Daily Riches: The Indispensable Anguish to Becoming My Astonishingly Exquisite Self (Phileena Heuertz, Carl Jung, Scott Peck, and Viktor Frankl)

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” Carl Jung

“The attempt to avoid legitimate suffering lies at the root of all emotional illness.” M. Scott Peck

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” Viktor Frankl

“Immediately after my niece Claire was born she began to quietly moan–continuously. The doctors and nurses looked her over, put her under a lamp and examined her. After several moments when she would not stop moaning and whimpering, the nurse said, ‘She’s lamenting.’ They actually have a medical term that explains this phenomenon–’lamenting.’ Clair was in mild distress. She was mourning. Exiting the body of her mother was no easy thing for this little one. She was mourning the familiarity and comfort of the womb. But leaving existence in the womb was absolutely critical to living the life of baby Claire. It’s absurd to imagine a baby never leaving the womb. To live and grow into the fullness of who we are, we must move on no matter how painful and distressing it may seem at the moment. Death in varied forms is necessary. . . . witnessing the birth of a baby! There’s nothing like it! It’s magnificent! But like Claire reminded me, the beauty of her birth required lamentation. . . . And the caterpillar–can you imagine its experience in the chrysalis? The throngs of people visiting the Butterfly pavilion at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo demonstrate our fascination and intrigue with the process of distress these creatures go through–and indispensable anguish to becoming their astonishingly exquisite self.” Phileena Heuertz

“I would rather be strangled—
rather die than suffer like this.”
Job 7:15 NLT

Moving From The Head to The Heart

  • Waiting in limbo for a future that is neither known nor understood will involve anguish. Are you in limbo now? . . . suffering anguish (fear, confusion, disorientation)?
  • Can you give yourself permission to lament what you have lost (what was, what might have been) instead of forcing yourself to be “strong?” . . . rather than attempting “to avoid legitimate suffering?”
  • Can you trust your anguish to be “indispensable” (necessary, and full of purpose and meaning)? . . . used by God to create your “astonishingly exquisite self?”

Abba, like with Job, sometimes the suffering seems unbearable. Help me experience it as inevitable–as necessary, and choose it as useful–and even as a divine gift in disguise.

For More: Pilgrimage Of a Soul by Phileena Heuertz

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Daily Riches: Unclenching Our Hearts (John Lewis, Maria Popova, James Baldwin, David Whyte, and Ann Lamott)

“We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope.” James Baldwin

“To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt.” David Whyte

“How few of us are capable of such largeness when contracted by hurt, when the clench of injustice has tightened our own fists. And yet in the conscious choice to unclench our hearts and our hands is not only the measure of our courage and our strength, not only the wellspring of compassion for others, but the wellspring of compassion for ourselves and the supreme triumph of personhood. ‘As we develop love, appreciation, and forgiveness for others over time,’ Anne Lamott wrote . . . ‘we may accidentally develop those things toward ourselves, too.’ . . . A century after Tolstoy wrote to Gandhi that ‘love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills’ . . . [Congressman John] Lewis writes: ‘Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.’” Maria Popova

“If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load,
do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.”
Ex. 23:5 NIV

Moving From Head to Heart

  • A “poetic” (beautiful) response to hate and violence may seem like an impossible dream–perhaps even undesirable. But how hard to argue with the beauty demonstrated by John Lewis–right?
  • Showing compassion to ourselves and others are intrinsically linked. Can you extend the same grace and understanding to others (who offend) that you extend to yourself?
  • John Lewis was a great example of a loving agitator. Should you love better, or speak up more?

God, help me to unclench my heart and my hands towards the world.

For More: Across the Bridge by John Lewis. New York: Hachette, 2012.

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Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

Embracing Mystery, Paradox–Even Unknowing (Richard Rohr)

“I call non-silence ‘dualistic thinking,’ where everything is separated into opposites, like good and bad, life and death. In the West, we even believe that is what it means to be educated—to be very good at dualistic thinking. Join the debate club! But both Jesus and Buddha would call that judgmental thinking (Matthew 7:1-5), and they strongly warn us against it. Dualistic thinking is operative almost all of the time now. It is when we choose or prefer one side and then call the other side of the equation false, wrong, heresy, or untrue. But what we judge as wrong is often something to which we have not yet been exposed or that somehow threatens our ego. The dualistic mind splits the moment and forbids the dark side, the mysterious, the paradoxical. This is the common level of conversation that we experience in much of religion and politics and even every day conversation. It lacks humility and patience—and is the opposite of contemplation. In contemplative practice, the Holy Spirit frees us from taking sides and allows us to remain content long enough to let it teach, broaden, and enrich us in the partial darkness of every situation. We need to practice for many years and make many mistakes in the meantime to learn how to do this. Paul rather beautifully describes this kind of thinking: ‘Pray with gratitude and the peace of Christ, which is beyond knowledge or understanding (what I would call “the making of distinctions”), will guard both your mind and your heart in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7). Teachers of contemplation show us how to stand guard and not let our emotions and obsessive thoughts control us. When we’re thinking nondualistically, with this guarded mind and heart, we will feel powerless for a moment, stunned into an embarrassing and welcoming silence. Then we will discover what is ours to do.” Richard Rohr

“To answer before listening––that is folly and shame.”
Proverbs 18:13 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you have everything separated into black and white, right and wrong, us v. them? Is this helping?
  • Are you aware of your impatience, arrogance, or judgmentalism towards others? (Think about discussions of politics!) If that’s a regular thing, have you stopped to ask why?
  • Can you practice responding more slowly to others, and listening in the silence for where you might have misunderstood? . . . where you’re being defensive?

May I unlearn, O God, what has taken me a lifetime to learn (my arrogance, my impatience).

For More: Silent Compassion by Richard Rohr. Cincinnati: Franciscian Media, 2014.

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Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

Daily Riches (CV era): Our Same Fears and Sorrows (Ernest Kurtz, Katherine Ketcham, Jay Feld, and James Baldwin)

“A major hindrance to the experience of community is our difficulty in talking about our pain. We feel afraid; we feel ashamed; we want to maintain a certain image of ourselves, first for ourselves and then for public consumption. It is perfectly understandable–and yet it keeps us isolated and lonely.” Jay Feld

“Human beings connect with each other most healingly, most healthily, not on the basis of common strengths, but in the very reality of their shared weaknesses. . . .  Shared weakness: the shared honesty of mutual vulnerability openly acknowledged. That’s where we connect. At the most fundamental level of our very human-ness, it is our weakness that makes us alike; it is our strengths that make us different. Acknowledging shared weakness thus creates a rooted connectedness, a sense of common beginnings. . . . Spirituality begins with this first insight: We are all imperfect. Such a vision not only invites but requires Tolerance: active appreciation of the richness and variety of human beings on this earth, along with the understanding that we all struggle with the same demons, we all share the same fears and sorrows, we all do the best we can with what we have.” Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, and then you read.” James Baldwin

“I have cried until the tears no longer come;
 my heart is broken.”
Lamentations 2:11 NLT
 

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • If you really tried, could you find a safe relationship to talk about your pain?
  • Do you think your pain is “unprecedented?” . . . that no-one would understand? . . . that your experience is unique?
  • Most of us want two things: to really connect with someone (which requires vulnerability), and to be admired (which requires image management and being guarded). Which instinct wins out in your experience?
  • Shared strength builds walls. Shared weakness builds bridges. Are you building walls or bridges?

Abba, give me the courage to reach out to others in all that I am as a fellow human being: succeeding and failing, admirable and disappointing, believing and fearful.

For More: The Spirituality of Imperfection, by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham

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Richer By Far (CV Era) – Loneliness As a Navigational Aid To God

“If [as the Burt Bacharach song says] Loneliness Remembers (what happiness forgets) then the emptiness of loneliness reminds me of what happiness does not remind me of. That God is more, is greater, fuller – limitless, even. When I am spent He is still full and longing for me to turn, in my vulnerability and scatteredness, to His vast heart of loving provision for my soul. When I feel forsaken and alone – in those moments – I am gifted with an innate holy prodding to submit to no other substitute for satisfaction or comfort. So as great as happiness is in its moment, loneliness by contrast, is not a dead end. It is a navigational aid.”  Jennifer @ blogspot

“Paradoxically, I have found peace because I have always been dissatisfied. My moments of depression and despair turn out to be renewals, new beginnings. If I were once to settle down and be satisfied with the surface of life, with its divisions and its clichés, it would be time to call in the undertaker…. So, then, this dissatisfaction which sometimes used to worry me and has certainly, I know, worried others, has helped me in fact to move freely and even gaily with the stream of life.”  … “Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.”  Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

If only one person would show some pity;
if only one would turn and comfort me.”
Psalm 69:20

  • Many people run from problems like loneliness, depression, and despair. Can you imagine these unwanted feelings as a kind of unexpected or disguised gift?
  • Have you ever allowed loneliness, depression or despair to be a “navigational aid” to lead you to God? What exactly would that look like for you?
  • Can you see “downward mobility” in all of this – that what seems painful and frustrating might actually be beneficial? …that “downward mobility” might be far superior to “upward mobility?”

Abba, remind me when this happens to me.

For More: No Man Is an Island by Thomas Merton

Song for the day: It Is Well With My Soul

Daily Riches: The Agony of Being Alone (Abraham Joshua Heschel)

“. . . the immense silence where I live alone.” May Sarton

“The thirst for companionship, which drives us so often into error and adventure, indicates the intense loneliness from which we suffer. We are alone even with our friends. The smattering of understanding which a human being has to offer is not enough to satisfy our need of sympathy. Human eyes can see the foam, but not the seething at the bottom. In the hour of greatest agony we are alone. It is such a sense of solitude which prompts the heart to seek the companionship of God. He alone can know the motives of our actions; He alone can be truly trusted. Prayer is confidence, unbosoming oneself to God. For man is incapable of being alone. His incurable, inconsolable loneliness forces him to look for things yet unattained, for people yet unknown. He often runs after a sop, but soon retires discontented from all false or feeble companionship. Prayer may follow such retirement.” Abraham Joshua Heschel

“Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God.
Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.”
1 Kings 8:28 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Heschel is very polite when he refers to what we sometimes fall into as “adventure.” Has your “thirst for companionship” ever driven you into “adventure?”
  • Have you experienced the painful limits of human friendship, no matter how good? . . . that no friend, but only God, can ultimately suffice “in the hour of greatest agony [when] we are alone”–when our “immense solitude”, our “inconsolable loneliness” can be salved only by the companionship of God?
  • In your well of loneliness have you been able to “unbosom” yourself in prayer to God?

Abba, come to me in my well of loneliness–in that immense silence where I live alone.

For More: Man’s Quest For God by Abraham J. Heschel

Daily Riches: The Problem With Noble Pursuits (Mark Thomas Shaw)

“The radical moment in many a contemplative’s journey is when they enter the cave. Often there’s some crisis that precipitates it. For Francis of Assisi, it was being disowned by his father and choosing to sever ties with his community. For a friend of mine, it was a divorce. For another, a death in the family. The world as we know it, or rather, the story we’ve been living, somehow shatters. In the cave, we move into a deeply interior space, examining everything: our belief systems, our conditioning, our very identity, even the very notion of a self. If this is accompanied by a contemplative practice, eventually there is a buoyancy and lightness, a spaciousness surrounding these heavy questions. The problem with noble pursuits or living a better story isn’t the pursuit itself, but the self and the baggage it almost always takes with it. We can embark on a journey with the best of intentions, but the untransformed self will bring its addictions, insecurities, and immature programs for happiness along with it, still convinced it is living a noble path. First we need to be stripped of the implicit notion that we are the hero to see with the clear sight of love, to understand what has to change within us, and which has nothing to do with egoic self-deception. . . . If the ego is untransformed the new noble pursuit just becomes the ego’s new stomping ground. There’s a purification needed, a death, an acknowledgement of the false self at work, it takes the ongoing daily work of making space to become channels of divine love, without attachment to outcomes. Contemplation provides a means of not only becoming aware of the story, but taking time every day to slough it off altogether, and rest in the divine presence, which is before, behind, and beyond all story.” Mark Thomas Shaw

“This is what the Lord says:
‘Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is,
and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.’”
Jeremiah 6:18 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you picking up the pieces of the story you’ve been living? . . . reinventing yourself? . . . beginning a new challenge?
  • Are you simply bringing along your “untransformed self”–with all its same addictions, insecurities and “programs for happiness” that you depended on before?
  • A purified you might simply “rest in the divine presence” in a new way–without “attachment to outcomes.” What would that mean for you?

Abba, I want to live without unhealthy attachments.

For More: “Contemplative Light” by Mark Thomas Shaw

Shaw, Mark Thomas. “What Story Are You Living In?” https://us15.campaign-archive.com/?e=ae076a4940&u=14c1793e7a220272e67633fd9&id=d29991cf24

Daily Riches: “An Inflow of God Into the Soul” (Gerald May, John of the Cross, and Thomas Kelly)

“There is a relentless willfulness in us that seldom ceases until we have been brought to our knees by incapacity and failure.” Gerald May

“Continuously renewed immediacy, not receding memory of the Divine Touch, lies at the base of religious living.” Thomas Kelly

“The dark night is a profoundly good thing. It is an ongoing spiritual process in which we are liberated from attachments and compulsions and empowered to live and love more freely. Sometimes the letting go of old ways is painful, occasionally even devastating. But this is not why the night is called ‘dark.’ The darkness of the night implies nothing sinister, only that the liberation takes place in hidden ways, beneath our knowledge and understanding. It happens mysteriously, in secret, and beyond our conscious control. For that reason if can be disturbing or even scary, but in the end it always works to our benefit. . . . To some extent, we can assume that various dimensions of the night are always going on in our lives. God is always working obscurely within us. And, even more mysteriously, some part of us is always saying yes to God’s invitations to go where we do not want to go. Viewed in this way, the dark night of the soul is . . .  a deep ongoing process that characterizes our spiritual life. In this sense, the dark night is a person’s hidden life with God. . . . ‘This dark night,’ [John of the Cross says,] ‘is an inflow of God into the soul.’ . . . This is, for me, the most hopeful thing about it; the dark night is nothing other than our ongoing relationship with the Divine. . . . As such it never ends; it just keeps deepening, revealing more and more intimate layers of freedom for love.” Gerald May

“Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing.
So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”
Acts 9:8,9 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Has incapacity or failure “brought you to your knees?”
  • In your “hidden life with God” can you imagine God always at work deepening your ability to love?
  • You’re not hearkening back to some religious experience years ago are you?

Abba, I renounce my familiar willfulness, and look to you for that needed continuous renewal in my life.

For More: The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald May

Daily Riches: Your Dark Night As a Gestation (Gerald May, Thomas Moore, and John on the Cross)

“Maybe your dark night is a gestation, a coming into being of a level of existence you have never dreamed of. Maybe your dark night is one big ironical challenge, just the opposite of what it appears to be–not a dying, but a birthing.” Thomas Moore

“If we really knew what we were called to relinquish on this [spiritual] journey, our defenses would never allow us to take the first step. Sometimes the only way we can enter the deeper dimensions of the journey is by being unable to see where we’re going. John’s [John of the Cross] explanation of the obscurity goes further. He says that in worldly matters it is good to have light so we know where to go without stumbling. But in spiritual maters it is precisely when we do think we know where to go that we are most likely to stumble. Thus, John says, God darkens our awareness in order to keep us safe. When we cannot chart our own course, we become vulnerable to God’s protection, and the darkness becomes a ‘guiding night,’ a ‘night more kindly than the dawn.’ . . . the night is dark for our protection. We cannot liberate ourselves; our defenses and resistance will not permit it. . . . To guide us toward the love that we most desire, we must be taken where we could not and would not go on our own. And lest we sabotage the journey, we must not know where we are going. Deep in the darkness, way beneath our senses, God is instilling ‘another, better love’ and ‘deeper, more urgent longings’ that empower our willingness for all the necessary relinquishments along the way. This transformative process–the freeing of love from attachment–is akin to the ancient biblical concept of salvation.” Gerald May

“When you are old you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you and lead you
where you do not want to go.”
John 21:18b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you ever felt like God was keeping you in the dark (off balance, confused, frustrated, stymied)?
  • Did you ever consider this was for your own good? . . . that God was lovingly at work beneath your understanding?
  • What “attachments” do you have that hinder you from moving ahead in the life of faith? Is God “helping” you to relinquish some of those?

Abba, teach me to welcome your often confusing, often painful–but necessary–work in me.

For More: The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald May

 

Daily Riches: What Saves Relationships Over and Over (Maria Popova, Rainer Maria Rilke, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Shel Silverstein)

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Our paradoxical longing for intimacy and independence is a diamagnetic force—it pulls us toward togetherness and simultaneously repels us from it with a mighty magnet that, if unskillfully handled, can rupture a relationship and break a heart. Under this unforgiving magnetism, it becomes an act of superhuman strength and self-transcendence to give space to the other when all one wants is closeness. And yet this difficult act may be the very thing—perhaps the only thing—that saves the relationship over and over.” Maria Popova

“I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity for solitude. And only those are the true sharings which rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation. . . . It is a question in marriage, to my feeling, not of creating a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries, but rather a good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude, and shows him this confidence, the greatest in his power to bestow. A togetherness between two people is an impossibility, and where it seems, nevertheless, to exist, it is a narrowing, a reciprocal agreement which robs either one party or both of his fullest freedom and development. But, once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky! Therefore this too must be the standard for rejection or choice: whether one is willing to stand guard over the solitude of a person and whether one is inclined to set this same person at the gate of one’s own solitude . . . . Self-transformation is precisely what life is, and human relationships, which are an extract of life, are the most changeable of all, rising and falling from minute to minute, and lovers are those in whose relationship and contact no one moment resembles another. . . . For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” Rainer Maria Rilke

“Love one another.”
John 13:34

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you agree that by nature the crowd deprives its members of solitude?
  • Will you choose a beloved who will protect your solitude? Can you be trusted to protect their solitude?
  • Are you learning to be happy and whole in solitude, so that even when you want closeness, you can give your partner space?

Abba, may my love be unpossessing, uncontrolling, protecting space for the thriving of my beloved.

For More: The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein

Popova, Maria. “The Difficult Art of Giving Space in Love: Rilke on Freedom, Togetherness, and the Secret to a Good Marriage”

Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004. 

Daily Riches: Depression and Darkness As Alarms (Thomas Moore and Lee Stringer)

“Are you going to become cynical and depressed? Or are you going to open your heart to a mystery that is as natural as the sun and the moon, day and night and summer and winter?” Thomas Moore

“It helps to clear out the theories and dogmas you picked up from your family, school, and religious upbringing. To be an independent and mature adult, you may have to dump all kinds of things that get in the way. Then your thoughts and judgments become leaner and clearer. You realize that much of what has preoccupied you is not essential. You can live happily and sensuously in this rich and promising world without being caught up in many of its dehumanizing values and empty distractions. The writer Lee Stringer tells the passionate story of his life on the streets of New York, where he was hooked on alcohol, cocaine, and crack. He had gone through a highly disillusioning failure with an import company and took to living on the streets. Eventually he discovered that he could write. He began writing for a newspaper for street people and soon became its editor. Then he went on to write bestselling books. Reflecting on his experience, he says that he could have gotten back on his feet through professional help, but he believes in learning through ‘hard knocks.’ His conclusion could well be a summary of this book. ‘It has occurred to me since that perhaps what we call depression isn’t really a disorder at all but, like physical pain, an alarm of sorts, alerting us that something is undoubtedly wrong; that perhaps it is time to stop, take a time-out, take as long as it takes, and attend to the unaddressed business of filling our souls.’ Here is a key idea: stop thinking of your dark nights as problems and begin to see them as opportunities for change.” Thomas Moore

“I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.”
Psalm 69:2 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you think of darkness and light an normal, inevitable parts of life?
  • Is there an “alarm of sorts” going off in your life? Are you attending to it?
  • After reading the longer quote, what are you hearing in the shorter one?

Abba, in the depths, I am remade. I find myself–and at last, a “heft of soul.” (Moore)

For More: The Dark Nights Of The Soul by Thomas Moore

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Daily Riches: Aging and “Invisibility” (Paul F. Morrissey and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)

“It is strange to feel invisible. I don’t remember exactly when it began to happen. The only thing I know is that I am not seen much anymore when I walk by people on the street. It is a little discomfiting, a little bittersweet. I am now in my late 70s and rather healthy, even athletic for my age, so it came as a shock to realize people rarely look back when I glance at them. Not just women . . . . Men do not see me either. . . . this invisibility happens in smaller gatherings, too, even with people I know. Conversation whirls around the table. Snippets of this or that experience are shared. Chuckling to myself, I remember when I competed in the same way for the storyteller spotlight. Now I often sit and wait. It is not a bad space to be in. It can be rather peaceful if you can get over the need to speak in order to exist. . . . The world belongs to the young. “Yet I’ve got so much to share if anyone wants to know,” I muse to myself. . . . Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., says that this “diminishment” is how we prepare for the great merging with the cosmos that occurs when we die:

. . . there still remains that slow, essential deterioration which we cannot escape: old age little by little robbing us of ourselves and pushing us on to the end . . . . In death, as in an ocean, all our slow and swift diminishments flow out and merge.

. . . I began to tell a friend about this invisibility recently. Before I could explain what I meant, he immediately acknowledged that he, too, experiences this, even though he is only in his mid-60s. The way he described it was that he hardly sees anyone looking at him with a glimmer of sexual or relational interest anymore. We all enjoy seeing a flicker of—let’s call it personal—interest in another’s eyes as we go through our rather regular days, don’t we? A sign that we are still a little intriguing. . . . That we might be worth having a cup of coffee or glass of wine with. To be seen—to be desired . . .—is a beautiful human need no matter what our age is. God created us this way. . . . In South Africa, the people greet one another on the road by saying, ‘Sawubona.’ It means, ‘I see you.’ The answer is ‘Here I am.’ In other words, you are not invisible to me. You are someone. You are God’s beloved child . . . .” Paul F. Morrissey

“Jesus looked at him and loved him.”
Mark 10:21a NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you sometimes feel invisible? Is there anything good that can come from that–hidden beneath the pain?
  • Must you be seen “in order to exist?” Mull that over.
  • Do you go through each day in a way that conveys to others “I see you.”?

Here I am Lord. You see me. When necessary, may that be enough.

For More: “Becoming Invisible” by Paul Morrissey

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Daily Riches: Make Peace with the “Groan Zone” (Gregory of Nazianzus)

“Make peace with the groan zone. The groan zone is the place where the conversation is most difficult and may feel overwhelming or hopeless. Too many people walk away at this point. But use the mediator’s secret here–sticking it out through the groan zone is often the way to crack a difficult conversation’s tough nut. Whenever you notice yourself experiencing a ‘get me outta here!’ moment, pause and remind yourself this is where the greatest opportunities lie. Instinctively we abhor nondefensiveness and when we feel attacked or even confronted, we lash out immediately in hurt and anger. Most of us are either too reactive to stay calm or too reactive to stay present. Some, hoping to avoid the discomfort of confrontation are so unreactive they are never really present. It is over-reactivity that dooms many arguments between loving couples. Uncovering the real issue happens when people feel safe enough to be vulnerable. How do you do it? It’s actually very easy. Take a deep breath and just validate. Repeat back what you’re hearing. Be a mirror. If it’s easy, why don’t we all do it all the time? Because there’s a hard part too: Managing your own discomfort. Can you be OK with the feelings of others? Can you listen without judging? Can you listen even though you might feel threatened?”

“Everyone must be quick to hear,
slow to speak
and slow to anger . . . .”
James 1:19 NASB

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you too reactive to stay calm? . . . or present? . . . to love well? . . . not to jump to conclusions or judge? . . . or try to fix?
  • Does emotionally laden conflict feel like death to you? (Join the club.)
  • Are you safe enough in God to allow yourself to be vulnerable? . . .  not to run?
  • Can you allow God to love you in your failed, good intentions–and try again the next time?

“O Word of Truth! in devious paths
My wayward feet have trod;
I have not kept the day serene
I gave at morn to God.

“And now ’tis night, and night within;
O God, the light hath fled!
I have not kept the vow I made
When morn its glories shed.

“For clouds of gloom from nether world
Obscured my upward way;
O Christ the Light, Thy light bestow
And turn my night to day!”

Gregory of Nazianzus

For More: Before the Door of God, Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson, eds.

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Sources:

Hopler, Jay and Kimberly Johnson, eds. Before the Door of God: An Anthology of Devotional Poetry. New Haven: Yale, 2013.

[I’m no longer able to find the source of the “Groan Zone” quotation.]

Daily Riches: Staying At Marriage (Wendell Berry)

“The meaning of marriage begins in the giving of words. We cannot join ourselves to one another without giving our word. And this must be an unconditional giving, for in joining ourselves to one another we join ourselves to the unknown. We can join one another only by joining the unknown. We must not be misled by the procedures of experimental thought: in life, in the world, we are never given two known results to choose between, but only one result that we choose without knowing what it is. . . . Because the condition of marriage is worldly and its meaning communal, no one party to it can be solely in charge. What you alone think it ought to be, it is not going to be. Where you alone think you want it to go, it is not going to go. It is going where the two of you—and marriage, time, life, history, and the world—will take it. You do not know the road; you have committed your life to a way. . . . The Zen student, the poet, the husband, the wife—none knows with certainty what he or she is staying for, but all know the likelihood that they will be staying ‘a while’: to find out what they are staying for. And it is the faith of all of these disciplines that they will not stay to find that they should not have stayed. As the traditional marriage ceremony insists, not everything that we stay to find out will make us happy. The faith, rather, is that by staying, and only by staying, we will learn something of the truth, that the truth is good to know, and that it is always both different and larger than we thought.” Wendell Berry

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven,
Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
Luke 9:51 NLT

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Did you enter marriage thinking you knew what to expect? Don’t most of us marry with illusions?
  • In staying at marriage we may learn something “different and larger than we thought.” If you’re married, what has that meant for you?
  • Think about Jesus’ life from the point of view of “staying.” What does his example show?

Abba, what do you want me to discover as I stay?

For More: Standing by Words: Essays by Wendell Berry

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Daily Riches: Daily Emotions . . . They Come Bearing Gifts (William Britton)

“I feel hungry, but really it’s thirst.
I feel tired, but really it’s hunger.
I feel like I’m dying, but I’m not
like I’m forsaken, but I’m not.
It seems things will never change
but they will.
–Loneliness passes.
–Sadness ends.
–Confusion clears.
–Depression lifts.
–Love returns.
–Lust slithers off.
I often can’t trust my feelings,
but my feelings have a lot to teach me
if only I will learn from them.

It’s like with my eyes.
I see the sun “rise and set.”
I see “color.”
As I lift my eyes
I see the edge of the world.
I often can’t trust my eyes
but my eyes have a lot to teach me
if only I will really see with them.

My ears fool me too.
I hear sounds that aren’t,
and miss sounds that are.
I misunderstand the words.
I filter out, not just the noise,
but the beauty in the background.
I often can’t trust my ears,
but my ears have a lot to teach me
if only I will really hear with them.

I often can’t trust my eyes, my ears, or my feelings,
but each of them have a lot to teach me.
They come bearing gifts
if only I will welcome those gifts.”

William Britton

“A fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure.”
Proverbs 14:16b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you afraid to really feel your emotions because you’ll be overwhelmed, or misled? Why do you suppose God gave you emotions?
  • Can you attempt to learn from your emotions? . . . to listen to what they’re telling you? Can you ask, “What does this emotional response say about me?”
  • Can you imagine Jesus without emotions? Who would want that? And who wants an unemotional you?

Abba, I’m glad that I can feel love, joy, grief, loneliness–even guilt and shame. They each make me “more.” They each teach me. You speak to me in each.

For More: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

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