all I want for Christmas…

Building communities that practice understanding, loving-kindness and compassion may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of our world.

  • Thich Nhat Hanh

solitude and community

[As we start to imagine and then experience an emerging “post-pandemic world,” we’ll all be renegotiating our relational lives. Perhaps this word from Parker Palmer will help]:

If we are to hold solitude and community together as a true paradox, we need to deepen our understanding of both poles. Soli­tude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self. It is not about the absence of other people-it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others. Community does not necessar­ily mean living face-to-face with others; rather, it means never los­ing the awareness that we are connected to each other. It is not about the presence of other people-it is about being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone.

– Parker Palmer, from A Hidden Wholeness

prayer for unity

[After a Sunday in which Jesus’ prayer for unity was a part of the lectionary readings, alumna Chelsea Sosiak sent me this prayer by Merton]:

Prayer for Unity

O God, we are one with you.
You have made us one with you.
You have taught us that if we are open to one another,
you dwell in us.

Help us to preserve this openness
and to fight for it with all our hearts.

Help us to realize that there can be no understanding
where there is mutual rejection.
O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely,
we accept you, and we thank you, and we adore you,
and we love you with our whole being,
because our being is in your being,
our spirit is rooted in your spirit.

Fill us then with love,
and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways,
united in this one spirit which makes you present in the world,
and makes you witness to the ultimate reality that is love.
Love has overcome.
Love is victorious.

– written by Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

hospitality

[This past weekend was the inaugural (?) “Rain and Snow” winter festival at SSU, and Carol and I had the privilege of offering hospitality to Pádraig Ó Tuama, receiving more hospitality than we gave, from his presence, his words, and his easy appreciation of our shared moments. Here is a passage that shows the thoughtfulness behind an approach that combines hospitality with truth-telling:]

In many circles of faith or spirituality, there is generous time given to the testimony – the telling of the story of conversion, or re-conversion, of enlightenment or change. It is a moving thing, to listen to the testimony. But testimony, if told or heard unwisely, can be a colonisation of a  single experience into a universal requirement. Jesus fed me when I was hungry, we hear, and those who are hungry feel bereft. Jesus healed me when I was sick, say the healthy, and the burdened feel more burdened. Meditation cured me of depression, say some, and others make plans to hide the Prozac. Upon whom is the burden of words? I don’t know. I don’t think there is answer. I cannot dampen gladness because it will burden the unglad. But I cannot proclaim gladness as a promise that will only shackle the already bound. Faith shelters some, and it shadows others. It loosens some, and it binds others. Is this a judgment of the message or the messenger, the one praying or the prayer prayed? I don’t know.

Hello to what we do not know.

What I do know is that it can help to find the words to tell the truth of where you are now. If you can find the courage to name ‘here’ – especially in the place where you do not wish to be – it can help you be there. Instead of resenting another’s words of gladness or pain, it may be possible to hear it as simply another location. There are there and I am here. At another point, we will be in different locations, and everybody will pass by many locations in their life. The pain is only deepened when the location is resented or, even worse, unnamed.

Hello to here.

  • Pádraig Ó Tuama, from In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World

something bigger than yourself

[I’m back to sharing some passages and discoveries after a long and busy summer. Here’s a short word from Frank Schaeffer for those who have been lacking the motivation to be a part of a spiritual gathering:]

If you are a Church Of One, do you trust your congregation? When you want to be inspired by an icon representing something bigger than yourself, don’t you ever get tired of just looking into the mirror?

  • Frank Schaeffer, Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God