Meditations on freedom: spiritual and social

Freedom is what we do with what is done to us. — Jean-Paul Sartre

The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud. — Coco Chanel

When I discover who I am, I’ll be free. — Ralph Ellison

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories. — Margaret Atwood

Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another. — Toni Morrison

Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free. — Thich Nhat Hanh

You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once. — Robert Heinlein

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. — David Foster Wallace

Songs about Freedom:


Freedom — Langston Hughes
Freedom will not come
Today, this year           
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear. 
I have as much right
As the other fellow has           
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land. 
I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.           
Freedom           
Is a strong seed           
Planted           
In a great need.           
I live here, too.           
I want my freedom           
Just as you.   

MEDITATIONS on PERSONAL FREEDOM

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. ― Joe Klaas

The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you. — David Foster Wallace

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. — Soren Kierkegaard

No one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone. That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it. — Paulo Coelho

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind. — Virginia Woolf

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility. — Sigmund Freud

He who has overcome his fears will truly be free. — Aristotle

The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first. — Jim Morrison

Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls. — Anais Nin

True freedom is impossible without a mind made free by discipline. — Mortimer Adler

But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ — John Steinbeck

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes. — Mahatma Gandhi

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning. — Jean-Paul Sartre

REVOLUTIONARIES

If you want to rebel, rebel from inside the system.That’s much more powerful than rebelling outside the system. — Marie Lu

I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game. — Toni Morrison

Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves. — Abraham Lincoln

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. —Ronald Reagan

When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw. — Nelson Mandela

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin

Better to die fighting for freedom then be a prisoner all the days of your life. — Bob Marley

A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window. — Gilles Delueze

We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it. — William Faulkner

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all. — Noam Chomsky

I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. — Robert Heinlein

Being Good Doesn’t Make You Free. The Truth Makes You Free.  Nadia Bolz-Weber (full text)

… “You know that part at the beginning where we all say together that we’ve fractured relationships and done things we shouldn’t and stuff?” Uh…I answered…the confession? “Yeah! they said. That’s so amazing.”

There’s a trend in starting… to actually eliminate the confession and absolution in the liturgy because, well, it just makes people feel bad. And let’s be honest, it’s just a lot more appealing to go to a church that doesn’t make you feel bad.

And I guess there is some logic to that. I mean, if the point of religion is to teach us good from evil and how to choose the good, then who wants to start out each Sunday saying that you didn’t manage to pull that off. Again.

Of course no one can really be that good, which I guess is why there is also a long and rich Christian tradition which in Latin is called “totally faking it.” Also known as pretending to be good and nice and happy and successfully Christian.

… Jesus contrasts not good and evil, but truth and evil. We either do what is true or do what is evil.

I know that I myself will go to extraordinary lengths to fight the truth, especially truth about my shortcomings… One of the most common truths we avoid is about our motivations…

I was substituting being good for the Truth…

But truth comes to us and it changes us. It comes in the word of a sister, in the language of scripture spoken in a community, in the prayers of the people…

The light of truth is simply the only thing that scatters the darkness in ourselves and in the world because God doesn’t deal in deceit and denial and half-truths. Yes, encounters with Truth are hard and require you to step into something that feels like it might just crush you. But the instant is crushes you it also puts you back together into something real. Only the Gospel can do that.

The good news is not that you can possess the truth, but that the truth can possess you, making you real and making you free … perhaps for the first time. And as frightening as it might feel, as much as it might feel like it’s going to crush you, the light of the truth is something you can live in because the love of God has freed you and indeed every human being from the need to live in any lies. Step into the light. You’ll be fine. You’ll be real. And you’ll be free.

CAGED BIRDS
 
There is freedom
waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?
― Erin Hanson 

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will. — Charlotte Bronte

You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down. — Toni Morrison

Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure. — Stephen King


Caged Bird—  Maya Angelou
A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind   
and floats downstream   
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky. 
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and   
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing. 
The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom. 
The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own 
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing. 
The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

Of Old Sat Freedom on the Heights Alfred, Lord Tennyson
 Of old sat Freedom on the heights,
The thunders breaking at her feet:
Above her shook the starry lights:
She heard the torrents meet. 
There in her place she did rejoice,
Self-gather’d in her prophet-mind,
But fragments of her mighty voice
Came rolling on the wind. 
Then stept she down thro’ town and field
To mingle with the human race,
And part by part to men reveal’d
The fulness of her face— 
Grave mother of majestic works,
From her isle-altar gazing down,
Who, God-like, grasps the triple forks,
And, King-like, wears the crown: 
Her open eyes desire the truth.
The wisdom of a thousand years
Is in them. May perpetual youth
Keep dry their light from tears; 
That her fair form may stand and shine,
Make bright our days and light our dreams,
Turning to scorn with lips divine
The falsehood of extremes!

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite! — Charlie Chaplin

Reflections, music, poems & prayers about the work of peace in observance of MLK Weekend & pending 2021 presidential inauguration.

PRAYER of MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

God grant that we wage the struggle with dignity and discipline. May all who suffer oppression in this world reject the self-defeating method of retaliatory violence and choose the method that seeks to redeem. Amen.

Music about peace & advocacy:


Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love.
— Leonard Cohen

Prayer — Black Elk

Grandfather, Great Spirit, once more behold me on earth and lean to hear my feeble voice.
You lived first, and you are older than all need, older than all prayer.
All things belong to you — the two-legged, the four-legged, the wings of the air, and all green things that live.
You have set the powers of the four quarters of the earth to cross each other.
You have made me cross the good road and road of difficulties, and where they cross, the place is holy.
Day in, day out, forevermore, you are the life of things.
Hey! Lean to hear my feeble voice.
At the center of the sacred hoop
You have said that I should make the tree to bloom.
With tears running, O Great Spirit, my Grandfather,
With running eyes I must say
The tree has never bloomed
Here I stand, and the tree is withered.
Again, I recall the great vision you gave me.
It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives.
Nourish it then
That it may leaf
And bloom
And fill with singing birds!
Hear me, that the people may once again
Find the good road
And the shielding tree.

DOVE as SYMBOL of PEACE

We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart. ― Martin Luther King, Jr.

When angels visit us, we do not hear the rustle of wings, nor feel the feathery touch of the breast of a dove; but we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts. — Mary Baker Eddy
 
  
Great ideas, it has been said, come into the world as gently as doves. Perhaps then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope. Some will say that this hope lies in a nation; others in a man. I believe rather that it is awakened, revived, nourished, by millions of solitary individuals whose … works every day negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history. — Albert Camus

The more bombers the less room for doves of peace. — Nikita Khrushchev

I had a dove and the sweet dove died; And I have thought it died of grieving: O, what could it grieve for? Its feet were tied, With a silken thread of my own hands’ weaving. — John Keats

I say love, and the world populates itself with doves. — Pablo Neruda

A Brave and Startling Truth
— Maya Angelou

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

GANDHI’S PRAYER FOR PEACE
I offer you peace
I offer you love
I offer you friendship
I see your beauty
I hear your need
I feel your feelings
My wisdom flows from the highest source
I salute that source in you
Let us work together
For unity and peace.

MORE PRAYERS by MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

Thou Eternal God, out of whose absolute power and infinite intelligence the whole universe has come into being, we humbly confess that we have not loved thee with our hearts, souls and minds, and we have not loved our neighbors as Christ loved us. We have all too often lived by our own selfish impulses rather than by the life of sacrificial love as revealed by Christ. We often give in order to receive. We love our friends and hate our enemies. We go the first mile but dare not travel the second. We forgive but dare not forget. And so as we look within ourselves, we are confronted with the appalling fact that the history of our lives is the history of an eternal revolt against you. But thou, O God, have mercy upon us. Forgive us for what we could have been but failed to be. Give us the intelligence to know your will. Give us the courage to do your will. Give us the devotion to love your will. In the name and spirit of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Dearest Jesus, come and sit with us today. Show us the lies that are still embedded in the soul of America’s consciousness. Unmask the untruths we have made our best friends. For they seek our destruction. And we are being destroyed, Lord. Reveal the ways the lies have distorted and destroyed our relationships. They break your shalom . . . daily. Jesus, give us courage to embrace the truth about ourselves and you and our world. Truth: We are all made in your image. Truth: You are God; we are not. You are God; money is not. You are God; jails, bombs and bullets are not. And Jesus, give us faith to believe: Redemption of people, relationships, communities and whole nations is possible! Give us faith enough to renounce the lies and tear down the walls that separate us with our hands, with our feet, and with our votes! Amen.

Oh God, we thank Thee for the creative insights in the universe. We thank Thee for the lives of great saints and prophets in the past, who have revealed to us that we can stand up amid the problems and difficulties and trials of life and not give in. We thank Thee for our forebears, who’ve given us something in the midst of the darkness of exploitation and oppression to keep going. And grant that we will go on with the proper faith and the proper determination of will, so that we will be able to make a creative contribution to this world and in our lives. In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray. Amen.

WORK of PEACE

Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways. — Dalai Lama XIV

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead

If you want to end the war then Instead of sending guns, send books. Instead of sending tanks, send pens. Instead of sending soldiers, send teachers. — Malala Yousafzai

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. — Victor Frankl

Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace. — Dwight D. Eisenhower

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.
—  John F. Kennedy

Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. —Albert Einstein

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. — Nelson Mandela

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. — Robert F. Kennedy

We aren’t passengers on Spaceship Earth. We’re the crew. We aren’t residents on this planet. We’re citizens. The difference in both cases is responsibility. — Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart

… I am fully committed to the oneness of humanity. If we share these common feelings, then we will have no ground for violence or war. It’s difficult but possible to achieve, through education, not through prayer. I met someone who asked me, please pray. I said, I am a Buddhist, I have a daily practice of prayer but I do not believe prayer brings a peaceful world. We can keep praying for a thousand years and nothing will happen. We should be realistic. If you have the opportunity to meet the Buddha or Jesus Christ, ask them to bring peace to this world and they will certainly ask you, who creates violence? If god created violence, then yes, it’s relevant to appeal to god. I am certain that Buddha and Jesus Christ would tell us, you have created the problem, so it’s your responsibility to solve it. Work for peace, the easy thing to do is pray. — Dalai Lama

Reflections on knowing your heart – theme from Acts of the Apostles 11-15

Then love knew it was called love.
And when I lifted my eyes to your name,
suddenly your heart showed me my way.
― Pablo Neruda

May I live this day
Compassionate of heart,
Clear of mind,
Gracious in awareness
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.
— John O’Donohue
 

Questions to consider:

  • In what ways do you know you own heart? How have you come to know yourself well? When has your heart surprised you?
  • When you pray, what parts of yourself do you choose to hide from Godself? What would you be most comfortable and uncomfortable for Godself to see and know about your heart?
  • Who else in your life knows you well?

Songs about the heart:

Know Your Heart

To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. ― Thich Nhat Hanh
 
Take a shower, wash off the day. Drink a glass of water. Make the room dark. Lie down and close your eyes. Notice the silence. Notice your heart. Still beating. Still fighting. You made it, after all. You made it, another day. And you can make it one more. You’re doing just fine. ― Charlotte Eriksson

I wish you knew what I have in my heart for you, but there is no way for you to know except by my actions. — Umar b. al-Khattib

… if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts. ― Leo Tolstoy
 
“I’ve never minded it,” he went on. “Being lost, that is. I had always thought one could not truly be lost if one knew one’s own heart. But I fear I may be lost without knowing yours.” ― Cassandra Clare

When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object. ― Milan Kundera
 
The heart has its reasons which reason knows not. ― Blaise Pascal
 
The heart is an arrow. It demands aim to land true. ― Leigh Bardugo
 
We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over. ― Ray Bradbury
 
Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you, – and full as much heart! ― Charlotte Brontë
 
Somewhere, far down, there was an itch in his heart, but he made it a point not to scratch it. He was afraid of what might come leaking out. ― Markus Zusak
 
Her heart was a secret garden and the walls were very high. ― William Goldman
 
One ought to hold on to one’s heart; for if one lets it go, one soon loses control of the head too. ― Friedrich Nietzsche
 
“Because fear kills everything,” Mo had once told her. “Your mind, your heart, your imagination.” ― Cornelia Funke
 
Her heart – like every heart, if only its fallen sides were cleared away – was an inexhaustible fountain of love: she loved everything she saw. ― George MacDonald
 
The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration. ― Pearl Buck
 
She put one hand on mine. “When someone is in your heart, they’re never truly gone. They can come back to you, even at unlikely times.” ― Mitch Albom
 
Sometimes your heart is the only thing worth listening to. ― Marissa Meyer
 
The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too. ― Vincent van Gogh
 
Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see …each other in life. Vanity, fear, desire, competition– all such distortions within our own egos– condition our vision of those in relation to us. Add to those distortions to our own egos the corresponding distortions in the egos of others, and you see how cloudy the glass must become through which we look at each other. That’s how it is in all living relationships except when there is that rare case of two people who love intensely enough to burn through all those layers of opacity and see each other’s naked hearts. ― Tennessee Williams
 
Then he made one last effort to search in his heart for the place where his affection had rotted away, and he could not find it. ― Gabriel Garcia Marquez
 
Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another. ― Homer
 
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. —  Bible
 
Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends. ― Alphonse de Lamartine
 
Pity me that the heart is slow to learn. What the swift mind beholds at every turn. ― Edna St. Vincent Millay

Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil. Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person. ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Heart as Sacred Place

One love, one heart, one destiny. ― Robert Marley

Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. ― Augustine of Hippo

And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. ― Mahatma Gandhi
 

Wisdom is a way of knowing that goes beyond one’s mind, one’s rational understanding, and embraces the whole of a person: mind, heart, and body. These three centers must all be working, and working in harmony, as the first prerequisite to the Wisdom way of knowing. — Cynthia Bourgeault 

There is a place in you…that is the eternal place within you. The more we visit there, the more we are touched and fused with the limitless kindness and affection of the divine…If we can inhabit that reflex of divine presence, then compassion will flow naturally from us. — John O’Donohue

Heart Center — Richard Rohr (excerpt)

Deep within each of us is a prayer phrase longing to be expressed, what some have named the Prayer of the Heart. It consists of two simple phrases—one said on inhalation and one said on exhalation. Early Christians used to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus,” in this fashion. That was their deep longing, for Jesus to return and be among them in physical reality. We will spend time in this exercise finding those prayers that are as close to us as our very breath. The beauty of this prayer is the way it stays with us all day, all week, or even for a lifetime if we allow it.

The Exercise 

  • Begin seated in a comfortable position. Make sure your body weight is distributed in such a way that you feel stable. Take about five deep, slow breaths and allow the tension of the day to flow out with each exhalation. After five deliberate breaths, turn your attention away from counting and allow your breath to find its natural pace.
  • What is your deepest and truest longing for life with God at this moment? If you find that your longing feels “tacky” or too worldly, try suspending judgment and instead looking at what’s at the base of that desire. When you check in with your deepest and truest self, what is it that you seek from God?
  • Give that longing a short phrase. For example, if your deep desire is inner freedom, then your phrase would be “freedom” or “inner freedom.” Make sure that your phrase is not too long.
  • What is your favorite name for God? How do you image the Creator? Choose whatever name seems to fit best for you. Some examples include: Jesus, Wisdom, Father, Mother, or Mystery. Be as creative as you want to be. But again, keep the name rather short.
  • Combine your name for God with your longing. For example, if my phrase is “freedom” and the name I choose for God is Christ, my prayer of the heart might be “Freedom, in Christ.” Spend a few moments coming up with your two-part prayer
  • Begin to say—either aloud or silently—your phrase. You may inhale on the name of God and exhale on the desire or vice versa. Spend several minutes breathing this prayer. Make it your own. Allow God to inhabit this prayer.
  • After several minutes of repeating this prayer, sink into contemplative silence. Allow the love of God to fill you and surround you.
  • If you want to be sure to remember this phrase to pray it throughout the day, write it down. You might want to place it on the back of a business card and put it in your wallet or pocket. Place it on a sticky note next to your computer, or on the door of your refrigerator.

Reference:

  • Teresa A. Blythe, 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times (Abingdon Press: 2006), 36-38.

Wisdom of the Heart Richard Rohr (excerpt)

Here are five interlocking habits of the heart . . . deeply ingrained patterns of receiving, interpreting, and responding to experience that involve our intellects, emotions, self-images, and concepts of meaning and purpose. These five habits, taken together, are crucial to sustaining a democracy.

  • We must understand that we are all in this together. Ecologists, economists, ethicists, philosophers of science, and religious and secular leaders have all given voice to this theme. . . .
  • We must develop an appreciation of the value of “otherness.”. . . [This] can remind us of the ancient tradition of hospitality to the stranger. . . .
  • We must cultivate the ability to hold tension in life-giving ways. . . . When we allow [these] tensions to expand our hearts, they can open us to new understandings of ourselves and our world, enhancing our lives and allowing us to enhance the lives of others. . . .
  • We must generate a sense of personal voice and agency. Insight and energy give rise to new life as we speak and act, expressing our version of truth while checking and correcting it against the truths of others. . . .
  • We must strengthen our capacity to create community. . . . The steady companionship of two or three kindred spirits can kindle the courage we need to speak and act as citizens. [4]

References:

  1. Terry Tempest Williams, “Engagement,” Orion, July-August 2004. See also Williams, The Open Space of Democracy (Wip and Stock: 2004), 83-84.
  2. [Cynthia Bourgeault, “The Way of the Heart,” Parabola, January 31, 2017.
  3. Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Voice of the Day: Richard Rohr on Sacred Space,” Sojourners, October 24, 2016.
  4. Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy (Jossey-Bass: 2014, ©2011), 6-7, 44-46.

Reflections on First Responders and ‘Losing Life to Gain Life’

Reflections on first responders in anticipation of First Responders Sunday (Sept 16 at Jackson Community Church) and ‘losing life to gain life’ as themes from Mark 8.

I find myself wondering: How do we discern what we should be fierce about? How do we choose what we will hold on to, and what we need to release? … Some crosses are made of what we take on; some crosses are made of what we let go … Where is this place in your own life? How do you discern what you will hold on to, what you will claim and fight for, and what you will release? How does this choosing, this discerning, draw you closer to … what God might imagine for your life? — Jan Richardson

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