Love on the move. Themes from Gospel of John

Bending down to wash and anoint someone’s feet. What story do our feet tell about us? How we live? How do we love? How do we touch the earth?

Indeed, what amazing gifts might must be ours if we could kneel and honor the humanity in another? I imagine we might just start to see the holy there as well. — Janet Hunt

My Grandmother Washes Her Feet
in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears (excerpt)
Mohja Kahf My grandmother puts her feet in the sink         of the bathroom at Sears to wash them in the ritual washing for prayer, wudu, because she has to pray in the store or miss the mandatory prayer time for Muslims She does it with great poise, balancing herself with one plump matronly arm against the automated hot-air hand dryer, after having removed her support knee-highs and laid them aside, folded in thirds, and given me her purse and her packages to hold so she can accomplish this august ritual and given me her purse and her packages to hold
so she can accomplish this august ritual
and get back to the ritual of shopping for housewares
Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown
as they notice what my grandmother is doing,
an affront to American porcelain,
a contamination of American Standards
by something foreign and unhygienic
requiring civic action and possible use of disinfectant spray
They fluster about and flutter their hands and I can see
a clash of civilizations brewing in the Sears bathroom …
Standing between the door and the mirror, I can see
at multiple angles, my grandmother and the other shoppers,
all of them decent and goodhearted women, diligent
in cleanliness, grooming, and decorum …

On Feet: Walking and Washing

I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves – we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny. — Mary Oliver 

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair … ― Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. — Abraham Lincoln

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. — Saint Augustine

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go. — Dr. Seuss

When food comes you open your mouth; when sleep comes you close your eyes. As you wash your face you find your nose, when you take off your shoes you feel your feet.  At that time, if you miss what’s being said, take a torch and make a special search deep in the night. How can you attain union?  — Joshu

The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless. — Billy Graham

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. — Stephen Hawking

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet. — Rumi

… Walking meditation is really to enjoy the walking — walking not in order to arrive, just for walking. The purpose is to be in the present moment and enjoy each step you make. Therefore you have to shake off all worries and anxieties, not thinking of the future, not thinking of the past, just enjoying the present moment. … We walk all the time, but usually it is more like running. Our hurried steps print anxiety and sorrow on the Earth. If we can take one step in peace, we can take two, three, four, and then five steps for the peace and happiness of humankind. … If we can transform our walking path into a field for meditation, our feet will take every step in full awareness. Our breathing will be in harmony with our steps, and our mind will naturally be at ease. Every step we take will reinforce our peace and joy and cause a stream of calm energy to flow through us. — Thich Nhat Hanh

From our feet, we can tell how the rest of our body is doing. The way we follow the Lord reveals how our heart is faring. The wounds on our feet, our sprains and our weariness, are signs of how we have followed Him, of the paths we have taken in seeking the lost sheep and in leading the flock to green pastures and still waters. The Lord washes us and cleanses us of all the dirt our feet have accumulated in following Him. This is something holy. Do not let your feet remain dirty. Like battle wounds, the Lord kisses them and washes away the grime of our labors. — Pope Francis

Extravagant Love: Washing and Anointing

… we don’t separate a self from its environment, and cleaning expresses our respect for and sense of wholeness with the world that surrounds us. Shoukei Matsumoto

A monk asked Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery: please give me some guidance.”  Joshu said, “Have you had breakfast yet?”
The monk said, “Yes I have eaten.”  Joshu continues, “Then go wash your bowl.”
— Joshu, Buddhist Koan

In this text, Mary continues the theme of extravagance in the form of costly gestures involving expensive ointment. … Now is no time for frugality. This extravagance on earth is participating with the work of heaven. — Lynn Miller

Do you see this person that you are judging?  Do you see her humanity, her profound child of God-ness, her generosity, her capacity for compassion?   — Joy Perkett

Sounds like a horrible idea to me, trying to get ​closer​ to God. Half the time, I wish God would leave me alone. Getting closer to God might mean getting told to love someone I don’t even like, or give away even more of my money.It might mean letting some idea or dream that is dear to me get ripped away. — Nadia Bolz­-Weber

So Mary might have given Jesus this stunning gift of extravagance as a thank-you or as a prophetic witness as to what would soon be. Perhaps her motivation was a mixture of both. But what if another reason Mary poured it all out that day was simply because she knew deep down that her gift would make a holy difference to Jesus. Her gift, her generous offering, could remind him who he was and how much he was loved. — Shannon J. Kershner

What amazing and wonderful thing can she do, what can she say not with words but with her whole self: Mary takes the best she has to give and in an hour of need, as death looms over this little band of disciples, Mary takes the best and breaks it open over the feet of Jesus, the one she loves, the one she is about to lose…even if only for awhile…but we suspect she does not know that, yet. — Kathryn Matthews Then again, we might ask whom God might work through next. And if you ask that question, then invite your people to look at those sitting near them. For God may be about to use each of them in a surprising way to care for their neighbor, to offer a listening ear, to do their work with faithfulness and courage, to stand up for those who are less fortunate, to resist peer pressure at school and offer an alternative to those watching. Who knows? What we do know is that God is regularly about the business of surprising us with where God shows up, whom God uses, and what God accomplishes. — David Lose

Mary’s extravagant love for Jesus makes it possible for Jesus to show extravagant love in what follows — washing the feet of his disciples, handing himself over to be arrested in the garden, carrying his own cross, dying, rising, and ascending. Mary loves Jesus into his future as the fulfillment of, “for God so loved the world.” — Karoline Lewis

Jesus’ commandment to love one another is not a commandment to feel affection, but a commandment to act in a loving way, even when we would rather do otherwise. — Elisabeth Johnson

Remembering her may help them leave him alone while he finishes delivering his message. At home in Bethany, the storm clouds are still piling up against the door when Mary gives the forecast: it will be bad, very bad, but that’s no reason for Jesus’ friends to lock their hearts and head to the cellar.  Whatever they need, there will be enough to go around.  Whatever they spend, there will be plenty left over.  There is no reason to fear running out–of nard or of life either one–for where God is concerned, there is always more than we can ask or imagine–gifts from our lavish, lavish Lord. — Barbara Brown Taylor


Reflections on prodigal love: themes from parable in Luke 15

When is love prodigal? When is it wasteful and exuberant to offer compassion and welcome though it may not be merited or appreciated? Some early theologians so feared this parable of prodigal love, that they decided it shouldn’t be told or taught … it offered a model that overturned good sense and economical, societal order. When have you been prodigal and excessive in your love? And would you do it again? When have you received such impractical generosity of heart? — Rev Gail

Song: Prodigal by Sidewalk Prophets

The Prodigal Son
(excerpt) Spencer Reece
For a decade I did not speak to my parents.
Are you listening to me? I will not bore you with details.
Instead, I will tell you something new. Listen to me.
I was angry. But the reasons no longer interest me.
I take the liberty of assuming you approve of forgiveness
… we discuss blessings, absolutions, consecrations—our work of the soul.
… Mother and father, forgive me my absence.
I will always be moving quietly toward you.

Blessing that Waits to Come to Your Aid — Jan Richardson
 When I have become / so reliant on myself
that I cannot see / the need that gnaws / so deep / in my soul,
open my eyes, open my heart, open my mouth
to cry out / for the help
that you do not ration, the deliverance
that you delight to offer / in glad and / generous measure.

Poem (excerpt) — Rumi
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
… You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

Prodigal Love: Extravagant Welcome & Unearned Grace

We’re all being loved in spite of ourselves. — Richard Rohr

I now see that the hands that forgive, console, heal, and offer a festive meal must become my own.  ― Henri Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal Son

The pattern of the prodigal is: rebellion, ruin, repentance, reconciliation, restoration. — Edwin Louis Cole

We are so afraid of letting people off the hook. We are so resentful of unearned love. Unless we happen to be the ones toward whom the father is running, with his arms wide open and tears wetting his beard. — Barbara Brown Taylor

The story of the Prodigal Son is a story about hearts: selfish hearts and generous hearts, closed hearts and open hearts, cold hearts and warm hearts, broken hearts and joyful hearts, unrepentant hearts and repentant hearts, unforgiving hearts and forgiving hearts, resentful hearts and grateful hearts. It reveals so much about the vagaries of the human heart. When all is said and done it is the heart that matters. … The heart is what I am deep down. It is the real me. Darkness of heart is the blackest night of all. Emptiness of heart is the greatest poverty of all. A heavy heart is the most wearisome burden of all. A broken heart is the deepest wound of all. But the parable reveals how steadfast is the heart of God. — Flor McCarthy

The eyes of mercy are quicker than the eyes of repentance. Even the eyes of our faith are dim compared with the eye of God’s love. … It means much love truly felt; for God never gives an expression of love without feeling it in His infinite heart. — Charles Spurgeon

The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” ― Henri Nouwen

Prodigal Child

… the prodigal figure is at work in us when we go racing through the candy store of life, unaware of the price of the going and comingor the cost. We are takers who gather everything we can to ourselves, or squander it or do nothing, and then discover that life demands back everything it gives in ways we never dreamed. — Joan Chittister

In relation to my practice, I am the prodigal son when I live in forgetfulness and self-centeredness. When I hurry … because I am attached to my agenda, I waste the precious gift of life in the present moment. When I come back to my breath, I seek the peace of mindfulness … — Mark LeMay, from Mindfulness Bell published by Plum Village (Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist Sangha)

And, like the prodigal son, he had returned broken in body and also in mind to the house where he had been born … ― Catherine Cookson

The true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and greet unknown fate. A fine example was the Prodigal Son — when he started back home. ― O. Henry, The Green Door

The back door beckons to a prodigal son. ― Michael Davidow

It was his home now. But it could not be his home till he had gone from it and returned to it. ― G.K. Chesterton

… and it was the son’s new revelation of his poverty of heart that propelled him back into his Father’s arms. ― Tommy Tenney

But at least you and I have this in common: I know what it’s like to hunger.  To hunger for love, for depth, for passion, for joy. And I know what it’s like to imagine an exotic Elsewhere, a more perfect nourishment miles away from my Father’s all-too-familiar table. I know what it’s like to “come to myself” in the broken, impoverished places of my own foolish fashioning, and to long for the warmth and sustenance of a home. — Debie Thomas

Once a person learns to read the signs of love and thus to believe it, love leads him into the open field wherein he himself can love. If the prodigal son had not believed that the father’s love was already waiting for him, he would not have been able to make the journey home – even if his father’s love welcomes him in a way he never would have dreamed of. ― Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone is Credible

So when I reject my identity as beloved child of God and turn to my own plans of self-satisfaction, or I despair that I haven’t managed to be a good enough person, I again see our divine Parent running toward me uninterested in what I’ve done or not done, who covers me in divine love and I melt into something new like having again been moved from death to life and I reconcile aspects of myself and I reconcile to others around me. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Offering Exuberant Love: Prodigal Parent

Every parent is at some time the father of the unreturned prodigal, with nothing to do but keep his house open to hope. — John Ciardi

But the real Prodigal in this story is your Father, is he not?  Over-the-top, undignified, and hair-raising in his love? —  Debie Thomas

You never depart from us, but yet, only with difficulties do we return to You. ― Saint Augustine, Confessions

This father is not content to have one child without the other; he advocates for and seeks out both. — Barbara Brown Taylor

When the prodigal son returned … The father accepts his son with loving-kindness and rejoices at his return. He greets the prodigal son warmly and rejoices at his return. The father’s response is a model for how I can treat myself when I stray from the path of mindfulness … I try not to cling to or repress my shame and anger. I notice these feelings and return to my breath. My feelings cannot be removed with aggression. I recognize them as part of the fold, and each time I return to the path, I say to myself (paraphrasing Thay), “I have arrived; welcome home.” — Mark LeMay, Mindfulness Bell published by Plum Village (Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist Sangha)

… let us remember that God is the prodigal Father, who refuses to give us the love we deserve, but instead who gives the love we need.  … who waits patiently for His lost children to return. When He sees us from a long way off, He runs to welcome us. … feels our absence … steps outside to be with us, and waits patiently for our response. — Barbara Brown Taylor

The father wants not only his young person back, but his elder son as well … The father … wants both to participate in his joy … Thus the father’s unreserved, unlimited love is offered wholly and equally. He does not compare the two sons. He expresses complete love according to their individual Journeys. — Henri Nouwen

… your relationship to God is simply not defined by your really bad decisions or your squandering of resources.  But also your relationship to God is not determined by your virtue. It is not determined by being nice, or being good … Your relationship to God is simply determined by the wastefully extravagant love of God.  A God who takes no account of risk but runs toward you no matter what saying all that is mine is yours. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Older Child: The One Who Stayed Home, Yet Was Also Lost

… But here’s your vindication: the power in this story is yours … Your Father stands in the doorway, awaiting your company. You get to write his ending. What will you do, as the music grows sweeter? What will we choose, you and I? — Debie Thomas

There are many elder sons and elder daughters who are lost while still at home.― Henri Nouwen

The fatted calf, the best Scotch, the hoedown could all have been his too, any time he asked for them except that he never thought to ask for them because he was too busy trying cheerlessly and religiously to earn them. ― Frederick Buechner

The older son squandered his freedom by not thinking he had any. He didn’t believe that all that was the Father’s was his. He squandered the gifts of the Father by living a life of mirthless duty. And coming home from the field he hears the party underway and resents such a lavish show of love thinking it a limited resource. He was being a complete ass and yet again, the Father comes to him reminding him of the great love he has for his child. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

The third character, the elder son, remained faithful to his father while his younger brother squandered his inheritance. … The story does not explore the elder son’s feelings, aside from his anger. I can easily imagine him also feeling resentful, wounded, and suspicious. These feelings are familiar, for I have held them toward others and towards myself … I wake up to the suffering caused when I stray from mindfulness, I feel critical and suspicious of myself … I sometimes feel the sting of shame … I feel both the guilt of the prodigal son, and the angry suspicion of the elder brother toward myself … Each time I catch myself living in forgetfulness and feel the prodigal son and his brother in my heart, I try to remember the father. — Mark LeMay, Mindfulness Bell published by Plum Village (Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist Sangha)

Reflections on the fierce & protective love of a hen vs the predatory nature of a fox … choosing the unexpected, challenging expectations along the Way … themes from Luke 13

Her love of her children definitely resembles my love of mine. – Alice Walker

Hen-Love

It is one of those moments that will be engraved on my brain forever. For I really saw her. She was small and gray, flecked with black; so were her chicks. She had a healthy red comb and quick, light-brown eyes. She was that proud, chunky chicken shape that makes one feel always that chickens, and hens especially, have personality and will. Her steps were neat and quick and authoritative; and though she never touched her chicks, it was obvious she was shepherding them along. She clucked impatiently when, our feet falling ever nearer, one of them, especially self-absorbed and perhaps hard-headed, ceased to respond.
— Alice Walker


Once you know how to come home to yourself, then you can open your home to other people, because you have something to offer. The other person has to do exactly the same thing if they are to have something to offer you.
— Thich Nhat Hanh


I have sharpened my knives, I have
Put on the heavy apron.

Maybe you think life is chicken soup, served
In blue willow-pattern bowls.

I have put on my boots and opened
The kitchen door and stepped out

Into the sunshine. I have crossed the lawn.
I have entered
The hen house.

— Mary Oliver, Farm Country


The Lifted Up One, the One who sits high and walks low, taught that the thoroughfare to God is full of bypaths and back roads.
The way up is down.
The way in is out.
The way first is last.
The way of success is service.
The way of attainment is relinquishment.
The way of strength is weakness.
The way of security is vulnberability.
The way of protection is forgiveness (even seventy times seven).
The way of life is the way of death — death to self, society, family.
Know your strengths. Why?
Because that’s the only way you can Lay Them Down.
God’s power is made perfect … where? In our weakness.
Want to get the most? Go to where the least is.
Want to be free? Give complete control to God.
Want to become great? Become least.
Want to discover yourself? Forget yourself.
Want honor? “Honor yourself with humility.”
Want to “get even” with enemies? Bless and love them.
— Leonard Sweet, Excerpt from Jesus Drives Me Crazy

On Hens

… drooping their wings for some to creep under, and receiving with joyous and affectionate clucks others that mount upon their backs or run up to them from every direction; and though they flee from dogs and snakes if they are frightened only for themselves, if their fright is for their children, they stand their ground and fight it out beyond their strength.” — Plutarch, 1st Century AD

… under the shadow of their wings, and with this covering they put up such a very fierce defense – striking fear into their opponent in the midst of a frightful clamor, using both wings and beak – they would rather die for their chicks than seek safety in flight.” — Ulisse Aldrovandi

The forest fire had been brought under control, and the group of firefighters were working back through the devastation making sure all the hot spots had been extinguished. As they marched across the blackened landscape between the wisps of smoke still rising from the smoldering remains, a large lump on the trail caught a firefighter’s eye. … As he got closer he noticed it was the charred remains of a large bird, that had burned nearly half way through. Since birds can so easily fly away from the approaching flames, the firefighter wondered what must have been wrong with this bird that it could not escape. Had it been sick or injured? … Arriving at the carcass, he decided to kick it off the trail with his boot. As soon as he did, however, he was startled half to death by a flurry of activity around his feet. Four little birds flailed in the dust and ash then scurried away down the hillside … The bulk of the mother’s body had covered them from the searing flames. Though the heat was enough to consume her, it allowed her babies to find safety underneath. In the face of the rising flames, she had stayed with her young. Her dead carcass and her fleeing chicks told the story well enough–she gave the ultimate sacrifice to save her young. — Jacqueline, DeepRoots blogger

A hen is to her little chicks, next, a cover of safety. There is a hawk in the sky; the mother bird can see it, though the chickens cannot; she gives her peculiar cluck of warn-ing, and quickly they come and hide beneath her wings. The hawk will not hurt them now; beneath her wings they are secure … for, in the next place, the hen is to her chicks the source of comfort. It is a cold night, and they would be frozen if they remained outside; but she calls them in, and when they are under her wings, they derive warmth from their mother’s breast. It is a wonder, the care of a hen for her little ones; she will sit so carefully, and keep her wings so widely spread, that they may all be housed. What a cabin, what a palace, it is for the young chicks to get there under the mother’s wings! The snow may fall, or the rain may come pelting down, but the wings of the hen protect the chicks; and you, dear friend, if you come to Christ, shall not only have safety, but comfort. I speak what I have experienced. … The hen is also to her chicks, the cherisher of growth. They would not develop if they were not taken care of; in their weakness they need to be cherished, that they may come to the fullness of their perfec-tion. — Charles Spurgeon

Why A Hen Instead of a Fox?

A hen is what Jesus chooses, which – if you think about it – is pretty typical of him. He is always turning things upside down, so that children and peasants wind up on top while kings and scholars land on the bottom. He is always wrecking our expectations of how things should turn out by giving prizes to losers and paying the last first. So of course he chooses a chicken, which is about as far from a fox as you can get. That way the options become very clear: you can live by licking your chops or you can die protecting the chicks. The image of God as hen is finally one that lays bare God’s vulnerability. When you are the mother hen, all you can do is open your wings wide and gather as many as you can. … Jesus won’t be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first … The fox slides up on her one night in the yard while all the babies are asleep. When her cry wakens them, they scatter. She dies the next day where both foxes and chickens can see her – wings spread, breast exposed – without a single chick beneath her feathers. It breaks her heart, but it does not change a thing. If you mean what you say, then this is how you stand. Which he does, as it turns out. — Barbara Brown Taylor

The Fox

… in Hebrew. Lions and foxes can be contrasted with each other to represent the difference between great men and inferior men. The great men are called “lions,” and the lesser men are called “foxes.” The epithet “fox” is sometimes applied to Torah scholars: “There are lions before you, and you ask foxes?”[4] In other words, “Why do you ask the opinion of foxes, that is, my opinion, when there are distinguished scholars present?” … Consider the following list of possibilities for “fox” in its negative sense: weakling, small-fry, usurper, poser, clown, insignificant person, cream puff, nobody, weasel, jackass, tin soldier, peon, hick, pompous pretender, jerk, upstart … In context, and referring to a local ruler, “fox” was a humiliating “slap in the face.”  … Jesus was direct. Antipas was a שׁוּעָל בֶּן שׁוּעָל (shū‘āl ben shū‘āl, “a fox, the son of a fox”), a small-fry.— Randall Buth, Jerusalem Perspective

Hen Stories

The great Persian poet Rumi had an extraordinary teacher named Shams. Even as a child Shams seemed different. His own parents struggled with whether to send him to a monastery or the village of fools. They did not know what to do with him. When he had grown he told them the story of the duck’s egg that was found by the hen and hatched. The hen raised the duckling with her other chicks. One day they walked to a lake. The duck went right in the water, Shams said to his parents, “Now, father and mother, I have found my place. I have learned to swim in the ocean, even if you must remain on the shore.” — Jack KornfieldVariation on Fox and Hen in Aesop’s Fables — Milo Winter 

One bright evening as the sun was sinking on a glorious world a wise old Cock flew into a tree to roost. Before he composed himself to rest, he flapped his wings three times and crowed loudly. But just as he was about to put his head under his wing, his beady eyes caught a flash of red and a glimpse of a long pointed nose, and there just below him stood Master Fox.

“Have you heard the wonderful news?” cried the Fox in a very joyful and excited manner.

“What news?” asked the Cock very calmly. But he had a queer, fluttery feeling inside him, for, you know, he was very much afraid of the Fox.

“Your family and mine and all other animals have agreed to forget their differences and live in peace and friendship from now on forever. Just think of it! I simply cannot wait to embrace you! Do come down, dear friend, and let us celebrate the joyful event.”

“How grand!” said the Cock. “I certainly am delighted at the news.” But he spoke in an absent way, and stretching up on tiptoes, seemed to be looking at something afar off.

“What is it you see?” asked the Fox a little anxiously.

“Why, it looks to me like a couple of Dogs coming this way. They must have heard the good news and—”

But the Fox did not wait to hear more. Off he started on a run.

“Wait,” cried the Cock. “Why do you run? The Dogs are friends of yours now!”

“Yes,” answered the Fox. “But they might not have heard the news. Besides, I have a very important errand that I had almost forgotten about.”

The Cock smiled as he buried his head in his feathers and went to sleep, for he had succeeded in outwitting a very crafty enemy.

The Hen is a Symbol of Motherhood for Reasons We May Have Forgotten, So Let Us Recall— Dr. Karen Davis
In our day, the hen has been degraded to an “egg machine.” In previous eras, she embodied the essence of motherhood. In the first century AD, the Roman historian Plutarch praised the many ways in which mother hens cherish and protect their chicks, “drooping their wings for some to creep under, and receiving with joyous and affectionate clucks others that mount upon their backs or run up to them from every direction; and though they flee from dogs and snakes if they are frightened only for themselves, if their fright is for their children, they stand their ground and fight it out beyond their strength.”
The Renaissance writer Ulisse Aldrovandi described how, at the first sign of a predator, mother hens will immediately gather their chicks “under the shadow of their wings, and with this covering they put up such a very fierce defense – striking fear into their opponent in the midst of a frightful clamor, using both wings and beak – they would rather die for their chicks than seek safety in flight.” Similarly, in collecting food, the mother hen allows her chicks to eat their fill before satisfying her own hunger. Thus, he said, mother hens present, in every way, “a noble example of love for their offspring.” … I saw this love in action, when a hen named Eva jumped our sanctuary fence on a spring day and disappeared, only to return three weeks later in June with eight fluffy chicks. Watching Eva with her tiny brood close behind her was like watching a family of wild birds whose dark and golden feathers blended perfectly with the woods and foliage they melted in and out of during the day. Periodically, Eva would squat down with her feathers puffed out, and her peeping chicks would all run under her wings for comfort and warmth. A few minutes later the family was on the move again … One day, a large dog wandered in front of the magnolia tree where Eva and her chicks were foraging. With her wings outspread and curved menacingly toward the dog, she rushed at him over and over, cackling loudly, all the while continuing to push her chicks behind herself with her wings. The dog stood stock still before the excited mother hen and soon ambled away, but Eva maintained her aggressive posture, her sharp, repetitive cackles and attentive lookout for several minutes after he was gone … Sitting on her nest, a mother hen carefully turns each of her eggs as often as thirty times a day, using her body, her feet, and her beak to move each egg precisely in order to maintain the proper temperature, moisture, ventilation, humidity, and position of the egg during the 3-week incubation period. Embryonic chicks respond to soothing sounds from the mother hen and to warning cries from the rooster. Two or three days before the chicks are ready to hatch, they start peeping to notify their mother and siblings that they are ready to emerge from their shells, and to draw her attention to any distress they’re experiencing such as cold or abnormal positioning … A communication network is established among the baby birds and between them and their mother, who must stay calm while all the peeping, sawing, and breaking of eggs goes on underneath her as she meanwhile picks off tiny pieces of shell that may be sticking to her chicks and slays any ants that may dart in to scavenge. During all this time, as Page Smith and Charles Daniel describe in The Chicken Book, “The chorus of peeps goes on virtually uninterrupted, the unborn chicks peeping away, the newborn ones singing their less muffled song.” … During the first four to eight weeks or so, the chicks stay close to their mother, gathering beneath her wings every night at dusk. Eventually, she flies up to her perch or a tree branch, indicating her sense that they, and she, are ready for independence … Let us with equal justice perceive chickens with envisioned eyes that pierce the veil of these birds’ “mechanization” and apprehend the truth of who they are. In The Chicken Book, Page Smith and Charles Daniel remind us, most poignantly: “As each chick emerges from its shell in the dark cave of feathers underneath its mother, it lies for a time like any newborn creature, exhausted, naked, and extremely vulnerable. And as the mother may be taken as the epitome of motherhood, so the newborn chick may be taken as an archetypal representative of babies of all species, human and animal alike, just brought into the world.” … This is What Wings Are For.

Reflections on being curious and asking questions … the experience of the holy season of Lent.

In the holy season of Lent, we are called to the spiritual discipline of preparation. Some part of this is the practice of curiosity and questioning. Entering Lent is wandering into  the metaphorical  ‘wilderness’ … where everything is primal and makes a difference and you’re likely to be at risk and to get lost … it’s about life and death, about getting down to core values. From that deep place arises the deep questions, the underlying ‘why’ that shapes how we live. So Lent is about living close to the wellspring of creativity and tension, beyond the context that usually makes us comfortable, safe, and secure. Paying attention to Lent becomes an invitation to go into an emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual place where we have permission to wonder and doubt and explore and grow. — Rev Gail (with credit to Rev Sean Dunker-Bendigo of Madison Church for the inspiration to approach Lent as a series of questions)

Music Video Link: Question by the Moody Blues

Be present.
Make love. Make tea.
Avoid small talk. Embrace conversation.
Buy a plant, water it.
Make your bed. Make someone else’s bed.
Have a smart mouth and a quick wit.
Run. Make art. Create.
Swim in the ocean. Swim in the rain.
Take chances. Ask questions.
Make mistakes. Learn.
Know your worth.
Love fiercely. Forgive quickly.
Let go of what doesn’t make your happy.
Grow.
— Paulo Coelho

On Asking Questions: Being Curious

Always the beautiful answer / who asks a more beautiful question. —e.e. Cummings

Be curious. — Stephen Hawking

Don’t be afraid to look again at everything you’ve ever believed … I believe the more we search, the more we delve into the human teachings about the nature and God of life, which are in fact are the teachings of all the great religions traditions, the closer we come to a mature understanding of the Godself … In other words, doubt, questions, drive us to look at how we ourselves need to grow in wisdom, age and grace.  The courage to face questions is the first step in that process. — Joan Chittister

Instead of anxiety about chasing a passion that you’re not even feeling, do something a lot simpler: Just follow your curiosity. — Elizabeth Gilbert

A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea. — John Anthony Ciardi

Curiosity isn’t the icing on the cake. It’s the cake itself. — Susan Engel

We live in the world our questions create. — David Cooperrider

The role of the artist is to ask questions, not to answer them. — Anton Chekhov

I was looking for myself and asking everyone but myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. — Ralph Ellison

Ever since I was a little girl and could barely talk, the word ‘why’ has lived and grown along with me… When I got older, I noticed that not all questions can be asked and that many whys can never be answered. As a result, I tried to work things out for myself by mulling over my own questions. And I came to the important discovery that questions which you either can’t or shouldn’t ask in public, or questions which you can’t put into words, can easily be solved in your own head. So the word ‘why’ not only taught me to ask, but also to think. And thinking has never hurt anyone. On the contrary, it does us all a world of good. — Anne Frank

Judge a man by his questions, rather than his answers. — Voltaire

How do I create something out of nothing? How do I create my own life? I think it is by questioning. — Amy Tan

My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school, “So? Did you learn anything today?” But not my mother. “Izzy,” she would say, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference—asking good questions—made me become a scientist. — Isidor Isaac Rabi

On Lent: Surrendering Ourselves

The reality is that I cannot free myself from the bondage of self.  I cannot keep from being turned in on self. I cannot by my own understanding or effort disentangle myself from my self interest and when I think that I can …I am trying to do what is only God’s to do. To me, there is actually great hope in admitting my mortality and brokenness because then I finally lay aside my sin management program and allow God to be God for me.  Which is all any of us really need when it comes down to it … —  Nadia Bolz-Weber

… another Lenten season, a time of lengthening days…not just in hours but in slowness, in taking time to linger over our spiritual lives, over our identity as a people of faith, over the texts that form us and the quiet places in which God speaks to us, still. — Kathryn M. Matthews

The big rub is that to surrender my “singularity” (John 12:24) and fall into this “altogether new creation” will always feel like dying. How could it not? It is a dying of the self that we thought we were, but it is the only self that we knew until then. It will indeed be a “revolution of the mind” (Ephesians 4:23). Heart and body will soon follow. This is the real “try harder” that applies to Lent, and its ultimate irony is that it is not a trying at all, but an ultimate surrendering, dying, and foundational letting go. You will not do it yourself, but it will be done unto you (Luke 1:38) by the events of your life. Such deep allowing is the most humiliating, sacrificial, and daily kind of trying! Pep talks seldom get you there, but the suffering of life and love itself will always get you there. Lent is just magnified and intensified life. — Richard Rohr

I think it is good news–because even if no one ever wants to go there, and even if those of us who end up there want out again as soon as possible, the wilderness is still one of the most reality-based, spirit-filled, life-changing places a person can be … What did that long, famishing stretch in the wilderness do to him?  It freed him–from all devilish attempts to distract him from his true purpose, from hungry craving for things with no power to give him life, from any illusion he might have had that God would make his choices for him. … But it would be a mistake for me to try to describe your wilderness exam.  Only you can do that, because only you know what devils have your number, and what kinds of bribes they use to get you to pick up.  All I know for sure is that a voluntary trip to the desert this Lent is a great way to practice getting free of those devils for life–not only because it is where you lose your appetite for things that cannot save you, but also because it is where you learn to trust the Spirit that led you there to lead you out again, ready to worship the Lord your God and serve no other all the days of your life.  — Barbara Brown Taylor

But the historic practices of Lent are Christian. There are three of them: praying, fasting, almsgiving. These are three things that Christians should consider doing all the time, but the 46 days of Lent provide us with an explicit invitation to do them more intentionally. I say an invitation, because we don’t have to do them, not during Lent, not ever. … I am going to make an unabashed case for Lent, myself. …  Lent is a chance to uncork the bottle, to unclog our spirits from what is stifling them, to sample the mystery. It is a chance to own that we do not wholly own ourselves, but acknowledge that God has a claim over us. We work so hard for radical equality in our lives—for equal marriage, equal pay for equal work, an end to bigotry of all varieties—and we sometimes delude ourselves, as religious people, that radical equality extends to our relationship with God … Taking on a Lenten discipline means surrendering to a higher power, it means placing ourselves under God’s authority and protection. But here’s the rub: to place ourselves under God’s authority is a reminder that we are under no other authority, or at least that all those other authorities are less than God’s. The church, the state, our remote fathers, our overbearing mothers, our inept boss who gets paid more than we do, our snarky coworkers, the popular crowd, the opposing football team, the opposing political party, Al Qaeda, alcohol, fried foods, chocolate, caffeine, porn, late-night cable. Whatever our addictions, whatever our self-medication devices, whatever our overlords of fear and control, none can match the power of God our Father and Mother, if we choose God as our God. To claim that we are in a direct relationship with our Creator, to join with that Creator and Sustainer in an act of self-disciplining, is an act of resistance. It’s a boycott of all that is body-wounding and soul-killing. It is a radical re-ordering of our priorities, and a reclamation of our God-given will and strength …  … What might you do, this Lent, to rend your heart, to give God an opening? What might you do to make God-shaped space within your heart, a space that will invite you to call on the name of God more frequently, to share the experience of your brother Jesus in the wilderness, to uncork the Spirit and let it flow freely, to release yourself from rage or addiction or the tyranny of lesser gods? What can you give up, or take on, as an act of resistance against the authorities that don’t deserve any claim over you?  — Molly Phinney Baskette

Reflection on thin places, climbing & coming down from summits, and transfiguration (themes from Luke)

One way or another, we find ourselves standing in the presence of holiness. In thin places … sometimes beautiful, stunning, awe-inspiring … sometimes terrible and life-changing. Thin places are locations or experiences, in the world, when heaven touches earth. They are places and times in which we cannot stay or linger or make our homes … because they exist as both ephemeral and eternal. In such places and times, what will we leave behind?  And what will we bring with us back into our daily living? — Rev Gail

That when glory shines,
we will bring it back with us
all the way, all the way, all the way down. — Jan Richardson

On Thin Places, High Places

Thin places are transparent places or moments, set apart by the quality of the sunlight in them, or the shadows, or the silence, or the sounds—see how many variations there are?  What they have in common is their luminosity, the way they light an opening between this world and another … It works to make you more aware of the thin veil between apparent reality and deeper reality. It works to pull aside the veil for just a moment, so you can see through. Sometimes I know I’m in a thin place because it feels like the floor just dropped two or three levels beneath my feet and set me down in a deeper place. They can open up just about anywhere … But thin places aren’t always lovely places, and they’re not always outdoors. Hospital rooms can be thin places. So can emergency rooms and jail cells. A thin place is any place that drops you down to where you know you’re in the presence of the Really Real—the Most Real—God, if you insist. — Barbara Brown Taylor

To put it simply: the Holy Spirit bothers us … moves us … makes us walk … And we are like Peter at the Transfiguration: ‘Ah, how wonderful it is to be here like this, all together!’ … But don’t bother us. We want the Holy Spirit to doze off … we want to domesticate the Holy Spirit. And that’s no good. because he is God, he is that wind which comes and goes and you don’t know where. He is the power of God, he is the one who gives us consolation and strength to move forward. But: to move forward! And this bothers us. It’s so much nicer to be comfortable. ― Pope Francis, Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday

On Climbing & Coming Down Again

I truly believe that there is no greater metaphor for life than climbing mountains. The mountains have a way of stripping the mind down to its basic senses and forcing us to live in the moment.  In order to do this we must respect everything around us and maintain balance. If you guys truly value your lives, then you must live them to the fullest. We have planned this trip for quite some time and have known from the beginning that it would be dangerous. To turn back now is useless. To turn back in the face of a fierce storm or worsening conditions is obvious. We must expect the worst and hope for the best. If we do not summit because we make the decision to turn back, then we will have learned yet another lesson. If we do not summit because we did not try, then we will learn nothing. I hope we all realize that if we believe mountaineering is about getting to the top of mountains, then we are treading a path of foolery. Mountaineering is about everything BUT getting to the top. It is about teamwork, courage, fortitude, good decision making, determination, etc. Getting to the top is merely the culmination of effort and circumstance. — Mountaineer, not attributed.

We should refuse none of the thousands and one joys that the mountains offer us at every turn. We should brush nothing aside, set no restrictions. We should experience hunger and thirst, be able to go fast, but also to go slowly and to contemplate. — Gaston Rébuffat

Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end. — Edward Whymper, Scrambles Amongst the Alps

The aim of the mountaineer, if he wishes to be an artist in the full sense of word, is neither escape nor “the search for the absolute” as some have claimed, but rather seek that place where “the mystic remains silent and the poets start to speak towards men”. — Bernard Amy

The … trend in mountaineers is not the risk they take, but the large degree to which they value life. They are not crazy because they don’t dare, they’re crazy because they do. — Lisa Morgan

Just a reminder – a guidebook is no substitute for skill, experience, judgement and lots of tension. — Charlie Fowler

It’s a round trip. Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory. — Ed Viesturs

Definition: Alpinism is the art of going through the mountains confronting the greatest dangers with the biggest of cares. What we call art here, is the application of a knowledge to an action. — René Daumal

As I hammered in the last bolt and staggered over the rim, it was not at all clear to me who was the conqueror and who was the conquered. I do recall that El Cap seemed to be in much better condition than I was. — Warren Harding

Trying to connect to the moment, that move, that breath – this is what I have been striving for; finding the oneness that can exist with all the things around and inside me. — Ron Kauk

Relaxation, acceptance, and keeping open mind are key. … If I can’t do a move I merely accept that I haven’t discovered the right sequence… I will try to do it … different ways … until I find something that does work. That’s what I mean by keeping an open mind. — Lynn Hill

If there’s only one thing I would like to say, this is: enjoy the process. Don’t worry about the result. Climbing must be fun. — Marc Le Menestrel

In the Presence of Holiness

What can we say beyond “Wow”, in the presence of glorious art, in music so magnificent that it can’t have originated solely on this side of things? Wonder takes our breath away, and makes room for new breath. — Anne Lamott

Love enables us to see things that those who are without love cannot see. — Thich Nhat Hanh

An awake heart is like a sky that pours light. — Hafiz

We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time. — Thomas Merton

Show us the glory in the grey. — George MacLeod

I understood that I was being shown the future: shards of what would come to be. Often, I cried out for the pain of it. But other times, I was comforted, because I saw, for an instant, the pattern of the whole. — Geraldine Brooks, The Secret Chord

…he liked his transcendence out in plain sight where he could keep an eye on it — say, in a nice stained-glass window — not woven through the fabric of life like gold threads through a brocade. — Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age

The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God. — Irenaeus

Fortunately, the Bible I set out to learn and love rewarded me with another way of approaching God, a way that trusts the union of spirit and flesh as much as it trusts the world to be a place of encounter with God. — Barbara Brown Taylor

Life’s splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come. — Franz Kafka

It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance–for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light….Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it? — Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

And these Things, which live by perishing,
know you are praising them; transient,
they look to us for deliverance: us, the most transient of all.
They want us to change them, utterly, in our invisible heart,
within – oh endlessly – within us! Whoever we may be at last.
Earth, isn’t this what you want: to arise within us,
invisible? Isn’t it your dream
to be wholly invisible someday?
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Commentary on the Transfiguration: Ascending and Coming Down Again



If the great spiritual journey is to have any meaning whatsoever in our times, we, you and I, too, will have to wade into the throngs of hurting people on every plain of this planet, listening, listening, listening to the prophet Jesus, and exposing to people the underlying causes of all the wounding in this world and healing what we touch. — Joan Chittister

A transfiguration, a morphing, a realization had to take place, even in Jesus, before he became the Anointed One in which everything else cohered and held together (see Colossians, Ephesians, and the prologue to John’s Gospel). The resurrected Jesus is the Christ. The Risen Christ is Jesus but also bigger and beyond Jesus’ individual form and lifetime … But it is one universe and all within it is transmuted and transformed by the glory of God. The whole point of the Incarnation and Risen Body is that the Christ is here—and always was! But now we have a story that allows us to imagine it just might be true. Jesus didn’t go anywhere. He became the universal omnipresent Body of Christ. That’s why the final book of the Bible promises us a new heaven and a new earth. (Revelation 21:1), not an escape from earth. We focused on “going” to heaven instead of living on earth as Jesus did—which makes heaven and earth one. It is heaven all the way to heaven. What you choose now is exactly what you choose to be forever. God will not disappoint you. — Richard Rohr

The beauty that emerges from woundedness is a beauty infused with feeling; a beauty different from the beauty of landscape and the cold perfect form. This is a beauty that has suffered its way through the ache of desolation until the words or music emerged to equal the hunger and desperation at its heart. It must also be said that not all woundedness succeeds in finding its way through to beauty of form. Most woundedness remains hidden, lost inside forgotten silence. Indeed, in every life there is some wound that continues to weep secretly, even after years of attempted healing. Where woundedness can be refined into beauty a wonderful transfiguration takes place. ― John O’Donohue

The new heavens and the new earth are not replacements for the old ones; they are transfigurations of them. The redeemed order is not the created order forsaken; it is the created order – all of it – raised and glorified. ― Robert Farrar Capon

Meditation on sacred bodies: loving our bodies, caring for other bodies & living in the communal body (themes from 1 Corinthians 12 and Luke 4)

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.
― St. Teresa of Avila

I Sing the Body Electric Walt Whitman(1 – excerpt)
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
… The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv’d neck and the counting; Such-like I love … (7 – excerpt)
…  This is not only one man, this the father of those who shall be fathers in their turns,
In him the start of populous states and rich republics,
Of him countless immortal lives with countless
embodiments and enjoyments. How do you know who shall come from the offspring
of his offspring through the centuries? (Who might you find you have come from yourself,
if you could trace back through the centuries?) (8 – excerpt)
A woman’s body … She too is not only herself,
she is the teeming mother of mothers,
She is the bearer of them that shall grow
and be mates to the mothers.
Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the body of a man? Do you not see that these are exactly the same
to all in all nations and times all over the earth?
If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred …

Except for the BodyMary Oliver

Except for the body of someone you love,
including all its expressions in privacy and in public,

trees, I think, are the most beautiful
forms on the earth.

Though, admittedly, if this were a contest,
the trees would come in an extremely distant second.

I Got Kin Hafiz
Plant: so that your own heart will grow.
Love: so God will think,
“Ahhhhhh, I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul
over for coffee and rolls.”
Sing: because this is a food our starving world needs.
Laugh: because that is the purest sound.

Solitude Nancy Wood
Do not be afraid to embrace the arms of loneliness.
Do not be concerned with the thorns of solitude.
Why worry that you will miss something?
Learn to be at home with yourself without a hand to hold.
Learn to endure isolation with only the stars for friends.
Happiness comes from understanding unity.
Love arrives on the footprints of your fears.
Beauty arises from the ashes of despair.
Solitude brings the clarity of still waters.
Wisdom completes the circle of your dreams.

Our Bodies As Sacred

There comes a time when it is vitally important for your spiritual health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, ‘Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped. I live here. This is my soul’s address.” — Barbara Brown Taylor

May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul. — John O’Donohue

If you have a body, you are entitled to the full range of feelings. It comes with the package. ― Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually)

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Breath is the gift of life from the one who created us – from the God who is both our origin and our destination … some Rabbis teach that Yahweh is not even really a word at all.  It is literally breath itself. Yah – exhale. Weh – inhale. Yah – exhale. Weh – inhale. Which would make sense – since the closest translation of its [Yahweh’s] meaning is The One Who Causes to Become. There is just something about being known by God and animated by God’s breath in our birth and in our death that wouldn’t leave me this week as I thought about talking to you all here in this room today … This is the comfort I thought of this week as I bore witness to both birth and death. That the God whose name is our very breath – who breathed the words let there be light, who breathed into dust to create humanity, is present when we breath our first breath and present when we breathe our last – I believe that our final exhale is Yah – and that God completes God’s name inhaling Weh – and carries us on God’s divine breath into the heart of God from where we came to begin with. … Amen. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

All great spirituality teaches about letting go of what you don’t need and who you are not. Then, when you can get little enough and naked enough and poor enough, you’ll find that the little place where you really are is ironically more than enough and is all that you need. At that place, you will have nothing to prove to anybody and nothing to protect. That place is called freedom. It’s the freedom of the children of God. Such people can connect with everybody. They don’t feel the need to eliminate anybody … ― Richard Rohr, Healing Our Violence through the Journey of Centering Prayer

Caring for Other Bodies As Sacred: Serving the Communal Body

We sit and talk,
quietly, with long lapses of silence
and I am aware of the stream
that has no language, coursing
beneath the quiet heaven of
your eyes
which has no speech.
William Carlos Williams

Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes. — Maggie Kuhn

… I see [God] here, in the eyes of the people in this [hospital] corridor of desperation. This is the real house of God, this is where those who have lost God will find [God] — Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. — Thomas Merton

You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are. — Fred Rodgers

Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being. — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond. — Gwendolyn Brooks

Saints cannot exist without a community, as they require, like all of us, nurturance by a people who, while often unfaithful, preserve the habits necessary to learn the story of God. — Stanley Hauerwas

This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what to do with it. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

That day, for a moment, it almost seemed that we stood on a height, and could see our inheritance; perhaps we could make the kingdom real, perhaps the beloved community would not forever remain that dream one dreamed in agony. — James Baldwin

The lack of material well-being among the poor reflects a lack of spiritual well-being among the rest. — William Sloane Coffin

God does not look at your forms and possessions but he looks at your hearts and your deeds. — Prophet Muhammad 

Loving with Body & Soul, Heart & Mind: Holy Acts

Let me tell you about love, that silly word you believe is about whether you like somebody or whether somebody likes you or whether you can put up with somebody in order to get something or someplace you want or you believe it has to do with how your body responds to another body like robins or bison or maybe you believe love is how forces or nature or luck is benign to you in particular not maiming or killing you but if so doing it for your own good. Love is none of that. There is nothing in nature like it. Not in robins or bison or in the banging tails of your hunting dogs and not in blossoms or suckling foal. Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn – by practice and careful contemplations – the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God-carefully. And if you are a good and diligent student you may secure the right to show love. Love is not a gift. It is a diploma. A diploma conferring certain privileges: the privilege of expressing love and the privilege of receiving it. How do you know you have graduated? You don’t. What you do know is that you are human and therefore educable, and therefore capable of learning how to learn, and therefore interesting to God, who is interested only in Himself which is to say He is interested only in love. Do you understand me? God is not interested in you. He is interested in love and the bliss it brings to those who understand and share the interest … Amen. ― Toni Morrison, Paradise
On Interdependence
When this is, that is.
From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
When this isn’t, that isn’t.
From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.
Buddha, Assutava Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 12.2

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born toeternal life. Amen. — St Francis, Prayer
Madhyamika means “middle way,” and it examines the nature of existence. Madhyamika tells us that nothing has an intrinsic, permanent self-nature. Instead, all phenomena — including beings, including people — are temporary confluences of conditions that take identity as individual things from their relationship to other things. — Barbara O’Brien, Interbeing: The Inter-existence of All Things (essay excerpt)
Clouds In Each Paper  —  Thich Nhat Hanh
If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.  “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter” with the verb “to be”, we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.  If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

Reflections on forms of lay ministry: gifts of the spirit and where you may be called to serve & support others.

Reflections on forms of lay ministry: gifts of the spirit and where you may be called to serve & support others. Our church’s deacons will give the sermon and explore this theme at this week’s worship service. Based on passages from letter from Timothy.

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin’ to make his way home?

If God had a face what would it look like?
And would you want to see if, seeing meant
That you would have to believe in things like heaven
And in Jesus and the saints, and all the prophets?
— Joan Osborne (excerpt from song lyrics)

Our true home is in the present moment.
To live in the present moment is a miracle.
The miracle is not to walk on water.
The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment,
to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.
Peace is all around us in the world and in nature, and within us;
It is in our bodies and our spirits.
Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed.
It is not a matter of faith, it is a matter of practice.
— Thich Nhat Hahn

Helping Others with our Gifts of the Spirit:
Everyday People as Ministers, Servants, Saints

…You don’t have to be famous, or perfect, or dead.  You just have to be you—the one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-repeated human being whom God created you to be—to love as you are loved, to throw your arms around the world, to shine like the sun.  You don’t have to do it alone, either.  You have all this company—all these saints sitting right here whom you can see for yourself plus those you cannot… all of them egging you on, calling your name, and shouting themselves hoarse with encouragement.  Because you are part of them, and they are part of you, and all of us are knit together in the communion of saints … — Barbara Brown Taylor

Continue reading “Reflections on forms of lay ministry: gifts of the spirit and where you may be called to serve & support others.”

Reflections on inner demons, hungry ghosts. Calling on saints, angels & bodhisattvas. Themes from Mark 1.

Your body is woven from the light of heaven. Are you aware that its purity and swiftness is the envy of angels and its courage keeps even devils away. — attributed to Rumi

Lord, the demons still are thriving in the gray cells of the mind:
tyrant voices, shrill and driving, twisted thoughts that grip and bind,
doubts that stir the heart to panic, fears distorting reason’s sight,
guilt that makes our loving frantic, dreams that cloud the soul with fright.
… Clear our thought and calm our feeling; still the fractured, warring soul.
By the power of your healing make us faithful, true, and whole.
— Thomas Troeger (excerpt from hymn ‘Silence, frenzied, unclean spirit’)

RESOURCES for MINDUL and POSITIVE RESPONSE

We consider mindful, spiritual and positive psychology approaches to issues with which we wrestle. These issues may be known in Biblical texts as ‘unclean spirits’ and also referred to in our culture as as inner demons or in Buddhist canon as hungry ghosts. We offer below some resources to reinforce the practice of calling on God, love, compassion, acceptance … maybe through simple exercises and spiritual practices, or with the belief in God, Christ, Spirit, angels, saints, and bodhisattvas as well as self and other people in community.

Continue reading “Reflections on inner demons, hungry ghosts. Calling on saints, angels & bodhisattvas. Themes from Mark 1.”

Meditations on themes of Advent week 4: Love

Below we offer the 8 categories of love as understood through a Greek lens: eros (erotic love), philia (friendship), agape (universal love), ludus (playful love), storge (family-kinship love), philautia (healthy self-love), mania (obsessive love), pragma (mature, enduring love). From which forms of love do you draw your strength and connection?

All You Need Is Love — Beatles lyrics

All You Need Is Love
Love, love, love … Love, love, love … Love, love, love

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy
Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy
All you need is love … All you need is love
All you need is love, love … Love is all you need
Love, love, love … Love, love, love … Love, love, love
Nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy
All you need is love … All you need is love
All you need is love, love … Love is all you need …

PHILIA
Friendship … considered a love between equals. — Mateo Sol

You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not. ― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness. —Euripides

We sometimes choose the most locked up, dark versions of the story, but what a good friend does is turn on the lights, open the window, and remind us that there are a whole lot of ways to tell the same story. ― Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

… friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when. — Simon Sinek

One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood. — Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. — Albert Camus

There’s a kinship among men who have sat by a dying fire and measured the worth of their life by it. ― William Golding, The Spire

There is on the earth no institution which Friendship has established; it is not taught by any religion; no scripture contains its maxims. It has no temple nor even a solitary column … However, out fates at least are social. ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings

To be with old friends is very warming and comforting. — Ian Ziering

In the outworks of our lives, we were almost strangers, but we shared a certain outlook on human life and human destiny, which, from the very first, made a bond of extreme strength . . . At our very first meeting, we talked with continually increasing intimacy. We seemed to sink through layer after layer of what was superficial, till gradually both reached the central fire … ― Bertrand Russell, Portraits From Memory and Other Essays

EROS
Eros is sexual or passionate love, and is the type most akin to our modern construct of romantic love. Neel Burton, Psychology Today

The Greeks, it will be recalled, regarded Eros, the god of love, as the eldest of the gods; but also as the youngest, born fresh and dewy-eyed in every living heart. — Joseph Campbell

Eros will have naked bodies; friendship naked personalities. — C.S. Lewis

Eros is an issue of boundaries. He exists because certain boundaries do. In the interval between reach and grasp, between glance and counterglance, between ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you too,’ the absent presence of desire comes alive. But the boundaries of time and glance and I love you are only aftershocks of the main, inevitable boundary that creates Eros: the boundary of flesh and self between you and me. And it is only, suddenly, at the moment when I would dissolve that boundary, I realize I never can.  — Anne Carson

Eros seizes and shakes my very soul like the wind on the mountain shaking ancient oaks. — Sappho

You can’t deny Eros. Eros will strike, like lightning. Our human defenses are frail, ludicrous. Like plasterboard houses in a hurricane. Your triumph is in perfect submission. And the god of Eros will flow through you, as Lawrence says, in the ‘perfect obliteration of blood consciousness. — Joyce Carol Oates

LUDUS
Ludus is playful or uncommitted love. Neel Burton, Psychology Today

To be running breathlessly, but not yet arrived, is itself delightful, a suspended moment of living hope. — Anne Carson

Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it. ― Toni Morrison, Jazz

he placed his hands
on my mind
before reaching
for my waist
my hips
or my lips
he didn’t call me
beautiful first
he called me
exquisite
– how he touches me
Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

 

PRAGMA
Pragma is a love that has aged, matured and developed over time. It is beyond the physical, it has transcended the casual, and it is a unique harmony that has formed over time. — Mateo Sol

 

To fall in love is easy, even to remain in it is not difficult; our human loneliness is cause enough. But it is a hard quest worth making to find a comrade through whose steady presence one becomes steadily the person one desires to be. — Anna Strong

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. — Ann Landers

She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. ― Toni Morrison, Beloved

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. — Lao-Tzu

A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world. — Leo Buscaglia

The best love is the kind that awakens the soul; that makes us reach for more, that plants the fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. That’s what I hope to give you forever. — Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook 

Love is not a mold that makes two people the same person. Love is the dream that enables both of us to be our own best person—together. Love knows no one can fill up in us what we lack in ourselves. But coming to live what we know about love for the sake of others, as well as for our self, is the one thing that can possibly stop the restless sleep that comes with loneliness. — Joan Chittister, Between the Dark and the Daylight

STORGE
Storge is primarily to do with kinship and familiarity. Storge is a natural form of affection that often flows between parents and … children … can even be found among childhood friends … — Mateo Sol
I thank God that I’m a product of my parents. That they infected me with their intelligence and energy for life, with their thirst for knowledge and their love. — Shakira
Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. — Elizabeth Stone

It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful. — Roald Dahl

Without warning he had become witness to something that stretched back through the eons, ties both elastic and enduring, surpassing death, surpassing life. She was his child. It was as simple as that and that complex. ― Kim Harrison, Into the Woods

You don’t have to have anything in common with people you’ve known since you were five. With old friends, you’ve got your whole life in common. — Lyle Lovett

So it was in Botswana, almost everywhere; ties of kinship, no matter how attenuated by distance or time, linked one person to another, weaving across the country a human blanket of love and community. And in the fibres of that blanket there were threads of obligation that meant that one could not ignore the claims of others. Nobody should starve; nobody should feel that they were outsiders; nobody should be alone in their sadness. ― Alexander McCall Smith

Cousins by chance, friends by choice.  — Proverb

MANIA
Obsessive Love. … that leads a partner into a type of madness and obsessiveness. It occurs when there is an imbalance. — Mateo Sol

I must get my soul back from you; I am killing my flesh without it. ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. ― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

I love you. I hate you. I like you. I hate you. I love you. I think you’re stupid. I think you’re a loser. I think you’re wonderful. I want to be with you. I don’t want to be with you. I would never date you. I hate you. I love you…..I think the madness started the moment we met and you shook my hand. Did you have a disease or something? ― Shannon L. Alder

AGAPE
Agape is universal love, such as the love for strangers, nature, or God. —Neel Burton, Psychology Today

Do love. Don’t just think love, say love, have faith in love, or believe that God is love. Give up the idea that your ideas alone can save you. If you know the right words, then bring those words to life by giving them your own flesh. Put them into practice. Do love, and you will live. — Barbara Brown Taylor

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King Jr.

Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all. ― Toni Morrison, Beloved 

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.― Jimi Hendrix

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. — Victor Hugo

“Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.” AND “I believe God loves the world through us—through you and me.” — St Mother Teresa 

There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met. — William Butler Yeats

Many can give money to those in need, but to personally serve the needy readily, out of love, and in a fraternal spirit, requires a truly great soul. — Saint John Chrysostom

Love is not really an action that you do. Love is what and who you are, in your deepest essence. Love is a place that already exists inside of you, but is also greater than you. That’s the paradox. It’s within you and yet beyond you. This creates a sense of abundance and more-than-enoughness, which is precisely the satisfaction and deep peace of the True Self. You know you’ve found a well that will never go dry, as Jesus says (see John 4:13-14). Your True Self, God’s Love in you, cannot be exhausted. — Richard Rohr

PHILAUTIA
Self Love: The Greeks understood that in order to care for others, we must first learn to care for ourselves. This form of self-love is not unhealthy vanity and self-obsession …Instead, philautia is self-love in its healthiest form. It shares the Buddhist philosophy of “self-compassion”. — Mateo Sol

All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself. — Aristotle

How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you. ― Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self love deficit. ― Eartha Kitt

The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. ― Carl Jung

The first step is to come home to ourselves. You don’t need to become a Buddha. You need to become yourself. — Thich Nhat Hanh


 LOVE: A Listening Heart
— Joan Chittister

There is a magnet in a seeker’s heart whose true north is God. It bends toward the Voice of God with the ear of the heart and, like sunflowers in the sun, turns all of life toward the living of the Word.

This listening heart is pure of pride and free of arrogance. It seeks wisdom—
everywhere, at all times— and knows wisdom by the way it echoes the call of the scriptures.

The compass for God implanted in the seeker’s heart stretches toward truth and signals the way to justice.

It is attuned to the cries of the poor and oppressed with a timbre that allows no interruption, no smothering of the Voice of God on their behalf.

These seekers hear the voice of God in the cry of the poor and oppressed, and they “immediately put aside their own concerns” and follow God’s call in their actions.

Monastics cling to the community in order to know a wisdom not their own, to discover the tradition on which they stand, to heed the Word of God together with one heart and one mind—embedded in many shapes and forms, and brought to the fullness of God’s will for them in mind, heart, and soul.

They give themselves to mutual obedience in order to create a common voice— a communal voice— that can be heard above the clamors of self centeredness. And they do the hard work of community-living and decision-making together, “not cringing or sluggish or half-hearted, but free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness”— so that none of the actions taken together are done in vain, so that the Reign of God can come sooner because we have been here.

In a Monastery of the Heart, Benedictine listening honors the function of leadership to point us in the direction of truth, but knows that neither dependence nor license nor authoritarianism are a valid substitute for communal discernment, for seeking truth in the light of one another’s wisdom.

Communal discernment is a holy hearing of prophetic voices among us. It comes out of listening to others and responding to them in the name of God, so that as a community we can move forward together, one heart at a time.

Benedictine spirituality requires careful listening and responding to the Word of God, to the call of the Jesus who leads us, and to the call of the community that is the foundation of our spiritual life.

It is not an obedience that rests on blessed ignorance, or infantile dependence, or reckless irresponsibility, or military authoritarianism, or blind submission in the name of holiness.

A truly listening heart knows that we lose the chance for truth
if we give another—any other— either too much, or too little, control over the conscience that is meant to be ours alone.

And yet, at the same time, mutual obedience, real obedience, holy listening forever seeks the spiritual dialogue holy wisdom demands.

In a Monastery of the Heart, it is the acceptance of wisdom not our own that asks of us the spiritual maturity that listens first and always to the Word of God— and allows the Word to be the testing ground of every other demand made on our lives.

It is obedience to the greater law of love.

An authentic claim to obedience does not deny another person’s independence and autonomy of thought. On the contrary, it hones the seeker for the sake of the growth of the community and the spreading of the Word.

This listening with the heart to the insights of another is not the obedience of children, or soldiers, or servants, or minions. It is the obedience given to a lover, because of love alone.


“As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”

― Charlie Chaplin

Meditation: blessings among brokenness: based on Joshua 3 and Matthew 23

Themes from Joshua 3:14-17 and Matthew 23:11-12. The crossing from wasteland to abundance, from brokenness to blessing … gratitude arises from the chance to serve others.

Blessing of EnoughJan Richardson

I know how small
this blessing seems;
just a morsel
that hardly matches
the sharp hunger
you carry inside you.

But trust me
when I say—
though I can scarcely
believe it myself—
that between
and behind
and beneath
these words
there is a space

where a table
has been laid
a feast
has been prepared
all has been
made ready
for you
and it will be
enough
and more.


Gratitude through Service

As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else  … Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good. — Maya Angelou

In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others. ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

One can never pay in gratitude; one can only pay ‘in kind’ somewhere else in life. — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. — Albert Schweitzer

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. ― William Arthur Ward

But fortunately for us, the soft spot — our innate ability to love and to care about things — is like a crack in these walls we erect. It’s a natural opening in the barriers we create when we’re afraid. With practice we can learn to find this opening. We can learn to seize that vulnerable moment — love, gratitude, loneliness, embarrassment, inadequacy — to awaken … — Pema Chodron

Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and in the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back. ― Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ― John F. Kennedy

To become fully human means learning to turn my gratitude for being alive into some concrete common good. It means growing gentler toward human weakness. It means practicing forgiveness of my and everyone else’s hourly failures to live up to divine standards. It means learning to forget myself on a regular basis in order to attend to the other selves in my vicinity. … It means receiving the human condition as blessing and not curse, in all its achingly frail and redemptive reality. ― Barbara Brown Taylor


Feast & Famine

In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices. ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

No one has ever become poor by giving. — Anne Frank

‘Enough’ is a feast. — Buddhist proverb

Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life. — Rumi

Eating, and hospitality in general, is a communion, and any meal worth attending by yourself is improved by the multiples of those with whom it is shared. ― Jesse Browner
If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health. ― Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine
Call it the persistence of wonder, or the stubbornness of the miraculous: how Christ casts his circle around the fragments, will not loose his hold on what is broken and in pieces. How he gathers them up: a sign of the wholeness he can see; a foretaste of the banquet to come. — Jan Richardson