Meditation on circle of life, death & rebirth: themes from Holy Week

HOLY WEEK: Risk, brokenness, resistance, and death balanced by love, justice, healing, hope and renewal. — Rev Gail

I am a broken person and a resurrection person — Anne Lamott

We Pray This Day— Ann Weems
O God, we pray this day:
for all who have a song they cannot sing,
for all who have a burden they cannot bear,
for all who live in chains they cannot break,
for all who wander homeless and cannot return,
for those who are sick and for those who tend them,
for those who wait for loved ones and wait in vain,
for those who live in hunger and for those who will not share their bread,
for those who are misunderstood and for those who misunderstand,
for those who are captives and for those who are captors,
for those whose words of love are locked within their hearts and for those who yearn to hear those words.
Have mercy upon these, O God. Have mercy upon us all.GARDENS: Gethsemane

We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough? — Wendell Berry

… Wherever beauty called me into lonely places,
Where dark Remembrance haunts me with eternal smart, Remembrance, the unmerciful, the well of love,
Recalling the far dances, the far-distant faces,
Whispering me ‘What does this—and this—remind you of?’
CS Lewis, Launcelot (excerpt)

The garden is one of the two great metaphors for humanity. The garden is about life and beauty and the impermanence of all living things. The garden is about feeding your children, providing food for the tribe. It’s part of an urgent territorial drive that we can probably trace back to animals storing food. It’s a competitive display mechanism, like having a prize bull, this greed for the best tomatoes and English tea roses. It’s about winning; about providing society with superior things; and about proving that you have taste, and good values, and you work hard. And what a wonderful relief, every so often, to know who the enemy is. Because in the garden, the enemy is everything: the aphids, the weather, time. And so you pour yourself into it, care so much, and see up close so much birth, and growth, and beauty, and danger, and triumph. And then everything dies anyway, right? But you just keep doing it. — Anne Lamott

In the orchard a Sufi inclined his face Sufi fashion upon his knee, and sank deeply into mystical absorption.
A rude man nearby became annoyed: “Why are you sleeping?” he exclaimed. “Look at the vines, behold the trees and the signs of God’s mercy. Pay attention to the Lord’s command: Look ye and turn your face toward these signs of His mercy.”
The Sufi replied, “O heedless one, the true signs are within the heart: that which is external is only the sign of the signs.”
The real orchard and vineyards are within the very essence of the soul … — Rumi

BREAKING BREAD TOGETHER: Serving & Communing

Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. ― Joan Halifax

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread. — Mother Teresa

Even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope. — Martin Luther King, Jr

Eating a meal together is a meditative practice. We should try to offer our presence for every meal. As we serve our food we can already begin practicing. Serving ourselves, we realize that many elements, such as the rain, sunshine, earth, air and love, have all come together to form this wonderful meal. In fact, through this food we see that the entire universe is supporting our existence … enjoy breathing in and out while practicing the five contemplations …

  1. This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.
  2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive this food.
  3. May we recognise and transform unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed and learn to eat with moderation
  4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that reduces the suffering of living beings, stops contributing to climate change, and heals and preserves our precious planet.
  5. We accept this food so that we may nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, build our Sangha, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.
    — Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist sangha

… he didn’t say, “This is my body broken for you…UNDERSTAND this in remembrance of me.” He didn’t say, “ACCEPT this or DEFEND this or BOUNDARY this in remembrance of me.” He just said, “DO this in remembrance of me.” — Nadia Bolz-Weber

ARREST, BETRAYAL & FORGIVENESS: Justice

I did my best, it wasn’t much, I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch. I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool ya. And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song, With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah. — Leonard Cohen

We need more hope. We need more mercy. And we need more justice. [and] … We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity. ― Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy

What is justice? Giving water to trees.
What is injustice? To give water to thorns.
Justice consists in bestowing bounty in its proper place,
not on every root that will absorb water. — Rumi

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. ― J.R.R. Tolkien

There are some human rights that are so deep that we can’t negotiate them away. I mean people do heinous, terrible things. But there are basic human rights I believe that every human being has. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the United Nations says it for me. And it says there are two basic rights that can’t be negotiated that government doesn’t give for good behavior and doesn’t take away for bad behavior. And it’s the right not to be tortured and not to be killed.― Sister Helen Prejean


HOLY ABSENCE: Death & Tomb

In being with dying, we arrive at a natural crucible of what it means to love and be loved. And we can ask ourselves this: Knowing that death is inevitable, what is most precious today? ― Joan Halifax

Interesting … No flash of light. No announcement. Simply the awareness that what has been is gone. Mary Magdalene, in the dark, notes that the stone has been moved. John, at the door, notes that the wrappings have been left behind. Peter, in the burial place, pronounces it empty of the Christ whose burial clothes have been left behind. And they are left to tell the others. That’s about all the sight of Resurrection that anyone ever really gets, come to think of it. Darkness and an empty tomb. The notion that what has been taken is clearly alive. A burning memory and an unfinished truth. … We must all, at the end of this Lent, live our lives … so that all the communities of the earth can find blessing in us. — Joan Chittister

You had not imagined that something so empty could fill you to overflowing, and now you carry the knowledge … that roots itself beneath your heart: how the emptiness will bear forth a new world that you cannot fathom but on whose edge you stand. — Jan Richardson

FULL CIRCLE: Life to Death and Back Again

Despite the conflicts of life, the Psalmist proclaims that our times are in God’s hands. God sustains us as we travel through the valley of the shadow of death and God will meet us on the other side. — Bruce Epperly

In the oddity or maybe the miracle of life, the roots of something new frequently lie in the decaying husks of something old. ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Holy Week is the Church’s great celebration of life in all its dimensions: communion with others in the Spirit, the call to suffer if necessary … the sometimes loneliness of total commitment and the glory of living in the Christ … It is a week to recall your own cost of living the Christian life and drawing strength for the journey from the One who has lived it before us and now fills us with His own eternal life. — Joan Chittister

Don’t worry about coming … for the right reasons. Just wave branches. Shout praise for the wrong reason. Eat a meal. Have your feet washed. Grab at coins. Shout Crucify him. Walk away when the cock crows. Because we, as we are and not as some improved version of ourselves … we are who God came to save. And nothing can stop what’s going to happen. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

You can’t effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression, or injustice and not be broken by it. We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if your brokenness is not equivalent.― Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy

ARISING: Resurrection

You may say that I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us, And the world will be as one
— John Lennon, Imagine (excerpt)

Of resurrection? Is the east
Afraid to trust the morn?
— Emily Dickinson, Afraid? (excerpt)

… What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. … Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend. — Naomi Shihab Nye, Kindness (excerpt)

There’s a blaze of light in every word, It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah. — Leonard Cohen

You can’t effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression, or injustice and not be broken by it. We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if your brokenness is not equivalent.― Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy

ARISING: Resurrection

You may say that I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us, And the world will be as one
— John Lennon, Imagine (excerpt)

Of resurrection? Is the east
Afraid to trust the morn?
— Emily Dickinson, Afraid? (excerpt)

… What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. … Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend. — Naomi Shihab Nye, Kindness (excerpt)

There’s a blaze of light in every word, It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah. — Leonard Cohen

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.
That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge …
— John O’Donohue, Blessing for the Earth (excerpt)

It is the mystery of the thrown-away stone, that ends up being the cornerstone of our existence. Christ has risen from the dead. In this throwaway culture, where that which is not useful takes the path of the use-and-throw, where that which is not useful is discarded, that stone that was discarded is the fountain of life … — Pope Francis

Speaking in Creations tongues, hearing Creations voices, the boundary of our soul expands. Earth has many voices. Those who understand that Earth is a living being, know this because they have translated themselves to the humble grasses and old trees. They know that Earth is a community that is constantly talking to itself; a communicating universe. And whether we know it or not, we are participating in the web of this community. ― Joan Halifax

Like sudden lightning scattering the spirits
of sight so that the eye is then too weak
to act on other things it would perceive,
such was the living light encircling me,
leaving me so enveloped by its veil
of radiance that I could see no thing.
The Love that calms this heaven always welcomes
into Itself with such a salutation,
to make the candle ready for its flame. — Dante (Paradiso excerpt)

Only that you now have taught me (but how late!) my lack,
I see the chasm; and everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile and grow … — CS Lewis

… and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love–
do you think there is anywhere, in any language
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you
as you stand there
empty-handed–
— Mary Oliver

All of my work … has been about becoming a resurrection story – slowly, painstakingly healing from the damages of childhood in a family where the parents didn’t love each other; the damage this culture does to children who are different; how the love of God, through friends, slowly helps us be restored to the person we were born to be. — Anne Lamott

Still I Rise— Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Reflections on giving plus meditations on Veterans Day

Excerpt from Second Inaugural Address
… public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation … Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully … With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. — Abraham Lincoln

Continue reading “Reflections on giving plus meditations on Veterans Day”

Reflections on Lent 2: Genesis 17 & Mark 8: names, identities, life, self.

Themes in Lenten readings from Genesis 17 and Mark 8 about claiming names, embracing new life, and transforming identity. Meditations on ideas such as “Taking up the cross” and “losing life to gain it.”
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
Song of Myself, Walt Whitman
Soul, if you want to learn secrets,
your heart must forget about shame
 and dignity.
You are God’s lover,
 yet you worry what people are saying.
Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi

Giving Up a Life, a Self, an Identity: Themes from Mark 8

Do not lose yourself in the past. Do not lose yourself in the future. Do not get caught in your anger, worries, or fears. Come back to the present moment, and touch life deeply. This is mindfulness. ― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and LiberationWe begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t? … Here’s how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake’s line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love. — Anne Lamott, “Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be: Where to Start” O, The Oprah Magazine

Continue reading “Reflections on Lent 2: Genesis 17 & Mark 8: names, identities, life, self.”

Meditations on walking toward freedom from bondage

What does it mean to walk for freedom? What freedoms do we have and which ones are being dismantled? How will we stand for freedom and resist oppression and injustice? And sometimes, when it is beyond our control, where do we experience the love and grace that holds us accountable, but also sets us free?
Tonight  (excerpts) — Agha Shahid Ali
… I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates—

A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.

… And I … only am escaped to tell thee—

God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.

Maggid(excerpts) Marge Piercy
The courage to let go of the door, the handle.

The courage to shed the familiar walls …

We honor those who let go of every-
thing but freedom, who ran, who revolted, who fought,
who became other by saving themselves.

Freedom Walk:
From Slavery to Something Else

Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it. — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Life is a gift to be received with gratitude and a task to be pursued with courage. — Presbyterian Church USA, Confession of 1967

When author Madeleine L’Engle was asked, ‘Do you believe in God without any doubts?’ she replied, ‘I believe in God with all my doubts. — Bruce Epperly, Christian Century 1-26-10

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death. — Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela.

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. — M. Scott Peck

We make the road by walking. — Paulo Freire

If you can’t fly then run,
if you can’t run then walk,
if you can’t walk then crawl,
but whatever you do
you have to keep moving forward.
― Martin Luther King Jr

This year is also the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.

Prayer — Martin Luther

Eternal God,
you call us to ventures
of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us,
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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