Daily Riches: If You Lose Your Mind (Janice Hicks)

“Early Christian theologians generally attributed the image of God ( imago dei) in humans to the mind/spirit or soul, which was ranked higher than the body. Basil said that ‘the rational part is the human being.’ Augustine believed the mind has two parts: ‘The higher part contemplates eternal truths and makes judgments’ and God communicates with us through it. French philosopher René Descartes further emphasized the supremacy of rationality with his dictum ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Many of us today still fall into the Cartesian idea that the rational part, thinking, defines ‘who I am.’ Rationality is important, but rationality as a determinant of the status of personhood is greatly problematic. . . . Seeing a person as ‘less than’ promotes an attitude of stigma . . . . Contemporary theologians have developed a more balanced view of what makes us human. In Eccentric Existence, theologian David Kelsey proposes that the basis for the value and relationship of the human being lies in God, that is, outside the human beings themselves. Kelsey says that personhood is ‘a status before God’ dependent on God’s relating to who I am . . . . ‘Personhood is not even a function of how we relate to God,’ Kelsey writes. Our ‘personhood is entirely a function of how God relates to us in creating us . . . and hardly at all from anything else.’ God’s relating to us is surely not lost in dementia [for instance] or any illness. According to Kelsey, other qualities beyond rationality make us human, including emotion, love, spirituality, awareness, and courage. These traits have been observed in people with dementia . . . . When a person develops dementia, are they less of a person? Do they lose their connection to God? Indeed, we value infants, and infants are not rational. We are all dependent at times. We are all limited. . . . Perhaps those with dementia remind us of our limitations and that makes us uncomfortable.” Janice Hicks in Sojourners

“We turned our backs on him
and looked the other way.”
Isaiah 53:3c NLT

Moving From Head to Heart

  • In truth, do you see (or treat) stigmatized people as “less than?”
  • Imagine if “our personhood is entirely a function of how God relates to us” rather than of how we relate to God. Imagine what that means.
  • Do you hope others will still treat you with dignity if you live long enough to lose your memory? Can you give such dignity to others now?

Abba, may I look with compassion on those less “able” than me.

For More: Redeeming Dementia by Dorothy Linthicum and Janice Hicks

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Sources:

Linthicum, Dorothy and Janice Hicks. Redeeming Dementia: Spirituality, Theology, and Science. Church: 2018.

Also helpful:

Dettloff, Dean. “After Deadly Van Attack . . . .” America. May 28, 2018.

Keenan, James F. “The Francis Effect On Health Care.” America. May 28, 2018.

 

Daily Riches: Worn Of My Falsehoods And Saved By Love (Mark Nepo and Fred Rogers)

“Let me say plainly that gratitude and humility swell when thinking of those who’ve held me up, who’ve helped me endure the many ways I’ve been reduced and worn of my falsehoods through the years. I smile deeply when thinking of those who’ve opened me to the joy of simply being here. I would be less without these friendships. I love you all. I keep telling strangers: to be in the presence of those who can both share pain and celebrate just waking up, this is the answer to loneliness. Such friendship makes sharing pizza in a noisy pub and standing in silence as the old oak creaks all one could ask for. In truth, this process, of being worn to only what is raw and essential, never ends. It’s as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly. Thank you for holding me up to the elements, and for freeing yourselves, and for the joy of these unexpected moments together.” Mark Nepo

“I believe that appreciation is a holy thing–that when we look for what’s best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does all the time. So in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something sacred.” Fred Rogers

“Use your freedom
to serve one another in love.”
Galatians 5:13b

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you understand the never-ending process of “. . . being worn to only what is raw and essential?” Have you embraced it as a something good? . . .  as God’s loving care?
  • Friends who share our pain and celebrate our “waking up” can sustain and save us. Do you have some friends like that? Can you really do without such loving friends?
  • Presenting your “sculpted” self to God to love others is “something sacred” you can do. Are you available?

Abba, your strong love has freed me to fly. May I love others that way myself.

For more: Reduced to Joy by Mark Nepo.

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Sources:

Nepo, Mark. Reduced to Joy. Berkeley: Viva, 2013.

Rogers, Fred. “Commencement Address at Middlebury College May, 2001.”

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: 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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Daily Riches: Approval From the Father (Belden Lane)

“The death of the father had left within me a yawning, empty place, something no amount of approval ever seemed able to fill. My temptation was to seek out substitute fathers everywhere, trying to be the perfect son, the ideal student, the one so anxious to please–as if to guarantee that no one would ever abandon this child again. Yet the compulsive need to be nice, to avoid every possibility of rejection becomes itself dangerous and seductive. ‘Being nice’ as a way of acquiring love is often not very nice at all. The desperate need to be loved can keep one from love itself. True intimacy is only possible where emptiness is accepted as gift, where people don’t use one another to try to fill (and to fix) each other’s hollowness. Yet neither do they leave. Intimacy is participation in each other’s unalterable emptiness, the sharing of a vulnerability that grows even deeper in being shared. If the desert has taught me anything, it’s that love can only blossom in abandonment. Only now, as the father–and the mother–are irretrievably gone, as the son retraces the path of his long search for the blessing of the firstborn son, does he find it possible (because now also necessary) to release these anxious dependencies of the past. Without parents, without anyone left to mend him, he’s cast into this desert night, thrown on its darkened God as if nothing else were left. Maybe this desolate, desert God is the one he’s sought all along in the endless quest for a lost father.” Belden Lane

“But while he was still a long way off,
his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him;
he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
Luke 15:20 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you relate to the sense of a “yawning, empty place, something no amount of approval” seems ever to fill?
  • Have you tried to fill up that space with human approval? . . . even with a substitute father or mother? . . . by performing?
  • Sometimes only when we lose our last hope of being “mended” by others, do we cast ourselves upon God, the only father who never disappoints. Have you done that yet?

Abba, you’ve thrown your arms around me, and you’ll never let go. I’m so grateful.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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Daily Riches: Through Many Tribulations . . . (Scott Peck, Peter Scazzero, and Phillips Brooks)

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.” Phillips Brooks
 .
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth . . . because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. Most do not fully see this truth, that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. They voice their belief, noisily or subtly, that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction that should not be . . . . I know about this moaning because I have done my share. . . . The process of confronting and solving problems is a painful one. Problems, depending upon their nature, evoke in us frustration of grief or sadness or loneliness or guilt or regret or anger or fear or anxiety or anguish or despair. These are uncomfortable feelings, often very uncomfortable, often as painful as any kind of physical pain, sometimes equaling the very worst kind of physical pain. Indeed, it is because of the pain that events or conflicts engender in us all that we can call them problems. . . . It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. . . . It is through the pain of confronting and resolving that we learn. . . . Wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems.” Scott Peck
 .
“God sometimes wounds us in our journey’s with him in order to move us out of an unhealthy, ‘tip of the iceberg’ spirituality to one that truly transforms us from the inside out. When these wounds come, we can deny them, cover them, get angry with God, blame others, or like Jacob we can cling desperately to God.” Peter Scazzero
 .
“God disciplines us for our good,
in order that we may share in his holiness.”
Hebrews 12:10b NIV

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you waiting for life (or the “spiritual life”) to be easy/painless?
  • What’s wrong with hoping for easy/painless?
  • Is desperately clinging to God the starting point of your coping strategy?
  • What else would be part of your strategy?

Abba, thank you for forcing me to go deeper–however painful.

For more: The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

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Thanks for reading, following and sharing these Daily Riches. Look for my upcoming book–Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings for more meditations like this.

Daily Riches: “. . . Until All Of Us Are Well” (Krista Tippett and David Hilfiker)

“Two decades ago Dr. Hilfiker gave up his medical practice in the Midwest and moved to Washington, D.C. . . . drawn to the idea that God is somehow revealed in the poor. . . . Dr. Hilfiker and his wife Marja helped to found a medical shelter for chronically ill homeless men who were turned away by hospitals. They lived with three other doctors and their families above the shelter called Christ House, in community with their patients. Later, he and his family founded Joseph’s House, a supportive residence for homeless men with AIDS. Dr. Hilfiker came to understand, he says, that his spiritual well-being is wrapped up with the poor.” Krista Tippett
 .
“The original concept intellectually came from Dorothee Soelle, a theologian. And the concept is that when an affluent person benefits from structures in society and when those same structures oppress other people, then the affluent person experiences a degree of alienation from himself, from God, that he may or may not be aware of, but is there. And I think what Marja and I were experiencing was that sense, something is wrong here. . . . we live so easily in a society in which other people don’t have a chance, and there’s something wrong with that. Martin Luther King said, you know, ‘None of us is well until all of us are well.’ And I think that captures it. When we live in a society with such deep injustice as ours, you suffer spiritually. Now, again, I believe many people aren’t aware of the suffering that they experience because of this structural injustice, but I believe it’s spiritual reality. Certainly when you examine the Christian spiritual tradition, you find just every place this notion that God’s kingdom cannot tolerate injustice. . . . We do not want to be the causes of injustice or even benefit from injustice. . . . So the way that you overcome that, or at least one of the ways you overcome that, is to put yourself in solidarity with those who suffer from the same systems that benefit you. I can’t give up my privileged position. I’m educated, I’m white; those are things I can’t, you know, give away. But I can do what I can to put myself into solidarity with folks, to get to know them, and that makes a difference.” David Hilfiker
.

“If you, even you, had only recognized on this day
the things that make for peace!”
Luke 19:42
NRSV

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Do you believe that “God is revealed in the poor?”
  • . . . that your spiritual well-being is wrapped up with the well-being of the poor?
  • . . . that you need to be in solidarity with the poor?

Abba, help us love as you love us.

For More: Not All Of Us Are Saints by David Hilfiker

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Thanks for following and sharing my blog! – Bill

Tippett, Krista. Interview with David Hilfiker on Speaking Of Faith, broadcast August 24, 2006.

Daily Riches: The Problem With Coping and Fixing (David Benner and Gerald May)

“It’s so hard for many of us to encounter things we can’t fix. That’s the trouble with living in a broken world. There is so much that we simply can’t fix–in ourselves, in others, in the world. The problems are simply too vast and our solutions are, at best, half-vast. Welcome to God’s world. But note how God seems to relate to these vast problems. God’s response seems to be to come along side those who are suffering and hold their pain, not eliminate it. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that for fixers. Perhaps it’s an invitation to stand with God in holding things that we can’t fix. But, this is where the real miracle enters this process–in that holding we become shaped in the image of Compassion. Maybe that’s the ultimate point of the encounter with unfixable realities.” David Benner

“I have come to hate that word, because to cope with something you have to separate yourself from it. You make it your antagonist, your enemy. Like management, coping is a taming word, sometimes even a warfare word. Wild, untamed emotions are full of life-spirit, vibrant with the energy of being. They don’t have to be acted out, but neither do they need to be tamed. They are part of our inner wilderness; they can be just what they are. God save me from coping. God help me join, not separate. Help me be with and in, not apart from. Show me the way to savoring, not controlling. Dear God, hear my prayer: make me forever copeless.” Gerald May

“Who is weak without my feeling that weakness?
Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?”
2 Corinthians 11:29

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Think for a moment about all you can’t fix in your world. What emotions arise?
  • Think about God as you understand God. In what sense is God a fixer or not a fixer?
  • What is the problem with “coping” and “fixing?”

Abba, may I not be deterred from loving well because I insist of fixing what can’t be, or shouldn’t be, fixed.

For More: The Wisdom of Wilderness by Gerald May

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. My goal is to regularly give you something of unique value in 400 words or less. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. Thanks for your interest! – Bill

Sources:

Benner, David. “Holding Rather Than Fixing.” His Facebook post from September 27, 2017.

May, Gerald G.. The Wisdom of Wilderness: Experiencing the Healing Power of Nature . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

 

Daily Riches: Acquiring “Heroic” Virtues (Claude la Colombiére, Oswald Chambers and William Britton)

“All our life is sown with tiny thorns that produce in our hearts a thousand involuntary movements of hatred, envy, fear, impatience, a thousand little fleeting disappointments, a thousand slight worries, a thousand disturbances that momentarily alter our peace of soul. For example, a word escapes that should not have been spoken. Or someone utters another that offends us. A child inconveniences you. A bore stops you. You don’t like the weather. Your work is not going according to plan. A piece of furniture is broken. A dress is torn. I know that these are not occasions for practicing very heroic virtue. But they would definitely be enough to acquire it if we really wished to.” Claude la Colombiére

“We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do. We cannot save nor sanctify ourselves–God does that. But God will not give us good habits, or character, and He will not force us to walk correctly before Him. We have to do all that ourselves. We must ‘work out’ our ‘own salvation’ which God has worked in us (Philippians 2:12).” Oswald Chambers

“My body is my divinely given O.S. It functions diagnostically so that bodily sensations and emotions like guilt, illness, love, hunger, thirst, and anxiety signal the state of my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. These are God’s gift to me–alerting me to what is needed, to what is wrong. If my prayers are that God will take away unpleasant feelings (exhaustion, sadness, grief, loneliness, anger), then I’m asking God to take back his gifts, to negate them–as though they were bad gifts after all. But, as Chambers says, God must do God’s part, and we must to ours. In giving these gifts, God does his part–giving us a divine diagnosis. Our response to God’s gifts is our part–and our part cannot consist of asking God to take back his gifts. And thus the Bible’s emphasis on practices. Practices are what we are to do. It is by practices (and practicing) that we develop ‘good habits, or character” (Chambers), that we learn virtue (Colombiére). God does not make us instantly virtuous because we ask him (Wouldn’t we all be virtuous?), but God does a slower, more methodical work in us–we ‘acquire’ virtue by practice–as we deal with the ‘thousand disturbances’ that daily bombard our souls. I learn from exhaustion to practice setting limits. Anger gives me the opportunity to practice pausing before I respond. Loneliness forces me to practice finding my all in God over a sometimes extended period of time. Colombiére makes an important point. If we let them, our difficult daily experiences are sufficient to shape us to be like Jesus. No, they’re not ‘occasions for practicing very heroic virtue’, but they are occasions for practicing the virtues we seek–the virtues God looks for in us–the virtues that others need in us–and those are pretty ‘heroic’ after all.” William Britton

“continue to work out your salvation”
Philippians 2:12

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you praying that God will take back his loving gifts?
  • Are you waiting for God to act when God is waiting for you to act?
  • In what ways are you actually practicing virtues?

Abba, by your grace may I do what I must do to increase in virtue.

For More: Voices Of the Saints by Bert Ghezzi

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Thanks for following my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: Indifference and Love (Belden Lane, Martin Luther and Thomas Merton)

“The desert monks learned that love thrives on the distance made possible by solitude.  …Only those who have died to others can be of service to them. Only when we have ceased to need people–desperately, neurotically need them–are we concretely able to love. …Genuine love is ultimately impossible apart from such indifference. Without it, the sinful self remains incurvatusse, as Luther insisted, curved in upon itself in hopeless self-preoccupation. Only the solitary therefore, can truly care for all the right reasons, because he or she has ceased to care for all the wrong reasons. …True love, a love that is unacquisitive and free cannot exist when the person loved is being used as an object for the satisfaction of another’s needs. To love in the sense of agape, is to treat the other person not with any preference for one’s own good but as an equal–indeed as one’s own self. Thomas Merton explained the desert Christians’ conception of love as a matter of taking one’s neighbor as one’s other self. ‘Love means an interior and spiritual identification with one’s brother, so that he is not regarded as an “object” to “which” one “does good.” We have to become–in some sense, the person we love. And this involves a kind of death of our own being, our own self.’ In love such as this, all judgment is suspended. One gives the other person  every benefit of the doubt, even as he or she would wish to be considered in return.  …Unconditional acceptance of this sort is possible only for people who, renouncing all comparisons of themselves with others, have noting invested in the failure of their peers. Admittedly this idea of compassion as the fruit of indifference may be difficult to grasp in contemporary culture. Popular conceptions of love are often limited to sentimental feelings and delusions of self-denying grandeur. As a result, we often fail to recognize the extent to which all this disguises a highly manipulative bid for our own self-aggrandizement. We are entirely too needy–too anxious about the fragility of our own self-worth–to be free to love.” Belden Lane

“to love your neighbor as yourself is more important
than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Jesus in Mark 12:33

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your self-worth so fragile that you can’t love others well? …are you too needy, too dependent?
  • Can you imagine renouncing your right to compare yourself to others, and thus to criticize them?
  • Unless we listen to God in solitude, we will always be incurvatusse. What place does solitude have in your life?

Abba, may I only be invested in the success of others.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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Thanks for sharing/following my blog! I appreciate your interest. – Bill

Daily Riches: The Painful Process of Spiritual Formation (Geri Scazzero, Parker Palmer and Belden Lane)

“Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is one of history’s greatest artistic triumphs. From 1508 to 1512, the artist lay on his back and painted the creation, fall, and destruction of the human race by the flood. The images, however, started to fade almost immediately after he painted them. Within a hundred years no one remembered what the original colors really had looked like. In 1980, a scaffold was erected and plans made to clean the ceiling of Michelangelo’s priceless masterpiece. The director of the restoration project did a critical experiment using a special solution on one or two square inches at a time. For the next twelve years they cleaned the entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. No one expected the results to be so stunning! No one realized Michelangelo was such a master of color—of azure, green, rose, lavender. Beneath centuries of grime and dirt, passionate colors lay buried. For the first time in over 450 years, people could view the masterpiece as it was originally intended, in all its color and beauty. Stripping off the false layers and dirt that cover up your unique destiny and life is complex. Parker Palmer describes it like this, ‘Most of us arrive at a sense of self only through a long journey through alien lands. But this journey bears no resemblance to the trouble-free “travel packages” sold by the tourism industry. It is more akin to the ancient tradition of pilgrimage – “a transformative journey to a sacred center” full of hardship, darkness and peril.'” Geri Scazzero

“The way of purgation involves an entry into what is unnerving, even grotesque in our lives, into what quickly reveals our limits. It seems at first, like most beginnings in the spiritual life, a mistake, a false start, an imperfection in God’s planning, a regression in our own growth. Only through hindsight do we recognize it for the unexpected gift that it is.” Belden Lane

“And I saw the river over which every soul must pass to reach the kingdom of heaven
and the name of that river was suffering
and I saw the boat which carries souls across the river
and the name of that boat was love.”
John of the Cross

“Through many tribulations
we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Acts 14:22

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you aware of things in your life that need to be “stripped away?”
  • Are you willing to take that (often difficult) “transformative journey?”
  • Have you experienced a great loss, only to recognize it later as an “unexpected gift?”

Abba, strip away what keeps me from being the person you imagined and need.

For More: I Quit! by Gerri Scazzero

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. Thanks for sharing/following my blog! – Bill

P.S. I’ve been working on a book that would be a collection of 365 daily readings–similar to and based on this blog. I’m looking for a publisher for this complicated project. If you have a contact or advice, please contact me.

Daily Riches: A King Clothed In Rags (Belden Lane and Flannery O’Connor)

“To the the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.” Flannery O’Connor

“Our image of God doesn’t prepare us for a truth realized in brokenness. We need to be shaken out of our expectations. …The grotesque reminds us who we are, but even more it discloses the mystery of God’s presence. Repeatedly in biblical faith we discover a broken and despised people calling upon a god made accessible in pathos and tears. God is never what Pharoah, Ahab, and Herod expect. There’s a shocking, almost comic quality about the annunciations one finds in scripture. Angels announce to shepherds standing in a field of sheep dung the birth of a king clothed in rags. A figure clad in white announces to John of the Apocalypse the majestic Lion of the Tribe of Judah, but when he turn to look there’s only a slain and bloody lamb (Rev. 5:5-6). In biblical experience what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. This is the mystery of God as Deus absconditus. The God of scripture is equally revealed in vulnerability and in triumph. This is because both actions are rooted in love. God wills us to be broken for the sake of a strength to make whole. Divine love is incessantly restless until it turns all woundedness into health, all deformity into beauty, all embarrassment into laughter. In biblical faith, brokenness is never celebrated as an end in itself. God’s brokenness is but an expression of a love on its way to completion. Hence we never can accept, much less romanticize, the plight of a people rejected by the world as aberrant and unfit. They invite us to share in the ‘groaning of all creation’ for a redemption yet to be revealed (Rom. 8:19-21). The paradox of the grotesque is that it summons those who are whole to be broken and longs for those who are broken to be made whole.” Belden Lane

“His appearance was marred more than any man
And His form more than the sons of men.”
Isaiah 52:14

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you familiar with the vulnerable God of the Bible?
  • Do you think of God’s love as “incessantly restless until it turns all woundedness into health, all deformity into beauty, all embarrassment into laughter?” Is God doing that for you?
  • In what ways are you whole needing to be broken? …broken needing to be make whole?

Abba, thank you for your love that will not rest until I am whole.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow/share my blog. I appreciate your interest! – Bill

Daily Riches: Lent–The Grand Reduction (Alicia Britt Chole)

“The sabbatical started more suddenly and violently than anticipated. A high fever, a few scans, multiple masses, possibly a lethal abscess . . . the specialists convened, conferred, counseled me to cancel all engagements, and began cutting. The reduction had begun. Waking from surgery, my first memory was seeing a dear friend place a hand over her mouth. Later she told me, ‘I’d never seen anyone that color, alive.’ The masses, thankfully, were all benign. But my body did not respond well to the invasion. The area’s organs went into hibernation and for the first time in my life, I became familiar with breathtaking pain. The experience redefined that word for me. It hurt to be awake. It hurt to see my children’s fear. It hurt to hear, ‘We don’t know why.’ In time, it would even hurt to hope. Reductions, it seems, have blurry release dates. Days stacked upon one another in vain like whisper-thin blankets with no warmth to offer. Though technology blinked, beeped, and buzzed noisily around me, the organs slept on. This healing simply would not be hurried. The wound was evidently too great to risk haste. After eight days in the hospital, the doctors sent me home. ‘At this point, I give you a fifty-fifty chance that the organs will come back online,’ the specialist offered. With those words, my entire recovery-time ‘to do’ list vaporized in the desert heat of pain. All I could do was sit and be loved—a need that my family filled extravagantly. Little did I know that the pain was under assignment: it was making room in my life for another operation well beyond the reach of any surgeon’s scalpel. I would not trade that desert of pain for the world. Deserts unclutter the soul. The hot desert sun vaporizes all manner of luxuries. Then the cold, shelterless nights expose the essential guts of life. I needed to eat, to sleep, to be protected, and to not be alone. Lent had come half a year early. God asked me to fast mental and physical strength. He invited me into holy weakness. I found Jesus there. We often think of Jesus’ fast beginning when He stepped into the Judean wilderness. But the fast actually began three decades earlier when the Glory of heaven was wrapped in plain paper and given as a gift to mankind. The Grand Reduction had begun. Jesus fasted omnipresence and clothed Himself with flesh. He fasted being worshiped by angels and accepted the disregard of man. He fasted the Voice that birthed planets and submitted to the silence of thirty hidden years: How must it have felt—knowing he had the power to heal—to have to walk past children suffering with leprosy? What would it have been like—knowing that his conception was miraculous—to be unable to defend his mother when others whispered about her past? And how agonizing would it be—when his Word could one day raise the dead to life again—to stand by while those he loved (perhaps even Joseph his father) died? We are duly thankful, challenged, and inspired by Jesus’ forty-day fast from food in the Judean wilderness. Perhaps we should likewise be grateful, awed, and humbled by His thirty-year fast from praise, power, and potential in Nazareth. It takes a great deal of strength to choose weakness. Jesus chose voluntarily. I did not possess the courage or wisdom to volunteer. So God, for the sake of my soul, took me there involuntarily. His drafts are merciful indeed. When He calls us to fast strength—when He drafts us into decrease—God’s purposes are clear: Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8: 2– 3) To humble us, to test us, to know what is in our hearts . . . such is the sifting power of helplessness. In our daily lives, we may prefer self-reliance. But perhaps utter dependence is the truer friend of our souls.” Alicia Britt Chole

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you ever considered meeting Jesus in the midst of your “breathtaking pain?” … your “utter dependence?”
  • Are you perhaps waiting for a healing that you shouldn’t rush–that will not be hurried?
  • Is God inviting you into a decluttering “holy weakness?” Have you followed? Have you found Jesus there?

Abba, unclutter my soul. Use my decrease for increase.

For More: 40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Fast by Alicia Britt Chole

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Thanks for reading and sharing my blog! (Sorry, longer than usual, but too awesome to clip.) – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Music–The Best Therapy (William Cowper, Teresa of Avila, William and Randy Peterson)

“William Cowper, whose poems appear in most collections of great English literature, was beset with emotional problems throughout his life. His mother died when he was six, at school he was teased and ridiculed, and his father prevented him from marrying the girl he loved. Forced to study law, he panicked when he learned he would have his bar exam before the House of Lords–and tried to commit suicide. After a year in an insane asylum, he was released into the care of a Christian couple. It seemed that hymnwriting was the best therapy Cowper could get. But mental illness continued to plague the poet, and he frequently lapsed into deep depression. You can almost see his self-portrait [below] in the ‘fearful saints’ who need to take ‘fresh courage’ in the future blessings of God. Intellectually he knew the truth of these lines, but emotionally he was still trying to grasp it.” William and Randy Peterson

“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense.
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

“His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

“Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own Interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”

William Cowper

“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away. God never changes.
Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.”
— St. Teresa of Avila, from her bookmark

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.”
Psalm 62:5-6

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Both Cowper and Teresa are “talking to themselves”–like the psalmist. Do you talk to yourself? What do you say?
  • “Intellectually [Cowper] knew the truth of these lines, but emotionally he was still trying to grasp it.” Isn’t that often our experience as well? And what would you say was the truth of those lines?
  • The story refuses a typical happy ending. Cowper still suffered. He still struggled. Is there space in your view of the life of faith for that? …for people like that? …for yourself, when you’re like that?

Abba, thank you for the therapy of music.

For More: The One Year Book of Hymns, edited by Brown and Norton

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: The Glorious Imperfection of the Present Moment (Maria Popova, Junichiro Tanizaki and Leonard Cohen)

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen

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“Unlike the Western conception of beauty—a stylized fantasy constructed by airbrushing reality into a narrow and illusory ideal of perfection—the zenith of Japanese aesthetics is deeply rooted in the glorious imperfection of the present moment and its relationship to the realities of the past…. This temporal continuity of beauty, a counterpoint to the West’s neophilia, is central to Japanese aesthetics. Rather than fetishizing the new and shiny, the Japanese sensibility embraces the living legacy embedded in objects that have been used and loved for generations, seeing the process of aging as something that amplifies rather than muting the material’s inherent splendor. Luster becomes not an attractive quality but a symbol of shallowness, a vacant lack of history:

We find it hard to be really at home with things that shine and glitter. The Westerner uses silver and steel and nickel tableware, and polishes it to a fine brilliance, but we object to the practice… We begin to enjoy it only when the luster has worn off, when it has begun to take on a dark, smoky patina. Almost every householder has had to scold an insensitive maid who has polished away the tarnish so patiently waited for. …We do not dislike everything that shines, but we do prefer a pensive luster to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that, whether in a stone or an artifact, bespeaks a sheen of antiquity.

Tanizaki speaks affectionately of ‘the glow of grime,’ which ‘comes of being touched over and over’—a record of the tactile love an object has acquired through being caressed by human hands again and again.” Maria Popova quoting Junichiro Tanizaki

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My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”
Psalm 51:17

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay”
2 Corinthians 4:7

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Might you be guilty of “fetishizing the new and shiny?” …of “neophilia?”
  • Does this reading tempt you to think differently about beauty? …aging? …friendship? …marriage? …spirituality?
  • Why would anyone prefer a “luster” to a “brilliance?”

Abba, help me to appreciate “the glow of grime”–especially in myself and my fellow homo sapiens.

For More: In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and God seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to regularly share something of unique value with you in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a question or comment. – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

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