No words this morning satisfy. I just sit wishing to understand all the languages of birdsong; they seem so ardent in their squawking. And it seems that their messages are passed from group to group – from here, through the trees back to the river and across, until they reach the mountain where their voices are so soft I can hardly hear. But then they fade into silence and another, more animated conversation begins. I wish I could – like Peter Pan – wish myself to fly out my window and through the circular opening in the tree out back. I would wager it is the way to find Never Never Land…but not today. It’s Primary Day in New York and I have to vote. That’s the role of adults these days. We have responsibilities. Let’s take them seriously so we might get back to dreaming…
It seems incredible that we have already traversed an entire month of the year 2020. It is shaping up to be a challenging time for many reasons, some from natural causes and some of human initiative. It seems imperative that we be constantly awake to the broad spectrum of events and stay true to our own integrity, which includes watching our own behavior and response to challenges.
The impetus for this line of thought is (as usual) something I read just now from A Deep Breath of Life by Alan Cohen. In his reflection for this date, Cohen says the following:
Through prayer and meditation, you can sensitize yourself to hear important messages before they are played out in the physical world…Rather than fight life or adopt a victim position, look for the gift in the experience. Imagine that the universe is conspiring not to hurt you, but to free you. An attitude of appreciation, rather than resentment, will soften and transform otherwise difficult lessons.
It isn’t always easy to admit our less than stellar behaviors and reactions to life events great and small but if we stay awake and practice seeing the lessons in our days, in the long run our vision improves and we can learn to accept ourselves and others without a need for obfuscation or excuse.
What better year for working on clarity of vision? It is 20-20, after all!
I’m getting really good (at least in my own eyes) at finding synchronistic meaning in the morning Scripture readings with the events of life. Today is Election Day in the United States and although it is a mid-term election year, it could be historic even though we are not electing a President this time. The balance of power in the Congress is at stake and there is also a huge increase in the number of women standing for election this year. Taking the readings in reverse order, I see clear messages for us today.
- In the gospel of Luke (14:15-24) we hear of a man who gave a great dinner to which many were invited. When the time came and the dinner was ready, those who had been invited made excuses for their inability to come. As a result, the poor, the blind and the lame ate well that day. I often think of the shameful statistics of our participation in the election process in the United States. We have a privilege denied to citizens of many countries in the world and we often fail to exercise it. We complain about our “leaders” but do nothing to change the election results. We stay home from the polls in great numbers because we are lazy or frustrated with the government when the way to change things is simply to show up! One bright spot this year is that the largest number of citizens voting in this election cycle is purported to be the youngest citizens eligible (18-30 year olds). If true, that could be a sign of change to come. The message to us for today: GET OUT AND VOTE!
- Psalm 22 calls us to praise the Lord in the Assembly of the people. It’s about doing justice and fulfilling “the vows we have made” – one might say, as citizens of this country, to educate ourselves about what is going on politically and how we can effect changes in what not longer works. It seems from events of this past year that we should be listening to the youngest cohort of eligible voters so that the words of Scripture may be true of us. Let the coming generation…proclaim to a people yet to be born the justice that [God] has shown.
- When all is said and done today, our hope is for acceptance of the result without rancor. That is the beauty of a democratic process. Whether or not our preferred candidates are elected, we travel on together, remembering the urging of Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:5-11) to: [H]ave among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus who..emptied himself.. Our elections are not about winning our argument or making sure that our agenda is pushed through but rather seeking those who will do their best for the country and letting go of our own egoic choices.
You may find my interpretations far-fetched and I would perhaps agree but the messages are clear to me this morning as I have stated them. We are called to take responsibility for the privilege of voting as informed citizens and to accept the result whether or not it is our desired outcome, having done our part to participate in the democratic process.
Psalm 119, the longest in the book of 150 psalms, has 176 verses and can be the study of a lifetime. In a commentary this morning I read that the subject of these prayers is the hard learning one gains in light of a multitude of hardships and circumstances encountered on the spiritual path…Experiences are often repeated again and again. As we go over the same territory learning it in new ways, truth becomes grounded. Insights are gained from each spiral of ascending experience.
How true that seems to me! The great thing is that as we grow older and if we are paying attention it becomes easier to accede to what is being taught. Our resistance to the messages and thinking we are right all the time wanes and God’s voice becomes stronger – but only if we are listening deeply.
Today’s lectionary section is early in the psalm and sounds either like a young person who is full of enthusiasm for the journey, or someone who knows from experience the pitfalls and is ready to surrender to God’s dream. Either way, I find it a lovely morning offering.
Even now, O Lord, if you will but teach me, I shall keep as treasure all you say. Give me an understanding heart to grasp what lies alone in you, the outlines of your law, your thought; imprint them on my soul. My deep desire is for a heart whose compass-point is aimed at your true north and not some weaker pole. I desire eyes as well that do not wander but hold your vision fast for all eternity. (vs. 33-37, Ancient Songs Sung Anew)
I’m up early to greet the day with Meg Wheatley’s book, turning to one another. (Yes, the title is written in all lower case letters – most likely to emphasize the desire to have a conversation of equality.) I haven’t visited this treasure for a long time but have been trying to live with its messages nonetheless. It all seems so timely now when, day by day, so much in the world seems so fractured. I don’t know why it called to me as I turned to set my coffee on my side table. Perhaps it’s the appearance of the book itself, skinny but tall and dressed in a coat of red and yellow on its spine. Here are the two paragraphs that wouldn’t let me go this morning.
I hope you’ll begin a conversation, listening for what’s new. Listen as best you can for what’s different, for what surprises you. See if this practice helps you learn something new. Notice whether you develop a better relationship with the person you’re talking with. If you try this with several people, you might find yourself laughing in delight as you realize how many unique ways there are to be human.
We have the opportunity many times a day, everyday, to be the one who listens to others, curious rather than certain. But the greatest benefit of all is that listening moves us closer. When we listen with less judgment, we always develop better relationship with each other. It’s not differences that divide us. It’s our judgments about each other that do. Curiosity and good listening bring us back together. (p.36)
consciousness, curious, denial, distress, engaged, facts, guidance, inertia, information, intelligent, isolation, Meg Wheatley, messages, Non-Denial, open, Peace, perseverance, reality, responsible engagement, signals, The Sophia Center for Spirituality
I was thinking yesterday how easy it is from here in our lovely, peace-filled location in rural Upstate New York to ignore all the turmoil in the world and in our country. If I don’t wish to allow the distress into my consciousness, I can just avoid watching or listening to or reading the news and go about my days in isolation. While I know that is not a valid choice for me, it is occasionally a temptation. I was reminded this morning of my need to be awake and aware by a page from Meg Wheatley’s book, Perseverance, that I will quote below in its entirety as a call to all of us to resist the pull of inertia in favor of responsible engagement in whatever way we are able to contribute to raising the level of light in the world. (This includes a willingness to discriminate between “fake news” and truth.) The page is entitled Non-Denial. It is not a message to be read quickly and dismissed. I would recommend reading it, as I plan to, several times, and seeking examples from our own life of applications for the message.
Looking reality in the eye is an interesting experience. Often, people are startled to realize how much information they have been avoiding, and how much information is out there, waiting to be useful.
“Facts are friendly,” a psychologist once said, but most of us don’t see it this way. We move away from all the information that’s available, we retreat into denial. It’s the way we keep our world intact and avoid being challenged or threatened. If we can just hold onto our opinions and views, the world will continue to work just fine, thank you very much.
We get led into the practice of non-denial by failure and defeat. When we have no choice, we seem to get curious. When our back is against the wall, finally we’re willing to look at all the messages we had avoided. This isn’t a graceful process. But when we’re ready to open to the signals, guidance, and information that have been swirling around us, ignored and unnoticed, it’s amazing what we learn.
And it’s remarkable what capacities we develop. Absorbing these messages, we suddenly see things differently. We discover solutions not available from our former position. We experience surprise, sometimes delight, sometimes despair that we didn’t notice things earlier. But the end result is that we become more open, more engaged, and more intelligent.
We learn where we are. From here much more is possible.
Last night I took a chance and left my bedroom window open. Because the day had actually been warm enough to make me believe that spring had finally arrived, I thought that the fresh air would be worth the gamble on my being warm enough all night. Not only did I win that bet with myself but I didn’t need my alarm to wake me up this morning because the birds were busy very early and there was one outside with a big voice that sounded like a repetitive wake-up call. As I settled in with my coffee, I said aloud, “I don’t know who you are but I appreciate your call to slide me back from dreamland to this day.”
There it is again: hearing a voice – this time not one I recognize, but I’d be happy to be introduced to the bird it belongs to. This theme of sound recognition has been with me since my Saturday retreat and keeps calling me to pay attention. It wasn’t surprising then as I turned to the Scriptures of the day and found Jesus speaking of himself as the shepherd whose sheep hear his voice and follow him because they recognize his voice.
Juxtaposed with that gospel this morning is Psalm 42, a psalm of great longing for God. As the deer longs for running streams, so my soul longs for you, O God! Athirst is my soul for God, the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God? Even here in the great desire to see God’s face there is the undercurrent of listening. I imagine native peoples walking through the woods as quietly as possible, listening for running water that they might slake their thirst (and avoid confrontation with danger, of course!).
Today, then, I hope to dedicate myself to listening intently – but also in a relaxed mode, not forcing anything – so that I may hear messages hidden in everyday events and conversations, insights shared in my spiritual practices group this afternoon or tones of voice in our chanting that lift my heart…In other words, I hope to stay awake all day to the longing for God that rises not only from my visual world but also from the sound of God’s voice everywhere present within and without.
I had need of a little Merton this morning to get me going for the day. I know that there is always some hidden pearl of wisdom hidden in the ordinariness of any moment but I have just come from such richness in wisdom gatherings in New Hampshire and in Syracuse, New York that I wasn’t sure the events of today could measure up. Silly me! I opened Merton’s Book of Hours and found right in front of me not one but two worthy messages. I didn’t even need to search or turn a page!
- God cannot be found by weighing the present against the future or the past, but only in sinking into the heart of the present as it is.
- Our glory and our hope – We are the Body of Christ. Christ loves us and espouses us as His own flesh. Isn’t that enough for us? But we do not really believe it. No! Be content, be content. We are the Body of Christ. We have found Him, He has found us. We are in Him, He is in us. There is nothing further to look for, except for the deepening of this life we already possess. Be content.
We’ve had a couple of powerful storms lately – high winds (tree branches down), thunder, lightning and heavy rain. We have not had the destruction that many places in our country have experienced but it certainly is enough to make sleep difficult in the night! These thoughts were occasioned on this peaceful, sunny morning by the reading from Exodus (19:1- 11, 16-20) where God came down to Mount Sinai in fire with the sound of a trumpet and made the mountain tremble with thunder while Moses was speaking to God and all of the Hebrew people watched in awe. The purpose for this powerful display was (as God had already told Moses three days before) so that the people would not only believe in God but in Moses as well.
Sometimes we would wish for such clear messages – with audio-visual effects from God, but it doesn’t happen that way. God’s messages are mostly more subtle than that so we have to really look and listen from the inside in order to understand. That’s the message of Jesus this morning about the crowds who don’t understand him when he speaks in parables. He says that they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. He’s actually complimenting the disciples in the end saying, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.” I think of how often I am so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I hear what others are saying but really don’t take it in; I’m not really listening.
May we all go today wherever we are called to go with eyes wide open and ears ready to truly listen so that God’s messages might get through to our hearts!