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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BREAKING BREAD TOGETHER: Serving & Communing

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARREST, BETRAYAL & FORGIVENESS: Justice

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

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

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

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

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


HOLY ABSENCE: Death & Tomb

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

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

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

FULL CIRCLE: Life to Death and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

ARISING: Resurrection

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

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

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

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

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

ARISING: Resurrection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still I Rise— Maya Angelou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflections on going your way, my way, and finding ‘the way’ (themes from Luke)

Question: When do you follow the lead of others, and explore their way, and when do you invite others to join you and try your path, your way?

As you start to walk on the way, the way appears. — Rumi

Music Video:Bless the Broken Road by Rascal Flatts

The Way InLinda Hogan

Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body. Sometimes the way in is a song. But there are three ways in the world:
dangerous, wounding, and beauty. To enter stone, be water. To rise through hard earth, be plant desiring sunlight, believing in water. To enter fire, be dry. To enter life, be food.

The Road― J.R.R. Tolkien
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

My Way, Your Way

You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path. You are not on your own path. If you follow someone else’s way, you are not going to realize your potential. ― Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey

Just imagine becoming the way you used to be as a very young child, before you understood the meaning of any word, before opinions took over your mind. The real you is loving, joyful, and free. The real you is just like a flower, just like the wind, just like the ocean, just like the sun. — Don Miguel Ruiz

Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Don’t keep forever on the public road, going only where others have gone. ― Alexander Graham Bell

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. ― Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Unfortunately, when you insist on doing everything your way, what usually happens is that you repeat someone else’s mistakes. ― Augustine Wetta, Humility Rules: St Benedict’s Twelve-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem

We do not draw people … by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it. — Madeleine L’Engle

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. — Mahatma Gandhi

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. — Walt Disney

Finding the Way

You don’t choose a life … You live one. — The Way (movie) script

In a gentle way, you can shake the world. — Mahatma Gandhi

… we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God. — Soren Kierkegaard

… the greatest spiritual practice isn’t yoga or praying the hours or living in intentional poverty, although these are all beautiful in their own way. The greatest spiritual practice is just showing up. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix

The easiest way to be reborn is to live and feel life everyday. ― Munia Khan

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. — Thomas Edison

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. — John Muir

To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him. — Buddha

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars. — Og Mandino

Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey. — Lord Byron

There is no way to happiness – happiness is the way. — Thich Nhat Hanh

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

Meditation on sacred bodies: loving our bodies, caring for other bodies & living in the communal body (themes from 1 Corinthians 12 and Luke 4)

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.
― St. Teresa of Avila

I Sing the Body Electric Walt Whitman(1 – excerpt)
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
… The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv’d neck and the counting; Such-like I love … (7 – excerpt)
…  This is not only one man, this the father of those who shall be fathers in their turns,
In him the start of populous states and rich republics,
Of him countless immortal lives with countless
embodiments and enjoyments. How do you know who shall come from the offspring
of his offspring through the centuries? (Who might you find you have come from yourself,
if you could trace back through the centuries?) (8 – excerpt)
A woman’s body … She too is not only herself,
she is the teeming mother of mothers,
She is the bearer of them that shall grow
and be mates to the mothers.
Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the body of a man? Do you not see that these are exactly the same
to all in all nations and times all over the earth?
If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred …

Except for the BodyMary Oliver

Except for the body of someone you love,
including all its expressions in privacy and in public,

trees, I think, are the most beautiful
forms on the earth.

Though, admittedly, if this were a contest,
the trees would come in an extremely distant second.

I Got Kin Hafiz
Plant: so that your own heart will grow.
Love: so God will think,
“Ahhhhhh, I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul
over for coffee and rolls.”
Sing: because this is a food our starving world needs.
Laugh: because that is the purest sound.

Solitude Nancy Wood
Do not be afraid to embrace the arms of loneliness.
Do not be concerned with the thorns of solitude.
Why worry that you will miss something?
Learn to be at home with yourself without a hand to hold.
Learn to endure isolation with only the stars for friends.
Happiness comes from understanding unity.
Love arrives on the footprints of your fears.
Beauty arises from the ashes of despair.
Solitude brings the clarity of still waters.
Wisdom completes the circle of your dreams.

Our Bodies As Sacred

There comes a time when it is vitally important for your spiritual health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, ‘Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped. I live here. This is my soul’s address.” — Barbara Brown Taylor

May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul. — John O’Donohue

If you have a body, you are entitled to the full range of feelings. It comes with the package. ― Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually)

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Breath is the gift of life from the one who created us – from the God who is both our origin and our destination … some Rabbis teach that Yahweh is not even really a word at all.  It is literally breath itself. Yah – exhale. Weh – inhale. Yah – exhale. Weh – inhale. Which would make sense – since the closest translation of its [Yahweh’s] meaning is The One Who Causes to Become. There is just something about being known by God and animated by God’s breath in our birth and in our death that wouldn’t leave me this week as I thought about talking to you all here in this room today … This is the comfort I thought of this week as I bore witness to both birth and death. That the God whose name is our very breath – who breathed the words let there be light, who breathed into dust to create humanity, is present when we breath our first breath and present when we breathe our last – I believe that our final exhale is Yah – and that God completes God’s name inhaling Weh – and carries us on God’s divine breath into the heart of God from where we came to begin with. … Amen. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

All great spirituality teaches about letting go of what you don’t need and who you are not. Then, when you can get little enough and naked enough and poor enough, you’ll find that the little place where you really are is ironically more than enough and is all that you need. At that place, you will have nothing to prove to anybody and nothing to protect. That place is called freedom. It’s the freedom of the children of God. Such people can connect with everybody. They don’t feel the need to eliminate anybody … ― Richard Rohr, Healing Our Violence through the Journey of Centering Prayer

Caring for Other Bodies As Sacred: Serving the Communal Body

We sit and talk,
quietly, with long lapses of silence
and I am aware of the stream
that has no language, coursing
beneath the quiet heaven of
your eyes
which has no speech.
William Carlos Williams

Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes. — Maggie Kuhn

… I see [God] here, in the eyes of the people in this [hospital] corridor of desperation. This is the real house of God, this is where those who have lost God will find [God] — Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. — Thomas Merton

You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are. — Fred Rodgers

Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being. — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond. — Gwendolyn Brooks

Saints cannot exist without a community, as they require, like all of us, nurturance by a people who, while often unfaithful, preserve the habits necessary to learn the story of God. — Stanley Hauerwas

This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what to do with it. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

That day, for a moment, it almost seemed that we stood on a height, and could see our inheritance; perhaps we could make the kingdom real, perhaps the beloved community would not forever remain that dream one dreamed in agony. — James Baldwin

The lack of material well-being among the poor reflects a lack of spiritual well-being among the rest. — William Sloane Coffin

God does not look at your forms and possessions but he looks at your hearts and your deeds. — Prophet Muhammad 

Loving with Body & Soul, Heart & Mind: Holy Acts

Let me tell you about love, that silly word you believe is about whether you like somebody or whether somebody likes you or whether you can put up with somebody in order to get something or someplace you want or you believe it has to do with how your body responds to another body like robins or bison or maybe you believe love is how forces or nature or luck is benign to you in particular not maiming or killing you but if so doing it for your own good. Love is none of that. There is nothing in nature like it. Not in robins or bison or in the banging tails of your hunting dogs and not in blossoms or suckling foal. Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn – by practice and careful contemplations – the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God-carefully. And if you are a good and diligent student you may secure the right to show love. Love is not a gift. It is a diploma. A diploma conferring certain privileges: the privilege of expressing love and the privilege of receiving it. How do you know you have graduated? You don’t. What you do know is that you are human and therefore educable, and therefore capable of learning how to learn, and therefore interesting to God, who is interested only in Himself which is to say He is interested only in love. Do you understand me? God is not interested in you. He is interested in love and the bliss it brings to those who understand and share the interest … Amen. ― Toni Morrison, Paradise
On Interdependence
When this is, that is.
From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
When this isn’t, that isn’t.
From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.
Buddha, Assutava Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 12.2

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born toeternal life. Amen. — St Francis, Prayer
Madhyamika means “middle way,” and it examines the nature of existence. Madhyamika tells us that nothing has an intrinsic, permanent self-nature. Instead, all phenomena — including beings, including people — are temporary confluences of conditions that take identity as individual things from their relationship to other things. — Barbara O’Brien, Interbeing: The Inter-existence of All Things (essay excerpt)
Clouds In Each Paper  —  Thich Nhat Hanh
If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.  “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter” with the verb “to be”, we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.  If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

Reflections on immersion in fire, water and creation; turning in a new and sacred direction

Into what element can you fall, surrender, let go and lose yourself, and thus become connected to something larger? And how are you changed, once immersed?

Barukh ata  Elohenu melekh ha’olam asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al ha’tevillah. — Jewish Mikveh Blessing in Hebrew

Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us concerning the immersion. — Jewish Mikveh Blessing in English

Like the Water — Wendell Berry
Like the water of a deep stream, love is always too much.
We did not make it.
Though we drink till we burst, we cannot have it all, or want it all.
In its abundance it survives our thirst.

In the evening we come down to the shore to drink our fill, and sleep, while it flows through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us, except we keep returning to its rich waters thirsty.

We enter, willing to die, into the commonwealth of its joy.

Beginning with Beloved: A BlessingJan Richardson

Begin here:
Beloved.

Is there any other word needs saying,
any other blessing could compare with this name, this knowing?

Beloved.
Comes like a mercy to the ear that has never heard it.
Comes like a river to the body that has never seen such grace.

Beloved.
Comes holy to the heart aching to be new.
Comes healing to the soul wanting to begin again.

Beloved.
Keep saying it and though it may sound strange at first,
watch how it becomes part of you,
how it becomes you, as if you never could have known yourself
anything else, as if you could ever have been other than this:
Beloved.

Sacred Living; Holy Loving

Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy. — Abraham Joshua Heschel

What a grand thing, to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love! — Victor Hugo The dog searches until he finds me upstairs … puts his head on my foot. Sometimes the sound of his breathing saves my life—in and out, in and out; a pause, a long sigh …
— Jane Kenyon

  The face of all the world is changed, I think / Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul / Move still, oh, still, beside me, as they stole / Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink / Of obvious death, where I, who thought to sink, / Was caught up into love, and taught the whole / Of life in a new rhythm …
— Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese 7

Belonging to God

I just want you to walk in the knowledge that God loves you totally apart from anything you do or don’t do. — Sister Eileen (from story told by Nadia Bolz-Weber)

You are already God’s beloved. I heard a story a few months back on the radio, about how studies have been done where elementary school teachers were told at the beginning of the term that certain children in their classroom were gifted, regardless of the actual capacity of these children – and the study showed that by the end of the year those kids were scoring off the charts from their peers. They became what they were believed to be. God is like that. God is like a teacher who has been duped into thinking you are “gifted” and then treats you like you are special and then that’s what you end up being. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion. — Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging … the sacrament of baptism … to consecrate a human being to God and to communicate to that person the divine gift of birth from God. — Hans Urs von Balthasar

Holy Immersion: Into Water, Fire, and Creation

Life in us is like the water in a river. — Henry David Thoreau

Water is the driving force in nature. — Leonardo da Vinci

Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames. ― Rumi

If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. — C.S. Lewis

You cannot feel yourself … Presently you lose consciousness of your own separate existence; you blend with the landscape, and become part and parcel of nature. — John Muir

So whether it is the environment that is inhabited, or the inhabitants, both of them are composed of four or five basic elements. These elements are earth, wind, fire, water and vacuum, that is space. About space, in the Kalachakra tantra there is a mention of what is known as the atom of space, particles of space. So that forms the central force of the entire phenomenon. When the entire system of the universe first evolved, it evolved from this central force which is the particle of space, and also a system of universe and would dissolve eventually into this particle of the space. So it is on the basis of these five basic elements that there is a very close inter-relatedness or interrelation between the habitat that is the natural environment and inhabitants, the sentient beings living within it. — Dalai Lama

Each one of us begins life in the water of the womb. Each child is formed in this seamless water and swims securely in the current of its rhythms. In the womb everything comes to us in wave motion. Thus, our first experiences took place in the water element. Indeed our first recognition of identity happened, not as philosophy would often have us imagine, in the dry air element where a “cogito” might flicker, but rather in the inclusive water element, where there was a yet no separation between inside/outside, or self/otherness … To swim is in a certain sense to reenter this womb-like medium. To do this meditatively is to re-awaken that primal sense of belonging from the time before one’s individuality first broke free. — John O’Donohue

Empty me of the bitterness and disappointment of being nothing but
myself
Immerse me in the mystery of reality
Fill me with love for the truly afflicted
that hopeless love, if need be
make me one of them again —
Awaken me to the reality of this place
and from the longed-for or remembered place
And more than thus, behind each face
induct, oh introduce me in —
to the halting disturbed ungrammatical soundless
words of others’ thoughts
not the drivel coming out of our mouths
Blot me out, fill me with nothing but consciousness
of the holiness, the meaning
of these unseeable, all
these unvisitable worlds which surround me:
others’ actual thoughts — everything
I can’t perceive yet
know
know it is there.
Franz Wright

Reflections on journeys and the New Year

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.― Matsuo Bashô 

Choices— Tess Gallagher
I go to the mountain side
of the house to cut saplings,
and clear a view to snow
on the mountain.
But when I look up,
saw in hand,
I see a nest clutched in
the uppermost branches.
I don’t cut that one.
I don’t cut the others either.
Suddenly, in every tree,
   an unseen nest
where a mountain   
would be.

On the New Year

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.— Neil Gaiman

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.’ — Alfred Lord Tennyson

And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been. — Rainer Maria Rilke

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. — Oprah Winfrey 

Seeking God

“Help us to find God,” the seeker begged the Elder. “No one can help you there,” the Elder answered. “But why not?” the seeker insisted. “For the same reason that no one can help a fish to find the ocean.” The answer is clear: There is no one who can help us find what we already have. — Sufi Story (recounted by Sr Joan Chittister with her commentary at the end)

Once upon a time, a seeker ran through the streets shouting over and over again, ‘We must put God into our lives. We must put God into our lives.’ “Ah, poor soul,” an Elder smiled wanly. “If only we realized the truth: God is always in our lives. The spiritual task is simply to recognize that.” — Sufi Story (recounted by Sr Joan Chittister)

The movement in our relationship to God is always from God to us. Always. We can’t, through our piety or goodness, move closer to God. God is always coming near to us.― Nadia Bolz-Weber

I searched for God … Finally, I looked into my own heart and there I saw Him; He was nowhere else. ― Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi

Blessing of the Magi (excerpt)
— Jan Richardson

… You thought arrival
was everything,
that your entire journey
ended with kneeling
in the place
you had spent all
to find.

When you laid down
your gift,
release came with such ease,
your treasure tumbling
from your hands
in awe and
benediction.

Now the knowledge
of your leaving
comes like a stone laid
over your heart,
the familiar path closed
and not even the solace
of a star
to guide your way.

You will set out in fear.
You will set out in dream….
We cannot show you
the route that will
take you home;
that way is yours
and will be found
in the walking.

But we tell you,
you will wonder
at how the light you thought
you had left behind
goes with you,
spilling from
your empty hands,
shimmering beneath
your homeward feet,
illuminating the road
with every step
you take.

Reflections on Advent 4: Love (plus longest night, resistance songs, Blue Christmas)

This week, Mary’s song, one of four found in the Gospel of Luke, is a song of praise and resistance, an expectation for justice and change. In times when we wonder whether to expect transformation, we are reminded to work for change, and to recall that we are lights in the darkness.
How will you shine in this season and into the coming year?

Les Miserables – Great Crescendo (excerpt)
Do you hear the people sing? Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people, Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart, Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start, When tomorrow comes!

Do you hear the people sing, Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people, Who are climbing to the light
For the wretched of the earth, There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end, And the sun will rise.

For those Living with Grief & Loss

 I hear
the love of those
who have loved me
echo in me.
All the notes of my song
sing over theirs,
the only kind of beauty.
The song does not die.
May I live
with love and mercy
for it will echo
long after.
— Steve Garnaas-Holmes

AGAPE as LOVE

The essence of agape love is goodwill, benevolence, and willful delight in the object of love. — Got Questions

True transformation is when we unleash the power of agape. We create an environment for positive change. There is still a world of possibility, even when the worst thing happens that could possibly happen. Forgiveness gives me the capacity to contribute something of value—to create a positive outcome to a terrible tragedy. —Desmond Tutu

Our hearts are like diamonds because they have the capacity to express divine light, which is agape; we not only are portals for this agape, but are made of it. — Anne Lamott

I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world. ― Mother Teresa

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. — Thomas Merton

All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. — Leo Tolstoy

Agape is a sobering love to receive, for it says, ‘If I cannot love you for who you are, then I will do so despite who you are.’ It is unique in that it is able to love those whom it cannot like. ― James Castleton, Mending of a Broken Heart

The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well. — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform. — Thich Nhat Hahn

LONGEST NIGHT: Of Moons & Stars – Light in Darkness –

We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. — Carl Sagan

To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings. — Wendell Berry

You must have shadow and light source both. Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe. — Rumi

We go into the darkness, we seek initiation, in order to know directly how the roots of all beings are tied together: how we are related to all things, how this relationship expresses itself in terms of interdependence. — Joan Halifax

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky
Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass. — Dogen

Is the sweetness of the cane sweeter,
Than the One who made the canefield?

Behind the beauty of the moon is the MoonMaker.
There is Intelligence inside the ocean’s intelligence
Feeding our love like an invisible waterwheel … ― Rumi

The pine tree of Shiogoshi / Trickles all night long / Shiny drops of moonlight. — Basho

… [Sagan’s] statement sums up the fact that the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms in our bodies, as well as atoms of all other heavy elements, were created in previous generations of stars over 4.5 billion years ago. Because humans and every other animal as well as most of the matter on Earth contain these elements, we are literally made of star stuff, said Chris Impey, professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona. “All organic matter containing carbon was produced originally in stars. The universe was originally hydrogen and helium, the carbon was made subsequently, over billions of years.” … In 2002, music artist Moby released “We Are All Made of Stars,” explaining during a press interview that his lyrics were inspired by quantum physics. “On a basic quantum level, all the matter in the universe is essentially made up of stardust,” he said. — Remy Melina, Are We Really All Made of Stars? Live Science (excerpt)

SONGS of RESISTANCE: Commentary

Why, one might wonder, all these songs? Because singing is an act of resistance. That’s not to say that all singing is, of course. Sometimes it’s an act of joy and sometimes of camaraderie, but it’s also an act of resistance. The slaves knew this. When they sang their spirituals they were both praising God and protesting the masters who locked them out of worship but couldn’t keep them out of the promise of deliverance of the Bible. And the civil rights leaders knew this, too, singing songs like “We Shall Overcome,” when so many in the society didn’t give them a chance to advance their cause of justice, let alone triumph. — David Lose, Singing as an Act of Resistance (excerpt)

I wonder whether we would dare to sing the Magnificat today. What would it mean? — Richard Ascough

It’s easy to sing the song, but to pray the lyrics from deep within … that’s worship! — Gangai Victor

Who can resist … the story of Mary’s elegantly exuberant prayer, the Magnificat? Her spontaneous outburst in song echoes Hannah’s praise for God’s marvelous deeds in the lives of all who are marginalized or downtrodden (1 Samuel 2). Like Hannah, Mary sings out of her own experience, her own hope, but out of the experience and hope of her people as well. The Magnificat is a lovely expression of joy at God’s promises kept, a celebration of the tables being turned, or overturned: the lowly are lifted up, the proud are brought down, and the hungry are fed. God remembers the people of Israel, and the promises God has made to them. What a powerful text for every heart hungry …  Kathryn Matthews (excerpt, UCC Sermon Seeds Dec 23 Reflection)

One thing we do know: music in the United States has led directly to environmental action, the equality of our citizens, a movement against war and violence, and it has raised the voices of the working American … Powerful songs have always been the engine behind the greatest social movements — it is the marching soundtrack that unites the people and gives them focus and resolve, and it’s not limited to the U.S. In 1970s Nigeria, Fela Kuti invented Afro Beat music as a way to protest the oil company regime of Nigeria. His song “Zombie” became a global hit that railed against Nigeria’s military dictators. In South Africa, the indigenous Mbatanga music helped bring about the end of apartheid and it spread a message of peace and reconciliation in that nation. In Chile, Victor Jara wrote songs about his country’s struggles, sparking the Nueva Cancion (New Songs) movement that caused South Americans to rise up against their military dictatorships and replace them with democracies. In Brazil, the Tropicalia movement was created by songwriters like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Rita Lee as a form of protest against the Brazilian military junta, which eventually fell from its own corruption and incompetence. In Australia and New Zealand, popular songs written by indigenous and non-ingenious songwriters sparked an indigenous land reclamation movement that is still active today. — Barrett Martin, Huffington Post (excerpt)

Throughout the ages, God’s people have faced oppression. And in the face of that oppression, God’s people have sung God’s songs of resistance. But God’s people have also been oppressors. We have enslaved others — and each other. We have stolen from, oppressed, and slain others — and each other. And when we have done so, the oppressed, the enslaved, the persecuted have sung God’s songs of resistance against us. — Rolf Jacobson

Reflection on Advent 3: Joy

Joy is the serious business of Heaven. — C. S. Lewis

Song: Joy to the World by Pentatonix
Song: Joy by Jonny Diaz
Song: Joy by For King & Country
Song: Joy Joy Joy Down In My Heart by Little Richard

House of JoyRumi

If you knew yourself for even one moment,
if you could just glimpse
your most beautiful face,
maybe you wouldn’t slumber so deeply
in that house of clay.
Why not move into your house of joy
and shine into every crevice!
For you are the secret
Treasure-bearer, and always have been.
Didn’t you know?

3 Ways to Access Joy (excerpt)Margarita Tartakovsky, Psychology Today
  Being in a state of joy isn’t something you’re born with. It’s a learned skill …

  1. Revise your inner language: How we talk to ourselves can influence our mood and outlook on life. For instance, “shoulds” can easily sap our joy. If you’re constantly telling yourself all the different things you should be doing, you’re likely residing in a negative or unsatisfied space. … To stop “shoulding” all over yourself, first assess the situation. … replacing “should” with “could.” This seemingly small change is actually very powerful because “it’s all about choice.” It promotes self-kindness, flexibility and forgiveness. It promotes exploration rather than rigidity.
  2. Seek out laughter … make laughter part of your day, Altman suggests the following: Set an intention to have at least one laughter memory a day. He defines this as “any humorous event, thought or observation that stimulates positive mood states that are joyful, uplifting, heartwarming, energizing or euphoric.” Use a journal to jot down your laughter memories. Read it at the end of every week …
  3. Focusing your attention on your natural surroundings can instantly help you access joy.

Joy Vs Happiness (excerpt) Sandra Brown, Psychology Today
Happiness is … dependent on outside situations, people, or events to align with your expectations so that the end result is your happiness … But happiness is not joy because joy is not external, it can’t be bought and it is not conditional on someone else’s behavior. In fact, joy is not contingent on anything in order to exist … When stuff, people, and the problems they bring fall away there is a stillness. Only in that stillness can we ever find the joy that resides inside of us, dependent on nothing external in order to exist. During this holiday season, this is a great concept to contemplate

… Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are, why you are, and who you are not with. When you need nothing more than your truth and the love of a good God to bring peace, then you have settled into the abiding joy that is not rocked by relationships. It’s not rocked by anything.
Ordinary Joy (excerpt) — Alison Bonds Shapiro, Psychology Today

… How do we cultivate joy? Do we work very hard and compete at the greatest intensity that we can manage to win the grand prize? Will that bring us joy? We think that joy comes if we win the lottery or are chosen for a great honor. We think we have to wait to be famous to have joy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Great honors may bring us excitement, satisfaction and sometimes even happiness for a while. But joy comes from somewhere else. Joy arises in the ordinary moments of our lives. That’s where we experience joy and that is where we can cultivate it.

We can cultivate that joy by welcoming the small things. We can find the joy that lives and waits for us in our ordinary actions. When we slow down and allow our bodies to find some sense of ease and pay attention to each dish, we invite joy. We are not in the running for a grand prize and national recognition for our amazing capacity to wash forks. We are just washing this one fork.

When we do this we see, maybe for the first time in a long time, like a child might see, with wonder and delight …

Joy: Rooted in Gratitude and Other Perspectives

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself. — Tecumseh

The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. — Christopher McCandless

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. — William Arthur Ward

I believe that a trusting attitude and a patient attitude go hand in hand. You see, when you let go and learn to trust God, it releases joy in your life. And when you trust God, you’re able to be more patient. Patience is not just about waiting for something… it’s about how you wait, or your attitude while waiting. — Joyce Meyer

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. — Leo Buscaglia

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. — Richard Bach

Joy: State of Mind & Heart

Joy, feeling one’s own value, being appreciated and loved by others, feeling useful and capable of production are all factors of enormous value for the human soul. — Maria Montessori

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. — Eleonora Duse

We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves. — Buddha

Joy: Arising Amidst Challenge

The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse. — Helen Keller

When you’re in the day-to-day grind, it just seems like it’s another step along the way. But I find joy in the actual process, the journey, the work. It’s not the end. It’s not the end event. — Cal Ripken, Jr.

I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few. — Brene Brown

Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity. — Henri Nouwen

Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.— Rumi

For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair. — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy. — Joseph Campbell

I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it. — Kristin Armstrong

Joy: Sharing & Serving Others

Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment. — Tony Robbins

If you are a chef, no matter how good a chef you are, it’s not good cooking for yourself; the joy is in cooking for others – it’s the same with music. — will.i.am

Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy. — Mahatma Gandhi

My heart is singing for joy this morning! A miracle has happened! The light of understanding has shone upon my little pupil’s mind, and behold, all things are changed! — Anne Sullivan

Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give. — Eleanor Roosevelt

Joy (excerpt) — Carl Sandburg
Let a joy keep you.
Reach out your hands
And take it when it runs by …

Joy— Maurine Smith
Joy, joy, run over me
Like water over a shining stone;
And I beneath your sweet shall be
No longer hungry and alone.
The light at my heart’s gate is lit —
My love, my love is tending it!

Prayer for Joy
Stuart Kestenbaum
What was it we wanted
to say anyhow, like today
when there were all the letters
in my alphabet soup and suddenly
the ‘j’ rises to the surface.
The ‘j’, a letter that might be
great for Scrabble, but not really
used for much else, unless
we need to jump for joy,
and then all of a sudden
it’s there and ready to
help us soar and to open up
our hearts at the same time,
this simple line with a curved bottom,
an upside down cane that helps
us walk in a new way into this
forest of language, where all the letters
are beginning to speak,
finding each other in just
the right combination
to be understood.

Meditations on loving God, neighbor & self: themes from Mark

How do you place God — holy healing Love — first? How do you care for yourself? How do you care for your neighbor? How do you love the home — creation — in which you and your neighbor abide? How do you love the un-loveable?

What are the edges of how and who you love? What are the limits of how you allow yourself to be loved in return?

Fire of love, crazy over what You have made. Oh, divine Madman. — Prayer of Catherine Siena

O you who’ve gone on pilgrimage – where are you, where, oh where?
Here, here is the Beloved! Oh come now, come, oh come!
Your friend, he is your neighbor, he is next to your wall –
You, erring in the desert – what air of love is this?
If you’d see the Beloved’s form without any form –
You are the house, the master, You are the Kaaba, you! . . .
Where is a bunch of roses, if you would be this garden?
Where, one soul’s pearly essence when you’re the Sea of God?
That’s true – and yet your troubles may turn to treasures rich –
How sad that you yourself veil the treasure that is yours!

— Rumi ‘I Am Wind, You are Fire’
Translation by Annemarie Schimmel

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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

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