Thursday, February 28, 2013

Friday Lent Two

“Truly, God is good to Israel,*
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had nearly slipped;*
I had almost tripped and fallen;
Because I envied the proud*
and saw the prosperity of the wicked…
When I tried to understand these things,*
it was too hard for me;
Until I entered the sanctuary of God*
and discerned the end of the wicked…
When my mind became embittered,*
I was sorely wounded in my heart…
Though my flesh and my heart should waste away,*
God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.”
Psalm 73, Friday Lent Two, Evening Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One

Psalm 73 has such depth and richness in describing the human condition and struggle to maintain a healthy perspective regarding what is most valuable in my life. Scripture has become very beneficial to me when I have treated it as a parable and metaphor. Psalm 78:1-2 reminds me “Hear my teaching, O my people; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.”

In this wealthy Psalm 73 I can easily see myself as Israel as “Israel” means “to wrestle with God”. I can’t think of a better name for persons of faith who are forever seeking to experience God and see God in the world and in themselves. One must search as life in God is not a stagnant thing sealed up in absolute certainty. Yes, I am certain of God’s love and that God is love, but this forever presents the challenge of understanding what it means to love. Psalm 73 presents such a wide range of struggling in what it means to love, in spite of all the distractions from love, of all the enticements to our loving things, our idolatries, material, emotional, intellectual and religious, rather than loving people and the gracious gift of life in this generous and beautiful creation.

I think this is all God is asking of me, to love God’s creation and to love God’s humanity. God keeps telling us over and over, love me by loving my creation and my people, all people. “The Lord is loving towards everyone (everyone), and his compassion covers all his works.” All his works. (Psalm 145:9) So the challenge for me, where I wrestle with God, is how to love, how to get past my pre-conceptions and biases to more fully engage in the act of loving. How much dare I imitate Jesus and engage the sacred act of vulnerability? How much do I believe, trust, in God to participate in the compassion of God, to engage the compassion of Jesus? Anyone can believe in any concept of their choosing, I can believe in God all day long, but that means nothing if I don’t trust in God enough to surrender my biases and judgementality and love as Jesus loved us.

I believe our pilgrimage is laid out in the Bible. The parable and metaphor is of our own individual lives and communities. It is for me a story of progress, of evolution, of the spiritual life of fullness promised by God found in compassionate loving. We start out raw and primitive, simple in our beliefs first to guarantee survival. We lose beliefs, admittedly or not, we all do lose faith. But we are nudged along to be liberated from our primitive bonds, towards being more loved by God as we make ourselves more vulnerable to love. Through our learning to love, in spite of our suffering--- through our suffering, we gain experience and wisdom; we develop compassion and hear our prophetic voice which leads us to Jesus the vulnerable, the pinnacle of what it means to be fully human, fully incarnate of the Spirit, fully realized in, and as, God’s love. As God’s love brought Jesus through suffering, death and resurrection, so does Jesus’s love bring us through our suffering, transforming us, resurrecting us, as we wrestle, in our lives and daily deaths, in the struggle to live more fully and deeply awake in compassion.

This is the journey and the struggle described to me in Psalm 73, the full range of what we wrestle with, spiritually, physically and emotionally. Yet, I know even when “sorely wounded in my heart”, “God”, love and compassion, “is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.”

Thursday Lent Two

“But as for me, I am poor and needy; *
come to me speedily, O God”
Psalm 70, Thursday Lent Two, the Daily Office Book, Year One

I am poor and needy. There resides in me great poverty, poverty of spirit, wisdom and the capacity to better know the fullness of God’s being. For all that I have, materially, intellectually and emotionally, there still remains emptiness of spirit, love and compassion. This is a poverty which can’t be made a place of wealth solely by my own volition. This poverty can only be filled by God’s grace and can only be realized by my own willingness to lay myself bare to the world around me, to engage and embrace the need of others. We all have needs, needs of security and love. To be filled with the great joy and fullness of love, we must follow Christ’s example, God’s example, to pour ourselves out, poor our love out, into the need of others. To have the true security of abiding love, we must play fearlessly as a child in the Divine Irony; we must give away our love. Our love is the greatest wealth we possess, given us by God to decide whether to withhold or give. Love is the one thing we truly own, in our giving it away, we fashion with God a poverty which God will refill, in greater wealth than before, as we persist in our intention to selflessly invest our love in community and in God. This is a theology of abundance to believe in. From our pouring out we may be again filled by compassion and know the ever growing joy of love’s graces, God’s graces.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wednesday Lent Two

“…That he may rule your people righteously *
and the poor with justice.”
Psalm 72, Wednesday Lent Two, Morning Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One

“Let your compassion come to me, that I may live,*
for your law is my delight.”
Psalm 119,Wednesday Lent Two, Evening Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One

I sometimes feel reluctant to address the concerns of the poor. Injustice towards the poor and oppressed is an issue God brings forth over and over throughout the Bible, and in the Old Testament stories, is the main reason for calamities which fall upon people, cultures and nations. These are warnings to us and our hubris. My reluctance comes from an unwillingness to deal with my own poverty, in spirit, heart, mind and body. Addressing the needs and vulnerability of the poor is a reminder of my own vulnerability, a topic I’m not always willing to address. But I must. If I am to be able to receive God’s compassion and healing, I must first accept my poverty, my need for God’s compassion. If I am to live, truly live as a liberated person, I must accept every aspect of my persona, and not only that, I must accept God’s law, which is to love, which in this case is to love myself, in all my failings, and in all my poverty. In recognizing my poverties, I can find healing in God’s love and be strengthened to share in the delight of God’s compassion for all of us who are poor in spirit, heart, mind or body.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Tuesday Lent Two

“For God alone my soul in silence waits; *
from him comes my salvation.”
Psalm 62, Tuesday Lent Two, Morning Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One

Sit. Be still. Breathe. Hear your heartbeat. Listen beyond your heartbeat into the silence of your soul resting inside the pumping of your heart. Here is the holy temple of God within the depth of your heart. Here the Spirit brings the salvation, the healing heart of God, healing the heart of your being, bringing your heart onto the healing of being, of creation, of our fragile humanity.

Here is a stunning hymn/chant by Hildegard of Bingen, one of the most influential persons   of the early church and the first composer of record. Enjoy!
Hymne Cum vox sanguinis Hymne Cum vox sanguinis Ursule-Versiculum, Hildegard of Bingen

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Monday Lent Two

“…the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16, Monday Lent Two, Morning Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One

Through intentional meditation the Spirit can help reveal to us our condition of the heart; is it healing, is it open and trusting, to be revealed to ourselves, to each other? Who can we make the journey with, friends, clergy, counselor, a spiritual director perhaps? Who can help you reveal the strength of your heart, who can help you realize the healing pilgrimage Jesus calls you to, the pilgrimage we’re all called to?

With whom can we share our compassion with, who can we companion with on the long road ahead?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sunday Lent Two

“Happy are the people whose strength is in you! *
whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.”

Psalm 84, Sunday Lent Two, Evening Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One

It has in many ways been a difficult time over the past year, very challenging on all levels of living: spiritually, emotionally and materially. It has been a year of at times feeling frustration, self-doubt and of mourning loses. Honestly, my feelings have carried a lot of sorrow.

On my recent birthday, December 1, I was officiating a funeral for another elder friend of mine. While making the drive to the memorial gathering and meal, I was adrift in the thoughts of losses over the past year, and of beginning my new year putting another friend into the ground. I was feeling down. At the gathering of family and friends, come together to celebrate the life of my friend and break bread, a dear friend came over and sat down next to me, and knowing how the past year has gone, she asked me, “Brother John, tell me, are you happy?”

“Yes!” The word jumped straight from my heart and out of my mouth, and to my surprise, I must add. I think for the first time in my life I have truly been intentional and focused on God’s love, both knowing it and growing it. Giving myself to God’s compassion and accepting it, being vulnerable to it has become the strength which has brought forth joy and happiness. Deep down inside me and at the core of my being, in my heart, I know deep joy. In spite of all the difficulties of the past year, I am happy.

This has been the foundational year for the Society of Jesus Compassionate. We are heart-set on the pilgrim’s way. More and more for me, the pilgrim’s way is the way of vulnerability, first to receive and accept God’s judgment, of myself and everyone else, as being compassionate, and to then extend that same compassion into the world. We are, all people, called to be companions of compassion for each other. Likewise we are all called to know joy, to be happy. Open your hearts, minds and hands and join in the joyful journey.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Saturday Lent One

“…See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn from the way that I am commanding you today, to follow other gods that you have not known.”
Deuteronomy 11:18-28, Saturday Lent One, Morning Prayer, the Daily Office, Year One.

To know the blessings of love’s joy, I must continually push myself to be vulnerable to compassion. The more available I am to loving, the greater the blessing of love’s experience. To experience the curse of a life absent of joy, I need only close and harden my heart; I need only withdraw from the loving that is the fullest expression of being fully human, God’s great gift. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Friday Lent One

“So now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? Only to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. …Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt…”
Deuteronomy 10:12-22, Friday Lent One, Morning Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One

Truly our God is the God of compassion who hopes for us to find through the difficulties of life the power of love.  To love God by loving ourselves enough to risk loving the poor and strangers, is to reveal the joy of compassion. Care for the sick, the poor “orphans and widows” and “the strangers”, the aliens, even the “illegal” ones, who reside inside our borders. Likewise for all of these aspects which reside in you. Do these and come into the joy of realizing God’s compassion with your compassion.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thursday Lent One

“The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul; *
the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.
The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart; *
the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever; *
the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold, *
sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
By them also is your servant enlightened, *
and in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can tell how often he offends? *
cleanse me from my secret faults.
Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me; *
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, *
O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.”
Psalm 19, Thursday Lent One, Evening Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One

When I was a child the notion of fearing God was a big deal, that God would make me suffer for my sins. Not only would I be punished in this life but also the next, in my being forever a marshmallow on the devil’s stick to be roasted and consumed, then I’d be reformed as a marshmallow on the stick to be again roasted and consumed over and over... forever. At that age my principle sin was eating too many marshmallows, so it made sense. 

As I got older I came to just not think of fearing God. It just didn’t make sense; it didn’t jibe with the idea of a merciful God, which The Bible also professes, as a God of infinite being who is unconditional love. Nor did it make sense that a God would create beings who would act in a way (sin) which was built in by that God only to then punish them eternally for doing so, as though building an excuse to satisfy some cosmic sadistic urge. It made as much cruel and maladjusted sense as someone raising hummingbirds and then punishing them for flying by cutting off their wings. Then with the idea that God was perfect and self-sufficient, it made sense that God could then also not suffer any detraction, injustice, wound or insult; nothing could be taken from a perfect all powerful God. Therefore God couldn’t suffer an injustice which would require justice, retribution or punishment for the people He created. It was all very confusing.

But then I came to believe the Gospel of Jesus, I came to understand things through the Gospel, I came to see The Bible through the lens of the Gospel. I came to view these things of life through the gift of God’s Law of love and compassion, which became known to me in the compassionate love of Jesus. Then I began to understand fearing God. I began to understand that fearing God was to fear love, to fear the vulnerability which is required of the deep love needed for real relationships, a humbling reality. Jesus lived a life of perfect vulnerability, vulnerable to relationships, vulnerable to the “compassion which covers all his works”, from which his teaching came, from which his healing power came, from which he found strength to die on a cross. Rather than abandon his love for us, or the whole of his own humanity in God’s love, Jesus remained confident in his love on a deep level, regardless of how great his fear. He followed through, completely confident of himself in God to remain confident to his human vulnerability.

It’s the vulnerability of love I fear and all the “little” deaths love requires. Even though I know love’s resurrections wait in return, the resurrections of healing, wholeness and life-giving relationships, I still know fear. That’s ok, Jesus did too. In spite of it, he was steadfast in his compassion and conviction, in his experiential knowledge of God’s love in his life, a love so powerful to raise the dead, and a love so powerful given to us to also raise us from our tombs of fear. Being raised from the depths of our fear is food for our compassion and joy. I find joy and gratitude for Christ who has forever changed what love means by revealing it in his life, death and resurrection. Even through the sorrows and fear I know the joy of compassion which always brings me through to the other side. What is it you fear, fear about love, which can be raised up to feed your compassion and joy?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lent One, Wednesday

“Furthermore the LORD said to me, ‘I have seen that this people is indeed a stubborn people.”
Deuteronomy 9, Wednesday, Lent One, Evening Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One

Yes I am. At times I will do anything to avoid the truth of who I am. At times I will deny I am a sinner, one who misses the mark, one who still causes intentional suffering and worse, one who denies the suffering I experience, to avoid my being perceived as mistaken, or flat out wrong. At times I will do anything to deny my own vulnerability and woundedness. Worst of all, I still will deny myself as God’s child, and in doing so; deny the Christ within me required to do the painful work of healing. The first step is to surrender my stubborn denial, open myself in vulnerability acknowledging the pain, and to accept it fully. It is only then, in my accepting my own pain, that I can make the honest request for healing. As God called the Israel to liberation in Deuteronomy, God calls us to be liberated from our suffering. It is my stubbornness which restrains me. What is restraining you?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lent One, Tuesday

“We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God, *
in the midst of your temple.”
Psalm 48, Tuesday Lent One, Evening Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One

Sit. Be silent. Enter into your body temple, into the midst of it, the sanctuary of your heart, and accept the love which originates with God. Nurture your compassion as God’s image within you, in whose image you are made, so to nurture yourself and the world around you. The real change we seek in life is through the transformation of God’s love, which unfolds from the inside out. Sit. Be silent and listen to compassion’s unfolding flower.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lent One, Monday

“Do not say to yourself, "My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth." But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. If you do forget the LORD your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.”
Deuteronomy 8:17-19, Morning Prayer, Lent 1, Monday, the Daily Office Book, Year One

If there is nothing else I can take from this reading is that the spiritual journey is one to be traveled in humility. I would say also that any life well lived must be lived humbly. I must honestly admit that whatever I have accomplished in my life I have not done so alone. The fact that I am on this good, generous and plentiful earth, in the first place, is something for which I can take no credit in and had no part in. I was conceived out of the relationship between my mother and father; I had nothing to do with it. At times in my moments of self-absorption when I may deceive myself into thinking as though it was otherwise, I was not self-conceived! 

Nor can I fully own my “wealth” of accomplishments as there were countless influences on me, good and bad. Good influences from parents, family, teachers, coaches, friends, mentors, and priests helped (and still do so) shape me, and encouraged me, to do well and treat others well. There were bad influences as well which tested me and challenged me (and still do so), which even in my failings, ultimately led me to better understand my true identity. When I look back on the successes I had in sports, business and life, there were those who were team-mates, associates and companions who contributed to my success. When I had my own business, my success was dependent upon the efforts of my employees. 

I solely possess nothing of my own; this is the realist of realities of my life on this earth, of anyone’s life on this earth, for there is nothing, nothing that we have, or are, which is not dependent upon the efforts of others who came before me and who are with me now. From our birth until we die, we owe debts of gratitude to those who came before us, to those who conceived us and to those who’ve lived and worked with us, even to those who worked against us, as all have contributed to the abundance we now know. All of us carry a debt. All of us, no matter how powerful or wealthy, all carry the basic elemental humble debt of gratitude to someone else.

Most importantly we all owe a debt of humble gratitude to the God of life and love, who called forth the light of being from out of the absolute dark nothing of empty space and in one great flash, filled the void with the being of cosmos. All light, matter and space in between, came into being in one instant “bang”. All which led to the fire, earth, air and water that is earth and drew forth the long combinations of elements, star dust, into which the Spirit of Life found breath and life, through endless commutations, until humans stood up for the first time to gaze into the stars above and wonder the mystery of what they felt in their chests as they tried to take in the vastness, feelings of awe, beauty and in one particular breath, love. And with this first breath of love, they felt connected; they felt God, not as an explanation but as a realization. 

Eventually, the ancient stars’ being and ending came together again to live transformed in our universe, our ancestors, our parents and each other. Stars were born to die so to give way to, and feed our galaxy and universe, the elemental substance and energy for their formation. Beings of light, we are literally beings of light. Born so long ago from God’s first light of creation, born from the light of the Sun, and to live in the sunlight until we will die in the light of the Sun. Eventually too Earth will be consumed in the light of our Sun’s last gasp. We are but dust and dust we will be. But, also we are light and light we will be. 

This is the debt of gratitude we must accept, humbly and joyfully lived, if we are to live healthy, loving, life giving lives: that we are intertwined with each other, as are all things in heaven and Earth, set into being to culminate in the love of God found in loving each other. When we forget this, and worship ourselves, our desires, accomplishments, or treat this Earth and people as possessions, we invite disasters of suffering, both personally and globally, and we will perish by our own hands. 

In the simplest of Christian terms, if we are to enjoy the fullness of life, we must first bear the cross of humble gratitude.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sunday, Week One of Lent

“The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,*
slow to anger and of great kindness…
As far as the east is from the west,*
so far has he removed our sins from us.”
Psalm 130, Evening Prayer, First Sunday in Lent, the Daily Office Book, Year One

Stunning Russian Orthodox chant befitting Psalm 103! Click on the link below, go to the second track “Bless the Lord, O My Soul” and click “Listen”, close your eyes and try not to float away…

For me, the verse above has been of great consolation when struggling with the suffering I have caused to others and myself. These words have prompted me to work and accept the frailties I bear, to be open to them, and to be willing to treat them gently, and myself too, with compassion and mercy. What is it within yourself that you still have trouble accepting or forgiving?

Take some time this Lent and search the difficulty out. Slowly and with great kindness search out the wounded one within you and treat yourself with compassion and mercy and absent anger or bitterness. Just be with yourself and don’t judge, but be open and as loving as you would your own child, your own beloved. You are God’s beloved.

You are God’s beloved. We are all God’s beloved, no matter how wretched we feel in guilt or shame, we are all worthy of God’s compassion and mercy. God’s love is an invitation to let go, to be cleansed, to be healed, liberated, restored and transformed: To be forgiven and to forgive. There is no need to hang on, for in God’s love, and the love we have for one another in Christ, your suffering transgressions have been set apart from you and God as far as the east is from the west. That’s a long way, it’s eternal, for once you start traveling east, you never reach the west.

The key in this for me is in accepting mercy from God, so to make room for God and Christ within me, heart and mind. If I can’t accept myself and forgive myself, how can I ever accept Jesus’ compassionate love for me? I must accept the task of humility to cede my self-perception as un-worthy, to God’s perception of me as always being worthy of love. I, and we, are always worthy. No matter how difficult and painful it may seem, we must bear this cross and renounce our determination to judge ourselves and each other as unworthy.

We are called to enter the desert of our remorse and self-doubt and face The Accuser’s temptations to judge ourselves and each other. God has judged us already as worthy, worthy of God’s compassion and love. Can we denounce the Accuser’s temptations and accept God’s love, then rejoice in it and share it? We can, if we patiently believe and trust in God’s healing grace, ourselves, and each other.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you, *
and did not conceal my guilt.
I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD." *
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.
Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; *
when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them…
Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the LORD; *
shout for joy, all who are true of heart.”
Psalm 32, Morning Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One

“As the deer longs for the water-brooks, *
so longs my soul for you, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; *when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?”
Psalm 42, Evening Prayer, the  Daily Office Book, Year One

It seems to be that the question should precede the answer. But then again, mystery is what continues to drive our God given intellect ever forward, for new questions, new understanding, new wisdom and a new Spirit in which all things are made anew. You see, in the Psalms for today, Morning Prayer’s Psalm answers Evening Prayer’s Psalm’s question, “when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?”

This is what we long for in our hearts, as the deer longs for sweet water, we long for the presence of God, the presence of love, and yet we put so many barriers between ourselves and God, which means of course we are doing the same between God, ourselves and each other. These barriers could be arrogance of intellect, they could be of a stubborn grudge, they could be a fearful hoarding of wealth, or the fearful hoarding of emotions, or they could be a sense of shame. Could it be anger or addiction? What is getting between you and healthy, more deeply engaging relationships with the people in your life and with God?

This Lent, except the invitation to journey into yourself, into the wilderness which separates you from the promised land of healthy relationships.  Make the journey to be tested and to test what may be motivating you in your life and discern what seems to be real to you, yet leaves you wondering in the desert. Test your intentions and see if they are making a road straight to honest loving relationships. Where you have hurt someone, ask for forgiveness. Where you have hurt yourself, ask for forgiveness. God’s compassion will forgive you and teach you the compassion of forgiveness.

Offer your transgressions to God when they trouble you and when they trouble the course of your life. God will receive these burdens with a glad and grateful heart, Jesus wants to relieve you, to give you rest. The faithful are the ones who offer up their transgression as a sacrifice, who offer up their troublesome prayers, they trust in God’s love and compassion, they trust in God’s healing, love’s healing.

God also wants you to be joyful, which comes from being true in heart. Examine. Be true to yourself, about who you are, and what you do. Regardless of the suffering you have felt, or have caused other to feel, enjoin God’s compassion residing in your true heart. Here is real joy and real happiness, in the mending of sin’s wounds by the love known through Jesus, whose presence abides in you always, and who rejoices in your accepting truth’s liberation from the painful shackles of the past.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Friday after Ash Wednesday

“Be strong and let your heart take courage, *
all you who wait for the LORD.”
Psalm 31, Morning Prayer, Friday after Ash Wednesday, The Daily Office Book

This is a beautiful chant by Alastair Stout, unfortunately, the sound quality is bad, but still worth listening to. It is lovely:

For me, Psalm 31 sums up the cycles we seem to experience in life. I have gone through times of great distress, where I feel everyone and everything is against me, perhaps especially my notions of God, making God out to be something God is not, as in not a puppet-master, a magician, or someone I can make a deal with, someone who’s behavior I can change by my behavior.

As a Christian I believe God is the loving God found in Christ Jesus and that God does love us regardless of how we behave. It’s not whether I believe I’m lovable or whether God will abandon me if I behave badly. God’s love will never abandon me or anyone else, God’s love is the constant I can wait on. What matters most is whether I will respond to God’s compassionate love, by in turn offering my compassion to the people and world around me.

Trust in love’s divine power, wait, be strong with courage and allow love’s power, God’s power, to take shape in your heart, mind and hands. Give the mustard seed of compassion the time to grow while caring for it and nurturing it in the caring of yourself and those you come in contact with.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

“Delight thou in the Lord *
 and he shall give thee thy heart’s desire.
 Commit thy way unto the Lord, and put thy trust in him *
 and he shall bring it to pass.
 He shall make thy righteousness as clear as the light *
 and thy just dealing as the noon-day.”

Psalm 37 (Coverdale, 1662) , Morning Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One

Click on next line for a recording of a Cantor chanting in Hebrew:
Davidic Cantillation, Tehilim (Psalm) 37

What is my heart’s desire? That’s a tough question which took many years to answer. I thought they may be things, accomplishments, wealth, control, or a relationship perhaps. It took me until I was in my mid-forties to realize the difference between my desires and my heart’s desire. I came to realize that my heart’s desire could honestly only be one thing. My heart’s desire is God, meaning my heart’s desire is love. Along with being a pump and generator for the body, the heart is a spiritual organ, the mind of the soul, the brain of the soul, if you will. How could the heart then long for anything other than selfless love? How could the heart long for anything but for the soul, your soul and mine, to be closer to the realization of God’s love and compassion? How could my heart truly desire anything other than the knowledge of the ways of compassion and the reason of Spirit?

How do I delight in the Lord? What other way is there but in loving? Love God in the compassionate loving of humanity and creation. Trust in God and love, be willing to be vulnerable, be willing to suffer for love, rather than for vanity or fear. Be willing to give for the righteousness which is God’s righteousness, in caring for the sick, the poor and the outcasts. The more compassion one practices the more one is in position to love and be loved. We can never know love, unless we risk our love for it. Be intentional to choose selfless love every day. Take the chance, “put thy trust in him”.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Compassionate Journey: Meditations on Lenten Old Testament Readings, Year C

Ash Wednesday, 2013

“Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.”
Isaiah 58, The Lectionary, Ash Wednesday

Today we begin Lent, a season I love of great possibilities for healing inner work and transformation, and in this spirit, I invite you to do something a little different. Instead of the usual fasts from the things you take pleasure in, such as TV, foods, drinks and the like, how about this year trying something radical, try giving up a defense mechanism. It’s a challenge, I know and it may be something you will have to contemplate, or like me, you may know right away. Take up this challenge and name it honestly and truthfully and set your prayerful intention to deny your mechanism's power over you. More importantly, pray for it that it may find healing and wholeness through the recognition of what it is and what its origin is. 

This isn't an easy challenge and will take great courage to practice. It is not easy to make oneself vulnerable through the dropping of a defense mechanism; even more difficult and scary is to make oneself vulnerable to one’s own fears and sufferings formed in the past. You may find other emotional areas become more sensitive as you open yourself to the work, so take time for prayerful self-examination. Use a contemplative form and read the texts for the day from the Daily Office, or get really crazy and say The Office, or one form every day to help support and encourage you in the challenge to do something different.

The challenge I suggest is so rewarding, to discover first the courage to act in this way, towards yourself and to others around you. The greatest discovery is in finding the compassion for ourselves discovered in Jesus’ compassion for us, and to extend that compassion ever outward into the lives of those around us. Be gentle with yourself should you fall short of your expectations because your intention remains intact and allows you to pick yourself back up and re-engage in your intention. Never let your diversions to diminish your intention, ask for forgiveness, receive forgiveness, meaning accept it. Compassion is in the courage is in getting past it.

We should aim towards the vulnerability Jesus expresses when he turns his face to Jerusalem, Golgotha and the cross. It could be something as simple as just doing something you ordinarily wouldn't do, such as giving money to a beggar from your car during a red light, or spending a night volunteering in a shelter, delivering food for Meals on Wheels, or any number of acts of kindness towards people or situations which challenge you with situations outside your comfort level. Compassion grows courage.

Perhaps it’s just simply being intentional with the people you have difficulty with. Praying for them heartfully, or being determined to be kinder to them, more open to them, or being more sympathetically available to them, would be ways to take something on as an offering of fasting.

Taking something on as fasting? Is this not what Isaiah is calling us to do, to give something of ourselves by taking on the needs of others? In doing so we are not only doing for others, but in doing for others we are doing for ourselves in growing the mustard seed of compassion within ourselves, we are feeding both our capacity to love and be loved. What is more heavenly then being in the loving place? Read again the reading above in the context of making yourself more vulnerable to compassion, to God’s presence within you, to drop your defenses to be more accessible to others, to trusting the power of God in the loving of others. It will be at times difficult and perhaps painful, but you will grow the rewards of compassionate living.

“…if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt…”

Care for those who are hungry and afflicted in spirit, heart, mind and body.  Do so for yourself as well and as importantly, with honesty and truth. Care for yourself; even make time to share this journey, on a regular basis, with a pastoral counselor or a spiritual director. This Lent come and experience, be open, be fed and feed, through the compassion cycle of healing and being healed.

Have a wonderful and blessed Lent!