Would God …

Would God be diminished if I lived a question….

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What would happen if I pursued God?

If I filled my pockets with openness,
Grabbed a thermos half full of fortitude,
And crawled into the cave of the Almighty
Nose first, eyes peeled, heart hesitantly following
Until I was face to face
With the raw, pulsing beat of Mystery?
What if I entered and it looked different
than anyone ever described?
What if the cave was too large to be fully known,
Far too extensive to be comprehended by one
person or group,
Too vast for one dogma or doctrine?
Would I shatter at such a thought?
Perish from paradox or puzzle?
Shrink and shrivel before the power?
Would God be diminished if I lived a question
Rather than a statement?
Would I lose my faith
As I discovered the magnitude of Grace?
Oh, for the willingness to explore
To leave my tiny vocabulary at the entrance
And stand before you naked
Stripped of pretenses and rigidity,
Disrobed of self-righteousness and tidy packages,
Stripped of all that holds me at a distance from you
And your world.
Strip me, O God,
Then clothe me in curiosity and courage.

This poem   “Stripped by God” © 2007 by Rev. Cynthia Langston Kirk  is quoted in   “Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity”.   Her blog and web link are here.

I am really interested in Cynthia Langston Kirk.  A poet, story teller, fabric artist and an inspiring Christian minister involved in Piecing Stories Ministries and a retreat leader. (Wow that ticks lots of my boxes.)   I find that poetry is a way of praying and saying deep things from the heart.  It connects my fragmentary intuitions with some tessalated thoughts and makes new patterns from my heart, my prayer and my way of being and breathing life.    I travel through poetry touching the surface and the cracks of things and allow myself to hear new sounds which are resonating in some deeper place within.

I was introduced to her work through the Conference of Spiritual Directors on the occasion of their 30th Anniversary.   As a member I attended the recent national gathering and support their great work and bless them.

You might be interested in exploring the book –

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STAY WITH THEM

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THE FACE OF HOMELESSNESS

I have heard it said  ‘Let them Stay’….  but this is not enough.

I have heard my heart say…Stay with them.

What I know as I have wondered and pondered over these days, there is no answer outside of us. We are the ones they look to. We are their hope. We hold within us the difference they need now.  Whoever they are.  I say  Stay with them. Let us not leave them.

All meditation of presence is nothing if we cannot abide with the other.

All our voice …  gestures –  empty intoning chants and gongs  – if we have not the love to stay and be with those who this day want us to be present to their plight…whatever it is and whoever is present to you this day.

Life is about our action and our witness of how have we stayed present to the other.

How did I build and grow in relationship with the other.  Did I go out to the stranger … did I go without those resources they seemed so much to need …   empty…

I am not called to go with the answer, I am called to be the answer.  My heart and faithfulness to my other self is all that is needed.

I was once in a war zone, and heard and saw the cries of the people.   They pleaded with me to tell the world… to tell “America”…they thought if only they “knew”, things would change.  Although I felt convicted I needed to make a difference, in being a change agent, all my responses were to me of little comfort or assurance.  Although having some capacity;  I knew not how.  I knew I was bereft and powerless. But I was still open.

When I met with a priest and community elder very early the next morning…  he came to me…He put his arm around my shoulder and embraced me gently and simply said…’if they wanted to be here they would be…if X organisations wanted to be here, they would be.’    You are here.  Stay now.  You are with us … You came to us as you are.  This is enough.

I felt Jesus with me in that moment and that assuring touch.

And so Jesus simply says in the face of no answers,  in the face of insurmountable obstacles, distress and unfathomable circumstances: “Stay with them….  Go out and meet them.  Go out beyond yourself and enter their world.   Abide with them.”

They want to be known at heart with you. One with you.  Share your bread of life.  Share the little you have with them.  Go forth.  It is enough.   You are enough.

Do not lobby and posture on how to let them stay.

You already have the answer.   It is a matter of the heart … my heart …

Ephphata    be open yourself .  You are enough.  You can go to them.  You can remain in the face of their struggle, with them; present to bear with them.  We make space in our hearts to remain with them.

At the heart of the matter in companioning, spiritual direction and counselling,  in loving as a Christian and a Jew  –  is the imperative  –  go out to the stranger …  make a place for them in our heart.

I do not want to be the clanging bell of meditation, but the silent sitting fully present to, and with my other who is seeking me.  May I be found fully present to the other.

Be not afraid for we are a small light in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome.

Do not worry who goes with you.

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Homeless

 

COMPASSION FATIGUE

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“Compassion fatigue”   – seems to me to be incomprehensible – even reprehensible.  Surely the heart does not stop caring.

How do we come to a place of “compassion fatigue”?  What is it that has shifted from caring in a tangible way, to complacency or even seeming powerless?

We become desensitized to that which would make our heart mourn or move us with compassion.  As I pondered  – I understood from a giant billboard SELF STORAGE.

As as a human rights worker, I was confronted by the term “compassion fatigue” from supporters who no longer wanted to see images of victims of human rights abuse.  The rawness of the constant suffering had become too difficult to bear.

I am not talking here of exhaustion. I understand we cannot stay in the front line of caring without support, care and respite. There is a time and a season for us.

I am talking of a turning point – a time at which we harden our hearts and deny our suffering world.  We deny our own capacity to suffer with our selves and others.  We deny extending ourselves to be compassionate to one another.

When people talk of agencies “they no longer trust” or when working with youth in desperate life situations – I am “warned” not to give too much.   Yesterday  I heard people decrying those who were speaking compassionately on behalf of the refugees.

Do we decry the voice of the poor?

Can we have ever had enough compassion?  How do we grow in mercy and compassion?

As Isaiah says let our hearts be broken…

that we may  weep with those who are weeping.

Rilke’s words talk of our God – a God of mercy and compassion -suffering with us today.

You are the poor one, you the destitute.

You are the stone that has no resting place.
You are the diseased one
whom we fear to touch.
Only the wind is yours.
You are poor like the spring rain
that gently caresses the city;
like wishes muttered in a prison cell, without a world to hold them;
and like the invalid, turning in his bed to ease the pain.
Like flowers along the track, shuddering
as the train roars by, and like the hand
that covers our face when we cry – that poor.
Yours is the suffering of birds on freezing nights,
of dogs who go hungry for days.
Yours the long sad waiting of animals
who are locked up and forgotten.
You are the beggar who averts his face,
the homeless person who has given up asking;
you howl in the storm.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke


from  “ The Book of Poverty and Death, III,18″   
Translated by Anita Barrows and Joana Macy, Riverhead Press, 1996 p.141

Watch and pray

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5th Week of Lent
Today’s Readings: Isa 43:16-21 Phil 3:8-14 Jn 8:1-11

 

40 DAYS OF BLOGS      I have laid the foundation for personal reflection and direction.

I will continue to post regularly, but not daily.   I allow  a new spaciousness to enter as I become attentive and watchful.

Blessing you in this time as we  watch and pray.

 

 

Well of wisdom

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4th Week Lent
Today’s Scriptures: Jer 11:18-20 Jn 7:40-52

In the philosophy of the poet – love  ushers forth from a well of wisdom.  From the contemplative heart we receive lived wisdom as from the sage.

We listen to our journey as it has been lived through their lives. Their truths are our truths – in shadows and in light.  They speak of what might have been; the seen and the unseen. They birth in us new ways of saying, of being, of naming and of seeing.

David Whyte  explores the Poetry of Compassion in the recording below.  In it he talks of the inner journey, and the search to find your own way. He explores our capacity to embrace all of self, including our darker side and grief. He brings gentle  connections to,   as he says, “restore our personal innocence” and be compassionate with ourselves.

By recitation of poetic works from Mary Oliver and Pablo Neruda, and his own poem – “The Well of Grief” – he evokes and opens for us a deep relationship to the words and imagery of the inner journey.

This recording is 37 min.duration, but may be stopped at short intervals between various poems.  I highly recommend the full recording on the site below.

However, you may choose to listen in intervals of five minutes or so.

David Whyte   visiting Australia  April 24 – May 3  http://www.davidwhyte.com/

 

 

 

Seasonal Fruit

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Week 4 Lent
Today’s Readings: Wisdom 2:1, 12-22 Jn 7:1-2, 10.25-30

I am noticing how I have moved the page axis towards creation a little more lately -thanks to a blog by Dylan Raines – campaigning for people in desperate need of water.  (I like the pun in his name and life call!   🙂 God has a sense of humour! too ).

Picking up on his blog stimulated my focus over the last few days in prayers for water and Si Laudate.

‘Inspiring’ is not too big a word.  But is a “handsome” word.

I like it because it is the infilling of the Spirit moving in us as we listen.   Consequently, our actions are in response to the promptings which we do not let fall into fallow ground.

What is spiritual direction if it is not listening in our daily life to what the Spirit is saying and responding.    “If today you hear his voice harden not your heart” constantly reverberates in me.

and    Ephphata….  the Aramaic word –   be open.

What strikes me about Dylan’s “campaigning” is the vigour and conviction which he brings to it.

Each of us is called: to love God and our neighbour – with all our heart, with all our mind and all our being/soul. (Matt 22.35)

There is no confusion in this.  To live in the way of passion is to live a life of compassion. With passion, we live with suffering; we live in the embrace of self and others in the true fullness of life.  Passion literally means suffering. The fire of passion is fuelled by love of God and others. Love suffers in compassion for the other.  May it be manifest in our lives.

A reflection may be – “By their fruits you shall know them”  (Matt 7:16).

Which spirit are we listening to and what fruit is it bearing right now?

Are we bearing good fruit in all seasons?


Photo image used with permission from Quaddie: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Icing-on-the-Top-147289142

Winnowed thoughts

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Week 4 Lent  Today’s Readings:  Josh 5:9-12   1 Cor 5:17-21   Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

We are all called to be winnowers… to cast aloft our dreams and thoughts, to winnow with the Spirit.  Discernment, like winnowing, is a gift which enables us to sift the motives of our heart; to raise up our inner most thoughts and find the wisdom of our way.

Ernest Larkin helps us appreciate it.  He says:

“Discernment has two focuses: process and problem.

It is a process insofar as it is progressive awareness of the movements of the spirits in our counsciousness. …

The “spirits” are thoughts, desires, and affective moods, which are the telltale signs of the Holy Spirit or opposing influences. …

Discernment is mindfulness, recollection, centredness. It is being aware of what is going on spiritually.”

In this season of Lent, in the Christian tradition, we are called to look inward and examine our hearts and practices, in the light of God’s word.  It is a particular time in which we turn our  attention to the questions of our heart and let ourselves explores some shadows.

In the silence of our hearts we may let some of the bigger questions arise …  What is the best I can do at this time?     

Can I explore more deeply choices available to me and be open to new directions or possibilities?

Larkin continues in a very practical way, noting process and problem work together:

“Discernment as problem solving is interpreting the spirits in order to determine God’s will.  Where are these feelings and sentiments tending?

Are they moving the person toward or away from God?

What behaviour and choices are they suggesting?

Discernment is concerned … with the trajectory or orientation. Where are  they pointing?

We are called to live beyond rote rules and in accord with God’s particular will for us.

God’s project for me is that I become the unique person I was created to be.   Discernment is the tool for the process.”   *

It takes courage and support to look at our shadows, to explore our choices and to choose growth.  A spiritual director or Christian companion is invaluable in being there for you to carry your thoughts and dreams through the process of discernment.

Quoted extracts  from “What to Know about Discernment” by Ernest E. Larkin. O. Carm

Published in Review for Religious, 2001. pp.162-3.  Published Society of Jesus St. Louis. Missouri. US Central and Sth Province.  Archives can be accessed . through http://cdm.slu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/rfr/id/559


 

Recommended Reading: “Silent Presence”, Ernest Larkin.  Dimension Books. N Jersey. 2000.