Reflections on love and longing: themes from Corinthians plus some meditations inspired by the Superbowl

How I long to see among dawn flowers,
the face of God. ― Basho

Song (video):
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking Forby U2

Mindful — Mary Oliver
(From Why I Wake Early)

Every day I see or hear
something that more or less
kills me with delight,
that leaves me like a needle
in the haystack of light.
It was what I was born for – to look, to listen,
to lose myself inside this soft world –
to instruct myself over and over in joy, and acclamation.
Nor am I talking about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary, the common,
the very drab, the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar, I say to myself,
how can you help but grow wise
with such teachings as these –
the untrimmable light of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made out of grass?

On Longing: Human and Holy

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise; seek what they sought. — Basho

Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment. ― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.  — Victor Frankl

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

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. — CS Lewis

There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it. — Oscar Wilde

There is a smile and a gentleness inside. When I learned the name and address of that, I went to where you sell perfume. I begged you not to trouble me so with longing. — Rumi

There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator … — Blaise Pascal

My library is an archive of longings. ― Susan Sontag, As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh

I don’t know what they are called, the spaces between seconds– but I think of you always in those intervals. ― Salvador Plascencia, The People of Paper

… There is the heat of Love, the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover’s whisper, irresistible—magic to make the sanest man go mad. ― Homer, The Iliad

To want and not to have, sent all up her body a hardness, a hollowness, a strain. And then to want and not to have- to want and want- how that wrung the heart, and wrung it again and again! ― Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are still alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them. ― George Eliot

  Radical self-care is what we’ve been longing for, desperate for, our entire lives-friendship with our own hearts. — Anne Lamott

Passion to Play & Live

To me, football is so much about mental toughness, it’s digging deep, it’s doing whatever you need to do to help a team win and that comes in a lot of shapes and forms. — Tom Brady

Losing doesn’t make me want to quit, it makes me want to fight that much harder. — Bear Bryant

Seeking the truth, finding the truth, telling the truth and living the truth has been and will always be what guides my actions. — Colin Kaepernick

For every pass I caught in a game, I caught a thousand in practice. — Don Hutson

Remember, tomorrow is promised to no one. — Walter Payton

I think it’s also important for people to really see that your identity doesn’t come just from what you do but who you are. My relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important thing to me. Because of that, I don’t have to change whether I am one of the most popular guys in football. — Tim Tebow

Today, you’ve got a decision to make. You’re gonna get better or you’re gonna get worse, but you’re not gonna stay the same. Which will it be? —  Joe Paterno

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. — Dwight D. Eisenhower

If you want to win, do the ordinary things better than anyone else does them, day in and day out. — Chuck Noll

Life is ten percent what happens to you, and ninety percent how you respond to it.— Lou Holtz

The game of life is a lot like football. You have to tackle your problems, block your fears, and score your points when you get the opportunity. — Lewis Grizzard

Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile. — Vince Lombardi

Don’t walk through life just playing football. Don’t walk through life just being an athlete. Athletics will fade. Character and integrity and really making an impact on someone’s life, that’s the ultimate vision, that’s the ultimate goal – bottom line. — Ray Lewis

Happiness does not come from football awards. It’s terrible to correlate happiness with football. Happiness comes from a good job, being able to feed your wife and kids. I don’t dream football, I dream the American dream … — Barry Sanders

Commentary on Longing from Different Faiths & Disciplines

In order to develop unbiased infinite love, you first need the practice of detach[ment]. But “detach” does not mean to give up desire. Desire must be there. Without desire, how can we live our life? Without desire, how can we achieve Buddhahood? … It’s very necessary in order to tackle all these biological factors of hatred, or anger, these things [for which] you need tremendous sort of will power. So the self-confidence is very, very important, but the ego which disregards other’s right—that is bad. In other words, I think egotistic attitude based on ignorance is negative. Egotistic sort of feeling based on reasons is positive. — Dalai Lama

Sometimes when we connect with our inner need and allow it to illuminate us, this striving can be creative, innovative and nourishing, and we feel sated. Other times we are so frightened by it, we satisfy the craving quickly and temporarily without knowing the need and without knowing ourselves. The hunger returns. And returns again.  And again.  And guess what? No matter how evolved you become, it will return again, just like physical hunger does. The solution isn’t to rid ourselves of hunger and longing, it is to learn to live with the hunger– experiencing it differently. If we are lucky, we will discover what we are really hungry for and channel ourselves into nourishing pursuits. … — Robin Cohen with reference to Thich Nhat Hanh, W. Ronald D. Fairbairn & Harry Guntrip

In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.  ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

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 the first week of Advent: Hope

Advent comes with yearning. The first week of Advent focuses on hope. When is hope helpful and tangible, grounded in the here-and-now as well as in what comes next? When does hope focus too much on the future and remove us from the present?

Note: Check out this ‘Guide to Grounded Hope’ from Option B.
Pragmatic approach to the practice of developing hope.

Only Hope
— song by Switchfoot, performed by Mandy Moore

There’s a song that’s inside of my soul
It’s the one that I’ve tried to write over and over again
I’m awake in the infinite cold
But you sing to me over and over and over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands
And pray to be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope

Sing to me the song of the stars
Of your galaxy dancing
And laughing and laughing again
When it feels like my dreams are so far
Sing to me of the plans that you have for me over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope

I give you my destiny
I’m giving you all of me
I want your symphony
Singing in all that I am
At the top of my lungs I’m giving it back

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope


Advent Means:
Expectation, Yearning, Anticipation, Preparation, Waiting …
Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent; one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other–things that are of no real consequence–the door is shut, and can be opened only from the outside. — Dietrech Bonhoeffer, Letters from Prison–November 21, 1943It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them. — George Eliot

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

Every year we celebrate the holy season of Advent, O God. Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise. — Karl Rahner

This Advent, I want to warm myself by the fire of hope! — Christopher West

Once again we mark the arrival of Advent. This holy season trumpets God’s extravagant love for us, a love beyond reckoning. Into our beautiful yet wounded world comes Emmanuel, God-with-us, carrying the promise of fresh hope to enliven our hearts. No matter how broken or seemingly hopeless our world may sometimes seem, the Advent messages are rich with joyous expectation and longing, insisting that God can and does bring forth life where none seems possible. ― Sr. Chris Koellhoffer IHM, Pope Francis: Living Advent With Joy and Peace: Encouragement and Prayers


On Hope

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up. — Anne Lamott

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. — Martin Luther King Jr.

Making them think the next sunrise would be worth it; that another stroke of time would do it at last. — Toni Morrison, Beloved

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death. — Robert Fulghum

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. — Helen Keller

To announce, however, that the Liberator is sitting among the poor and that the wounds are signs of hope and that today is the day of liberation, is a step very few can take. But this is exactly the announcement of the wounded healer: ‘The master is coming–not tomorrow, but today, not next year, but this year, not after all our misery is passed, but in the middle of it, not in another place but right here where we are standing.’ — Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

Dear Child of God, I write these words because we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in the world will ever end. I want to share with you my faith and my understanding that this suffering can be transformed and redeemed. There is no such thing as a totally hopeless case. Our God is an expert at dealing with chaos, with brokenness, with all the worst that we can imagine. God created order out of disorder, cosmos out of chaos, and God can do so always, can do so now–in our personal lives and in our lives as nations, globally. … Indeed, God is transforming the world now–through us–because God loves us. ― Desmond Tutu, God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time

Our time has a great need for hope! The young can no longer be robbed of hope. … The young need hope. It is necessary to offer concrete signs of hope to those who experience pain and suffering. Social organizations and associations, as well as individuals who strive towards acceptance and sharing, are generators of hope. Therefore, I exhort your Christian communities to be agents of solidarity, never to stop before those who, for mere personal interest, sow self-centeredness, violence and injustice. Oppose yourselves to the culture of death and be witnesses to the Gospel of life! May the light of God’s Word and the support of the Holy Spirit help you to look with new and willing eyes upon the new forms of poverty that drive so many young people and families to desperation. — Pope Francis, Audience with Italian diocese of Cassano all’Jonio in the region of Calabria, 2015


Opposing Thoughts on Hope

We hold onto hope and it robs us of the present moment. If hope and fear are two different sides of the same coin, so are hopelessness and confidence. If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation. — Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

Hope is important, because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. But that is the most that hope can do for us – to make some hardship lighter. When I think deeply about the nature of hope, I see something tragic. Since we cling to our hope in the future, we do not focus our energies and capabilities on the present moment. We use hope to believe something better will happen in the future, that we will arrive at peace, or the Kingdom of God. Hope becomes a kind of obstacle. If you can refrain from hoping, you can bring yourself entirely into the present moment and discover the joy that is already here. — Thich Nhat Hahn, Peace Is Every Step


Prisoners of Hope — Omid Safi, Columnist (from On Being with Krista Tippett)

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is a line in Zechariah, often overlooked:

Return to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

Hope is powerful. Hope is different. It is more, much more, than mere optimism.

Optimism runs deep in the American consciousness. Many have commented on the inherent optimism of the American people. But optimism is….cheap.

Optimism is ultimately about optics, about how we see the world. It’s about seeing the glass half-full.

Hope is different. Hope is a cosmic quality. Hope is rooted in faith, with feet mired in suffering. Hope is a heart in agony that yearns for liberation.

As Desmond Tutu says, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” For hope to exist, there has to be darkness. For hope to be real, there has to be a prison. And we, in the prison.

Return to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

Hope is tied not to how we see the world, but to the faith we have in how the world actually is and will be.

Hope is not about seeing the world, but about the heart behind the eye, the soul that sees.

We hope that light will, someday, triumph over darkness, that love will gain victory over hatred, that compassion will gain over apathy.

We need to hope, to bear the darkness.

Return to your fortress.
O you prisoners of hope

Hope is not a choice. Hope is not optics. Hope is not mere politics. We are wrapped up in hope. Caught up in hope. Imprisoned in hope.

Return to your fortress.
O you prisoners of hope

We hope in the moral goodness of the universe. We hope in the goodness of God. We hope in the victory of good over evil. We hope, even if we may not get to see the triumph.

Hope is planting a tree, knowing that we will be feeding the warms under the tree’s ground before the tree yields fruit.

Hope, real hope, not cheap optimism, mingles with suffering. Hope, real hope, has nothing Pollyannaish about it.

Hope recognizes the chains around our feet, hope yearns for liberation in the very midst of the prison. Hope sees the rays of light in the depth of the dark night.

Hope is an active act of faith, refusing to surrender.

Return to your fortress
O you prisoners of hope

Fortress is not a zip code. Fortress has no walls and moats. Fortress is a commitment to God and humanity, to the poor and to beauty. It is in this fortress that we, the prisoners, find hope.

We hope because without hope life would not be bearable.

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

In the “go back”, I hear the voice of Martin. “Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana.”

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

“Go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.”

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

Today, we say,

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

Go back to Ferguson. Go back to Staten Island. Go back to South Carolina. Go back to Chapel Hill. Go back to Syria. Go back to Palestine.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. Let us climb on ahead to the promised land of justice.

This is our hope. For us, the prisoners of hope.

Meditations on Psalm 23

Language of Hope
Reflecting on Psalm 23 — specifically through its verbs — there’s something for almost everyone. What speaks to you? — Rev. Gail

WANT

It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them. — George Eliot

Want (excerpt) by Gretchen Marquette
When I was twelve, I wanted a macaw
but they cost hundreds of dollars.
If we win the lottery? …
Yes, my mother said. If we win the lottery.
I was satisfied, so long as it wasn’t impossible …

LIE DOWN

A friend is someone who helps you up when you’re down, and if they can’t, they lay down beside you and listen. — Anonymous (proverb)

There is not a person alive who isn’t going to have some awfully bad days in their lives. I tell my players that what I mean by fighting is when … all the odds are against you. What are you going to do? Most people just lay down and quit. Well, I want my people to fight back. — Coach Paul Bryant

RESTORE

Look Out (excerpt) — Wendell Berry
Leave your windows and go out, people of the world,
go into the streets, go into the fields, go into the woods
and along the streams. Go together, go alone.
… saying yes to the air, to the earth, to the trees,
yes to the grasses, to the rivers, to the birds
and the animals and every living thing, yes
to the small houses, yes to the children. Yes.

LEAD

To lead people, walk beside them … As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, We did it ourselves! ― Lao Tzu

Black and White (excerpt)
― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun
I was born into a religion of Light,
But with so many other
Religions and Philosophies,
How do I know which ONE is right?
Is it not my birthright to seek out the light?
To find Truth after surveying all the proof,
Am I supposed to love or fight?
And why do all those who try to guide me,
Always start by dividing and multiplying me –
From what they consider wrong or right?

WALK

If Spirits Walk (excerpt) —  Sophie Jewett
If spirits walk, Love, when the night climbs slow
The slant footpath where we were wont to go,
Be sure that I shall take the self-same way …

FEAR

There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we … love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life. — John Lennon

Carrion Comfort (excerpt) — Gerard Manley Hopkins
Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can …
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. ― Plato

COMFORT

I am the breeze that nurtures all things green. I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits. I am the rain coming from the dew that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life. — Hildegard of Bingen

I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. … There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me. — Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Carrion Comfort (excerpt) — Gerard Manley Hopkins
… I can; Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be. … my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.

PREPARE

We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation. ― Thomas Edison

All things are ready, if our mind be so. ― William Shakespeare, Henry V

ANOINT

ode to coffee
          oda al café
(excerpt) — Urayoán Noel
… anoint the neural vessels we refill
al matorral neural en donde vive …

Killing Him (excerpt) — Yehuda Amichai
… The sound of warm running waters
Filling a white tub of foaming bubble bath
Spills happiness into the heart of the sorrowful listener.
Languidly stretching her body
She slowly, indulgently prepares to anoint herself in oils …

FOLLOW

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. ― Jalaluddin Rumi

If you want to govern the people, You must place yourself below them. If you want to lead people, You must learn how to follow them. ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

DWELL

I dwell in Possibility – (466) —  Emily Dickinson
I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –