We Stand to Prayer

image by Rebekah Choat

image by Rebekah Choat

The splendour of Nirvana is not ours,
We have no middle eye, no mystic wings,
And our brief visions take us unawares.
We stand to prayer as rows of earthen jars
Whose dark mouths open onto hidden things:
A secret kingdom where the poor are kings.

Here is an image of that inner place,
The quiet mountain country of the soul
With silver pools where lions drink their fill
And the pale unicorns lie down in peace.
Here is an emblem of the hidden grace
Beneath the flux and turmoil of what happens,
A quiet kingdom where the silence deepens,
Whose heart is hallowed by the Prince of Peace.

~ Malcolm Guite

Tuesday’s Word: community

community (n):  a unified body of individuals, as:  (a) people with
common interests living in a particular area; (b)  an interacting
population of various kinds of individuals in a common location;
(c)  a body of persons having a common history or common social,
economic, and political interests; (d)  common character

The word community is used in a lot of different contexts, more or less approximating one or another of the definitions given above.  The past week I’ve been hearing the word on the news a lot, as the reporters talk about which communities are being hit hardest by our unusually cold weather.  I think of my church as a community of the second type, one in which many people who may have little in common beyond a desire to attend services meet in a set location for a set purpose at set times.

What I consider true community is a blending of the remaining two meanings, a group of people who share not only an interest in a particular something, but also a commonality of attitude toward that something.  For example, I once attended a writing group.  Each of us was interested in creative writing, but I soon discovered that I had a very different focus and intent than any of the others.  To me, community is a circle in which I can feel comfortable sharing deep thoughts and feelings, without having to explain overmuch, knowing I will be loved and respected no matter what.

Community is so much more than living and working together
It is a bond of the heart that has no physical limitations.  Indeed
it is candles burning in different places of the world, all praying
the same silent prayer of friendship and love. ~ Henri Nouwen,
Sabbatical Journey

Yes, we are created in and for community, to be there, in love,
for one another.  But community cuts both ways:  when we reach
the limits of our own capacity to love, community means trusting
that someone else will be available to the person in need.
~ Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

God speaks to each of us

image by Rebekah Choat

image by Rebekah Choat

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you:  beauty and terror.
Just keep going.  No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday’s Word: patience

Patience (n):  (1) the capacity to accept or tolerate delay,
trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset; (2) the
capacity, habit, or fact of being patient.

Patient (adj): (1) able to remain calm and not become
annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with
problems or difficult people; (2) done in a careful way over
a long period of time without hurrying

Patience is not, as many seem to believe, simply resignation, not an attitude of putting up with one’s circumstances because there’s no choice anyway.  That way lies despair.

Patience, I believe, is composed of elements of faith, trust, and hope.  It is founded on an understanding that Someone greater than myself is responsible for my life, that He is aware of my situation and walks through it with me, and that He is bringing me in His best timing to the place I truly belong.

‘Patience is not acquiescence, or perpetual placidity…
Patience must be rooted in an overarching confidence that
there is Someone in control of this universe, our world, and
our life…A patient person knows the shortness of time and
the length of eternity.’ ~ Lloyd John Ogilvie

Heavy

image by Rebekah Choat

image by Rebekah Choat

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

~ Mary Oliver

Tuesday’s Word: humility

humility (n):  a modest or low view of one’s own importance; the quality or state of being humble

humble (adj):  (1) not proud or haughty, not arrogant or assertive; (2) reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission

Looking just at the dictionary definitions, it’s not hard to see why so many people equate humility with putting themselves down, refusing to accept credit when it is due, keeping their sometimes brilliant ideas hidden away.

But we are blessed to have the thoughts of saints and scholars to expand and enlighten our understanding.  Here are some words which I find particularly helpful in shaping a balanced idea of humility:

“The virtue of humility consists in keeping oneself within one’s own bounds, not reaching out to things above one…” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

“But humility is in reality the opposite of self-deprecation.  It is the grateful recognition that we are precious in God’s eyes and that all we are is pure gift.” ~ Henri Nouwen

“Humility is simply seeing ourselves for who and what we are – no more, no less.” ~ John Michael Talbot

The Naked Seed

image by Joel Brotzman

image by Joel Brotzman

My heart is empty.  All the fountains that should run
With longing, are in me
Dried up.  In all my countryside there is not one
That drips to find the sea.
I have no care for anything thy love can grant
Except the moment’s vain
And hardly noticed filling of the moment’s want
And to be free from pain.

Oh, thou that are unwearying, that dost neither sleep
Nor slumber, who didst take
All care for Lazarus in the careless tomb, oh keep
Watch for me till I wake.
If thou think for me what I cannot think, if thou
Desire for me what I
Cannot desire, my soul’s interior Form, though now
Deep-buried, will not die,
–No more than the insensible dropp’d seed which grows
Through winter ripe for birth
Because, while it forgets, the heaven remembering throws
Sweet influence still on earth,
–Because the heaven, moved moth-like by thy beauty, goes
Still turning round the earth.

~ C.S. Lewis