Posts Tagged With: love

Teach Me Where I Keep Company with Fear: Psalm 51

Psalm 51 is a staple of Lent, of Fridays, of pleading for mercy and forgiveness. As Friday has just passed, I share with you this translation/poetic rendering of the psalm from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness.  I particularly have been moved over the years praying with these words, and offer it for your Lenten lingering.

The bold in the text below is mine, with some comments which follow for your rumination.

But first, here’s a suggestion for your presence with the psalm. Simply read through it once and notice the echoes in your own heart/being.  Then take some moments of silence and read through/pray through it once more, lingering wherever feels right.  Do not analyze it to death or think up a storm of words and concepts to tame or control your time with it; just let it say some of your heart to God and listen too for what God may be speaking to you.  Enjoy some conversation of your own with Our Compassionate Friend then, and close your time with the psalm with a last reading.  If you wish, then see my last notes below the text.  But pray with it first! And last!  And perhaps, only!

Have mercy on me, O Gracious One,
according to your steadfast love;
According to your abundant kindness
forgive me where my thoughts and deeds have hurt others.
Lead me in the paths of justice,
guide my steps on paths of peace!

Teach me, that I may know my weaknesses,
the shortcomings that bind me,
The unloving ways that separate me,
that keep me from recognizing your life in me;
For I keep company with fear, and dwell in the house of ignorance.
Yet, I was brought forth in love,
and love is my birthright.

You have placed your truth in the inner being;
therefore, teach me the wisdom of the heart.
Forgive all that binds me in fear,
that I might radiate love;
cleanse me that your light might shine in me.
Fill me with gladness; help me to transform weakness intro strength.
Look not on my past mistakes
but on the aspirations of my heart.

Create in me a clean heart, O Gracious One
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Enfold me in the arms of love, and fill me with your Holy Spirit.
Restore in me the joy of your saving grace,
and encourage me with a new spirit.

Then I will teach others your ways,
and prisoners of fear will return to You.
Deliver me from the addictions of society, most Gracious One,
O keep me from temptation
that I may tell of your justice and mercy.

O Gracious One, open my lips and my mouth shall sing forth your praise.
For you do not want sacrifice;
You delight in our friendship with You.
A sacrifice most appropriate is a humble spirit;
a repentant and contrite heart, O Merciful One, is the gift You most desire.

Let the nations turn from war, and encourage one another as good neighbours.
O Most Gracious and Compassionate Friend,
melt our hearts of stone,
break through the fears that lead us into darkness, and
Guide our steps into the ways of peace.

We are not to be those who keep company with fear.  Love is our birthright.  Still, we each have our own endlessly creative ways of getting lost, becoming separated, not consenting to living as one who is loved so very much.  We need teaching from the one who delights in our friendship.  We need rescue (isn’t Lent about being with the one who rescues us?) from our distinct patterns of fear and isolation, of consenting to being bound to an identity that is not our true one.

We are loved!  We are beloved ones!  We are cared for by One who sees much farther than we do into our hearts and who – with all the heavens, the stars, the planets, the sparrows, the lilies of the field, the wondrous creations which flow from Trinity Love – intended us to be and to know joy.

Most of us keep company with fear to some degree and in some seasons.  We have our reasons to.  That we become afraid, that we are limited, that we do not understand – this is no problem.  Inviting fear to be our close companion and the traveling partner that we attend to and allow most to shape us – this is.

Once more, we must learn to live loved – learn to live in the light of One who scatters darknesses we are not even entirely conscious of.  Our humility is simply fact – we don’t know and don’t see.   We are creatures, not Creator.  But we are oh so precious.

So, have mercy on our weakness and blindness, Lord.  Guide us truly.  Show us where we keep company with fear, and give us heart to choose more consciousness of you than of what freezes us.  Teach us to lean on your grace.  We will trust that you know what we each need to be restored.  Help us choose reconciling and freedom; and help us be gentle with ourselves as you unfold for our vision our attachments to lesser ways, our holding tight the ropes which bind us.  We will find joy as we watch you unravel our complicated patterns, our clutched protections and pretenses.  We will learn to relax in your love, and so more deeply live in it.  And perhaps we may yell with pain and joy at our releasement, like Eustace in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when his dragon skin is removed by Aslan (Christ figure in Narnia) so he may once again become a boy – an oh so much wiser, humbler, easier to be around boy.

I love Nan’s proclamation of promise to God:

Then I will teach others your ways,
and prisoners of fear will return to You.

Joy!  To be with each other, to aid, to support, as we recognize how we are imprisoned by our own choices, and learn to choose trust and living loved.  And we all return to you!  And the Saints will come marching in!  I’ll meet you praying this psalm.

Categories: Lent | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 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!  

 

SAMSUNG

 

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

 

Categories: Lent | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is the Irrational Season: Mary’s Story

Sitting before the Child in the Manger, and the infinite made tenderly accessible to us, let us glance up at the young mother whose body held more than the universe itself can hold. (Clare of Assisi gave us that lovely image in her letters to Agnes of Prague).  In the midst of spinning stars on a planet small, in a stable smaller still, a woman young in years, yet full of grace and wonderings, looks at her baby boy with love.  Jesus would reach and feed, grow and play, learn and pray, love and work, cry and laugh  – all within the secure boundaries of her loving gaze.  What is Mary’s story?  For story – we remember – holds truth.  

Young Mary of Nazareth’s Story is marked with angels, journeys, questions, magnificats, leaping babes, kin conversation, serving, sorrows, Spirit, stars and ponderings. From angel annunciation, her life has been like the pause before the GPS speaks after a radical turn, “RECALCULATING”.  She’s gone another way, by intuition and by Yes, a way without her knowing and understanding, a way ungraspable and unexplainable (except by angel dreams, it seems, or so faithful loving Joseph found).  

And in this newly twisting tale, her Story and very being – heart and soul and flesh – will give birth to THE Story, the Word expressed in flesh and told in our world and time.  There will be no recalculated voice to explain the ways the Story will unfold in time.  This Story, this Word, invites and calls for faithfulness only. There is no reasoning, GPS security or googlemaps with landmarks.  Only love.  And Love.  For “it is not a matter of reason, it is a matter of love”.*  

So today I offer Madeleine L’Engle to you once more, for I find her word-entries into Incarnation mystery such apt companions for reflection.  I hope you do too.  These two poems take us months back from the Manger Mystery, to the Annunciation change in path.  Find Luke 1, and these, as food on this Feast of the Holy Family.

 

SAMSUNG

After Annunciation

This is the irrational season,
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason,
there’d have been no room for the child.

Young Mary

I know not all of that which I contain.
I’m small; I’m young; I fear the pain.
All is surprise: I am to be a mother.
That Holy Thing within me and no other
is Heaven’s King whose lovely Love will reign.
My pain, his gaining my eternal gain
my fragile body holds Creation’s Light;
its smallness shelters God’s unbounded might.
The angel came and gave, did not explain.
I know not all of that which I contain.

* This quote of reason and of love is from the play “A Man for all Seasons” by Robert Bolt

 

Categories: Christmas, General, Mary of Nazareth, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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