Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) Day 5

I was struck by Thurman’s line that “All events in life take place, somehow, within the divine context.”

Some people attribute everything to God and abandon any responsibility for the occurrence or for the correction of it or the healing from it. Yet, as Thurman goes one to say, we want to “fix responsibility”.  If we can pin down whom to blame, he says, then we can attack and uproot ills.  It assumes there is a “structure of moral integrity that undergirds all of life”.  The things that happen in life are a part of some kind of rationale. (23)

And yet, when we can’t make sense of things that happen (it’s usually bad things we try to figure out the genesis of) we finally relinquish the search for logical explanation.  We can live with this unresolved puzzle, perhaps maintaining an anger or a depression as a result of the event.  Or, as Thurman suggests, we can try to “understand God’s understanding.” That’s a pretty tall order.  Short of that, and perhaps comforting to some, we can “rest in the assurance of God’s Presence with us and in life” going on about us.

I know some folks, rather agnostic, who can not attribute our living to God. I certainly have, on occasional days, trouble with the whole God-package as relayed by the churches and the religion I’ve known.  However, I am also able to remember, and even live anew somedays, in a space I ascribe to God’s Presence. I find it mostly on my yoga mat when my body and my mind align with breath to seek an internal awareness of the Divine.  With that exercise, I yoke myself to the Holy One and try to see the world from that point of view.  And I recall Psalm 139 that says we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I Feel Your Presence With Me (A reimaging of Psalm 139)

Mystical Creator, you formed me in the ancient days of love and harmony.
I faintly remember, in the lining of my soul, the tranquility that hovered there.

In the days of now, the days of rising and of not remedying yesterday’s sin,
The days of ignoring and denying my loose tongue and hurtful thoughts,
You know exactly where I am, when I sit and when I stand.

You know when I move forward for justice and when I stall with indifference.
You surround me with my better self, just beyond my own vision; but I feel it- that better self.
I
t is your presence with me that I feel and hear making its way through today’s noise to arouse my soul.

Where can I go from your presence since you formed me and have been with me since ancient days?
If I could run as a leopard, I couldn’t flee from your Spirit.
If I could shift and swing as a monkey I couldn’t out maneuver your grace.
If I slid into a pit of deep despair as dark as any otter’s den, even there you would reach in.

I hear your voice, the echo just beyond my hearing.
I see my better self, just beyond my own embodied image.
E
ven when I try to run and hide from you, I know you as “home”.

Thank you for calling me your own.
Draw me forward out of the ancient mystery into today’s obedience. 

soul a dancin'

(Retrieved from http://cuteefaceemonique.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/praise_dance_sat_post.jpg)

                      

Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) Day 4

Howard Thurman explains that our prayers can accompany times of “dryness, of denials of emptiness” (21). He tells us that even the mystics are careful to point out that spiritual disciplines and exercises do not guarantee the “coming of the spirit” or awareness of the Presence.

I am struck by the truth of this.  I turned to the Psalms to find a plea for guidance in prayer, or rather, guidance in waiting for prayer to be answered.  I know that even as we wait, we go about our business attempting to do what God asks of us, and seeking ways to be faithful in our covenant with God.  I found Psalm 25 gave me new language in my impatient plea for help.  I have constructed a blessing for those of us who walk the way of pilgrimage, seeking direction in our daily lives.

Blessing for the Path God Gives (Psalm 25 reconsidered)

May the God who has always known you hold up your heart.
May the One who created your path kindly lead you to it.
May Love that draws us into a life of fullness save you from despair.
May you find your deepest truth, your own deep calling
as well as teachers and helpers and soul mates to guide you.

Patience and curiosity are your friends as you wait.
May the Creator of your body, soul and mind show you Love that has always been available to you.
Your indiscretions and moments of hate can be forgiven and redeemed.
The Holy One knows our human condition and is ready to forgive when sought.

God is mindful of you. God re-members you, dream by dream, as you follow your heart’s desire.
As a mother kindles her child, so God is tender to you.
As a father supports his child, so God instructs you.
May you be open to the wooing and the work before you.

May a spirit of divinity seep within your heart and soul
as God keeps the sacred covenant:
to be your God as you step forward in faithfulness.
Keep your feet directed by divine truth and clear of brambles.

May God watch over your body, soul and mind to redeem you from troubles.
May you arrive at the throne of humility and grace knowing the Holy One honors your struggles.
Shame is not part of God’s character, and you were made in God’s image.
May honor and wisdom visit you daily as you wait for God’s blessing.

Wooing a new earth

(Image retrieved from: https://newoma.wordpress.com/2010/03/26/come-rest-in-my-arms-2/ )

Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) Day 3

Rev. Thurman’s concept that quiet prayer makes room for the discernment of one’s purpose is a familiar one.  I’ve heard all my life that I should pray for the Lord’s will to be made known.  I’ve read books on how you know when it’s God’s will and not your own.  I’ve also been in committee meetings where my expression of call has been questioned: “Is it God’s will or your will?”

I supposed the Will of God is heard or experienced and observed in a variety of ways, so I don’t presume to question someone’s calling, although we can have many conversations on how they live into their calling.  It drives me crazy when someone in a role of authority, who doesn’t know me, acts suspicious over the validity of what I interpreted as God’s request for what my work will be in the world.

When people say they heard God say.. what was it they experienced?  Was in a voice but not their own saying something audible only to them?  Was it a sense of an indwelling Presence from which words came to mind?  Was it a yearning of the heart which they translated into directives?  Maybe all of the above?

Rev. Thurman talks about seeking answers, or at least clues, to the deeply felt need to discover the Will of God for your life.  He says everyone wants to know that their life has meaning and purpose.  I’m reminded of Mandisa’s song “Voice of a Savior”.  She sings “some people try to listen to the end of a bottle.” Identifying all the places we look for answers, she sings  “Some people try to listen in blind ambition”.  She says we all have a void we try to fill up and try to hear the voice of a savior.

And then, there are people who don’t try to find their natural and God given purpose for being on this earth.  Or they ignore or avoid it. And, many walk around really unhappy, to the point where they impact those who live and work with them. You can’t make someone do the work of discernment on their life’s purpose.  Some people don’t even know you should and can consider a higher power’s  image for us.

One of the things I’m interested in for ministry with young adults is to help them navigate this process even beginning in their Jr. and Sr. years in high school.  Certainly as they leave their parent’s homes and support, they rebel and push ahead with their own ideas and desires. And, I believe it would be really helpful to them to have a trusted adult who will listen as they bring their questions and discoveries about themselves into conversation.  Buoy them with pastoral care, career workshops, service projects and trips to inform them as they find their feet on the path they were created to travel.

Two paths diverged

Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) Day 2

Rev. Howard Thurman begins his second day of devotions this way: “There is very great virtue in the cultivation of silence, and strength to be found in using it as a door to God.” (18)

I remember my cancer days when I was living alone, trying to fight in and through the imposed silence of illness and recent divorce.  I remember the endless days of prolonged silence, prayers and tears.  I remember focusing on pink healthy tissue and talking my body into warrior mode. I remember thinking God was disciplining me for some infraction in my past – some direction I had or hadn’t taken, some choice I had made that went against God’s divine will for me. I remember, and still experience at times, a depression so pervasive that not only my spirit but also my body ached.

And, during those cancer days, I’ve come see that I cultivated a silence that sanctioned an opening to the Presence of the Holy One.  I was sent messengers who cradled my broken spirit, e.g., Rev. Alois Ososo, a pastor from Kenya who was in the country for a few months and in my care for a few weeks. My most-honored-best-friend, Pat, who was my ever present island of refuge. And, I developed new and strong friendships that would not have come to pass, had I not traveled that debilitating road and truly needed others.

A man, a musician and mystic, whom I met right after finishing my protocol treatments, has engendered my mystic soul through his pilgrimage retreats.  Each August I found myself in a wooded retreat center practicing a monastic rhythm with Stefan, aka Macushla, and a wide variety of other retreat participants. These retreats included long periods of silence and featured original chant music with a profound alchemy of Celtic joviality and spiritual transcendence.  I learned to sit through the painful renderings, mine and others’, that comes from being still in the presence of God, and particularly while sitting quietly in community.

I miss those days.  I miss how we usher one another to God’s door and then step aside to allow each other our own entrance.

Draw Me Nearer                             

Deep…

          O My Heart’s Desire

                    Dip me deep beneath the surface

Lower…

          Let me glide effortlessly to you in the center of life                        

                    in the depth of senses                                    

                                in the nook of what can be possible

Nearer…

           Draw me into the cubby that fits my shape

                    that serves my work

                                that protects my heart

                                              that prospers my contentment  

water-flowers

Meditation of the Heart (Thurman) Day 1

We’re to create an island of peace within one’s own soul where we can approach the Presence of God “with no pretense, no dishonesty, no adulteration… to bring for view the purposes and dreams to which one’s life is tied.” (Howard Thurman, 17).

So, I found an image of an island and a sound file of the oldest chant we know from the Celtic tradition, The Song Of Amhairghin, as recorded on the CD “Arise My Love” by Macushla, Stefan Andre Waligur   (http://youtu.be/cbUjokfb2tc)  I’m including a poem I wrote.

I Feel Your Presence With Me

O Mystical Creator, you formed me in the ancient days of love and harmony

I faintly remember, in the lining of my soul, the tranquility that hovered there.

In the days of now, the days of rising and not remembering yesterday’s sin,

The days of ignoring and denying my loose tongue and hurtful thoughts,   

You know exactly where I am when I sit and when I stand.

You know when I move forward for justice and when I stall with indifference.

Your surround me with my better self just beyond my own vision; but I feel it- that better self.

It is your presence with me that I see and hear making its way through today’s noise.

Where can I go from your presence since you formed me and have been with me since ancient days?

If I could run as a leopard, I couldn’t flee from your spirit.

If I could shift and swing as a monkey I couldn’t out maneuver your grace.

If I slid into a pit of deep despair as dark as any otter’s den, even there you would reach in.

I hear your voice, just beyond my hearing. I see my better self, just beyond my own vision.

Even when I try to run and hide I know you as “home”.

Thank you for calling me your own.

(Meandering on Psalm 139- Fa)