Weekly Meditations

Reflections on love, themes from 1 Corinthians 13. 1-3

I looked in temples, churches, and mosques. But I found the Divine within my heart. ― Rumi

This is our great covenant: To dwell together in peace, To seek the truth in love, And to help one another. — James Vila Blake

Agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. — Martin Luther King Jr.

Songs about Sacred Love:


Are you fleeing from Love because of a single humiliation?

What do you know of Love except the name?
… Since Love is loyal, it purchases one who is loyal:
it has no interest in a disloyal companion.
The human being resembles a tree; its root is a covenant with God:
that root must be cherished with all one’s might.
A weak covenant is a rotten root, without grace or fruit.
Though the boughs and leaves of the date palm are green,
greenness brings no benefit if the root is corrupt.
If a branch is without green leaves, yet has a good root,
a hundred leaves will put forth their hands in the end.
Rumi

A SERMON on LOVE by Nadia Bolz-Weber (excerpt, full article: https://www.patheos.com/resources/additional-resources/2010/02/sermon-on-love?p=2)

… the really amazing thing about 1 Corinthians 13 is that even hundreds of thousands of schlocky wedding and inspirational posters and bad Christian coffee mugs can’t kill it.  Paul’s hymn to Love is perhaps one of the most recognizable texts in the New Testament.  And it is really beautiful… but it has just about nothing to do with romance.

To be sure, the subject of love is a tricky one.  I think because we so often are loved poorly, loved incompletely, loved conditionally.  The subject of love is a tricky one because we so often love poorly, incompletely, and conditionally.  And, forgive the pop psychology, but my theory is that when we are loved so poorly we begin, on some level, to assume that we are maybe undeserving of being loved well.  And from this state of being loved poorly, feeling undeserving, and then loving poorly in return — which, let’s face it, is the foundation of Oprah’s and Dr. Phil’s entire empires — we do some stuff that’s… unhelpful.

I’ve been thinking about the things I’ve done in my life to try and make myself more lovable.  I lost weight, I tried to not use big words, I tried laughing even when a joke wasn’t funny.  And when I was dating Matthew (and those of you who know me will get this) I went camping.  I tried showing the other person only the parts of myself that I thought were lovable, and if there weren’t enough of those parts then I just manufactured some.  Because I was sure that to know me is actually not to Love me.

… Richard Rohr has a way of assessing our spiritual health… namely what do we do with pain?  Do we transmit it or do we transform it?  Because the mirror in which we might see ourselves as God sees us gets dimmer and dimmer when the pain of being human is transmitted to us and not transformed.  As our own sin and brokenness begins to be a lens through which we view ourselves and others, the mirror grows dimmer. And then the pain of not knowing who we really are becomes transmitted through all the things Paul describes: arrogance, impatience, unkindness, envy, selfishness.It can be a desperate cycle based on something as simple as the truth my mother once spoke: “Honey, bullies just bully out of their own hurt inside as though they have to spread it.” But this is true of so many things when we think about it.  And I think what Paul was saying to his little church plant gone bad was: stop hurting each other.  Stop transmitting your hurt and sin.  Because from that state of being loved poorly, feeling undeserving, and then loving poorly in return, we do some stuff that’s… unhelpful.

This letter to the church in Corinth … told them who they were not by telling them about history or biology or sociology, but by telling them about love. Not the emotion of Love. Not the sentiment of Love. Not the romance of Love. Because honestly, I have yet to see a Hallmark card with I love you so much that I will endure you. Or, My love for you bears all your things.  But Paul writes of Love as origin.  Love as source.  Love as God, and God as Love.  This Love has really nothing to do with feeling nice.  It’s actually not about feelings at all, it’s about truth.  It’s about the truth of who we are through the eyes of a God who knows us fully.

This love described by Paul isn’t mushy and sentimental.  It’s tough and unwilling to yield. This love — which is patient and kind and isn’t rude or boastful and is self-giving and all that — here’s what is scary about this kind of love:  you can’t manipulate it.  There is no amount of weight loss, piety, personality management, big smiles, or strained pretense that can effect this love.  And maybe in the absence of manipulation we stand bare before the eyes of God. This love is found in the gaze of God as God looks upon us naked and whole. Because this type of love is characterized by the giver not the receiver.  Gone are the strivings and manipulations and efforts to make ourselves more lovable.  In the face-to-face Gaze of the beloved we are known because we are loved.  We aren’t loved because we are known — that leads again to trying to gussy ourselves up to be lovable.

We are known by God because we are loved by God.  Think about that.  The truth of who we were before any pain and hurt was transmitted to us by those who are hurt and in pain…before we forgot our song… we were loved.  Paul says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.”  For now we manipulate our selves and our image and our loved ones and see only dimly.  Now we gaze in the mirror and see only part of who we are and even then the image is reversed.  But we have the promise that in the fullness of time we will see face to face with God.  Because, Paul writes, “Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

The truth of who you are is found in the eyes of God, not the eyes of the world.  It is the love of God who created this world and called it Good. It is the love of a God who brought the Israelites out of slavery, who fed Ruth and Naomi, who walked among us as Jesus of Nazareth, it is the love of the God who knit you together in your mother’s womb that gets to tell you who you are.  Nothing else. Not the media, not a family who wishes you were different, and not even yourself.  Only the God who knows and loves you fully can tell you who you are. And this is true of everyone, the good the bad and the boring.

In the movie Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean offered pastoral care to a despicable murderer.  He was an unrepentant, wretched man.  Yet her faith in a loving God allowed her, moments before his execution, to say to him, “I want the last face you see in this world to be the face of love, so you look at me when they do this thing. I’ll be the face of love for you.”

I think Paul might be telling us to be the face of love for each other.  When we know that we are loved by God in the fullness of God’s knowledge of us we are free to live in this love.  Free to transmit the love of Christ in a hurting world.  Free to see ourselves and others as God sees us. Not because we are good, but because we are loved.  And seeing just a glimpse, wanting it, moving toward it, brings us closer to what is promised to us forever: that we will see God, who is love, face to face. Amen


ON SACRED LOVE (AGAPE)

There is sweet family love, entangled by history, need, frustration and annoyance. There is community love, a love of music, Zorba’s reckless love of life. It can be vital or serene. There’s the ecstatic love — for the natural world, or in bed — there’s the love of justice or the radical transforming love of what we might call Goodness, Gus (Great Universal Spirit), or God. — Anne Lamott

Let your goal not be to be the first or the best. Let your goal be to be the peace, love, and light of the Divine.― Hiral Nagda

This fire that we call Loving is too strong for human minds. But just right for human souls. ― Aberjhani

For love is a celestial harmony
Of likely hearts compos’d of stars’ concent,
Which join together in sweet sympathy,
To work each other’s joy and true content,
Which they have harbour’d since their first descent
Out of their heavenly bowers, where they did see
And know each other here belov’d to be.”
― Edmund Spenser

I am in you and you in me, mutual in divine love. — William Blake

Show me your hands. Do they have scars from giving? Show me your feet. Are they wounded in service? Show me your heart. Have you left a place for divine love? — Fulton J. Sheen

There are no galley-slaves in the royal vessel of divine love – every man works his oar voluntarily! — St. Francis de Sales

Agape love is selfless love . . . the love God wants us to have isn’t just an emotion but a conscious act of the will—a deliberate decision on our part to put others ahead of ourselves. This is the kind of love God has for us. — Billy Graham

Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re worthy. Agape makes them worthy by the strength and power of its love. Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re beautiful. Agape loves in such a way that it makes them beautiful. — Rob Bell

Agape is disinterested love. Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes.
Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friend and enemy; it is directed toward both. — Martin Luther King Jr.


Giving Out of Love, Giving Out of Guilt — Rachel Held Evans (full article: https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/giving-guilt)

I realized that I was giving out of guilt, not love.  And according to Paul, even the greatest, most dramatic acts of charity will leave me feeling empty if I do them out of self-interest (easing my conscience) rather than out of love (easing other people’s burdens).

[Note that Paul says that, “I gain nothing.” For a kid in desperate need of clean water, a well is a well—regardless of whether a donor gave out of love or guilt. I firmly believe that giving out of guilt is better than not giving at all, and that sometimes our acts of faithfulness must precede (or do without) our pure motives.]

So lately I’ve been asking God to show me how to give out of guilt rather than love.  A few things have come to mind:

  • First of all, I’ve got to stop measuring the amount of love in my life by the amount of money/publicity I give to my favorite non-profit organizations. The truth is, it’s easier for me to love people I have never met (kids with AIDS in Africa) than it is to love people I have met (that hard-core conservative down the street who always gives me flack about my politics).  It’s easier for me to have compassion on the widows I spent a week with in India than the women I see every day. It’s easier for me to say I am intellectually committed to Jesus’ teaching that we are to love our enemies than it is for me to let go of the bitterness I carry around from people who have wronged me.  In other words, if I have no compassion for my friends and neighbors, what I give to strangers is just charity—not love.  But if I can become more patient, kind, understanding, forgiving and compassionate toward those around me, what I give to those in far away places will come from the overflow of love already in my heart.
  • Secondly, I’ve got to stop looking at the “poor and needy” as mere objects of my charity and actually form interdependent relationships with the people around me—where I am a part of their community and they are a part of my community.  It’s so much harder, yet so much more authentic and rewarding, to give to people I know than it is to give to people I keep at arm’s length. It’s even harder (for me) to make it reciprocal, to accept their help and friendship in return. My pride likes to keep me in the position of giving rather than receiving.
  • Finally, my favorite trick for easing my conscience is to judge people who don’t give as much or care as much as I do. But this is not love. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  The best way to inspire others to give more is not to tell them to give more, but to live as an example—without judgment, without pride, without envy, without (gulp) cynicism.  (Looks like I’m going to have to meditate on this passage a bit more!)

Meditations on getting mad: themes from Mark’s story about Jesus overturning tables in the temple

.. behind every comfortable emotion there is a met need, and behind every uncomfortable emotion there is an unmet need. — Human Systems, link: https://humansystems.co/emotionwheels/

Love dancing with rage, rage dancing with love, becomes the greatest spiritual, moral, and political task in each generation. —Danté Stewart

The trick with anger is to let it inform us, maybe even to let it warm us if we have become too cold with indifference or apathy, but not to let the fire control or consume us. —Sara Jolena Wolcott

If we are struggling to seek God single-heartedly, to learn to weep the anger out of ourselves is a matter of self-respect. —Maggie Ross

Faced with an outrage, anger is the price we pay for paying attention. It is the rage that ought to come out, because, when faced with an outrage, it is a sin not to be angry. —Allen Dwight Callahan


SONGS about GETTING MAD & BEING ANGRY:


A lot of us are so angry. Angry that our inherent worth and dignity seems up for debate …. Angry that love of power seems to trump love of neighbor. Repurpose our anger into righteous action, Lord.
     …  My fear is turning to anger and I am afraid that my anger can turn so easily to hate and hate is the thing I say I am against. Turn me away from hate. My heart can’t take that kind of brittleness because I need it to give and to receive love. Remind me that my heart is spoken for. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

A CERTAIN SHARPNESS in the MORNING AIR — Mary Oliver

In the morning
it shuffles, unhurried,
across the wet fields
in its black slippers,
in its coal-colored coat
with the white stripe like a river
running down its spine–
a glossy animal with a quick temper
and two bulbs of such diatribe under its tail
that when I see it I pray
not to be noticed–
not to be strick
by the flat boards of its anger–
for the whole haul of its smell
is unendurable–
like tragedy
that can’t be borne,
like death
that has to be buried, or burned–
but a little of it is another story–
for it’s trud, isn’t it,
in our world,
that the petals pooled with nectar, and the polished thorns
are a single thing–
that even the curest light, lacking the robe of darkness,
would be without expression–
that love itself, without its pain, would be
no more than a shruggable comfort.
Lately, I have noticed, when the skunk’s temper has tilted in the distance,
and the acids are floating everywhere,
and I am touched, it is all, even in my nostrils and my throat, as the brushing of thorns,
and I stand there
thinking of the old, wild life of the fields, when, as I remember it,
I was shaggy, and beautiful,
like the rose.


ANGER Against BEASTS — Wendell Berry

The hook of adrenalin shoves
into the blood.  Man’s will,
long skilled to kill or have
its way, would drive the beast
against nature, transcend
the impossible in simple fury.

The blow falls like a dead seed.
It is defeat for beasts
do not pardon, but heal or die
in the absence of the past.

The blow survives in the man.
His triumph is a wound. Spent,
he must wait the slow
unalterable forgiveness of time.


SPIRITUAL PRACTICE: “Cooking” Anger — Thich Nhat Hanh, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames (New York: Riverhead Books, 2001), 28, 29–30, article from Center for Action and Contemplation: https://cac.org/daily-meditations/when-anger-meets-love-weekly-summary/

Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh offers instructions for softening our anger by letting it “cook”:

Your anger is like a flower. In the beginning you may not understand the nature of your anger, or why it has come up. But if you know how to embrace it with the energy of mindfulness, it will begin to open….

You need to sustain your mindfulness for a certain amount of time in order for the flower of anger to open herself. It’s like when you cook potatoes; you put the potatoes in the pot, cover it, and put it on the fire…. You have to keep the fire burning for at least fifteen or twenty minutes in order for the potatoes to cook. After that, you open the lid, and you smell the wonderful aroma of cooked potatoes.

Your anger is like that—it needs to be cooked. In the beginning it is raw. You cannot eat raw potatoes. Your anger is very difficult to enjoy, but if you know how to take care of it, to cook it, then the negative energy of your anger will become the positive energy of understanding and compassion.

You can do it. It is not something only a Great Being can do. You can do it, too. You can transform the garbage of anger into the flower of compassion.… The secret is to continue the practice of mindful breathing, the practice of mindful walking, generating the energy of mindfulness in order to embrace your anger.

Embrace your anger with a lot of tenderness. Your anger is not your enemy, your anger is your baby. It’s like your stomach or your lungs. Every time you have some trouble in your lungs or your stomach, you don’t think of throwing them away. The same is true with your anger. You accept your anger because you know you can take care of it; you can transform it into positive energy.


GOOD and NECESSARY ANGER—  Fr. Richard Rohr, and the Center for Action and Contemplation: full article: https://cac.org/daily-meditations/good-and-necessary-anger/

Dr. Barbara Holmes describes her felt experience of anger: Anger is intense. Often, there is a flash of heat and disorientation and the need to justify or retaliate. When I was a child, anger was my response to hurt feelings. When offended, I would lash out or run crying to my mom. In her arms, and with her reassurances, I could quell a heat of rage so intense that it threatened to overtake me. Anger is an emotion that consumes mind and body—but sometimes anger is necessary for survival. [1]

Richard explains how anger helps develop healthy individuals and communities: Anger is good and very necessary to protect appropriate boundaries of self and others. In men’s work, we call it the “good warrior” archetype. On the other hand, anger becomes self-defeating and egocentric when it hangs around too long after we have received its message. But conscious, visible, felt anger is a gift to consciousness and to community. We need it to know who we are and what boundaries must be defended, along with the depth of hurt and alienation in ourselves and in others with which we are dealing. [2]

Holmes continues: Many spiritual traditions warn us against anger. We are told that anger provides fertile ground for seeds of discontent, anxiety, and potential harm to self and others. This is true. However, when systems of injustice inflict generational abuses upon people and communities because of their ethnicity, race, sexuality, and/or gender, anger as righteous indignation is appropriate, healthy, and necessary for survival

Jesus expressed righteous indignation when he encountered the unjust systems of religious and Roman authorities, yet Christian theologies shy away from the integration of anger into their canons. How can churches continue to ignore anger and still be relevant during this era when everyone is angry about everything? People of color are angry about police brutality, white supremacy, white privilege, and economic marginalization.…

A theology of anger [for communities under siege] assumes that anger as a response to injustice is spiritually healthy…. A theology of anger can help us to construct healthy boundaries … [and] the healthy expression of righteous anger can translate communal despair into compassionate action and justice-seeking.… The question is whether or not we will recognize our wounds and the source of our anger so that we can heal ourselves and others and awaken to our potential to embody the beloved community….

If we take a theology of anger seriously, first we come together, then we grieve together, then we consider where we are and where we are going. If there is opportunity, we engage in deep considerations of cause and effect, and we listen for the whispers of the Holy Spirit.… Our health and wholeness require that we take off our masks of Christian piety and do the difficult work of acknowledging our anger, our vulnerability, and our pain. It is this contemplative work that moves us toward forgiveness, for when we recognize our own human frailty, we can more easily forgive the fragility and failings of others. [3]


WHAT IS ANGER? — mind.org.uk; full article: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anger/about-anger/

We all feel angry at times – it’s part of being human. Anger is a normal, healthy emotion.

There are many different reasons why we might feel angry. We may feel anger at having been treated badly or unfairly by others. Our anger may be a reaction to difficult experiences in our daily life, our past, or in the world around us. Or it may be a way to cope with other emotions. For example, we may feel anger alongside feeling attacked, powerless, embarrassed or scared. Our page on causes of anger has more information.

We may not know why we feel angry and that’s okay too. We don’t always need to justify or explain why we feel a certain way.

Sometimes anger can be a helpful emotion. But sometimes it can be difficult to manage and make our lives harder.

Learning how to recognise, express and manage anger can make a big difference to our mental health. Our page on managing your anger has some tips on how to deal with anger.

Under 18? Read our tips on anger for young people. Go to young people’s page

How can anger be helpful? 

Feeling angry can sometimes be useful. For example, feeling angry about something can:

  • Help us identify problems
  • Help protect us from things that are hurting us
  • Help us feel more energised or focused on a task
  • Motivate us to push for changes in the world or to help others who are being treated badly
  • Help us to challenge and stand against injustice or discrimination
  • Help us stay safe and defend ourselves in dangerous situations by giving us a burst of energy as part of our body’s natural response to threats

Anger is something I had always been discouraged from feeling. But a degree of protective anger can be really healthy and healing.

How can anger be unhelpful?

Anger can be a difficult emotion to cope with. And we all have times where we may struggle with anger. Sometimes, anger can:

  • Distract us from what we need to do
  • Make us say or do things we regret
  • Make it harder for us to express ourselves clearly or calmly
  • Lead to arguments or conflict with others
  • Make us feel guilty and ashamed
  • Stop us from recognising or dealing with other emotions
  • Make it harder for us to take care of ourselves
  • Impact our self-esteem
  • Have an effect on our bodies, for example, impacting our sleep
  • Lead to people making judgements about us

When is anger a problem?

We can all struggle to manage our anger at times. But signs that it may be becoming a problem for you include:

  • You feel like you can’t control your anger, or that it controls your life
  • You express your anger through unhelpful or destructive behaviour, such as violence or self-harm
  • You’re worried your behaviour may become abusive
  • Your anger is having a negative effect on your relationships, work, studies or hobbies
  • Your anger is often hurting, frightening or upsetting the people around you
  • You feel unable to get on with your daily life because of your anger
  • You find yourself thinking about your anger all the time
  • You’re often doing or saying things that you regret afterwards
  • Your anger is having a negative impact on your overall mental and physical health
  • Anger is becoming your go-to emotion, blocking out your ability to feel other emotions
  • Your anger regularly makes you feel worse about yourself or your life
  • You can’t remember things you do or say when you’re angry
  • You’re using alcohol or drugs to cope with your anger

We can’t make our anger go away. But if you feel that your anger is becoming a problem for you, there are ways that you can try to manage it. It’s important to seek treatment and support, especially if you’re worried your anger may put you or others at risk.


CONTROL ANGER BEFORE IT CONTROLS YOU — American Psyhcological Association, full article: https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control

The nature of anger

Anger is “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage,” according to Charles Spielberger, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in the study of anger. Like other emotions, it is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.

Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person (such as a coworker or supervisor) or event (a traffic jam, a canceled flight), or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your personal problems. Memories of traumatic or enraging events can also trigger angry feelings.

Expressing anger

The instinctive, natural way to express anger is to respond aggressively. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviors, which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary to our survival.

On the other hand, we can’t physically lash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us; laws, social norms, and common sense place limits on how far our anger can take us.

People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. The three main approaches are expressing, suppressing, and calming. Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive—not aggressive—manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn’t mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others.

Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. The danger in this type of response is that if it isn’t allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward—on yourself. Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression.

Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments haven’t learned how to constructively express their anger. Not surprisingly, they aren’t likely to have many successful relationships.

Finally, you can calm down inside. This means not just controlling your outward behavior, but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps to lower your heart rate, calm yourself down, and let the feelings subside.

As Dr. Spielberger notes, “when none of these three techniques work, that’s when someone—or something—is going to get hurt.”

Anger management

The goal of anger management is to reduce both your emotional feelings and the physiological arousal that anger causes. You can’t get rid of, or avoid, the things or the people that enrage you, nor can you change them, but you can learn to control your reactions.

Are you too angry?

There are psychological tests that measure the intensity of angry feelings, how prone to anger you are, and how well you handle it. But chances are good that if you do have a problem with anger, you already know it. If you find yourself acting in ways that seem out of control and frightening, you might need help finding better ways to deal with this emotion.

Why are some people more angry than others?

According to Jerry Deffenbacher, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in anger management, some people really are more “hotheaded” than others are; they get angry more easily and more intensely than the average person does. There are also those who don’t show their anger in loud spectacular ways but are chronically irritable and grumpy. Easily angered people don’t always curse and throw things; sometimes they withdraw socially, sulk, or get physically ill.

People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that they feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. They can’t take things in stride, and they’re particularly infuriated if the situation seems somehow unjust: for example, being corrected for a minor mistake.

What makes these people this way? A number of things. One cause may be genetic or physiological: There is evidence that some children are born irritable, touchy, and easily angered, and that these signs are present from a very early age. Another may be sociocultural. Anger is often regarded as negative; we’re taught that it’s all right to express anxiety, depression, or other emotions but not to express anger. As a result, we don’t learn how to handle it or channel it constructively.

Research has also found that family background plays a role. Typically, people who are easily angered come from families that are disruptive, chaotic, and not skilled at emotional communications.

Is it good to “let it all hang out?”

Psychologists now say that this is a dangerous myth. Some people use this theory as a license to hurt others. Research has found that “letting it rip” with anger actually escalates anger and aggression and does nothing to help you (or the person you’re angry with) resolve the situation.

It’s best to find out what it is that triggers your anger, and then to develop strategies to keep those triggers from tipping you over the edge.

Strategies to keep anger at bay
Relaxation

Simple relaxation tools, such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery, can help calm down angry feelings. There are books and courses that can teach you relaxation techniques, and once you learn the techniques, you can call upon them in any situation. If you are involved in a relationship where both partners are hot-tempered, it might be a good idea for both of you to learn these techniques.

Some simple steps you can try:

  • Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won’t relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your “gut.”
  • Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as “relax,” “take it easy.” Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
  • Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
  • Nonstrenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer.

Practice these techniques daily. Learn to use them automatically when you’re in a tense situation.

Cognitive restructuring

Simply put, this means changing the way you think. Angry people tend to curse, swear, or speak in highly colorful terms that reflect their inner thoughts. When you’re angry, your thinking can get very exaggerated and overly dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones. For instance, instead of telling yourself, “oh, it’s awful, it’s terrible, everything’s ruined,” tell yourself, “it’s frustrating, and it’s understandable that I’m upset about it, but it’s not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it anyhow.”

Be careful of words like “never” or “always” when talking about yourself or someone else. “This !&*%@ machine never works,” or “you’re always forgetting things” are not just inaccurate, they also serve to make you feel that your anger is justified and that there’s no way to solve the problem. They also alienate and humiliate people who might otherwise be willing to work with you on a solution.

Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything, that it won’t make you feel better (and may actually make you feel worse).

Logic defeats anger, because anger, even when it’s justified, can quickly become irrational. So use cold hard logic on yourself. Remind yourself that the world is “not out to get you,” you’re just experiencing some of the rough spots of daily life. Do this each time you feel anger getting the best of you, and it’ll help you get a more balanced perspective. Angry people tend to demand things: fairness, appreciation, agreement, willingness to do things their way. Everyone wants these things, and we are all hurt and disappointed when we don’t get them, but angry people demand them, and when their demands aren’t met, their disappointment becomes anger.

As part of their cognitive restructuring, angry people need to become aware of their demanding nature and translate their expectations into desires. In other words, saying, “I would like” something is healthier than saying, “I demand” or “I must have” something. When you’re unable to get what you want, you will experience the normal reactions—frustration, disappointment, hurt—but not anger. Some angry people use this anger as a way to avoid feeling hurt, but that doesn’t mean the hurt goes away.

Problem solving

Sometimes, our anger and frustration are caused by very real and inescapable problems in our lives. Not all anger is misplaced, and often it’s a healthy, natural response to these difficulties. There is also a cultural belief that every problem has a solution, and it adds to our frustration to find out that this isn’t always the case. The best attitude to bring to such a situation, then, is not to focus on finding the solution, but rather on how you handle and face the problem.

Make a plan, and check your progress along the way. Resolve to give it your best, but also not to punish yourself if an answer doesn’t come right away. If you can approach it with your best intentions and efforts and make a serious attempt to face it head-on, you will be less likely to lose patience and fall into all-or-nothing thinking, even if the problem does not get solved right away.

Better communication

Angry people tend to jump to—and act on—conclusions, and some of those conclusions can be very inaccurate. The first thing to do if you’re in a heated discussion is slow down and think through your responses. Don’t say the first thing that comes into your head, but slow down and think carefully about what you want to say. At the same time, listen carefully to what the other person is saying and take your time before answering.

Listen, too, to what is underlying the anger. For instance, you like a certain amount of freedom and personal space, and your “significant other” wants more connection and closeness. If he or she starts complaining about your activities, don’t retaliate by painting your partner as a jailer, a warden, or an albatross around your neck.

It’s natural to get defensive when you’re criticized, but don’t fight back. Instead, listen to what’s underlying the words: the message that this person might feel neglected and unloved. It may take a lot of patient questioning on your part, and it may require some breathing space, but don’t let your anger—or a partner’s—let a discussion spin out of control. Keeping your cool can keep the situation from becoming a disastrous one.

Using humor

“Silly humor” can help defuse rage in a number of ways. For one thing, it can help you get a more balanced perspective. When you get angry and call someone a name or refer to them in some imaginative phrase, stop and picture what that word would literally look like. If you’re at work and you think of a coworker as a “dirtbag” or a “single-cell life form,” for example, picture a large bag full of dirt (or an amoeba) sitting at your colleague’s desk, talking on the phone, going to meetings. Do this whenever a name comes into your head about another person. If you can, draw a picture of what the actual thing might look like. This will take a lot of the edge off your fury; and humor can always be relied on to help unknot a tense situation.

The underlying message of highly angry people, Dr. Deffenbacher says, is “things oughta go my way!” Angry people tend to feel that they are morally right, that any blocking or changing of their plans is an unbearable indignity and that they should not have to suffer this way. Maybe other people do, but not them!

When you feel that urge, he suggests, picture yourself as a god or goddess, a supreme ruler, who owns the streets and stores and office space, striding alone and having your way in all situations while others defer to you. The more detail you can get into your imaginary scenes, the more chances you have to realize that maybe you are being unreasonable; you’ll also realize how unimportant the things you’re angry about really are. There are two cautions in using humor. First, don’t try to just “laugh off” your problems; rather, use humor to help yourself face them more constructively. Second, don’t give in to harsh, sarcastic humor; that’s just another form of unhealthy anger expression.

What these techniques have in common is a refusal to take yourself too seriously. Anger is a serious emotion, but it’s often accompanied by ideas that, if examined, can make you laugh.

Changing your environment

Sometimes it’s our immediate surroundings that give us cause for irritation and fury. Problems and responsibilities can weigh on you and make you feel angry at the “trap” you seem to have fallen into and all the people and things that form that trap.

Give yourself a break. Make sure you have some “personal time” scheduled for times of the day that you know are particularly stressful. One example is the working mother who has a standing rule that when she comes home from work, for the first 15 minutes “nobody talks to Mom unless the house is on fire.” After this brief quiet time, she feels better prepared to handle demands from her kids without blowing up at them.

Some other tips for easing up on yourself

Timing: If you and your spouse tend to fight when you discuss things at night—perhaps you’re tired, or distracted, or maybe it’s just habit—try changing the times when you talk about important matters so these talks don’t turn into arguments.

Avoidance: If your child’s chaotic room makes you furious every time you walk by it, shut the door. Don’t make yourself look at what infuriates you. Don’t say, “well, my child should clean up the room so I won’t have to be angry!” That’s not the point. The point is to keep yourself calm.

Finding alternatives: If your daily commute through traffic leaves you in a state of rage and frustration, give yourself a project—learn or map out a different route, one that’s less congested or more scenic. Or find another alternative, such as a bus or commuter train.

Do you need counseling?

If you feel that your anger is really out of control, if it is having an impact on your relationships and on important parts of your life, you might consider counseling to learn how to handle it better. A psychologist or other licensed mental health professional can work with you in developing a range of techniques for changing your thinking and your behavior.

When you talk to a prospective therapist, tell them that you have problems with anger that you want to work on, and ask about their approach to anger management. Make sure this isn’t only a course of action designed to “put you in touch with your feelings and express them”—that may be precisely what your problem is. With counseling, psychologists say, a highly angry person can move closer to a middle range of anger in about 8 to 10 weeks, depending on the circumstances and the techniques used.

What about assertiveness training?

It’s true that angry people need to learn to become assertive (rather than aggressive), but most books and courses on developing assertiveness are aimed at people who don’t feel enough anger. These people are more passive and acquiescent than the average person; they tend to let others walk all over them. That isn’t something that most angry people do. Still, these books can contain some useful tactics to use in frustrating situations.

Remember, you can’t eliminate anger—and it wouldn’t be a good idea if you could. In spite of all your efforts, things will happen that will cause you anger; and sometimes it will be justifiable anger. Life will be filled with frustration, pain, loss, and the unpredictable actions of others. You can’t change that; but you can change the way you let such events affect you. Controlling your angry responses can keep them from making you even more unhappy in the long run.


Reflections on fear and courage and other elements: themes from Matthew 14

There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in. ― Desmond Tutu


SONGS about FEAR & COURAGE:


MINDFUL WALKING

This story is told of the sage Ramakrishna. Once a man came to Ramakrishna, sitting on the banks of the Ganges. “Master,” he called to Ramakrishna, “Look! After fourteen years of dedicated practice I have finally achieved my life’s goal. I can walk now on water.”
       “Fie on it,” Ramakrishna replied. “You have achieved what is worth only a penny, for what you have spent a lifetime acquiring, ordinary people do by paying the ferry boatman a penny.”David Anderson, findingyoursoul.com

When the 12 Thai boys who were trapped in a cave and were rescued one by one were first discovered by British divers earlier this month, they were reportedly meditating. “Look at how calm they were sitting there waiting. No one was crying or anything. It was astonishing,” the mother of one of the boys told the AP, referring to a widely shared video of the moment the boys were found. Turns out that their coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, who led them on a hike into the cave when it flooded on June 23, trained in meditation as a Buddhist monk for a decade before becoming a soccer coach. According to multiple news sources, he taught the boys, ages 11 to 16, to meditate in the cave to keep them calm and preserve their energy through their two-week ordeal. — vox.com

Suppose two astronauts go to the moon. When they arrive, they have an accident and find out that they have only enough oxygen for two days. There is no hope of someone coming from Earth in time to rescue them. They have only two days to live. If you asked them at that moment, “What is your deepest wish?” they would answer, “To be back home walking on the beautiful planet Earth.” That would be enough for them; they would not want anything else. They would not want to be the head of a large corporation, a big celebrity or president of the United States. They would not want anything except to be back on Earth – to be walking on Earth, enjoying every step, listening to the sounds of nature and holding the hand of their beloved while contemplating the moon.
We should live every day like people who have just been rescued from the moon. We are on Earth now, and we need to enjoy walking on this precious beautiful planet. The Zen master Lin Chi said, “The miracle is not to walk on water but to walk on the Earth.” I cherish that teaching. I enjoy just walking, even in busy places like airports and railway stations. In walking like that, with each step caressing our Mother Earth, we can inspire other people to do the same. We can enjoy every minute of our lives. ― Thich Nhat Hanh


ON RESCUE

There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in. ― Desmond Tutu

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly … — Theodore Roosevelt

The game wardens have been walking in the rain all day, walking through the woods in the freezing rain trying to find your sister. They would have walked all day tomorrow, walked in the cold rain the rest of the week, searching for Betsy, so they could bring her home to you. And if there is one thing I am sure of—one thing I am very, very sure of, Dan—it is that God is not less kind, less committed, or less merciful than a Maine game warden. — Kate Braestrup

One person of integrity can make a difference. ― Elie Wiesel

Love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills. — Leo Tolstoy

It runs through all our folklore, all human religions, all our literature–a racial conviction that when one human needs rescue, others should not count the price. ― Robert A. Heinlein

God uses rescued people to rescue people. — Christine Caine

Rescue the drowning and tie your shoestrings. — Henry David Thoreau

The greatest threat that I need to be rescued from is myself. Everything comes a lot easier after that. ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

People rescue each other. They build shelters and community kitchens and ways to deal with lost children and eventually rebuild one way or another. — Rebecca Solnit

God is no White Knight who charges into the world to pluck us like distressed damsels from the jaws of dragons, or diseases. God chooses to become present to and through us. It is up to us to rescue one another. — Nancy Mairs

Even grief recedes with time and grace. But our resolve must not pass. Each of us will remember what happened that day, and to whom it happened. We’ll remember the moment the news came — where we were and what we were doing. Some will remember an image of a fire, or a story of rescue. Some will carry memories of a face and a voice gone forever. — George W. Bush

People rescue each other. They build shelters and community kitchens and ways to deal with lost children and eventually rebuild one way or another. Rebecca Solnit
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/rescue

 

People rescue each other. They build shelters and community kitchens and ways to deal with lost children and eventually rebuild one way or another. Rebecca Solnit
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/rescu

When we have been brought very low and helped, sorely wounded and healed, cast down and raised again, have given up all hope–and been suddenly snatched from danger, and placed in safety; and when these things have been repeated to us and in us a thousand times over, we begin to learn to trust simply to the word and power of God, beyond and against appearances … — John Newton

I, God, am in your midst. Whoever knows me can never fall. Not in the heights, nor in the depths, nor in the breadths. For I am love, which the vast expanses of evil can never still. – Hildegard of Bingen

For as soon as we have used an opportunity and have actualized a potential meaning, we have done so once and for all. We have rescued it into the past/…/, wherein nothing is irretrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured. ― Viktor E. Frankl


ALONE

AloneMaya Angelou

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.


ON WATER

In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans; in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence. ― Kahlil Gibran

As it happens my own reverence for water has always taken the form of this constant meditation upon where the water is, of an obsessive interest not in the politics of water but in the waterworks themselves, in the movement of water through aqueducts and siphons and pumps and forebays and afterbays and weirs and drains, in plumbing on the grand scale. — Joan Didion

The water you kids were playing in, he said, had probably been to Africa and the North Pole. Genghis Khan or Saint Peter or even Jesus may have drunk it. Cleopatra might have bathed in it. Crazy Horse might have watered his pony with it. Sometimes water was liquid. Sometimes it was rock hard- ice. Sometimes it was soft- snow. Sometimes it was visible but weightless- clouds. And sometimes it was completely invisible- vapor- floating up into the the sky like the soals of dead people. There was nothing like water in the world, Jim said. It made the desert bloom but also turned rich bottomland into swamp. Without it we’d die, but it could also kill us, and that was why we loved it, even craved it, but also feared it. Never take water forgranted, Jim said. Always cherish it. Always beware of it. ― Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses

Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does. ― Margaret Atwood

The ocean makes me feel really small and it makes me put my whole life into perspective… it humbles you and makes you feel almost like you’ve been baptized. I feel born again when I get out of the ocean. ― Beyoncé

Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars mirrored in your own being. — Rumi


Commentary on Matthew 14: Walking on Water

See if you recognize yourself in this story: Because maybe some of us are like the ones in the boat who are afraid. Maybe you are so caught up in the fear of making the wrong decision that you can’t make any decision at all. Or maybe you are like the one experiencing the thrill of stepping into the unknown –  a new relationship or a new job or you’ve just moved to Denver leaving behind the familiar – and maybe the first few steps are ok but then it gets scary.  Or maybe you or the person next to you is the one who is sinking in debt or depression or maybe you feel like you’re sinking because what you could handle last month you just can’t handle now. Or maybe you’re the one who knows you’re doomed, knows that all your own efforts have failed and you are crying out to God to save you and you’re the ones who Jesus has reached down to catch and you’re clinging on to the sweet hand of Jesus with all you’ve got.  or maybe you’re the one in the boat looking in wonder all you’ve just seen… you’re the one who bears witness to the miracle and danger of it all and how the hand of God reaches down and pulls us up and you see it and can’t help but say “truly this is God.” At some point or other I know I have been all of the above … But all these characters in the walking on water story – the cautious ones in the boat, the brave one who walked for a time on water, the same one who is afraid and sinks and calls for help, and the ones who saw it all and confessed that Jesus is the son of God they are all actually equal in their relationship to God because…all of these and you have one thing in common: they are those whom Jesus draws near saying “it is I, do not be afraid”. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

This is a story about us in liminal space. Richard Rohr describes liminal space as: a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be, but where God is always leading us. It is when we have left the “tried and true” but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when we are finally out of the way. In liminal space, we do not yet know where to look. Should we strain our eyes to get a clearer view of what we can only trust is before us? Dare we risk looking away from what is around us that we can easily see and understand? It is hard not to doubt and be afraid when we are in-between. Liminal space is often associated with rituals of passage. Sacred moments of transition require big steps toward a new way that is not yet clear and not without risk. We enter liminal space when we take a step without knowing quite what the next step will be. Some of us dare to step out in faith, take big risks, change the course of our lives. Others are thrust into liminal space by forces beyond their control, such as a diagnosis, an injury, a storm, a death. Some are wondering what they have done. All they know is that the boat is drifting away behind them, the waves are all around them, and Jesus still seems far away. We are in liminal space when we are not sure we believe everything we have been told. When we have many questions we are afraid to ask. When we want to renew our grounding in faith, but we are overwhelmed with options. When we know we need something but not yet sure what that something will be. In the in-between, do we have any faith at all? Liminal space is scary, but full of potential. It deepens our love enabling us to love outside the lines. It reveals a whole another world outside the box. It gives us visions of other dimensions. Jesus welcomes Peter when he dares to step out of the boat. Jesus saves Peter when he loses focus on what is ahead of him and gets lost in what he knows is around him. When you are in liminal space, muster up your faith and take a bold step into the unknown. The worst that can happen is Jesus will save you; however, you may do the spectacular like walking on water. — James York

Maybe it wasn’t a boat. Maybe this story invites you to recall another life or death situation. You might not want to recall it. You don’t have to do so. You know you could go there. You could go to a time when you were lost in a boat in a storm in the dark, either literally or figuratively. The external situation can vary, but the internal feelings are real … You know that. Everyone knows the feeling of being battered by the winds in the dark. The circumstances differ but we all experience our unique storms. While the external events are unique, the internal feelings we share in common as human beings. Actually, it is the dark that binds us. Perhaps that is why there is a holiness about it. The holiness of shared experience. The dark contains a sacredness that invites us to learn to walk in it. — John Shuck

 

Reflections on parable of the sower: themes of weeds, seeds, and many types of soil

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. — A. A. Milne

Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds. —Norman Vincent Peale

When people try to bury you, remind yourself you are a seed. ― Matshona Dhliwayo 

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me. — William Shakespeare


SONGS about SEEDS & GARDENS

SEED SONGS (Kid Music): 


Earth, Teach Me  Native American Prayer, unattributed

Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new light.
Earth teach me suffering ~ as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility ~ as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring ~ as mothers nurture their young.
Earth teach me courage ~ as the tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation ~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom ~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me acceptance ~ as the leaves that die each fall.
Earth teach me renewal ~ as the seed that rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself ~ as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness ~ as dry fields weep with rain.


Blessing That Holds
a Nest in Its Branches

— Jan Richardson

The emptiness
that you have been holding
for such a long season now;

that ache in your chest
that goes with you
night and day
in your sleeping,
your rising—

think of this
not as a mere hollow,
the void left from
the life that has leached out
of you.

Think of it like this:
as the space being prepared
for the seed.

Think of it
as your earth that dreams
of the branches
the seed contains.

Think of it
as your heart making ready
to welcome the nest
its branches will hold.


What would the world be,
once bereft
Of wet and wildness?
Let them be left,
O let them be left,
wildness and wet,
Long live the weeds
and the wildness yet.
— Gerard Manley Hopkins (excerpt from poem)


I the grain and the furrow,
The plough-cloven clod
And the ploughshare drawn thorough,
The germ and the sod,
The deed and the doer, the seed and the sower,
the dust which is God.
— Algernon Charles Swinburne, Hertha (excerpt)


ON WEEDS

The strongest and most mysterious weeds often have things to teach us. ― F.T. McKinstry

But what attracted me to weeds was not their beauty, but their resilience. I mean, despite being so widely despised, so unloved, killed with every chance we get, they are so pervasive, so seemingly invincible. ― Carol Vorvain

Some plants become weeds simply by virtue of their success rather than any other factor. You merely want less of them. — Monty Don

Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow firm there, firm as weeds among stones. — Charlotte Bronte

The weeds keep multiplying in our garden, which is our mind ruled by fear. Rip them out and call them by name. — Sylvia Browne

A man of words and not of deeds, Is like a garden full of weeds. ― Benjamin Franklin


COMMENTARY on SOWING SEEDS on DIFFERENT SOIL

Maybe the point of this parable isn’t judgement at all, maybe it’s joy. Since again and again in the midst of this thorny and rocky and good world, God still is sowing a life-giving Word. Just wantonly and indiscriminately scattering it everywhere like God doesn’t understand our rules.
Which would also mean that the thing we call the Word is not something relegated to religious institutions and ordained clergy and the piety police. The thing we call the Word isn’t locked up in some spiritual ivory tower. I am persuaded that the Word of the Lord is anything that brings good news to the poor, and comfort to those who mourn. Whatever heals the brokenhearted. Whatever opens prisons.
The Word is whatever brings freedom to slaves. Whatever brings freedom to former slaves. Whatever brings freedom to the descendants of former slaves. The Word is whatever liberates a nation from the spiritual bondage of human bondage.
And God’s Word is scattered all around us… joyfully scrawled on protest signs and heard in newborns’ cries, and seen in city streets and county fairs and shopping malls.  The Word of the Lord is written on the broken tablets of our hearts, it is falling like rain in the tears of the forgiven, it is harnessed in the laughter of our children. —Nadia Bolz-Weber, full reflection: https://thecorners.substack.com/p/gods-wastefulness

If we want to return our hardened paths to their natural condition so grass and flowers and trees can grow, they have to be plowed up, the soil aerated, new seeds planted and the rain and the sun allowed to do their work without force or interference. That’s what listening to the word of God does for hearts trampled down by the back-and-forth of busyness and that are hardened by the heat of over-exposure. — Kenrt from cslewisfoundation, full reflection: https://www.cslewis.org/blog/january-13-2014/


ON SEEDS

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. — Napoleon Hill

Your heart is full of fertile seeds, waiting to sprout. — Morihei Ueshiba

The seed is in the ground. Now may we rest in hope, while darkness does its work. ~ Wendell Berry

From seeds of his body blossomed the flower that liberated a people and touched the soul of a nation. — Jesse Jackson

We are a seed patiently waiting in the earth: waiting to come up a flower in the Gardener’s good time, up into the real world, the real waking. I suppose that our whole present life, looked back on from there, will seem only a drowsy half-waking. We are here in the land of dreams. But cock-crow is coming. — CS Lewis

I hope that upon this scorched earth we have planted the seeds of ideas that will bear the fruit of more diverse and inclusive stories ….  — Wilson Cruz

By cultivating the beautiful we scatter the seeds of heavenly flowers, as by doing good we cultivate those that belong to humanity. —Robert A. Heinlein

A seed neither fears light nor darkness, but uses both to grow.― Matshona Dhliwayo

Inside the seed are many trees… Inside You are many kingdoms. ― Bert McCoy 

We know we cannot plant seeds with closed fists. To sow, we must open our hands. —Adolfo Perez Esquivel

The Kingdom isn’t some far off place you go where you die, the Kingdom is at hand—among us and beyond us, now and not-yet. It is the wheat growing in the midst of weeds, the yeast working its magic in the dough, the pearl germinating in a sepulchral shell. It can come and go in the twinkling of an eye, Jesus said. So pay attention; don’t miss it.  — Rachel Held Evans

You were designed for accomplishment, engineered for success, and endowed with the seeds of greatness. — Zig Ziglar

Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big. Young people will have the seeds you bury in their minds, and when they grow up, they will change the world.— Jack Ma
Deep in the secret world of winter’s darkness, deep in the heart of the Earth, the scattered seed dreams of what it will accomplish, some warm day when its wild beauty has grown strong and wise. ― Solstice

The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds wherever we go. — Martha Washington

Failure holds the seeds for greatness – so long as you water those seeds with introspection, they can be the root of your success. —Daniel Lubetzky
The season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success.— Paramahansa Yogananda
We take the action—soup kitchens, creek restoration, mentoring—and then the insight follows: that by showing up with hope to help others, I’m guaranteed that hope is present. Then my own hope increases. By creating hope for others, I end up awash in the stuff.
     We create goodness in the world, and that gives us hope. We plant bulbs in the cold, stony dirt of winter and our aging arthritic fingers get nicked, but we just do it, and a couple of months later life blooms—as daffodils, paperwhites, tulips.. — Anne Lamott

Seeds are powerful. They operate in our culture and in our psyche on a literal and metaphorical level like nothing else. They are possibility incarnate – a tiny gift package wrapped in a protective outer layer with infinite potential to sprout, grow, and produce more seeds while providing food and shelter to humans and animals alike. Joan Chittister writes, “In every seed lie the components of all life the world has known from all time to now.”
Our ancestors have been saving, selecting, and planting seeds for thousands of years, which is largely why we are here today. It is an essential part of the human discipline. — Farmer Kyle of Bellwether Farm

The seed of God is in us. Given an intelligent and hard-working farmer, it will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is, and accordingly its fruits will be God-nature. Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God-seed into God. — Meister Echkhart

Dreams are the seeds of change. Nothing ever grows without a seed, and nothing ever changes without a dream. — Debby Boone

God does not only sow his seed in good soil. He loves us with such abandon that he scatters that love far and wide. He does not want to miss the chance of reaching even one lost soul. And in these times, the thorns and weeds, may be the very thing that brings us back to a deeper relationship with God. —Kate Nicholsan

The focus is what is right before you – to give it your best. It sows the seeds of tomorrow. — Kiran Bedi

Carbonized grains of wheat unearthed
From the seventh millennium B.C. town of Jarmo
In the Tigris-Euphrates basin
Match the grains of three kinds of wheat still extant,
Two wild, one found only in cultivation.
The separate grains
Were parched and eaten,
Or soaked into gruel, yeasted, fermented.
Took to the idea of bread,
Ceres, while you were gone.
Wind whistles in the smokey thatch,
Oven browns its lifted loaf,
And in the spring the nourished seeds,
Hybrid with wild grass,
Easily open in a hundred days,
And seeded fruits, compact and dry,
Store well together.
They make the straw for beds,
They ask the caring hand to sow, the resting foot
To stay, to court the seasons.
— Josephine Miles, Fields of Learniing (excerpt)

In Case of Complete Reversal 
— Kay Ryan
Born into each seed
is a small anti-seed
useful in case of some
complete reversal:
a tiny but powerful
kit for adapting it
to the unimaginable.
If we could crack the
fineness of the shell
we’d see the
bundled minuses
stacked as in a safe,
ready for use
if things don’t
go well.

THRESHOLDS — John O’Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us

Within the grip of winter, it is almost impossible to imagine the spring. The gray perished landscape is shorn of color. Only bleakness meets the eye; everything seems severe and edged. Winter is the oldest season; it has some quality of the absolute. Yet beneath the surface of winter, the miracle of spring is already in preparation; the cold is relenting; seeds are wakening up. Colors are beginning to imagine how they will return. Then, imperceptibly, somewhere one bud opens and the symphony of renewal is no longer reversible. From the black heart of winter a miraculous, breathing plenitude of color emerges.

The beauty of nature insists on taking its time. Everything is prepared. Nothing is rushed. The rhythm of emergence is a gradual slow beat always inching its way forward; change remains faithful to itself until the new unfolds in the full confidence of true arrival. Because nothing is abrupt, the beginning of spring nearly always catches us unawares. It is there before we see it; and then we can look nowhere without seeing it.

Change arrives in nature when time has ripened. There are no jagged transitions or crude discontinuities. This accounts for the sureness with which one season succeeds another. It is as though they were moving forward in a rhythm set from within a continuum.

To change is one of the great dreams of every heart – to change the limitations, the sameness, the banality, or the pain. So often we look back on patterns of behavior, the kind of decisions we make repeatedly and that have failed to serve us well, and we aim for a new and more successful path or way of living. But change is difficult for us. So often we opt to continue the old pattern, rather than risking the danger of difference. We are also often surprised by change that seems to arrive out of nowhere.

We find ourselves crossing some new threshold we had never anticipated. Like spring secretly at work within the heart of winter, below the surface of our lives huge changes are in fermentation. We never suspect a thing. Then when the grip of some long-enduring winter mentality begins to loosen, we find ourselves vulnerable to a flourish of possibility and we are suddenly negotiating the challenge of a threshold.

At any time you can ask yourself: At which threshold am I now standing? At this time in my life, what am I leaving? Where am I about to enter? What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold? What gift would enable me to do it? A threshold is not a simple boundary; it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms and atmospheres. Indeed, it is a lovely testimony to the fullness and integrity of an experience or a stage of life that it intensifies toward the end into a real frontier that cannot be crossed without the heart being passionately engaged and woken up. At this threshold a great complexity of emotions comes alive: confusion, fear, excitement, sadness, hope. This is one of the reasons such vital crossing were always clothed in ritual. It is wise in your own life to be able to recognize and acknowledge the key thresholds; to take your time; to feel all the varieties of presence that accrue there; to listen inward with complete attention until you hear the inner voice calling you forward. The time has come to cross.

To acknowledge and cross a new threshold is always a challenge. It demands courage and also a sense of trust in whatever is emerging. This becomes essential when a threshold opens suddenly in front of you, one for which you had no preparation. This could be illness, suffering or loss. Because we are so engaged with the world, we usually forget how fragile life can be and how vulnerable we always are. It takes only a couple of seconds for a life to change irreversibly. Suddenly you stand on completely strange ground and a new course of life has to be embraced. Especially at such times we desperately need blessing and protection. You look back at the life you have lived up to a few hours before, and it suddenly seems so far away. Think for a moment how, across the world, someone’s life has just changed – irrevocably, permanently, and not necessarily for the better – and everything that was once so steady, so reliable, must now find a new way of unfolding.

Though we know one another’s names and recognize one another’s faces, we never know what destiny shapes each life. The script of individual destiny is secret; it is hidden behind and beneath the sequence of happenings that is continually unfolding for us. Each life is a mystery that is never finally available to the mind’s light or questions. That we are here is a huge affirmation; somehow life needed us and wanted us to be. To sense and trust this primeval acceptance can open a vast spring of trust within the heart. It can free us into a natural courage that casts out fear and opens up our lives to become voyages of discovery, creativity, and compassion. No threshold need be a threat, but rather an invitation and a promise.

Whatever comes, the great sacrament of life will remain faithful to us, blessing us always with visible signs of invisible grace. We merely need to trust.


ON SOWING & PLANTING

Although nature has proven season in and season out that if the thing that is planted bears at all, it will yield more of itself, there are those who seem certain that if they plant tomato seeds, at harvesttime they can reap onions.
Too many times for comfort I have expected to reap good when I know I have sown evil. My lame excuse is that I have not always known that actions can only reproduce themselves, or rather, I have not always allowed myself to be aware of that knowledge. Now, after years of observation and enough courage to admit what I have observed, I try to plant peace if I do not want discord; to plant loyalty and honesty if I want to avoid betrayal and lies.
Of course, there is no absolute assurance that those things I plant will always fall upon arable land and will take root and grow, nor can I know if another cultivator did not leave contrary seeds before I arrived. I do know, however, that if I leave little to chance, if I am careful about the kinds of seeds I plant, about their potency and nature, I can, within reason, trust my expectations. — Maya Angelou

It is memory that provides the heart with impetus, fuels the brain, and propels the corn plant from seed to fruit. — Joy Harjo

There are two kinds of compassion. The first comes from a natural concern for friends and family who are close to us. This has limited range but can be the seed for something bigger. We can also learn to extend a genuine concern for others’ well-being, whoever they are. That is real compassion, and only human beings are capable of developing it. — Dalai Lama

Everything we do seeds the future. No action is an empty one. — Joan D. Chittister

Whether we have happiness or not depends on the seeds in our consciousness. If our seeds of compassion, understanding, and love are strong, those qualities will be able to manifest in us. If the seeds of anger, hostility and sadness in us are strong, then we will experience much suffering. To understand someone, we have to be aware of the quality of the seeds in his consciousness. And we need to remember that his is not solely responsible for those seeds. His ancestors, parents, and society are co-responsible for the quality of the seeds in his consciousness. When we understand this, we are able to feel compassion for that person. With understanding and love, we will know how to water our own beautiful seeds and those of others, and we will recognize seeds of suffering and find ways to transform them. — Thich Nhat Hanh


ON SPIRITUAL SOIL

… our capacity to listen, to be plowed up by what we hear so that we can nurture the seeds of divinity when we encounter them. If we resist being unsettled and loosened and turned into good soil, then the religiosity that has gotten us this far will begin to slip away. We will abandon the spiritual life and say that it was doing nothing for us.  But if we accept our discomfort and truly listen with open ears, even knowing that what we hear might change and disrupt us, we will begin to grow, and find our capacity to see and hear expanding day by day. — Karl Stevens, article: https://dsobeloved.org/luke-81-25-being-the-good-soil/

Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it gems of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity and love. — Thomas Merton

We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centred on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown. — CS Lewis

 



Themes from story of Mary and Martha: being busy, always on the go vs making space for mindfulness and being present

Do you ever feel like there’s just too much to do and that you can’t get it all done?  Do you feel like you don’t have enough time for the things that really count? — Mary Stephens

Help me find a way to be a perfect blend
of Mary’s heart and Martha’s hands

— from song: Mary’s heart and Martha’s hands
by Carlene Thissen & Martha Christian


SONGS about BEING:


MARTHA and MARY Annie Johnson Flint

Martha was busy and hurried,
Serving the friend divine,
Cleansing the cups and platters,
Bringing the bread and wine;
But Martha was careful and anxious
Fretted in thought and in word.

She had no time to be sitting
While she was serving the Lord,
For Martha was “cumbered with serving,
Martha was “troubled” with “things”—
Those that would pass with the using—
She was forgetting her wings.

Mary was quiet and peaceful,
Learning to love and to live.
Mary was hearing His precepts,
Mary was letting Him give—
Give of the riches eternal,
Treasures of mind and of heart;
Learning the mind of the Master,
Choosing the better part.

Do we ever labor at serving
Till voices grow fretful and shrill,
Forgetting how to be loving,
Forgetting how to be still?
Do we strive for “things” in possession,
And toil for the perishing meat,
Neglecting the one thing needful—
Sitting at Jesus’ feet?

Service is good when he asks it,
Labor is right in it’s place,
But there is one thing better,
Looking up in his face;
There is so much he can tell us,
Truths that are precious and deep;
This is the place where he wants us,
These are the things we can keep.


A BLESSING for PRESENCE John O’Donohue
May you awaken to the mystery of being here
And enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
May you respond to the call of your gift
And find the courage to follow its path.
May the flame of anger free you from falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.
May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift, Woven around the heart of wonder.


THE BUSYNESS EXCUSE — Beverly Joy

Mary had finished her daily chores
When Jesus came knocking on their door
Come in, come in, Martha welcomed them
They often stayed there to eat and rest.

Martha decided to cook up a feast
For Jesus and friends at the day’s end
Mary sat and listened, at Jesus’ feet
A rare opportunity, the dishes could wait.

Martha was seething in the kitchen
Angry at Mary for not helping
Nobody noticed how hard she was working
Cooking the feast, so perfect and quick.

She’d forgotten that her work was for God’s honour
Not to receive the honour for herself
That she was the servant to serve her Lord
She lost her true purpose in her work.

Jesus would have been happy with takeaway
Allowing time for Martha to spend time with Him
He would be gone the next day, travelling far away
But, she chose the busyness of chores over time with her Lord.

She accused Jesus of not noticing
But Jesus has seen the dark kitchen scene
“Martha, you’re always so busy
You choose busyness over me.”

Is our agenda more important than God’s
What matters to our Lord is our attitude to work
Yes, it’s important to do our chores
But it’s more important to love our Lord.

We rush about doing this and that
While Jesus sits under the tree and waits
For us to stop and sit with Him
To listen and learn, to chat and relax.


MARY, sister of Martha, at your feet for the first time — Andrea Skevington

You came in search of rest
away from the road,
that bright, shadeless road,
where so many came,
and you gave so much.

You came and sat down
in the cool room,
the shutters pulled
against the heat,
and Mary sat, too,
and it was enough.
Just sat, quietly, at your feet,
her face turned up to
yours as she listened.
And you saw how the light
fell across her,
as if for the first time.

And this is what you want,
what you long for.
Not the elaborate
preparations we would make,
not ourselves swept and
scrubbed to perfection,
our acts and our
thoughts impeccable
in lifeless rows,
but to be,  here in this light,
to be, here at your feet,


MARY, sister of Lazarus, at your feet a second time — Andrea Skevington

She sits in the shuttered room,
the room where her brother had laid,
dying, dead, the messengers sent out
returning empty, with no reply,
like prayers that bounce  off ceilings
or stick to the roof of the mouth,
choking with sorrow.
When you stay by the Jordan
that shuttered room is where Mary stays.

This is her shadowed valley, the dark forest of her path,
foreshadowing yours, it is all foreshadowing you.
The room where her brother had laid,

how can she ever leave it now?

But leave she did, at last, when you called for her,
she came quickly, running, trailing darkness behind
her weeping.  Mary, once more at your feet,
and when you saw her weeping, you wept too.

You know us in our grief.  You come to us, call to us.
In our darkest, most shuttered places,
your spirit moves, breaks with ours.
Death lay heavy upon you, too, and all the sooner for
this, what you do now, standing before that tomb.

For now, you who are Life,
Word made warm and beating flesh,
and weeping,
call Lazarus out,
You, who are life, and will rise,
call out one who is dead from the cold tomb.
You watch as they run to free him from the graveclothes,
pull darkness from him, calling in strange bewildered delight,
and you see Mary’s face as she sees now,
her brother, who was dead, once more in light,
astonished, seeing your glory, part of your glory,
as she weeps again, is weeping again
breathless with joy.


MARY, of Bethany, at your feet a third time — Andrea Skevington

And so you come once more to Bethany,
and share a meal with Lazarus,
a resurrection feast,
foreshadowing, foreshining
all those kingdom feasts you told of:
wedding banquets with long tables
set wide with good things,
with room enough for all,
welcome at your table.

Now, in Bethany, the house is ablaze with light,
shutters and doors thrown open,
all wide open with joy unspeakable,
music, laughter, dancing, wild thanksgiving
for one who was dead is alive again,

And all night, while crowds pour in from Jerusalem,
the feast goes on, and on,
as Mary enters now, cheeks glistening with joy,
past her brother at your side, back from the grave.

She kneels at your feet again,
pours out extravagant nard,
scandalous anointing of your warm, living feet,
unbinds her hair and lets it flow like water
over them, wiping them in such reckless
and tender thanksgiving.
Fragrance fills the room, the house, the night,
as more people pour from Jerusalem to you,
to you, who comes to us in our weeping,
who shares our bread with us,
and brings us to such joy as this.


To LEARN From ANIMAL BEING — John O’Donohue

Nearer to the earth’s heart, Deeper within its silence: Animals know this world In a way we never will.

We who are ever Distanced and distracted By the parade of bright Windows thought opens: Their seamless presence Is not fractured thus.

Stranded between time Gone and time emerging, We manage seldom To be where we are: Whereas they are always Looking out from The here and now.

May we learn to return And rest in the beauty Of animal being, Learn to lean low, Leave our locked minds, And with freed senses Feel the earth Breathing with us.

May we enter Into lightness of spirit, And slip frequently into The feel of the wild.

Let the clear silence Of our animal being Cleanse our hearts Of corrosive words.

May we learn to walk Upon the earth With all their confidence And clear-eyed stillness So that our minds

Might be baptized In the name of the wind And the light and the rain.


The SONS of MARTHA — Rudyard Kipling

The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains, ” Be ye removèd” They say to the lesser floods ” Be dry.”
Under their rods are the rocks reprovèd – they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill tops shake to the summit – then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.

They finger death at their gloves’ end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.

To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden – under the earthline their altars are
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city’s drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to leave their job when they damn-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s days may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat;
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha spilled for that !
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd – they know the angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet – they hear the Word – they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and – the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons !


ON MARY and MARTHA: A Sermon— Nadia Bolz-Weber (article: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2013/08/sermon-on-mary-and-martha/)

Just to get it out there, this story about Mary and Martha has always irritated me, because I think Martha is awesome, and she’s always made out to be a busy-body and a whiner.

 

See, Jesus is welcomed into the home of Mary and Martha and the thing to understand is that Jesus didn’t exactly travel alone.  Dude had an entourage – so to welcome Jesus is to welcome who Jesus brings in with him.  And to extend hospitality to that many people, takes a lot of work, so Martha becomes understandably overwhelmed by her tasks and tries to get Jesus to talk her sister Mary into helping her, since Mary up until this point has only been sitting at Jesus’ feet listening. Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.

Now, you guys know I’m not one to lay on the guilt trip – I never really mastered that technique employed by clergy since time in memorial – so when I tell you that at our last leadership meeting we found ourselves once again trying to figure out how to get the monthly jobs covered I am not saying that to shame anyone except myself – because, in the end, I honestly got a little bit snarky and slightly self-righteous (even for me) and said the following of which I am not proud: I said, “It’s like I really want to say to folks that every week they show up here at 5 after 5 SOMEONE has set the chair up that they get to sit in, and SOMEONE has baked the bread for the Eucharist they receive, and SOMEONE has greeted them at the door and handed them a bulletin and when they leave right after the dismissal, SOMEONE will sweep up and wipe down the counter and that maybe it’s their turn to be that SOMEONE for others”

Now all of this is well and good, and yes of course we need people who are willing to serve, who are willing to do the sometimes thankless tasks of making hospitality and community work since to welcome Jesus is still to welcome all who Jesus brings in with him…

And yes, I spent several days this week distracted by how much work it is to keep this community running and how Martha gets a bad rap, and that all felt really satisfying until Saturday when I went to my 12 step meeting…the one I’ve gone to for 15 years and I arrived 5 minutes late like I so often do. I took my seat on a folding chair and sipped at the light brown coffee in my hand before realizing: oh dang it.  SOMEONE had set up all these chairs and SOMEONE had made the bad coffee and when I leave right after the Lord’s prayer, SOMEONE will clean it all up and in a decade and a half that SOMEONE has never been me. Wa-wa.

So try as I might this week, I could not find a comfortable place to land in this story when I was trying to make it into a moralism about the relative merit of doing or not doing tasks. …of action versus contemplation. Because it felt bad to be snarky about people not doing the work and it felt bad to realize in another situation of my life I was the one not doing the work.

Honestly there is merit to action and there is merit to contemplation and I really don’t think that was Jesus’ point.

When Jesus said to her Martha, you are distracted by many things Mary has chosen the better part it will not be taken away I wonder if he meant not that we are distracted by work itself, but that we are distracted from the better part when we judge the actions or inactions of others through the lens of our own personality.

Here’s a small example – when I am sitting in the turn lane waiting for a green arrow…I take it upon myself to consider the people behind me and to leave as short a distance as safely possible between me and the car in front so as many of my fellows as possible can also get through the turn signal. Inevitably, when someone leisurely leaves 4 car lengths between them and the car turning  in front of them allowing only 2 cars to get through a green arrow instead of 6, I assume that they are not a team player, only out for themselves and either just selfish or lazy. Wow. That’s a lot of judgment on the personhood of someone based solely on how quickly they turn on green.

But that thing we do where we judge the actions of others based on how we ourselves move through the world – that is a distraction from the MAIN THING.

If the reason you help set up chairs is because you value this community and are grateful that others have set up chairs for you, that does not mean that those who don’t set up chairs do so because they don’t value community or because they are ungrateful to others.  And the more we live our lives in these kinds of judgments about the actions of others, the more distracted we are from the better part – from the MAIN THING which will not be taken from us.

When we think the main thing is who does what and why, when you think the main thing is whatever you get out of this, or the main thing is that your friends are here, it all is just busyness and distraction and all of it will eventually be taken away. The main thing – the thing that will not be taken away and that we (myself included) so easily forget is our sacred story.   It’s a simple story, really. Even as it is unfathomable in it’s beauty…So here it is again…since I too often forget – there is a God who created us and all that is, this same God spoke through prophets and poets, claimed a people to be God’s own and freed them from the shackles of slavery. This same God led those people through the wilderness to a land of milk and honey, and told them to always welcome the stranger and protect the foreigner so that they could remember where they came from and what God had done for them. Then in the fullness of time, and to draw ALL people to himself, God came and broke our hearts like only a baby could do and made God’s home in the womb of a fierce young woman as though God was saying, from now on this is how I want to be known. And as Jesus God kissed lepers and befriended prostitutes and baffled authority. Jesus ate with all the wrong people and on the night before he died held up bread and told us to do the same thing and he promised us so much: that he would be with us, that forgiveness is real, that we are God’s, that people matter and that grilled fish makes an awesome breakfast.  And from the tree on which Jesus hung he pronounced judgment on us all. “Forgive them Father, they know not what they are doing”.

We never do, really, we never seem to know what we are doing and sometimes we think the Bible is going to solve that for us…that a story like Jesus’ visit with Martha and Mary is going to give us a clear moral lesson so we can know what we are doing. And then we think we’ve got it down and then we begin to judge the actions of others and the moment we do this we’ve once again lost the plot.

So maybe choosing the better part isn’t about choosing between action and contemplation, maybe it isn’t about working or sitting at Jesus feet, since the Christian life has always been a combination of the two. Maybe choosing the better part is not judging the actions of other through the lens of your own personality. Because when we do so it is just a distraction from the Main thing – and this story around which we gather…this MAIN THING, can never be taken away because it is always forming who you are and like water on rock, it slowly and sometimes imperceptibly shapes us into the glory of God.

That’s why we come here.  It’s not to see our friends or to take advantage of free popsicles, it’s to remember our story. And the story of God and God’s people will stand. And unlike so much else in life, It will not be taken away.


BEING vs DOING: The Difference Between “Being” and “Doing” — This article was adapted from Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, by Zindel V. Segal, Ph.D., C.Psych., source: https://www.mindful.org/difference-between-being-and-doing/

How our goal-setting mind causes us to fixate on one track, and how we can become more responsive to the richness and complexity that each moment presents.

The activities of the mind are related to patterns of brain activity. Different mental activities, such as reading a book, painting a picture, or talking to a loved one, each involve different patterns of interaction between networks of nerve cells in the brain. The networks involved in one activity are often different from those involved in another activity. Networks can also be linked together in different patterns. If we looked into the brain, we would see shifting patterns in the activity of networks and in their connections with each other as the mind moves from one task to another (being vs doing). For a while, one pattern predominates, then a shift occurs, so brain networks that previously interacted in one pattern now do so in a different configuration. Over time, we would see the different activities of the mind reflected in continually shifting and evolving patterns of interaction between brain networks.

If we looked long enough, we would see that a limited number of core patterns of brain activity and interaction seem to crop up as recurring features in a wide variety of different mental activities. These core patterns reflect some basic “modes of mind.”

We can think of these modes of mind as loosely analogous to the gears of a car. Just as each gear has a particular use (starting, accelerating, cruising, etc.), so each mode of mind has its own particular characteristics and functions. Over the course of a day, as the mind switches from one kind of activity to another, the underlying mode of mind changes—a little like the way that a car, driven through a busy city, there will be a continuous series of changes from one gear to another. And in much the same way a car can only be in one gear at a time, when the mind is in certain modes, it will not be in other modes at the same time.

Our continued dwelling on how we are not as we would like to be just makes us feel worse, taking us even further from our desired goal. This, in turn only serves to confirm our view that we are not the kind of person we feel we need to be in order to be happy.

The fact that a limited number of fundamental modes of mind underpin a wide variety of mental activities has important implications. It opens a way for us to use aspects of everyday experience to learn new ways to relate to the kind of mind states that lead to rumination. We can think of mindfulness training as a way to learn how to become more aware of your mode of mind (“mental gear”) at any moment, and the skills to disengage from unhelpful modes of mind and to engage more helpful modes. We might describe this as learning to shift mental gears. In practice, this task often comes down to recognizing two main modes in which the mind operates, and learning the skills to move from one to the other. These two modes are known as “doing” and “being.”

Being vs Doing: The “Doing” Mode

The ruminative state of mind is actually a variant of a much more general mode of mind that has been called the “doing” mode. The job of this mode of mind is to get things done—to achieve particular goals that the mind has set. These goals could relate to the external world—to make a meal, build a house, or travel to the moon—or to the internal world of self—to feel happy, not make mistakes, never be depressed again, or be a good person. The basic strategy to achieve such goals involves something we call the “discrepancy monitor”: a process that continually monitors and evaluates our current situation against a model or standard—an idea of what is desired, required, expected, or feared. Once this discrepancy monitor is switched on, it will find mismatches between how things are and how we think they should be. That is its job. Registering these mismatches motivates further attempts to reduce these discrepancies. But, crucially, dwelling on how things are not as we want them to be can, naturally enough, create further negative mood. In this way, our attempts to solve a “problem” by endlessly thinking about it can keep us locked into the state of mind from which we are doing our best to escape.

How the Discrepancy Monitor Works:

  1. First we create an idea of how we want things to be, or how we think they should be
  2. Next, we compare that with our idea of how things are right now.
  3. If there is a difference between how things are and how we want them to be, then we generate thoughts and actions to try to close the gap.
  4. We monitor progress to see whether the gap is increasing or decreasing, and adjust our actions accordingly.
  5. We know we have reached our goal when our idea of how things are coincides with our idea of how we want them to be.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this doing mode. In fact, quite the reverse: This approach has worked brilliantly as a general strategy for solving problems and achieving goals in the impersonal, external world—whether those goals be as humble as buying all the items on our weekly shopping list or as lofty as building a pyramid. It is natural, then, that we should turn to this same doing mode when things are not as we would like them to be in our personal, internal worlds—our feelings and thoughts, or the kind of person we see ourselves to be. And this is where things can go terribly wrong.

But before we go on to describe how, it is important to forestall any possible misunderstanding. We are in no way suggesting that the doing mode necessarily causes problems—it does not. It is only when, doing mode “volunteers for a job it can’t do” that problems arise. In many, many, areas of our lives, doing mode volunteers for a job it can do, and our lives are the better for it. To make the distinction clearer, we call problematic applications of this mode driven–doing, as opposed to the more general doing.

In being mode, the mind has “nothing to do, nowhere to go” and can focus fully on moment-by-moment experience, allowing us to be fully present and aware of whatever is here, right now.

If action can be taken straightaway to reduce a discrepancy, and the action is successful, there is no problem. But what if we cannot find any effective actions, and our attempts to think up possible solutions get nowhere? With an external problem we might simply give up and get on with some other aspect of our lives. But once the self becomes involved, it is much more difficult simply to let go of the goals we have set.

For example, if we are upset because a long-standing relationship has just ended, there will be many potential discrepancies between our current reality and how we wish things to be. We may wish for restoration of the relationship, or for the start of another relationship. Most likely, we also wish we were not so upset. There may be solutions we could find. But what if we begin to feel that we are bound to end up alone, concluding that there is, in us, some basic failure, a person that caused the relationship to fail? This conclusion suggests no ready solution, and the discrepancy remains. And yet we cannot let go because we have such a central need not to be this kind of person—what could be more important to us than our own sense of identity?

The result of all this is that the mind continues to process information in doing mode, going round and round, dwelling on the discrepancy and rehearsing possible ways to reduce it. And our continued dwelling on how we are not as we would like to be just makes us feel worse, taking us even further from our desired goal. This, in turn only serves to confirm our view that we are not the kind of person we feel we need to be in order to be happy.

The mind will continue to focus in this way until the discrepancy is reduced or some more immediately urgent task takes the focus of the mind elsewhere, only to return to the unresolved discrepancy once one has dealt with the other task. When the doing mode is working on internal, self-related goals like this, we can more accurately call it the “driven–doing” mode.

If we look closely, we will see the driven–doing mode in action in very many areas of our lives. Whenever there is a sense of “have to,” “must,” “should,” “ought,” or “need to,” we can suspect the presence of doing mode.

In doing mode, by contrast, this wonderful multidimensional complexity of experience is boiled down to a narrow, one-dimensional focus: What does this have to say about my progress in reaching my goals?

How else might we recognize the driven–doing mode subjectively? Its most common feature is a recurring sense of unsatisfactoriness, reflecting the fact that the mind is focused on processing mismatches between how we need things to be and how they actually are. Driven–doing mode also involves a sense of continuously monitoring and checking up on progress toward reducing the gap between these two states (“How well am I doing?”). Why? Because where no immediate action can be taken to reduce discrepancies, the only thing the mind can do is continue to work on its ideas about how things are and how they should be, in the hope of finding a way to reduce the gap between them. This it will do over and over again.

In this situation, because the “currency” with which the mind is working consists of thoughts about current situations, desired situations, explanations for the discrepancies between them, and possible ways to reduce those discrepancies, these thoughts and concepts will be experienced mentally as “real” rather than simply as events in the mind. Equally, the mind will not be fully tuned in to the full actuality of present experience. It will be so preoccupied with analyzing the past or anticipating the future that the present is given a low priority. In this case, we are only aware of the present in a very narrow sense: The only interest in it is to monitor success or failure at meeting goals. The broader sense of the present, in what might be called its “full multidimensional splendor,” is missed.

Driven–doing underlies many of our reactions to everyday emotional experiences—we habitually turn to this mode to free ourselves from many kinds of unwanted emotion. It follows that we can use such everyday emotional experiences, and other reflections of the general driven–doing mode of mind, as training opportunities to learn skills that enable us to recognize and disengage from this mode.

Let us consider an alternative mode of mind, “being.”

Being vs Doing: The “Being” Mode

The full richness of the mode of “being” is not easily conveyed in words—its flavor is best appreciated directly, experientially. In many ways, it is the opposite of the driven–doing mode. The driven-doing mode is goal-oriented, motivated to reduce the gap between how things are and how we think we need them to be; our attention is narrowly focused on these discrepancies between actual and desired states. By contrast, the being mode is not devoted to achieving particular goals. In this mode, there is no need to emphasize discrepancy-based processing or constantly to monitor and evaluate (“How am I doing in meeting my goals?”). Instead, the focus of the being mode is “accepting” and “allowing” what is, without any immediate pressure to change it.

“Allowing” arises naturally when there is no goal or standard to be reached, and no need to evaluate experience in order to reduce discrepancies between actual and desired states. This also means that attention is no longer focused narrowly on only those aspects of the present that are directly related to goal achievement; in being mode, the experience of the moment can be processed in its full depth, width, and richness.

Doing mode involves thinking about the present, the future, and the past, relating to each through a veil of concepts. Being mode, on the other hand, is characterized by direct, immediate, intimate experience of the present.

Doing and Being differ in their time focus. In doing, we often need to work out the likely future consequences of different actions, anticipate what might happen if we reach our goal, or look back to memories of times when we have dealt with similar situations to get ideas for how to proceed now. As a result, in doing mode, the mind often travels forward to the future or back to the past, and the experience is one of not actually being “here” in the present much of the time. By contrast, in being mode, the mind has “nothing to do, nowhere to go” and can focus fully on moment-by-moment experience, allowing us to be fully present and aware of whatever is here, right now. Doing mode involves thinking about the present, the future, and the past, relating to each through a veil of concepts. Being mode, on the other hand, is characterized by direct, immediate, intimate experience of the present.

The being mode involves a shift in our relation to thoughts and feelings. In doing mode, conceptual thinking is a core vehicle through which the mind seeks to achieve the goals to which this mode of mind is dedicated. This means, as we have seen, that thoughts are seen as a valid and accurate reflection of reality and are closely linked to action. In doing mode, the relationship to feelings is primarily one of evaluating them as “good things” to hang on to or “bad things” to get rid of. Making feelings into goal-related objects in this way effectively crystallizes the view that they have an independent and enduring reality.

By contrast, in being mode, the relation to thoughts and feelings is much the same as that to sounds or other aspects of moment-by-moment experience. Thoughts and feelings are seen as simply passing events in the mind that arise, become objects of awareness, and then pass away. In the being mode, feelings do not so immediately trigger old habits of action in the mind or body directed at hanging on to pleasant feelings or getting rid of unpleasant feelings. There is a greater ability to tolerate uncomfortable emotional states. In the same way, thoughts such as “do this, do that” do not necessarily automatically link to related actions, but we can relate to them simply as events in the mind.

“Allowing” arises naturally when there is no goal or standard to be reached, and no need to evaluate experience in order to reduce discrepancies between actual and desired states.

In being mode, there is a sense of freedom and freshness as experience unfolds in new ways. We can be responsive to the richness and complexity of the unique patterns that each moment presents. In doing mode, by contrast, this wonderful multidimensional complexity of experience is boiled down to a narrow, one-dimensional focus: What does this have to say about my progress in reaching my goals? Discrepancies between actual and goal states then trigger fairly well-worn, general-purpose habits of mind that may have worked well enough in other situations. But, as we have seen, when, in the driven–doing mode, the goal is to be rid of certain emotional states, these habits can backfire and lead to perpetuation rather than cessation of unwanted mind states.

Clearly, doing vs being are fundamentally different modes of mind. Before drawing out the implications of this difference, it is important that we be very clear on one point: Being mode is not a special state in which all activity has to stop. Doing or being are both modes of mind that can accompany any activity or lack of activity. Recall that we gave a particular name to the type of doing mode that causes problems— “driven–doing”—and this point may become clearer.

For example, it is possible for one to try to meditate with so much focus on being someone who gets into a deeply relaxed state that if anything interrupts it, one feels angry and frustrated. That would be meditating in a driven–doing mode rather than a being mode because the meditation is “driven” by the need to become a relaxed person. Or take another example: It is your turn to do the dishes and there is no way out of it. No one is going to rescue you from this chore. If you do the dishes with the aim of finishing them as quickly as possible to get on to the next activity and are then interrupted, there will be frustration, since your goal has been thwarted. But if you accept that the dishes have to be done and approach the activity in being mode, then the activity exists for its own sake in its own time. An interruption is simply treated as something that presents a choice about what to do at that moment rather than as a source of frustration.

A Mindfulness Practice to Shift out of “Doing” Mode

Try this guided mindfulness practice called “‘Two Ways of Knowing” to take a moment and examine how it feels to disengage from a busy mind and shift into “being” mode:

Begin this practice by settling yourself in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. If it feels okay close the eyes.

Part One: Connect with Your Thoughts

  • In this first part of the practice you’re invited to take a few minutes to think about your feet without looking at them.
  • What thoughts come to mind when you think about your feet? Perhaps there are judgments about your feet. How much you like them? How much you dislike them?
  • Perhaps there are thoughts about how you’d like them to be different. Maybe thoughts come to mind about the places your feet have taken you. Perhaps thoughts about problems they may have caused you.
  • What thoughts come to mind for you?
  • There’s no need to control your thoughts in anyway. Just let the thinking unfold naturally. Taking your time. Taking a few minutes now simply to let thoughts arise.

Part Two: Shift into Being vs Doing

  • And now, for the second part of this practice, the invitation is to gently bring your attention down the legs into the feet, sensing your feet directly without looking at them.
  • Allowing your awareness to sink into your feet and fill them from the inside to the outside, from the bones, right out to the surface of the skin, perhaps sensing the many small bones within the feet, maybe feeling the sensations of touch on the skin, the sensations in the soles of the feet, the sense of touch and pressure where the feet make contact with the floor. Perhaps exploring with your awareness the boundary between the feet on the floor.
  • And now, if you will, clenching your toes, drawing them in as close as you can, being aware of the sensations in the toes, the soles, and the body of each foot. Directly sensing the pressure in the toes, feeling the tightness in the muscles, the coming and going of sensations throughout the feet, ankles, and legs.
  • And now, just relaxing the toes, keeping the awareness in your feet and noticing any changes in the sensations in the feet and toes as they relax.
  • Before changing your position, taking a few moments to get a sense of the body as a whole.
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