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 eating with ‘the other’ – themes from Acts 11

With whom do you most want to sit down and share a meal? And with whom would you prefer not to eat? What do you experience when you eat with ‘others’ … with strangers or people considered ‘unacceptable’ … until love recognizes them? What do you receive and what do you give away? — Rev Gail

Bowls of Food (excerpt) — Rumi

Moon and evening star
do their slow tambourine dance
to praise this universe.
The purpose of every gathering is discovered:
to recognize beauty and love what’s beautiful.
“Once it was like that, now it’s like this,”
the saying goes around town,
and serious consequences too. …
Go outside to the orchard.
These visitors came a long way,
past all the houses of the zodiac,
learning something new at each stop.
And they’re here for such a short time,
sitting at these tables set on the prow of the wind.
Bowls of food are brought out as answers,
but still no one knows the answer.
Food for the soul stays secret.
Body food gets put out in the open like us.
Those who work at a bakery don’t know the taste of bread
like the hungry beggars do.
Because the beloved wants to know,
unseen things become manifest …

Invite a few friends and perhaps even strangers to join you in sharing a feast of love. You might prepare a simple meal or invite each person to bring a dish. The focus is not on the food itself, but the act of sharing that food in the presence of each other. Eat mindfully, slowly, with plenty of time for conversation, listening, and laughter. You might also sing songs or read poetry of gratitude or talk about how you are experiencing God in your lives. However you practice an agape feast, let it flow as naturally as your very hunger and fulfillment. Be aware of God’s presence within each person and be thankful for the food that makes life possible and the love that makes life meaningful. — Richard Rohr

Eating Together: Acts of Community

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink. To eat and drink without a friend is to devour like the lion and the wolf. ― Epicurus

Cumulatively, the work of food memoirists, bloggers, investigative journalists, chefs, and film makers have made it increasingly obvious for the average American that food is a practical means through which we may interpret our world, and that it is loaded with meaning. — Cecily Hill

A successful dinner is one that lasts a while and one where everyone leaves happy. It’s a meal where we didn’t just wolf food down, rather something else happened at the table. That is the goal. — Laurie David

… in the midst of grief, all anyone can really do is be with us and make some casseroles. See my wounds. I’m here. Don’t be afraid. Let’s eat. And this is what we get to do for each other, as well. This is what we get to do for the world God loves so madly. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Sharing a meal together is not just to sustain our bodies and celebrate life’s wonders, but also to experience freedom, joy, and the happiness of brotherhood and sisterhood, during the whole time of eating. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Jesus’ most consistent social action was eating in new ways and with new people, encountering those who were oppressed or excluded from the system. A great number of Jesus’ healings and exorcisms take place while he’s entering or leaving a house for a meal. In the process he redefines power and the kingdom of God. — Richard Rohr

From an evolutionary anthropology perspective, eating together has a long, primal tradition as a kind of social glue. That seems to continue in today’s workplaces. — Kevin Kniffin, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

In a big transient city … most people rent, and renting often sees a high turnover of faces, places and neighbourhoods which means that despite best efforts, it is sometimes hard to connect with the community. We all know the benefits of a strong community and friendly neighbourhood but often we don’t know how to engage or start the conversation, There’s something about the act of eating with someone, I think you can get past that basic conversation because you’re doing some kind of activity — cooking, drinking or preparing food — that allows people to open up a little more. — Bethany Jones

Strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody. — Samuel Pepys

Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon. — Dalai Lama

Americans are just beginning to regard food the way the French always have. Dinner is not what you do in the evening before something else. Dinner is the evening. — Art Buchwald

Dinners are defined as the ultimate act of communion; men that can have communion in nothing else, can sympathetically eat together, can still rise into some glow of brotherhood over food and wine.  — Thomas Carlyle

The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling …  — Judith Martin

Rules about food consumption are an important means through which humans construct reality. They are an allegory of social concerns, a way in which people give order to the physical, social, and symbolic world around them. — Carole Counihan

Being Present to the Other

If [we are] to survive, [we] will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between [us] and between cultures. [We] will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear. — Gene Roddenberry

[The one] who is different from me does not impoverish me – [but] enriches me. Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves – in [humankind] … For no [one] seeks to hear [one’s] own echo, or to find [one’s] reflection in the glass. — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I remember one night at Muzdalifa with nothing but the sky overhead I lay awake amid sleeping Muslim brothers and I learned that pilgrims from every land–every color, and class, and rank; high officials and the beggar alike–all snored in the same language. — Malcolm X

It is never too late to give up your prejudices. — Henry David Thoreau

Oh God, the terrible tyranny of the majority. We all have our harps to play. And it’s up to you to know with which ear you’ll listen. — Ray Bradbury

Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged. — Rumi


Plum Village ‘Eating Together’ —Thich Nhat Hanh

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.
We are aware of the whole sangha as we serve ourselves and we should take an amount of food that is good for us. Before eating, the bell will be invited for three sounds and we can 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.

Reflections on being heard & listening: themes from Hebrews

Do you feel heard? Seen? Recognized? Beloved?

Here are Rev Barbara Brown Taylor’s thoughts on the Love who insists one being Present and bears Witness to our lives:

“I use the word “sacred” to describe something that grounds me in this world and opens me up to another world all at the same time. Oceans usually do it, especially in the middle of summer storms. The kindness of strangers does it. Getting sick does it, especially if I am so sick that I cannot do anything for myself. Being present at the birth of a new human being does it, and so does being between the sheets with someone I love. I could go on. I use the words “holy” and “divine” to describe the same phenomena. They almost involve the sense that there is a Witness to my life, a Consciousness that is for me in the best situations but also in the worst, where this Sacredness is working around the clock to make life out of death for me and every other living thing.”

We had seen God in His splendors,
heard the text that Nature renders.
We had reached the naked soul of man.
— Ernest Shackleton

I know that when I pray, something wonderful happens.
Not just to the person or persons for whom I’m praying,
but also something wonderful happens to me.
I’m grateful that I’m heard.
— Maya Angelou

The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.
― Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi, The Illuminated Rumi

Continue reading “Reflections on being heard & listening: themes from Hebrews”

Reflections on ‘loving the world’ from Gospel of John: Lenten lectionary

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.
Lord, we don’t need another mountain,
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross,
Enough to last till the end of time.
… What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.
No, not just for some, oh, but just for everyone.
— Songwriters: Burt Bacharach / Hal David

Loving the World

Love the world and yourself in it, move through it as though it offers no resistance, as though the world is your natural element. ― Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife

Let us love the world to peace. — Eileen Elias Freeman

All the particles in the world are in love, and looking for lovers. — Attributed to Rumi

I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God Who is sending a love letter to the world. — Mother Teresa

The world changes when we change. the world softens when we soften. The world loves us when we choose to love the world. — Marianne Williamson

At the center of religion is love. I love you and I forgive you. I am like you and you are like me. I love all people. I love the world. I love creating. Everything in our life should be based on love. — Ray Bradbury

No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it. Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity. We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one’s partiality. — Wendell Berry

If your mind is expansive and unfettered, you will find yourself in a more accommodating world, a place that’s endlessly interesting and alive. That quality isn’t inherent in the place but in your state of mind. ― Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change

I love the world at 4 am. The streets are all mine. I don’t have to deal with traffic, and people’s bullshit. I don’t have to answer any calls or reply to any texts. I don’t have any responsibilities. No fights, no arguments, no hate, no love, no faith and no engagements. I can just be. Like we are meant to be. –  Attributed to ‘Hedonist Poet’

You’ve got to invest in the world, you’ve got to read, you’ve got to go to art galleries, you’ve got to find out the names of plants. You’ve got to start to love the world and know about the whole genius of the human race. We’re amazing people. — Vivienne Westwood

Excerpts of Commentary on “For God So Loved the World”  from Gospel of John chapter 3 (John 3:16)

Jesus articulates in this statement … that God is fundamentally a God of love, that love is the logic by which the kingdom of God runs, and that God’s love trumps everything else, even justice, in the end. — David Lose

… judgment … in John’s Gospel … represents your own moment of crisis of whether or not you will choose to enter into the life-sustaining relationship God provides … the intimacy God so desires with us here and now.— Karoline Lewis

Today, for many Christians, John 3:16 has become this same sort of gimmick: read this verse and you’re saved.  Done and done.  But God cannot be reduced to a formula — neither can the way of God, revealed in the life of Jesus.  … John 3:16 alone is an insufficient guide for healing and salvation.  Instead, we need an authentic encounter with the Mysterious, Loving, and Gracious Presence that we call God — and concrete steps transforming one’s life to follow the way of Jesus. we can lift up Micah 6:8 and the two Greatest Commandments as a source of healing.  May these slogans never become for us an idol because it not enough to believe with our lips that salvation comes from doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God — and from loving God and neighbor.  We must live in such a manner everyday.  May we learn to love the world in this way — as God so loves the world.— Carl Gregg

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass (excerpts) — Mary Oliver

3. (excerpt)
Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe still another. …

7.
What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements, though with difficulty

I mean the ones that are thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the ush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.

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