Posts Tagged With: Listening

Keep the Vigil of Mystery – It Matters: Pondering with Jessica Powers

“To live with the Spirit of God is to be a listener.
It is to keep the vigil of mystery,
earthless and still.
One leans to catch the stirring of the Spirit,
strange as the wind’s will.”

I am attracted, these days, to this poem by the gifted Carmelite Jessica Powers (1905-1988).   Her way with words I’ve long loved, and I’ll offer you this work in three parts over the next few days, with a few lines of wanderings/wonderings for your reflection and mine.

To live listening, to keep the vigil of mystery – these are wise invitations to the seeker. I wonder – can you and I learn to truly WAIT?  WAIT = Why Am I Talking?  Does my talking serve listening?   The freedom of the other?   The truth of a human experience or challenge?   The beyondness of an encounter with LIFE, GOD, LOVE, A HUMAN PERSON, or SELF?  Are my words echoes that come out of silence,  or noise that protects me from the rawness of experience?

Could it be that we live speaking instead of listening because we feel somehow safer or in more control when we guide the dialogues we have with others, with life’s complexities, with our own confusions or cluelessness?  What would it take to lay down the burden of managing mystery and to instead hold vigil in the darkness?

At times this may indeed feel raw, vulnerable,  intimate – and remind us once again of what we do not understand.  Without a GPS to tell us exactly where we are, a Google or Bing access to explain the unknown, and an app to help us navigate with ease… will we be okay?

At this time of year,  I liken it to the reaction we might have as we step onto an empty beach or look up at night – away from city lights – at vast darkness or uncountable stars.   Does sheer space in those contexts scare us,  make us feel small?   Do we feel inconsequential before multi-billion grains of sands or a night sky-view that hints at a cosmos we cannot begin to see or imagine from where we stand?  And in our more daily moments?   Do large joys or sorrows overwhelm us?  Does not-knowing disturb us, and send us into calculating or strategic plans that remake the real contours of complexities into manageable microbits?

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Powers’ words invite us to listen to the Spirit – to recognize all moments as opportunities to stand small and naked and clueless before mystery – and to learn trust.  Those moments at the beach or beneath the night sky bring me peace, in the midst of wonder – and likely bring that to many of us.  Our intuitive selves know that these experiences are safe and whole-ing.  They can quiet us, even help us to relax by evening us out, reminding us of the large, of the gift we have in living in it without grasping, and refresh us with joy in our being part – a precious part – of something very VERY large. (Think universe, cosmos, creation, and the Creator bigger-than-this-infinity LARGE!)

This awareness can become a lifestyle – and one more relaxing and whole than endeavoring to protect ourselves from life’s big  questions or managing mystery.  We can find joy in being little, known, poor, unknowing.  But this indeed is not an easy journey for we who express our discomfort with this reality, our alienation from this truest identity, in manifold ways.  We circle.  We project.  We protect.  We narrate.  We analyze.  We fear pain.  We have known hurt.  But being bigger than we are and trying to microwave meaning and skip over transcendence with reality-for-dummies strategies simply does not work.  We can be taught, and allow ourselves to be drawn out and allured into deserts and spaces where we can learn trust and heal from our own first person singular ways of doing frenzy.  We can allow ourselves to rage or weep, laugh or dance, and ask for whatever we need for the next steps into living mystery and listening to life and living with the Spirit.  And we can support each other on this journey as true community and pilgrims in process.

With time, and Grace’s enduring work in and with us, we may find that Living Loved and finding our refuge and home and mission from there may prove to be our truest experience of Mystery, as we – and all – are wrapped within the Trinity’s love.  And our vigils with these truths will guide us to reengage in living with integrity,  and provide us a way to reboot when we stray back to lesser living and efforts to manipulate or be our own source, wisdom, control.  They may also help us as individuals, and as a human race, to make better decisions towards peace and stewardship and solidarity and creativity.  And is that not a need for our very survival at this point?

So,  let’s listen to the Spirit today some… do our part to be faithful to the journey.  It matters if we do.  It matters that we do.

“By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, 
in quiet and in trust your strength lies.”

(Isaiah 30:15)

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Categories: General, Mystery, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

What Will Mean Life for You? Lent D2

For a follower of Jesus – for one who seeks to be holy (one with God) – and to bring the rest of creation and all people/s along for the ride – what is fullness of life?  We might look to John 10:10 and see that Jesus’ words there tell us that he came that we might have full and abundant life. We might speak of our sacred responsibility to protect and value and serve human life in all its moments, with all its challenges and differing ‘incarnations’ in abilities and needs, from conception through natural death.  We might speak of enhancing the experience of life for those in need, living in violence, exposed to constant threat, suffering, alone.  We might speak of the Word who is Life (see John 1), the life in creation and of our world, or perhaps of eternal life.  All of these hold great importance.

Today, a selection from Deuteronomy 30 is the first reading of the liturgy.   Within it is the oft quoted, “I set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life then…”  Well and good, this is a rich passage for reflection and study.  But on the day after Lent has begun, I am interested in the lines that follow. They answer this question:  How are you and I to choose life?  We are given a trinity of instructions.  By…

— loving the Lord, your God —
— heeding God’s voice —
— holding fast to God —

for THAT will mean LIFE for you  (v.20)

Given Lent’s beginning, how do these three echo in you?  How about choosing today one above to reflect on further?  Select the one that attracts you the most or gets on your nerves the most – both are speaking to you!  Some kindling for reflection on each is provided below. Don’t overthink as you read (there’s more there than you need — WAY more), but notice what calls out to you simply and gently.  Create your own additional brainstorming, and follow the Spirit’s promptings to discern the invitation to you today for reflection and/or action!  

 

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Loving the Lord, your God.  Who is your Lord, your God?  Is it the God?  Is it the one revealed by Jesus’ way among us?  Or an imposter? Would you and I rather hold onto our image of God than meet the living God?  What do we need in order to be open and vulnerable to such a meeting?  Is your God (like Aslan in CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia) good, but not quite safe and predictable?  Does God surprise you?  How do we love the One larger than the cosmos and tinier than our tiniest microcosm, for whom time and size and limits make no sense, but who became poor for us in Christ in the incarnation and the cross?  (See Pope Francis’ Lenten message, #1 for great insight here, link below — and Franciscan theology and spirituality).  What does love like God’s call you to?  Since God is Love, IS a pouring all of self out for us; how do we pour ourselves out in turn for our Trinitarian God?  Is this God your Lord?  What would that mean?  Are you to love God in the fasting that God wishes (per Isaiah): in releasing those bound unjustly, in serving, in freeing, in giving to especially God’s poorest ones?

Heeding God’s voice.  Implied is that God’s voice is heard.  How else could we heed?  So, how do you and I listen?  Do we listen?  Do we know that to have an ‘open ear’ is to be obedient? How does ‘obedience’ sound to you?  What disciplines do we need in order to better listen? What gets in our way and what helps us? Where and to what do you listen?  Would this call you scripture reading?  Reading some classics in spirituality?  Reading and learning from saints who have listened and loved as Jesus did?  How do you listen to bird song, construction work, keyboarding, baby’s crying, elders’ subtly expressed (or not so subtly expressed) needs, the cry of the hurting, the longings of the bound, waterfalls, the regrets of the sick or dying, planes landing, sharp voices, whispered words, vows exchanged, music and song, your own or another’s heartbeat, prayer and worship?  Do we have selective hearing and heeding — as we hear God or others?  What are we invited to open our ear to today?  Are we willing to consent to what that will do in us, and call us to?

Holding Fast to God.  I admit, this is the one I find myself most attracted to.  What would it mean to hold on, hold fast, to not let go?  What other things or time fillers or attitudes or perspectives might we have to release to put our arms around God?  Can we learn to hold fast from the way Jesus did with Abba, as he lived and worked and prayed?  What if we believe we are already held fast by God, and we have just to return the favor?  What would that do to our perpective?  What must be released from our hands, from our attention, and what must have more of us?  How do we hold fast to our call, to our sisters and brothers, to the Word, to the Church, to the process of growth and transformation?  How do we hold fast when what we experience is difficult or deadening?  How do we hold fast when we want to flit and fritter. or we’re bored?  Does God need us to hold on too?  What could such holding fast mean for God?

If we do these three things,  it will mean life for us.

I wish us each this kind of enriched life – the kind of full life God wishes us to have, the way of life and love embodied in Jesus.

Choose life then, friends and fellow disciples, in the small and larger ways you find an invitation to through Deuteronomy’s offerings this day.  Happy Lent, Day Two (D2)!

*  Pope Francis’ Lenten Message 2014:  http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/messages/lent/documents/papa-francesco_20131226_messaggio-quaresima2014_en.html

 

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