Aug 18 2016

Rhythms of Grace

As we begin a new school year at UDTS, I made a short video exploring rhythms of grace for our incoming students: holistic ways to think about our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits, in the midst of the busyness of life. This is first video I’ve made, with the lovely Sinsinawa Dominican Convent as the backdrop. While it is addressed to our incoming cohort, I believe there is much that can speak to people in different contexts.  May it provide a moment of retreat and encouragement in your week!

(Before playing, I invite you to pause the Music for Dreaming in the right column >>)


Oct 26 2011

{Day 26} The Contemplative Body, Part 3

The third challenge I find to contemplative awareness and the body (mind, heart, spirit) is that we often continue to do things that we know from past experience will lead to discomfort, pain, or other signs that an activity or behavior is hurtful.

This behavior, often called a besetting sin, is something that we feel powerless to fight against, even with awareness of its consequences.

We know it causes ill-being or dis-ease, but we can’t seem to stop.

And often, too, there is a lot of guilt built up over the years. Lots of should and ought and self-contempt, visions of perfection crumbling into the dust.

Guilt is a terrible motivation for transformation.

Transformation will only happen with love.

And it isn’t your love that’s going to do it.

One of my favorite passages of scripture–a passage that stirs my blood (oh, I can feel it stirring even as I type!) is Revelation 12:10-11:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.

(I invite you to read it aloud.)

While I’m normally not a person to talk much about an incarnate evil, I have no doubt it exists when I hear the horrible accusations that often fill my thoughts, or hear the stories from so many men and women of their own accusing voices.

There is an Accuser and it’s sole intent is the dismantling of our hope, beauty,  love, and trust. The voice tells us we are failures, not good enough, not lovable, not capable, powerless, ugly, empty, lacking, and worthless. You probably have your own word that the accuser uses at the worst possible moment.

And I think that often our besetting sins are our way of drowning out that voice. We look for some way, any way, to escape.

But let’s look at the rest of this amazing promise:

The Accuser has been hurled down.

And what did it was not the latest self-improvement project or some act of willpower. Willpower has its place, but only when the focus is off ourselves and the besetting sin.

What hurled the Accuser down was the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ who loved us so much that he walked the path of death to life for us. The first love is not our love, but God’s love for us, and experiencing this love, even in the smallest way, changes everything.

The word of our testimony is our response to this Love: small, ordinary stories about how we’ve experienced the Lamb-who-Loves told to our sisters and brothers, friends, parents, co-workers, neighbors, children, spouses. And especially to ourselves. We tell about the Love who, while the Accuser was hurling its accusations to the throne of God, was willing to become human. We tell about the Love who, while we were yet sinners, was willing to die and be raised to Life for us.

And I bring you to the Love of which all other loves speak, the Love which is joy and beauty, and which you have sought in a thousand streets and for which you have wept and clawed your pillow. –Thomas Howard.

Practice: Extend your contemplative attention to your body–heart, mind, and spirit. What are the accusations you hear? What are your besetting behaviors you know are not life-giving? How might they be connected to the accusations?

I invite and encourage you to set them aside and turn your attention elsewhere. I’m sure that you have confessed them over and over.

How and where do you experience love? Soul-sustaining, creative, hope-full love, without any shoulds or oughts. Follow that feeling in your body–feelings, thoughts, memories, and spirit, and bring it into conversation with Jesus Christ. How is God present in your experience of Love?

I invite you to tell a loved one about one small, ordinary experience you’ve had of Jesus’ love.

Artwork by Sieger Koder

 


Mar 2 2011

Guested by God

I simply sit at my desk this morning, in silence, pen in hand, paper ready for whatever words might come. My pinched heart stretches and expands and trusts a little more, to live a little larger, feel a little more deeply, ask more scary questions, hope more strongly in what I believe.

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The Spirit’s breath is like a hummingbird by my ear and God’s presence surrounds, the Love that weaves all moments of doing and living together.

But then my heart shrinks back from the Presence which is all that is Love and Joy and Beauty and Truth.

Too vulnerable, I whisper, too intimate.

So away from the moment and the face of God I flee, disconnecting and distracting myself with even the best of gifts and joys.

Ferry Flyer by SLF

It is not simply God that I flee, but myself:  All that I am, all I wish I wasn’t and all that I long to be reflected in that Face.

And God pursues me, until I stop and turn and be simply Susan. Here. Now.

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God names, calls, woos, loves us, to the ends of the earth and the farthest reaches of time, always whispering,

“Yes, I see that, and this, and even that, and I love you. I love you. Always. Keep your eyes on me.

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To welcome God’s presence in this moment means welcoming ourselves as well with God’s own hospitality. No posturing, not hiding, no fleeing, otherwise the hospital-now of graced healing cannot do its work.

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be she.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.
(George Herbert)

In every moment, we are guested by Love.

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And as we are welcomed by Love, and welcome ourselves, welcoming others becomes a way of life.

Love welcomes the weary and angry hearts, the dry and cracked deserts of lost dreams, the icy wastes of bitter memory, the apathetic spirit of nothing-will-change.

Then sweeping God goes to work with her broom and clears and cleans, finding the lost coins of gifts with laughing joy on her lips.

The shepherd God goes searching high and low for the wandering heart, finding it shivering and cold, alone and afraid, Come with me, little one.

The long-loving  God runs to us and welcomes us home with a feast to this gift of life, and feeds the famished with his own self.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Come, in this moment, sit and eat.

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Feb 1 2010

Living Grace: Resurrection

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“Were not our hearts burning within us as He spoke to us on the road…?” Luke24:32

The first day of February gives me a sense of hope: spring is coming.

During this week in Seattle each year,  the returning sun warms the city and many of the trees bloom a gentle pink.  It is a promise ring of spring in the long months of rainy gray days.

While there is more sun here in Boston, the bitter cold reminds me that spring is a long way off.  There are no tentative buds, not for another three months.  Yet still I hope for a warmed heart and blooms.

This morning I read from Eugene Peterson’s Living the Resurrection.  Not unlike the first of February or the pink-blossomed trees, his words give me hope of an already-happened-yet-still-coming Spring, marked by an empty tomb and awe and tears and joy.

Easter seems a long way off.  It’s not even Ash Wednesday, and there’s a lot of living between now and then: Lent and Palm Sunday, and a Friday-that-somehow-God-made-good.

Between now and then, I will also enter my fourth decade.  I find myself deeply desiring some pink blooms of grace and hope to face that day.

Yet, Easter has happened.  For Narnia readers, “Aslan Lives!”  And nothing gives me such a thrill of joy.

And so, this week, I want to look for signs of spring, little buds of hope, hints of resurrection.  I am going to put flowers in my home and office, and spend some time on a photo quest hunting for signs of resurrection beauty to share with you this coming Saturday. I will look for God’s life-giving grace in the stories of people I speak with, those students attending the Reading Retreat this coming weekend, and the texts on prayer for my dissertation.

I would love to hear your stories of finding spring and resurrection this week.

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