serve? What do I need to get out of the way in order to do that? After this kind of introspection, Jesus asks in Luke 18:41: What do you want me to do for you?

“The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.” Julian of Norwich

“With my mouth,” God says, “I kiss my own chosen creation. I uniquely, lovingly, embrace every image I have made out of the earth’s clay. With a fiery spirit I transform it into a body to serve all the world.” Hildegard of Bingen

The embrace of the beloved
is a fusion of the fullnessembrace-rassouli
and sweetness
of all the elements of love at once
in the ultimate tenderness
and vulnerability
of the human heart,
the divinity of the soul,
suddenly flooding the mind
and the senses in a beauty
so profound it frees the spirit.

This sacred moment
gathers all the longing of a life
in a glorious sweetness felt only
in the arms of the beloved.
This is a moment from
which all life will draw its power,
for it is an eternal moment.

There is a sacred innocence
within the soul
that love surrounds,
honors, and protects,
and it is love
that chooses the moment
when the heart
touches the shores of eternity,
opening the eyes
of the heart
and awakening the soul
in the radiance of pure joy.

Painting by Rassouli
The Embrace

“Therefore this is His thirst and love-longing, to have us altogether whole in Him, to His bliss,” Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

Meditation of the Heart (Yaconelli) Day 7

On the seventh day God rested from all the work that had been done (Genesis 2:2).

I’m considering the word “rest” today from the perspective of the ancient Christian tradition that says to pray is to rest. Yaconelli details rest as requiring a release from our work, plans, worries and activity. He writes “when we rest in prayer, we become open and receptive to God’s presence.”

I recall in my first semester of seminary, we were learning about the discipline of prayer.  Our leader told us that prayer is not always about asking for something; “it’s really wasting time with God”.  It’s about hanging out with God with no particular goal or agenda, but simply spending time in God’s presence.

A spiritual director once likened prayer time to my desire to just spend time with my kids.  We don’t have to be doing anything unique, just being together in the same room is good for me. She said, “don’t you think God would like to hang out in the same room with you?” (Duh-ope!)

Like some of my friends, I haven’t been good at a regular time of prayer but, ofSedona sitting up all things, my cat has helped me out in this regard.

While on my laptop (furiously writing seminary papers), my cat, Sedona, will often climb up onto my lap and cover my wrists Sedona on my lapwith her ample self.  I’ve tried to continue typing, but I can neither see over her girth nor lift her with my wrist to get my fingers on the right keys. So, I’ve taken to asking her “Oh, is it time for prayer?” We sit while I stroke her soft fur, enjoying that pleasure and extending the pleasure to being aware of God’s presence, attained not through thinking but through loving, as Yaconelli says.

Amazing grace opens its arms and lets us fall into its love.
Bidden, yearned for, woo’d and pursued
it beckons us all to come home.
(Fa Lane)

Meditation of the Heart (Yaconelli) Day 6

Today’s contemplation is on compassion.  Linked to the previous day’s focus on suffering, compassion is our response to someone else’s suffering. It’s the tears I shed for the pain someone else bears.

As I made my way through the scriptures the author includes for our focus and the prayer texts Yaconelli includes, I became aware of the correlation between the Matthew 25:35-37 poem and the famous prayer of St. Francis, Lord, Let me be an instrument of your peace. An epiphany, if you will.

Allow me to interpolate them here. The Matthew scripture uses the New Standard Revised Version of the Bible. St. Francis prayer will be in bold italics.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
Lord, Make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. 

35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
where there is injury, pardon

I was a stranger and you welcomed me, where there is doubt, faith 

36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, where there is despair, hope 

I was sick and you took care of me, where there is darkness light 

I was in prison and you visited me. where there is sadness, joy.epiphany word

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; 

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Meditation of the Heart (Yaconelli) Day 5

Today’s contemplation is on suffering.  Mark Yaconelli, in his book Wonder, Fear, and Longing, brings forth the parable of healing a guy who gets carried around on his mat by friends who are determined to get him to Jesus for healing. This Mark 2 pericope focuses on a guy I call Matt.  I envy Matt.  He’s got (at least) four friends who stop at nothing, not even crowded doorways, to see that Matt goes before a man whom they know has been healing folks all day long in this one house.

The narrative doesn’t tell us what happened to Matt, but he is paralyzed. We don’t get any insight to his friends’ knowledge of what happened to Matt to make him paralyzed.  Maybe he was injured; or maybe he’s been paralytic since birth.  We are not given any of Matt’s back story to know his hurts, frustrations, issues, or challenges beyond being paralyzed. But, if we were to put ourselves in Matt’s place, we would know our own hurts, frustrations, issues and challenges.

When Jesus sees Matt being lowered down from the roof inside the house, he addresses the paralytic and his friends. Mark tells us, when Jesus saw their faith (meaning Matt’s friends too), he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Whhuttt??!!  He doesn’t say ‘be healed’; he says, the things that have deterred you from a relationship with God have been cancelled and forgiven.  I guess Jesus was saying, yeah you’re physically struck but what’s more important is how you relate to your Creator.

The Pharisees asked about this too because they didn’t think anyone but God was able and allowed to forgive sins. Jesus asked them “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’?”  In other words, Is it easier for us to be confident is God’s willingness to forgive us when we do things that jeopardize our relationship with God, than it is to restore movement to a paralytic?

Yaconelli asks us to spend some time thinking about our own suffering which we usually keep hidden – shame, fear, frustration… and, he asks this, which I found insightful: How does this hurt live inside your body?

Six years ago I had breast cancer and I spent time in my cancer-fighting days reviewing my life events considering what I might have done to enable cancer to present itself in my body. I thought about how stress impacts your well being – heart disease, neck and back pain, etc. and how not living according to your heart’s dream compromises your integrity, These questions still come up when I’m on my yoga mat. So, this Marcan story and Yaconelli, in this contemplation, has me connecting the way I take care of my body (or don’t) with my relationship with God.

Meditation of the Heart (Yaconelli) Day 4

These meditation/contemplation prompts from Mark Yaconelli are hard for me to do because I have to really settle into personal ‘spaces’ I usually try to avoid.  Today’s focus is on fear. One of the meditations texts is from Teresa of Avila “Let nothing disturb you; Let nothing make you afraid; All things pass.”

The sentence “Let nothing make you afraid” is echoing in my head like the incessant lapping ocean waves upon the shoreline. “Let nothing make you afraid”.  It doesn’t say don’t have fear, or don’t be afraid, or even don’t run from your fear.  It says let nothing MAKE you afraid.  I take that to mean I have some choice is how I interpret an event or an interaction whereby I can either give away my agency or hold onto my sense of self objectively. I could sort of stare down what is threatening to make me afraid and decide how to react. With my past behind me, I am now trying to look back over my lifetime and see the times I’ve let something make me afraid. (too many for my own good, I think)

Yaconelli leads us to Isaiah 43:1 “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you” and; he suggests we insert our own name.

But now thus says the Lord,
God who created you, O Jacob Fa,
the Holy Birther who formed you, O Israel Child of My Heart:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.

But what does it mean to be redeemed? Instead of the legalistic sin-satisfaction theory, I’d like to consider one of the other definitions for redeemed, such as:

“to discharge or fulfill (a pledge, promise,) or “to make up for; make amends for; offset (some fault, shortcoming,etc.)” 
The promise that God made to Abram is that if Abram would agree, they would enter an exclusive covenant relationship. Therefore, Isaiah is saying God would fulfill that promise in redeeming Abram (and if God would also redeem me, then God would promise to be in a covenant relationship with me too).
Or, to make amends for me would be to make up the ways that I fall short. That God would cover the gap in places that I fail to be enough or do enough; in that way God would redeem me.   If I could count on this kind of ‘coverage’ then I could be more consistent in not letting anything MAKE me afraid.