how we respond

How we respond to [our children’s] stories carries more weight than any other form of moral instruction, and that is why we need to realize that the formal scope of “narrative theology” or “narrative ethics” necessarily includes the stories our kids tell us over dinner….

Ultimately, children develop the capacity for morally mature intimacy through our capacity or our willingness to offer such intimacy to them, such due regard, such kind but firm or clear-eyed critical respect. We offer that to them in part by the quality of our responses to the stories they tell.
– Catherine Wallace, For Fidelity

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

being useless and silent

We need quiet time in the presence of God. Although we want to make all our time time for God, we will never succeed if we do not reserve a minute, an hour, a morning, a day, a week, a month, or whatever period of time, for God and God alone.

This asks for much discipline and risk taking because we always seem to have something more urgent to do and “just sitting there” and “doing nothing” often disturbs us more than it helps. But there is no way around this. Being useless and silent in the presence of our God belongs to the core of all prayer.

In the beginning we often hear our own unruly inner noises more loudly than God’s voice. This is at times very hard to tolerate. But slowly, very slowly, we discover that the silent time makes us quiet and deepens our awareness of ourselves and God.

Then, very soon, we start missing these moments when we are deprived of them, and before we are fully aware of it an inner momentum has developed that draws us more and more into silence and closer to that still point where God speaks to us.

Henri J. M. Nouwen, Reaching Out

find me

[a poem by SSU ministry student, Jessica Williams]:

Find me in the Darkest Night
wide awake
afraid of flight
praying to the God of Light
to find me.

Find me when my head’s bowed low
turned from Love
and all that glows
when shadowlands have gathered slow
to find me.

Find me in the shame that grips
when ancient roots
arise and trip
eroding paths I thought
were sent to guide me.

Find me where the Thistles Bloom
as Pain and Beauty
together move
holding space, creating room
within my heart
to find You.

It is there I recognize
You’ve been inside
Every Eye
that’s come along
beneath this Sky
to find me.

We will name them
large and small
I am held
within them all
even as I rise and fall
to find You.

Help me then to keep my gaze
on what is here
within this Place.
This is where I know your Grace,
this is where I see your Face,

this is how I find You.

– Jessica Williams

a good question

[This is the other poem that Rachael shared with us at last week’s talk on uncertainty and questions:]

A Good Question

Never underestimate the power of a question.
Don’t dismiss it as mere herald to the all-powerful answer,
Or despise its uncertainty as feeble or unsafe.

A good question is full of life.
It bursts with the curiosity and promise of undiscovered worlds.
Its key turns the lock of never-opened doors.

So don’t let your own question spill heedlessly from your mouth.
Instead, turn it,
Like a hard toffee between tongue and teeth.
Savour, smooth and hone it.

Hold and admire it, a wild bird balanced on your faltering hand,
And when you release it to another’s charge,
Be ready for it to return to you unfamiliar,
Changed beyond recognition,
And pulling in directions you did not predict or desire.

Learn to listen,
Just listen,
And to let answers be extended questions.

Likewise, when another’s question comes to you,
Don’t push it away if an answer does not spring instantly, comfortingly, to mind;
For this question’s gift was fashioned in the ferment of someone else’s strange soul.

A question should be given space
To roam through forgotten rooms.
Perhaps at first it will seem to bounce like a discarded rubber ball,
Its lonely thud echoing against the emptiness of abandoned space,
Bareness of untrodden floorboards.

But refrain from picking it up to thrust again into a cosy pocket,
And its ricochet will knock open closets,
spill chests,
split windows,
Drawing invisible arcs to connect random points,
Until the tangle of lines
Suddenly
Reveals a picture.

This picture you may pick up
And wonderingly exhibit,
Or carefully fold to store in your heart’s chest.

But the question?
Let the question bound on…

  • Rachael Barham – Saturday 29th December 2012