Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) Section 2 Day 12

Today Rev. Thurman’s meditation brings my mind to the racial tension in our country, especially brought to a hard rolling boil with the separate shootings in Ferguson, a strangling death in New York, the remembrance of the gross misjudgement of a community watch volunteer in Florida in 2012.  It also brings to mind, as I’ve recently watched on news talk shows, police training and judicial disciplinary actions (or non action).

As Thurman says, a person has a few options on how to respond to any problem: (p. 77-78)
1) withdrawal, which is to say that the world’s “stuff” is too much to handle and; “the contradictions of experience are in themselves final and binding.”  The response would be to retreat and ignore the world’s “stuff”.

2) to reduce ALL evil (I’d describe that in terms of contributing factors, perspectives and, responses to problems) to a single entity.  Such as to say that the tension we are experiencing in our country is a racial problem.  “A radical oversimplification.”

3) to recognize that all the world is made up of raw materials immediately available “for the realization of the kingdom, the rule of God.”  In other words, all things can be used for “the achievement of the high and holy end.” This, Thurman suggests, is the position of a religious person who “is never afraid of life, nor shrinks from vicissitudes.”

I recently wrote for a seminary paper that I hoped we would not be revisiting the violence that characterized the civil rights demonstrations that peaked in Selma in 1963. “I sit at my kitchen table holding my breath and praying to God that a miracle will happen and protests will not turn violent and ugly as they did in 1963 at the height of the civil rights era. ” To which my professor commented:  “Yes…therefore, violence is a natural response of the people. Seeking peace without justice only delays addressing the real issues”. I was sobered by an overarching comment that while I prayed violence did not break out; my professor prayed that injustice did not break out.

It demonstrates how complex our world is, that while I wanted a simple (and naive) resolution, I hadn’t considered the value of violence. If you look up the word ‘violence’ you see there is a spectrum of definitions for violence that, speaking for myself at least, I hadn’t considered. The first definition I read was: Violence can be a swift and intense force.  I discovered that I need to learn the depth and breadth of expressions of violence and use them appropriately, but; I will not go to the extreme of injurious physical force.  It will be a necessary challenge (for us all) to explore something I have characterized as harmful (allow this to be an interpretation of Thurman’s word “evil”) and, as Thurman says, “alter its character thoroughly” to be an expression that serves.

Psalm Poem – Empty Handed

Empty Handed
Fa Lane

As evening comes and the sun slips behind the trees, I sense that all is slipping away –

My resolve, my vision, my determination to do better today than I did yesterday.

Instead, I sigh into my chair feeling completely empty handed.

I arrive at dusk’s light with nothing to offer as proof that I made a difference today.

And, yet, my Lord receives me.

Perhaps it’s because I AM empty that my God has a special reception for me.

I have no energy because I spent it on others today.

I have no imagination because I shared it with others today.

I have no ax to grind because I worked hard for justice today.

The Lord prepares a table before me to sustain me through the night.

Surely, goodness and mercy will flow upon me in my dreams.

I retreat, empty handed, and look to tomorrow with its renewal.

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