Meditations on fathers, significant male relationships, and themes from Romans 5

Everything that you think, you thought that you are, you have received from the cosmos, from parents – including your body. — Thich Nhat Hanh

We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. — Romans 5: 2b (From The Message translation of Romans 5:1-5)

Song: Father and Son by Cat Stevens
Song: Father to Son by Phil Collins
Song: Father and Daughter by Paul Simon
Song: Where Is the Love? by The Black Eyed Peas
Questions for this Meditation

  • Who has modeled male love and presence in your life?
  • What gifts have you received from the father-figure(s) in your life?
  • In what ways does a father-figure offer you a sense of belonging or connection to meaningful gifts? Alternately, in what ways does a father-figure separate you from a sense of being loved and connected?
  • If you are called a child of God, what does God look like to you or mean to you? And how do you resemble God?

The Gift (excerpt) — Li-Young Lee
To pull the metal splinter from my palm my father recited a story in a low voice. I watched his lovely face and not the blade. Before the story ended, he’d removed the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.   I can’t remember the tale, but hear his voice still, a well of dark water, a prayer. And I recall his hands, two measures of tenderness he laid against my face, the flames of discipline he raised above my head …

Father and Creator: Spiritual Originators

And I say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. — Black Elk

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. — Rumi

I was born by myself but carry the spirit and blood of my father, mother and my ancestors. So I am really never alone. My identity is through that line. — Ziggy Marley

I imagine God to be like my father. My father was always the voice of certainty in my life. Certainty in the wisdom, certainty in the path, certainty always in God. For me God is certainty in everything. Certainty that everything is good and everything is God. — Yehuda Berg

The Genesis account does not say “Let me make humankind in my own image, but let us make humankind in our own image according to our likeness” This is not a “me” God, but a “we” God.  God from the beginning is, not God as bad math, but God as community.  The triune nature of God assures that God is in fellowship with God’s self.  In the Beginning is Creator, Word and Spirit all co-mingling to bring forth creation. Here God creates communally. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

An almost perfect relationship with his father was the earthly root of all his wisdom. —  C.S. Lewis

If you have a beautiful voice, don’t think that you have created that beautiful voice for yourself. It has been transmitted by your ancestors, your parents. If you have the talent of a painter, don’t think that you have invented that talent. It has been transmitted to you as a seed. So everything you have thought that you are has come from the cosmos, from your ancestors. The water in you, the heat in you, the air in you, the soil in you, belong to the water outside, the soil outside. Without the forest how could you be? Without your father and mother how could you be there this moment? Therefore you say, in wisdom, that you are nothing. Everything that you think, you thought that you are, you have received from the cosmos, from parents – including your body … You belong to the stream of life. — Thich Nhat Hanh

I’m very moved by chaos theory, and that sense of energy. That quantum physics. We don’t really, in Hindu tradition, have a father figure of a God. It’s about cosmic energy, a little spark of which is inside every individual as the soul. — Bharati Mukherjee

Ideals of Fatherhood

No man stands taller than when he stoops to help a child. — Abraham Lincoln Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad, and that’s why I call you dad, because you are so special to me. You taught me the game and you taught me how to play it right. — Wade Boggs

Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth. — Menachem Begin

Son, brother, father, lover, friend. There is room in the heart for all the affections, as there is room in heaven for all the stars. — Victor Hugo

My father raised us to step toward trouble rather than to step away from it. — Justin Trudeau

It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father. — Pope John XXIII

I wasn’t anything special as a father. But I loved them and they knew it. — Sammy Davis, Jr.

Every father should remember one day his son will follow his example, not his advice. ―Charles Kettering

My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me. ―Jim Valvano

My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it. ―Clarence Budington Kelland

The quality of a father can be seen in the goals, dreams and aspirations he sets not only for himself, but for his family. ―Reed Markham

He adopted a role called being a father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a protector. ―Tom Wolfe

I’ve said it before, but it’s absolutely true: My mother gave me my drive, but my father gave me my dreams. Thanks to him, I could see a future. — Liza Minnelli

Where Is the Love? (song lyrics)
— Performed by Black-Eyed Peas
Songwriters — Allan Pineda / Giorgio Hesdey Tuinfort / Jaime Gomez / Jayceon Taylor / Justin Timberlake / Khaled Khaled / Rakim Mayers / Will Adams

People killin’ people dyin’
Children hurtin’, I hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preachin’?
Would you turn the other cheek again?
Mama, mama, mama, tell us what the hell is goin’ on
Can’t we all just get along?
Father, father, father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me
Questioning
(Where’s the love)
Yo what’s going on with the world, momma
(Where’s the love)
Yo people living like they ain’t got no mommas
(Where’s the love)
I think they all distracted by the drama and
Attracted to the trauma, mamma
(Where’s the love)
I think they don’t understand the concept or
The meaning of karma
(Where’s the love)
Overseas, yeah they trying to stop terrorism
(Where’s the love)
Over here on the streets the police shoot
The people put the bullets in ’em
(Where’s the love)
But if you only got love for your own race
(Where’s the love)
Then you’re gonna leave space for others to discriminate
(Where’s the love)
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that’s exactly how hate works and operates
Man, we gotta set it straight
Take control of your mind and just meditate
And let your soul just gravitate
To the love, so the whole world celebrate it
People killin’ people dyin’
Children hurtin’, I hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preachin’?
Would you turn the other cheek again?
Mama, mama, mama, tell us what the hell is goin’ on
Can’t we all just get along?
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questioning
(Where’s the love)
It just ain’t the same, always in change
(Where’s the love)
New days are strange, is the world insane?
(Where’s the love)
Nation droppin’ bombs killing our little ones
(Where’s the love)
Ongoing suffering as the youth die young
(Where’s the love)
Where’s the love when a child gets murdered
Or a cop gets knocked down
Black lives not now
Everybody matter to me
All races, y’all don’t like what I’m sayin’? Haterade, tall cases
Everybody hate somebody
Guess we all racist
Black Eyed Peas do a song about love and y’all hate this
All these protests with different colored faces
We was all born with a heart
Why we gotta chase it?
And every time I look around
Every time I look up, every time I look down
No one’s on a common ground
(Where’s the love)
And if you never speak truth then you never know how love sounds
(Where’s the love)
And if you never know love then you never know God, wow
(Where’s the love)
Where’s the love y’all? I don’t, I don’t know
Where’s the truth y’all? I don’t know
People killin’ people dyin’
Children hurtin’, I hear them cryin’
Could you practice what you preach?
Would you turn the other cheek?
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questioning
(Where’s the love)
(Where’s the love)
Love is the key
(Where’s the love)
Love is the answer
(Where’s the love)
Love is the solution
(Where’s the love)
(Where’s the love)
They don’t want us to love
(Where’s the love)
Love is powerful
(Where’s the love)
(Where’s the love)
My mama asked me why I never vote never vote
‘Cause police men want me dead and gone (Dead and gone)
That election looking like a joke (Such a joke)
And the weed man still sellin’ dope
Somebody gotta give these niggas hope (Please hope)
All he ever wanted was a smoke (My gosh)
Said he can’t breathe with his hands in the air
Layin’ on the ground died from a choke
(Where’s the love)
I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders
As I’m gettin’ older y’all people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin’
Selfishness got us followin’ the wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinemas
What happened to the love and the values of humanity?
(Where’s the love)
What happened to the love and the fairness and equality?
(Where’s the love)
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity
(Where’s the love)
Lack of understanding leading us away from unity
(Where’s the love)

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 matriarchs and mothers

We are born of love; Love is our mother.
— Rumi

To My Mother (excerpt) — Edgar Allan Poe
Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of “Mother,”
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts …

What’s Going On? (song excerpt)— 
Alfred W Cleveland / Marvin P Gaye / Renaldo Benson
link to music video
Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, eheh  …
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, oh oh oh … Mother, mother, everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
… Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today, Oh oh oh

Of Mothers & Matriarchs

Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children. — William Makepeace Thackeray

The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the world passed to the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing. ― Anita Diamant

… give them to all the people who helped mother our children. … I don’t want something special. I want something beautifully plain. Like everything else, it can fill me only if it is ordinary and available to all. — Anne Lamott

Our images of God, then, must be inclusive because God is not mother, no, but God is not father either. God is neither male nor female. God is pure spirit, pure being, pure life — both of them. Male and female, in us all. — Joan Chittister

We are braver and wiser because they existed, those strong women and strong men… We are who we are because they were who they were. It’s wise to know where you come from, who called your name. — Maya Angelou

Motherhood: All love begins and ends there. — Robert Browning

Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love. — Stevie Wonder

The love of a mother is the veil of a softer light between the heart and the heavenly Father. — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

A mother’s happiness is like a beacon, lighting up the future but reflected also on the past in the guise of fond memories. – Honore de Balzac

I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. — Abraham Lincoln

Life began with waking up and loving my mother’s face. — George Eliot

For when a child is born the mother also is born again.—  Gilbert Parker

With what price we pay for the glory of motherhood. — Isadora Duncan

My dear Mama, you are definitely the hen who hatched a famous duck. — Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

It may be possible to gild pure gold, but who can make his mother more beautiful? — Mahatma Gandhi

God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers. — Rudyard Kipling

Mother and Child Louise Glück

We’re all dreamers; we don’t know who we are.

Some machine made us; machine of the world, the constricting family.
Then back to the world, polished by soft whips.

We dream; we don’t remember.

Machine of the family: dark fur, forests of the mother’s body.
Machine of the mother: white city inside her.

And before that: earth and water.
Moss between rocks, pieces of leaves and grass.

And before, cells in a great darkness.
And before that, the veiled world.

This is why you were born: to silence me.
Cells of my mother and father, it is your turn
to be pivotal, to be the masterpiece.

I improvised; I never remembered.
Now it’s your turn to be driven;
you’re the one who demands to know:

Why do I suffer? Why am I ignorant?
Cells in a great darkness. Some machine made us;
it is your turn to address it, to go back asking
what am I for? What am I for?


God as Creator: Source Code of Grace (excerpt from longer sermon)— Nadia Bolz-Weber

In the beginning, all there was, was God. So in order to bring the world into being, God had to kind of scoot over. So God chose to take up less space—you know, to make room. So before God spoke the world into being, God scooted over. God wanted to share. Like the kind-faced woman on the subway who takes her handbag onto her lap so that there’s room for you to sit next to her. She didn’t have to do it, but that’s just who she is . . . the kind-faced subway lady’s nature is that she makes room for others.

Then God had an absolute explosion of creativity and made animals. Amoebas. Chickens. Crickets. Bees. Orangutans.

Then God said, “Let us create humans in our own image and likeness.” Let us. So, God the community, God the family, God the friend group, God the opposite of isolation, said, “Let us create humanity in our image and likeness. Let there be us and them in one being.”

So God created every one of us in the male and female image of God. Then God gave us God’s own image —something so holy that it could never be harmed, and never be taken away. A never-aloneness. An origin and destination. A source code of grace.

Reflections on locked room mysteries and love that doesn’t knock: themes from John 20

What barriers stand between you and Love? Can you really keep out a love that is transformative, or will it pass through your closed door and locked heart, somehow? Yet doubt and questions have their place … they sometimes help open the way.

Man goes far away or near but God never goes far-off;
he is always standing close at hand,
and even if he cannot stay within he goes no further than the door.
— Meister Eckhart

Locked Room Mysteries
Locked room mystery lists. What is your favorite locked room mystery?

History of Locked Room Mysteries — Scott Laming (link to article)

The ‘locked room’ mystery is one of the most intriguing sub-genres of crime writing. These books depict a crime committed in what appears to be an entirely impossible situation such as a locked room where the killer has seemingly vanished into thin air.

The concept of a behind-closed-doors mystery has been a plot device since the heyday of Ancient Greece but it was not established as a sub-genre of crime fiction until the 19th century. One of the earliest examples is Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue … Several other authors (Joseph Conrad, Sheridan Le Fanu and Wilkie Collins) also made early attempts at this style of mystery.

The real kick-starter for the genre came in 1892 when Israel Zangwill used the same locked room puzzle concept for his primary plot device in The Big Bow Mystery. However, he added another classic mystery writing element, the red herring … John Dickson Carr, who also wrote as Carter Dickson, is probably the king of the locked room mysteries and The Hollow Man is the Dickson Carr book to read to encounter the best example. Also look up The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux.

ON KNOCKING & ENTERING

Poem — Rumi 
One went to the door of the
Beloved and knocked.
A voice asked: “Who is there?”
He answered: “It is I.”
The voice said: “There is no room
here for me and thee.”
The door was shut.

After a year of solitude
and deprivation
this man returned to the door
of the Beloved.
He knocked.
A voice from within asked:
“Who is there?”
The man said:
“It is Thou.”
The door was opened for him.

If I Knew Then (excerpt) 
— performed by Lady Antebellum,
written by 
Charles Kelley /
Richard Belmont (monty) Powell / Anna Wilson


… ‘Cause love only comes
Once in a while
And knocks on your door
And throws you a smile
And takes every breath,
Leaves every scar,
Speaks through your soul
And sings to your heart …

So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. — Jesus Christ

It’s really interesting how music can knock down a wall and be an open connection between you and someone else where something else can’t. When music comes along, it just opens your heart a little more. — Phillip Sweet

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. — Milton Berle

No man ever got very high by pulling other people down. The intelligent merchant does not knock his competitors. The sensible worker does not knock those who work with him. Don’t knock your friends. Don’t knock your enemies. Don’t knock yourself. — Alfred Lord Tennyson

If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How strange that nature does not knock, and yet does not intrude!
— Emily Dickinson

I can’t never stop nobody, can’t knock nobody hustle.
— The Notorious B.I.G.

There are five issues that make a fist of a hand that can knock America out cold. They’re lack of jobs, obesity, diabetes, homelessness, and lack of good education. — will.i.am

We know we cannot plant seeds with closed fists. To sow, we must open our hands. — Adolfo Perez Esquivel

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space. — Johnny Cash

All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant’s revolving door. — Albert Camus

I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door – or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present. — Rabindranath Tagore

In oneself lies the whole world and if you know how to look and learn, the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either the key or the door to open, except yourself. — Jiddu Krishnamurti

The outward man is the swinging door; the inner man is the still hinge. — Meister Eckhart

You close the door on me and tell me I can’t, I’m gonna find a way to get in. — Tyler Perry

Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during the moment. — Carl Sandburg

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 A.M. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. — Joan Didion

I cannot sleep for dreaming; I cannot dream but I wake and walk about the house as though I’d find you coming through some door. — Arthur Miller

Commentary on Fear, Doubt & Questions: John 20

The fact is that all the great spiritual models of the ages before us found themselves, at one point or another, plunged into doubt, into darkness, into the certainty of uncertainty: Augustine, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, John the Baptist, Thomas, Peter, one after another of them all wondered, and wavered, and believed beyond belief. Surely, then, doubt is something to be grateful for, something about which to sing an alleluia. Unlike answers that presume the static nature of God and the spiritual life, doubt stretches us beyond ourselves to the guidance of a God whose face is not always in books. Doubt is what leaves us open to truth, wherever it is, however difficult it may be to accept. But most of all, doubt requires us to reconfirm everything we’ve ever been made to believe is unassailable. Without doubt, life would simply be a series of packaged assumptions, none of them tested, none of them sure, and all of them belonging not to us, but to someone else whose truth we have made our own. — Joan Chittister

… questions … So many of them seemed to imply that people were struggling with the fact that hard things in life are hard. That somehow since they don’t have great positive feelings about God in the midst of their own suffering that this somehow means they lack faith and this worries them. For some reason we tend to think that having faith means unwavering belief, and never doubting and always no matter how awful things get, never ever having negative feelings about God and certainly never wondering if there really is a God. It’s like we’ve forgotten the strong, and totally awesome tradition in the Hebrew Bible of complaining to God.   It’s called lamenting – and we should totally reclaim this part of our tradition…I have a friend who says if you’re going to have a praise band in your church, that’s fine but only if you also have a lament band because being the people of God has always meant a whole lot of both praise andlament. — Nadia Bolz-WeberNot surprisingly, Jesus came to visit his disciples, knowing that they would feel defeated and understanding the support they would need in order to move forward. He bestowed peace upon them, and they were overjoyed when he showed them his wounds. They, like Thomas, apparently needed physical proof of the resurrection. Jesus’ return to visit with his disciples appears to have had a clear mission of fortifying them to continue his work. First of all, they would need peace to counter the turbulence of his death, and secondly, they needed evidence of his resurrection to restore their faith. Jesus dealt with these two pressing issues immediately. He did not simply return to celebrate his resurrection, but to prepare them as he sent them forth to continue the work he had begun. — Samuel Cruz, Workingpreacher.org

John is explicit about the prevailing sentiment behind the closed doors.  They were behind the doors because of fear, one of the most powerful human emotions.  Fear shuts all sorts of doors in our lives.  It shuts the door to anyone who is “other” because it sees them as a threat more than a friend.  Fear causes us to live out of reptilian fight or flight rather than the deeper virtues of faith, hope, and love.  Fear causes us to react to what we fear rather than reflect the one we worship.  When one lives in a constant state of fear, it can actually rewire the brain so that everything looks like a threat.  Fear had the disciples behind locked doors. Despite the pervasiveness of walls and locked doors, however, Jesus walked right through them.  And his greeting to them was one of peace.  — Preston Clegg, The Truett Pulpit

And suddenly, in the midst of their fear and confusion, there he was, not with angels, trumpets, or legions, but quietly, without a hint of anger. No accusations, no trouble or turmoil. Only peace. And then, the very next thing, he gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit – he doesn’t just give it to them, but breathes the Spirit into them. — Katheryn Matthews

Of course, it’s not just a story about Thomas. It’s also a story about frightened disciples. So scared, in fact, that, they hid behind locked doors. And who can blame them? They had just witnessed the one they confessed to be the Messiah betrayed by one of his own, tried and convicted by both religious and civil authorities, and then brutally executed. Little wonder they were afraid, assuming that the next step would be to round up Jesus’ followers. But when Jesus comes on the scene, their fear falls away and is replaced by joy… But that’s not the way it works with Thomas. He doubts. He questions. He disbelieves. He’s not satisfied with second-hand reports and wants to see for himself. And again I would say, who can blame him?  … do we make room for the Thomases in our world? Because I suspect that their number is legion … And sometimes faith is like that – it needs the freedom of questions and doubt to really spring forth and take hold. Otherwise, faith might simply be confused with a repetition of creedal formulas, or giving your verbal consent to the faith statements of others. But true, vigorous, vibrant faith comes, I think, from the freedom to question, wonder, and doubt … Indeed, I think that if we don’t have any doubts we’re probably not taking the story seriously enough. — David Lose

This is John’s great commission: Jesus breathes on his disciples and tells them to be about the business of forgiveness. John’s commission … does not imply the necessity for conversion of others, but a rebirth of the self. — Jonathan Burkey, aplainaccount.com

Resurrection is relationship. A relationship that will never be broken, that will never be abandoned, that will never know separation, and will forever be. Think this is just a pie-in-the-sky promise? Let’s pause and think about how much a relationship that will never end might mean. We live for and exist in relationships that are not life-giving, that are on the brink of dissolving, that will end, most certainly, because of every fault or no fault of our own. Think about the relationships that have changed over time, that can’t go back to the way they were before, that need to change, but maybe can’t and, in the end, maybe that’s okay. So we exist in tension and frustration and grief because we are not sure how to handle an acceptable demise or how to negotiate what this means for our relationships in the future. Think about the relationships that ended too soon — by terrorist acts, the ruthlessness of illness, the not-so-random events of nature’s reaction to environmental complacency, the sudden separations not planned, never anticipated, and so devastating, for whatever reason and for whatever cause. Our lives exist in, are known through, and defined by broken relationships. But it is not so with our relationship with God. — Karoline Lewis, workingpreacher.org

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.