opening our hearts and minds

The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.

  • Pema Chodron

missing

[here is a poem from SSU ministry student, Jessica Williams; for an audio version and her further reflection on the poem see here]:

MISSING: GOD OUR MOTHER

Mother God,

How did you become another missing Woman?
Lost amongst the multitude of men making meaning for us all.

You are the Substance holding all things together,
and in Your likeness I have been made.

In feminine form,
I embody,
an image of the living God.

(I need to say it again.)

In feminine form,
I embody,
an image of the living God.

(We need to say it again.)

Is it any wonder that Your daughters have lived in exile?
That we are lost and missing too?

But–
some of us,
some of us,
some of us
have noticed.

We ache at Your absence,
our tongues dry
and thirsty
for Your name on our lips.

We are waiting.
We were waiting.
We are waiting no more.

Now, we are searching.
We’ve gathered a team. (We’ll take anyone!)
The more the better for work like this.

With arms linked together
and lanterns lifted high,
we’re walking through the tall dark grass of ancient texts
to find You.

God our Maker,
God our Mother,
God our Father,
God our Friend,

Teach us.

Like children coming of age,
we are starting to see
how much we didn’t see.

Show us.

How You’ve longed to gather us,
our Holy Mother Hen,
and there beneath Your Wings of Love,
to comfort us again.

Feed us.

Like an Eagle or a Mother Bear,
nourish those in need.
And then,
like all Good Mothers. . .

Set us free.

– Jessica Williams

avoiding tidiness and perfectionism

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

Besides, perfectionism will block inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California). Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground—you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation….

– Anne Lamott

communal contemplation

[a bit of a challenging read – but if you  take the time to work through this I think you’ll see something unique that is often missing in Western contemplative traditions]:

Communal contemplative practices in Africana contexts have been hidden from view by the exigencies of struggle, survival, and sustenance…

The spiritual practices become public theology through acts of shared liturgical discernment. These acts of shared contemplation move individual mystical events from the personal private toward the public and pragmatic. Accordingly the inward journey transcends the private imagination to become an expanded communal testimony.

I am contending that communal contemplation is richer than the immediacy of personal experience because the experience, the story, the event is subjected to the gaze of both the individual and the community. In Africana and other indigenous cultures, this unique orientation toward the sacred elements of life begins at a very young age. Children soon learn that when events surprise, frighten, or mystify them, they can face the unknown with a discerning community. It has only taken a few generations to lose sight of this integral aspect of Africana community life.

Such losses can result from inclusion/integration into dominant cultural paradigms. The price for full acceptance is often cultural and spiritual amnesia…

I am offering an understanding of contemplation that depends upon an intense mutuality, shared religious imagination, and the free flow of interpretation within the context of a vibrant and lived theology.

– Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church

living inside hope

[For International Women’s Week, I plan to post a passage from the writings of different women each day. Then I’d love to keep focusing on the thoughts and words of women throughout the month – send me ideas or post suggestions in the comments! I’ll start with this favourite passage of mine from a novel by Barbara Kingsolver]:

You’re thinking of revolution as a great all-or-nothing. I think of it as one more morning in a muggy cotton field, checking the undersides of leaves to see what’s been there, figuring out what to do that won’t clear a path for worse problems next week. Right now that’s what I do. You ask why I’m not afraid of loving and losing, and that’s my answer. Wars and elections are both too big and too small to matter in the long run. The daily work – that goes on, it adds up. It goes into the ground, into crops, into children’s bellies and their bright eyes. Good things don’t get lost.

Codi, here’s what I’ve decided: the very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it. Right now I’m living in that hope, running up and down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.

– Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams (novel)