Author Archives: ghlstn

a journey of returning

ash-wednesday1.jpgWe are entering the season that begins with a smudge. That smudge is a testimony to what survives. It is a witness to what abides when everything seems lost. It is a sign that what we know and love may, for a time, be reduced to dust, but it does not disappear. We belong to the God who well knows what to do with dust, who sees the dust as a place to dream anew, who creates from it again and again.

—Jan Richardson, from Ash Wednesday: What God Can Do with Dust
The Painted Prayerbook, February 2018

Today we begin the season of Lent. On Ash Wednesday we are reminded that we live vulnerable and fragile lives in a vulnerable and fragile world — that we came from dust and to dust we will return. And yet, as Jan Richardson writes, this “smudge” of ash is, in fact, a symbol for what remains and what abides.

But the “smudge” represents even more, because, according to Richardson, “we belong to the God who well knows what to do with dust…” and to the God “who sees the dust as a place to dream anew” and dust as a place for divine re-creation. Lent is a time of remembering the God we belong to.

We read in Joel 2: 2:12-13: “Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

Each year at Lent, I learn a little bit more how to return to God with my whole heart. One way to return with a whole heart is releasing what is illusion and distraction, and the many things, which are not mine to carry. Perhaps a spiritual practice this Lent could be to become more aware of what I am being invited to lay down each day, and pray for the courage and grace to do so.

 

 

Many people fast during Lent — in various ways and for various reasons. In a reflection of Christine Valters Paintner, she explores a slightly different take on fasting. She writes, “the kind of fast drawing me this season isn’t leaving behind of treats like chocolate or other pleasures. This season I am being invited to fast from things like “ego-grasping” and noticing when I so desperately want to be in control, and then yielding myself to a greater wisdom than my own.” You can read her reflection by clicking on the link below:

Letting Go During Lent: Seeing Death as our Friend

I would like to end by sharing Jan Richardson’s reflection on how God blesses the dust:

Blessing the Dust
For Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

—Jan Richardson
© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.

 

May we travel together this Lent, with hope and boldness, “claiming what God can do within the dust.”

traveling with each of you in love ~

Donna

arriving into the open

Hello dear friends,

(Due to some extended family illnesses, I have been unable to post until now. But I have been thinking of you all and holding you in my heart and prayer.)

Winter is a challenge for me — especially February. Although it’s the shortest month, February days seem to slog so slowly towards March, as if trudging through knee-deep snow or mud. On February 2nd the groundhog did not see his shadow, predicting an early spring, but I find little comfort in such forecasts.

Shadow or not, by mid-February, I often begin to feel deeply sensitive to the suffering all around me, both in my own smaller circle of loved ones, and in the larger world. I feel increasingly exposed and vulnerable. My first instinct is to hibernate until spring like the groundhog we suspect spends his “winter vacations” under our deck. And I have many long conversations — more like debates 🙂 — with God about the purpose of life and suffering. God never says much but sometimes points out the magical beauty of a tree encased in ice shining in moonlight, or the sweet morning song of a Carolina wren.

This year I thought I was ahead of the game. I had planned to take an online course (something fun to learn!), saved long and luxurious books to read during dark winter evenings, bought beautifully soft and colorful yarns to create soft throws and scarves, stocked up on wonderfully fragrant candles, and had an abundance of happy family events to celebrate.

Still… it happened again… With little advance notice, sorrow and suffering arrived at my heart’s doorstep, entered boldly — without permission — and scattered their belongings everywhere like unwelcome guests. Although they are frequent and familiar winter-guests, their arrival always catches me off guard.

As I pray with this winter’s particular vulnerability, I’ve begun to wonder if there might be a different way of relating to unavoidable vulnerability. I do not want to live closed off – inside an armor of self-protection (if that were even possible). I understand there is suffering in life — it just is — and I want to lean in with compassion to those who are suffering, including myself.

Recently I read an essay on vulnerability in David Whyte’s book Consolations which inspires me to view vulnerability with more openness and hope:

Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, in refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.

To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is a lovely illusionary privilege and perhaps the prime and most beautifully constructed conceit of being human and especially of being youthfully human, but it is a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath.

The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.

I want to “become larger and more courageous and more compassionate” through my own “intimacy with disappearance.” I’m sensing it is a critical spiritual task of this threshold of my life — learning how to “inhabit vulnerability as (a) generous citizen of loss, robustly and fully.” I am wondering what this even looks like –  but I am curious, and will try to let that wonder and curiosity lead me…

In light of all of our continuing arrivals, threshold by threshold, I share with you the following video by Carrie Newcomer, entitled “The Point of Arrival.” Just as the snowdrop flower (in the above header image) opens, step by step, to the fullness of its blossoming, so may God’s grace give us all courage to open to our truest blossoming.

 

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gifts from Mary Oliver

When I Am Among the Trees…

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Beloved poet Mary Oliver died on January 17. She was 83, and shared so many poems, and so much light with the world. It was as if, through her poetry and through her own living, she held a flashlight for us all, shining it onto all the small and ordinary details of life, illuminating a sacred shimmering presence – grace, beauty, wonder, nature being nature, human being human. In her poetry everything belonged. Through her noticing, we notice. Through her deep appreciation, we learn to see. Through her awe, we are drawn into wonder.

Writing a reflection on Mary Oliver for the New Yorker magazine, Rachel Syne highlights a rare interview Mary Oliver gave to Maria Shriver, in which she spoke of the damage of her early abuse.  Syne writes, “for more than five decades Oliver gave voice to the process of confronting one’s dark places, of peering underneath toadstools and into stagnant ponds. And, when she looked there, she found forgiveness. She found grace. She found that she was allowed to love the world.” (italics mine)

In the broken places of my life — through all my efforts to manage, order and set strict boundaries (walls, really) — I tried my best to protect myself and others. Unwittingly, I had traded a (presumed) safety for true freedom and joy. It didn’t work. Instead, I became increasingly guarded and fearful, and pain didn’t respect the boundaries/walls I had so carefully erected against it.

The poetry of Mary Oliver is a significant source of light and truth that helps free me. Grace, beauty, and joy flow through her words – assuring me that (in spite of all the brokenness) I can still take the risk to be present, pay attention, and love. As Mary Oliver says elsewhere: “Love for the earth and love for you (Lord) are having such a long conversation in my heart.”

Which brings me to her well-loved poem about prayer, which I’ll share here. How liberating it is to think of prayer as a simple, humble noticing: a gentle “doorway” into gratitude and quiet where our own clamoring is hushed, so that we might hear another’s voice:

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PRAYING
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

background balance beach boulder

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I encourage you to seek out some of Mary Oliver’s poetry. There is much online, and some wonderful books available. I have decided that in the coming year I will focus on her poetry and prose – to absorb her words and spirit, and learn from her. So I will probably be sharing more of my favorites here as well.
I end with Mary’s three instructions:.
“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
(from her poem “Sometimes”)
Please feel free to share your favorite Mary Oliver poems in the “comments.” I’d love to know how her words – and other poetry – have touched your life.
in peace this day~
Donna

following the star

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 (The wise men set out) and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. (Matthew 2:9-12, NRSV)

As I have contemplated my “word for the year” (following the 12-day retreat with Christine Valters Paintner — see blog dated 12/30/18), I was immediately drawn to the word “wild.” This word has been living in me for 2-3 months, inviting me to a free, reverent, and more holistic way of living, exploring, playing, loving.

In her book “Braving the Wilderness” Brene Brown writes:

“The mark of a wild heart is living out the paradox of love in our lives. It’s the ability to be tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid—all in the same moment. It’s showing up in our vulnerability and our courage, being both fierce and kind….  You reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, “I am the wilderness.”

This is very close to what I am seeking.

“Wild” has been appearing to me in so many ways – I won’t take time now to detail all of them. But during this time, I found this quote by Jonny Ox which particularly grabbed my attention:

“Don’t let the tamed ones tell you how to live.” 

The time has come to follow the star (planted in us by God). Certainly there is a time for seeking advice of others. But remember the wise men asking Herod where to find the “King of the Jews”: we need to be wise about who we look to for advice and wisdom. For me, the “tamed ones” are people who have compromised and/or limited their own journeys in order to feel safe and fit in with the expectations of others (which we all do to some degree at different times). Usually these “tamed” people will want us to do the same thing. They are often well-meaning. And perhaps for a while, it is the understandable choice. But now — in my mid 60’s — I feel ready to follow the star of the unique journey God has given to me.

Yesterday, as I followed a guided meditation led by Christine Valters Paintner, I was invited to imagine St. Brigid of Kildare handing me a gift. It was easy for me to imagine  St. Brigid: dressed in a deep green gown, her head covered by a simple scarf, with long, red, curly hair escaping wildly below. As I held out my hands, Brigid placed a compass in them. I really didn’t want a compass, and I thought I would ask her for a different gift :)… but as I looked more closely, the compass became a star, which felt mysterious, exciting and perfect. I also noticed the compass-star was a locket, which I could slip over my head and wear close to my heart. I knew that I could trust this star to guide me on this wild journey – which feels new, and yet, familiar. I believe I have always been a “wild child” but was not able to live out this truth as fully as I can now — which is total gift – and total blessing.

Perhaps as you listen to the music in this video, you might consider your own star, and what you are seeking in this season of your life.

 

Blessings on this journey we share, seeking the star — leading us to Love.

~Donna

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images from Flickr:

above: Star of Bethlehem, Magi – wise men or wise kings travel on camels with entourage across the deserts to find the savior — Holy Bible, Etching, 1885

below: The Star of Bethlehem by Edward Burne-Jones

standing at a new doorway…

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We look with uncertainty…

We look with uncertainty
beyond the old choices for
clear-cut answers
to a softer, more permeable aliveness
which is every moment
at the brink of death;
for something new is being born in us
if we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway,
awaiting that which comes…
daring to be human creatures,
vulnerable to the beauty of existence.
Learning to love.

(Ann Hillman)

 

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At the turning of the year, consider the new thing being born in you.

What might help you to allow this new thing to emerge?


Blessings as you cross over the threshold into a new year. May you listen for what wants to be born in you. May you open to that “softer, more permeable aliveness.”

~Donna

(photos: Flickr, ami and Jeff Wallace)

Blessed New Year dear friends~

Dearest friends,

As we approach the end of 2018, I am feeling deep gratitude for journeying with you this year: through this blog, in past retreats at Kairos, and at Whispering Springs this past September. I am looking forward to how God will lead us in the coming year, how Love will invite us into a fullness of living, and how Light will guide us even (or perhaps especially) in these darker days of winter.

I am also feeling such a deep desire for peace — peace within each of us, in our families and communities, and in the world. I would like to share this song below as a prayer for peace. As you listen, perhaps you can bring to your own prayer, those places where you are seeking peace. (click on the arrow or the youtube icon)

In keeping with the invitations of the coming New Year, I would like to share with you an email I received today, written by Christine Valters Paintner (the author of The Soul’s Slow Ripening, which we are using as a resource for this blog and for our retreats this year):

Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,

I offer you a reprise of my reflection on Embracing Mystery in the New Year: Ten Essential Practices.

Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for an unknown God.
-Henri-Frederic Amiel

Who doesn’t love the promise of new beginning the New Year offers? St. Benedict described his Rule as a Rule for beginners, reminding us to always begin again. In Buddhism, an essential practice is beginner’s mind. When we think we have become an expert at things, especially the spiritual life, we are in trouble.

Living into the mystery of things helps us to release our hold on needing to know the answers. One of the things the monk and artist have in common is a love of mystery, a willingness to sit in the place of tension and paradox until it ripens forth.

New Year’s resolutions often come from a place of lack, or of thinking we know how to “fix” ourselves. Unfortunately, they are often fueled by a consumer culture that is eager to have us buy more and more things to improve ourselves. Embracing mystery, on the other hand, honors our profound giftedness and depth and acknowledges that coming to know ourselves and God is a lifetime exploration.

So my invitation to you, dear monks and artists, is to shift your thinking this year. Welcome in ambiguity. Learn to love the holy darkness of mystery. Dance on the fertile edges of life.  Let what you love ripen forth.

  1. Breathe deeply – our breath is our most immediate and vital connection to the life force which sustains us moment by moment. Let yourself be filled with awe and wonder at the marvels of this intimate gift.  Sit for three minutes savoring that you are breathed into.
  2. Embrace night wisdom – one of the great gifts of dreams is that they upend our desire for logic and immerse us in a narrative which reveals the shadows we must wrestle with and the joys which call to us, whether or not they make sense to the waking world.
  3. Dance freely – we live so disconnected from our bodies. Dance has been part of human culture for thousands of years as a way to experience union with ourselves, one another, and the divine. Each day put on one piece of music that you love, close the door, and dance. Pay attention to what rises up in the process. If you resist, even better – dance with your resistance!
  4. Follow the thread – each of us has a unique unfolding story and call in this world. We don’t “figure this out” but rather we allow the story to emerge in its own time, tending the symbols and synchronicities which guide us along.
  5. Trust in what you love – following the thread is essentially about cultivating a deep trust in what you love. What are the things that make your heart beat loudly, no matter how at odds they feel with your current life (and perhaps especially so)? Make some room this year to honor what brings you alive.
  6. Let the rhythms of nature guide you – we live our lives in a constant state of stimulation and productivity. We are often exhausted and overwhelmed. When we turn to the natural world we find with each day, each moon cycle, and each season a rhythm of rise and fall, fullness and emptiness. Trying to live all the time in rising or fullness is exhausting. Make some time to embrace the falling and emptiness of life which immerses us in an experience of mystery.
  7. Release what is no longer necessary – we accumulate so many things in our days, perhaps you have discovered at Christmas that you have a new pile of stuff which now requires energy to maintain or worry about. Reflect on what is most essential. Then ask yourself, what are the thoughts, attitudes, or expectations about life which keep you from freedom?  How do you try to control the direction of your life rather the yielding to grace?
  8. Remember that you will die – St. Benedict writes in his Rule to “keep death daily before your eyes.” This is never an act of morbid obsession, but a reminder of life’s incredible gift. Any of us who have brushed near death, or had loved ones pass away, know this wisdom in profound ways. This is another paradox of the spiritual life: a vibrant relationship to our mortality is essential to a vibrant relationship to life.
  9. Ask for the wisdom of your ancestors – each of us is the inheritor of generations of stories which beat through our blood. Each of us has mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, who wrestled mightily with living a meaningful life. We can call upon this great “cloud of witnesses” to support us in our own wrestling.  We can listen across the veil between worlds.
  10. Open yourself to receiving a word for the year ahead – in quiet moments what are the desires you hear being whispered from your heart? Is there a word or phrase that shimmers forth, inviting you to dwell with it in the months ahead? Something you can grow into and don’t fully understand? (see below)

Imagine if your New Year’s wasn’t about fixing or improving, but about deepening and transforming, about embracing the holy mystery at the heart of the world.

What if the year ahead wasn’t about growing more certain about things, but about releasing the hold of your thinking mind so something deeper and more fertile could rise up?

What might bloom from such rich soil of your imagination?  How might you create an altar for an unknown God and for the unknown depths of your own beautiful being waiting to be freed?

With great and growing love,

Christine

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE


In # 10 above, Christine suggests the practice of receiving a word for the year. This has been a regular spiritual practice for me for the last five New Years and I have found it to be an immensely helpful practice as I consider how God is drawing me into the coming year. As your word finds you in the coming weeks, perhaps you’d like to share it here. My word is making itself quite evident in the past week or so, and I will share it soon.

May the coming year hold much peace, joy, love — and new discoveries and adventures!

~Donna

from Christine Valters Paintner~

SHARE YOUR WORD FOR 2019

In ancient times, wise men and women fled out into the desert to find a place where they could be fully present to God and to their own inner struggles at work within them. The desert became a place to enter into the refiner’s fire and be stripped down to one’s holy essence. The desert was a threshold place where you emerged different than when you entered.

Many people followed these ammas and abbas, seeking their wisdom and guidance for a meaningful life. One tradition was to ask for a word – this word or phrase would be something on which to ponder for many days, weeks, months, sometimes a whole lifetime. This practice is connected to lectio divina, where we approach the sacred texts with the same request – “give me a word” we ask – something to nourish me, challenge me, a word I can wrestle with and grow into.  The word which chooses us has the potential to transform us.

What is your word for the year ahead? A word which contains within it a seed of invitation to cross a new threshold in your life?


A FREE 12-DAY ONLINE MINI-RETREAT TO HELP YOUR WORD CHOOSE YOU. . .

As in past years, Christine has offered all Abbey newsletter subscribers a gift: a free 12-day online mini-retreat with a suggested practice for each day to help your word choose you and to deepen into your word once it has found you. To sign up for the newsletter and access the free 12-day mini-retreat please click on the link below. You will be also be registered to receive a gift from the Abbey of the Arts.

Abbey Newsletter

3 gifts on a winter’s solstice

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Dear friends,

One of the dearest, wise-persons of our present time is Brother David Stendl-Rast, a Benedictine monk. Brother David, now 92, has devoted his life working for peace, engaging in interfaith dialogue, and speaking and writing on the powerful impact of gratitude. His website, gratefulness.org, is a rich spiritual resource.  Please check it out.

Today on his website, Brother David shared a brief letter on light and darkness. I thought it was so beautifully-written, I wanted to share it with you, on the eve of winter solstice.

Light in Darkness: A Letter from Br. David

The poet David Whyte is a close friend of Brother David. He too writes powerfully about darkness and light.

photography of night sky

Photo by Juan on Pexels.com

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired

the world is tired also.

 

When your vision has gone

no part of the world can find you.

 

Time to go into the dark

where the night has eyes

to recognize its own.

 

There you can be sure

you are not beyond love.

 

The dark will be your womb

tonight.

 

The night will give you a horizon

further than you can see.

 

You must learn one thing.

The world was made to be free in.

 

Give up all the other worlds

except the one to which you belong.

 

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet

confinement of your aloneness

to learn

 

anything or anyone

that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

(David Whyte, “The House of Belonging”)


And as a final gift for this week, I would like to share a video that Linda Witmer and I played at an Advent Day a few years ago featuring the song, “Come Darkness, Come Light” by Mary Chapin Carpenter. It seems a perfect accompaniment to Brother David’s letter.

May we journey together – through the dark – toward the Light of Christ. Alleluia!

Advent 3: Joy!

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Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:9-11, NRSV)

The promise of joy comes through the Angels at Jesus’ birth, and towards the end of Jesus’ life, through his own words:

I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing. (John 15:11, Amplified Bible)

Jesus desires to give us joy. His joy!

Almost every morning I check my online Enneathought, a daily insight using the Enneagram model of transformation based on nine personality types. Yesterday I read, “As a Five, you most need to learn to appreciate that life is a joy and that the universe is benevolent.” I was immediately challenged: what would it be like to live as if I really believed that “life is a joy and the universe benevolent”? How often I live guarded and cynical trying to protect myself from hurt and disappointment.

I am kept from joy when I keep myself from entering life fully. For right in the midst of the most ordinary moments of my life, joy sparkles. Like Hope of Advent Week One and Peace of Week Two, Joy also comes as gift… bubbling up from a source deep within and beyond me. It seems less a transient feeling of happy thoughts, and more a Holy Truth, a Divine Attribute, which Jesus comes to share with us.

I cannot create or force joy, but I can choose to see and receive. I enter into God’s joy as I choose to notice love and beauty in God’s creation. I enter joy when I am silent and still enough to hear the whispers of God in my spirit. I enter joy when I let go, and fall into LOVE.

The root of joy is gratefulness…

It is not joy that makes us grateful;

it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

―David Steindl-Rast

Being grateful is foundational for being more joyful. It’s as if we are a garden and moments of gratitude are the seeds that grow and sprout into joy.


What brings you joy this Advent season? (Please share in the comments as you are led.)

For me, recent moments of joy have been:

  1. having a child’s heart of wonder as I drive through dark streets, sparkling with Christmas lights: “Wow… wow… wow…”
  2. snuggling with my 6-year-old granddaughter Grace, sharing private jokes
  3. baking Christmas cookies (recipes handed down from my mom and her grandmother), listening to Christmas music, and chatting with a picture of my mother and brother – both now deceased – on the kitchen counter beside me.
  4. my first early-morning cup of strong, fragrant coffee, and sitting in the stillness and quiet beside our beautiful, wild, and unwieldy Christmas tree (still without lights or decorations). 

An invitation for prayer this week:

Set aside some time each day this week to listen to the music below, with an open heart to receive God’s gifts in this third week of Advent.  

You may wish to search on youtube for other versions of this beautiful hymn. There are many. But I was drawn to the dazzling winter images in this one. (You might like to click on the YouTube button to fully enjoy the lovely winter pictures). 

Although we are all very familiar with the amazing Bach version of this hymn, here are some of the original lyrics which were written by Martin Janus in 1661:

1 Jesus, joy of our desiring,
holy wisdom, love most bright;
drawn by thee, our souls aspiring
soar to uncreated light.
Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
with the fire of life impassioned,
striving still to truth unknown,
soaring, dying round thy throne.

2 Through the way where hope is guiding,
hark, what peaceful music rings;
where the flock, in thee confiding,
drink of joy from deathless springs.
Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;
theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead thine own
in the love of joys unknown.

peace on earth…

 

Ego says, “once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.”

Spirit says, “Find your peace, then everything else will fall into place.”

~Marianne Williamson

As we end our Advent week of “Peace” I wanted to share the video/song below. It is one of my favorite Christmas carols featuring Bing Crosby and David Bowie. It was recorded from a “vintage” television special, layering the two songs: “Little Drummer Boy” and “Peace on Earth.” The music begins at 1:50 if you want to avoid the preliminary conversation.

 


May we continually choose — and pray for — peace (for ourselves, our loved ones, our communities and the world) even when the days can seem dark. May we dive deep within ourselves and find the place where “Peace simply is.” (Gerald May)

I send you each a blessing for peace and love this night~

Donna

May God bless you and keep you;
may God’s face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
may God look upon you kindly,
and give you peace.

(Numbers 6:24)

Advent 2: Peace

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Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
    God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
    those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
    down the path of peace.

Luke 1:78-79 (The Message) – Song of Zachariah

When we think of peace, we often think of the absence of war, pain, fear, and suffering. Yet in this season of Advent, the promise of peace comes right in the middle of the darkness of our broken world, and in our broken selves. Peace is not the absence of trouble, peace is about the presence of God in whatever we encounter. Surely this is the promise of Advent.

In her book, An Interrupted Life, Etty Hillesum writes about her spiritual awakening and the persecution of Jewish people in Amsterdam during the German occupation (she was killed in Auschwitz concentration camp), “Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.”

Hillesum wrote these words when it must have seemed that hatred and evil were winning. How did she find any peace within these circumstances? How might we claim peace in ourselves, when so much around us, and within us, is a swirling storm of emotions and events that seem to pull us into fear and despair?

Gerald May writes, “Peace is not something you can force on anything or anyone… . much less upon one’s own mind. It’s like trying to quiet the ocean by pressing upon the waves. Sanity lies in somehow opening to the chaos, allowing anxiety, moving deeply into the tumult, diving into the waves, where underneath, within, peace simply is.”

Peace simply is…

I am so drawn to this image of trying to quiet the ocean by pressing upon the waves. How often my arms grow weary from pressing upon the ocean waves of distraction, anxiety, fear and chaos. I too often try to resolve the uneasiness within me by trying to control the outside. Instead, the invitation from May is to dive deep within, where peace already exists. Where God is. Once we touch into this place of Peace within, we can more easily share it with the world around us.

The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom, meaning  “wholeness or completeness, well-being and harmony.” It means a putting back together. Like pieces of a garment, sewn together to make a whole. Or puzzle pieces gathered together — found after being lost — to fit together to make a whole picture. This is not a homogenous peace where the prerequisite for peace is that we all think or act alike, but a peace of bringing together, restoration, a renewed vision. I am only one piece of cloth — one puzzle piece — one note in a symphony, but I trust that God’s amazingly beautiful creation holds us all, needs us all.

In John 14, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

How might we practice peace this week?

Perhaps we can begin with ourselves. How might we be more peaceful within ourselves, and within our families and friendships? Can we refuse to give space for criticism, judgement, toward ourselves and others?

How might you spend more time in that space of peace as Gerald May writes about — the deeper place where peace simply is.  Can you find peaceful places to spend a few minutes each day: perhaps outside under the stars, early in the morning watching the sunrise, taking a walk, observing a bird, listening to a favorite song. I would love for you to share where you are finding peace this Advent season.

Can we trust that as we make a greater space for peace in ourselves, the world will be changed…

[note: this song was written by Jill Jackson. Two years before writing this song, Jill’s life felt unbearably broken and painful and she tried to commit suicide. Then Jill had a life-transforming spiritual experience, which led her to write this song.]